Dry Spell – Part Two

Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_StudiosYou can find Part One here

Vlad started at the rumbling tones of Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor. As the second measure ended, the tones repeated and he stretched, scrubbing a patch of dirt from his ear. “Renfield?” he mumbled, his voice stretched thin across the line between sleep and death. Tocatta blared once more. “Renfield!”

“Yes, Master,” Renfield called from the floor above. “I’ve got it, Master.”

Floorboards creaked as his servant hurried to the front door. Vlad sat up in his coffin and dusted the dirt from his sleeves, curious who would be calling at this early of an hour. A digital clock on the wall read ‘0:28′; twenty eight minutes until sundown.

His estate was unlisted. Off the grid. No phone even for a do-not-call list. On private land and surrounded by a high fence, his only visitors to date had been a steady stream of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a couple of Mormon missionaries. The former, Renfield dealt with. The latter, he’d actually invited in. No crosses. No bibles. Renfield’s surprising thoughtfulness had provided a lovely mid-afternoon snack.

Even with the keen senses of a predator, Vlad could only tell that the current visitor was a female and by the sound of Renfield’s increasing stammer, a quite persistent one. She’d need to get in line like the rest, he mused. Planting his palms on the coffin’s lip, he sprang to the floor. He shuffled across the stone floor toward a closet and shed his hoodie as he moved.

Once a color somewhere between alabaster and damaged plum, his skin had been painted. Normal flesh tones disguised every visible inch. Six-pack stripes stretched across his engorged belly.

Vlad scratched his head and opened the closet. As he reached for another black hoodie, a plastic dry-cleaning bag brushed his hand.

An empty void stared through the plastic. Perfectly black, so deep it would stand out like neon against a night sky. The imperious collar knifed the edges of the bag. Regal. Deadly.

His eyes drifted to the card table next to the closet. Several vials of flesh-toned paint rested beside an airbrush. Next to this were stacks of pink eggs, half of them lidless and strewn haphazardly on the floor. Somewhere in his hollow chest, a sinking feeling formed.

“Master?” Renfield’s voice came from the stairwell.

“What?” Vlad shook his head and grabbed a hoodie.

Renfield crept slowly into view as he navigated the darkness. “May I?” he felt around for the light switch as he reached the final step.

“Very well.”

The lights flickered on. Atop Vlad’s layer of flesh tone paint, a glittery film shimmered under the fluorescent bulbs.

Scrubbing at a silvery speck on the bridge of his nose, Vlad snapped, “Who was it?”

“A girl, Master. She says she saw you at the club last night.”

“Oh? All of the women I entertained last night have served their purpose.” Vlad flicked his hoodie over his head and it flopped flaccidly across his brow.

“Well, she never actually spoke with you. Or so she says.”

“Describe her.”

“Ummm, well,” Renfield struggled. “Average height. Average weight. Light brown hair.” Renfield narrowed his eyes. “Rather vacant stare – I almost took her for a thrall.”

Vlad curled his lip and picked absently at a fang. “Could be any of them. How did she find us?”

“She admitted to following you, Master.”

“Really? How did I not see this?”

“You were plastered, Master,” said Renfield, hastily adding under a piercing stare, “The fault of your inebriated prey.”

The hardened stare softened. “I’d hardly call them prey. They don’t deserve the name. More like one of those windows where they grind cattle and serve it on bread with potatoes.”

“A fast food drive-thru, Master?”

“Yes. Much too convenient to call them proper prey.” Vlad patted his belly and grabbed the airbrush off the table. “But, I should have done this years ago.”

“I’m not sure this would have worked years ago, Master,” said Renfield, snatching the airbrush.

Vlad rolled up his hoodie and faced Renfield who began spritzing on paint. “Perhaps, but this strategy is most effective at present.”

“If you say so, Master.” Renfield did his best to appear focused on a particularly tricky blend of abdominal muscle. When he finished, he stepped back and rubbed his hands together.

“Excellent.” Vlad shimmied back into the hoodie and motioned to his coffin.

Obediently, Renfield slouched across the room to freshen the graveyard dirt inside. While he scooped rich earth from a ceramic urn, he tried to continue his earlier line of thought, “I just wonder if this isn’t a bit…well, beneath you.”

His Master narrowed his eyes and Renfield focused on smoothing the dirt.

“We’re only doing this to weather our little dry spell, Renfield. By the time this fad passes, we’ll have moved on.”

Renfield gave the bedding a final pat and hurried after his Master who was ascending the stairs.

Halfway up, Vlad stopped and turned. “What of this woman? Did you get the forms signed?”

“Oh, yes, Master.”

“Name?”

“Robin, I believe, Master. Robin Brutto.”

“Sounds…common. Did she leave an address?”

“Of course, Master.”

“And she initialed the Right of Access clause?”

“Definitely, Master.”

