Welcome to the Thursday Thousand! Every week, on Thor’s Day, I will be posting a short story (hopefully) written in advance. The only parameter is that it be, at minimum, 1000 words long. It can be any genre, any length beyond that, and even contain mild cliffhangers!
Why? Because some of these will turn into novels, let’s be honest here. Enjoy, and let me know what you think in the comments!
Note: This is an old idea that’s been revamped (HA OH MY GOD I’M SORRY) so many times, and I just wish it would figure itself out already. I think we might be getting close, though.
The sun hadn’t yet risen. The sky was still dark and strewn with stars. The moon glimmered behind a passing cloud, casting ripples of light through a window and into a bedroom. The night air was heavy with the weight of midsummer, and as Sam flung a hand out from beneath her duvet, it was with several angry, bitten swears.
The backs of her knees were doused in sweat. A small puddle had formed in her lower back. The baby curls at the base of her skull were sticking to her neck. There was nothing she enjoyed about this oppressive heat, and the first thing she intended to do after she found her phone was figure out the air conditioning. It had broken a couple weeks ago, but she couldn’t be bothered to fix it, and had instead invested in a new, heavy duty fan that blew any stray papers into a whirlwind unless she weighted them down. There were several brand new crystals sitting on top of stacks of papers, which was entirely her own fault, but still made Sam scowl. When she’d told Penelope about the air conditioner breaking and the new fan, Penelope whipped out no less than three crystals from her bra, said she’d have something better and bigger the next day, and then showed up outside Sam’s door with coffee and a surprisingly heavy bag the following morning.
“You need this anyway,” Penelope said, strong-arming the crystals through the door, “Your vibe has been so off lately.”
Sam had rolled her eyes, but Penelope just kissed the air at her, set her coffee down on the nearest available surface, and trotted into her room to start rearranging. It was one of the best and worst things about having Penelope for a friend. Sometimes, she would move furniture around and Sam would realize it had always meant to be the new way. But sometimes, she would move furniture around and Sam would bang into an armchair at 2AM when she was trying to stumble to the bathroom that hadn’t been there the day before.
Now, her fingers smashed into a crystal as she was trying to unearth her phone, and she had to practically vault out of bed, upsetting the sweat puddle and getting stuck to her duvet in the process, just to save the crystal from certain impalement on the floor. With one hand braced on the floor and the other clutching the crystal to her chest, Sam bent a little at the elbow before throwing herself backward. She scrambled to get back in the bed, and then angrily whipped the duvet off.
She needed a shower desperately.
Her phone had stopped ringing, but she reached for it anyway, and sure enough, it started ringing again.
“Baker,” she snapped when she finally answered.
“Christ on a cracker, Sammy,” Sergeant McCoy said.
Sam pinched the bridge of her nose and told herself not to sigh at him. “Good morning, sergeant.”
“Still good night, really,” he muttered, “Listen, can you make it down to Athens? There’s some shit going on, and the wife’s—”
“I’ll be there in 10,” she said before hanging up on him. If she let him ramble on much farther than that, she was never going to get him off the phone.
Sam took a moment to look at the crystal in her hand—something smooth, about the size of her fist, and summer sky blue with white cut through it. She wrapped her fingers around it, surprised, as always, at the weight of it. Sometimes, she thought she should tell Penelope to carry around one of these big suckers with her when she ended up walking home alone at night.
She was in and out of the shower in a few minutes, just enough to wash the sweat from her body, splash her face, and brush her teeth. She’d likely be heading into the office after whatever this call was, so she slipped into a pair of high-waisted, royal blue pants that flared out past the thigh, chucked her smart black shoes onto her bed, and frowned at her collection of hanging shirts. She wondered what kind of mood Andrew was in, if he’d need a laugh by the time they got to the scene.
