Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Scream Queen: Prologue

Figured I'd post the prologue for my in-progress novel here.  I hope to get it finished - and published - by 2013.

Scream Queen
The Law Unto Herself Chronicles Volume One
By: Jennifer L. Barnes

 New York, New York
February 14, 1931

            Anthony Necchi stared at the figure on the screen in wonder and fear.  He leaned forward from seat as he gripped the seat in front of him as he looked into the bright black eyes of the man on screen.  His voice was commanding, beckoning everyone in the room to listen to each word he uttered through his carnage through London.  Tony watched as the Count Dracula enthralled and terrified everyone in the room. 

            For over an hour Tony was captivated by the man on screen, this Count Dracula.  He was so chilling with his odd voice and the slow, deliberate way he pronounced things.  Then the camera would focus on his dark, haunting face with deliberate attention to the man’s piercing dark eyes. Tony watched as if he was enthralled by Count Dracula himself.

            "There really are such things as Vampires!” the narrator proclaimed at the end right before the theater was flooded with light again.

            Tony’s eyes widened at such a thought, monsters like Dracula prowling the night in the search for blood.  Even after the movie was over and the lights had gone back up, he was still staring up at the blank screen in awe.  He quickly got up before one of the ushers saw him and headed to his papa’s office.  He ran past the concession stand and there were a few of the workers who called to him in greeting, but Tony ignored it.  He had to share with his Papa the movie he’d just watched, and then the two of them would not mention a word of it to his mother. She’d have a fit if she found out that he’d seen such a film and would proclaim that he would have nightmares from it.

            He skidded to a stop in front of his father’s office as he saw three unfamiliar men with slicked back dark hair wearing hats, suits and long coats walk into his father’s office.  They were rather interchangeable from their clothing and size and they certainly not anyone that Tony recognized.  Curious, Tony crept close to his father’s door to listen to the conversation inside.

            “We’re here to collect your payment for Mr. Sergetti’s protection, Necchi,” the voice that Tony had heard was low and gruff sounding with an edge to it.

            He swallowed as he heard his father’s voice reply, “Nor will he get it.  I didn’t need ‘protection’ until Mr. Sergetti and his band of hooligans moved in.”

            “You understand this is business, Necchi.  If you don’t pay, then we don’t know what’ll happen to this little theater,” a smooth voice said with a tiny snort.

            Tony was gripping the door as his father snapped, “Now you’re threatening my business.  Get out, get out.”

            “You have until next Saturday, Necchi, and if Mr. Sergetti isn’t paid in full we will come to collect one way or another,” that smooth voice said with a chuckle.

            The door swung open and the three men walked out of his father’s office.  Icy hazel eyes saw Tony looking at him wide eyed and the man with the smooth voice said, “Maybe you can talk some sense into your father, kid.  After all, it seems like you have a lot to loose, Necchi.”

            Benicio Necchi rose from his chair and snapped, “If you think you can threaten my family too, you’ve got another thing coming.”

            “We have power Necchi, power that you obviously don’t have.  It means we can do whatever we want,” the man with the smooth voice said with a smile as he tilted his smart looking hat to his father.  “Good day, Necchi.  Hopefully you’ll come to your senses.”

            Benicio glared at the men as they filed out of the office one by one.  Tony swallowed as he quickly walked into the office and closed the door behind him.  He asked, “Who where they?”

            “Low lives, predators, monsters who think they can just own everyone and everything, but someday they’ll be shown that they’re wrong,” Benicio said as he shook his fist at the closed door.

            Tony swallowed and asked, “What did they want, Dad?”
            “Nothing I am going to give them,” Benicio answered with a scowl before smiling at his son.  He asked, “So, how was Dracula?”

            “It was really swell and scary, Dad,” Tony said with a smile.

            Benicio walked over and ruffled Tony’s hair, causing the young boy to laugh.  He said, “Well, I won’t tell your mother if you won’t.”

            “Sure won’t Dad,” Tony said with a smile.


Tony bit his lip at the lurid pictures before him and rocked back and forth on his feet as he stared at the pulp magazines before him.  His allowance had been cut in half for this week due to him sneaking to watch Dracula, and he only had enough for one magazine instead of two. He scowled at the muscular man in purple standing in front of a stone cave in the jungle painted on one cover and the other had a man in a silver suit holding some sort of shinny gun with a half naked girl grabbing his leg as he faced off some giant monster with too many arms.  He jingled the change in his pocket as he looked at the two covers, trying to decide which magazine he was going to buy.

