As a friend is in Iraq looking for stuff to read.
“FEAR AND LOATHING IN BAT COUNTRY: HUNTER S. THOMPSON VERSUS DRACULA”
by Jason Andrew
“He who makes a beast out of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.” Samuel Johnson
“Despair has its own calms.” Bram Stroker
“We can’t stop here! This is bat country…” Hunter S. Thompson
If you are reading this, there are three separate, but distinct, possible ways you could have found this manuscript. First, my rotund attorney has finally pushed his abused body beyond its Herculean limits and died. If this is so, I presume that he died much like he lived. By that, I mean drugged out of his mind, mostly naked, and engaging in the most depraved and crazed acts known to humanity. The second possibility is that the American Gestapo, known as the IRS, has finally caught up to my attorney, he is now in jail and all of his assets are being cataloged and debriefed. Under this scenario, I expect that my attorney is in some federal prison and is currently drugged out of his mind, mostly naked, and engaging in the most depraved and crazed acts known to humanity. The third possibility is that this Doctor of Journalism has finally died. The odds were against me. With any luck, I have passed on very much like my attorney has lived.
It started on highway 99, just outside of Fresno. The sun was sweltering like the fifth ring of Dante’s Inferno, but at least the wind was starting to cool my head. I was riding bitch on a 1968 Harley chopper slightly confused as to exactly how I got there. The owner and driver was a hulking man by the name of Rooster Brown.
Just a few hours before, I was in my tub sleeping off a weekend of research with my attorney when I was awoken by the telephone. Normally, I would have ripped the cord out of the wall, but I was broke as a result of the weekend’s activities and I knew that the Times might be interested in more copy about The Hell’s Angels. Suburban housewifes feared their daughters getting gang-raped, homosexuals fantasized about them in Frisco, and Hollywood was working overtime to make movies about them which meant each of these events sold papers. Most of the white bread reporters couldn’t get within a mile of one of the hangouts without getting mugged, stripped, and hung from the ceiling only later to be used as a piñata. Without hyperbole, I can assure you I saw an anchorman strung from the ceiling for an hour. It wasn’t until the last twenty minutes that he started to cry. Naturally, these fine institutions of journalism were more than willing to risk my life.
The Times offered me a $300 advance for a series of articles on the Hell’s Angels. I tried to bump them up to $500, pleading that I would have to spend quite a bit of money on booze to get them talking. The shriveled up old shrew working the front desk didn’t budge, possibly because I had stiffed her last year. I took the money and within an hour I was sitting in a dive off the freeway, swilling beer, and waiting for the story to come to me.
What I didn’t expect was a troupe of Gypsy Jokers to ride into Frisco. The Jokers were long time rivals of the Hell’s Angels that were every bit as mean, but less popular with the news media. The Jokers usually didn’t travel to Frisco all that often and the ones that swaggered into the bar looked bruised and angry. I knew that I was in danger, but I couldn’t just back away. Like any crazed animal, the Jokers would have attacked instinctively if they could smell my fear.
Instead, I gave them the tribute of fear and slowly tried to fade from view. I might have succeeded if one of them didn’t recognize me. “Ain’t you that gonzo writer guy that makes the Hell’s Angels look like kings of the road?” A rather bullish and frightening sort of man bellowed.
Like the rabbit that senses the wolf pack, I knew I was caught, but that didn’t mean that I was going to try to run like hell. “No, I have one of those faces, really,” I said lying.
He looked up and down at me with his one good eye. “You know what happens to people that lie to me, bub?”
“Likely, they disappear in the desert for pissing you off,” I thought. Christ! Did I say that aloud, I wondered? What kind of drugs were these animals on tonight? His red-shot eyes were crazed and dilated. It could be anything cheap like uppers, screamers, blotter acid, or if I was really damned ether. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” Janis Joplin sang before dying after one rumored spectacular binge. This man had the freedom to publicly thrash me within an inch of my life and service sixty days in the county lock-up laughing all the while. I might be a Doctor of Journalism, but I had a weak heart.
I didn’t know if I could survive that sort of punishment, especially for a mere $300. “How about I buy you and your friends another round, friend?” I replied meekly.
“How about I just get it out of you after they carry you outside,” He explained, almost rationally. The rest of the gang cackled like hyenas and the bartender was pointedly at the other end of the bar ignoring us.
I know what would have happened if I had remained alone. They would have taken turns pummeling me with their log-like fists. If I lost any teeth, they’d keep them as trophies. My only defense was a small knife and I had no illusions about whipping it out. They would have taken it from me and stuck me with it for good measure. Years later, I’d have been found in the desert, my bones bleached white by the Californian sun, the knife still protruding from my ribs.