Sam backtracked, grabbed her phone, and thumbed into her favorites to dial him. When she’d first started on the force, she was greener than she’d ever admit now and one of the youngest in a long time. She’d flown through school quickly, though, never stopping to make friends or pay attention to much beyond her studies. After growing up at an orphanage where she was picked on for her red hair and freckles, Sam didn’t care much for associating with other people. She graduated high school at sixteen, weaseled her way into the police academy, and was twenty-two when she finally got her badge. She’d had to work hard, and often under less than ideal circumstances both because she was a woman and, somehow, because she was short. That seemed to be more of a sticking point for most of the assholes in the force than her gender.
Granted, there were also those that called her feisty because of her height, and those were usually the guys she got along with. There were a few other women on the force, and Sam was friendly with all of them. They’d quickly taken her under their wing when she first got there, and Sam would forever be grateful for them. But she didn’t want to be an officer forever, and she did her best to impress their sergeant until, finally, he called her into his office with a sigh and threw down a sheet of paper with a blank signature line at the bottom. “Congrats, you’ve been promoted,” he said, and Sam didn’t hear the rest as she tried to swallow down her excitement to a normal degree.
She didn’t hear what caseload she would be taking on.
She didn’t hear when it started officially and what would be expected of her.
Worst of all—at least, that’s how everyone else looked at it, but Sam was dumbfounded by her luck when she finally found out—she didn’t hear who her partner would be.
When she walked in the following week, her uniform gone in place of a pair of smart grey pants, a deep purple blouse, and her sensible black shoes, she nearly turned right around to give herself time to prepare when she saw who was leaning against her new desk.
She’d been on the force three years before she became a detective, and she’d never thought, in a million years, that the sergeant would place her with one of their best. She was still the youngest by a long margin, she was brand new, and she was short.
Andrew Levi towered at six foot two, but he never used it to his advantage until about two years ago, when he dropped his forearm on her head and pretended to use her as an armrest. Sam retaliated without thinking, jabbing him quickly in the ribs, and didn’t bother with feeling mortified because Andrew was already laughing and flinching away. Everyone was wary of Andrew, thought him closed off and no fun, but it was a mere matter of days before Sam saw beneath the stoic expression he wore in the office.
They’d been partners for the better part of four years, and she wouldn’t trade him for the world.
Except for when he didn’t answer his phone. Sam sighed, ended the call, and dialed again. She waited until it went to voicemail again before she hung up, threw the phone back at the bed, and grabbed the white blouse with dozens of different kinds of glasses patterned across it. If he wasn’t going to answer his phone, then he’d get something obnoxious to look at when she showed up. He always snorted when she wore patterns, and it was always worth it.
Sam threw her hair up into a ponytail, holstered her gun, stuck one of Penelope’s smaller crystals into her pocket, and grabbed her phone. She’d get coffee on the way, and it was too damn hot for a jacket, so she left Pistol, her small Boston terrier, with a kiss on the nose, a promise to be back in an hour or so to walk her, and loud I love you’s as she locked the door.
Her apartment was on the second floor of a five-floor building, and while it had an elevator, Penelope had a strict aversion to all things small and enclosed, so Sam was accustomed enough to using the stairs that she took them automatically. Downstairs and across the street, her bike was parked in the apartment’s lot, her helmet stowed beneath the seat.
It was a short walk to Athens, but if the sergeant was calling her, that was because whatever officers were on the scene felt like it was bigger than something they could handle, so she swung a leg over the bike, keyed the ignition, and set out into the still dark. She checked her watch as she went, cursing. Dawn wasn’t for another solid hour.
When she spotted the police cruisers, their lights still flashing, Sam pulled up behind one, frowning as she looked around. Andrew’s car wasn’t anywhere she could see, and he was definitely too far to walk.
“Baker,” one of the officers said as she approached.
It was too dark to make out his features until she got nearer the cruiser. “Mennon,” she greeted, “Levi here?”
“Sergeant said he couldn’t get a hold of him, thought you’d call him.”
