Bat Country, part II

“Yeah, I thought about that, but what happens when the government gets a hold of her? Inside of year, we’ll have vampire soldiers in Vietnam. They already use chemicals on our own people. On our own people! Don’t think they won’t turn them into these fiends,” Rooster explained.

I was uncertain if I wanted the answer, but I thought it best to ask right away. “Other than a gruesome hunger for kittens, what else happens to the poor bastards?”

“Something happens when a vampire makes you drink their blood. It poisons the soul and kills it. Suzie’s soul is dying. We have a couple of days, maybe a week and she’ll be dead forever,” Rooster said.

“How does a biker know so much about vampires?”

Rooster laughed, it was jolly like an evil Santa Claus. “It’s all in Dracula man. Bram Stroker got it right, man. He couldn’t tell people the truth so he wrote it like a story.”

“But, how do you know?”

“The Professor told me. You haven’t met him yet.”

I took another hit. “If we have to pick up Gilligan, I’m leaving.”

Rooster’s face blushed just a little. “Professor Strangeyear’s been fighting vampires for years…”

“And where is this Professor Strangeyear?” I inquired.

For the first time, Rooster didn’t look me in the eyes. “He’s at Bellevue.”

“The mental asylum!” I cried. “The one where they only put the most deranged fucks out there.”

“The police caught him after he killed a vampire and one of his revenants. He was covered with blood and muttering about vampires,” Rooster explained, while handing me a beer. “They didn’t even give him a trial. Sent him straight to the loony bin.”

“Well, obviously, he won’t be much help then,” I said as I opened the beer.

“That’s why you are going to go interview him.”

I choked on the beer, almost spitting it out my nose. “What?”

“I can’t get in to see him,” Rooster said. “You have a press pass. They have to let you in if you are writing a story.”

I downed the beer in two gulps and slammed the empty can upon the concrete floor. “I’m not helping anyone escape from the loony bin; they might decide to lock me up for good measure. You can’t give those pigs any reason to look twice at you.”

“We don’t have to break him out. He’ll get out on his own. He’s safer in there right now. We just need to know how to kill Dracula,” Rooster explained.

“You don’t know how to kill him?”

“Dracula’s different somehow. More powerful. Strangeyear researched his sorry ass, but never got to pass me the information. All we have to do is find out where he’s weak, and then we kill him,” Rooster stated, as though they were going to through a laundry list.

“What about Suzie?”

“We’ll bring her along, since we’ll have to go during the day. If we locked her in a trunk and stake her, she’ll be frozen and won’t be about to hurt anyone. We just need to make sure we feed her,” Rooster said, obviously not looking forward to the feeding.

The distance howls that had greeted us on the dirt road were much closer and louder, and if I wasn’t mistaken they were multiplying. Rooster briskly strode over to the window, wiped a clean spot in the dust and grime, and then peered outside. “Do you see anything?” I asked.

“Not yet, but they know she’s near. They can feel her.”

Before I could reply, Suzie shrieked. Worried, Rooster opened the door to see Suzie attempting to pry off the collar and howling as loud as she could. “Suzie, you know better than that. Shut your mouth or I’ll stake you. . .”

Suzie, her mouth oozing with kitten blood, grinned manically. She arched her back, leaned on her elbow, and then spread her legs apart and wiggled suggestively. She looked like an evil, blonde Betty Page “Come on, Rooster! I’m bored. Let me out. I’ll be good. Or naughty. Your choice…”

“I love ya Suzie, now shut up!” Rooster bellowed.

With great alacrity, Suzie leapt from the mattress attempting to pounce upon Rooster. Once she hit the length of the chain, Suzie was jerked back in mid-air and fell upon the mattress laughing. “If you aren’t going to let me play, then kill me. I’m sooooo bored.”

The howls started again. This time, Suzie tilted her head as though listening and smiled, very satisfied. “Listen to them: the children of the night! What sweet music they make.”

I peered out the window, afraid of what I might see. I could see three pairs of red eyes creeping towards the bunkhouse in the field, adjacent to the orange orchard. “Rooster!”

Rooster slammed the door closed while Suzie cackled. Rooster joined me at the window and looked where I was pointing. “Wolves. They haven’t attacked before, but don’t mean they’ll get an urge tonight.”

As the night turned pitch black, we took turns taking watch. Rooster retrieved two old shotguns from the closet and we each took two hits of Amphetamine. While this kept us alert and awake, it also made us jittery and nervous. Suzie took advantage of this and taunted us from the other room about her infernal allies. Frustrated and a little fearful she might be telling the truth, Rooster plunged the shaft back into her heart and covered her with the blanket. “She’ll be fine, Doc. As long as her head’s intact she can’t die. If we feed her and wake her before we kill Dracula, she’ll be restored to normal.”

Rooster tried to sound confident, but I could tell he left off the words “I hope.” Thankfully, Rooster had planned for a long night and we had plenty of beer, cold cuts, and an old black and white television to watch. I felt a wave of relief as dawn approached, even if the entire valley seemed to be filled with a misty fog that threatened to block out the sun. By mid morning, it had burned away in the California sun.

At ten, I called the Times. “This is Hunter S. Thompson, I need to speak to the desk editor.”

It was the same office fungi that had refused to give me more than $300. “Mr. Johnson is in a meeting, can I have him call you back?”

“No, no, he doesn’t need to do this personally.”

“I can’t give you any more money, Mr. Thompson,” the shrew informed in her mock polite tone of voice. I wished I could stake her.

