“Go on!” Terry chuckled and put his arm around Brent. He pointed at Lisa sitting across the red table. The group of friends sat in a Chinese restaurant with a red and gold theme. “Tell her what you do,” he shook Brent while three of them laughed. Brent wasn’t laughing; he was too tired.
“Vampire hunter,” Brent replied. Steve, the third of Brent’s trio, and Terry laughed a bit too enthusiastically. Lisa, Steve’s date, gave a polite smile, but didn’t laugh. Brent saw her eyes widen slightly and she suddenly looked nervous. “Awww, hell,” he thought.
Brent was already worn out. Terry did everything he could to keep Brent up late to jokingly get in the way of his duties. Unfortunately, he still had to try and patrol after they parted ways, and get to work on time in the morning. He had been cutting his patrols short for about month to get more sleep, and he started to wonder if the karma from that decision was sitting in front of him.
This was the first time he met Lisa, but she met Steve about a month ago. Steve stopped joining Terry and Brent at night because Lisa, for some reason or another, could never meet during the day. She finally felt comfortable enough to meet Steve’s friends and he brought them all to what she said was her favorite restaurant.
“Well that’s interesting,” Lisa said. “Excuse me for a moment,” she suddenly stood from the table and dashed to the back toward the bathroom.
“So, what do you guys think?” Steve asked.
“She seems nice,” Terry replied.
“What do you know about her?” Brent asked. Steve rolled his eyes and shook his head.
“I know she’s not a vampire. Not to kiss and tell, but she’s had more than a few chances to sink her fangs into me, if she had them.”
“Congratulations!” a short, wrinkled Asian woman said from beside their table. She pointed at Brent. “1000th customer! Free food for you and your friends. Come do paperwork please,” she said, then turned to walk to the back.
“Thousandth customer?” Brent laughed and looked around the empty restaurant. “This century, I guess.” Brent stood from the red booth and followed the ancient woman down the hall, then into the kitchen. He was surprised to find Lisa standing in the kitchen looking fretful, next to a mountainous man. The giant wore a cook’s uniform with short sleeves; he had dozens of colorful dragons tattooed on his arms. He focused on the sizzling wok in front of him.
“Lisa?” Brent asked as the old woman walked up and stood next to her.
“She is under my protection, hunter,” the old woman said. “She is innocent and means no harm to your friend.” Lisa nodded quickly.
“I like Steve,” she said. “A lot.”
“Don’t make trouble in my restaurant,” the old woman added. “Lisa is a good vampire.”
“Good vampire?” Brent chuckled and shook his head. “No such thing. Are you a good vampire too?” he asked the woman. She shook her head.
“Donna Chang,” she said. “I”m not a vampire, but I protect the good Fae that pass through my restaurant. Brent looked her up and down. He felt confident she wasn’t a vampire, but something about her bothered him. She wasn’t human. Brent was fast enough to keep up with most vampires, and vampires were possibly the fastest creatures he’d ever faced. He felt confident in his ability to rush Lisa before the old woman knew what was happening; even if she was Fae too. Lisa was a vampire, that was good enough for him.
Brent relaxed his hands at his side. In one fast, smooth motion he pulled the silver dagger from behind his shirt and lunged forward at Lisa.
“Takeru,” the old woman said, without making any moves to stop him. As Brent shoved the dagger forward he noticed the hulking chef disappeared from his station. A golden mist gathered at the tip of Brent’s dagger inches before it penetrated Lisa’s neck. In an instant, Brent was on the ground. On his aching back with the wind forced out of his lungs and his own silver dagger poking at his throat.
Golden mist coalesced above Brent and took shape. It solidified into the tattooed chef with a ham hock hand holding the dagger against him.
“I am officially your employer now,” the woman said. “I’ve let you work in my city because you provide a necessary service; not all vampires are good. Also, not all are bad. Lisa lives, but I have a list of others you may eliminate with my blessing.”
“Hah,” Brent managed a weak chuckle while he caught his breath. “What’s the pay like?” He made the joke hoping to stall and figure a way out. He wasn’t prepared for an answer.
“Enough to comfortably quit your day job, Mr. Swift.” Brent’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment. Then he realized it made sense she was checking up on him. “I know your hunts aren’t earning you anything but sleep deprivation. Now that you work for me, you can get some rest during the day, collect a hefty bounty at night, and eat here as often as you like.
“What are you? Brent asked. “I like to know who and what I’m working for.” As soon as he asked his question, the cook disappeared into a golden mist again. After a moment, he rematerialized in front of his wok.
“I’m Unique, Mr. Swift.”