            “Wicked, a Phantom story this month,” a husky, feminine voice with an odd, lilting accent that sounded kind of like the one person who worked the concession stand that his dad said was Irish but not said behind him.  Tony watched as long, elegant fingers with the nails varnished a bright red reached out and grabbed one of the magazines with the man in purple on the front.  Curious, he turned to see a tall girl smiling as she began to thumb through the magazine.

            She was dressed in a black suit with grey pinstripes and was wearing a long black coat that hit her calves.  Long, blond hair was braided back from her face and her smile was the same sort of smile he knew he had when he read the Pulps.  She looked up, then looked down as wide eyes that weren’t really purple or blue but mixed met his.  Her smile broadened at him and he found himself smiling back despite heat rushing to his cheeks as the urge to look down at his feet became near crippling.

            “Hey, this isn’t the public library lady,” a gruff, familiar voice barked behind Tony.  He jolted and spun around to see Cipriano, the guy who ran the newsstand scowling at the blond. His dark eyes flickered down at Tony and said, “Heya Tony, you come to get your Pulps this month?”

            “Of course Cipriano!” Tony said with a smile before scowling, “Even though I can only get one.  Mom cut my allowance.”

            Cipriano chuckled and said, “Well, that’s what happens when you sneak behind her back to watch movies about monsters, my boy.”

            “For my browsing, I’ll get the boy’s magazines,” the blond said with a smile as she reached into her pocket and gave Cipriano some crisp cash.

            Cipriano said, “He usually gets Weird Tales and Amazing Stories.”

            “Mm, the lad’s got good taste then,” the blond said with a wink to Tony as she picked up both magazines and handed them to him.  Tony blinked and stared up at her with a frown.

            He swallowed and said, “Miss, I can’t take these.”

            “Humor me.  I get laughed at because I like this stuff, but I can’t help it,” she said with a shake of her head, “Besides, save up your allowance and buy a copy of Dracula.

            “Tony’s dad owns the theater up the street, they already have a copy of Dracula,” Cipriano said with a chuckle.

            The blond shook her head again and replied, “No, the book.  The movie’s good, but read the book. I think you’ll be surprised, Poppet.  Okay, the prose gets a wee bit purple at times and there’s a giant boring part, but give it a try.”

            Dracula’s based off a book?” Tony asked as he took the two magazines.

            Cipriano nodded and said, “Yeah, a real book instead of those bits of stories you’re rotting your brain out with.”

            “Ah, but it’s good rot,” the blond said with a laugh as she moved away from the newsstand with a wave.

            Cipranio frowned and said, “She forgot her change.”

            “I could run it to her,” Tony offered as he felt his cheeks heat up again.

            The older man looked down at him with a laugh.  “Look at you, already wanting to chase after pretty girls my boy.  Dames like that though are trouble,” he said while waggling his finger at Tony, “I mean, look how she’s dressed, like one of those hoodlums that run with Sergetti.”

            Tony frowned and said, “Yeah, some of those guys came to talk to Dad last week.  They were kinda spooky.”

            “Yeah, this use to be a nice neighborhood until that lowlife ruffian came into town,” Cipranio said with a sigh and a shake of his head.

            Tony asked, “Who is that guy anyway?”

            “Trouble, which you’re going to be in if your momma finds out you’re out this late!  Get yourself home Anthony before she has your hide!” Cipranio proclaimed as he pointed his finger towards Tony’s home.

            Tony gathered up his magazines and said, “See ya later, Cipranio!”

            Tony was whistling to himself as he headed back home, occasionally stopping at a street light to thumb through his magazines.  He knew the sooner he got home, the sooner he could read them for real, but he couldn’t wait.  He squinted his eyes as he used the street light to make out the words on the page when a voice drawled, “Reading in this light will hurt your eyes.”

            His head jerked up right as a hand with a grip like iron wrapped around his forearm and drug him backwards.  Tony opened his mouth, drew a quick breath and was about to scream when a heavy hand that smelled like old ham clamped over his mouth.  He kicked, wiggled and flailed his other arm, but he was still moving backwards.  His eyes darted around as he had to inhale and exhale through his nose. His eyes began to burn, his chest was tight and he shook his head furiously back and forth, but the old ham hand was clamped tight on his lips.