Something uneasy turned over in Sam’s stomach as she looked over at the building they were outside of. “Not answering,” she said, “What’ve we got here?”
“Double homicide,” Mennon said, shaking his head, “It’s brutal in there. Some old lady called, said she was outside pruning her flowers because she couldn’t sleep and she heard a gunshot go off. Building’s abandoned, and we haven’t had luck on prints yet. Burns and Maxim are upstairs with the bodies now.”
“Thanks. Let anyone touch that bike, and—”
“Their head on a spike, yeah, yeah,” Mennon said, grinning good naturedly.
Sam threw him a smile before she turned away, stepping between two cruisers and heading toward the building. The windows were dark but for a bright lantern set in one, and the yard out front was overgrown to the point where there was no discernible path up to the front door, which was hanging askew by a broken hinge.
Inside, the floors were covered in dust, and the stairs creaked like something out of a horror movie. As she climbed up, Sam dug out her phone and tried Andrew again, but to no avail. She shook her head as she stared at his contact for a moment. Something wasn’t right.
On the second floor, a big, square hallway branched off into different doorways like an old apartment building, and Sam headed toward the one with the light in it.
Mennon hadn’t done the scene justice. Brutal didn’t even begin to cover it. The two bodies were far from each other, one of them sprawled near a window like he’d been running to escape, and the other smashed against one of the support beams jutting from floor to ceiling. He was crumpled against it, his chin sagging in toward his unmoving chest. The one near the window had limbs akimbo, and his face was a bloody mess.
“Baker,” the two officers greeted as she came in.
“This is pretty,” she said, frowning as she dropped to a squat by the support beam man. There were spots of blood dotted around him, and though his face was clear, his throat was not. Sam tried to swallow, and found that she couldn’t. His throat was torn clean across, strips of skin splayed out across his shirt and the muscle beneath bared. One of his hands had frozen in a fist and stayed that way as he died. A clump of his hair was missing at the side like someone had grabbed him hard enough to yank it out.
Sam told herself to stay there, to keep looking at him like she couldn’t possibly imagine what had done this, even as something that tasted like anger started to unfurl in her.
Eventually, Sam let herself rise and cross the room in slow steps, heading for the sprawled man by the window. This one’s face was beaten in, the brow bone snapped and the jaw hanging open. His throat was torn into, as well, but cleaner this time, like the first one was done in desperation and the second one with a more sated mind.
One of his knees was broken, likely kicked from the side so that it snapped cleanly, disabling the man before he could escape through the window. Sam could see it all so easily. Both of them in here, a fight breaking out, the first one’s head being smacked against the support beam to stun him, the second one making a break for it only to be chased down, knee snapped, and left to drag himself across the ground while the support beam one was attended to.
Sam, still crouched near the sprawled one, fished out her phone and held it in her hand for long seconds. She stared at the broken knee, at the bloody face, at the ruined throat, and prayed. If he answered, she could figure out how to explain this.
Andrew remained mute, and Sam closed her eyes for a single moment.
She was going to kill him.
She was going to drag him down to the river that he hated so much and drown him. Weigh him down with rocks in his pockets and send him into the deep.
“Alright,” she said as she straightened up. “Tag and bag, boys.”
“You got a theory?” one of the officers asked.
“Working on one,” Sam said, “It’ll percolate as we work.”
They were used to this line. The whole force was. She liked to work while she thought, and normally, at the end of cleaning up a crime scene, she had a solid theory to work on. This time, like a few of the times before, she didn’t need time to think, just time to let her anger cool. She stayed for the hour she’d allotted Pistol, made notes and left instructions, and then she stopped at her apartment to walk her dog, dial Andrew one last time, and swear loudly at him as she jogged back down the stairs.
She left him a single voicemail, “You’re dead, Levi. Fucking d-e-a-d. You better be drunk when I get there. Or stoned. High on fucking drugs, I don’t care, anything else but this.”
