The Fangs of Freelance (Drew Hayes)
$5.99 – $17.99
Fred, the Vampire Accountant Book 4
When Fred formed his own parahuman clan out of necessity, he understood that it was going to come with new responsibilities. Much as he hoped those tasks would center around extra paperwork and perhaps the occasional mandatory class, enough time around the supernatural has taught him to be ready for anything. Or so he thought.
As a freelance accountant for the Agency, Fred soon finds himself being tossed into new, unexpected, and perilous situations. From inventorying ghostly castles, to exploring unsettling amusement parks, to negotiating with dangerous mages, it seems there is no end to the uses for an accountant of Fred’s specialty. But dangerous as the new jobs are, the greatest threat may come from the past. An old enemy is making waves once more, an enemy who would go to great lengths to destroy Fred and everyone he loves. And this time, they’ve brought backup.
The fourth book in the hilarious series following Fred, the vampire accountant, and the misadventures he finds himself in.
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Read The First Chapter
We all leapt out from behind couches, chairs, and, in Bubba’s case, an oversized armoire that I’m almost certain was brought in specifically for him to hide behind. Neil let out a high-pitched yelp, dropped the stack of books he’d been carrying, and leapt backward, smacking directly into Albert. Luckily, zombies weren’t pushovers (forgive the literal use of an expression), so he managed to steady the shocked necromancer as Neil fully recovered his bearings.
“Wha—how did you all know?” His voice was shaky, probably from surprise, although embarrassment at the sound he’d just let out wasn’t off the table.
“And just what kind of mentor would I be if I forgot my student’s eighteenth birthday?” Amy made her way over to Neil, shaking her head all the way. It was a small gesture, but notable because small flecks of rainbow-colored light swirled away from her hair. Amy’s usual penchant for testing alchemic products on herself had evidently taken a festive turn for the occasion.
Ah, but if that last statement made no sense to you, then perhaps this is the best moment to pause briefly and explain. My name is Fredrick Frankford Fletcher, and I am an accountant by trade. Also, I’m a vampire. Yes, I probably should have led with that second bit, but to be honest, the accountant part factors far more frequently into my daily life than does my status as an Undead American. Aside from a sunlight allergy, a predominantly liquid diet (bought through appropriate and legal sources, thank you very much), and the power to work for days at a time, being a vampire hadn’t changed me much. It had, however, dramatically impacted my social circle. From Krystal, my girlfriend who worked for a parahuman policing organization known as the Agency, to Neil and Albert, who were a pair of best friends who also happened to be a necromancer and zombie, respectively, all the way to the very house we were standing in, since Charlotte Manor was a living entity with unique powers all her own. While I’d had very few friends as a human, my parahuman social circle was full to near-bursting, a fact that I was always grateful for.
Charlotte appeared next to me as Amy, Bubba, and Krystal all gathered about Neil and Albert, congratulating Neil on the milestone and Albert on managing not to blow the secret of the surprise party. Although her exact appearance varied with the occasion and her mood, Charlotte was tonight dressed in one of her usual gowns. It looked as if it had been pulled straight out of a Victorian romance, complete with a wide skirt that had to use magic to avoid knocking things over.
“Dinner will be ready in ten minutes, Fred,” she reported dutifully. Since most of us rented some form of space or another from Charlotte, be it offices or living quarters, meals were part of the package, not to mention one of her greatest selling features. Even if it was woven together mostly from magic, Charlotte was a fantastic chef, and she’d agreed to put together something special for the evening’s festivities. “I’m going to be a waiter coming around with champagne, beer, and soda in a few minutes as well. Also, Arch and Lillian have both asked me to send you to their respective quarters as soon as possible.”
I’d been wondering where the newest employee of Fletcher Accounting Services was, as Lillian was rarely one to miss a party, or any of Charlotte’s meals. In the months since she’d been freed from her old vampire clan and joined the one I’d hastily founded (The House of Fred, thanks to Krystal muddling with the paperwork), she’d slowly been acclimating to life outside a rigorously controlled organization. Arch, on the other hand, generally only popped in for brief stints between missions and often took his meals in his room—though, given that he was training Albert, and therefore Neil by extension, I had somewhat expected him to make it down. Some manner of Agency task had probably demanded his attention instead, since he was employed by the same people as Krystal. Neither of them spoke much about work due to the secretive nature of what they did, but I was slowly piecing enough together to suspect that despite their both being called “Agent,” they had a lot of differences in their actual jobs.
“Charlotte, when Lillian asked for me to come by, was she hunched over a large stack of documents or swearing at her laptop?”
“The latter. It’s actually quite nostalgic. I haven’t heard some of those curses being thrown about for decades.” Charlotte smiled, looking briefly wistful for the tenants who had constructed her a very long time ago. “But she didn’t break anything in frustration, so I’d say she is making progress.”
Well, that made the choice of who to see first simple. Lillian was working on her study materials and some small-scale assignments I’d handed over, so she was likely calling me for help. The woman was a hard worker and a dedicated student, making tremendous progress in learning the trade of accounting, but no one could master the craft without occasional bits of guidance. If she was asking for assistance, then it must be something quite difficult. It was probably better if I encouraged her to take the night off for Neil’s party and deal with the issue tomorrow. But even that might require some convincing, as she was determined to get her credentials as soon as possible. Better to start with Arch, who was nothing if not quick to the point in every conversation. The term “blunt” had been bandied about more than once when discussing him. So had “heartless” and “robot,” although I’d found that Arch did have some sentimentality in him. It just required a keen eye and lots of patience to spot.
