Dry Spell – Part Two

Bela_Lugosi_as_Dracula,_anonymous_photograph_from_1931,_Universal_StudiosYou can find Part One here

Vlad started at the rumbling tones of Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor. As the second measure ended, the tones repeated and he stretched, scrubbing a patch of dirt from his ear. “Renfield?” he mumbled, his voice stretched thin across the line between sleep and death. Tocatta blared once more. “Renfield!”

“Yes, Master,” Renfield called from the floor above. “I’ve got it, Master.”

Floorboards creaked as his servant hurried to the front door. Vlad sat up in his coffin and dusted the dirt from his sleeves, curious who would be calling at this early of an hour. A digital clock on the wall read ‘0:28’; twenty eight minutes until sundown.

His estate was unlisted. Off the grid. No phone even for a do-not-call list. On private land and surrounded by a high fence, his only visitors to date had been a steady stream of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a couple of Mormon missionaries. The former, Renfield dealt with. The latter, he’d actually invited in. No crosses. No bibles. Renfield’s surprising thoughtfulness had provided a lovely mid-afternoon snack.

Even with the keen senses of a predator, Vlad could only tell that the current visitor was a female and by the sound of Renfield’s increasing stammer, a quite persistent one. She’d need to get in line like the rest, he mused. Planting his palms on the coffin’s lip, he sprang to the floor. He shuffled across the stone floor toward a closet and shed his hoodie as he moved.

Once a color somewhere between alabaster and damaged plum, his skin had been painted. Normal flesh tones disguised every visible inch. Six-pack stripes stretched across his engorged belly.

Vlad scratched his head and opened the closet. As he reached for another black hoodie, a plastic dry-cleaning bag brushed his hand.

An empty void stared through the plastic. Perfectly black, so deep it would stand out like neon against a night sky. The imperious collar knifed the edges of the bag. Regal. Deadly.

His eyes drifted to the card table next to the closet. Several vials of flesh-toned paint rested beside an airbrush. Next to this were stacks of pink eggs, half of them lidless and strewn haphazardly on the floor. Somewhere in his hollow chest, a sinking feeling formed.

“Master?” Renfield’s voice came from the stairwell.

“What?” Vlad shook his head and grabbed a hoodie.

Renfield crept slowly into view as he navigated the darkness. “May I?” he felt around for the light switch as he reached the final step.

“Very well.”

The lights flickered on. Atop Vlad’s layer of flesh tone paint, a glittery film shimmered under the fluorescent bulbs.

Scrubbing at a silvery speck on the bridge of his nose, Vlad snapped, “Who was it?”

“A girl, Master. She says she saw you at the club last night.”

“Oh? All of the women I entertained last night have served their purpose.” Vlad flicked his hoodie over his head and it flopped flaccidly across his brow.

“Well, she never actually spoke with you. Or so she says.”

“Describe her.”

“Ummm, well,” Renfield struggled. “Average height. Average weight. Light brown hair.” Renfield narrowed his eyes. “Rather vacant stare – I almost took her for a thrall.”

Vlad curled his lip and picked absently at a fang. “Could be any of them. How did she find us?”

“She admitted to following you, Master.”

“Really? How did I not see this?”

“You were plastered, Master,” said Renfield, hastily adding under a piercing stare, “The fault of your inebriated prey.”

The hardened stare softened. “I’d hardly call them prey. They don’t deserve the name. More like one of those windows where they grind cattle and serve it on bread with potatoes.”

“A fast food drive-thru, Master?”

“Yes. Much too convenient to call them proper prey.” Vlad patted his belly and grabbed the airbrush off the table. “But, I should have done this years ago.”

“I’m not sure this would have worked years ago, Master,” said Renfield, snatching the airbrush.

Vlad rolled up his hoodie and faced Renfield who began spritzing on paint. “Perhaps, but this strategy is most effective at present.”

“If you say so, Master.” Renfield did his best to appear focused on a particularly tricky blend of abdominal muscle. When he finished, he stepped back and rubbed his hands together.

