Inside Drops of Crimson

 
 
   
 

In This Issue

 
 
 
  Two Vampires and a Panel Discussion
by Catherine Schaff-Stump
 
 

“Watch this scene,” said Reginald Rath. 

Mark Maxwell took another swig of his Miller and eyed the screen.   A younger Rath, back in the days when he only had to dye part of his hair to keep out most of the gray, opened a coffin, removed a sharpened table leg and a mallet from the square vampire killing box over his shoulder, made portable by a leather strap, and pounded the leg deliberately into the undead chest in the coffin.  Blood splattered on the vampire hunter's face, but Rath only squinted briefly and continued to pound, undaunted.

“The first take of that scene,” said Reginald to Maxwell enthusiastically, “the fake blood shot into my eye.   Took us three days to shoot that scene.”

Maxwell burped.   “No foolin'?”

“That's not the longest it ever took us to film a scene.  In I Was a Vampire Czar Lee Christopher had this scene with a horse and some borscht that—“

The telephone's urgent ring interrupted Reginald.  Rath picked it up. 

Maxwell hit the pause of the DVD player just as some vampire babe was getting a close up on her glossy white fangs. 

“Hello,” said Reginald.  “Who's this?” 

Maxwell wandered into the kitchen to grab another beer.  “You want anything?” he yelled into the living room.

Reginald covered the mouthpiece of the receiver.  “I'll take a Pepsi Free.”  He went back to listening to the hum Maxwell could faintly hear on the line. 

Maxwell closed the refrigerator door and twisted the cap off the bottle.  He rummaged through the cupboard for chips.  Even though Reginald couldn't be counted on to keep real food in his apartment, he could always be counted on for movie snacks.  Maxwell pulled out a bag of store brand chips.  He shrugged.  He'd had worse.

Reginald dropped the phone back in its cradle.  “Guess who that was?”  The excitement in his voice was palpable.

“Okay,” said Maxwell.  “The president.  Vampire infestation in the White House.  Let me get some ammo.”

“No,” said Reginald, beaming.  “That was the Reginald Rath Appreciation Society.  I've been invited to be a guest this year at Vampire Con!”

“That probably means a lot of killing,” said Maxwell.  “Groovy.”

Reginald laughed.  “Mark, these people aren't really the fiendish undead.  Trust me, I'd know.  They're fans of my old movies.”

Maxwell swallowed a slug.  “Sounds boring to me.”

“Don't you want to meet hot vampire babes?  Or at least women dressed as hot vampire babes?”

Maxwell studied the frozen negligee clad beauty on the screen.  “They really dress like that?”

“Sure.”

“Where is this thing?”

“Bloomington.”  Reginald dangled the next piece of information tantalizingly.  “All expenses paid.”

Maxwell considered.  He could buy a lot of drinks in Bloomington for all expenses paid.  “Okay.  Sign me up.”

***

They arrived at the convention in various states of luggage.  Maxwell, having left of all of his big guns at home, carried a small khaki duffel.  Reginald had 3 or 4 suitcases of vampire movie memorabilia.  They were approached by a plump looking guy with a clipboard in a Lee Christopher t-shirt.

“Mr. Rath?”  I'm Joe Benson.  Welcome to Vampire Con.  As you know, we're proud to boast an all night schedule guaranteed to stimulate even the most zombie-like of the undead.  We're honored to have you with us.”

“I'm delighted to be here,” said Reginald.

From across the room, Maxwell heard a hissing voice.  “Reginald Rath, your time has come!”

Reginald didn't even turn around.  “Come and get me, fiend of the night.”  He paused dramatically.  “If you dare!”

The two squared off across the hallway, the old vampire hunter and a very tall man in a black cape and evening clothes.  Several fans in the local area began to buzz.

“You old dog!”  Reginald and the vampire embraced.  Maxwell finally recognized the cloak.  He was looking at no other than Lee Christopher, who looked surprisingly like his picture on Joe Benson's chest, in spite of the fact that the silkscreen was from a movie that was twenty years old.  Maxwell's suspicion gland activated.

