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betsy short 02 - ureliable

MaryJanice Davidson



  MaryJanice Davidson

  Text copyright ©2018 by MaryJanice Davidson

  All Rights Reserved


  A reader pointed out a passage in Undead and Unstable where friends of Betsy, the vampire queen, are pointing out good things she’s done. Brief mention is made of rescuing Detective Nick “Dickie” Berry from witches. (“And you saved Dickie’s life that time when all those witches were gonna...”)

  Reader: “So what’s the backstory there?”

  Me: “How should I know?”

  Reader: “...”

  So I mulled, then I wrote. This is the result of the mulling, for which that random reader deserves all credit or blame. I’ll be keeping the royalties either way. 

  “History is malleable because memory is subjective.” Danielle LaPorte

  “Some stolen items seem unusual because their value is not easily visible. For example, thieves steal catalytic converters for the platinum. Frank Scafidi of the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) gave the example of manhole covers, as well as a variety of other metal objects, that are often stolen to be resold as scrap metal.” Thomas C. Frohlich, The Ten Weirdest Things Thieves Love to Steal

  “No sane person should believe that something is subjective merely because it cannot be settled beyond controversy.” Hilary Putnam, The Many Faces of Realism

  “What’s the point of these quotes at the beginning of a story, anyway?” Random reader

  The events described in this story took place between Undead and Undermined and Undead and Unstable.

  New to the Undead series? No problem. Long story short (unlike every other time someone says ‘long story short’, this long story will actually be short), unemployed administrative assistant Betsy Taylor, whose love for designer shoes is an all-encompassing hunger, gets fatally smashed by a Pontiac Aztec while looking for her cat.

  She wakes up dead, escapes the morgue, keeps all her old friends, makes new friends, marries the king of the vampires (at least twice), repeatedly cheats death, and comes to realize she’s the long-foretold vampire queen. Violence happens. Also sex. Then more violence. And even more sex. Along the way, Betsy gets into a prolonged catfight with Satan (who looks like Lena Olin in a gray designer suit) and her half-sister, the gorgeous, priggish Antichrist. One of her roommates (they are legion) commits suicide, but don’t worry—she totally has a plan to fix that. And occasionally her evil self from 500 years in the future stops by.

  See? Easy. But you’ll be okay either way, you can read this story without having so much as peeked at an Undead book. Though you really should. It’s a pretty fun series, if I do say so myself.


  “For the last time, they weren’t witches!”

  “Of course they were.”

  “And it wasn’t part of a Satanic plot!”

  “Yeah, was, though.”

  I squashed the urge to start throttling people I cared for/lived with/worked with. It gets so awkward after you strangle somebody and then try to play nice after. “It wasn’t! It was a completely ordinary caper that wasn’t especially interesting and it’s weird that none of you, none of you remember it that way!”

  “We are. You’re the one remembering this all wrong.”

  And, from my (pseudo) best friend Jessica, “Caper? You really used that word? Like it’s 1955?”

  “Oh my God.” I clutched my head. We were at the font of all arguments: the smoothie table in the mansion’s kitchen. It was 2:00 a.m. and because we all lived strange unsettled lives, we were all wide awake. “You people have lost your minds. The whole thing barely took an hour. Nobody got hurt—nobody even got scratched.”

  “You people?” Jessica pretended to ruffle up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “’You people’ includes anyone who thinks that particular caper was supernatural in any way, or even dangerous in any way, because it wasn’t. At all.”

  “Except for the vampires involved,” my horrible husband, Eric Sinclair, pointed out.

  “And the witches.” This from Marc, who had been back from the dead (kinda) just long enough so that I wasn’t compelled to be exaggeratedly nice to him all the time. Nothing like living with a newly animated zombie to make you you were supposed to appreciate while living with a newly animated zombie.

  “Marc, you weren’t even there.”

  “What, it’s my fault it took you so long to figure out how to bring me back from the dead?”

  “Oh my God.” Knew breaking that Commandment was painful for my husband. Didn’t care. Planned to do so again very soon.

  “Good morning, Majesties.” This from Tina, my husband’s long-time friend/major domo (long-time = a century or so), who had pushed open the swinging door and come in at exactly the wrong time. (It was her super power!) As usual, she was dressed like a jailbait-inspired felony: green watch plaid miniskirt, short-sleeved spotless white t-shirt (with her liquid diet? bold!), long blonde hair pulled back with a black headband, and hilariously thick socks (the mansion could get drafty). They were so thick they added half an inch to her height, which she needed because she was a shrimp. “Are you arguing about the witches who kidnapped Dickie again?”

  “They weren’t witches!”

  “Pretty sure they were,” Jessica drawled.

  “Totally, definitively, absolutely witches,” Marc—who wasn’t even there—added.

  “You mustn’t fret,” my odious husband told me. “So many odd things happen in our lives, it can be difficult to keep all the details straight.”

  “Tell it to these guys! I have all the details straight.”