“Tell Lillian I’ll be there in ten minutes, and let Arch know I’m on my way, please.” While I didn’t see Charlotte so much as move a step, I knew versions of her were relaying the message as I headed over to Neil. Although the two of us had never gotten along as well as I did with most of the others, it would have been rude to slip away without so much as even a cursory greeting to the birthday boy.
I waited my turn behind Bubba, who delivered a handshake so hearty I feared for the necromancer’s bones. He finally finished, stepping to the side and helping himself to a cold silver can from the tray held by one of Charlotte’s waiter forms. Stepping closer, I met Neil’s eyes and stuck out my own hand. “Happy birthday. And welcome to the official world of adulthood.”
Despite the fact that I’d been looking at Neil, I couldn’t help but notice a brief expression flash across Albert’s nearby face. The look stood out to me not because of its severity, but rather its strangeness. Albert was a perpetually cheerful, upbeat person, which is what made the flicker of sadness in his eyes seem so alien.
Before I could dwell or comment on it, Neil had taken my hand and given it a shake. “Thanks, Fred.” Then the exchange was done, and I moved away to let Neil begin partaking in the festivities. As the party moved toward the dining room, a once more smiling Albert with them, I headed upstairs to see Arch.
Looking back, I should have been wondering why he would summon me to a meeting, but my mind was stuck in that moment with Albert. Besides, I was assuming this would be more non-news from the Agency. When I’d officially founded my parahuman clan to fend off the aggression from other vampires moving into town, I’d also signed Fletcher Accounting Services up to do freelance work with the Agency. It was a dangerous alliance that wouldn’t endear me to most other parahumans, but it had given me and my friends a measure of protection from the House of Turva. Yet, in the months since I’d signed on, no work had come. Every time I asked Arch, he’d merely told me that my application was under review. I expected more of the same as I knocked on his slightly ajar door and walked through, but at a glance, I knew I was wrong.
Arch was zipping up a small duffel bag, one I’d seen him carry with him when leaving many a time. He was dressed in layers, as usual, and I knew from experience that hidden amidst those folds of cloth were weapons designed to take down countless types of creatures. Of all my friends, Arch was the only one whose parahuman nature remained a mystery to me. No one talked about it, especially not Arch, and I never asked. Partly out of politeness, partly because I suspected that I wouldn’t like the answer. Sometimes, in the parahuman world, ignorance was preferable. I’d learned that lesson by asking an ancient dragon one too many questions.
“Charlotte, would you mind putting my gift for Neil with the others?” Arch nodded to a small package in dark purple wrapping paper on his dresser. “If you know where Fred’s is, get that too. I’m afraid we’re going to miss the party.”
“Do I get to ask why we’ll be missing it?” I hadn’t moved from the doorway, but that didn’t stop Charlotte from walking by me and scooping up Arch’s gift. She said nothing as she made her way past; although this time I did step aside for her. Charlotte was an expert at knowing when to be a landlord, a friend, or a house.
“I think you’ve already put it together,” Arch told me. “But if you want confirmation: word came down a few minutes ago. Your freelance application has been processed; it’s time to move on to the interview and skills portion.”
“Which means meeting them in person.” Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I think a part of me had grown accustomed to the months of being put off, convincing myself that I’d be able to stay in limbo forever, protected by an alliance that I never had to put in work to maintain. It was a silly notion, and I’d recognized it as such even when I held it, yet that didn’t stop it from stinging ever so slightly as the idea was unceremoniously destroyed by Arch. “I’ll get my briefcase and laptop. Are we heading into town? If so, I’d like to pop by my apartment and change into something more professional.”
Truth be told, I wasn’t in what most would call a casual ensemble, with my button-down shirt, khakis, and sweater vest, but if I was meeting someone in the Agency, I felt like I should go for a full suit. Arch stared at me for several seconds before shaking his head.
“No, Fred, we’re not going into town. I just told you, I’m taking you for an interview and skills test.”
“Right, which I took to mean that there’s a representative in Winslow, probably staying at Richard’s or something. I mean, it’s not like they’d invite me to their actual offices, the locations of which I assume are national secrets.”
Arch lifted the duffel bag and tossed it easily over his shoulder, a show of surprising strength for his short stature and slight frame. “Our fiscal people tend to stay at the offices, and they’re the ones who are interviewing you. That means it’s my job to take you to them. You were right about one thing, though.” Reaching into his pocket, Arch produced a thick swath of dark fabric and tossed it over to me. I snared it from mid-air and unfolded the item, quickly realizing what I’d been handed. It was a hood to cover my head, and based on the small arcane runes woven into the fabric, I had a hunch it was strong enough to block out even my enhanced senses.
“The location is a secret. Once we’re in the plane, I’ll need you to put that on.”
Folding the hood carefully and tucking it into my pocket, I considered the situation. “May I have half an hour to help Lillian and say my goodbyes? I’d like to at least explain why I’m ditching out on Neil’s party.”
“No one down there needs an explanation, Fred. They know what a summons from the Agency means.” Arch glanced down at his watch and stared at it for several long moments. “But I did pack fast, so I can give you fifteen minutes to grab your stuff and say whatever you’d like to everyone.”
“Thank you, Arch.” I turned and bolted from the room, well aware that, as soon as those fifteen minutes were up, I’d be out the door whether I liked it or not. Still, I appreciated even the small window of time I’d been handed. Like I said earlier, Arch does have a heart; you just have to pay close attention to see it peeking out.
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