“It's been a long time.”  Lee Christopher's voice was dignified, measured, with just the hint of a classy accent from somewhere European.  Christopher shook hands warmly with Joe Benson and then Maxwell.  His hands were cold. 

Before Maxwell could comment, fans swarmed around Reginald and Christopher, jonesing for autographs.  Reginald whipped out a Sharpie and began answering questions with reckless abandon.  Maxwell fought his way to the back of the crowd. 

That's when he noticed the crowd itself.  A red eye here, a slip of fang there.  He glanced sideways at Reginald.  Rath hadn't even noticed.  Vampire Con was an all nighter, and for good reason.

“Reginald!  Darling!”  A woman with long red hair wearing a strategically wound burial cloth floated into the hallway.  Yup.  Another creature of the night. 

“Tippi!”  Reginald broke through the fans.  Flashbulbs popped.  “You don't look a day older than you did in Vampire Prep School.”  He kissed her hand.

She didn't look a day older, thought Maxwell, because she wasn't a day older.  Sure, that made sense.  Maxwell noticed a sign for the Plum Tree Lounge.  He had planned to grow roots there during his time in Bloomington, but he was convinced that he and Reginald would have to kill some blood suckers after all.  It was going to be a long night.  He headed into the lounge to grab a couple of drinks, just to improve his aim.

***

Maxwell swallowed another shot of whiskey and noticed he wasn't alone at the bar anymore.  He focused his eyes on two leather clad women, pale skinned, decorated with copious chain mail jewelry. 

“Evening ladies,” he said, which he thought was a very smooth pick up line.

One of the girls jutted a pink tongue between her black lips.  “Are you one of the con guests?”

“Oh yeah,” Maxwell lied. 

“Have you ever been in a vampire movie?” asked the other one, a blond in a microscopic skirt and fishnet stockings.

“Oh yeah.”  Maxwell knew that the second lie was always easier, and the third would be easier still. 

“Do you know those scenes where the hero is always tempted by the vampire babes?”  The brunette leaned close and put her tongue in his ear.

This was getting interesting.  “Oh yeah.”

Minutes later, Maxwell was holding onto a bottle of Jim Bean, a goth woman propping him up on each side.  The brunette opened the door of her hotel room with an electric key.  He savored a swallow of whiskey.  Yup, the Maxwell luck held.  Here in the middle of nowhere, among hundreds of horror-obsessed geeks, he had managed to score.

As they turned on the lights, Maxwell noticed all the mirrors were turned toward the wall or covered.  Damn.  Vampires.  Had it been too much to hope there were some other humans at the con before he had to get to work? 

Maxwell threw the bottle at Blondie's head.  She growled,  revealing fangs.  The brunette was telegraphing her jump.  Maxwell fumbled for the rapid auto-fire pistol in his jacket pocket.  Blam!  Blam!  No effect.  Thud!  Finally a wooden bullet, right through Blondie's ticker. 

The brunette leaped on him and scraped at his face with fingernail talons. 

“Son of a bitch!” Maxwell slurred.   He threw her off and pulled out a wooden stake.  It was one smooth arch from its sheath to her chest.  The brunette vampire shuddered, like they always did before they melted into a puddle of goo and dust.

Regrettably, all the liquor had spilled from the bottle to the floor.  On his way out, Maxwell hung a do not disturb sign on the door and decided to wander into convention programming.

***

Maxwell liked the picture on the screen.  Tippi Ringden, in diaphanous clothing, thought she had Reginald Rath in her lecherous vampiric control, but the audience could see Rath sneakily pulling a stake and mallet out of his utility kit. 

“This was my favorite scene from Traveling Salesman of the Damned,” said Tippi.  “In a few short moments, Reginald takes care of the vampire me, but not before I get in a few kisses with one of Anvil studio's cutest leading men.”

The audience clapped and whistled.  Reginald gave a V for victory sign.

“That finishes up the slides,” Joe Benson said.  “Do any of you have any questions for our three guests?”

An enormous man shot up a beefy paw.  “Mr. Christopher, did you ever want to win against Reginald Rath?”