I was saved by the opening of the doors, which bathed the dank, dim dive with sunshine. The silhouette of the largest man I had ever seen strode into the bar like he was the meanest bad-ass on the planet. Judging from the trembling and fearful looks in the eyes of the Gypsy Jokers, he might have been. This brute of a man looked to be six and half feet tall and thick with muscle and girth. He wore his brown oily hair tied back into a ponytail. His beard was wild and shaggy. Clad in faded jeans, t-shirt, and his leather jacket, he appeared to be the Platonic ideal form of the Outlaw Biker. By his colors, I knew he was a member of the Hell’s Angels.
“Hey, Rooster, want to help us string up this loser?” My would-be assailant asked timidly, like he was asking Rooster to dance.
Rooster seemed to be considering the idea. It was difficult to tell since he was wearing dark tinted aviator glasses. “You Doctor Duke? That guy that’s been writing about the Hell’s Angels?” He asked, in a commanding voice.
I’ve often found that in a situation where everything has already turned bad that the best thing you can do go to the extreme. “Yes, sir, I am. And by the look of your fine colors, you would seem to be a member of that august brotherhood.”
The Gypsy Joker froze, afraid that if they twitched the wrong way that this Goliath would descend upon them. “Ok, then, Doc, you’re coming with me.”
I didn’t argue and neither did the Gypsy Jokers. Of course, I knew that if they ever saw me again and remembered this night that I was a dead doctor of journalism.
Rooster led me out of the bar and onto the back of the his chopper. I was glad to make my escape. I didn’t get worried until several minutes later when I realized that Rooster had taken us on Highway 580. Where was this Rooster taking me? I recalled the stories of Charlie Manson and Sharon Tate. Would my corpse be on the cover of a magazine?
Flustered, I held onto Rooster’s back for dear life as we took several curves and hills. “Where are we going?” I asked, yelling to get Rooster’s attention.
“I have to show you something,” Rooster bellowed.
I couldn’t tell if he was angry or yelling because of the noise and the wind. I didn’t want this man to be angry with me. I also didn’t want to be ejected from the chopper at cruising speeds. Sometimes, you have to follow a lead, even if you don’t know where you are going and why. Besides, it seemed like a good idea at the time to be far away from those Gypsy Jokers. When we stopped, I decided I would politely excuse myself and make a collect call to my attorney.
We took the Highway 99 exit, going south. Just outside of Fresno, we stopped at a run-down gas station in front of a row of hotels of dubious purpose. I had stayed in many hotels such as these and figured that this could be as good of a place as any to stop and wait for my bastard attorney to come and get me.
When dealing with a man of considerable size, the best option is to pay him a tribute of respect and fear. I had no trouble doing this. “Mr. Rooster, thank you for that daring rescue. I should take my leave of you at this time, but I’d like to pay you for your time.”
Rooster chuckled a little while pumping gas. “Naw, you don’t have to pay me, Doc. And I suppose if you want to go, you can. But you gotta come with me and see this. It’s evil man, real evil. I’m talking worse than Nixon. No one else would have the balls to tell the truth about it, like you did with the Angels.”
He was a fan, which meant I had many more options than previously expected. “I appreciate you wanting to show me something, but I have to have three thousand words in to the Times in three days.”
“You’ll get that story, although it won’t matter much. I’ll tell you everything you want to know. What I have to show you is big. You won’t believe me unless you see it with your eyes, Doc.”
My friendly giant was starting to get a little passionate, which worried me. What would he do if I said no? “I’ll need a typewriter and my medicine. I have a bad heart you know.”
Rooster grinned, showing off his large, slightly yellow teeth. “I’ll get you a typewriter, or my name ain’t Rooster Brown. As to the medicine, I think I can help you out there,” He said, flipping open one of his saddle bags.
In my experience, it’s rare to find someone willing to show off such an esoteric drug collection entact unless something big was going to happen. There was a bag of grass, a bag of red pills, a bag of yellow pills, mushrooms, blotter paper, and several hits of amyls. “Yes, sir, you look like a good kid. Obviously, you have something important that the American public needs to know. Did I ever tell you that I once looked for the American Dream?” I replied.
“I read the book, that’s why I came looking for you. You are the only one that can cover this story,” He explained.
“Can you at least tell me what it is?” I asked.
Rooster looked up at the sky, as though expecting to see the answer from the gods. “Not yet. We could be overheard.”
I’ve had considerable experience with paranoid lunatics and I’ve always found that the best course of action is to simply agree with them and hope for the best. “Let me call my attorney, hit the bathroom, and I’ll be ready,” I promised, surprisingly eager.
While Rooster pumped the gas, I hit the restroom, took two of the yellow pills, and then called my attorney. Naturally, he wasn’t there, but I left a message with his service. “Listen up, you Samoan freak of nature. If I’m not found in a week, I’ve been killed by a biker named Rooster Brown and possibly sold into white slavery! Send help!”
