Rules were rules, and fair was fair. Boone was always blabbing that to Richie. Richie thought the rule was pretty stupid, just like the guy who said it. When Boone reminded Richie of his mantra after ordering pizza, Richie reminded Boone of what he thought about it. So, Boone socked him a good one in the shoulder to really drive his point home. He took Richie’s money too.

“Two bucks.” He wagged the soggy bills in front of Richie’s pimply scowl. “That’s ten percent. You get one slice. Ten percent.” He gave him a second punch in the other shoulder. “And brush your teeth, kid. You smell like crap!”

Richie wanted to say something snappy back but the doorbell rang again. The pizza guy had already rung it three times. Now he just jabbed it over and over.

“Alright, already! Christ!” Boone left his cousin to mope on the couch. Cold flew into the room as he swung the door open. The pizza guy bowed, holding the steaming pizza box out in front of him.

“Good evening.”

Boone grunted. The pizza guy leaned his lanky frame further towards the doorway.

“Here,” Boone handed over the wrinkled bills with some change jingling on top. “Night.”

He reached for the box, but the pizza guy held tight with one skinny hand. “That’s short.”

“Bullshit,” Boone tried taking the box again, but the pizza guy seemed pretty strong for such a skinny guy.

“22.50, that’s the tax and delivery.”

“Nah,” Boone tried. Richie giggled. Boone couldn’t smart talk his way out of this. He lacked the first, necessary part of that skill. Boone promised his cousin an ass whooping with one look and Richie shut his mouth. Pizza guy cleared his phlegmy throat.

“Come on,” Boone whined, “weren’t you late or something?”


“You sure?”

“Check the menu, sir.” A bit of anger flew through pizza guy’s voice.

Richie thought maybe he should warn him. Pizza guy was just a tangle of rubbery, pale skin and breadstick arms. Richie bet Boone could snap the guy over his knee like kindling. Richie kept quiet. When Boone got upset, it was best to keep low and keep quiet. Richie was an excellent survivor. He just watched this exchange of idiot banter pan out, looking back and forth between the two of them like following a tennis match.

It didn’t hold his interest for long. His round belly howled with anticipation from the smoky tang of browned mushrooms and salty, greasy pepperoni infiltrating the room. Ten percent of the pie didn’t seem too fair to him, not when he excavated nearly half the junk in his room for that money. Boone was a jerk, and Richie recalled his cousin never really aced his math homework. Richie didn’t score too high with fractions either, but he knew enough to doubt his idiot relative.

“Well, I can’t go back without payment,” the pizza guy fought on. Even with red anger rising in his voice, the pizza guy stood still as a statue in the cold night.

“You got any more cash, jellyroll?” Boone snapped his fingers at Richie, “Yo!”

“No,” he growled and went back to television where a scientist was hard at work mixing various vials of colored water.

“Your food’s getting cold, sir.”

“You prick,” Boone muttered to Richie and waved the pizza guy inside. “Come on in, give me a minute.” Boone trudged down the hall to the guest room. He had promised Mom it would only be till spring, a year ago. Richie couldn’t wait for him to be gone.

On television, a blonde lifeguard with cantaloupes stuffed under her bikini ran screaming down the beach away from some kind of monster. Looked to Richie like it was part shark and part snake. Getting to watch this crap was maybe the only good part of Mom leaving Boone in charge. The pizza guy shuffled in the corner, still holding the box.

“Put it down,” Richie said while Shark-Aconda ate a cute redhead in one bite. The pizza guy set the box down on the coffee table.

“Excuse me,” pizza guy said. Richie ignored him. The banner below the movie said Shark-Aconda was a one-night-only event after all.

“Hey,” Pizza guy leaned into Richie’s field of vision. His nametag dangling by one button on his shirt read, “Ashley.” Pizza sauce spattered the whole front of his shirt.

“Ashley’s a girl’s name.” Richie chewed off a thumbnail and spat it on the floor.

“What’s back there?” Ashley extended one long arm towards the guest room.

“Rooms, duh.”

Richie didn’t bother watching Ashley walk back down the hall after Boone. The pizza fumed on the table. Richie knew Boone would make him pay, but the growling gut outweighed the risk. The first slice slid right down Richie’s gullet. He licked red sauce and pepperoni grease off his fingers. Onscreen, Shark-Aconda crept up on some unsuspecting jock.

