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Chapter 1

DECEMBER 5, 2019

The vampire, Norma Mae Rollins, was asleep in her bed when her phone announced a text. With a sleepy groan, she snuggled deeper between the smooth cotton sheets.  She covered her head under the thick quilt which her beloved ancestor, Jakub Bankier ~nee Petrescue Christian, made for her in an intricate compass rose pattern in the unvampiric shades of blue and yellow. The phone sounded a second time. Norma’s sleepy mind still did not recognize it as a text. She did not want to get up, but believing it was her alarm, she jumped out of bed. She had so much to do. 


Half-asleep, Norma removed a set of guest bedding from the linen closet and put it in the washer. Like most vampires, she enjoyed a certain neatness and order in her home, but Derrik Miller, the vampire who created the vampire who created her, was coming over. They had a busy weekend planned.


She wanted her guest bathroom and kitchen spotless and all her laundry done, before work tonight. Then she planned to hit a club and tap a willing victim’s neck.


Tomorrow at twilight, Derrik’s enthralled human would drop him off downtown. They planned to go Christmas shopping, or at the very least, enjoy Christmas decorations while agonizing over what to give his wife, Pascaline. Norma’s eternal girlish form meant it was unlikely she would ever have such a concern, but according to Derrik, it was hard to find the perfect Christmas gift after nearly two centuries of marriage. Since Norma and Pascaline spent time together socially, he wanted insider information. (Pascaline never had such concerns, she had a knack of picking out perfect gifts.) 


Once the stores closed, they would visit Gingerbread Lane at the Sheraton Grand which was open until 11 pm on Fridays. Then they’d walk along streets enjoying the lights toward South Lake Union to see boats lit up for the Christmas Parade. Since Derrik rarely left the coven, Norma couldn’t wait to show him how South Lake Union had grown. A neighborhood in renewal, many apartment windows were decorated and lighted cranes dotted the skyline. Due to her work, Norma knew what late-night clubs were decorated and had vampire-friendly Christmas drink specials. 


Derrik would stay over at her apartment through the short-day hours and fret about how unvampiric it was. He would help her hang her lights and garland. While they wrapped presents, Derrik would tell Norma, as he did every year, how he (or any of the vampires at the Paper Flower Consortium) didn’t really celebrate the secular festivities of Christmas until she came into their existence. Born in poverty during the Victorian era, Derrik never celebrated Christmas except to go to services hoping to receive alms. As a vampire, though Christmas was a feast day, the older vampires spent the night and day in adulatory worship of God and Jesus. 

Every year, his story seemed to grow sappier as he skated by the difficult realities. In truth, Derrik had been at his wit's end. He and Pascaline were willing to try anything to comfort Norma who had been a despondent, frightened, and angry fourteen-year-old girl. Ripped out of her human life by his First Born, Bill, and then taken away from Bill on the night of his execution, it took Norma months to acclimatize to coven life. The elder vampires suggested some well-known human traditions might offer comfort and cheer. It sort of worked. 


Forcing her eyes open, Norma went to her reading alcove off the living room and removed the carved wood statuette of a Sasquatch, a basket of coasters, and a short pile of books off the oak casket which doubled as a coffee table. It bothered Derrik that Norma still slept in a queen-sized bed rather than a coffin like a normal vampire. However, she kept a casket for him or Pascaline to sleep in when they stayed overday. She opened the lid. The scent of lemon, lavender, and cedar greeted her. She removed the sachets and cedar blocks and put them in her kitchen cupboards and left the casket to air. While some species would love the natural sunlight the bay window provided, she had covered it with internal shutters painted white and thick blackout curtains so no light could get in. The casket sitting on the thick wool rug, two leather upholstered chairs, thick curtains and books of all genres made the reading alcove the most vampire-like space in her home. 


On Saturday evening, Norma would drive Derrik back to the coven. Derrik’s enthralled human had picked out a tree and bought a case of spiced wine. Derrik would mix cows' blood with the wine and they would decorate the Christmas tree. Since he would go to a vampire-friendly club, she would dutifully attend Mass and Fellowship with him, Pascaline, and their other offspring. Then there would be Sunday morning supper, board games and Pascaline would play songs on her piano.


Still groggy, Norma went into her guest bathroom. She set out her bottle of Windex, Method bathroom cleaner, bleach, sponges, and paper towels on the bathroom counter. Not wanting to damage her manicure, she put on vinyl gloves. She dutifully checked the corners of the ceiling for discolored paint and dabbed it with diluted bleach, fearing mold. She bought the mid-century condo in the seventies. It had charm, but it also had old drywall.


From her bedroom, her phone binged again.


Another bing followed quickly. This time she recognized it as a text.