“Good. Then I shall visit her tonight, when the full moon shines above the world like polished bone and the forces of darkness gather under its gibbous power!” Flinging his arm out in front of him, Vlad swept up the stairs, imagining the flutter of his cloak. But the cotton hoodie only clung like a puffy skin and Vlad sighed. Yanking the hoodie drawstrings tight, he stomped up the stairs.

#

Pale moonlight stretched along the 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom. Despite the absence of color, the black machine out-shined the economy cars and pickup trucks which dotted the neighborhood’s driveways. Tail lights flared and the car pulled up to a powder-blue house that looked drab and gray outside the circle of porch light.

With practiced ease, Renfield hopped out and navigated the elongated hood of the Rolls, stopping to polish the hood ornament with his sleeve. Vlad watched him brush the tattered jacket sleeve on his trousers as he approached the passenger door.

“I asked you to remind me about freshening your appearance,” said Vlad.

“Sorry, Master.” Renfield ducked his head and shuffled backward, extending a hand which Vlad ignored. Stepping onto the pavement, Vlad heard the door of the house slam shut. What at first glance appeared to be a man stomped down the porch toward them.

Perhaps five and a half feet tall, shorter than even Renfield’s hunched frame, the figure was an amorphous blob which exploded out from a pair of bikers shorts. His legs and arms swung like unweighted pendulums. Bronze skin and chestnut eyes peeked out of a thick mat of body hair above a snarling muzzle. The beast wafted by on a current of coriander and tumeric lingering above a hint of human flesh that made Vlad’s stomach grumble.

Without pausing, he growled, “Good luck,” stretching the ‘o’s through a thick accent before disappearing into the night.

Vlad shrugged and approached the house while Renfield stood by the Phantom. Once at the door, he grasped the knob and was pleased to find it unlocked. He opened it and slid his toes over the threshold. Satisfied, he stepped into the entry hall and closed the door behind him.

“I thought I told you…” a man emerged out of the living room to his left. Bald, with a neck like an inner tube, he cradled a shotgun, the barrel resting on his shoulder. Tattooed arms made up for the lack of sleeves on his flannel shirt.

Far from intimidate, Vlad smirked. “Robin invited me.”

“I got silver slugs in this here gun, boy.” He pumped the shotgun with one hand and began to level it.

“Is that so?” In a blur, Vlad closed the distance and ripped back the man’s collar. Fangs hovering above the flesh, Vlad froze and stumbled backward.

A tattoo of a cross decorated the man’s collar bone. Caught off guard, Vlad turned to leave and balked again. Nailed to the door was a sign – another cross stenciled above the silhouette of a military rifle. Beneath the rifle words declared, “If Jesus had his AK, he wouldn’t have been crucified.”

Hog-neck raised his shotgun and motioned Vlad into the living room. Trapped between the crosses, Vlad flashed razor-sharp canines. The man didn’t flinch. Scowling, Vlad headed for a well-worn sofa.

“That’s it. Have a seat.”

Sinking into the spring-less cushions, Vlad scooted forward and perched on the edge. Hog-neck dropped into an armchair and placed the butt of the shotgun on the ground. With his free hand, he flipped a lever and his feet sprang up in Vlad’s direction. After he’d wriggled into the chair a bit more, he snatched a can from a side table and took a long draw.

“Want a beer?”

Astonished, Vlad took a moment to answer. “No.”

Hog-neck finished another long gulp with a contented exhale and crumpled the can. “So, you want to date my daughter?”

“Not exactly,” Vlad said.

“No? Ain’t that why you’re here?” The man’s fingers tapped the barrel of the gun.

“I have no intention of this being an extended affair.”

“Really now?” With a meaty hand, the man dug through a pocket on the side of the recliner. Several remotes, a short barrel .38 and TV Guide later, he produced a thick red book. “Wanna swear on that?”

Vlad sunk into the couch as the man leaned forward. Tucking the Bible into his lap, hog-neck drummed his fingers on the cover. “You saying my daughter’s looking for a hook-up? That what they call it? You saying she’s a cheap whore?” His fingers continued to drum.

“What your daughter is or isn’t is no business of mine. My need for her is only…temporary.”

“Oh, I know your kind. Don’t think I don’t got cable TV. You vampires with all your sex and blood sucking. It ain’t right. Ain’t you dead?”

Vlad’s temper flared. “I am immortal, peasant!”

“But, you’re dead. You can’t be immortal.”

“Dead, alive, I have been on this earth for centuries. Long before your narrow family tree sprouted from whatever sty it took root in.”

“Only one man ever raised hisself from the dead.”

Taken aback yet again, Vlad mused at the ramifications. An empty grave, a sacrament of blood drinking. He shook the thought from his mind. “Interesting point. But I assure you I am…”

“A walking corpse. Like them shows.”

“It’s nothing like ‘them shows’,” Vlad spat.

“Don’t try to fool me, boy. You got that glittery skin.”

Vlad struggled to find the right words.

“You think because you’re all glittery and apathetic, you can treat my little girl like a piece of trash.”

“Seriously, I’m here for a late night snack. Nothing more.”