I tried to sound as rational, calm, and sober as possible. That seemed very important at the time. “I’m following up on that story and I need the Times to call ahead to Bellevue Sanatorium in Fresno and get me an appointment to speak to William Strangeyear. He’s a patient,” I explained.

“Your assignment was to deliver three thousand words on the Hell’s Angels,” the shrew protested.

“Listen,” I ordered belligerently. “How often do I call in and not ask for money? How often do I call in asking for a press pass? If I’m bothering to do this, don’t you think that this is a big story, if not THE story of this generation? Hell, you know what, I’ll just call the Chronicle.”

“Of course, Mr. Thompson.”

Thirty minutes later, the woman called me back with a single press pass and an appointment for that afternoon. I hadn’t expected an appointment that quickly, but I presume when they saw me actually applying my doctorate of journalism that they knew it was the story of a lifetime or I’d make a public ass out of myself. Either way, it meant that they would sell more papers.

Rooster borrowed a dented, rusted blue Ford pickup and then packed Suzie into a huge wooden trunk. If she were fully alive, it would have been cramped and uncomfortable, but as it was, it was the best accommodations we could arranged. I showered, shaved, and tried to piece together a respectable reporter’s outfit for the interview. We droved for two hours in the blistering heat with the windows rolled down. Rooster was careful to go slightly under the speed limit as neither of us wanted the cops to stop us and look inside the trunk strapped in the back. By the time, we arrived, it felt as though we had been in an oven.

Rooster waited in the truck, not wanting to leave Suzie alone. The hospital looked like it had been dropped in the middle of a country club estate. However, this wasn’t a pleasure sanitarium the rich visited for their health. Surrounding the green grass and nice scenery was an eight foot tall chain-linked fence with barbed-wire around the top. Armed guards patrolled the outside grounds with fierce Dobermans. Federal prisons reserved this sort of security for the worst of the worst. This is far from maximum security. Where are the towers and spotlights and such? You are making it more than it is.The animals that had a taste for the other white meat. What sort of men would they keep here? Would Professor Strangeyear be cognitive enough to tell me what I needed to know? Would the doctors take one look at me and then decide I too belonged as a permanent resident?

Two large Mexicans dressed in white scrubs patted me down after I signed in. They tried to hide it, but they are worried. That’s never a good sign. “Don’t directly touch him, he gets edgy. Don’t flinch or run from him, he’ll chase you down. Don’t eat anything he gives you.”

The entire building was clean and sterile, even for a hospital. It felt like a place for the dying. As the two mooks escorted me down the hall, I heard the other patients chatter to each other in low tones. “You be careful in there, Mr. Duke,” one of them warned me.

“Yeah, this guy ain’t right. Last week, we caught him impaling mice on toothpicks,” The other one added.

We stopped next to the professor’s room. His door was metal and menacing. It had eight different locks and two barricades. “Don’t you think this is a little much?” I asked.

“Don’t let him bite you,” the first nurse warned.

“If he attacks you, scream,” the second nurse added.

They opened the door slowly, as though expecting to be attacked. Professor Strangeyear sat in the corner of the white, padded cell with a serene grin upon his face. I suddenly felt very glad that the good Professor was wearing a grey straitjacket. There were dozens of sketches littering the floor. Each of them displayed gruesome depictions of torture, men on crosses, or other barbaric blood letting. The Professor was a short, stubby man with curly dark hair. He squinted up at me as though he needed glassed, but wasn’t allowed to wear them at the moment. “Mr. Duke, so glad to have a visitor…”

“Hello, Professor. I hope you don’t mind me dropping in unexpectedly like this.”
“Not at all,” Professor Strangeyear replied. “I’m glad to have the company. I won’t hurt him boys.”

The nurses looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and then closed the door. I could hear the clicks of the locks turning. “Why would a reporter want to see me?” The Professor asked.

Rooster and I hadn’t been intelligent enough to think of a way to convince the Professor I could be trusted. We had just assumed he would believe me. “I don’t know what else to say except that Rooster sent me.”

“I trust he’s well,” the Professor stated politely.

“He’s doing ok, but his gal Suzie ain’t doing too well, if you know what I mean?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Duke.”

“Look, I’m on the up and up. Suzie’s been turned into a vampire and Rooster needs your help to get rid of You Know Who.”

I don’t know who you mean,” the Professor replied.

Frustrated, I hit my head against the soft padded wall. It didn’t have quit the effect I was looking for. “Dracula. Ok, Dracula. Not Bela Lugosi, but good old Vlad the Impaler, but now some Eurotrash coke dealer named Anton Sergio. I’m tired, and if I don’t get some answers, Rooster’s going to have my ass.”

“Do you know the meaning of the word Dracula?”

In my experience, when someone is crazy the best thing you can do is play along. In the end, they usually go the long way around.

Professor Strangyear seemed pleased I was listening to him. He nodded his head several times before he spoke. “Loosely translated Dracula means ‘Son of the Devil.’ Interesting no?”

“How do we kill him?”

The Professor laughed. It was a dry, humorless cackle. “Kill him? Haven’t you been listening? He is immortal, ageless.”

“Other vampires can be killed,” I protested.

“In 1462, the Turks moved to invade his lands. They outnumbered him three to one and slowly they took the outlaying villages. When they arrived, the houses were burned and the wells were poisoned. When they reached the capital, they found thousands upon thousands of their comrades impaled through the heart by spears. Imagine that if you will, an entire forest of the impaled? The Sultan admitted defeat and promptly left his lands. This was when he was human,” The Professor explained.

