The Mrs. McGillicuddy Mysteries, Season 1, Episode 1: So You Want to be a Vampire
It was the longest day of Mrs. Eliza McGillicuddy’s life. It was also her last.
Full of nervous energy since waking up that morning, she opened the watch shop well in advance of her usual hours of operation, sold three pocket watches, two brooch watches, and fixed the watch of a young dandy who had somehow managed to sit on his own fob. The afternoon passed in a similar blur. Customers came and went. And as the hours wore on, she found herself watching the clock almost continuously, counting down the time to closing.
She realized that she was also counting down the hours to her own death. At midnight, Mrs. Eliza McGillicuddy would die.
At six o’clock exactly, she dismissed her counter girl Hetty and retired upstairs to the loft apartment that she shared with Edwin, Cesar and Malcolm. She was trembling ever so slightly.
She found Cesar in the kitchenette, polishing and replacing pots and pans in the rack above the stove as he finished the washing up for the night. She stopped in the doorway, leaned on her cherrywood cane, and noticed how very cute and Susie Homemaker he looked in a red and white checked apron. He wore a very starched white shirt and pressed pinstripe trousers beneath the apron as if he had some evening engagement, and when he turned to offer her a fond, close-lipped smile, she saw the front of the apron read in glaring, blood-red font: BITE THE COOK.
She had bought the apron for Edwin originally, back when he did much of the cooking, but ever since Cesar had come to be a part of their lives, the task had more or less fallen to him. Not that Eliza minded, since she was a terrible cook, and all Edwin knew how to make were curious British cuisines with dubious words like “black” and “pudding” in them.
She sniffed appreciably at the divine aromas coming from the oven. “Hey, good looking, what’s cooking?”
“It’s shepherd’s pie, Edwin’s recipe,” Cesar informed her, sounding meek but smiling with triumph. He was tall and lanky, but not at all weak looking, his hair cut in fashionably messy and well-ordered spikes. He sported a shadow at his cheeks and chin, and his silvery blue eyes twinkled mischievously.
“One of the better English dishes,” Eliza said approvingly.
“I’m one of the better cooks here,” he answered with much confidence.
He had been a much different person back when they’d all first met. Back then, he’d been human, inclined to close, smooth shaves, perfectly tame hairdos, a generous tan, and razor-sharp security uniforms. He’d changed so much since his untimely death at Edwin’s hands, evolving well past the fussy dandy image he’d carefully fostered for so many years. He seemed bigger, a little less neat, a little more messy…a little more dangerous.
Eliza wondered if that was intentional or subconscious. After all, Cesar was Edwin’s Heir, for all intents and purposes, his protégé, and Edwin was messy and dangerous, as vampires went. Cesar seemed to be trying to emanate his master a little more with each passing day—but then, he was Edwin’s second, his Enforcer, the one he relied on the most when it came to the micro-management of his Court, so it should have come as no surprise to her, really.
“How much did you cook?” she asked, peeking through the oven door.
Cesar wiped his hands on the tea towel tucked into his trousers. “A lot. I have to keep you and the big, bad wolf fed. Do you have any idea how much Malcolm eats in a day? That man is like a machine. A furry machine, but still a machine.”
Malcolm Whitby, a.k.a., “the big, bad wolf,” was Edwin’s “hunting dog,” the werewolf that acted as his third in command. A year ago he had come to them by way of Edwin’s former old friend Lord Ian Severn. After Severn had been killed—well, murdered by Edwin for threatening his Court—Edwin had more or less inherited the Werewolf of Whitby. In many ways, Malcolm acted as Edwin’s second Enforcer—except, of course, they didn’t have the close intimate relationship that Edwin and Cesar did. Malcolm was almost pathologically heterosexual, though she suspected any rivalry between Cesar and Malcolm went much deeper than simple sexual orientation.
Vampires and werewolves had long ago drawn a battle line between their two kinds. That two lived together under the same roof was almost unheard of. But Malcolm had spent centuries in suspended animation, so this fact had seemed to have passed him by. Generally speaking, Malcolm liked being a part of Edwin’s Court, though perhaps only because he had nowhere else to go at present. He was still adjusting to the modern era he’d woken up to.
Over the past year, Malcolm and Cesar had developed a kind of friendly rivalry, like two brothers vying for their dad’s affections. Cesar took every opportunity to irritate Malcolm, including wearing cute little aprons, cooking all their meals, and talking avidly about his most current boyfriend over dinner. Malcolm retaliated in kind. The more Cesar pushed his buttons, of which Malcolm had many, the more black leather and glowering looks Malcolm wore.
