That Time With The Vampires
Chapter 3

I was seething when I left. Not only were their attitudes horrible, but I felt let down. Sure, Omar had warned me that they were snobs, but I suppose I hadn't expected them to get that bad that fast.

Besides needing to get out for awhile, I decided I had to see these people for myself so I'd know for certain how right or wrong Amanda had been about them. Plus, it was a good reason to fly for awhile. As soon as I was outside, I grabbed a hair tie from my pocket and put my hair into a ponytail, then took to the air. Now, when I fly, it's not a "take off from the ground like a rocket" kind of affair like you might see Superman do. I'd say it's a little more like taking off like an arrow. I went up high enough to have a pretty good view of the area.

This being upstate New York, there were lakes, forests, and fields. Amanda had said that the hippie farm was "down the road" and I doubted very much that any of them have gone out of their way to find such a place, so I first looked down along the road I'd traveled to get here. There were a few places that could be the one he was talking about, so I flew over them. I narrowed it down to the one that had a large backyard garden, but no large fields. I landed out of sight, then walked up to the house. It was an older home that needed some work, but those who lived here had done their best to make it homely and cheery nonetheless. Flowers had been planted out front, and I could see colorful curtains through the windows. A hand-painted sign next to the door read "Welcome" in letters made to look like plants and flowers. I stepped up to the door and knocked on it.

It was opened by a young woman with freckles and reddish blond hair. She looked up at me with large eyes. "Hello," she said. "If you're selling anything or if you're a missionary, we're not interested," she said.

"Uh, no," I said. I tried desperately to think of some excuse to be here. Good job, Adry, I told myself. Just come here without a good reason cooked up ahead of time. But fortunately, I was able to think of something before too many seconds had passed. "Actually, it's the reverse, in a way," I said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I wanna ask you guys about... yourselves. Why you choose to live this way. What it means to you."

That answer seemed to surprise Letha, and she looked at me with no small amount surprise. "What it means to us?" Wow, that's... nobody's asked that before." She smiled at me. "Come on inside. I'm Letha, by the way. Who are you?"

"Adry Hardouin." I followed Letha into a kitchen. Like the outside it was old and worn, but still homey. It was probably built around twenty years ago (which would have been sometime in the forties, back then). The pale blue paint on the cupboards had cracked, and the countertops were well-worn. The floral curtains must have been washed a hundred times, but they made the place look cheerier all the same.

"You want anything to drink?" Letha asked me.

"Water's fine," I said. She pulled a scratched, chipped glass out of the cupboard and filled it from the tap and gave it to me. I took it to the old wooden table and sat down with it. At first I was worried about the chipped parts being sharp, but when I looked at them closely I saw that they'd been sanded smooth.

Letha sat down across from me, and she hummed and tapped her fingers on the table for a moment. "It's about living honestly," she said. "And being free. Not doing things just because some Mister Big Politician told us to."

I nodded. "So how do you support yourselves?" They couldn't be living here without some source of income, after all.

"There's a diner I work at," she said. "One of the guys works at a garage. And we have a garden out back." Letha smiled at first, but then her smile faded and her brows creased.

"Something wrong?" I asked.

"Oh, it's... another one of the guys. Todd, I guess he got angry with George and decided he didn't want to be here anymore," she said. "Now we have more garden than we can take care of." She shrugged and looked at me with a 'what can you do?' sort of expression.

I only had to think about this for a second. "Maybe I could help," I said. It would give me something to do with my spare time, and maybe eventually I'd get vegetables out of it.

"Have you ever worked on a farm before?" Letha asked.

"Oh, yeah," I said. "I grew up on one." My family had farmed food for themselves. It was just what almost everyone did back then. I'd also worked on farms off and on throughout my life.

Letha took me out back to a large vegetable garden. It was obvious that they'd worked hard at it, but also that they didn't know what they were doing. I took off my jacket and set it on a fencepost, then started pulling the overgrown weeds. It occurred to me that there was a similarity between these people and the Americans who'd decided they'd had enough of being part of the British Empire. They wanted to be free and live life on their own terms, not on the terms a king who saw them as a resource to exploit. They could also be compared to the pioneers of the Old West, who'd left everything behind to try to create something for themselves and live as they saw fit, for better or worse. But while the revolutionaries and the pioneers were seen as the epitome of courage and grit, people like Letha were considered immoral and lazy.

I realized then and there that the "problem" wasn't that these people were afraid of work. The "problem" was that they wanted to work for themselves instead of serving lords and masters who'd deluded themselves into thinking they were more like cowboys than kings.

My philosophical musings were interrupted by the arrival of a tall, tanned man with shaggy brown hair. He didn't say anything at first. He just watched me quietly, observing. I doubted he meant any harm, but it got a little nerve-wracking, so I looked at him. "Hey, may I help you?"

"Oh, hey, I'm George," he said. "Sorry, I was just watching how you did that."

His tone of voice and posture told me that he was harmless. I relaxed.

"So are you thinking about leaving the rat race for the simple life?" he asked.

"Nah, just helping out a little," I said.

George nodded. "Well, whatever you do, you should watch yourself out here," he said.

"Why's that?"

"Because there's something going on, something bad. Did Letha tell you that Todd decided to leave?"

I nodded. "She did."

"Well, he didn't." His tone was decisive.

I looked at him. "What makes you say that?" I asked.

"We had plans, man," he said. "He wouldn't have quit on that."

"I heard you had a fight, though," I said as I pulled up a weed. "And he sent a letter."

"That letter wasn't him, man," George said. "Not how he talked, not his handwriting."

"No?" George had my full curiosity now.

"No," he said. "It just wasn't him."

"So what do you think happened?" I asked.

"Well, if there was a fake letter sent back, somebody musta faked it," he said. "So somebody musta kidnapped him."

"That's true," I agreed. At this point, I was hooked and had already decided I was going to try to solve this, because why not? "Did Todd have any enemies? Or anyone he'd just annoyed in the last while?" I pulled up a wild amaranth and stood up straight to look at George, then tore off an amaranth leaf and nibbled it as I waited on him to speak.

"No, of course not. Nobody out here is unfriendly, and Todd's a good guy."

I remembered the very people who'd just been looking down their noses at George and his people. Some of them were vampires. Had one of them drank Todd's blood? I had assumed that they got their blood the same way Omar did, but now that I thought about it, I couldn't be sure that some of them wouldn't drink human blood if they had the chance.

I had to look into this. If these people were murdering people for blood... well, that couldn't be allowed to go on. "Has anyone unusual been coming around here at all? Any cars you don't usually see?" I asked.

"Huh. Not that I remember," he said. "Well, there was a fancy old-fashioned car the other day. It's probably those rich guys up in that mansion. They don't usually come by here."

But they had come, and my heart quickened a little. I might have been onto something. "How many times did you see them drive by?" I asked.

"Just once," he said.

I thought about this. Maybe just once was all it took. Maybe someone who wasn't a vampire would drive out during the daytime, see whether someplace like this had anyone they could take without too much trouble. Then the vampires might come and hunt at night.

"Did you contact the police about this?" I asked.

"I did, but... well, they don't think it's worth their time. They agree he just left." He sighed and frowned.

"I could look into it," I offered after eating another amaranth leaf. "I can try to find out what's happened."

"What are you some kind of private detective?" he asked me.

"Yes, actually," I said. That was something else I did now and then, as need or opportunity arose. Sometimes it was a good way to make money, sometimes it was a good way to stave off boredom, and sometimes it was just about righting a wrong. Sometimes, when I was very lucky, it was all three. Since these people didn't have much money, this case would have to be about fun and justice.

I couldn't complain, really.

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