“But there must be something. . .”

The Professor nodded as though he expected this. “I researched him for years before he found me. He was destroyed in 1897, by men of pure heart. And yet he lives. He always returns. It is his curse.”

“What about crosses? Fire? Holy water?” I asked, frantic.

Strangeyear cackled deeply and then had a strange coughing fit. “On him, crosses will only work on those with the strongest of faith. Fire will hurt him. He can not be staked. Once his head was removed and he regenerated over time. Some believe that he was cursed by God to walk the earth forever.”

“Not even that scumbag Nixon is invulnerable. . .”

“He can be contained for a time, after his death. After the Harker incident, he was trapped for almost a hundred years,” The Professor explained. “But he reformed and waited. The monks that guarded his remains forgot all about him and he was saved by an old servant. That’s his great power. To force you to hunger for him. To make you love him.”

The Professor seemed to be talking about an old lover, which struck me as strange for a vampire hunter. “What did he do to you?”

Professor Strangyear’s eyes opened wide, and seem to flick rhythmically as though they were a beating heart. “He found me after I killed three of his favorites. They were women. Beautiful, voluptuous sisters. I almost succumbed to them, as Harker did. His rage was frightening. He almost tore my head from my neck merely by choking me. But then, he smiled cruelly and told me that I would join him. And then he gave it to me. A taste.”

“A taste of what?”

“His blood,” the Professor whispered. “His blood. Just a drop. Enough to awaken my hunger. I can’t be satisfied. I must have it. Bugs, rats, and once a girl. It’s why I’m in here after all. Have you ever felt an emptiness that stirred you? One that you would do anything to fill? And if it has not been filled, your skin starts to itch? You can’t think properly until all you know is that which will fill you. That is what one drop did to me.”

I started twitching a little myself. Rooster and I decided I was going to try to do this interview sober, but that seemed like mad folly now. When this was done, I promised myself a solid ether binge. “I think I can imagine what you are describing.”

“That is but a small portion of his hunger. Misery and suffering are his trade, his boon to the world. His hunger. Perhaps, that is why he now seeks to control the drug trade,” the Professor continued. “Perhaps that is why he did not finish the job.”

“Drug trade?” I asked, suddenly feeling part of the conversation. “Not finishing the job?”

“That is his plan. To gain an army by controlling the drug trade. Once he has California, he’ll move south to control the production. His mind is brilliant and tactical. And as to not finishing the job, if he had given me just a little more, I wouldn’t feel my sins. He wanted me to act out and yet still feel the weight of what I’ve done. Can you imagine doing all that I’ve done and still care?”

The Professor began to weep uncontrollably. I felt for him so I knelt down next to him and patted his shoulder. “We’ll get him and maybe his spell on you will break.”

The Professor looked up at me, through his matted hair and grinned. Feverishly, he bit into my arm. I screamed and the nurses came in with righteous fury and tore the Professor from me and doped him. I had a large bite wound on my arm, which needed stitches and bandages.

It was almost two hours later before they released me. Rooster was pacing back and forth around the old Ford frantic with worry. “He must have told you a lot, if you were gone so long.”

“Not so much,” I revealed. “But he did take a piece out of my arm. He’s mad.”
Rooster was clearly disappointed. “He was such a stand-up guy. What happened?”

I knew Rooster put a lot of his hopes into Professor Strangeyear. “Dracula fed him a drop of his blood. And now, he’s starkers. Really did try to eat a girl.”

“So he didn’t tell you anything useful then?” Rooster asked, hopefully.

“He said Dracula wasn’t like other vampires. He can’t be killed for good. He always comes back.”

“That was it?”

“Well, every time he is killed, he’s vulnerable for a while. Someone named Harker trapped him for a while. Maybe we kill him and then trap him somewhere?” I suggested.

“It would have to be someplace holy or hard to reach,” Rooster added. “Someplace, his little bitches couldn’t find him.”

“That is the trick. I suppose someplace of faith, where people believe strongly in something. I need a beer. My blood is too thick for the west coast,” I said.

“I could use a beer.”

Six drafts of beer later, we were no closer to a solution. We had no idea where Anton Sergio might be hiding. If we did find him and manage to kill him, where would we take him? I called the paper and told them I was making wonderful progress, but I needed research on a man named Anton Sergio. The shrew seemed confused at first, but I promised her that this was the story of a lifetime and she wanted off the boat to just let me know and I’d take this story elsewhere. She promised to have the fact checking department do a full search and even offered to front me $500 more dollars.

Three round later, she called back at the bar. “Anton Serigo has been seen in LA at a number of different clubs with a couple of important celebrities. Allegedly, he was friends with Sharon Tate. No one seems to know why he keeps getting invited to these parties. Our gossip columnist said they couldn’t find any pictures of him, but he’s supposed to be very handsome. Mr. Thompson, this sounds like a very big story. Would you like us to send you one of our staff photographers?”
The paper could smell the blood and they wanted to make sure they got their pound of flesh. “No, no, thank you. I have a hell of guy with me. Named Rooster if you can believe it? I’ll have something for you in a couple of days. See if you can find out when the next big party is going to be and I’ll call in.”

We stopped by the Western Union office and picked up the extra $500 and started to plan. “We know he’s around the LA area,” Rooster said, stating the obvious.

