Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – a short story by Debbie Kuhn (Free for the holiday weekend.)
Alaina’s internal clock hadn’t readjusted to L.A. time yet. It was Friday the thirteenth, eleven p.m., and she felt wide awake and anxious, due in part to the aftereffects of dealing with a delayed flight home, followed by bone-jarring turbulence and the presence of an incessantly screaming toddler.
She had other things on her mind, too.
Her husband, Ian, had finished moving out that morning while she’d been carrying out her duties as guest speaker at the University of Chicago. It should have felt strange coming home to a big, empty house – but Ian had rarely spent any time with her in the last five years. Their tenth anniversary was ten days away, and he couldn’t wait to flush a decade of marriage down the toilet.
Alaina left the ultra modern kitchen with a highball in hand and walked into the airy living room, with its cocoa-colored leather furniture and brass fixtures. She set her drink down on the glass coffee table, not bothering to use a coaster.
Ian had always nagged her about that habit. She had constantly complained about his smoking.
Alaina eyed the crystal ashtray on the table with disgust. A ton of stinking cigarette butts. And he was a surgeon, for Christ’s sake.
She grabbed the ashtray and stalked back into the kitchen. Just as she dumped the cigarette butts into the trash can, a cell phone started ringing.
But it wasn’t her phone, or Ian’s. Someone had picked a Britney Spears tune as a ringtone.
Alaina set the empty ashtray on the counter and rushed back into the living room, zeroing in on the source of the frantic pop music. She searched around the sofa cushions and found a hot pink cell phone.
Dr. Ian Hardisty was calling. Imagine that.
She answered the phone with a whispered “Hi.”
“Hey, love, can you talk right now?”
Alaina’s throat tightened. Ian never called her “love.”
“No,” she said, keeping her strained voice low.
“Fine, just listen then. I wanted you to know I’ve kept my word. The deed will be done tonight.”
What deed? “Um, okay.”
“Don’t worry. The bloke is a pro. We’ll have to wait a little while, to be safe, but I promise we’ll be a real couple soon.”
Ian mistook Alaina’s slight gasp as a sigh of relief.
“I told you I was serious about us. And just so you know – I’m keeping the house, since you like it so much. It would probably be hard to sell anyway, under the circumstances.”
Alaina nearly choked. “Shit.”
“What’s the matter? You need to go?”
“Okay – I’ll contact you again tomorrow morning. I love you, sweetheart.”
Ian hung up without waiting for a goodbye. Alaina stood frozen to the spot with the phone to her ear, listening to the dial tone.
“You are one lucky redhead, Professor.”
Alaina dropped the phone and whirled around with a screech.
The intruder had on black from head to toe and was holding a switchblade. He couldn’t have been much older than twenty.
“Don’t you be lookin’ so terrified, now,” he said, smiling. “Things might turn out better than you expect. I’ve been havin’ second thoughts about killin’ you all week.”
An Irish brogue. Dimples and dark curls to go with the brilliant blue eyes. He looked familiar somehow.
Alaina swallowed hard and managed to find her voice. “Don’t I know you?”
“Anthropology class. First row. My name is Seth, by the way.”
“You’re a college student, and a hitman?”
“Hmm, not exactly. Haven’t been in school for many, many years, but I like to study my marks. The hitman thing is kinda new – my talents are quite diverse, really.”
Alaina’s heart skipped a beat and she found it hard to breathe.
“My husband…wants me dead.”
“Well, what he really doesn’t want is to pay out for a divorce. And he’s been seein’ a young blonde lass, too, but I think you’re far lovelier – if it makes you feel any better.”
Alaina shook her head, then swayed on her feet.
In an instant, Seth was by her side, gripping her arm. The knife had disappeared.
“You’re lookin’ a wee bit pale. Sit down here and I’ll fetch us something to drink so we can finish our chat.”
He steered Alaina over to the couch and she sank onto the cushions.
“Do you happen to have any champagne?”
She stared up at him. “No. There’s red wine on the kitchen counter. Vodka and gin in the liquor cabinet.”
He noticed the highball on the coffee table. “Oh, already picked your poison, eh? Guess I’ll pass on the drink, since there’s no champagne. The bubbly stuff makes me giddy anyway.”
“Are you going to kill me tonight?”
He must have heard the tremor in her voice, for his expression softened.
“Death isn’t always the end, Professor. I’m about to change your life, whether you agree with me or not.”
Seth plopped into the overstuffed armchair across from her and crossed his legs.