Lee Christopher bent the microphone closer to his mouth, which screeched in protest.  “In the early seventies, when Anvil was directing the last of the Reginald Rath: Vampire Killer films, the director wanted to be mod and have me turn Reginald into a vampire, proving Dracula to be the ultimate victor in the battle of good versus evil.  That sort of esoteric thinking was going on in the industry at the time.

“I didn't agree with the idea.  I thought it was important for the fans to know that good always triumphs over evil.  I'm very honored to have constantly died at the hands of Reginald Rath.”

More applause came from the crowd, and from Reginald Rath himself, who clapped his friend on the back.  Maxwell felt a little sticky.  You couldn't wipe off that kind of syrupy sentimentality.

A young man with long black tresses popped up from one of the rows.  “You call yourself a vampire?” he pointedly asked Lee Christopher.

The audience laughed. 

“No,” Christopher countered.  “Although some critics might disagree, I call myself an actor.”

The audience clapped and giggled again.

Joe Benson tried to move on to the next question, but the young man spat out his next question.  Maxwell moved into the aisle, just in case. 

“So,” said the prince of darkness wannabe, “ are you going to lick the boots of humankind all your eternal life?”

Tippi glowered and Christopher's face was ashen and angry.  Mark located the bulge in his pocket, reloaded for just such an emergency.  How would Reginald's vampire friends handle this socially awkward situation? 

“You will be dealt with,” said Christopher flatly.  Oh dear, thought Maxwell, Prince of Darkness had just crossed the line of vampire etiquette.  Maxwell took his hand out of his pocket.  No longer his problem, if he knew his vampire Emily Post.

“Mr. Rath,” Joe whispered to Reginald, pointing at his wrist watch.  “We have to go.  They want you at the game show in five minutes.”

“Shoot!” Reginald whispered to Tippi, and she waved him away with a smile, but her cloudy brown still watched the young man, who was beginning to sweat.  Maxwell followed Reginald as the actor exited the room amidst applause.

In the hallway, Maxwell said, “They were pretty serious in there.  I think that kid's down for the dirt nap.”

“Oh come on,” said Reginald.  “They were playing!  This is a convention after all. That kid's read way too much Anne Rice.  I'll meet you later in the con suite.”

“Okily dokily,” said Maxwell, watching Peter wander down the hall. 

A sound like a thunder clap came from inside the panel room.  Maxwell consulted his convention map to find the con suite.  Self policing vampires could be all right.

***

The cheese popcorn in the big plastic jars wasn't too bad if you'd had as much to drink as Maxwell had.  There was a guy eating most of one jar by himself who was blabbing at him.  The guy had left his plastic fangs on the white table cloth.  Good.  At least Maxwell wouldn't have to kill this guy, unless he wanted some peace and quiet.

“I've been to thirteen of these,” said Plastic Fangs.  “This is the first time they've had all the major Anvil Studio stars here.  They've tried to get Reginald Rath every year, but he's hard to get.”

“Hard?”  Maxwell couldn't imagine Reginald turning down this kind of idol worship ever.  “Why?”

“Mr. Rath always marks the mail return to sender.  This year the con com tracked down his phone number.”

Maxwell fisted more popcorn, his hand already the color of  dusty fake cheese.  Reginald hadn't turned down those invites.  He didn't have it in him.  They hadn't reached him.  The question was who was vetoing his appearances for him?

“Are you entering anything in the masquerade?” asked Plastic Fangs.

“The what?” Maxwell asked.

“The costume contest.  There are several categories.  Best Lee Christopher, best Reginald Rath, best vampire babe, and best vampire generic.”

“I think I'll just watch,” said Maxwell.  Was it fair, he wondered, for real vampires to enter?  Somehow that didn't seem quite honest.  As long as no one drank anyone's blood, Maxwell decided he could let an undead entry slide.

***

Joe Benson sat Reginald down at the masquerade judging table.  “Thanks for agreeing to judge for us, Mr. Rath.”

“No problemo,” said Reginald happily.  “Can you explain this form again?”