            In the darkness, Tony could make out that they were surrounded by walls on either side, and the only noises he could hear were cars a far distance away.  He felt his feet planted on the ground and cried out beneath the hand holding his mouth as he felt his legs spread apart with vice grips on his ankles.  There was a low, thick thumping sound over and over again as the same man who had talked to his father last week when Tony had snuck in to see Dracula stepped in front of him.

            “See, we warned your dad about paying us, Kid, and he didn’t cough up.  Now we’re going to take his payment one way or another,” he said smoothly as the baseball bat patted the palm of his hand repeatedly. “Hold him still, boys,” he said with a smirk as he used the bat to tilt his hat up.

            Tony cried out beneath the hand and began to thrash, but now arms were holding his arms back and his legs were being held.  He looked around sharply and just saw trash and the sides of buildings around them.  The man in the suit drew the bat back for the swing and Tony clinched his eyes shut. 

            He heard the whirl of the bat as it was swung, and his eyes burned while he felt liquid warmth spread through his pants.  He expected pain, but it never came, he just felt the hands holding his arms and legs, and he heard the man curse loudly, “What the fuck?”

            “Now, what did I just stumble on, four fairly large sized men of Italian descent picking on a little boy? That’s not very fair odds now is it?” a low, female voice said with that same not quite Irish accent that Tony had heard at the newsstand.

            His eyes flew open to see the tall blond girl standing beside the man with the bat and holding it up while he struggled to dislodge it from her hand. “I’m going to smash your face in, you crazy dame,” he snapped as she let go of the bat and stumbled back.

            She was dressed in the same pin stripe suit and long coats as the guy with the bat was, but while his fit him, hers was a bit loose on her thin frame.  She lifted her hands, spread her legs slightly apart and twisted to the side.  With a grin, she said, “You can try if you want to, lad.”

            With a yell, the thug with the bat charged the tall blond girl.  He swung at her face and she nimbly bent backwards.  She tilted to the side and stood up to avoid another swing and waggled her finger at him.  “You fucking bitch,” the thug cried out as he swung sloppily at her again.

            This time her hand thrust out lightning fast and wrapped around the bat.  She had her arm extended as she held the front of her bat in her hand.  He jerked, but she held fast again as she slid her hand down the shaft of the bat, jerking the thug closer with each slow easy movement.  “Come on, there’s what? Four of you against me.  I know I’m not a wee lad, but you shouldn’t have this sort of problem with me should you?” she asked with a crooked grin as her eyes gleamed with merriment at the thug.

            “Let’s teach this bitch a lesson!” the thug shouted as he let go of the bat and stumbled back.

            Tony cried out as he was dropped and the three men that had been holding him rushed at the blond all at once.  She stepped swiftly to the side to avoid the men rushing her and spun around to face them, the bat still in her hand. Instead of holding it like a bat, she was holding it with one hand and swung with her wrist, and not with her hips.  She hit one of the thugs rapidly in the face, snapped her wrist again to hit another one in the stomach before pivoting from the last one to launch her foot straight up to his face.  That thug’s head whipped back and his feet flew up right before he crashed to the ground with a groan.

            She pointed the bat at the lead thug and said, “Now that I have your attention, I want to know who your boss is.”

            “We’re not gonna kill this whore, not yet.  We’re gonna make her remember a woman’s place,” the lead thug said with a low, shaky laugh.

            She sighed and said, “Now if I had a quid for every bloody time I heard something ridiculous like that from some snot nosed underling wanker I’d be even more wealthy than I already am.” Then she looked at Tony and said, “You’d better get along lad.  This part is going to be messy and I don’t want you watching.”

            Tony swallowed as he managed to stand on shaking legs.  His stomach was churning, he tasted hot bile in his throat and his chest was tight.  Yet as he stared at the slim blond who winked and smiled at him, he felt some of the tightness on his chest and the fluttering in his stomach ease.  He nodded and began to move out of the alley, as fast as his legs could carry him, his Pulps forgotten.


