I dipped the nib of my fountain pen into the bottle of ink, and started writing. Across the desk from me, my client squirmed uncomfortably.
“Uh…you don’t see that much anymore,” he commented, the light from my desk lamp glinting off of his round glasses and obscuring his eyes. I didn’t need to see them to know what he was thinking. He was thinking: What the fuck kind of accountant uses a quill pen to do taxes instead of computer, anyway? They all thought that, at some point. It didn’t bother me. Not much does, anymore.
“No, I don’t suppose you do,” I answered, smiling faintly. I wasn’t interested in making small talk; I had work to do and it was getting late. Close to dinner time, and I didn’t want to lose another client, if I didn’t have to.
I let the conversation wither and die, the only sound the scratching of my quill, and the small mousy man across the desk from me shifting in his seat.
“Can my associate bring you anything?” I asked darkly, not looking up from the page where I made the rows of figures and calculations do my bidding like so many obedient dogs performing tricks. “If you’d prefer, you can wait in the ante-…the waiting room,” I corrected myself.
I’d hoped he might miss my blunder, but he pounced on it eagerly. The man was dying for conversation. “Were you going to call it the anteroom?” He peered at me curiously through his lenses, tilting his head closer, so I could see the crinkly rust-colored hair that ringed his pate in the light of the desk lamp.
The color reminded me of blood.
“That’s a curious choice of words,” he continued. “Very…old-fashioned. As is a quill pen. You’re quite a throwback, aren’t you?” he said, smiling broadly to show that his words were well-intentioned.
I gave him a hard look, intended to quell any further inquiry.
“Mr. Kowalski, my practices may be…unusual, but you certainly can’t argue with my results.” I risked a small, tight smile. “I’d like you to be equally satisfied, but surely you must understand my need to concentrate?”
“Oh, of course,” he said, chastened. He half-rose from his chair. “Should I…why don’t I just wait in the anteroom?” He grinned, as if he were granting me a boon.
I was starting to dislike this man.
“That would be best, I think.” I could not smile at this point. I had neither the inclination, nor the concentration to hold on to the glamor that hid my fangs.
He jostled the chair awkwardly as he left the room.
I sighed, deeply. I was getting too old for this.
Simon. I summoned my valet. Simon, loyal, silent - as always - appeared.
“Alessandro?” he inquired, ever-respectful.
The human. In the anteroom. Please…keep him occupied. I grow weary…and hungry. Aloud, I said, “Please see if Mr. Kowalski needs anything.”
He inclined his head slightly, meeting my eyes before he turned and silently left the room. I heard him in the brightly-lit room beyond, engaging the client in small talk. Mr. Kowalski responded animatedly, and I let slip a heavy sigh of relief. Simon saves the day yet again.
I turned back to my precious numbers, and set them, whirling and dancing and telling their tales.
Mr. Kowalski, they told me,is not as he appears. The scratching of my pen gave voice to the numbers, and they argued, contradictory, eventually giving up their secrets in the shape of their inconsistencies.
I sighed again, and leaned back in my chair. My fountain pen lay still now, across the pages of tell-tale numbers, as if to deny their existence. My heart felt heavy with inevitability. Generations upon generations, and some things never changed.
I thought of all the ways an importer such as Kowalski might make the prodigious amounts his numbers confessed to me; none of them good.
Was there blood on his hands?
Probably. How else would he have found me? Blood seeks blood.
Simon, I called again, little more than a mental sigh. It is to be done. “Mr. Kowalski, I’ve finished,” I called aloud.
There was talk from the anteroom; a surprised laugh. Kowalski and his blood-colored hair appeared in my doorway, a wide uncertain grin marking his features.
I knew what he was thinking now, too. How good is he? Did he discover the discrepancies? Does he suspect?
I smiled back. This time, it was genuine. “Mr. Kowalski, there seem to be some inconsistencies with your numbers, but I believe I’ve got it all worked out.”
His smile faltered, but he plastered it back in face, a false front over the panic that his increased heart rate indicated. “Inconsistencies? What do you mean? I - my bookkeeper is very good, but if she’s making mistakes -“
I waved away his protests. “It’s all worked out. Come over here, and I’ll show you.” I rose, gesturing broadly, reassuringly. Still, I smiled. I oozed charm. My glamor was at full throttle.
He came over despite himself, stood very near to me, and turned his attention to the page full of scrawled numbers.
“What…what did you find?” His voice was barely a whisper.
“I found a criminal,” I whispered back in his ear, just before I sunk my fangs into his neck. And dinner, I thought, as his bitter blood ended my craving.