“Excellent.” Vlad shimmied back into the hoodie and motioned to his coffin.

Obediently, Renfield slouched across the room to freshen the graveyard dirt inside. While he scooped rich earth from a ceramic urn, he tried to continue his earlier line of thought, “I just wonder if this isn’t a bit…well, beneath you.”

His Master narrowed his eyes and Renfield focused on smoothing the dirt.

“We’re only doing this to weather our little dry spell, Renfield. By the time this fad passes, we’ll have moved on.”

Renfield gave the bedding a final pat and hurried after his Master who was ascending the stairs.

Halfway up, Vlad stopped and turned. “What of this woman? Did you get the forms signed?”

“Oh, yes, Master.”

“Name?”

“Robin, I believe, Master. Robin Brutto.”

“Sounds…common. Did she leave an address?”

“Of course, Master.”

“And she initialed the Right of Access clause?”

“Definitely, Master.”

“Good. Then I shall visit her tonight, when the full moon shines above the world like polished bone and the forces of darkness gather under its gibbous power!” Flinging his arm out in front of him, Vlad swept up the stairs, imagining the flutter of his cloak. But the cotton hoodie only clung like a puffy skin and Vlad sighed. Yanking the hoodie drawstrings tight, he stomped up the stairs.

#

Pale moonlight stretched along the 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom. Despite the absence of color, the black machine out-shined the economy cars and pickup trucks which dotted the neighborhood’s driveways. Tail lights flared and the car pulled up to a powder-blue house that looked drab and gray outside the circle of porch light.

With practiced ease, Renfield hopped out and navigated the elongated hood of the Rolls, stopping to polish the hood ornament with his sleeve. Vlad watched him brush the tattered jacket sleeve on his trousers as he approached the passenger door.

“I asked you to remind me about freshening your appearance,” said Vlad.

“Sorry, Master.” Renfield ducked his head and shuffled backward, extending a hand which Vlad ignored. Stepping onto the pavement, Vlad heard the door of the house slam shut. What at first glance appeared to be a man stomped down the porch toward them.

Perhaps five and a half feet tall, shorter than even Renfield’s hunched frame, the figure was an amorphous blob which exploded out from a pair of bikers shorts. His legs and arms swung like unweighted pendulums. Bronze skin and chestnut eyes peeked out of a thick mat of body hair above a snarling muzzle. The beast wafted by on a current of coriander and tumeric lingering above a hint of human flesh that made Vlad’s stomach grumble.

Without pausing, he growled, “Good luck,” stretching the ‘o’s through a thick accent before disappearing into the night.

Vlad shrugged and approached the house while Renfield stood by the Phantom. Once at the door, he grasped the knob and was pleased to find it unlocked. He opened it and slid his toes over the threshold. Satisfied, he stepped into the entry hall and closed the door behind him.

“I thought I told you…” a man emerged out of the living room to his left. Bald, with a neck like an inner tube, he cradled a shotgun, the barrel resting on his shoulder. Tattooed arms made up for the lack of sleeves on his flannel shirt.

Far from intimidate, Vlad smirked. “Robin invited me.”

“I got silver slugs in this here gun, boy.” He pumped the shotgun with one hand and began to level it.

“Is that so?” In a blur, Vlad closed the distance and ripped back the man’s collar. Fangs hovering above the flesh, Vlad froze and stumbled backward.

A tattoo of a cross decorated the man’s collar bone. Caught off guard, Vlad turned to leave and balked again. Nailed to the door was a sign – another cross stenciled above the silhouette of a military rifle. Beneath the rifle words declared, “If Jesus had his AK, he wouldn’t have been crucified.”

Hog-neck raised his shotgun and motioned Vlad into the living room. Trapped between the crosses, Vlad flashed razor-sharp canines. The man didn’t flinch. Scowling, Vlad headed for a well-worn sofa.

“That’s it. Have a seat.”

