To read Highblood Part 1, click HERE
Joseph Galston jumped back in alarm to avoid the fleeing man, pressing himself against the wall as tightly as possible.
“No!” the young man snarled, pushing past him roughly as he dragged his suitcase behind him. “That’s it! I’m done!”
Joseph blinked quickly, trying to find the voice in his throat. “Please! You can’t be serious- it hasn’t even been a week!”
“That- man is a psychopath!” he nearly screamed. “He tried to kill me!”
“He’s exaggerating!” a bored voice called from upstairs. “Always with the exaggerations. You’re not on stage now, David!”
David glared up the stairway hatefully and then turned back to Joseph, his drooping cheeks throbbing red. Joseph mused for a moment how he looked like an angered bulldog, such an odd look for a young man to have the poise and dress sense of a middle-aged man. David opened his mouth to shout something back up before Joseph cut him off.
“What did he do?” he asked calmly. Tiredly. Unsurprised.
“That man is insane,” David seethed, spittle making his engorged lips shine. “He poured away my dairy-free products!”
Joseph stared at him, incredulously. “…And?”
David’s eyes bulged in his head, his glasses almost fogging up in his rage. “He replaced them with dairy!”
“And you… don’t like dairy…?”
“I’m lactose intolerant!”
“No, you’re not, David!” the voice called from above.
“I’ve had the shits for a week because of you!”
A weary sigh. “That’s because your diet consists purely of the numbers one to twenty on the back of the Golden Dragon’s takeaway menu, seven cups of coffee, nicotine gum and the hair growth vitamins you had delivered from Amazon on the day of your arrival.”
David’s hand immediately rose self consciously to his thinning hairline and darted a defensive glare at Joseph. “I don’t order a Chinese every night,” he shot to him.
Joseph was about to nod, reassuring him before the voice spoke again. “No, sometimes he orders sushi from Uber Eats, depending on how refined he feels.”
Joseph watched the frustration play out on David’s swelling face for two seconds before he stamped his foot on the floor.
“I’m fucking lactose intolerant!” he screamed. “I spoke to your last housemate- you tried to kill them too!”
“If I was trying to kill you, you’d be dead already.”
“How comforting,” Joseph muttered under his breath.
“I want my deposit back,” David snarled, pointing a shaking finger at Joseph. “I want it this afternoon. Do you hear me?”
“He’s not entitled to it, Joseph,” came the bored voice again. “Made a terrible mess of the walls and carpet when he threw his milk everywhere in a tantrum. These are antique rugs, Mr Hubert! They are costly to clean!”
“Please,” Joseph said quickly, raising his hands in an attempt of a placating nature to calm David down.
“Let’s have a cup of tea and-”
“-No chance for tea, Joseph, Hubert here has spilt all the milk.”
David swore darkly and threw his scarf over his shoulder. “My deposit. Returned this afternoon.”
Joseph shifted agitatedly. “Well… we’ll have to review that after an inspection, Mr Hubert.”
A flurry of curses left David’s mouth as he stomped his way out of the apartment, dragging his suitcase behind him. Joseph flinched for a second time as the door slammed behind him, the sunlight suddenly sucked out of the hallway.
He sighed tiredly and then dragged his gaze back up to the staircase.
A silence stretched out as the person at the top waited for him to say something.
Instead, he began to walk up the stairs, quiet, defeated and glowering.
“I suppose you found that entirely amusing?” he said, eyes darting to the milky puddles scattered across the kitchen floor and dripping from the tiled floor in the kitchen.
Inconvenient. So inconvenient.
Indeed, the rug was soaked. David Hubert would not be seeing his full deposit back anytime soon.
A tall dark-haired man was smiling triumphantly in a chair by a long bay window. His hair grew in messy dark waves around his shoulders, dark shadows slicing beneath sharp cheekbones. He was still in his dressing gown at his desk, a cigarette stumped out on a tray before him as he glanced briefly out of the window at the busy late morning London traffic, dark eyes glinting hazel for a moment in the briefest moments of sunlight outside.
And then it was gone.
London. So eternally grey.
“Only mildly,” Henry admitted, flashing him a white smile.
Joseph sighed and wearily sat down on one of the worn antique couches in the sitting room. Nearly everything in this room was an antique. Not because of taste, but because Henry couldn’t be bothered to change anything in the building. He didn’t see the point in replacing something that was perfectly functional and comfortable unless it broke completely.
Joseph’s eyes drew along the ancient dark multicoloured Persian carpet that was probably worth the price of his and his husband’s BMW’s put together. If it had been in good condition. The carpets were already ruined, of course, burns, odd tears and of course the inevitable bloodstain that was a hazard from Henry’s profession.
Henry also wasn’t precious about possessions. He didn’t see the point. Unless they were truly unique.
Handstitched Persian carpets over a century old obviously didn’t fall into that category.
“I don’t suppose we will be seeing much of David Hubert again,” Henry said, flattening out his newspaper and casting a quick eye over the headlines. “Shame. I thought we were bonding.”
Joseph’s gaze was drawn to Henry’s hands as they adjusted the crinkled paper, his long fingers pressing against the print and then tapping impatiently, the only sign that he was agitated. Or in a good mood.
More than likely the latter. Henry always enjoyed rubbing people the wrong way.
Joseph watched him flick over to the next page despite only spending a few seconds on this one. He knew that Henry had consumed the entirety of the information already, despite it appearing like a lazy glance over.
Henry could consume vast amounts of information just with a mere blink.
He was unique in that respect.
Joseph found his throat dry, like it usually was in Henry’s presence. He couldn’t help it. He had been working for Henry’s family for the past two years and still, he couldn’t get used to what it felt like to be in close proximity to them. It was…
“They’ll be the death of you if you’re not careful,” his husband, Barry, had warned him. “You’re addicted to them.”