Maxwell was sitting in the front row right behind Reginald.  The ballroom was filling up rapidly.  Even though the front rows were reserved for sponsors, a threatening look from Mark had caused the skinny man with Brill cream hair who was coming for his seat to move to the other side of the aisle.   This evening Maxwell was having a harder time telling who was alive and who was dead.  Some of these fans did a great undead make up.  Soon, there was standing room only, and the some of the audience leaned against the drapes covering the wall length windows in the back of the room.

Lee Christopher sat down by Maxwell.  “You should know it was quite difficult to clean up that hotel room before the staff got to it,” he whispered.

“I figured you had people,” said Maxwell nonchalantly.

“I felt you should know that neither Tippi nor I wish Reginald any ill will.  We have the same goal—keeping Reginald Rath alive.  It's a pity the convention reached him this year.  We weren't fast enough to intercept.

“Yet, in another hour it will be dawn, and you can both return to New York with all your bodily fluids.  Tippi and I will be on either side of Reginald in the masquerade.  Do not hesitate, however, to join in if anything untoward occurs.”

“Why would you want to keep him alive?” said Maxwell.  “He is a vampire killer.  Not a good one, but that's what we do.”

Christopher rose, cape billowing.  “Reginald Rath has never killed a vampire that didn't need killing,” he said.  He walked deliberately down the aisle and took his seat by Reginald at a table close to the risers.

The first costume across the stage was a Reginald Rath suit from Son of Aculard, a pretty good effort, except that the guy was forty pounds overweight.  The next couple did a Tippi Ringden and Lee Christopher presentation that worked well.  By the end of the contest, Maxwell counted four Raths, three Christophers, and two vampire babes.  No generic vampires?  Well, the audience was full of them.

“Now,” said the emcee, “for some half time entertainment while the judges are making their choices.”   He circled around to the front of the podium. 

“Many of you have been frustrated for years that Reginald Rath hasn't been here.  Vampire Con is happy to rectify that mistake tonight.”

Reginald stood up as the spotlight fell on him. 

“I know that it's going to delay judging, but now is as good a time as any.”  The emcee snarled, and leaped toward the judging table.  Tippi backhanded him, and he flew into a giant speaker.

The vampires in the audience rushed the stage.  Rath laughed maniacally as though it were all a game.  From his vampire killing box, he took out his prop crossbow, and took potshots at the undead.  Tippi and Lee fought and threw bodies, keeping Reginald sandwiched tightly between them. 

Some of the human audience members were having trouble.  That was his job, taking care of the tourists.  Maxwell made his way to the edge of the room.  He grabbed one of the cloth drapes.

Blam!  The fighting stopped as everyone looked in the direction of the rapid fire barrage.  The chandelier above tinkled bullets sliced through it, raining glass beads. 

“Morning, everybody!  Morning, vampires!”  Maxwell shimmed up the decorative hangings.   He used his boot stake to slice the giant curtains, then grabbed the torn material and let gravity take him down.  

Sunlight oozed in and vampires began to fry like a Nazi who'd looked at the Ark of the Covenant.  A couple exploded into brilliant fireballs. 

Christopher and Tippi pulled away into the hotel lobby, Tippi donning a pair of stylish shades before she left the table.  Shocked humans stayed rooted in their spots.  Less shocked audience members ran from the room, screaming. 

Maxwell squinted into the gloom and gave a puzzled Reginald a thumbs up.

“Boy!” said Reginald, glowing.  “What they can't do with special effects these days!”

It would be best to avoid the initial round of questions until they were at least fortified.  Maxwell figured they needed breakfast. 

“I think you need a drink,” said Maxwell, clapping his arm around Reginald's shoulders.  “Let me show you the Plum Tree Lounge.”

END

 
 

About the Author

 

Catherine Schaff-Stump

By day, Catherine Schaff-Stump is an English teacher at a community college.  In the evening and on the weekends, not only does Catherine fight crime, but she also writes fiction of the fantastic.  You can find out more about her and her escapades on her website.

   
Copyright (c) 2008 Drops of Crimson. All rights reserved.