“He likes the clubs. We should check out the Viper Room and the Whisky-a-Go-Go,” I added.

“If only we knew someone that could just tell us where he is,” Rooster said, very frustrated.

“We do, after a fashion. If we are willing to be cruel in order to be kind,” I said.

Rooster’s blank expression told me he didn’t know what I was talking about. “Suzie!” I explained. “If we wake up Suzie and don’t feed her, she’ll talk. Hell, didn’t Mina know where Dracula was in the movie?”

“If she doesn’t eat, she’ll go crazy,” Rooster protested.

“Maybe,” I conceded. “But she’s the only one that can lead us to him and she knows him.”

Without any other viable options, we drove back to the ranch. Along the way, we stopped by a bookstore and picked up two copies of Dracula. While we still had sunlight, we chained Suzie back into the ground of the bunk house and secured her as best we were able. Rooster removed the stake and then we waited for the sun to set. I had gotten to the part where the Demeter was found when Suzie first screeched. “Rooooster! I’m hungry.”

Neither of us moved from the couch. We let her cry, yell, and beg for almost an hour before we opened a door. Junkie’s have no willpower and an hour can seem like years. “We have some questions for you, Suzie,” said Rooster.

Suzie leapt from the mattress, attempting to pounce upon him, but was once against brought short by the chain. Laughing, she balled herself into the fetal position like a kitten and then purred seductively. It was getting harder, pun intended, to not stare at her naked flesh. “Can’t you at least put clothing on her?”

Rooster grunted. “She’ll just tear it off again. She knows flashing herself at us will distract us.”

“I’m just a naughty girl. Don’t you want to spank me?” Suzie asked, in an innocent, girlish voice.

“No more blood, Suzie. Not a drop until you answer some questions,” Rooster stated.

Intrigued, Suzie relaxed her body and stretched casually; making sure both of us got a wonderful view of every part of her body. “What do you want to know?”

“Why did he pick you? How many of you did he make?” I asked.

Suzie growled and flashed her fangs. “Ah, poor Rooster and his chicken want to take on the Count. . .”

“When you are ready to talk, we’ll be back. Outside, we have a nice juicy calf. Just three days old. Very tender. When you talk, we’ll take you to it and you can eat as much as you want,” Rooster bribed.

“He knows about both of you. He’s going to make both of you lick his boots,” Suzie retorted.

Rooster slammed the door and began to read again. The cries began again in earnest. I tried very hard to focus on the book, hoping that it would give me some sort of clue as to what the Harkers did to trap him. By the third hour, the whimpering and tears started. We encouraged each other the best we could and occasionally downed a can of Coors. Just before dawn, she broke. “I’ll tell ya anything, just feed me,” Suzie screamed.

We opened the door to see her balled up on the mattress, her face streaked with tears. She was rocking back and forth, her body shaking from the trauma of her withdrawal.”

“Talk,” Rooster demanded.

“I don’t know what the Master’s plans are. Whatever they are, I bet they’re big. He’s a genius. You should hear him talk. He’s picking the best and the most beautiful to live eternally with him. We serve his will,” Suzie said, uneasy.

“How many?” He asked.

“I don’t know exactly. I can hear them. Maybe twenty. He wants a new family. He’s teaching them what he knows before he sends them into the world. He knows you have me,” Suzie answered, licking her lips.

“Where is he?” Rooster demanded.

“I don’t know exactly. South, near the ocean,” She shuttered.

If she could hear their voices, then it was a safe bet to think that they could hear her voice. She warned us that Dracula knew that we had captured her. Everything we said was being relayed back to the Count. “She’s told us everything she will,” I said to Rooster. “We’ll get her Master in Frisco. Stake her!”

“You lied to me!” Suzie hissed.

“What?” Rooster said, clearly confused.

“Stake her damn it, or I’ll put the leaches on you! Trust me!” I roared.

“Don’t do it Rooster!” Suzie begged. “I’m so hungry!”

If Rooster was going to get back his gal, he needed to listen to me. “If you love her, stake her now, damn you! You brought me along for a reason.”

Rooster picked up the stake and gave Suzie a warning look. “Lay flat and don’t move.”

Suzie flopped back on the bed and spread her legs suggestively. “Don’t you want to stick it somewhere else?”

Rooster plunged the stake into her heart without another word. Suzie’s face contorted with horror and pain. Then she was still. After covering her with the army blanket, we shared a Coors in the other room. “Here’s the deal,” I explained. “The Count is connected psychically to all of his victims. Suzie kept saying that he knew. He knew because he’s listening to us through her eyes. As long as she’s awake, he’ll know all of our plans. Now, he thinks that we’ll be going to Frisco. He’s likely laughing at us and has the cops on the lookout for us.”

Rooster nodded, getting the idea. “So where does this get us?”

I rolled a joint and then lit it. “Assuming Suzie is right, we can’t fight twenty vampires. The rest of them aren’t going to be weak from blood deprivation like Suzie. They’ll be strong and confident. Deadly beasts.”

“I can get us help, if you find him,” Rooster stated.

I doubted that Rooster could find us help, in short notice, that would be able to fight off vampires, but I didn’t want to dash his hopes. He made three short phone calls and then said, “The help will be here tomorrow night at dusk. We’re running out of time. If we don’t figure out where he is soon, we’ll have to kill Suzie.”

“If there are that many vampires in one area, I’d think the police or the papers would notice,” I theorized.