“How am I?” he had demanded, offended.
His husband had raised a blonde eyebrow at him then. “You never know when you’re going to get a bonus in your balance or a bullet in your brain. You love it. You’re a fucking sadist, Joseph Galston.”
They had fallen out for a full day after that. Still, that evening, Joseph was indeed given yet another rather generous bonus- probably because he had gotten Henry over his latest assignment with no questions asked.
And it had been a rather messy assignment…
Barry had paused in his protests about the family.
Because Barry was like any other spouse.
Sometimes it paid to get paid.
Plus, Joseph had ways to convince his husband that this was the right career choice, that this was the right time to stick to-
“Am I interrupting something?” Henry prompted, an eyebrow raised slightly, a mirror of his husband’s, arched, black and mocking.
A blush worked furiously to Joseph’s cheeks. “I’ll have someone clean the carpets,” he mumbled.
Henry rolled his eyes. “There’s no need.”
“…Then there’s no need to keep David’s deposit.”
Henry’s eyes narrowed and then he cast a longer gaze at the milk stains on the floor. “Well, they were my grandmother’s… An heirloom. Best not to disrespect them…”
Joseph held back a scoff. He knew Henry didn’t give a shit about disrespecting a patch of carpet. He was a spiteful creature and knew he detested David Hubert as soon as he walked in.
David Hubert had fancied himself a sympathiser, someone from the arts who could adapt and understand the ways of someone like Henry Solomon Crow. How wrong he had been. No one lasted longer than a month living with Henry Crow. And all Highbloods living in the city required a human live-in.
It was a new mandatory requirement of anyone living in London. As it was the capital, any Highblood over a certain age or ability was required to have a live-in human so the Highblood could stay in touch and understand human traits and reactions.
Because Highbloods were far from human. They were something else entirely.
“You have a new job this evening,” Joseph said. “If you’re interested.”
“I’m always interested,” Henry said bored, not taking his eyes off the newspaper. He was taking longer in turning the page now. A courtesy on his part. As if an attempt to exhibit that he knew that it was unnatural and unnerving to scan as he did. But that was to Joseph alone. Joseph knew that Henry liked him marginally more than most humans. He had put the work and effort in apparently. And Henry respected those who did not abandon him. As there were so few.
Henry was… difficult by most people’s standards. By most standard Highblood expectations.
“How is old Bazza by the way?”
Joseph narrowed his eyes at the nickname his husband loathed and smiled sardonically. “He’s very well, thank you.”
Henry flicked the newspaper hard as he turned over a new page, the sound cracking violently in the air. “I’m relieved to hear.”
Barry and Henry did not get along at all. Maybe because Barry had a tongue almost as sharp as Henry’s. There was an uneasy respect and hatred there. Henry could get so territorial sometimes. And he resented at Joseph not being at his constant beck and call. Hence the need for a human live-in. Which they had been attempting for the past eight months.
Henry had discovered that after twelve applicants, he rather enjoyed aggravating his family- and Joseph for that matter. And insisted he was fine living on his own. Which he wasn’t, of course. Henry was far too intelligent to be left alone. He needed someone to keep his mind active, to challenge him and to keep him focused on what it was like to interact with humans.
He resented that the UK Government’s rules should apply to him as well. England’s best exterminator of dangerous Highbloods and humans alike.
“You know if you don’t comply they can put you into one of the facilities?” Joseph prompted.
But the warning never worked.
“They can try,” was Henry’s usual retort.
Of course, the facilities for dangerous Highbloods showing signs of lack of humanity and danger towards Great Britain’s inhabitants would be wasted on Henry Solomon Crow. He was far too valuable an asset to the country to be locked into a place like that.
Plus, it would be child’s play for him to escape anyway.
And he would make all of their lives hell for attempting to put him there in the first place.
It was always wise to stay on Henry’s good side.
“You’ll have a new candidate in tomorrow,” Joseph lied.
“You’re lying,” Henry pointlessly pointed out.
“I’m not,” Joseph lied again, raising an indignant brow. “Tomorrow,” he insisted.
“I have interviews lined up.”
“Do you?” The mocking light in the Highblood’s eyes said he didn’t believe him.
Of course, Joseph was lying. But he would rather die than admit that. He tilted his chin upwards and forced himself to continue eye contact with the Highblood. That was surely a sign that he was telling the truth.
“Tomorrow,” he repeated, keeping his voice level and firm. “I will have picked someone out for you.”
Henry sighed, tossing the paper away from himself. “Don’t you find this tedious yet?” he demanded petulantly.
Never, Joseph thought. He would never find this job tedious. He stayed silent. Trusting Henry not to see the truth. Not that he wouldn’t be able to see it. But because Henry Solomon Crow didn’t care enough to look for it.
Highbloods were selfish and self-involved creatures.
And Henry Solomon Crow, in all of his uniqueness to his race, was not unique in this respect.
Elizabeth Earle is an author and artist from Warwickshire, England. After obtaining a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing, Elizabeth went on to self-publish six books, The Girl with Nine Lives, The Girl who Bit Back, The Girl with Ten Claws, The Contract of Maddox Black, The Hunt of Maddox Black and my latest being The Rising Shadow of Maddox Black. She spends her days as a professional watercolour artist and runs a blog/vlog at www.earlewrites.com, following her adventures renovating and sailing a storm boat in the Caribbean during hurricane season, and now exploring the English waterways on a canal boat with my rescue street dog, Leela. When she’s not playing pirate on a ship, she spends her nights in a 1920’s bar, solving a murder in a futuristic London, or pickpocketing in some medieval dance hall.