It wasn’t a long enough drive from her apartment to his house. He lived near the Old South Church, which Sam found hilarious on good days. The house was small, just two bedrooms with a giant backyard, something unheard of in most parts of Boston, and something Sam wasn’t sure how he’d finagled. When she got there, the windows were dark, but his car was in the driveway, and Sam sent up a prayer—or down, maybe it worked that way with Andrew—that his phone was dead or he really was drunk or that maybe he just couldn’t be assed to wake up.
Anything was better than what she was probably going to find.
Sam parked her bike next to his car, kicked one of his wheels for good measure, and headed around to the front door. Though dawn was beginning to crest the horizon, it was still dark enough that she’d be nothing more than a blurry shape through the window, but when she opened the door with her set of spare keys, Hermes just blinked at her, somehow knowing it was her and not an intruder. He always knew, as did the other two. Doberman’s, the three of them—Hermes, Nyx, and Ares. Andrew had had them for as long as anyone could remember, and they’d loved Sam for as long as she’d known them.
She rubbed her knuckles against Hermes’ head the way he liked as she pulled the door shut behind her before she looked over at the couch. The front door opened up into the living area, which flowed openly into the kitchen and a small sitting area near a bay of windows. To the left was a set of stairs, and at the back was Andrew’s office. Nyx was lying on the couch, but she whined when she caught Sam’s scent. “Where is he?” she whispered.
She meant Andrew, but then Ares was padding down the stairs, and she had her answer. She left Hermes in the hall, told Ares to stay when he paused at the bottom of the stairs, and ran up them alone. Upstairs, there were two bedrooms, a pristine guest room that Sam had used a few times when they were busy pulling all-nighters and trying to figure out a case, but needed a change of scenery, and Andrew’s bedroom.
When she crested the stairs, it was to find his door open and something damning on the frame.
“Goddamn it,” Sam hissed as she sprinted across the hall.
There were bloody lines streaked across the doorframe, like he’d tried to grip the wood and stumbled through instead.
Inside, Andrew was collapsed on the floor, one of his arms stained up to the elbow in blood and the other tucked awkwardly under him. His dark hair was matted with sweat, his clothes were rumpled and sticking to him, and one of his boots was missing. Furious, Sam swung a kick at the other boot hard enough to jolt through him, and Andrew woke with a jerk and a gasp.
It was only with the sudden intake of breath that Sam realized she hadn’t heard him breathing before, and it just made her angrier.
“Get up!” she roared.
Downstairs, Ares growled.
Andrew got one hand under him, tried to roll over, and fell back onto his face. He stayed there for a long moment, his shoulders heaving as he breathed, before he finally said a single word, “Shit.”
“Yeah, shit,” Sam said before she took aim again. Andrew yanked his leg out of range, and Sam hit air. “Do you even know—”
“No,” Andrew cut her off, pushing against his hand again. He managed to get up and roll over so he was slumped against the side of his bed, and his front was even worse. His shirt was torn, there were angry red scratches across his chest, and his normally Greek dark face was pale. “How many?” he asked. His dark eyes were rimmed with sleepless bruises, and she could see the lines in his face from his bones. He was too thin, too tired, and it all added up to something horrible.
“Two,” Sam said, “Male. Your age. Well.”
Andrew closed his dark eyes and dropped his head back.
“Do you remember anything?” Sam demanded.
“A bar. One of them tried to run. Nothing else.”
“You snapped his knee.”
“Sorry, he’s not taking pleas for innocence from undead bastards.” Sam didn’t linger any longer. She turned on her heel and stalked back out of the room, but not before slapping on the light just to listen to him groan.
Downstairs, Sam kept hitting lights, flooding the house until she got to the kitchen. Nyx was still on the couch, but Hermes nosed at her ankles in hope of an early breakfast. Distracted, Sam gave in, filling all three bowls. Nyx was off the couch in a second, but Ares stayed at the foot of the stairs, giving her a plaintive look until Sam waved a hand. “Fine, go,” she said, and he took off like a rocket upstairs.