“So my baby’s a suck ‘em and dump ‘em kinda gal to you?” The man sat forward, waving the Bible furiously. Vlad growled as it bobbed closer. “See. Exactly like them shows. I know what you people are like.”

“Daddy?” Robin’s voice carried across the house like the scent of iced cinnamon rolls. “Is everything alright out there?”

Hog-neck’s tone dropped several octaves. “Everything’s fine sugar plum. You just pretty yourself up, you hear? Daddy’ll call you out in a minute.” He fired a harsh whisper at Vlad. “Now look, you’re making her all upset!”

“Is he here?” she called.

Hog-neck scowled at Vlad and rose from the recliner, dropping the bible on the coffee table. “Yes, sugar plum.”

“Oooh, which one?” came the sweet voice.

He turned his head and narrowed his eyes at Vlad as he shouted, “The sparkly one.”

“What happened to Nabendu? Wasn’t he here before?”

“Yeah, sugar plum. I threw his sorry ass out. You’re too good for him, baby.”

While her father faced the hallway, Vlad took the opportunity to slink across the couch, away from the Book which continued to send steady waves of repulsion through his jerky-like flesh. He could see into the kitchen where another door, minus any crosses, waited.

“They didn’t fight did they?” The gooey sweetness disappeared under a wave of anticipation.

“No, baby. Nobody’s fighting. We ain’t fighting neither. Just talking.”

“Okay,” she called, deflated. “I’ll be ready soon.”

Hog-neck turned and Vlad fell into a casual pose, his hand resting under his chin. The man eyed Vlad suspiciously before he fell into the recliner and shot his legs into the air.

A safe distance from the holy tome and with hog-neck once again enveloped in his recliner, Vlad sprang to his feet. “There’s been a mistake. I’ll just tear up the contract. No harm, no foul as they say.”

The man’s eyes shrank into narrow slits and his thick neck shortened. He reached for the shotgun propped against the chair. “You ain’t thinking of walking out on my little baby, are you?”

Vlad raised his hands and sidestepped toward the kitchen. “Actually, no.” With a flourish, Vlad flipped his hoodie over his brow and cursed as the rough cloth fell unevenly across his eyes. The air filled with smoke…and glitter…where Vlad once stood.

Hog-neck leapt up and swung the shotgun wildly around the room.

Assuming the form of a bat, Vlad arced over the shotgun barrel hugging the ceiling as he raced for the kitchen. Both barrels roared behind him.

“Don’t shoot him, Daddy!” Robin had raced into the living room but Vlad didn’t dare look. The kitchen was still too far away and a second shower of pellets punctured the ceiling inches from his wings. He weaved to the side and dipped under a table, flying serpentine through the legs.

“He’s a damn rodent now, sugar plum! Ain’t nothing but good eating!”

“But, Daddy! I love him!”

Vlad soared out from under the table, aiming for the kitchen window.

“You just met the fool! You don’t love him!” Shouted the man as he broke open the shotgun and fumbled in his pocket for more shells.

“I’ve been watching…I’ve seen him around for months now,” came Robin’s stuttering reply. Vlad shuddered and pumped his wings for more speed.

“Why can’t you date the boys at school?” demanded her father as he leveled the shotgun.

Like a misguided bird, Vlad careened into the window pane. Stronger than a dozen men while a vampire, as a bat, the physics of a five ounce body weight had their limitations. Stunned, he slid down the pane of glass and into the kitchen sink. Over the concussive buzz in his brain, Vlad heard hog-neck’s voice continuing in thick whispers, stalking closer to the counter. “Why you want to waste your time with this a-mortal demon spawn, I’ll never understand.”

Head spinning, Vlad stumbled into the drain and landed across a strip of metal.

“But, we’re soul mates! I want to be with him, forever. I can be with him, forever!”

Those words pierced his mental fog and Vlad shivered. Through a rubberized curtain, he saw a hand reach stealthily across the sink toward the wall.

The rubber seal. Metal bar digging into his back. He’d fallen into the garbage disposal.

While there were a finite number of ways to end a vampire’s existence, at least two of those conditions could be met with the flick of a switch and the obligatory rush of water.

Holding the breath he no longer had, Vlad dropped into the narrow drainpipe as the whirring of blades diced Robin’s screams.

#

“Mmmmm. Is that fresh bread I smell, Master?” asked Renfield as Vlad stepped from the shadows. His Master’s only reply was a damp squelch as he trudged toward the Phantom. Renfield’s manic expression drained.

Vlad’s face had become the canvas for an abstract smear of meatloaf, body paint, and beer foam. The black hoodie glistened with a coating of slime. Where hood had once been was nothing but a nest of tattered threads. A crooked gash in the fabric exposed his purpled, dead flesh swimming in muddied flesh tones. But the transmogrification into a bat, the slide into the food-caked drain and the squeeze up the clean-out vent to the roof, had scrubbed off every ounce of glitter.

“Beer.”

