Beyond the Reach of JudgementAuthor: Jo Bissell
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“Did we leave any sin out?” She replied with a forced weak laugh.
“No. Between the two of us, I think we have managed to cover them all.” He mumbled as that uncomfortable lump in his gut returned.
Julien Rene Durant was once a good man. Born in France, he took the oath as a Jesuit Priest in the 1600s. He dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel. Now, he was a monster surviving off the blood of others; killing for survival even as he wished for nothing other than for his own extinction. After almost four centuries of guilt and hopelessness, he encounters someone who might just be able to rescue the good man trapped within the monster, but will his judgements deny him a second chance?
Mary Ruth Jacobson-Ryan is nothing special; a small town girl stuck in a rut. Married to the local Iraqi War Hero who turned out not to be the perfect guy she fell in love with before the war, she is desperate for a way out. When things turn from bad to worse, she runs with plans to never look back. She quickly finds, however, that her search for a better future may lead her down a path with no future at all.
Days passed as Julien sat motionless and alone in his small, dark motel room. He begged himself to be strong; not to return to her. Still, he could not free Ruth from his thoughts. Was she okay? Had she found his note? Did she understand? What was she doing now? Who was she with? Was she happy? Had she forgiven him? Would she ever forgive him?
Suddenly, as if driven by an exterior force, he stood as the empty bottles of cheap whiskey rattled around his feet. He needed to forget about her, to find a distraction; to feel something else - anything else.
He left the room with a flurry. Once outside, he just kept walking. He knew this part of town was perfect for his need because that was precisely why he had chosen it in the first place. In a few blocks, he happened onto a Gentlemen’s club, and immediately he knew without explanation that it was one of those types of places known to be “vampire friendly.”
As he stepped inside to the loud club music, a large doorman stared down at him from his perch on a stool. “A new guy, huh?”
“No worries. You’ll be a regular soon enough. You don’t have any weapons on you, do you?”
“None.” He raised his hands into the air.
“Then you won’t mind me patting you down.” He did not wait for a response as his hands ran over Julien’s body with efficiency and experience. “Okay. You may enter. Drinks in front. Ladies in back. Snacks all around.” The man laughed and revealed his needle-like fangs before stepping aside.
Julien snaked his way through the crowd toward the bar. After ordering himself a whiskey on the rocks, he moved to take a seat in front of the stage. While he had no interest in the strippers, he did have interest in what was happening around him. Vampires of all genders, shapes, sizes, and colors mingling with men and women who were as equally diverse. No reserve existed toward sinking fangs into flesh as humans moaned and whimpered and vampires laughed and purred.
He became so engrossed in gawking at the debauchery happening around him, he failed to notice a woman approach him until she spoke.
“Looks like you could use another,” she said as she sat down next to him and pushed him a second whiskey across the table.
He smiled politely. “I suppose I could.” He took a long sip and glanced at her. She was attractive; tall, and lanky with choppy blonde hair and dark eyes. He guessed her age to be mid-thirties, but he could not be sure.
Smiling, she tipped her own drink toward him. “You have not been here before.”
He shook his head.
“So what is it you are looking for, sir?” She leaned in closer.
“To forget,” he mumbled.
“Lucky for you, that is my specialty.” She slid closer to him.
As he felt the heat radiating from her, he noted her earthy scent as it entered his nostrils, and his throat tightened.
“Yes?” She cocked her head so he could see the previous fang marks over her pulsating carotid.
“Yes.” Leaning in toward her, he contemplated what she might taste like.
“Yes,” she hummed as she placed a hand on his knee.
He sniffed her again, feeling the saliva pooling around his tongue. Licking his lips, he stroked a hand down her face as he watched her chest rise and fall. How easy it would be just to sink his teeth into her soft flesh. How pleasurable it would be to feel her warmth flood his mouth. How nice it would be to taste something other than the sour taste of guilt he currently struggled to swallow down.
“You can do it,” she said.
As if she had slapped him across the face, his mind was jolted back to reality, and he looked up at the woman’s face. She had no way of knowing of what he was capable. Why was she so willing to risk life and limb to let him partake of her life force? What was in it for her?
Trying to see her as just another prostitute giving herself to him like all the others, he searched for the self-righteous attitude that had once allowed him to feel entitled to judge those as worthy and unworthy of continued existence. Despite his attempts to remind himself of his previous exploits, he could not find the mentality to justify his planned actions.
“I am not like these others, you know?” he whispered.
“What do you mean?” she said. Her eyes widened, and he could not be certain if it was from fear or curiosity.
“I have no self control.” He swallowed.
“Then just turn me if you fail,” she replied with a half smile.
Again, her actions hit him like a slap on the face. He would not be responsible for creating another monster, and he did not want the guilt of another death. “I should not be here,” he said. He stood and finished off his drink. “My apologies, miss, but you will have to find another accomplice tonight.” With a quick nod, he turned from her and walked away.
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~About the Author~
Jo Bissell started writing in middle school with fantasy stories inspired by books such as The Hobbit, and in fact once turned in a journal project written entirely in Dwarfish Ruins. She then explored fanfiction and short speculative fiction writing. Now, after many years of study, she spends most of her time working as a full time physician caring for hospitalized adults. When she is not writing or doctoring, she enjoys reading, watching movies, traveling, archery, thrift store shopping, and snowboarding. She currently resides in the Iowa City, IA area with her husband and two cats.
Beyond the Reach of Judgement is Jo Bissell’s first original novel which evolved out of a 2012 National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) project. She also has a short speculative fiction piece, His Eyes, available for Kindle. Future planned novels include a sequel to Beyond the Reach of Judgement, other works of urban fantasy and paranormal romances, and a science fiction novel. She continues to participate in NaNoWriMo.
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