Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thrice Shy


The dog spun and leapt the nearest hay bale. It bolted, a dark, shaggy streak still trailing a tangle of red silk, through the nearest opening and disappeared into the maze depths. Jane shivered and held perfectly still. The voice had sounded far too near. Her heart stuttered. She reminded herself this was a scam, an act for tourists, and good sport for the yokels who set it up. The blood in her veins didn't listen. Her pulse throbbed and her lungs struggled to hold enough air to breathe properly.
“That's a neat trick.” She managed to choke it out, but her bravado had vanished.
“It's no trick.” A man's voice, low and breathy, whispered near her shoulder.
Jane twisted away, back peddling toward the center of the clearing. No one stood against the cornstalks, but the voice had come from there, from just beside the spot she'd vacated. There had to be someone hiding in the stalks. But who would go through that much trouble for a Halloween gag? She'd felt the sharp leaf edges. Even through her shirt, they'd scratched.
“Cut it out.” She kept backing until she stood in the open beside a bale of straw and the cheesy vampire. “Your dog just stole a very expensive piece of clothing, buster.”
“Lupis is no dog.”
“What?” Jane turned again. The voice had circled around behind her. How could anyone move that quickly through the corn? Maybe they knew the maze, maybe they had a map, but either way, she doubted anyone could move that fast. “How many of you are there?” She stood stiff again and glared at the corn, one toe tapping. “I know a very good lawyer, and this is borderline, folks. I didn't pay for the maze and I'm not here for the show.”
“I know why you're here, Jane Johnston.” He was behind her, in the open. He had to be.
When she turned again, however, she found no sign of the voice's owner. Speakers. They had the whole maze wired, then.
“I don't know how you found out my name, but if you've gone through my car, I'll own this place. Understand?”
“I understand you, Jane.”
She caught him that time, or rather, he stayed put and faced her. His pale face shone like the full moon overhead, and a black cape whipped and billowed around his ankles. The high collar was a dead give-away.
“I thought you were a prop.” Jane scanned sideways just to be sure. At least she wasn't going crazy. The decoration had been moving. “Nice outfit.”
The vampire tilted his head and bent one knee, dropping into a deep bow and flourishing the cape for effect. He was good. She felt goose bumps peak on her forearms. He had style. A bit too much, maybe, but then in a haunted maze, overly dramatic probably wouldn't count as a flaw. His voice flowed, as well. He drew out the words, and made each syllable stretch. “Gooooood Eeeeevening.”
“Yeah. Nice touch.” She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at him. Aside from the pallor, he had a gorgeous face, prominent cheekbones, and a long aquiline nose. His eyes looked dark from a few steps away, but the gaze pierced just the same. Charisma, that was it. No doubt, he stole the lead in all the little, po-dunk, community plays. “How do you know my name?”
“I heard it on the wind, Jane Johnston.” He moved to the side, circling her and keeping his gaze lowered and fixed on her position. “You've come to wake me, Jane. After all these years of waiting, you have come.”
“Uh, yeah.” Jane shrugged. He moved more like a dancer than an actor. “Here I am. Now, what are the odds you'll just drop the act and show me the exit?”
“You wish to leave?” He appeared at her shoulder, just like that. His voice whispered, but she caught each word and a thread of something else behind them.
“I have a conference to get to,” she said. “My boss' car.” She could smell him, he stood so close. His aftershave had a sweet tang to it, and something familiar that she couldn't pin down. He never stopped moving either. One second he was on her right, the next, her left, and trying to keep track was making her dizzy. “Listen, I really need to get out of here.”
“You do not wish to leave,” he said.
“I don't?”
“You were looking for me.”
“Was I?” She shook her head, heard the corn rattle, and remembered she still had a car to deliver. “Listen, you've got a great ego or stage presence or what have you, but you really could do better than a corn maze in the middle of nowhere. Maybe try modeling?” She took a step back, far enough away that she could breathe again, and turned to go.
“Stop!” He stood directly in front of her.
“How the hell do you do that?”
The vampire didn't answer. Instead, he flung one arm up and threw his cape wide. The material fluttered and then fell around her, dark, smelling of sweet, familiar musk, and blocking out any thoughts of leaving.

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