“They don’t believe in vampires, man. They have blinders on,” Rooster argued.

“True enough,” I agreed. “But they do believe in Charlie Manson and lots of girls disappearing or people dying drained of blood will draw attention.”

I called the night desk at the Times. This time I was connected directly to the Editor. He was a spry, portly fellow by the name of Johnson. “Thompson! Is that you, you old son of gun?”

“Uh, yes, this is me,” I replied, uncertain why he was so happy to hear from me.

“This story you are working on is shaping up nicely. I don’t know what the connection between this serial killer Anthony Strangeyear, the Hell’s Angels, and the drug lord Anton Sergio, but it’s shaping up to be a Pulitzer. A Pulitzer man!” He said.
I pictured Johnson in a frenzy, imaging his circulation doubling. “Well, this is the deal. We think that Sergio had a bad batch of something that caused Strangyear to snap. We think he might have infected others as well,” I said, trying to tell as much of the truth as possible.

“That’s terrible!” Johnson replied, lying through his teeth.

“We think he’s holed up somewhere in Los Angeles. Can you have the fact checkers see if there’s been any strange murders in the LA area. Missing girls. Or bodies found drained of blood,” I asked.

“Good Lord, Thompson! What have you found?”

I hooked him. This fat, little fish would jump in my boat and beg me to eat him. “It’s worse than the Manson family, and if I don’t follow through, they’ll get away with it. Call me back at this number as soon as you can.”

The morning desk editor returned my call at ten the next morning. “Thompson, we rolled our fact checkers out of bed and worked all night on this. It had better be worth the overtime. There’s been a dramatic increase in the disappearance of teenaged girls on the strip. The mayor’s daughter went to the Whisky a Go Go and disappeared so the cops are working overtime,” He informed me.

That was oddly good news. If the mayor’s daughter was involved, it was possible we might get help from the police. “How about unexplained assaults? Anything unusual? This new drug makes people see things so anything weird could be helpful in tracking down the location.”

“The funny thing is that crime’s mostly down on the Sunset Strip. Something’s got the animals spooked. Mostly the cops have been dealing with the crank calls. A couple of kids have been calling up telling the cops that the Morrison Hotel was haunted,” the morning desk editor said. “Apparently some of them saw a ghost floating from the side of the building. Of course, there’s been a rash of weird weather there lately. During the last couple of weeks, downtown has been hit with these fog banks. Makes the street kids jumpy, but if they’ve been doping up like you said, makes sense. When can we expect to get this story?”

I didn’t have a story that any paper would publish. I knew that, but I hoped that Rooster would keep his promise and give me something to work on. “Just a couple of days, I need to check a couple more sources. Trust me, this is gold.”

“If not, it’s your ass, Thompson,” the editor promised. “Oh yeah, there’s a special VIP party Saturday night at the Whiskey a Go Go. Likely, where your man Sergio is going to hit. Good luck.”

The last couple days had been a blur, but I was fairly certain that Saturday was two days away. “So what’s the deal, man?” Rooster asked after I hung up the phone.

“The deal is that it’s the Morrison Hotel. That whole area has been experiencing weird fog. Sound familiar?” I explained.

“Ain’t that a dive?”

I paced around the living room for a moment. “Well yeah, but it’s an important dive. Kids flock from all over the world to go there. That’s where the cover from the last Doors album was shot. Some of the kids like to get high and commune with the ghost of Jim Morrison. If I were an evil bastard and I was looking for followers that wanted something more from life, that’s where I’d go.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Rooster said reluctantly.

I opened the fridge and grabbed two beers. I handed one to Rooster and sat down next to him. “And we know that Saturday night, there is a big party at the Whiskey a Go Go. The Count is going to have to go in order to make the scene.”

Rooster seemed to feel better with the cold Coors in his hand. “And while he’s there, we can take out his people in the hotel.”

I took a gulp of my beer, wishing I could get drunk. It had been days since I had a good solid blackout experience. My blood wasn’t used to working this hard. “You really think you are going to get enough bodies to handle this? Hell, I’m not even sure that the army could handle this.”

“Oh, they’ll be here. We just need to make sure we’re prepared.”

Being prepared meant that we needed to buy three kegs of beer and enough cold cuts to feed a small battalion. I thought that we had used too much of the advance money, but it turns out that I was wrong. The first biker clad in the colors of the Hell’s Angels arrived shortly before dusk. In small groups of two or three, they arrived, parked their choppers, and helped themselves to beer and sandwiches. It was an unusual gathering as all of them seemed tensed and none of them brought their old ladies or even picked up the wandering mamma looking for fun.

They met in small groups telling war stories about past rumbles and brothers that didn’t make it. It was then that I realized that this was not just an easy going gathering where Rooster would ask his fellow outlaws for help. This was a war posse for a cause none of them had been told about.

After an hour, Rooster whistled to get everyone’s attention. He looked around to make sure everyone was paying attention. I counted thirty heads ready for a rumble. “Ya’ll are likely wondering why I called for a war party,” Rooster said, his voice booming so that everyone could hear him.

“Nah, we’re just hear for the beer!” One of the crowd bellowed.

They all laughed. It was an old in-joke that apparently just got funnier over the years. “This is some serious shit. There’s an evil on our highways. One that’s been fucking with what’s ours. Some of you ain’t gonna believe me. That’s ok. I’m gonna show you the proof first, and then we’ll talk.”