  “Except for the part where you insist they weren’t witches,” Jessica interjected.

  “As I recall, they were practitioners of the dark arts,” Tina began, her (unlined) forehead furrowing as she thought.

  “No. They. Weren’t.” Was it a prank? A dare? Were they trying to goad me into beating them to death? But why? Why would being beaten to death by a barefoot vampire be their endgame? It made no sense.

  “The important thing, if I may,” Tina added, “is that Dickie was saved.”

  “From witches!” Marc added, grinning at me.

  “I hate all of you. All. No exceptions. Everyone in this kitchen, I hate.”

  “Don’t get mad at us because you’re perpetually vague on details,” Jessica huffed.

  “And you were barely involved, on account of being knocked up.”

  “Please,” she sniffed. “I prefer the obstetrical term ‘gestating like a motherfucker’.”

  I nearly choked on my smoothie. Don’t laugh. This is important. You’re the only one who remembers what actually happened. Must...remain...impassive... “Whatever the term, you were in it for about five minutes, and then you took a nap, leaving Sinclair and Tina and me to do the dirty work.” Which hadn’t been especially dirty, but I wasn’t about to tell her that. The whole thing had been more a midnight snack run than a rescue op.

  “I’m the one who set you on the trail that led to the witches! While knocked up. And so what if I needed a nap? I was busy creating life. It was exhausting.”

  Yes, like this conversation. I set down my smoothie (which sucked because of all the blackberries so it was 75% seeds and also everyone who pretended to love me hates me and the world is terrible) so I wouldn’t accidentally shatter the heavy glass. “You know how we can clear this right up?”

  “Call Dickie? He’s on his way back.” Jessica was already pawing through her bag to grab her phone. “I love Amazon Prime, but even they can’t keep up with the twins’ diaper needs.”

Although those weird babies did blitz through diapers like they were being paid. “Listening to me tell it will clear things up for you. All of you. So listen.”

  “Goody!” Marc got comfy, which was a neat trick on a bar stool. In terms of comfort, I put bar stools right up there with the Rack. He propped his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands, and blinked those big baby greens while looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his zombie mouth. (It wouldn’t, since Marc was basically room temperature.) “So tell us about the witches.”

  “There weren’t—just listen, okay?”


  A couple of years earlier, give or take

  “Betsy, thank God you’re home!”

  I blinked at Jessica, who was arms akimbo in my bedroom doorway. “I’ve been here all day. And all night.” Truth. Marc was still dead, and I’d still made zero progress resolving that. As a consequence, I was depressed and grumpy, and hadn’t put so much as a Manolo-clad toe out the door in days. Even reorganizing the closet had lost its erotic charm. “What’s up?”

  “Dickie’s been kidnapped!”

  I blinked more, because some habits were impossible to break. I didn’t have to breathe, but still gasped in appreciation (chocolate milkshakes spiked with Bailey’s) or horror (blackberries in my smoothie), and I was pretty sure my undead eyeballs were self-lubricating. Wait. That didn’t make any sense, because even if they were, I’d still have to blink to, I dunno, clean them or whatever? Wouldn’t they get cloudy if I never blinked, undead or not?

  Also, the Dickie/Nick thing still threw me. Before I’d (accidentally—it’s really crucial people keep that in mind) changed the timeline, Dickie went by Nick, cordially loathed my entire existence, and had been dumped by Jessica. (Never force a woman to choose between her life-long bestie and the guy she’s been dating for a few weeks.)

  But I’d returned to a timeline where he liked me, loved Jess, and they were expecting a baby. The only downside (other than my jealousy, because every woman who assured her friend that nothing would change after the baby was born was a well-meaning liar) was that a grown man, a police detective, no less, insisted on going by “Dickie”. How did bad guys not crack up when he identified himself? And explaining to him that in an alternate timeline he had a grown-up moniker wasn’t working at all. All I got for my pains were variations of “It’s Dickie, it’ll always be Dickie, suck it up—but not literally”. It was really something to ponder, once you thought about all the—

  “Will you please stop blinking like a sleepy screech owl and pay attention?”

  “I am! Marc’s dead and your boyfriend has a dumb name.” And my shoe closet was a mess. And I barely cared.

  “Marc is temporarily dead and the father of my unborn baby is missing! And with your enemies list—”

  “Whoa! Don’t pretend you don’t have an enemies list of your own.” An alphabetized one, no less.

  “—that means anyone or anything could have him. Mean vampires or pissy werewolves or tall fairies—“

  “Tall fairies are a thing?” No one told me!

  “—or witches, a whole pile of ‘em—who knows? The point is, we’ve got to move!”

  “Are you creating a crisis to get me out of the house?”

  “No! But now that you mention it, you need to get out of the house.”