“What?” Renfield clawed the door of the Phantom open as Vlad bore down on the vehicle.

“The odor. Beer. Not bread, you half-wit.” Vlad squished into the backseat, eyes straight ahead. Renfield closed the door and hurried to the driver’s seat.

“Wh…where to, Master?” Renfield watched the rearview with wide eyes and Vlad avoided his gaze.

“Home, Renfield. I need to remove this despicable outfit.”

“Yes, Master.” The Phantom purred down the block and Vlad stared vacantly out the window.

Once they’d left the neighborhood far behind, and the moonlight fought only against a jagged silhouette of tall pines winding along the roadside, Vlad spoke. Softly, just loud enough for Renfield to hear him over the growl of the engine. “I’ll be needing my cape.”

A mottled grin like an open sore spread across Renfield’s face. “Yesss, Master. Most definitely.”

Does Bumgarner have Superpowers?

B1Kh-AmCcAA60yC“Seriously, he’s an Augment.” Eric’s got that Hunter Pence look in his eyes.

“Bullshit.” I rack my brain trying to remember all the faces we flipped through on his Conspirapedia database thing. Even the fact that I’m bothering to do that makes me wonder how sane I am. “He’s not an Augment.”

“No, he is, really.”

“Fine.” Fighting an eyeroll is taking monumental effort. “What powers has he manifested?”

“A 1.02 ERA in 55 2/3 innings? And you’ve seen his pitch. I mean how do you do even sling heat flopping your arm around like that. Maybe he’s got an elasticity power…”

“Elasticity? What in the hell are you talking about?”

“Well, like his skin and bones stretch or something.”

“That has to be the dumbest power I’ve ever heard of. Nobody has that power.”

“Well, they could…”

“And what? Use it to pick further up their nose? Maybe creep on girls from the other end of a subway car? What happens when they take Viagra? They like turn to concrete? C’mon dude, that’s dumb.”

Eric looks down in defeat. “Okay, maybe you’re right.” But pretty soon his mouth drops open and he’s back at it. “Clairvoyance. He knows what the batter is anticipating, how they’ll swing and so he always makes the best call. Always one step ahead. And we’d never be able to verify because he’d be one step ahead of everyone else.”

“And he uses this to sling horsehide and not negotiate world peace?” I say, not convinced I wouldn’t do the same thing. “Stop, man. He’s a badass. Anyone can be a badass, they don’t have to be a superhero.”

Eric frowns and doesn’t resist an eyeroll. “When did you become a motivational speaker?”

“Shut up and get me another Dew. Let’s celebrate. No more Augment talk, I get enough of that crap from Dad. How about we hack Amazon and extend that sale of ours? You did post the documents right?”

“Oh yeah, like EVERYWHERE. A buck a click. We might be able to buy a new cooling fan for Babe soon.” Eric tosses a fresh can of radioactive caffeine my way. I snag it, doing a better job than freaking Blanco and Perez and pop the lid. Leaning back in the throne, I bask in the permanent odor of Parmesan baked into the cracked leather and take a swig.

With the rush of sugar comes a flood of memories starting with the Icehole. Next, a retirement home for cast-off Augments. Even the Beetle’s lair – the freaking Black Beetle. My arm convulses sympathetically and I almost spill my drink. How did I even survive? Why? Cheers erupt on the TV again and I let them override the rest before my thoughts drift to those that didn’t. I need a break. A clear win in my column. I’ll take this one.

We’ll extend the sale. For the Giants. Giants among Augments. Normal people giving everything to something extraordinary. That’s my kind of win.

http://www.amazon.com/Crimson-Son-Russ-Linton-ebook/dp/B00KZ87P2S/

Crimson Son: On sale ONE MORE DAY due to “hacking” and a Giant’s win…

Dry Spell – Free Fiction from Russ Linton

Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_StudiosVlad sat on a bench designed to be uncomfortable. Centuries ago when his body circulated blood and his muscles were pliable, he’d have complained. Or, more likely, never submitted himself to such common appointments. He started to rise but a passing group of teenagers did a double take. From pure reflex, he brought his forearm to his face and then quickly dropped it, shrinking into a black hoodie.

Drained skin, normally a ghastly gray, was submerged beneath three coats of SPF 150 which practically glowed inside the shadowed hood. His alluring eyes trapped behind a pair of welding goggles.

“Dude! Mothball emos!” snickered the pack leader as the group crawled past.

Vlad stared after them, memorizing the boy’s face. A tall, lanky kid. O positive. Boring, but perhaps, he thought, a decent dipping sauce for the pretzels that managed to force their aroma past even his deadened senses.

A girl in the back, her jeans painted to her ass and a cropped t-shirt full to bursting, saw him looking. “Eeeew, gross.” She shook loose his stare and moved closer to her friends.

Silently, Vlad turned to glare at the storefront before him, avoiding the half-dressed mannequins in the window. Pink and black letters bordered with incandescent bulbs burned through his goggles. A woman exited the store, shopping bag in hand. One look at Vlad and the man seated next to him, and she clutched her bag to her chest, clicking rapidly away into the desolate mall.