Richie took another slice, now fully committed to the theory of “Screw Boone,” and went into the kitchen. The sauce was a little flat and could use some pepper flakes or seasoning salt. Neither faced him in the cupboard. There was garlic salt, chili powder, black pepper, green stuff, yellow stuff. Everything but what he wanted.

Screams erupted over his shoulder. Shark-Aconda probably had his teeth neck deep into that roided-out idiot, and Richie was missing it! He grabbed the nearest shaker, sprinkled some on his slice, took a big bite. It would do. In fact, Richie could say it wasn’t half-bad, but Richie never said anything else. Ashley the pizza guy waited for him in the living room.

Great red smears ran across his mouth. Richie dropped his pizza and shaker. He froze there, hands at his sides, sauce on his bare feet, shaker skittering on the wood floor. Boone’s head hung by its hair from Ashley’s long fingers. Richie mewled in terror as Ashley lifted Boone’s head above his mouth. He opened wide, wider, and then wider till his lips nearly split to his ears. Boone’s mangled neck dripped blood thick and red as pizza sauce. Ashley caught stray drops of it on his tongue like a child catching snowflakes. His eyes rolled back to yellowish-whites of ecstasy. Then rolled back to focus on Richie.

Ashley smacked his lips, tossed the severed head onto the couch. Boone’s face remained in a shocked “O,” his eyes permanently locked open. The screams from the television seemed to roll out of that dead mouth. Ashley plucked the remote up off the couch with now very long fingers, and turned the volume up to near deafening levels. Onscreen, Shark-Aconda laid into the summertime massacre. No one was safe. Ashley smiled. Every inch of his razor-tipped teeth gleamed in the electronic glow of the television.

“Shouldn’t have invited me in,” Ashley fingers turned shadowy and faint, then stretched the length of the living room. A few sharp ends brushed Richie’s hitching belly. Shirt and flesh tore away.

“Probably could’ve just busted in,” Ashley continued, “but hey, rules are rules.” Ashley gripped Richie about the waist with ice-cold fingers. Then his mouth became a cave and Richie fell in headfirst.


The rest of the fat kid could stay behind. Not like there was much left to haul back anyway. He drained him dry. His jackass brother or cousin or whatever though, that one could last him all night and then some. He threw the corpse into the trunk alongside the desiccated remains of the delivery girl. He knew “Ashley” wasn’t such a common man’s name anymore, but the fat kid didn’t need to be a dick about it.

The fall night hung like ebony velvet overhead. It promised possibility. Coming onto the pizza car so soon after awakening was the best luck he had in years. This stop could be just the start. He could go back to the pizza place, follow the address stenciled on the side, drain every last soul working the graveyard shift, and then make a few more “house calls.” He could just wait for the phone to ring. Really, it was so damned easy! Prey let him in.

He shook his head. He couldn’t understand how none of his kind ever tried hunting this way. They could be so damned old-fashioned. Being hundreds of years old didn’t mean living in the past. He shrugged as he got into the car. It was their loss after all. He didn’t mind being on the top of his own food chain.

The fat kid’s blood sat hot and rich on his tongue like good wine. As the car sped along, he felt like flying. Flying, been a while since he did that. But something inside told him he could fly again very soon. The blood warmed his veins.

Then it burned.

He tried gagging, but nothing came up. His throat swelled. Pain seized him in the pit of his stomach and seared there like a brand. The steering wheel went loose and wild under his weakening grip. When he tried howling in pain, something did finally let go and black blood shot out of his mouth onto the dash.

The car flew off the road and nosedived into a ditch. The night sky beyond the windshield broke into a million glass fragments and then he was flying again. When he struck the other end of the ditch, his spine turned into an accordion. As his bones turned to ash, the cracks and pops of the melting ligaments sounded louder than the blaring car horn. His graying skin slipped off him in wet clumps like old wallpaper and sizzled on the dewy grass. As the last bit of poisoned blood dribbled out from between his burnt lips and loosened fangs, the vampire realized his error through the final bursts of pain.

The fat kid eating. The food. The spilled shaker. Green shaker. Salt. Garlic salt. Then he knew why the others avoided Italian.

Rules are rules.