Derrik or Pascaline would not text her as they felt clumsy with the technology, but Derrik’s Second Born, Ryan, might. Or Carlos, her best friend and employee, might be dealing with another rotting body part. Or it might be a job. 


Norma tossed her sponge into the sink and snapped off her vinyl gloves. She rinsed her hands. She traversed her cold tile floor to the hardwoods and picked up her phone off her dresser. No wonder she was so sleepy. It was only 10:43 AM. She had only been asleep for forty minutes.


The text didn’t come from Carlos, but her down-the-street neighbor, Weyna Bayard Pollenjacket, a pixie who ran the pixie and cat café: The Cat’s Pajamas. I need help, please come over.

Emergency.

Please answer.


Norma: Just got your text. I’ll be over in five.


She looked at her not-clean bathroom and sighed. She crept towards the east window. The immolating sun lightened the wall under her blackout curtains. It was a sunny day. Ugh. While Seattle winters were known to be mild, it needed to rain in December or there would be another drought. Like all vampires and other long-lived species, Norma worried about global warming. Also, she didn’t like the sun.


She washed her hands again and slathered sunscreen on her face, neck and hands. She removed her pajamas and threw them directly into the washing machine. She quickly pulled on jeans, a fresh t-shirt, socks, and sneakers. She grabbed a hoodie and cap off the hook. She pulled her hoodie over her head as she slipped down her apartment steps. She covered her hair with her baseball cap. She walked carefully down the street in the shade of the building. The sun was in the east, but her north-facing building’s awning blocked most of the sun. She dashed between the open alleyway and around the block to the café. 


Weyna flew towards her. 


Most pixies were a little taller than an adult vampire (or human-sized) hand and fingers, and Weyna was about average-sized. Her brilliant blue eyes matched the sky and her pink complexion looked even rosier in the cold morning. Weyna had a few lines around her eyes, but her cheeks were smooth and plump. She looked like Mrs. Claus in her red and white dress with a tiny sprig of holly as an apron. Her curly pink and silver hair was neatly braided but the ends frizzed in the winter air. Her wings fluttered fast. Her heart quivered faster. “I heard from a little bird, you’ve been solving murders.”


Norma’s Cleaning Service was originally for vampires when hunting got a little messy, but her company now ran all types of errands for the supernatural community. After she figured out who staked one of her coven brothers and later who killed a mermaid found dead in a short-term rental, Derrik suggested Norma get her and Carlos Private Investigator licenses which she did. 

“Yes, we charge…”


The pixie’s face fell. “I can’t pay you, at least right away. The café is barely staying afloat as it is.”


Norma pinched her lips shut. She hated turning people away who needed help, besides there was always something she could use. 


An old dream slipped into her brain. She always wanted to turn into a bat or a mist like in the movies. Werewolves could live both as humans and wolves. Werebears could live both as humans and bears. She once met a witch who was transformed into a cat, but she never met a vampire who could transform into anything except what they were. Of course, it might be that truly ancient vampires might be able to transform, but the oldest vampires in Seattle were only five centuries.

Maybe, pixies knew magic which could help with learning to alter her shell. Maybe she could leave her fourteen-year-old body behind. She didn’t want to be really different; she loved her life as a vampire, but a fully adult body would be nice. And if she couldn’t have that, perhaps she could change into a bat or learn to fly or… 


“Well, maybe we can work something out—a payment plan or do a trade? What’s the problem?” Norma said.

“Persimmon is dead,” Weyna said.


“Oh my God!” Norma said with practiced emotion, but thought you should have led with that...

 

DEATH STICKS A PIXIE

A Norma's Cleaning Service Mystery #3

Norma Mae Rollins never chose to be a vampire, but she enjoys her undead life. She runs a profitable cleaning service that assists Seattle’s paranormal community by straightening up messy interactions with humans or each other. She loves her condo in Capitol Hill with very little natural sunlight, going to vampire friendly clubs, and playing board games with her ancestors at The Paper Flower Consortium, Seattle's largest coven.

Between the long December nights and Christmas preparations, Norma needs her sleep. She is awoken during the day when Persimmon, a pixie barista, is found dead at a local pixie-owned cat cafe. It looks like a tragic accident with the cats. However, Captain Fluffy McWhiskers, Chocolate Puddin', and Pirate Jac grew up in the cafe. They have never attacked a pixie in their lives. Fearing the other pixies might fly off the job or Persimmon's fiance might take revenge upon one of her beloved cats, the cafe's proprietor begs Norma to discover what happened. 

Norma Mae Rollins is a character from The Paper Flower Consortium Universe. She was first seen as a secondary character in Immortal House


 ZB Publications, October 25, 2019

Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1-950708-07-9

Ebook ISBN-13: 978-1-950708-08-6


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