She stood at the sink in the kitchen, the faucet running for no reason, her hands braced against the countertop, until she heard the shower turn on upstairs, and then she flipped the faucet off and went to yank open the fridge door. She had two options. She could stew in her anger, let it boil inside of her until Andrew came downstairs. Or, she could make some eggs.
Food was always the safer option, and like tagging and bagging to clear her mind, Sam cooked to give her hands something to do so her mind could calm down. She put on a pot of water to boil, cut up potatoes, and tossed them in when they were in little quarters. While they cooked, she started dicing vegetables—mushrooms and broccoli for her, peppers and onions for Andrew. When that was done, she cracked two eggs in the skillet and whisked them until they were a smooth yellow. She set the peppers and onions against one side, and while everything started to cook, she got cheese and salsa from the fridge.
By the time the shower turned off, Sam had two omelets, potatoes, and coffee. The kettle was on for tea, and it started whistling just as Ares thundered into the kitchen, Andrew behind him. Sam watched him as he went past to take the kettle off and find a mug. He was dressed in a pair of black pants and a navy shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His dark hair was still wet from the shower, and though the color was back in his face, he still looked drawn when he finally sat down across from her. His skin had been scrubbed clean, and there weren’t any traces of blood beneath his fingernails.
Sam gave his plate a nudge, and Andrew grimaced. One of his hands drifted to his jaw, rubbing lightly. She didn’t want to meet his gaze, but at some point over the years, Andrew had become her friend, and she didn’t know how to hold onto her anger. She sighed, looked up at him, and said, “Let me see.”
“Don’t shit with me, Levi,” she said, flapping a hand impatiently at him.
He dipped his head in a nod before opening his mouth. Damn it all, the bodies had been fresh, but she hadn’t quite realized how fresh. His eye teeth were still a little too sharp, and his gums looked swollen from the sudden growth as his fangs pushed through.
Sam grit her teeth, but pointed at the plate. “Eat,” she said, “It’ll help.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled.
“You know what else would help?” she pressed.
“Sam, not now.”
“Oh, don’t fucking not now me. The sergeant called me in, Andrew, because the officers on the scene thought it was too gruesome. Do you even know what those men looked like when you left them?”
“I didn’t mean—”
“I know you didn’t mean to, but that doesn’t change the fact that you did. Especially because this is avoidable. We talked about this. You said you were going to take care of it.”
This time, when Andrew looked at her, it was with a flat expression. Somewhere deep, she knew fury lurked, knew that it was starting to rise to the surface. He didn’t turn that expression on her that often, but it had stopped frightening her a long time ago. She knew him, and she knew that he’d never take that anger out on her. “I haven’t had time,” he said, “Between the goddamn serial killer we have that no one will admit is a serial killer and those dumbass junkie kids who keep throwing firebombs at the church, I just haven’t—I’m sorry. It’s not an excuse. I just—I thought it wasn’t as bad as it was.”
“You still look like shit,” Sam said as he finally picked up his fork.
“Well, what?” Andrew didn’t answer, just lifted his eyebrows. “Out with it,” Sam said.
“I think I—realized what I was doing halfway through.”
Sam frowned. The second one’s face had been bloody, sure, but his throat had been cleaner. The first one’s skin was waxy and pale, but not enough to indicate a severe blood loss, just a little more than normal, and she hadn’t really been able to discern with the second’s one messed up face. “Wait,” she said as it dawned on her, “Are you still—hungry?”
“Starving, actually,” Andrew admitted, and that alone gave Sam pause.
It wasn’t that they didn’t talk about it. The cat had been out of the bag for a few years now. They’d been partners for two years when Sam followed Andrew into a small, dinghy building. She’d only been following him because he’d been acting weird lately, leaving at odd hours, paler than usual, and distracted more often than not. When she followed him, she expected to find him engaged in something sketchy, sure, but handing over cash for bags of blood? That wasn’t even last on her list—it just wasn’t on her list. It never occurred to her that her partner wasn’t human.