Sinking into the spring-less cushions, Vlad scooted forward and perched on the edge. Hog-neck dropped into an armchair and placed the butt of the shotgun on the ground. With his free hand, he flipped a lever and his feet sprang up in Vlad’s direction. After he’d wriggled into the chair a bit more, he snatched a can from a side table and took a long draw.

“Want a beer?”

Astonished, Vlad took a moment to answer. “No.”

Hog-neck finished another long gulp with a contented exhale and crumpled the can. “So, you want to date my daughter?”

“Not exactly,” Vlad said.

“No? Ain’t that why you’re here?” The man’s fingers tapped the barrel of the gun.

“I have no intention of this being an extended affair.”

“Really now?” With a meaty hand, the man dug through a pocket on the side of the recliner. Several remotes, a short barrel .38 and TV Guide later, he produced a thick red book. “Wanna swear on that?”

Vlad sunk into the couch as the man leaned forward. Tucking the Bible into his lap, hog-neck drummed his fingers on the cover. “You saying my daughter’s looking for a hook-up? That what they call it? You saying she’s a cheap whore?” His fingers continued to drum.

“What your daughter is or isn’t is no business of mine. My need for her is only…temporary.”

“Oh, I know your kind. Don’t think I don’t got cable TV. You vampires with all your sex and blood sucking. It ain’t right. Ain’t you dead?”

Vlad’s temper flared. “I am immortal, peasant!”

“But, you’re dead. You can’t be immortal.”

“Dead, alive, I have been on this earth for centuries. Long before your narrow family tree sprouted from whatever sty it took root in.”

“Only one man ever raised hisself from the dead.”

Taken aback yet again, Vlad mused at the ramifications. An empty grave, a sacrament of blood drinking. He shook the thought from his mind. “Interesting point. But I assure you I am…”

“A walking corpse. Like them shows.”

“It’s nothing like ‘them shows’,” Vlad spat.

“Don’t try to fool me, boy. You got that glittery skin.”

Vlad struggled to find the right words.

“You think because you’re all glittery and apathetic, you can treat my little girl like a piece of trash.”

“Seriously, I’m here for a late night snack. Nothing more.”

“So my baby’s a suck ’em and dump ’em kinda gal to you?” The man sat forward, waving the Bible furiously. Vlad growled as it bobbed closer. “See. Exactly like them shows. I know what you people are like.”

“Daddy?” Robin’s voice carried across the house like the scent of iced cinnamon rolls. “Is everything alright out there?”

Hog-neck’s tone dropped several octaves. “Everything’s fine sugar plum. You just pretty yourself up, you hear? Daddy’ll call you out in a minute.” He fired a harsh whisper at Vlad. “Now look, you’re making her all upset!”

“Is he here?” she called.

Hog-neck scowled at Vlad and rose from the recliner, dropping the bible on the coffee table. “Yes, sugar plum.”

“Oooh, which one?” came the sweet voice.

He turned his head and narrowed his eyes at Vlad as he shouted, “The sparkly one.”

“What happened to Nabendu? Wasn’t he here before?”

“Yeah, sugar plum. I threw his sorry ass out. You’re too good for him, baby.”

While her father faced the hallway, Vlad took the opportunity to slink across the couch, away from the Book which continued to send steady waves of repulsion through his jerky-like flesh. He could see into the kitchen where another door, minus any crosses, waited.

“They didn’t fight did they?” The gooey sweetness disappeared under a wave of anticipation.

“No, baby. Nobody’s fighting. We ain’t fighting neither. Just talking.”

“Okay,” she called, deflated. “I’ll be ready soon.”

Hog-neck turned and Vlad fell into a casual pose, his hand resting under his chin. The man eyed Vlad suspiciously before he fell into the recliner and shot his legs into the air.

A safe distance from the holy tome and with hog-neck once again enveloped in his recliner, Vlad sprang to his feet. “There’s been a mistake. I’ll just tear up the contract. No harm, no foul as they say.”