            “Dad, Dad!” Tony cried out as he made it back home and in the door.  His nose was curled at the smell of pee staining his pants, but he wasn’t shaking and didn’t feel like throwing up anymore.  He considered that a huge victory, but he needed to tell his Dad what was going on.

            A plump, middle aged woman with a head of dark hair curled up into a bun walked into the hallway.  She was wearing a starched, white apron over her plain blue dress.  Round hands rested on her ample hips as Maria Necchi scolded, “Anthony, what do you think you’re doing, coming home at all hours of the night and screaming like a demon?”

            “Ma, I need to talk to Dad,” Tony said as he took a giant gulp of air.

            She scowled at him before her eyes raked over him.  His mother’s dark eyes widened as she moved over to him and gently tilted his head up.  She frowned as she looked at his face and then at his hands.  He blinked as he realized they were burning, the skin was a deep red with little bits of white skin sticking up from his palms.  “Good Lord, Anthony, what happened to you?” she asked as she looked him over, “Who did this to you?  I want names!”

            Tony swallowed and answered, “It was those goons who were at Dad’s office last week.  They grabbed me and made me drop my Pulps and were gonna hit me with a bat!”

            “They what?” she asked as her eyes widened and the color drained from her olive face.  Her hands were shaking as she stared down at him with trembling lips.

            Tony held up his hands and said, “But I’m okay Ma, this girl came and saved me!”

            “Girl?’ Maria asked with a frown.

            He nodded and said, “She was really tall, with long blond hair and moved . . . Well, like no one I’d seen before!  It was like in the stories!  She just appeared, beat the bad guys, told me to run and saved the day!”

            “The nonsense that garbage puts into your head, Anthony, I raised a better boy than that,” she sighed as she shook her head.

            Benicio walked into the hallway and asked, “Good Lord Tony, what happened to you?  And . . . I thought my boy was a lot older than to wet himself like a baby.”

            “He was attacked by those ruffians who have been lurking around the theater.  The ones who work for that no good Sergetti!  I told you to just pay them, but no, you gotta be the hero and resist!  So they come after my baby boy,” Maria said as she shook her fist at Benicio.

            Benicio frowned and asked, “How did you get away, Tony?”

            “This girl, she saved me!  She beat up the bad guys like in the Pulps!” Tony said.

            Benicio shook his head and said, “Well, go clean yourself off and head for bed.  You’ve had enough excitement for one night, Tony.”

            Tony nodded and head for the washroom.  He made a face as he peeled off his clothing and began to wash off.  He was surprised that he wasn’t scolded more for wetting himself and he was even more surprised that they believed his story.  He heard the voices of his parents arguing in the kitchen but ignored it.  His mother seemed to thrive at belittling others or just yelling at them in general, so it was something he’d long ago grown accustomed too.

            Once he was clean, he headed to his room to put on his pajamas.  He turned on the lamp beside his bed to read his Pulps only to realize that he dropped them in the alley.  With a sigh he rolled over to grab last month’s magazines to reread when there was a light, musical tap on his window. 

            He sat up and spun around to see the blond girl crouched at his window and holding new copies of Weird Tales and Amazing Stories in her hands.  She smiled at him, waved and he ran over to the window. He popped it open and whispered, “How did you know where to find me?”

            “I know all sorts of neat stuff like that.  Figured you’d want these back.  Well, the ones you dropped weren’t very readable so I got you another set,” she whispered back with a smile.

            He blinked at her and took a step back.  He said, “Come in.”

            “Are you sure?” she asked as she pulled one long leg into the window before swinging the other over.  She ducked gracefully in and rose to her full height as soon as she was inside.  She was clutching the magazines to her chest as her violet-blue eyes curiously darted around his room.  A smile stretched across a pretty face at the movie posters on his walls that his Dad had given him when the theater didn’t need them anymore and didn’t have the heart to throw away. 

            Tony said, “My dad owns the theater off West Houston.”

            “I go there from time to time, it’s rather nice,” she said with a nod before moving over to his night stand and laying the magazines there.  She held out her hand and said, “I’m Forest by the by and by.”

            “Tony,” he said with a grin as he shook her hand.  He frowned at the coolness of his skin and said, “Maybe you need a pair of gloves or something. You’re gonna catch a cold if you keep that up.  Or at least that’s what Ma says.”

