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After Hours

Katherine Sanger was a Jersey Girl before getting smart and moving to Texas. She's been published in various e-zines and traditional print.

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“You’re a vampire now?”

Susan rolled her eyes. “No. I’m just a courier.”

"A courier who carries blood!” Kellie did a very bad Bela Lugosi imitation, hands up, imaginary fangs making the word “blood” sound almost like “flood.”

“Yes, blood is part of it. But so is urine. Does that make me, I dunno, a pervert?” Susan couldn’t think of any supernatural creatures that craved urine. There was a rumor about Robert in bio class, but he wasn’t supernatural, just weird. “It’ll pay enough for me to fill my gas tank this semester, and that’s really all I can expect.”

And the conversation was over.

But it stuck in Susan’s head.

She knew there was no such thing as vampires. No werewolves, no ghouls, no zombies, none of the things that went bump in the night were real. Everyone knew that. But doing all the pick-ups at dusk started making her nervous. She swore someone was looking over her shoulder. It was also odd that Betty, her boss, wouldn’t let Susan fill out her own logs. Betty had to do it. Maybe that was because Susan was new and part-time. Maybe it was because Betty was a control freak. Or maybe...maybe…it was because Betty was a vampire, keeping all the blood herself and fixing the books.

No. That was stupid. Silly. Ridiculous. A paranoid delusions brought on by too much studying and sitting in rush hour traffic.

That night, Betty was out sick.

“See?” Susan told herself. “Betty’s not a vampire. Vampires don’t get sick.”

Susan ran her shift, gathering all the fluids and samples from the offices and brought her haul back to the office. Where there was a note waiting on the logbook. “Call Betty.”

She checked her watch. It was already 9:30. No way Betty would still be awake. She was old. And sick. Susan wanted to skip the phone call, but she had never logged an evening before, and she didn’t know how to do it. So she dialed the digits.

Betty answered on the first ring.

“Thank God you called! You didn’t log anything, did you?”

“Ummm, no. Not yet.”

“Okay, go through the pick-ups and compare the sheets with the contents from each location. You may notice that there’s some…extra.” Betty said. “Separate out the extra and make sure that you match the sheets with their contents exactly. I’ll wait.”

“It might take a while,” Susan said, eyeing the stack of boxes on the table.

“I’ll wait,” Betty said.

“Do you want me to put you on hold?”

“I’ll wait,” Betty said.

Susan stayed on the phone while she went through the boxes. Each box was slightly off. This one had two spare vials of blood. That one had an extra sample from a biopsy. Flesh and blood in petri dishes and test tubes became a pile on the desk. A disturbingly large pile. One or two extra might be mistakes. But this was excessive. Uncomfortably excessive.

“Are you still there?” Betty whispered it into Susan’s ear, making Susan realize how long it was taking her and that the building was empty. She was there alone, her only contact with the outside world the voice on the phone.

“Yes, I’m here,” Susan whispered back. “And there seem to be a lot of extras.”

“Good,” said Betty. “Are you done yet?”

“Just one more box,” Susan said. She finished it up, putting the spare vial of B-negative and the dish of potentially melanoma-ridden flesh to the side. Her own skin crawled with goose bumps.

“Okay, I’ve separated all of it.” Susan said.

Betty walked Susan through entering everything into the logbook, a simple but repetitive task that involved a lot of box checking and double-checking the checked-off boxes.

“Now,” Betty lowered her voice again, “for the spares.”

“Uh-huh.” Susan wanted to hang up. Whatever came next couldn’t be good.

“Take all the vials and carefully pack them in the Styrofoam container with the red lid under my desk. Do you see it?”

Susan looked. “Yes.”

“Do it carefully. Make sure none of them break.”

Betty hadn’t seemed as concerned about the other samples. But Susan did as she was told, noting that the container had grooves worn in the bottom from vials that had come before. The vials she put in filled it half-way.

“Okay,” she told Betty. “The vials are done.”

Betty let out a loud breath.

“The other samples need to be put in the green Styrofoam container.”

“Uh-huh.” Susan looked under the desk. There it was. She filled it up, too. Three-quarters full.

“Are you done yet? It’s getting late.”

“Yeah, I’m done. Pick-up isn’t until 5 a.m., right?” Susan said.

“Yes, 5 a.m. pick-up. Make sure the log is back and the log’s samples are on my desk. Now…the red box needs to go to the left outside the back door. Behind the bushes. The green box to the right. It’s very important. Red left. Green right. Got it?”

Susan repeated, “Red left. Green right.”

"Go do it. Hurry.”

Susan stacked the Styrofoam boxes, the lid of the red one fitting into the base of the green one. She put the phone down, grabbed the boxes, and headed to the back door. She propped it open and went out. The moon’s light was the only illumination in the back, but she could still see where the dirt behind the bushes had been brushed and tamped down repeatedly. Red right, green left? That was it, wasn’t it?

The air was chillier than earlier, and there was a musty smell in the cold breeze. Susan quickly placed the boxes and hurried back inside, making sure the lock engaged on the back door.

“I’m back,” said Susan into the phone. “Done.”

“Red to the left? Green to the right?” Betty asked.

“Oh, shit, no, I— “

“Switch it! Quick! Run!” Betty shouted. Betty never shouted. “Now!” She shouted.

Susan dropped the phone and ran to the back door. Hand on the panel, she paused. There were noises outside. A keening wail, then a snuffling like a huge dog was trying to inhale the door, or maybe the bushes outside the door.

It was wrong.

It was dark.

It was her job.

She pushed on the door.

Nothing. That’s what she told herself she saw as the human form turned to mist and the wolf slunk into the shadows. The Styrofoam containers had been moved and opened, but the contents were undisturbed. Trying to avoid putting both feet outside, remembering that she’d seen nothing – nothing – she shuffled the containers to their proper sides of the door. She withdrew and let the door close. She put her hands over her ears, blocking out any sounds that didn’t make sense, and forced her eyes wide, trying to avoid blinking so she wouldn’t see anything in that split second of darkness.

She walked back to the phone.

“Betty. I fixed it. I quit.”

She hung up and went to the ladies’ room where she hid in a stall until morning. Then she went home and began stockpiling silver bullets and ash wood stakes.

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