Vampire Games (Chapter Four)

"So, do you still need to sleep during the day?" Kingsley asked, or, at least, I think he asked. Words had a tendency to get muffled when spoken around a side of beef.

We were at Mulberry Street Ristorante in downtown Fullerton, sitting by the window, drinking wine and eating steak. Just like regular people.

Of course, one of us wasn't so much eating their steak, as slurping the bloody juice pooling around it, and the other wasn't so much eating his steak, as wolfing it down.

I nodded. "I'm still a creature of the night, if that's what you're asking. And, yes, I still need to sleep during the day. I'm still weak during the day. I still feel like crap when I have to get up and pick up the kids during the day. The medallion only gives me the ability to tolerate the sun."

"No more burning?" he asked between bites.

"No more burning."

Mulberry's was busy tonight. It was busy every night, as far as I could tell. It was our restaurant of choice, especially since the cooks and waiters here were used to my orders of raw meat, extra bloody.

Now, as I watched Kingsley tear through his meat in record time, something occurred to me. "Now I have a question for you."

"Shoot."

"Were you always this big?"

"Big…how?"

"Big, as in I've actually seen you turn sideways to go through doorways."

"Only some doors, and, no, the big part came later."

"How much later?"

"Over time. Decades. Little by little, after each transformation."

"You mean, you grew after each transformation?"

"Yes. At least, as far as I could tell."

"But why?" I asked.

"Survival, I think."

"But you're already immortal," I said, lowering my voice.

"A weak immortal doesn't get one very far, Sam. And remember, I can't turn into – " and now he lowered his voice to a low growl – "the thing I turn into, on cue. That happens only once a month, and generally in a locked room. And when it does happen, I'm often out of my mind. Gone to the world for the whole night."

"While something else takes over your body."

"Right," he said.

"So, being big in your daily life has its benefits."

"Of course. Stronger, faster, able to protect myself."

"So how big were you before?"

"Big enough, but not this big."

"Do all werewolves get as big as you?"

"Some bigger."

I said, "I haven't gotten bigger. If anything, I've gotten smaller."

"And you won't get bigger because each night you're at full strength. And even during the day you're not completely incapacitated."

"No," I said. "Even though I feel weaker during the day, I'm still far stronger than I used to be."

I recalled my boxing match with the Marine last year, the match that had occurred just before sundown. Sure, I had felt like crap, but I was still strong enough to take down America's finest.

"Also," added Kingsley, reaching over and cutting off a chunk of my nearly raw steak, "it's just the nature of my kind."

"For the host to grow big," I said.

"Right. We all have our quirks."

"I think your quirks are better than my quirks," I said.

"And who among us can fly?" he asked.

I thought about that. "Good point."

As the water refilled our glasses of wine, Kingsley asked what I was working on these days. I told him about my latest case, and as I did so, Kingsley began nodding. Turns out he'd seen the fight live on HBO.

"Wasn't much of a punch," he said. "Not enough to kill a man."

"Or so we think," I said. After all, I had done some research on the subject. "We still don't know his condition prior to the fight, or the amount of punches he'd taken in practice and other fights."

Kingsley shrugged. "True. Either way, it wasn't much of a punch; in fact, I thought the fight was pretty even up to that point. What's your gut tell you?"

I shrugged too, but, unlike Kingsley, my shrug didn't look like two land masses heaving. I said, "Nothing yet, although I think Russell's grasping at straws."

Kingsley nodded. "Looking for a way to live with his guilt, perhaps."

"Perhaps," I said. "One thing is clear: It's eating him alive. Literally." I told Kingsley about the black halo I'd seen around the young boxer.

"The same halo you saw around your son?"

"The same."

"What's it mean?" asked Kingsley.

"It means he needs help. Lots of help."