“Mrs. Houston?” Erica heard her name and whirled around. She stood at the entrance to her small, single-office in the run down strip mall at 7:50 a.m. about to enter and start her day. The area’s residents did not stir much until about noon. Hearing her name made her jump; she did not expect to see anyone around. She found a short, elderly, Asian woman standing behind her. She relaxed when she realized a woman that ancient wouldn’t pose much of a threat.
“Yes, Call me Erica,” Mrs. Houston smiled and finished unlocking the door. “Come inside. How can I help you?” She led the old woman in and gestured at a metal folding chair in front of a small wooden desk. Erica dropped her purse in its usual filing cabinet then sat down in front of the woman. “I haven’t seen you around town, are you new here? Mrs… ” she waited for the woman to introduce herself.
“Ms. Chang,” the woman said with a smile. “Yes, I’ve only been here for a day. The word around the neighborhood is you’re someone that can be trusted; you genuinely care about the people here.” She said. Erica did her best to keep a straight face, but her bottom lip trembled a bit as tears gathered in her eyes. She almost did not go to work that day. Until she heard those words she assumed this would be her last day on the job. She’d spent years trying to make a difference but she did not see any evidence.
The neighborhood and a good portion of the city were nearly overrun by crime. The police were paid, handsomely, to stand around and look the other way; they would not lift a finger. Erica had been doing her best to work with the people that did show up at her door. Not only individually but she often put them in contact with each other. Her plan was to try and foster a sense of community so they would be more inclined to help each other. Hearing that they considered her trustworthy changed her mind in an instant.
“Thank you,” Erica managed to hold back the tears. “How can I help you?” Donna Chang shook her head.
“I don’t need your help, I’ve come to help you.” The frail, wrinkled woman made a show of looking around the office with a critical scowl to give Erica a clue about what kind of help she was offering. Erica sat up straighter and shook her head. She did not know anything about this woman, but she knew Dralio made her a similar offer.
“No, thank you,” she nodded toward the door. “You know the way out, it’s not a big place.”
“Dralio is dead,” Donna said. She did not stand from her seat to leave; she stared at Erica expectantly. The social worker sighed.
“I assume you’ve taken his place?” she asked. Donna gave a slight nod.
“I’m giving you the same answer I gave him. I will improve things here. One family at a time if I have to. I will not send anyone your way for extra…,” Erica raised her hands to form air-quotes. “…’work’ that we both know they won’t come back from. I don’t care if you are vampires. You can kill me, but you can’t scare me off.”
“I am not Dralio,” Donna said. “I am not a vampire. I don’t want to kill you or scare you off. It’s as I said, I came to help you.”
“Uhuh, I’ll bet. What’s in it for you?” Erica asked. The stranger’s calm demeanor helped Erica keep her own feelings reigned in.
“Nothing except for the joy of helping others,” Donna replied. Erica scoffed, then forced out several peals of harsh, sarcastic laughter.
“Yeah of course. Why didn’t I think of becoming a mafia boss to help others!?” she asked rhetorically.
“It’s never too late,” Donna smiled.
“What?” Erica asked with a puzzled expression. “You’re serious?”
“What we are does not have to dictate what we do.
The factions that reported to Dralio now report to me,” Donna shrugged. “He grew cocky, sloppy,” the elderly woman pointed at Erica. “Even you knew he was a vampire. I took his seat to teach him a lesson; but, I have no long-term interest in staying here. I am looking for someone to manage things when I leave.”
“And all these vampire factions are going to take orders from a human?” Donna nodded.
“The vampires are only one faction. There are also the werewolves, zombies, and fairies. They will obey your command as if it were my own.”
“Werewolves? Zombies and fairies too??” Erica asked with wide eyes.
“See? That surprised you,” Donna giggled to herself. “Dralio was very sloppy.”