“So, Renfield, it has come to this,” Vlad muttered.

Renfield rubbed his hands together in glee. “Yess Master! Yess!” The accompanying smile was that of a mad man free of his straight jacket.

“Stop it,” Vlad commanded. “You look like a pervert.”

The rat-faced man sunk into his tattered dinner jacket.

“And remind me, we need to buy update your wardrobe while we’re here. Your predecessor’s rags are inadequate. You need to get with the times. Blend in a bit.” Vlad pushed up his hoodie’s sleeves exposing sunscreen caked arms.

“Yes, Master.”

A silence surrounded the two and Vlad’s predatory hearing focused on the retreating heels. Normally the sound would have thrust him into pursuit, but now he only sighed, his chest falling into an empty slump.

“You remember Mina?” Vlad asked, his senses becoming unfocused. “Her ivory skin and raven hair. Those lips…”

Renfield rolled his eyes as he interrupted, “…of mulled cherry wine.”

“Are you mocking me?”

“No, Master,” Renfield replied and averted his gaze to a potted fern beside the bench. “It’s just, well, it’s been,” Renfield began a count on his fingers, cycling through each hand several times before letting them fall limp. “Over a century, Master?”

“What is time when one is immortal?” Vlad mused, his thoughts still clinging to the past.

“You’ve had other women since…”

“Other women!” Vlad bared his pointed teeth. “Other women? None compare to my Mina.”

“Oh, never!” Renfield hastily agreed. “But, perhaps, some came close?”

The ancient Nosferatu stuffed his gloved hands inside the pocket of his hoodie and bowed his head. “None.”

Renfield crept next to him on the bench. “What of Alexandra? The fiery one with the big…”

“Pepper spray,” Vlad hissed. “You should remember these things, you dimwit. Every last servile thought should have been passed on from your predecessor, Renfield the Fifth.”

“Forgive me, Master, I am but an insect. Often the memories are slow to return.” As the memory final surfaced, Renfield remarked, “Who would have thought yet another pungent plant would have caused such a rash…” He wilted under his Master’s glare and stammered, “Coraline? What of Coraline?”

“Oh, Beelzebub! Why bring her up at all? I’d never seen a girl so anxious to be bitten. They’re all that way now. No terror. No fear. It’s distracting. It makes it hard to, to feed.”

Renfield patted Vlad’s knee. “It happens to the best of us, Master.”

Vlad’s glare skewered Renfield’s hand and he pulled away, certain he would be killed there, on the spot, dead like the indoor emporium where he sat. But the ferocious and feral visage lasted only for an instant. Fangs disappeared behind tight lips and red eyes became overcast. “It isn’t the same. They used to stand there. Doe eyed. Paralyzed with fright. Now they shout, defy me, spray produce. It’s humiliating.”

The red glow of Vlad’s eyes resumed and the fingers of his gloved hand started to grip then crush the recycled plastic bench where they sat. “And Hollywood. Cable television. Had I foreseen the coming fiasco I would have ripped out the heart of the man who made the talking pictures. How they spit on my heritage now with their sex-starved, gym rats!”

Vlad’s anger cycled to desperation and he hiked the hoodie up to his chest. “Abs, Renfield! They have abs! How is such nonsense even possible?” Gray, mottled, rigor mortised flesh began to smoke under the feeble rays of sun through a skylight.

“Now there Master,” Renfield pulled the hoodie free from Vlad’s loose grip, “abs aren’t everything.”

“No, of course not you imbecile!” Vlad’s temper flared and extinguished. “But everything has changed. No more is the thrill of the chase. The soul blackening domination. The women of this day and age are entirely unreasonable.”

In Renfield’s mind, more memories swirled and faded. He reached for another name to test his Master with, but none came. In fact, in the five years he’d spent as servant to the great Master of Darkness, the Nosferatu Prime, Count Dracul, Vlad the Impaler, he’d never seen his Master take on a smitten, vulnerable girl as a pet.

So far, Renfield’s errands had been trips to the blood bank. Vodka. Sangria mixes on the lean nights. But always drinks for one. The coffin turned down instead of the king-size bed. His Master was becoming an increasingly reckless man. Wandering out in the day. Sleeping at night. On one desperate binge, he’d even attempted to enter an Olive Garden.

“Master. Might I presume to ask a question?”

Vlad barely acknowledged him.

“When exactly was the last time?” Renfield braced himself for his Master’s fury.

Vlad studied the floor and toyed with the string dangling from his hood. “Renfield, my devoted servant, indentured by the last scrap of your pathetic soul, I cannot recall.” Under a pained expression, the SPF150 cracked like dried mud. “That is why we’re here.”

Renfield, rarely privvy to his Master’s schemes, followed Vlad’s gaze and stared in confusion at the brightly-lit sign. Half-dressed mannequins filled the windows. Photos of attractive women in nothing more than swatches of strung together cloth smiled at them. But they were not flesh and, most importantly, blood.