A couple of months ago, Malcolm had announced that he’d found part-time work down at the local garage as a mechanic, something which had surprised even Eliza. She’d no idea that Malcolm was interested in cars, but he seemed a quick study. Cesar cooked Malcolm a celebratory meal that night (Cornish hens, which was deliberately pompous by werewolf standards) and served it in one of his cuter, blue and white ruffled, Betty Croker-inspired aprons. Malcolm, dressed in all black leather and smelling of motor oil, sneered at Cesar throughout the meal. And so it went.
She looked Cesar over once more. “Will you be going out tonight?” She tried to sound casual and not at all anxious.
Cesar looked thoughtful as he checked his pocket watch. “I thought I might. Alex asked me out for drinks.”
“Alex? Is that someone new?”
Cesar noticeably blushed, something only a very young vampire could do. “Well…yeah.”
Eliza grinned. “Is he cute?”
“Yeah.” He fiddled with his rolled-up sleeves.
Cesar shrugged. “We met online. He doesn’t know…you know…about…you know.” He turned and nervously rustled his wings—neatly folded beneath the apron strings—as he finished drying some Corningware. He was still very self-conscious about his species. Despite the Vampire Bill that had passed in Congress over two years ago, there were still many who did not see vampires as legal citizens with civil rights. He and Edwin still got a good many dirty looks from Conservatives when they were out in public.
On a sudden impulse, Eliza stepped forward and hugged him around the neck. He was very tall, and she very short, so it was quite a reach. She kissed him on the cheek, which was cooler than it looked. She decided she liked the roughness of a shadow on him. He was a very handsome vampire. “You’ll be fine,” she said before stepping back. “You’ll be a triumph!”
“You always say that,” he demurred, clenching his hands together nervously and looking down at them. “But how can you know?”
They’d had the girlfriend pep talk many times before. “You always are,” she said. “So I take it you won’t be joining us for dinner?”
“No, but you or Edwin can get me on my cell all night…should anything come up.”
“I’m sure everything will be fine.” She smiled fondly upon him, her Cesar. “Just leave the food in the oven. I’ll help myself later. And I’m sure Malcolm will find it forthright when he gets home from work. He’s a bloodhound when it comes to food!”
She didn’t add that she was much too nervous to eat tonight and that Malcolm would likely be dining alone on Cesar’s brilliant shepherd pie. She knew she should eat something, it was her last supper, after all, but her stomach felt like it was full of butterflies and crawly things! What if, after her own death, she became very ill? She did not want to ralf up shepherd’s pie all over Edwin!
After leaving Cesar to finish kitchen duty, she moved down the hall lined with clocks, leaning less heavily on her cane than in past weeks. She was slowly gaining her strength and balance back, but it was a maddeningly slow recovery. The effects of the stroke she had suffered almost a year ago had been great, and it was only recently that she’d begun fully dressing herself without Edwin’s assistance. She looked forward to the day when she no longer needed a cane to walk properly or a husband to get her into a dress in the morning—which, incidentally, ought to be the following day.
She stopping when she reached the open door of Edwin’s office. He was sitting on a corner of his cluttered desk, speaking into his favorite old rotary phone. He was talking to his literary agent, arguing actually, but the moment he spotted her, his entire posture changed. “I’ll speak to you later, Gabe,” he said, and while Gabe was still saying something no doubt very important about his latest book project he hung up on the poor man. Edwin turned to her, this man she had married twice, this vampire who meant to take her life tonight, and gave her a shy, anticipatory smile.
Like his Heir Cesar, Lord Edwin McGillicuddy was lanky tall. He was dressed in a T-shirt that read TEAM EDWARD and dark trousers and his favorite pair of red braces, his usual “workday clothes,” as he liked to call them. One would have thought that as a two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old vampire he would be inclined to wear smoking jackets or dressing gowns as he labored away, tirelessly cranking out yet another Doctor Blood novel for his voracious fans and over-demanding publisher, but Edwin was very progressive. She should have been appalled by his terrible abuse of fashion, but Edwin was so nicely tapered in body, wide in shoulders and narrow in hips, that he could literally wear anything and pull it off. His face and eyes were very serious tonight, and his dark auburn hair was half loosened from its queue as if he’d been running his hands through it all day.
“Evening, love,” he said, and for whatever reason, maybe because he was nervous about taking her life tonight or he was only very close to his own past and roots, his Eastender brogue was very much pronounced. He tilted his head and their eyes met and a signal passed between them, both as husband and wife as well as Vampire Lord and Favorite.
