At three in the afternoon on the first day of December, the werewolf sometimes known as the Moor, feared for centuries by his own kind, opened his email to find this:
We have become worried about you. A werewolf alone is a sad thing, especially at Christmas time. So we have a challenge for you. Five dates in two weeks. We have taken the work out of it and connected you with five people (from online dating sites) who should make interesting dates. The dates, except for meals which we thought should be up to you and your date, are planned and paid for (when necessary). Tickets for some events should arrive in today’s mail—all you have to do is write an email to each person and set up a time or place.
You should know that all of these people think they have been talking to you and are looking for you to bring a little spice into their lives. We have carefully chosen people we think would be very hurt to find out they were unwitting participants in a game. Some of us believe that you would not hurt a stranger just to avoid a little discomfort. Others think that knowing that we have informed the whole pack (via email) and instigated a betting pool will be better incentive. Especially since no one, so far, has bet on you attending more than one date.
Below you can see the profile, photos and email exchanges between your first date and … well I guess you know it’s not really you. Charles did help with sending email that looks like it’s coming from you and intercepting the return emails. Anna made him do it—but she’s not one of us. She does know who we are, but she has sworn not to tell.
Should you succeed in all five dates (success defined below) we shall confess, turn over any and all audio/video footage, and submit ourselves to your reckoning.
* A successful date is one in which a) neither party runs screaming into the night b) there are no dead bodies at the end of it and c) lasts longer than two hours—at least an hour and a half of which is spent with your date—which is an hour and fifty minutes longer than we expect any date of yours to last.
Asil read the email three times, followed the link to his profile on biteme.com a dating site for … humans pretending to be vampires. The photo they’d used had to have been from a very expensive camera because he didn’t remember any such photos being taken of him—and it looked like a close up.
To get a close up from far enough away that he hadn’t noticed, that would take a very expensive camera. The photo showed him with his shirt off, looking slightly to the left of the camera with a black bacarra rose held between two fingers at hip level. It was clearly taken during the summer, but not, he thought, last summer. He’d moved that rose bush indoors because, even though it was supposed to be hardy, Aspen Creek, Montana, required a studier hardy than his bacarra rose could manage.
He approved of the photo. If he had to have a photo posted on a website called biteme, he supposed that it was good to have one in which it was possible to discern just how handsome he was. If the photo made him look a little too soft for his taste … well, it could have been worse.
He spent significantly less time checking out his date’s profile, which had only a black and white blurry photo of someone in a black cape. It was possible to discern that the person had two eyes and a mouth, but everything else was lost in shadows. The profile was brief and generic—the only reason he could find for this person to be singled out by the people who set him up was that this woman lived in Missoula, a city he knew to be free from vampires of the real blood-sucking variety. Missoula was only about four hours away by car. Aspen Creek was very, very far away from civilization.
Asil then read through the somewhat breathless emails exchanged between his to-be-date and the people who pretended to be him, looking for clues to whom he owed this charming … gift.