When he came back out, Sam waited until they were a block away from the building, pulled out her gun, and said, “Start talking.”
She watched Andrew flinch, and to this day, knowing what she did, she was still surprised he hadn’t heard her behind him. She’d never asked him why, either, because she was so blindsided by what he said next. “I guess it’s time for the truth,” he said, “Admittedly, I’ve never had a partner more than a few months. They either ask to be transferred, or I ask.”
“Well, I’m not going anywhere,” Sam said, and she meant it, though when he told her what he was, she wavered for a full second before she asked, “Do you kill people?”
And that’s when it all came out. No, not if he could help it, but sometimes, he couldn’t. Sometimes, because he was an idiot, which he freely admitted to, he forgot to eat—drink, she corrected him, and was glad when he winced—and the hunger got so bad that he went into a kind of blackout drunk state and when he woke up, there were bodies.
It hadn’t happened in a long time, he reassured her, but all spells were meant to be broken, and six months later, she was called onto a scene, Andrew not answering his phone, and it was the first time she saw evidence of his recklessness. Throats torn, blood drained, broken bones. And Andrew, unconscious somewhere in his house, covered in blood and with no memory of what he’d done, just that he’d done something.
Truthfully, he was something of a mystery that he didn’t have answers to and that Sam was adamant on figuring out. He could walk in the daytime, which he’d said had never been a problem, though all lore pointed against it. When she said that aloud, he said he was the only one he knew of that could do that, and that he wasn’t part of a coven because of it.
“A coven?” Sam had yelled, “Wait, hold on, back up.” That was about when she started taking notes, little books that were locked in a safe underneath her bed.
Most of the rest of the lore was bullshit. He put excessive amounts of garlic in everything. Cutting off his head would do the same thing it did to anything—kill him. The same with a stake through the heart. “Look, you stab someone through the heart, vampire or not, and they’re a goner.”
“You said it,” Sam said, staring at him.
“The v word.”
Andrew rolled his eyes. “Your turn.”
“You’re a vampire,” Sam whispered, and when she started laughing, Andrew gawked at her.
“You’re a sociopath,” he accused, and Sam just nodded through her giggles.
In the beginning, she asked him about eight thousand questions, and while she still had some as the years went on, they were on mostly the same ground now, which meant they didn’t talk about it as often anymore. For the most part, Andrew was fairly normal and pretty lame. He went to bed early, he was grouchy, and he was willing to eat anything she put in front of him. He just also drank blood because food wouldn’t actually sustain him, he just enjoyed the taste of it, and sometimes, when he forgot to feed, he wound up murdering people because he was an idiot. Plain and simple.
Except Sam still couldn’t understand why he couldn’t remember and why he had such a hard time not starving, and Andrew couldn’t give her a reason for either. It had always been like that, he said, and when she questioned how long always was, that’s when the rest of it came out.
Not only did he have no idea how old he was, he couldn’t remember anything beyond waking up in Boston one day twenty years ago. He remembered the dogs—they’d always been a fixture in his life. But beyond that, he had no recollection of anything but who he was and what he was. Where he’d come from, when he’d been originally born, if he’d been born like this or turned at some point—all of it was gone.
“Someday,” she sometimes promised him, “We’re going to figure you out.”
“Let’s catch the bad guys first,” he always responded.
Now, Sam sighed and speared a potato. “Alright,” she said, “We’re making a game plan together since you’re clearly a basket case on your own.”
Andrew offered her a grateful smile, and though it was small, it was genuine and it took the edge off the bodies a little. They were going to figure this out. They were going to get him a steady supply of blood, and she was not going to be called in for anymore dropped bodies.
Outside, the sun started to rise in earnest, and the kitchen swelled with light.