“Why here, Master?”

“For this.” Vlad pressed a piece of parchment into Renfield’s palm. “Go. Be quick about it.”

#

Renfield stood staring at the piece of parchment. He looked up at the cashier, who was either much taller than he or elevated on a platform behind the counter. Thin, her body sculpted in tight lines under a dark suit, she eyed him like she might a cockroach that had crawled out of her chickpea orzo salad.

“Can I help you?”

Unable to find the item from his Master’s note, Renfield had managed to stumble into a display of panties that more resembled spider webs than undergarments. Several customers had walked out as he disentangled himself and the cashier had taken up her imperious pose at the register. He raised the note, swatting at a pair of underwear that clung tenaciously to his sleeve.

The cashier, Lacey, or so her name tag said, wasn’t impressed. Nor did she for a second assume he was looking at her name tag. Her look hardened and she sucked in a breath, ready to deliver a scorching warning when Renfield blurted, “Bootytastic Body Shimmer.”

Her mouth froze, half-open.

Renfield nodded in quick bursts, emboldened by the words that had finally escaped his lips. “I am looking for Bootytastic Body Shimmer.”

Her expression did not change. She stood frozen for so long, Renfield glanced outside toward his Master to see if he’d performed some form of dark ritual on her. The only response was an impatient jab at his wrist. When Renfield looked back, Lacey seemed to have recovered. Without a word she grabbed a jar from a display on the counter and slapped it down with a fierce crack.

“Oh. Yes. There it is.” Renfield glanced at the display and blushed. “Looked all over.”

The burning stare continued.

“I’ll just…how much?”

She pointed at the price tag on the lid.

“Oh.” The display was well-stocked with only a few empty spots. Forty jars of Bootytastic Shimmer packed away in their sleek egg-shaped containers. “I’ll take them all.”

###

Catch the conclusion on HALLOWEEN next Friday!

The Ancient Art of Miàn duì Gōngjí

Over the weekend I manifested a new superpower to be added to the growing list alongside Making Shit Up and Where’s Waldo Echolocation. No, not invisibility. It would be useless anyway because I’d give myself away with the clacking on the keyboard. And no adamantium bones, which is fine. I don’t want to get the grope-down by setting off airport metal detectors every time I board a plane.

It was seven a.m. on a Sunday when I was forewarned of this development.  An annoying buzzing infiltrated my sleep, rattling my brain a bit. Spidey sense, one of the many other powers I’ve picked up over the years. That or…

When my wife Maaike’s phone stopped vibrating, she jabbed me in the face (which I totally didn’t see coming. The Spidey sense is weird like that) and said “It’s time”. Little did I know, this was only a warmup for the day ahead.

With my birthday approaching, she must have sensed the coming changes as well and maybe figured it was best if we were out of the house in case I maybe turned into living flame like the Human Torch. I really never understood how he lived a normal life. Does he clear out the station before pumping gas? Does he have an Emergency Plan set up with Sue? Okay, if I ever “flame on” in my sleep, we’ll meet at the fire hydrant out front.

Anyway, turns out my power was none of these. It was something better and to master it I had to learn an ancient Chinese martial art known as Miàn duì Gōngjí which is only practiced by a secretive, inbred tong. Most of them are missing their teeth and their noses have long since been pulped to their face like Voldemort, but this did not deter me. Though, in retrospect, it probably should have.

Turns out, attacking things with your face is pretty rough but effective. I mean nobody, not even you, sees it coming. The ultimate in sneak attacks.

After several repetitions, my red-suited sensei stopped laughing long enough to tell me that I was ready to unleash my new abilities. A power I’d been waiting for ever since these mutant abilities started to display themselves. The power of flight.

This was a singularly weird experience. It was like learning to swim but being told not to move or else the water will smash you against the side of the pool. Microscopic movements would shoot you across the width of the giant blender (clear walls for the entertainment of your “loved” ones) and trying to figure out which offending muscles had caused the incident was sorta like isolating which individual hair on your head itched.

When we finished, Maaike then decided to share some ancient Eastern wisdom she must have picked up from my sensei. She felt this gift was exactly what someone had meant when they mentioned a writer needed to “live their life outside their head as much as inside”. And that very wise person was right. All those experiences become fuel for the fiction. Add rich layers to the story and maintain the illusion.

I can’t wait until the next power rears it’s head.

I’ll have a helmet on standby and probably a face of steel by that point. But most importantly, I’ll have a new gift to pass on to the people that bother to stop and pick up my books or short stories. A gift of made up stuff tempered by a few reality checks against the inside of the blender.

Don’t leave me hanging (groan) check out the blog tour – dates are on the sidebar to the right. And don’t forget the SALE. .99 for the Crimson Son eBook!

Uncanny Sale – Crimson Son eBook for .99!

As all good mutations do, the Uncanny Blog Tour has morphed. Produced a new strain. Found its FINAL FORM.