Some of them huddled outside of the door to Suzie’s bedroom. The rest of them crowded around the window, which Rooster cleared of the plywood and the locks. They could see the mattress, the green blanket, and the tips of Suzie’s toes. “This is my gal, Suzie,” Rooster announced.

There was some angry grumbling. No one messed with a woman that belonged to the Hell’s Angels. Rooster duplicated his magician trick and yanked the blanket off the body. The crowd of angry bikers started muttering. A few of the more sensitive ones excused themselves and puked in the corner. “There’s a man named Anton Sergio that did this to Suzie. Ya’ll know Suzie. She’s pure sunshine and sweetness, or she was. We have a chance to help her.”

“Fuck, Rooster, what can we do for her now? She’s dead,” One of the bikers said, clearly angry.

“No, she ain’t,” Rooster revealed. “That’s part of the problem.”

The bikers started looking at each other and wondering if Rooster had flipped his lid. Rooster knelt before Suzie’s corpse and once again pulled the stake from her undead heart. Suzie gasped and sat up, which startled the others. “Rooster! I’m hungry!” She cried.

She jerked at the chain and roared. “You promised me blood!” She screeched, flashing her fangs.

Rooster pushed her back upon the mattress and violently plunged the stake back in her heart. He turned to the rest of us wiping the vampire blood from his hands with an oil rag. “A monster turned Suzie into a vampire. If we kill him soon, she’ll come back to life. I’m riding to LA and I’m going against the biggest, vampire bad ass of all time. Yeah, I’m talking about Dracula. This shit is real. Now, we all promised to back each other all the way to hell and back. It turns out that there might actually be a bit of that hell walking the earth. Now, here’s how it is. I don’t feel right holding all of you to that promise. If it was a regular rumble, we’d already be riding. But this is different. So, we’re gonna have some beer and sandwiches. At midnight, anyone still interested sticks around. If you don’t want any of this piece of action, you’d best leave by then, no questions asked. Be careful out there because we’re not all that sure that the Count don’t have people watching this place.”

I half expected at least some of them to leave before midnight. None of them did. Instead, they continued swilling beer and retelling old stories about the road, crazy women, and wild adventures. Once, I got stoned for a weekend with a couple of vets that had just cashiered out of Vietnam. They told me the only time they felt safe over there was the night before a mission. The Sergeant would tell stories about past and present members of the squad. It was almost as though they’d gain immortality by being part of those stories. This was much the same way. Some of these men wouldn’t live past the weekend, but their legends would. I taped as many of the stories as they would allow. If I lived past Saturday, the Times would have enough for dozens of articles.

At midnight, Rooster outlined his plan. It was slightly less complex than storming the beaches of Normandy, but it seemed reasonable to me at the time. Of course by then, I had smoked a joint, drank five beers, and chewed on a couple of mushrooms. The next afternoon, they rolled out of their sleeping bags, said their goodbyes, and promised they’d show in LA. Each of them would say goodbye to their loved ones as best they could.

Rooster and I locked up Suzie in the wooden trunk, stowed our gear in the back of the Ford, and left for the city of angels. Rooster rode his chopper while I trailed behind in the truck. While we still had daylight, we cruised past Hope Street and Pico Boulevard. The old Morrison Hotel had seen better days since it appeared on the cover of that Door’s Album. The entire neighborhood had turned to pot. The building had a large front window that bore the hotel’s name in faded letters.

“Think this is going to work?” I asked, afraid. “I’m not exactly cut out for this.”

“You did good man. Better than I expected. I’d still be sitting around with a thumb up my ass if you didn’t figure out where he was,” Rooster answered. “Whatever happens, I owe you man.”

It was like a hellish scene from a Horatio Alger’s novel where the young lad and his heroic, but doomed side kick parted ways to thwart the villain. I wasn’t sure yet which part I played. I left to find my no-good attorney. Despite the handicap of his race, he really is quite useful. Although he was out of town, as was typical when I really needed him, he managed to secure me tickets to the V.I.P party.

The Whiskey a Go Go is the closest thing rock and roll has to Mecca. Twice a day all real rockers get down on their knees and give thanks to the Whiskey a Go Go. Lots of important bands like the Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Janis Jopplin played there. More importantly, it’s where many of them first connected to the American Dream. I showered, slept a couple of hours while Rooster took watch, and then dressed for success in the club jungle.

Knowing that I was going to face one of the worst monsters in recorded history, I took a couple of mood stabilizers and a quick joint. Keeping my cool was definitely going to be a factor. My job was to hit the party and make contact with the Count while Rooster and his buddies hit the hotel.

My attorney’s guest pass gave me access to the back room party. Several up and coming bands were playing a couple of sets to see if they could impress the record executives. The hot, young Go-Go dancers were writhing in their cages above the audience. The smell of wood, sweat, and alcohol was intoxicating. I ordered a dirty martini. By the time, I took three sips I was spotted.

White lace gloved fingers, strong as steel, wrapped around my arm. I almost spilled my drink, but she quickly steadied me. This woman was an Amazon, almost six feet tall. She looked like she jumped off the cover of The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust. Her face was painted with glitter, her blue eyes encased in black mascara, and her cheeks painted white. She had more curves than the west coast and long, curly black hair. “Anton Sergio will see you now,” She whispered into my ear in a low sultry voice.

If she had asked me to shoot Kennedy on that spot, I would have considered it. The amazon dragged me through the smoky crowd and shoved me into a booth. The other girls that were giggling in the booth and drinking themselves into a torpor barely noticed me. It was then that I saw him. He stepped across the dance floor as though he owned the world; stepping from shadow to shadow with a grace I’ve never seen.