She knew he could hear her heart flitting nervously in her chest even from across the room, the same way she could feel his desire, a low, constant roar like a distant wind over a lonely moor.
“Afraid?” he asked.
“I supposed I am. A little.” She went up to him and smoothed down his wrinkled shirt. With him sitting down, she could see him eye to eye—usually an impossible feat with him being so tall and she so short. She let her hand linger along the line of his body longer than was absolutely necessary and studied his bright amber wolf eyes and the gentle, yet fierce, desire simmering there. She felt a faint wind as his wings stirred at her tough.
“Do you trust me?” he asked after some moments of silence.
She nodded. She did, with her life. Even with her soul.
He moved his hands so they rested at her rather overgenerous (in her own humble opinion) hips and guided her closer, until their two bodies touched. His touch was gentle but insistent, hinting at the raw, preternatural power in his arms and body. Ever since she’d nearly died trying to save him just over a year ago, he’d been obsessed with touching her often, as if he wasn’t quite sure if she was real.
Often enough, he treated her like she was made of glass, as if she’d shatter if he wasn’t careful handling her. His gentle lovemaking frustrated her to no end. It was very unlike Edwin. He liked his lovemaking a little on the rough side, but ever since her accident, he’d chosen to lavish those affections on Cesar instead. It made her insanely jealous. Not that he and Cesar were together—because such things were quite normal between a Lord and his Heir—but that Cesar now enjoyed what they had once known.
He rested his mouth near hear ear. “Is there anything you want to do? Anywhere you want to go? Anything you want? Anything at all?”
She shook her head, her frustration mounting at his overly concerned tone of voice. “I told you. I’m ready. I want to be here tonight, with you. That’s all I want.”
He leaned back to look her over. Something passed behind his eyes, some darkness. She hadn’t expected that. Up until now, their plans for tonight had excited and enlivened him, and he’d spent more hours than she cared to count explaining things to her, painting her life as his Heir to her, assuring her of his competence. But now, as zero hour loomed, he seemed changed…less sure of himself. “Eliza…” he began, the tone of his voice grave, “it needn’t be tonight.”
She wanted to growl at him. “If not tonight, then when? Edwin, I made my choice. I don’t want to wait. I’ve already waited a year!”
Oh, he was driving her crazy! They had both decided on the time and place of her death, and ever since, they’d been planning and preparing for this night. She had actually hoped he would do it on their second honeymoon. She’d thought the symbolism would be most apropos. But Edwin had insisted that she be at full strength before he made her his Heir, so they had set the date exactly one year from the date of their second wedding.
That night was tonight, and she meant to keep that date! She gave her husband her sternest look. “Edwin Oliver McGillicuddy, I said I would do this, and I will!”
Edwin bit his lips. “It’s not something one should ever rush into.”
“We’re not rushing! Edwin, we’ve planned for this day. We’re as prepared as two people can be.” She stopped and regarded him carefully as she fiddled with the bloodstone on her ring finger, the sign of his promise. “Have you changed your mind about me being your Heir?”
He looked appalled. “No, of course not.” He bent down to kiss the bloodstone on her finger. “I want you as my Heir, Eliza, I swear. I always have.”
“Then it’s quite settled, isn’t it? There’s no reason to delay the inevitable.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “You’re right, of course.” Again he looked uncertain. “Have you told the others?”
“No.” She lifted her chin defiantly at that. “This is our decision, Edwin. Mine as your Favorite and yours as my Lord. I don’t want them to worry, or to offer their opinions, or to try and talk me out of it. I want this to be our decision alone.”
She knew Cesar would approve, and perhaps even her human BFF, Juliana. Malcolm…not so much. One of the first things that the giant werewolf had done on awakening to the Twenty-first Century was to propose that she be his mate, his alpha female. No…Malcolm would definitely not approve of their decision. But it was not Malcolm’s decision to make.
She touched Edwin’s cheek and leaned forward to kiss him softly on the side of the nose. Then she kissed his mouth. He smelled like the spicy aftershave he wore, and he tasted like chocolate and peppermint. She had never understood why he tasted so good, seeing how Edwin was incapable of eating anything but blood. His mouth was very cold, but his goatee tickled her, and that, along with the emotion behind his kiss, warmed her heart. Edwin had a very warm and emotional kiss. When they finally pulled away, they were both breathless, their hearts ticking along urgently and demandingly—her human one and his clockwork mechanism.
Eliza offered him her sweetest, sassiest smile. “I’ll be waiting down the hall, my Lord.” She trickled her fingers down his body, then hurried down the hallway to their bedroom and closed the door.
Read the complete first episode at: