Submitted by: Jay Rohr

"You want some Mountain Dew?"

"Still not drinking coffee?"

"Never have, never will."

"It's good to know some things haven't changed," Vincent said. He looked across the kitchen table at Marianne and tried only to breathe through his mouth. He caught less of her scent that way. Marianne stood with her back to him while she collected a pair of cups from the cupboard. She looked much the way he expected her too, in baggy grey sweat pants and her father's old Bear's jersey. The ragged edges of the jersey, whittled out by countless laundry cycles, were recently neighbors to wash worn holes. Besides that only the length of hair had changed.

Marianne stepped away from the cupboard, a Snoopy plastic cup in one hand and a glass mug in the other. Shuffling over to the refrigerator she glanced at Vincent. His eyes followed her from behind a duckblind of hair. He looked nothing like she remembered. He had on a pair of dirty blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Those were to be expected, but they looked two, perhaps even three, sizes too big from him. When she had first seen him in the hall, he'd held up his pants with his hand until unrolling a belt from his back pocket. Odder than that, instead of wearing his shoes, Vincent had them tied by the laces to a belt loop. His face was a briar patch of whiskers, and his hair was not only long but had changed color. It had gone from dishwater blonde to a dark brown.

For a moment, their eyes locked. Vincent smiled. Marianne started to smile back, but something about his eyes unsettled her. Swallowing hard, she kept her eyes fixed on the two liter while she poured their drinks.

"I'm sorry if I scared you," Vincent said as she slid the Snoopy cup over to him. Marianne stepped over to the sink and leaned against the counter top. Vincent sighed. He had hoped she would at least sit across from him. Although he somewhat understood her reluctance.

When Marianne had first heard his voice she had almost run straight to him. But something in her gut told her to hold back. She had thought it some voice of strength within to keep her from stepping in harms way. However, the more time she was around him, the more Vincent put her on edge. She'd felt this way once before but couldn't place the incident. She kept thinking of animals that scared her.

"You didn't have to break in." Marianne took a sip. It was late, and she was tired. She didn't think the Mountain Dew would keep her up much longer. Coffee was beginning to sound good right about now.

"Well, I didn't really plan on you knowing I was here." Vincent looked down into his glass. He ran a thumb across the picture of Snoopy. 'Too bad beagles aren't really like you,' he thought.

"What were you planning?" Hooking the mug with two fingers, Marianne took a step towards the kitchen table. Vincent had stopped looking at her. He was staring at the Snoopy on his cup, tracing its' outline with his finger. She noticed his nails were clean, though seeming to have all broken at the tips, despite the fact the skin all around them was dirty. Before he could looked up again, Marianne stepped back towards the sink.

"I just came for a picture of Evan." Vincent looked over his shoulder at the staircase, "I haven't seen him in so long. I just wanted something of him from now instead of back."

"Before you left." Even as she spoke, Marianne wasn't sure if she really wanted to say it. Maybe it would have been best to muddle through a few polite pleasantries first "How are you? What have you been up to? Yeah, I did buy a new car. I just don't drive it in the city," but in the end it would have all led to this. The one question she had asked herself too many times. A question she could never answer alone.

Vincent leaned back in his chair. He took a sip and nodded his head. Marianne folded her arms across her chest, waiting for his reply. The silence went well beyond awkward.

She was about to break it with whatever might come out when Vincent said, "It wasn't entirely on purpose."

"Then what was it?"

"Complicated," he looked at her with an intensity that made her cringe. The moment she flinched Vincent leveled his shoulders and leaned his head forward. His nose crinkled as his lips pulled back. He looked ready to pounce on her.

"You can't come up with an abridged version," Marianne said as she took firm hold of the mug handle. If he did decide to come at her she'd at least give a him a face full of glass.

Vincent shook his head. Rubbing his eyes he said, "I'm sorry. I got distracted. You drift back and forth sometimes."

"What are you talking about?" Marianne furrowed her brow.

"Nothing important." Vincent pointed at the refrigerator, "Is that Evan's?"

Marianne glanced at the fridge. Vincent was pointing to a paper magneted to the freezer door with a Daffy duck. Written across the top of the sheet in big red block letters was the phrase, Good Job! A+.

Marianne nodded, turning her attention back to Vincent, "Yeah, it's his last science test. He had to name all the plant and animal kingdoms and give examples of each one."

"Boy's good at science?"

"Only when he's interested."

"Sounds familiar," Vincent said with a smile.

Marianne chuckled, "As long as he doesn't get into the habit of telling teachers he's not interested."

Vincent shook a finger at her, "I never..."

Marianne interrupted, "Forgot to tell the faculty you were bored."