“Here are the facts: 1. I need money, 2. I’m no ordinary hitman – meaning I can offer you an option better than mortal death, 3. I don’t think you deserve to be murdered, 4. There’s a way for us both to get what we want.”
The guy was insane. Or maybe he was high on drugs.
Seth noticed the skeptical look on her face.
“No, I’m not a madman, or an addict.”
Alaina couldn’t help but steal a glance at the hot pink cell phone lying on the carpet, almost within arm’s reach.
Seth moved so fast he was a blur. He kicked the cell phone across the room and it shattered against the wall.
“Okay, let’s cut to the chase. I’ll show you what I really am, and then you have to decide if you’d rather die or become like me – undead.”
Alaina’s mouth dropped open. He sounded serious.
“Fine, then. Prove to me you aren’t a crazy liar.”
A moment later Alaina found herself dangling in midair. Seth had one hand around her throat, and he was baring an impressive pair of fangs.
His eyes glowed like hellfire. “I could snap your neck like a twig, but I’d rather suck your blood. A vamp’s gotta eat.”
Alaina wanted to scream, but couldn’t. She had to be turning blue.
Seth suddenly released her and she dropped back onto the couch cushions, gasping.
“Anything worth having is worth waiting for, but I can’t wait much longer. You need to make your decision now, Professor.”
Alaina burst into tears. “But…I still can’t believe this. I can’t believe any of this is happening.”
Seth let out a sigh. “Do you honestly need more convincin’, woman? I’m a bleedin’ vampire – and a hitman. Your husband is a greedy bastard, so you’ll be dying tonight one way or t’other. Whether or not you’ll rise from the dead afterwards is up to you.”
On the third night after her mortal death, Alaina woke to find herself in an unfamiliar room, wearing nothing but a black satin sheet. Blood was the first thing she thought about, thanks to the brutal hunger that twisted her insides.
Seth was sitting next to the four poster bed in a creaky rocking chair, reading an issue of Rolling Stone. When she moved, he looked up at her and smiled.
“Sleeping Beauty awakes – and I bet she’s thirsty.”
He tossed aside the magazine and opened the cooler at his feet. A few seconds later Alaina grabbed the bag of blood out of his hand and tore into it like a savage.
Seth chuckled. “Glad I didn’t forget to visit a butcher shop today. This isn’t the good stuff, but we need to play it safe for the next couple of nights while you transition.”
Later, Seth explained that Ian had wanted to have her cremated, so he’d had to steal her body from the morgue before it could be released to a funeral home. By that time, Ian had seen her corpse, shed his crocodile tears, and had met Seth to hand over the “blood money.”
Alaina had been reborn in a mansion not far from her own home. The former residents had recently been foreclosed upon and the place still had power and furnishings.
Over the next few nights, she learned quickly what myths were true and which were false. Sunlight was indeed quite deadly, but she was relieved to find she still had a reflection.
Feeding proved to be a tricky, messy task. Seth took her hunting amongst the city’s undesirables and after a half a dozen tries, Alaina figured out how to stop herself in time to keep the victim from dying. After that, “glamour,” or hypnosis, erased their memories – easy as pie.
A week passed, and she began feeling restless.
“You can’t stay in Los Angeles, Alaina,” Seth told her. “You need to start a new life somewhere you’ve never been before, and keep movin’ around.”
“How do you feel about Florida? Maybe I could be your partner in crime.”
He grinned. “Ya don’t think I’m too old for ya, then?”
“Eighty is the new forty. And you’re quite well preserved.”
Alaina thought he might kiss her, but then his cell phone started blaring AC/DC’s heavy metal classic, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”
He grimaced. “Time to get a new phone. It’s your husband again, Professor. Should I answer it this time?”
“Yes. And keep him talking for a while.”
Alaina could easily hear Ian swearing and demanding to know what had happened to her body.
“Don’t know why you think I’d nick your wife’s corpse. I ain’t into necrophilia.”
Alaina slipped out of the house and melted into the darkness. Minutes later she was standing on Ian’s back deck watching him pace up and down the family room, puffing on a cigarette.
No blonde in sight. Too bad.
He yelped like a scalded pup when she suddenly appeared before him. The cigarette dropped out of his mouth and landed on the Oriental rug.
She snatched the phone out of Ian’s hand and put it to her ear, enjoying the shocked expression on his face.
“Thanks, love,” she said to Seth. “I’ll take it from here.”
Alaina tossed the phone away and bared her fangs.
“Happy anniversary, darling.”