            She smiled and replied, “Well, your mum’s a smart woman, just I really don’t have to worry about catching cold.  As well as those pillocks today?  Well, you can tell your dear da and mum that they won’t be bothering you or anyone else in this neighborhood ever again.”

            “Really?” Tony asked as he looked at her with wide eyes.

            She nodded and replied, “Really.”

New York, New York
            Tony was standing rod straight at the box office, his neck itching under the heavy starch that his Ma poured onto the collar of his uniform shirt.  The little red cap was digging into his head, but it was part of the whole ordeal.  Besides, other than the monkey suit Tony liked working the box office.  He liked suggesting movies to folks or giving his opinions on movies and the like.

            Plus, he liked the extra pocket money as well.  The rest of America may have been in a Depression, but business was booming at the Theater and that’s all the Necchi’s cared about.  Well, that and a few good movies, he thought with a smile as he gave tickets and took money. 

            It was a Saturday night and he was itching to be in the theater himself to see what just opened up.  His Ma hated his choice in movies, but he couldn’t help it.  After seeing Dracula over and over as a kid, he thrilled in the macabre and the horrific.  There was something about it that he couldn’t help but to adore, and his dad was fond of them too.  He looked up to see a very familiar blond walk up to his box office.

            Tony’s eyes widened as he saw Forest, looking exactly as she had when he’d been a kid, even dressed the same except her hair was flowing freely around her face. She hasn’t changed, she looks about my age, he thought wildly as he shook himself as she pushed money through the hole in the bottom of the glass.

            “One for The Wolfman please,” she said in that same accent that he now knew to be Scottish.

            He smiled at her and said, “You haven’t changed.”

            “What?” she asked as she blinked at him.

            He took her money, gave her back her change for the movie and said, “Come on, little kid, pulp magazines, mobsters aiming to break my legs with a baseball bat.  Surely not an every day occurrence right?”

            “Oh.  Oh, Tony?” she asked as she blinked at him.

            He smiled at her and said, “So, you remember all the little boys you save?”

            The blond fidgeted with the tie around her throat and looked around.  She leaned forward and asked in a soft voice, “Would you meet me after the movie?”

            “Sure, my shift’s over then anyway,” he said with a smile, “How about at that little diner around the corner.  They’ve got the greatest blackberry cobbler there.  My treat.”

            “You really don’t have to do that,” Forest said with a wavering smile as her violet-blue eyes darted around.

            He grinned and said, “Eh, it’s the least I can do. Payment for the Pulps and the whole saving my life thing.”

            “Well fine, we’ll meet after the movie.  Is it as good as Dracula?” she replied as she backed up from the glass.

            “Mm, I think I liked it better.  I really felt for him, ya know?”

            The blond grinned at him and said, “I’ll see you then, Tony.”

            “It’s a date,” he called out to her as she walked away.

            Plumes of blue-grey cigarette smoke swirled up in idle eddies to the hanging lights over head, on the radio a slow big band tune played, and Tony was surrounded by the sound of people talking.  He was sitting at a booth at the window with two servings of blackberry cobbler with two glasses of milk.  He didn’t know if Forest drank milk, but the waitress at the dinner would pitch a fit at his Ma if he ordered coffee.  Ordering dessert and drinks for two people would be enough trouble, as would being seen with a girl dressed like a man.

            He was hoping she’d arrive before the cobbler became cold, but there were still tiny puffs of steam rising up from the fruit and dough confection as the blond swept in.  She slid into the booth seat facing him and shrugged off her coat.  Tony smiled at her and said, “I hope you like milk.”

            “I prefer orange juice actually,” she said with a smile herself as she looked down at the dessert in front of her.  Tiny, even, pristine white teeth worried a plump bottom lip as blue-violet eyes looked down at the cobbler.  She then smiled, picked up the fork and said, “So, why did you want to meet me?  I’m surprised that you even remembered me at all.  That was what? Six years ago?”

            Tony grinned and said, “Something like that.” He began to eat his cobbler, smiling as the tartly sweet mixture of the cobbler met his tongue and sighed.  He said between bites, “No boy’s going to forget a girl that’s as tall as most guys they know, knows who The Phantom is, bought them Pulps and proceeded to beat the living tar out of four mobster muscle men like it was nothing.”

