Authors: M. T. Murphy,Sara Reinke,Samantha Anderson,India Drummond,S. M. Reine,Jeremy C. Shipp,Anabel Portillo,Ian Sharman,Jose Manuel Portillo Barientos,Alissa Rindels
HERE BE MONSTERS
A collection of tales about vampires, demons, and other horrors
Jeremy C. Shipp
Jose Manuel Portillo Barrientos
Copyright for each story is held, all rights reserved, by the individual authors. All rights reserved.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Anthology Table of Contents
Jeremy C. Shipp
Dark Fantasy Art
by Alissa Rindels
by Jose Manuel Portillo Barrientos
All rights reserved.
Edited by Erin Stropes
It wasn’t every day that Tim knocked a beautiful woman flat on her back. He stared at her from atop his clumsy six-foot, three-inch frame, wishing he could turn back time.
“Oh my god. I am so sorry.” He knew the words couldn’t possibly convey his horror.
The young woman sat up and crossed her feet as elegantly as one could do in such a situation. She had long black hair and the greenest eyes he had ever seen. He expected her to be hurt, furious, or both.
Instead, she laughed. It was a warm and carefree sound, one that made him feel far more comfortable than it should have. After all, he had bowled her over like a stampeding ox as soon as the elevator doors opened. It didn’t get any more ungentlemanly than that.
She stood before he had a chance to offer to help her up.
“It is all right. The hour is late and you wish to go home,” she said. “I should have known better than to wait directly in front of the elevator.”
“No, I’m an oaf. It’s totally my fault.” He shoved his hand out at her with a weak smile. “I’m Tim from accounting.”
She shook his hand. Her grip was stronger than that of most of his male colleagues. It was the kind of grip that demanded one’s full attention.
“Hello, Tim from accounting,” she said with a warm smile of her own. “I am Lucy. It is nice to meet you.”
He liked the way she said his name. Her barely perceptible accent made it sound like the letter “t” was just a little heavier than the rest.
He tried to think of something witty to say. Nothing came to mind.
“You are here late, Tim. Are you working on anything exciting?”
He glanced down at his leather satchel, suddenly remembering why he had been in such a hurry. “Not really. Just a special project for my boss.”
“Something that will benefit all of us in the Romana family of companies, I hope?”
Tim frowned. “We’ll see.” He shook off the gloom and jumped as the elevator buzzed at him for blocking the doors open too long. He moved out of the way and stuck his hand in front of the impatient doors, holding them open for her. “I’m really sorry about, you know, acting like a human bowling ball. Could I buy you a cup of coffee sometime?” Inwardly, he cringed. Knock her down, then hit on her. Subtle as a caveman.
“I am not much of a coffee drinker,” she said, stepping into the elevator.
“Ah,” Tim said, and released the doors. He knew a polite rejection when he heard one. He couldn’t blame her.
“But”—she held out a business card which he snapped up greedily—“I would love for you to stop by my office sometime so we can chat.”
He nodded like a confused puppy. She smiled again. The doors closed and he took a step back, watching the floor numbers change on the digital display. Lucy’s suit had been crisp and elegant, much like the rest of her. She was probably a personal assistant for one of the reclusive executives. It would figure that one of those dirty old men would hire himself a woman like that to ogle.
The lobby of the Romana Industries tower was empty save for the spiky-haired blonde woman stalking around the front doors. The woman worked as bodyguard and additional security for the executives. She made no effort to hide the fact that she was staring at Tim. He nodded politely but she did not return the gesture.
He glanced back at the elevator. The display indicated that it had stopped on the thirteenth floor—the ultra-private executive floor, only accessible by a numeric code held by a handful of people.
“Figures,” Tim said to himself. Then he looked at the business card.
President and Chief Executive Officer
A chill ran down Tim’s spine. He had a crush on the very person his boss was planning to blackmail.
He rushed out the front door, pretending to ignore the menacing glare of the spiky-haired blonde woman.
An hour later, he recounted the tale on the old couch in Barry’s apartment.
“You actually met her?” Barry asked. “I’ve been working there for four years and never saw her once. You’ve been there three months and you’re practically dating?”
“It’s not like that. I was getting off the elevator. She was getting on. She was really nice considering I nearly killed her.” Tim paused, replaying the scene in his mind. “And…”
Barry thumped him on the head. “Get your noggin in the game. She’s the enemy.”
“I told you I don’t want any part of this.”
“Tim”—Barry tapped his chin and wrinkled his brow as if deep in thought—“I’m drawing a blank here. Who was it that loaned you the money for that last year of grad school when they cut your scholarship?”
Tim grimaced. He knew where the question was heading and he didn’t like it. “You did, but—”
“Who made the other seniors stop beating you up every day in high school when he was a senior and you were a freshman?”
“And whose family took yours in when your good-for-nothing father left?”
“Yours,” Tim replied.
“And who helped you get a dream accounting job right out of college when you had no other job prospects?”
“You did.” He wanted to point out that he had paid back the loan and his mother had paid more than their share of the rent and other expenses for the month they stayed with Barry’s family all those years ago. That didn’t change the fact that Barry had helped him again and again. Reminding him of that seemed to be one of Barry’s favorite pastimes.
“You’re like a brother to me, Tim—albeit a younger, stupider brother. I’ve always looked out for you and I need you to back me up on this.”
“Barry, how much money do you make?”
Barry waved away the implications of the statement. “I make low six figures, but you don’t understand. I have some…vices.”
After resisting Barry’s invitations to go with him to the casinos every weekend for the past two years, Tim was actually very aware of the man’s dirty little “secrets.” If gambling debts, drugs, and prostitutes were riches, Barry would have been King Midas.
“Look,” Barry said. “I got invited to a celebrity poker game after hours last month, but I was already out of cash. To make a long story short: I owe some guy named Vince seventy-five thousand dollars by the end of the week.”
“Have you thought about talking to human resources at the office? They always talk about us being a part of the Romana ‘family.’ Maybe they could…”
“They could what?” Barry yelled. “Fire me on the spot?” He took a deep breath and regained his cool. “I’m sorry. Did you bring the package I left?”
“Yes.” Tim removed the brown pack from this bag. “I don’t see why you couldn’t bring it.”
“It would have been too suspicious if I did it.” Barry opened the box and shuffled through the contents. “Did you look at what’s in here?”
“No,” Tim said.
“Good. Plausible deniability for you.” Barry flipped through the documents, stopping at one very old photograph.
Tim couldn’t see the image, but the corners of the photo were rounded and the back had yellowed with age. It had to be at least fifty years old, if not older.
“Our CEO has a secret,” Barry said, “and I think the price tag for keeping that secret is a cool 1.5 million dollars.”
“Let’s set aside the fact that you are obviously bat-shit crazy for a minute. How did you arrive at that number?”
“Don’t you pay attention, rookie? This company makes so much dough that anything less than two million is not even a blip on the radar. It’s a rounding error. I’ll pay back what I owe to the sharks and take a million for myself. I know a guy in
who needs a financial director for his new resort. I’ll take that job and retire in style at the ripe old age of thirty-four.”
“And the rest?” Tim asked, already afraid of the answer.