Somehow, I had expected a less handsome man; when I reread Dracula, I always pictured Bela Legosi in my mind. His Arabic features were delicate like a painted Gibson doll with beautiful almond eyes and a sharp, distinguished nose. He was tall and lean, almost too thin. And yet I knew he was the strongest creature I had ever seen. “Leave us,” He commanded as he reached the booth.

The girls pouted their displeasure, but did as they were ordered. The Amazon stepped away, but remained close. “Do you prefer Mr. Duke or Mr. Thompson?” He asked, casually.

“Whichever you prefer, Count.”

He smiled, flashing a hint of his fangs. “I have never been a Count. In my time, I was a Prince among men; a lion amongst the wolves. I think I shall call you Hunter. That name seems to fit you this evening, yes? And you will call me Anton. That is my name here and now.”

“Sure thing, Anton.”

My obvious fear and cowering seemed to please him. I say go with your strengths whenever possible. “Where is Rooster? Waiting outside I expect?”

“He’s waiting for word from me, Anton.”

“Did he expect to perhaps attack me? Kill me?” He asked me, already knowing the answer.

“He loves the girl. He just wants her back. Haven’t you ever been in love?” I asked.

For a few moments, Dracula did not speak. I was terrified that I had angered him and soon he’d be eating my spleen. “Long ago. She killed herself rather than be taken by the Turks.”

“And wouldn’t you do anything to get her back?”

Dracula smiled wistfully. “I’d drown the world in blood, if it were required.”

I had to keep Dracula busy, but I really didn’t think that it was a good idea for him to talk about drowning, blood, and especially drowning the world in blood. “If you don’t mind my asking, you seemed like you were waiting for me. Why?”

“You are going to serve me,” He said casually. “I want my complete story put down on paper. I want the truth to be known.”

“Why do you care?” I asked, truly curious. “You’re centuries old. Powerful. I’d retire somewhere with my harem of girls and not give a rat’s ass about the world.”

“You visited Professor Strangeyear. I’m sure he told you that I can’t be killed. I’m a legend now, you see. Legends need to be fed. Did you know that for many years, it was believed I was a mere fable sprung forth from a demented Irishman?” Dracula replied, clearly amused. “For a time I was forgotten. And then that movie came out. That wonderful actor captured the essence of fear and hatred. Captured my essence on celluloid. But then, interest waned as it always does. I had to push a literature professor in England to look at the old records and connect Dracula and Vlad the Impaler.”

It was almost as though this immortal monster physically needed the attention, as though he fed from the fear. “You need the attention, don’t you?”

“I don’t require anything,” Dracula snapped. “Except blood.”

“Of course, I didn’t mean to offend you,” I said, trying to soothe the savage beast that would bite my head off if I angered him enough.

He didn’t seem to hear me. His head was tilted slightly as though listening to something far away. “Mr. Sergio! I’d love to interview you. Get everything down on paper. Let the world know you,” I offered, trying to get his attention.

His dark eyes focused on me once more. “I was a just ruler, you know.”

“Really? I thought you were considered a little extreme.”

Dracula laughed. It was a mocking, meancing laugh that banished any hope I might have possessed. “You live in a civilized time, Hunter. You live in a time of luxury. I had no such resources. We lived day to day wondering if we would be be conquered by our enemies and turned into slaves. I made my people strong.”

“I’ve heard that your people still revere you. There’s a statue in your honor.”

“Yes,” the vampire said, pleased. “I have seen it. Not a very good likeness, but I imagine when it was built none had seen me alive to know the difference. In my day, the country was safe. I placed a cup crafted from the finest gold in the town square for any traveler to drink from. It had no guards or safeguards and yet it remained there unmolested for my entire rule.”

The vampire paused as though hearing an annoying sound. Worried, I decided to distract him. “What are your plans now? Surely, it’s a step down just to be a drug lord,” I asked.

“The world is not as it was. I was not born to the darkness as are the children of this age. My way has been prepared. My followers seek me out. Prey to my icons. I sought out those that would most be willing to follow me if they knew of my presence. I replaced their need for narcotics with a fix unlike any other,” the vampire explained.

“Like Strangeyear. . .”

“He found my hunger especially difficult to withstand. The church has almost died in this brave new world. Faith is gone. The new saints are actors or rock gods. My name is known through out the world,” Dracula said seductively.

“And what happens when you have enough followers,” I asked.

“Then we shall make ourselves known with the most insidious modern invention of all time,” Dracula revealed. “Mass marketing. Who wouldn’t want to live forever, young and potent.”

“Except those you kill.”

“We do not need to kill,” the vampire explained. “Only the young do that on a regular basis. Killing the cattle is a waste.”

“What about the cattle? What will happen to us?”

“Humans can donate blood and in return will get some of ours. Ust a few drops is enough to ensure long live with great vigor,” He explained.

“And you will be the new saint,” I added.

“I will be the new God. The one that gives life and takes it away,” Dracula said. “And you will be my prophet.”

“Me? Your prophet?”

“You have talent and the lost read your work. You will do. Not the best choice, but you I can control,” Dracula replied. “Besides, if you don’t, I shall give you over to Strangeyear. I understand that you taste very good. Once he gets a hunger for something, he can’t let it go. Espcially if he has A-1 sauce.”