Feeling a little euphoric from the pills, I gladly got back on the chopper and held on for life. The closer we got to sundown, the more frantic Rooster’s pace seemed to be. We took the East 180 exit and headed away from civilization. Eventually, we continued towards the foothills. As we passed by the orange trees, the grape fields, and the dazed cows, I mooed. We pulled onto a dirt road and as the sun was almost complete gone over the mountains we stopped at a little ranch.
With the proper maintenance, it could have been a farmer’s paradise. There were acres of orange trees, complete with ditches for an irrigation system. At the top of a hill was an old boxed shaped bunk house. It has been years since the windows had been washed or maintained, as evidenced by the chipped off white paint and the dust covered window. In front of the bunk house was a large rusted John Deer tractor covered with cobwebs and weeds. As we skidded to a stop, nature seemed to punctuate our arrival by having an animal howl in the distance. “Damn, coyotes,” I muttered.
“Those aren’t coyotes,” Rooster replied.
This part of California was plagued with coyotes that lived off livestock and pets. I was going to protest, when two more shrill howls replied to the first. Rooster pulled an old cardboard box from under the tractor; from the gentle mewling I could tell they were kittens. “Good idea taking them inside,” I said, “Those animals might get close enough to smell them.”
I didn’t know why at the time, but Rooster gritted his teeth and bit back a reply. We entered the bunk house and I was unsurprised by the sheer funk of the shack. I had lived through several binges that created unique smells and horrific sights, and this was no different. There were discarded food wrappers, half-eaten apples, and plastic meat wrappers strewed across the floor along with cigarette butts, Coors beer cans, and an array of clothing.
We stopped at what I presumed was the bedroom door. Rooster balanced the box of kittens in one hand and opened the door with the other. The room was completely empty except an old mattress on the floor, centered roughly in the middle of the room, covered by a natty, green army blanket. I couldn’t see under the blanket, but it wasn’t moving and looked as though it had the shape of a body. Rooster flicked on the light, revealing that the mattress was surrounded by what appeared to be a circle of salt. Hundreds of crosses were nailed onto the walls, leaving almost no blank spaces. The space where the window should be was covered by planks, which were bolted into the wall. “Who’s that?” I asked, morbidly curious.
“That was my gal, Suzie,” Rooster answered, grimly.
“You didn’t kill her, did you? If you did, I’m sure the bitch deserved it. You don’t have to kill me and chain me to the wall naked or anything,” I mumbled.
“No, I didn’t kill her. That’s why you are here,” Rooster explained.
He grabbed a hold of the blanket and jerked it clear of the body as though he were a stage magician pulling a table cloth off a table while leaving the dinner settings perfectly in place. From her appearance, Suzie had been a hot, hippy chick; the kind of naïve young girl looking for thrills after school by riding on the chopper of one of the Hell’s Angels. Now, she was dead, lying naked on a bare used, stained mattress. When the papers got a hold of this, there would be mayhem, the suburbians would scream bloody murder, and lots of papers would be sold. If the cops got a hold of Rooster, there wouldn’t be a trial.
She was pretty enough to be the prom queen and had a heart shaped face. With her long blonde hair and thin, but well toned ballerina’s body she could have been on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. If such a term can be used in a situation like this, there were two odd things about the body. First, there was a crudely made metal collar bound around her neck that was attached to a heavy chain bolted into the concrete floor. I could see the spots where the metal had been welded together. Second, if it weren’t for the rotten wooden plank sticking out of her chest, I would have sworn she was sleeping. Where was all of the blood?
“What happened?” I asked, seeing dollar signs in my future.
“I had to bust a chair and stick that stake through her heart,” Rooster answered.
Did Rooster bring me all this way to confess to me? Why? “I thought you said you didn’t kill her.”
“Well, she sure as Hell looks dead to me,” I muttered.
“Yeah, she does,” Rooster agreed. “Hold the kittens.”
Shell-shocked, I did as requested. There were several fluffy, tabby kittens. I’ve never really been a cat person myself. The little bastards are too demanding and after a bad batch of LSD, I thought one had tried to eat me. Rooster bent over Suzie and wrapped one of his large hands around the wood in the corpse’s chest. I was going to protest, but he moved quicker than I could speak. He pulled out the shaft from the corpse, making a large sucking sound as though he were plunging a clogged toilet.
As Rooster stepped back, the body fluttered as though jolted with electricity. Her crystal blue eyes opened, frantic. She gasped for air as though Rooster had just breathed her back to life. Hysterical, she twisted herself up, only to be pulled back to the sitting position by the chain. Angry, she hissed barring fangs.
