“Watch this scene,” said
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
Maxwell burped. “No
“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
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.
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.”
“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
Maxwell studied the
frozen negligee clad beauty on the screen. “They really
dress like that?”
“Where is this thing?”
dangled the next piece of information tantalizingly. “All
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
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
“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
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.
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
“Oh yeah,” Maxwell
“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
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
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.
countered. “Although some critics might disagree, I call
myself an actor.”
The audience clapped and
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
“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
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
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
“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
“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 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
“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, 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
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.”