The man’s eyes shrank into narrow slits and his thick neck shortened. He reached for the shotgun propped against the chair. “You ain’t thinking of walking out on my little baby, are you?”

Vlad raised his hands and sidestepped toward the kitchen. “Actually, no.” With a flourish, Vlad flipped his hoodie over his brow and cursed as the rough cloth fell unevenly across his eyes. The air filled with smoke…and glitter…where Vlad once stood.

Hog-neck leapt up and swung the shotgun wildly around the room.

Assuming the form of a bat, Vlad arced over the shotgun barrel hugging the ceiling as he raced for the kitchen. Both barrels roared behind him.

“Don’t shoot him, Daddy!” Robin had raced into the living room but Vlad didn’t dare look. The kitchen was still too far away and a second shower of pellets punctured the ceiling inches from his wings. He weaved to the side and dipped under a table, flying serpentine through the legs.

“He’s a damn rodent now, sugar plum! Ain’t nothing but good eating!”

“But, Daddy! I love him!”

Vlad soared out from under the table, aiming for the kitchen window.

“You just met the fool! You don’t love him!” Shouted the man as he broke open the shotgun and fumbled in his pocket for more shells.

“I’ve been watching…I’ve seen him around for months now,” came Robin’s stuttering reply. Vlad shuddered and pumped his wings for more speed.

“Why can’t you date the boys at school?” demanded her father as he leveled the shotgun.

Like a misguided bird, Vlad careened into the window pane. Stronger than a dozen men while a vampire, as a bat, the physics of a five ounce body weight had their limitations. Stunned, he slid down the pane of glass and into the kitchen sink. Over the concussive buzz in his brain, Vlad heard hog-neck’s voice continuing in thick whispers, stalking closer to the counter. “Why you want to waste your time with this a-mortal demon spawn, I’ll never understand.”

Head spinning, Vlad stumbled into the drain and landed across a strip of metal.

“But, we’re soul mates! I want to be with him, forever. I can be with him, forever!”

Those words pierced his mental fog and Vlad shivered. Through a rubberized curtain, he saw a hand reach stealthily across the sink toward the wall.

The rubber seal. Metal bar digging into his back. He’d fallen into the garbage disposal.

While there were a finite number of ways to end a vampire’s existence, at least two of those conditions could be met with the flick of a switch and the obligatory rush of water.

Holding the breath he no longer had, Vlad dropped into the narrow drainpipe as the whirring of blades diced Robin’s screams.

#

“Mmmmm. Is that fresh bread I smell, Master?” asked Renfield as Vlad stepped from the shadows. His Master’s only reply was a damp squelch as he trudged toward the Phantom. Renfield’s manic expression drained.

Vlad’s face had become the canvas for an abstract smear of meatloaf, body paint, and beer foam. The black hoodie glistened with a coating of slime. Where hood had once been was nothing but a nest of tattered threads. A crooked gash in the fabric exposed his purpled, dead flesh swimming in muddied flesh tones. But the transmogrification into a bat, the slide into the food-caked drain and the squeeze up the clean-out vent to the roof, had scrubbed off every ounce of glitter.

“Beer.”

“What?” Renfield clawed the door of the Phantom open as Vlad bore down on the vehicle.

“The odor. Beer. Not bread, you half-wit.” Vlad squished into the backseat, eyes straight ahead. Renfield closed the door and hurried to the driver’s seat.

“Wh…where to, Master?” Renfield watched the rearview with wide eyes and Vlad avoided his gaze.

“Home, Renfield. I need to remove this despicable outfit.”

“Yes, Master.” The Phantom purred down the block and Vlad stared vacantly out the window.

Once they’d left the neighborhood far behind, and the moonlight fought only against a jagged silhouette of tall pines winding along the roadside, Vlad spoke. Softly, just loud enough for Renfield to hear him over the growl of the engine. “I’ll be needing my cape.”

A mottled grin like an open sore spread across Renfield’s face. “Yesss, Master. Most definitely.”

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