            “That wasn’t beating the tar out of them, that was a mild scolding,” she said with a snort as she took a delicate drink of milk, “And there are lots of girls who know who The Phantom is.”

            He grinned and said, “Plus, I’d never seen anyone move like that before.”

            “Go to China or Japan,” she said with a grin.  Her eyes met his before she asked, “Did anyone have any other problems with those wankers here?”

            He shook his head and said, “Nope, after that night no one heard anything from them anymore, and none of the other gangs took turf here.  That we had some mysterious protector or something.”  He shoved another forkful in his mouth and promptly chewed it before swishing it down with the thick, sweet milk.

            Forest smiled at that and replied, “Well, something like that.  I’m just glad at least this area stayed clean.  I’m still surprised you recognized me though.”

            “Dames like you don’t cross around here that often.  No offense Forest, but you stand out like a sore thumb,” he said with a grin as he gestured to her with his milk glass.

            She sighed and said, “I know, I was hoping the clothing would help.”

            “Nah, someone would be half blind to pass you as a guy,” he said with a smile.

            She grinned at him and said, “I’ve done that before.  I guess I’m getting lax.”

            “So, I wanna know why the hell haven’t you changed in six years?” Tony asked her.

            Forest looked up, shook her head, sighed and then her eyes met and held Tony’s.  He squirmed slightly under that intense gaze as she said, “Well, if you run or bolt, you’re not going to remember this anyway.”  She smiled and then said, “Look at the window and tell me what you see.”

             Tony narrowed his eyes as he looked at the window.  He saw a few cars driving on the night street, people walking around as well as lights gleaming from the street, the cars as well as the buildings around them. He saw his own ghost reflection inspect himself as the table and booth he was sitting in.  In the distance the rest of the diner was seen in the misty reflection of the glass.

            His eyes widened before he spun his head to see Forest grinning lopsided at the window.  However there was no indistinct blond grinning back at them in the glass.  He stared at the lack of reflection before swallowing.  He stared at the blond sitting in front of him as she continued grinning that sardonic grin.

            "There really are such things as Vampires!” the narrator proclaimed at the end right before the theater was flooded with light again.

            He was a little boy again, seven years old staring up at the screen in fear, awe and wonder.  His heart was pounding in his chest as her eyes never left his.  He shifted slightly at her unblinking gaze and blinked three times himself before swallowing.  He ran a hand through his slicked back hair and looked around before meeting her gaze again.

            He blurted, “Can you turn into a bat?”

            “What?” she asked with a bark of laughter before staring at him in disbelief.

            He flapped his hands like wings and asked, “Can you turn into a bat?”

            “Um, no,” she said with a chuckle.

            He looked around and asked, “A wolf?”

            “Not really, but I know people who can.  They’re closer to Lon Chaney than Bela Lugosi though,” she said with a shake of her head.

            He asked, “Mist or fog?”

            “Nope, what you see is what I am and I can’t turn into anything else,” she said with a bemused grin as she curled her fingers into a fist and pointed her thumb at her chest.

            He whispered, “Drink blood?”

            “Reluctantly, yes,” she said as her shoulders slumped and she looked down at the half eaten cobbler in front of her.
            He then smiled and asked, “Can you hypnotize people?”

            “Yes, I can.  I can also talk to people without speaking and read their thoughts,” Forest said with a smile of her own.

            He whistled low, shook his head and said, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

            “You’re not scared,” she said as her smile turned into a teasing sort of grin.

            He shook his head and said, “I already know you’re one of the good guys, why should I be scared?”

            “Well . . . I mean you know,” Forest said awkwardly with a tiny wince and grimace.

            He smiled and replied, “Like I said, you came in the nick of time, saved me from walking with a crutch, beat up the bad guys and made sure they never came back to hurt my family or the rest of the people in the neighborhood.  And you like The Phantom.

            “I also like Batman and The Shadow a lot too,” she admitted with a grin.

            He frowned and said, “I don’t think I’ve read about Batman.”
            “Yeah, he’s a comic book character.  He’s sort of based on Dracula you know,” Forest said as she began to eat her cobbler again.

            He lifted his brows and chuckled at her before finishing the last bite of his dessert.  He pointed his spoon at her and asked, “So, you read so many pulp and comic book stories that you decided to become a hero yourself?”