“Sure thing, boss!” I replied, not wanting to be dinner. “I’ll write up whatever you want.”

“Now, what sort of information must you know in order to appeal more to the lost generation?” He asked, very calculating.

Dracula was about to speak when the amazon returned looking worried. “I said that I wanted no interuptions!” Dracula hissed.

The Amazon whispered in his ear. “No! I would have heard them,” He protested.

The Amazon shrank back, not knowing what to do. “Bring him. If he is part of this, you may kill him,” Dracula commanded the Amazon.

She yanked me from the booth with one arm, almost dislocating my shoulder. I was pushed out a back exit into an alley. She grabbed both of my arms and lifted me off the ground. And then, much to my terror, we took flight into the air, following Dracula. I knew where we were going.

I spotted the Morrison Hotel on the horizon. There were dozens of choppers parked outside and the front window was broken. Bikers armed with fire axes, stakes, and sharpened baseball bats were dueling with vampires. Dracula swooped down to battle Rooster like the knights of old.

I wasn’t able to watch because as punishment the Amazon bit into my neck. Something about the bite hits the pleasure centers of the brain like cocaine. I was paralyzed, aroused, and sedated at the same time. The edges of my vision turned white and then all I knew was sweet oblivion.

* * * *

The first thing I remember was being very thirsty. The sunlight hurt my eyes, but I couldn’t speak right away. A pleasant, fat bottomed hippie chick gave me a mason jar filled with ice water. I took several large gulps and then gave it back to her. “Where’s Rooster?” I asked, my voice horse.

“He’s burying Suzie. We were worried about you. You had a nasty fall,” She answered sweetly.

I was in a bedroom, adoren with candles, crufixes, and a velvet Elvis. “Did we win?” I asked.

“I don’t know. No one will tell me anything. All I know is that Rooster thinks you’re some sort of hero,” She said. “My name is Debbie. If you need anything, let me know. You were out for two days. Stay in bed. Here’s the paper.”

The LA Times reported that a gang riot hit the Morrison Hotel. Several bodies were found. Two of the Hell’s Angels were in jail awaiting trail. What had happened? How did I live?

Debbie left to fix me lunch. I was very hungry, which I suppose was a good sign. I had eggs, hash browns, and toast. It felt like a feast for a king. Afterward, Debbie played the radio for me and let me rest. When “Sympathy for the Devil” played, I felt sick. I no longer had any sort of sympathy for the Devil.

Rooster knocked twice and then entered the room. “You doing ok, Doctor Duke?” He asked.

“What happened, man?”

“We hit the hotel like we planned. You were right. He hid a lot of dirt in the rooms guarded by the new vampires. We killed most of them when you showed up. Dracula attacked me from the air and then freaking turned into a wolf,” Rooster explained. “Killed two of my buddies. We managed to hold him down long enough to get a couple of good licks in. When he shifted back to human form, we staked him like we planned and then cut off his head. The other vamps just shifted into dust. Dracula left his bones.”

“And it didn’t save Suzie, then?”

“No,” Rooster muttered. “She and the rest of the vamps went psycho. Like we took away the most important thing in the world to them. Fought like devils.”

“I saw some of the gang went to jail,” I stated, showing him the paper.

“Yeah, they ran into the cops with some blood on their hands. But, there ain’t any bodies so they should get off soon enough,” Rooster explained. “But it’s not like they can say they killed vampires or anything.”

I thought about Professor Strangeyear and agreed. “So what now? Dracula told me that legends need to be fed. I think as long as his story gets told, he’ll keep coming back.”

“That means you can’t write this story, doesn’t it?” Rooster said sadly.

“It certainly wouldn’t help things,” I admitted. “But I should be able to bullshit my way though. What do we do with him?”

“Well, we need someplace special. Someplace holy,” Rooster said, brainstorming.

“I wish we could just ship him off to the Pope,” I said, half considering the idea.

“I ain’t taking a body through customs,” Rooster replied.

I lay back in bed and looked up at the ceiling, hoping that something would give me a sign. My eyes focused on the velvet Elvis. “We need to fight a legend with a legend.”

Rooster followed my gaze to the King of Rock and Roll. “You don’t mean. . .Elvis isn’t dead. Would that even count?”

“I’m not talking about Elvis,” I explained. “We just need to think a little outside of the box is all. Someplace no vampire would think to look for him, but inside of consecrated ground.”

“Where?” Rooster asked, frustrated.

“Bela Lugosi’s grave. . .”

“What the Hell are you thinking?” He asked, irrtated.

“We need someplace consecrated, where the vampires can’t go. But we also need someplace where people have good will. Some place that we can maybe siphon off a little of his karma, you know?” I explained.

Three nights later, we dug up the grave of Bela Lugosi and reburied him with the remains of Dracula. Rooster and I parted ways on highway 99. I went home and fed the first of a series of articles to the Times and then proceeded to binge as I’ve never binged before. Still, the nightmares kept coming and I began to doubt if it really happened. I found my old tape recorder and my notes and decided that I would write this manuscript.

I know that one day he will rise again, and perhaps seek revenge. I wrote this to leave a record behind for when he rises again. Do not publish this manuscript, but keep it safe. Now that you’ve been tainted with the knowledge of what lives in the dark, be careful.

As for me, I’ve faced my dark night of the soul like a mutant Horatio Alger and now I know I can live through anything and hopefully I am drugged out of my mind, mostly naked, and engaging in the most depraved and crazed acts known to humanity.

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