Now announcing the AMAZING. The ASTONISHING. The STUPENDOUS. The UNCANNY Sale.

For a limited time, the Crimson Son eBook will be available for .99 cents.

Yep. You heard right. Less than a buck.

I can’t cram anymore badassery into an eBook for anything less. Well, unless you’re a public library. I love libraries – you guys can HAVE the book (I’ve set the eBook price for library purchases through Smashwords to FREE).

RIGHT NOW, you can find it on Amazon for .99 Other distributors seem to have their own time table for pricing updates which is somewhere between the Flash and Professor X speeds, but I’ll let everyone know when the major players have decided to honor my insanity.  For now, feel free to feed 30 billion pound gorilla that is Amazon – just keep your hands outside the cage.

Crimson Son

How can a powerless kid confront his father’s world of weaponized humans?

Crimson by Russ Linton - a superhero novel

Sample Chapter – Chapter One

Available at:

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SW_Vertical_Color iBooks amazon.co.uk
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Description:

Nineteen-year-old Spencer Harrington is the son of the Crimson Mask, the world’s most powerful superhero. Since witnessing his mother’s abduction two years ago, he’s been confined to his father’s arctic bunker. When the “Icehole” comes under attack by a rampaging robot, Spencer is forced to launch into his father’s dangerous world of weaponized human beings known as Augments.

With no powers of his own save a multi-tool, a quick wit and a boatload of emotional trauma, Spencer seeks to uncover his mother’s fate and confront his absentee father. As he stumbles through a web of conspiracies and top secret facilities, he rallies a team of everyday people and cast-off Augments. But Spencer soon discovers that the Black Beetle isn’t his only enemy, nor his worst.

Reviews for Crimson Son:

“Crimson Son is a strong, rite-of-passage piece, examining the bonds of father and son and the impact each can have on the other, set against the worlds of augmented super-beings and shadowy government conspiracies. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it does. In spades.”
- Fanboy Comics – 5 stars

“This bright, quirky fantasy, gives “superhero” a whole new meaning… The world Russ creates is so real, so believable, that you’re left wanting more of this character driven, action packed book.”
The Author Visits – 5 stars

Crimson Son is a 5-star book. Fast paced, engaging, character-driven, and a fun voice I love to read. As far as non-traditional Superhero books go, Crimson Son blows Steelheart out of the water.
Laura Masiano – Hidden Corner of the Interwebz – 5 stars

“More than just a “superhero” novel, it has emotional subplots that touch on coming of age, seeing your parents as other adults, trusting friends, and the triumph of the human spirit. “
Bookie Monster – 5 stars

Uncanny Blog Tour Day One

Behold! The insanity between my ears!

Savor! The increasingly convoluted answers to the question “why did you become a writer?”

Feel! No, on second thought, please look but don’t touch anything…keep your hands inside the car at all times.

Amazing! Astonishing! Uncanny!

I never quite got why comic books would throw fancy adjectives in front of their titles like they were trying to get someone to enter the tent with the jarred pig fetus at the county fair.

We’ll say it has to do with marketing and maybe the legendary P.T. Barnum. Since I know next to nothing about marketing and I’m desperate to sell books, I’ll borrow a page from his manual. I’m an X-Men fan (since way before all this new-fangled talking picture stuff…) so I’m calling this the Uncanny Blog Tour. ‘Cause it’s mysterious. And strange. And potentially unsettling (I mean who let THIS GUY pretend to be interesting anyway?)

We kick off today with a double dose of insanity at Kit ‘N Kabookle and Coffee Books and Art where I get serious with some interview questions. I get to explain why you shouldn’t punch people in the face when they say “I could write a book” and why you never ride an eight-man canoe down a snow-covered hill…

Follow along! Post and harass! Win fabulous prizes!

Crimson Son – Excerpt

I’m busy answering interview question this week so for Free Fiction Friday, here’s an excerpt from Crimson Son… This flashback comes early – end of Chapter Two. No spoilers here, but this is the pivotal event that changed Spencer’s life.

###

Crimson Son

Black Beetle kidnaps Spencer’s Mom

Home. I was seventeen. After years of moving, Mom put her foot down and we’d been in the San Francisco area for three years. She’d found a rental in an older neighborhood overlooking San Pedro Valley Park, one of those stucco homes with a tile roof. Mom loved the place. I did too.

Mom sighs as she tries to feed a page into the fax machine.

“Spencer, honey, do you have any idea how this works? I think I might’ve broken it,” she speaks without looking up and tucks a lock of dark hair behind her ear. She does that when she’s frustrated. That mostly includes any time she’s faced with gears, transistors, chips, batteries or so much as a stray piece of copper wire. She refers to herself as “technologically challenged.” Really, she wants an excuse to get me to help.

I eye the aging fax machine with contempt. “I could figure it out. But, what about your phone?”

She looks puzzled as she asks, “What about it?”

“The phone takes pictures, right? I can take pictures of the papers and send those to Dad.”