            “There have been heroes in stories long before the Pulps or comics you know.  Cú Chulainn, King Arthur, Fionn mac Cumhaill, Hercules, and so on and so forth.  The pulp heroes are just the mythological heroes today,” Forest said as she grabbed her milk and delicately sipped on it.

            He blinked and said, “I only know who two of those people are.”

            “Well, you’re not a Celt or have Celtic background, that’s why.  Even though Cú Chulainn could trounce all of them with one arm behind his back you know,” Forest said with a smile before setting her glass down.  She then started to get up, readjusting her long coat around her.  Tony stood up as well and felt heat rise to his cheeks as he fumbled with his hands for a moment. 

            She said, “Well, thank you for the cobbler, it was lovely.”

            “Wait, you’re going to tell me that you’re a vampire and just leave?” he asked with a shake of his head.

            She winked and said, “You’ll see me around.  I promise.  I just have bad guys to pummel, boys in distress to save and all of that.  Evil’s afoot and I must be off.”

            “Ah, well, thank you,” Tony said as she started to head out of the diner.  She turned to smile at him before walking out the door.  He jumped on the booth to track her progress, but she was gone.


            Tony stretched in his office as he looked around at the various movie posters he had framed over the years.  He checked his watch and looked outside.  The sky still had streaks of pink staining the deep blue and there was a faint glimmer of red.  He still had a few minutes, but those few minutes were always seemed like lifetimes to him.  He lowered his arm and stood up from his overly plush seat at his desk to walk around the office. 

            Outside he heard mulling about and teenagers laughing.  The popcorn machine was popping at a rapid rate, the soda fountains were gushing enthusiastically, and the theater was turning a profit on cinema and junk food.  He chuckled at the sounds as he wrapped his hands around his left thigh to move the prosthetic leg there.  His joints creaked in protest, but he kept moving to get the blood flowing back into the stump so he could walk without too much of a limp.

            It was ironic, but even after almost forty years cellulite still held its precious spell over him.  As he had once joked to a friend it was in his blood, and if you cut him film would spill out and not red liquid.  It was one of the reasons he’d taken the old theater from his father and was turning an even bigger profit by showing first run movies and special nights were he’d show the old Universal monster movies when school wasn’t in session.

            However, this new studio from England named after some tool had been getting quite a bit of buzz with its brightly colored blood and heaving bosoms of nubile young women.  He hadn’t seen any of that stuff yet, but he’d gotten it and he was going to see it with his friend.  If she ever shows up on time, he thought with a sigh as he ran a hand through his peppering hair.

            “Hey, I’m on time, your watch is fast,” the familiar husky voice said petulantly behind him.

            He spun around to see the slim blond standing there in tight dark blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a black biker jacket complete with zippers over the outfit.  Her hair was up in a pony tail, with a red scarf tied jauntily at her throat, she always had her throat covered by something, and she was wearing red lipstick.  He smiled at the sight of her looking so much like a rebel youth even though he knew that she was over a thousand years older than he was.  Tony limped over to him with his arms out and she hugged him with a chuckle.

            He said, “Ah, you haven’t changed a bit!”

            “It’s my lifestyle,” she drawled as she let him go and looked him over.  She said, “You look great though!  How’s the leg?”

            Tony grinned as he knocked on it and said, “Knock on wood, Fore.  It only really bothers me when it rains.”

            “I’m sorry,” she said with a sigh as she looked away.

            He shook his head and said, “Don’t be.  Wasn’t your fault.  Besides, I have this neat little Purple Heart I can show off to the kids, showing that Daddy was a real war hero.”

            “How’s your wife anyway?” Forest asked with a grin.

            He twisted the white gold band on his finger with a smile and answered, “Pregnant again actually.  I bet she’d be pitching a fit when she finds out I’m with some pretty blond girl.”

            The vampire’s smile was sad as she said, “Congratulations, are you still trying for a girl?”

            “Yeah, that’s what Mia wants, but I think by kid number four all I’m shooting out is boys,” Tony said dryly as they started to head out of his office.

            She asked, “So, are you ready to see if Christopher Lee’s Dracula holds up to Bella’s?”

            “Fore, Bella Lagosi was a better vampire than you are,” Tony said with a grin as she helped him to the theater.

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