More than shadows lurk in the darkness of night.
The bright, cheery bakery warded off the darkness as night fell outside. Mr. Baxter wiped his sweaty brow, but looked out on his war-torn shop with a broad smile. Most of the pastries were gone, and those that were left would be quickly snatched up by the early birds who got the sale worm.
Baxter untied his apron and walked into the back where another apron hung on the wall. He slipped his cloth over the companion hook and brushed his hand down the other apron.
“I wonder how you are doing, little Lilly,” he mused with a sad smile.
He shook himself. There was work to be done, and it would distract him from his melancholy thoughts. He marched into the front of the shop, but paused behind the long counter. A man stood in the center aisle halfway between the counter and the front door. He wore a wide-brimmed hat and overcoat with a tall collar so that all but his narrow chin was covered.
The flesh on his chin was horribly pale. His hands were hidden away in his overcoat pockets, but the tops of brown gloves showed they, too, were concealed. A pair of black oxfords finished off his attire.
The man stood as stiff as a statue. If he hadn’t been standing Baxter could’ve sworn he wasn’t breathing. That thought chilled him, but the baker rallied his courage and smiled at his late patron. “I’m sorry, sir, but the shop is closed.”
The figure turned their head left and right without revealing any more of their features. He spoke in a low, soft voice that cut through Baxter like a cold knife. “You have a nice shop here. It would be a pity if something were to happen to it.”
Baxter’s eyebrows crashed down. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
The figure returned his gaze to him, and Baxter glimpsed a bright eye underneath the brim of the hat. The eye stared at him with a steady, menacing look. “I only offer protection, my friend.”
Baxter frowned. “Protection from who? You?”
The man chuckled. “Perhaps, and if that is the case you would do wise to accept my offer of protection.”
“Get out!” Baxter shouted as he picked up a silver cake knife and started toward the stranger. “Get out right now!”
The man hissed and retreated so quickly to the door that Baxter could have sworn he floated. The stranger grasped the handle and that evil eye glared at Baxter. “You will regret this, human.” The joyful ring of the bell above the door signified his exit.
Still, Baxter was left with an uneasy feeling and his hand tightly grasped the cake knife. He hurried to the door and locked the handle, but paused and glanced out. The front of his bakery gave him a good view of up and down the street on both sides and for the entirety of the block, but the stranger was nowhere to be seen.
Baxter drew down the door curtain and retreated behind the counter where he reluctantly flipped the light switch. His shop was plunged into darkness but for the obligatory lights for the local police. He set the cake knife on the counter and stepped inside the lit kitchen, but his unease made him disregard the stairs that led up to his apartment.
Instead, he opted for some late-night baking to ease his mind. Baxter tossed the ingredients for a cake into a bowl with the skill of an old pro and tucked the bowl under one arm. He stirred the batter with the other as he walked up to the doorway that led to front of the store.
Baxter froze and the bowl clattered to the ground. The man stood there again, in the middle of the aisle. His head was raised slightly higher and beneath the broad brim Baxter could see a pair of red eyes smirk back at him.
“Have you reconsidered my offer?” the stranger asked him.
Baxter glared at the man and brandished his wood spoon. “I don’t know how you got in here, but I’m going to get you out!”
The baker marched around the counter, but jerked to a stop when the stranger vanished. Baxter whipped his head to and fro, but saw nothing. He started for the far aisle to see if the intruder had slipped into there.
An arm looped around his neck and jerked him hard against the front of a thin frame. Cold, putrid breath wafted over one side of his face as that chilling voice slipped into his ear. “Welcome to my protection.”
Baxter’s eyes widened as he felt a pair of sharp fangs bury themselves into his neck. His mouth opened in a silent scream that only the dark night bore witness to.