She smiles. My favorite part of this dream, nightmare, memory—whatever it is. I always try to stay at this point. Stop time. Freeze her face and burn it into my brain so I can see that expression, always.

“Honey, that’s a great idea. You want to take over here?”

I’ve lived through this so many times, I know what she’s thinking at this very moment. Nothing to do with sending papers, she’s watching me work. She knows I’m happy with a new gadget. She gets me, even if she doesn’t understand what I do. I miss that the most.

“What’s this for?”

“Paperwork for the house.”

“Are we finally going to buy it?”

“No, I don’t think so.” She turns away, busying herself with the fax machine again. The room empties without her smile.

I take the phone and spread the papers on the floor. More rental paperwork.

“I don’t understand why we don’t just buy the place. Didn’t you say the owner wanted to sell?” I ask. She shrugs.

With careful motions I start snapping away, attaching the pictures to an email. I’m not sure where Dad is going to print these, but wherever he found a fax machine, chances are they’ll have what he needs. I hit send. An hourglass pops up, followed by “Connection Lost”.

This part always comes so fast.

I hand the phone back to Mom. “You’ll need to send later, I guess. The signal dropped. Should be in your outbox ready to go.”

As she takes the phone, the wall of the room explodes.

Here. Dream becomes nightmare. For a moment, I feel I can make it stand still, but why would I? Events unfold with the emptiness of the bunker gnawing at my insides. I can identify every stray chunk of plaster and splinter of wood in this time-robbed moment.

Fragments of home spray like a swarm of locusts. Mom screams and the world spins under her protective dive. I struggle to see through a haze of dust. Glimpses of the valley filter past a humanoid silhouette. A long, pincered arm lashes out. The arm clamps tightly around Mom’s waist and retracts, drawing us closer.

“Release the boy and he will live,” the Black Beetle speaks with an unnatural vibration. “He can relay a message for your husband.”

Mom squeezes tighter but her screaming stops.

I search her face, knowing what I’ll find, all the while scrambling to find an anchor as we slide across the room. She’s bleeding from a gash on her forehead and the pincer cinches tighter. Her eyes are full of fear, but focused. She’s calculating, deliberating. A hundred times? A thousand? It always hurts.

“No, Mom, please!” I throw my hands around the leg of a toppled chair which drags uselessly behind us. Countless trips through this nightmare, I know I can’t keep us here, but I reach out anyway. And always, she lets go.

I grab her arm, trying to pull her back, cursing my stunted size, my weak limbs, my feeble grip. Sweaty hands slip as the pincer continues to retract. Her trembling lips form a final smile and she watches me with a sad but determined expression. She mouths the words, “I love you.”

“Mom!” I glance at the lifeless phone, shrouded in dust. The screen is dark and covered in spidery cracks.

“Tell your father it is time to turn himself in,” the Black Beetle says. “Is that clear?”

With a pneumatic hiss the ebony battle armor backs into the afternoon sun. Blinding light floods in. The armor takes flight on a column of flame and the deafening roar rattles our battered home. I rush to the opening. She’s an angel, floating away, the shadowy beast burning behind her. All I can do is stare and cry.

Only this time, the tears don’t come.

Every time this nightmare strikes, I stand there, clinging to that last glimpse as she’s torn away. But this time, on her face, a different expression quivers through the waves of heat and exhaust. All of her fear is erased. Her eyes search mine as though she’s seeing me for the first time.

I continue watching the brilliant rocket flares long after they dissolve into a sunless sky. Then, the points of light burst outward into the bright edges of an eclipsed sun. A ring of light that seems so close, yet so far from home.

###

Crimson Son is available in paperback and eBook formats at all major retailers. Thanks for reading!

October – The Month of ME!

VBT Crimson Son Tour Banner copyMumble-blather-mumble years ago, I was born on the 21st day of this month to two stunned, bewildered and freaked out parents. They had expected one giant baby. Instead, they got two medium babies.

This was not a particularly high point for the universe, but having been crammed in a womb with another being, it was a high point for little baby me. Space to roam. To Stretch. The removal of an elbow from my abdomen.

Unfortunately, my twin sister gets older this month. I, on the other hand, get more distinguished.

With all my new refinement and fanci-tude, I want to take the time to tell everyone about little ‘ol me. Starting next week, I’ll be going on a virtual tour of the internet. No, nothing you’ll need your private browser on for, just a few great book blog sites that have burning questions about me, my book, and the meaning of life.

I will answer all of these questions, but you have to stay tuned here to get the details. (Especially for the last one…)

Did I mention I’m bribing you?

Along the way, there will be a chance to win an Amazon gift card. A wise person would of course buy their second copy of Crimson Son, but since I have no way of knowing what you buy, well, I guess you can get whatever you want.

So be there. Virtually. October 13th we will kick off with Kit N’ Kabookle and Coffee, Books and Art. The blog tour will run through the 30th, well past the day I  scrambled from the womb and later decided to torture people with my babblings.