  Yeah, bullshit. Different people mourned in different ways. (Not that I needed to mourn, because Marc wasn’t going to stay dead. I’d bet every last pair of Louboutins on it. And you gotta know that is not a wager I’d make lightly.) I was still trying to grasp the fact that I was destined to live for centuries, many of them as a rabid megabitch who thought blondes could pull off gray wool. (Can’t be done. Washes us out and adds years to our faces. Blondes everywhere will back me up on this.) Oh, and that I will, in the course of time, turn my friends into monsters. That was lurking in my future, too.

  So, yeah. I wasn’t keen on interacting with society right now. Or anyone in the house, to be frank. Or the shower. Or clean clothes.

  Alas, Jessica was still in lecture mode. “I know you miss Marc, I know you feel bad—we all do. But moping isn’t going to yaaaggghhh!” She whirled, probably because Sinclair had glided up out of the darkness and loomed behind her. Well, he’d matter-of-factly walked up the stairs and stopped behind her, because she was blocking the doorway, but if you couldn’t actually hear him coming, it seemed very loom-ey. Loomish?

  “I could not help but overhear your shrieking from the kitchen,” he began, which is when Jessica socked him with a small brown fist, a blow that bounced harmlessly off his shoulder.

  “Don’t do that!”

  “Perhaps you should lie down.” Ooooh, that was Sinclair’s molten honey voice, where he got down in the deep register and sounded soothing and sensual, a tone no woman could—

  “Don’t marginalize me and don’t try that rumbly voice on me, either! My possible future husband has been kidnapped, don’t tell me to take a fucking nap.”

  Okay, that was a fair point. I got to my feet (I’d been on my knees listlessly sorting my navy-blue pumps) and said, “Well, let’s go get him.”

  “I apologize, Jessica. I only meant...I thought your...I worried about...” Whoa. Sinclair never fumbled, physically or verbally. He finally squared his (broad) shoulders and coughed it up: “It has been many decades since I have had a friend who was in the family way. I’m afraid I’m out of practice. I never meant to upset you.”

  “Well, I probably shouldn’t have punched you.” She socked him again, gently. “You big lurking cat-footed galoot.”

  “So tell us everything you know about Don’t-call-me-Nick’s abduction.” This while I was changing into clean underwear and leggings (I figured the long-sleeved t-shirt would be good for a while). And thank heavens for dry shampoo, though I’d been using so much of it I had basically turned my hair into a dry shampoo helmet. “And we’ll go get him.”

  “Yes indeed. We shall. Immediately. Yes. Ah. Is there perhaps time for you to shower, my love?”

  Huh. Maybe it was past time to get out of the house.


  “It really was,” Jessica said, pulling us all back to the present. “Marc, you should be glad you weren’t around to see it. She didn’t shower, she bailed on her nails, she did zero self-care, and yeah, vampires don’t sweat and give off heinous b.o., but even they get stale after a while. Dry shampoo can only do so much.”

  “Excuse me, I was in mourning. Ack!” That last because Marc had slapped his clammy hand down on mine and squeezed, probably because he thought I’d find it comforting.

  “Aw,” he teased. “You missed me.”

  “Did not. Well, a little. Shut up.” I snatched my hand back. “So anyway...”


  “I do not understand,” Sinclair began. We were in his gray Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which my husband thought was sexy. It wasn’t, partly because gray cars can never be sexy, but also because the thing looked like an electric shaver with a windshield. “Detective Berry’s text indicated he would be late, not that he has been detained by supernatural forces. Do not misunderstand, I think we were wise to put trackers in everyone’s vehicles, but this does not seem like an emergency.”

  “I would never say this within Jessica’s hearing...” I double-checked the back seat to reassure myself it was empty. Tina was following us in her red Fiat because she was practical, efficient, and loved the color red. She’d keep her distance unless we needed help. Which was excellent, as I would take no chances on being overheard. “...but she’s been overreacting a smidge. Remember when she thought that sushi had given her a tapeworm when it was just morning sickness? Dick-not-Nick is probably holed up in a Target parking lot gorging on all the things he gave up in solidarity with Jessica.”


  “Liar!” Jessica practically screamed. “I was not! And he wasn’t, either!”


  “You’re telling it wrong!”



  “This Target,” my husband observed, “should not be open for business at 12:08 a.m.”

  “Was he so consumed with a potato chip/salsa/Oreo craving that he broke in?” I clicked my tongue in faux sympathy. “Poor guy needs professional help.”

  We’d swung around to the back entrance of the Suburban (yeah, it was really called that) Square Target which, as Sinclair had pointed out, shouldn’t be open. But from the back, we could see some lights were on, and there was a sinister-looking dark green van idling just a few feet away. Although “sinister” and “dark van” were redundant. All dark vans were inherently sinister. Weird but true. Weirder and truer: Call-Me-Dickie’s Ford Escape was parked beside it.

  Sinclair parked his gigantic electric shaver behind the van, blocking their rapid escape, and we eased out of the car, found the back door obligingly unlocked—at least the unhinged Oreo-craving bastard didn’t shoot his way in—and slipped inside.