Vincent placed a hand over his mouth to stifle the laughter.

"Didn't you write a paper on Much Ado About Nothing that was five pages on why you didn't read past the first act?"

"I admit to nothing." Vincent shrugged his shoulders. He watched Marianne as she took a sip from her mug. Taking a chance, he breathed her in through his nostrils, "You still smell better than a bakery at sunrise."

Marianne smacked the mug down on the counter top, "Goddamn it Vince."


"You always did this, and apparently you still do."

"What? Be nice?" Vincent tried to sound confused, but he had a feeling where this was going.

"You're changing the subject, hoping I'll let it slide, but it's not gonna happen. Not this time. This time it matters." Marianne's eyes took on the shimmer of unsteady water. She blinked back the well she had just tapped. It stayed below the surface, though not far.

"I don't..." Vincent started then stopped. He rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. It was starting to feel like there were knobs of iron in the seat and back of his chair, "I don't know what to say."

"Just tell me the truth. I think you owe me that much."

"Well, there's a cliche if I've ever heard one," Vincent snorted.

"Stop stalling."

Vincent folded his hands the table. He kept his gaze fixed on his thumbs while he rubbed them against each other. Almost two full minutes passed before he spoke, but Marianne waited silently. Although, the tapping of her foot would suggest she didn't wait patiently. With each word chosen carefully, Vincent started to speak,

"You remember I was heading to Vegas to take a job. Six months, that's how long it was supposed to and did last. I was on my way back when I stopped off at this diner in Wyoming. Long story short, I got hooked in with these bikers and have been gone since."

"You got 'hooked in?' " Marianne's voice was a twist of doubt and concern.

"Nothing the law handles."

"Then how were you hooked?" The concern was gone. Marianne had a vision of a woman with ten thousand possible faces.

"It's not something I can get into." Vincent rubbed the back of his neck. Feeling Marianne's stare, he got up out of his seat and walked over into the living room. He felt better in the dark, even though he knew she was still glaring at him.

"Your neighbors always walk this late at night?" Vincent asked, hoping to again change the subject.

Marianne leaned back to look out the kitchen window by the sink. For a few seconds there was no one, then she saw Irma and Jerry Haas strolling down the sidewalk.

"That's the Haas. They keep strange hours." Marianne looked back over at Vincent. He was pacing in the living room. "How did you know..."

"I haven't been indoors this long for awhile," Vincent thought aloud, "I feel a little confined."

"Well, then maybe you should step out back for a minute. I'll run upstairs and grab a picture of Evan for you."

Without a word, Vincent slipped out the sliding glass door. He took a deep breath through his mouth and nose. It was a crisp night, refreshingly sharp like mint. He could taste the moisture from a coming fog on his tongue and hear Irma Haas conversing about the cuteness of her new kitten. There were few clouds in the sky, just a few thin grey shades. The moon was almost half full. He couldn't wait for the full, when it was easier to shift. What was it Wade had always said? A fuller moon pulls stronger at your blood.

"At what's in the blood," Vincent said looking at his hands.

He stepped back through the door and started to close it. The door was just sliding shut when a whiff came through on a sudden gust. Vincent kept the door parted slightly and stepped to the glass. Keeping his nose close to the opening he tried to stand as calmly as possible. The wind seeped in with a scent he hoped beyond hoping was a mistake on his part. He pricked up his ears but could only make out the Haas' ever more faint footsteps and conversation. The scent was there though. It lingered on the air like a stink that won't wash away.

'He can't be alone,' Vincent thought to himself.

"I picked out a few of my personal favorites," Marianne said as she came down the stairs, "I always get doubles so don't worry about taking them."

Vincent pushed the door shut, "That's great, great. Look, Marianne, I..."

He heard a low growl. Turning around he saw a dark shape crouched between the two houses he had been between earlier. As soon as he looked at it a pair of yellow eyes flashed then narrowed to barely perceptible slits.

"I what?" Marianne was sitting down at the kitchen table, looking over the pictures she had just chosen for him.

Vincent opened his mouth to speak but a knock at the door silenced him. He glanced over his shoulder, the dark mass was still there. It's narrow yellow slits fixed on him.

"Who the hell could that be?" Marianne said as she headed towards the front door. She snapped on the porch light before glancing through the peephole.


"What is it?" Vincent said. His voice came across with more sharpness than he intended.

"Porch light's out." Marianne tried taking another glance but could only make out the silhouette of a man. She cracked the door and said, "Can I help you?"

"Yes, ma'am. My name is Wade Canfield. I was wondering if you could tell Vincent that I'm here because I know he is."

Coming Soon
Part IV
The Expected Uninvited