“Rooster, I’m hungry!” She cried, like a teenaged girl trying to wheedle the corvette away from daddy.
Rooster nodded and reached into the cardboard box I was holding and presented Suzie with a kitten. Gently, he tossed the purring kitten onto the mattress. Sensing danger, the kitten arched his back, fur extended, and hissed. My stomach lurched as Suzie quickly snatched the feline in a single swoop, extended her own fangs, and then bit into the wretched creature. It squeaked only for a moment as Suzie began to suck it dry. As she began to drink, the wound in her chest began to seal as though an invisible painter was spraying on flesh to her perfectly toned body. I could smell the coppery stench of the kitten blood mixed with the scent of rotten eggs. Suzie moaned with appreciation and when she was done rubbed the inert, dead kitten over her right breast.
I had no words for the horror I felt. Obviously the pills Rooster gave me were bad and I was hallucinating. I half dropped the box of kittens, which Rooster deftly caught. He handed the rest over to Suzie, who continued her feeding frenzy. I stumbled out of the room and spent the next couple of minutes throwing up. “Sorry, I didn’t make it to the bathroom,” I muttered to Rooster who was handing me some water.
“Hey man, I did the same thing, don’t feel bad.” He replied.
“What the Hell happened to that girl? She looks like a…a…”
“A vampire,” Rooster said finishing my sentence.
“Am I on a trip?”
“If you are then so am I”
Were vampires real? I hadn’t checked her pulse. Was all of this some sort of prank? I saw the kittens, and you can’t fake that up close. I had done some strange things hopping up on drugs, especially that weekend in Tijuana. Was she some sort of ether fiend on a blood binge? If she was real and a vampire, would Rooster feed me to his girlfriend? Suddenly, I realized I was trapped like those fellas in that movie Deliverance. I could already hear Rooster telling me to squeal like a piggy. If I screamed, could any non-murderers hear me to help?
I took a couple more gulps of water and then plopped down on the broken sofa. I tried to speak, but I could still hear Suzie slurping and the kittens mewing in a panic. “You stay on that bed, Suzie, and take it slow with those kittens. You try to escape and I’ll cut your head off. You hear me?” Rooster warned the vampire.
Suzie giggled like a little girl caught with her hand in the cookie jar by her daddy. “Anything you want Rooster,” She purred, smacking her lips.
As Suzie bit into another kitten, Rooster closed the door muffling the sound. “I need your help, Doc!”
I rolled a joint and lit it. I took several puffs on it before I could calm down enough to speak. What was this man thinking bringing me here? I had a heart condition! “What do you think I can do for you?” I asked, when I was finally able to speak.
“I’ve seen a lot of strange shit in my days. Once I saw Injin ghosts chasing the spirit of a bastard pony express rider that screwed them. I once had my chopper fixed up by a goblin for a race. There’s a whole fucked up world out there that people deserve to know about. I met Suzie about a year ago and she’s the only one I’ve ever taken home to Momma. I love her more than my chopper…”
I nodded at Rooster’s rare display of weakness. Admitting that you loved a woman more than your hog was akin to saying she was your soul mate. I could see sweat, tears, and snot mixed in with his mustache and beard. “You have to help me,” He continued. “You have to help me find the monster that did this and kill him. If I do before she feeds from human blood, there’s a chance her soul will come back and I’ll get my Suzie back.”
“How am I supposed to find this monster? I have no idea who he is or where to start looking…”
“I know his name. I know all of them. I’ve been reading up on him. His name is Vlad the Impaler,” Rooster explained.
“Dracula? Are you freaking kidding me?” I shrieked, almost dropping my roach clip.
“Oh, it’s him. Or he pretends to be him. Don’t really matter. Now, his cover is some playboy Eurotrash rich guy looking for investments. He’s going up and down the California coast and hitting all of the celebrity parties and goes by the name Anton Sergio,” Rooster said.
“Great ghost of Bela Lugosi!” I muttered taking another drag off the joint.
Rooster knelt down next to me so that our heads were almost on the same level. “Doc, I need your help on this. He’s living in a world I don’t understand and I can’t get into. You can. Hell, a famous writer like you can get into any of the parties just for the entertainment…”
“What will do you do when you find him?”
Rooster snickered. “You don’t want to know…”
How could all of this be real? Was I really here? Or was I sitting in my hotel room toked out of my mind watching old Bela on the weekend TV Creature Feature? What if I wasn’t freaking? I don’t know which scared me more. The only way to really find out was to ask questions. “If all of this is real, how come vampires are considered make-believe?”
“I don’t know, man.” Rooster answered earnestly. “Things live out in the night and maybe people don’t want to know. Maybe they did once, but forgot.”
“You have the proof! You can show the world!”