Chapter 11

“This is an inopportune time,” my husband pointed out as I knocked on the door at 1001 Tyler Street , a small, neatly kept gray and white house.

“No shit,” I muttered. The mansion had been trashed; it was the next evening, and Jessica had called in an army of fixer-?uppers. Even now, after sunset, they were still working on the house. No sign of the Fiends, and Tina had promised to get Marc and Jess into the tunnel at the first sign of trouble. She even thoughtfully provided flashlights by the entrance to the mansion basement. Even better: Marc’s ankle was much better. No break, thank God.

“Then why are we here?” Sinclair asked, looking around the tidy suburban neighborhood. Inver Grove Heights was famous for their tidy suburban neighborhoods.

“Because he’s been incarcerated for months, and this is the first time I’ve seen him since I got married.”

“And… ?”

“I want my bigoted, angry, dying grandfather to meet my dead husband. Now slap on a smile and feel the family joy!”

Sinclair managed a friendly grimace, as the lady who ran the hospice ushered us in. It wasn’t really a hospice; she was a registered nurse who owned the house, and she had three patients, including my grandpa. She could give meds and change dressings, and knew when to haul in an MD.

In return she made a reasonable living and managed not to smother my grandpa with a pillow. For their part, they were living in an actual home and not dying in an impersonal hospital ward.

“Get lost,” my beloved maternal relative said warmly.

“Hi, Grandpa. Just dropped by – ”

“Did you bring me a Bud?”

“ – to say hi and tell you I got married.”

He squinted at me with watery blue eyes. His hair was lush and entirely white – it thrived on Budweiser. His eyebrows looked like angry albino caterpillars. He was in his wheelchair by the window, dressed in sweatpants and a blue checked flannel shirt, feet sock-?less in the heel-?less slippers.

He didn’t need a wheelchair, but Mr. Mueller in the next room had one, and my grandpa broke every plate he could find until Nurse Jenkins relented and ordered one for him. Mueller also had a colostomy bag, but my grandpa graciously decided not to go after that as well.

Next to the Ant, and maybe the devil, he was the most evil person I’d ever known. Come to think of it, most of the male influences I’d had growing up had either been –

“Your mom still fat?”

“She’s at the perfect weight for her height and age, you bony smelly man!” I snapped. Great, a new record. I’d been in the same room with him for eight seconds, and already I was screaming. “It’s a miracle she isn’t a sociopath, raised by a rotten old man like you!”

“Hello,” Sinclair said. “I’m Eric Sinclair, Elizabeth’s husband.”

Gramps scowled at the vampire king. “You look part Indian. You got any Injun in you, boy?”

“It’s possible,” Sinclair said mildly, as I moaned and chewed on a throw pillow. “I never knew my biological father.”

I spit out some feathers and stared at him. “You never knew your father?”

“He could be part black!” my darling, dying relative howled. “He could be – he could be Catholic!”

“I believe I may be Californian,” Sinclair added helpfully.

“Anyway, I got married, this is the guy, nice to see you again, don’t drop dead anytime soon, because I couldn’t handle another funeral this year, good-?bye.”

“Yup,” Grandpa said, smacking his teeth (he still had them all… a chronic drinker and smoker with gorgeous hair and perfect teeth). “Hope that witch is having a good time screwing the devil in Hell.”

“I don’t think the devil swings that way,” I said truthfully. I had finally remembered the one reason I hadn’t wrung the old buzzard’s neck twenty years ago.

Sinclair cleared his throat. I prayed he wasn’t eyeing my grandpa and trying to figure out which one of the two of them was older. “Oh, you knew the, ah, late Mrs. Taylor?”

“Knew her? Beat the shit out of her.”

“How sweet.”

“Twat stole my girl’s husband.” A cat wandered near, and Grandpa kicked it away, sending his slipper flying. Sinclair snatched it out of the air and courteously handed it back. “She had to go down.”

“Go… down?”

“Fistfight. The Halloween I was fifteen. The cops came,” I sighed reminiscently, “and everything.”

“Bitch went to her grave with fewer teeth than I have,” my warm, friendly grandfather cackled.

“You engaged in a physical fight with a woman?”

“Slut should have kept her legs closed round a married man. ‘Course,” he added, looking at me, “your father always was a worthless bastard.”

“As I recall, he got a fist in the face that night as well.”

“And woulda got a boot in the ass! If the cops hadn’t cuffed me by then.”

“The arresting officer gave me a Charms Blo-?Pop,” I reminisced, “and took me over to stay with my mom. She got to read the police report.” I stooped and kissed his wrinkled forehead. And handed him the Cub grocery bag, which was full of cans of Bud.