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Authors: Adrienne & Scott Barbeau,Adrienne & Scott Barbeau

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BOOK: Vampyres of Hollywood
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I lowered the gun.

Adrenaline was pounding through my body. My hand was shaking so hard I couldn’t aim the gun, but that didn’t matter because I didn’t know what to shoot at. I didn’t even know what I was looking at.

The albino waded into the heaving mass of bodies and started pulling them off Ovsanna and tossing them aside. It was clear that some were dead and others were terribly injured. When he finally got to Ovsanna, she wasn’t moving. He raised her over his head in both hands like some sort of trophy; then he turned, knelt before the old woman, and laid Ovsanna at her feet.

I was at least two hundred yards away, separated from the room by a wall of glass, but even so, I could hear the old lady’s hideous cackling as she kicked the unmoving body again and again and again….

Chapter Thirty-Five
 

 

I realized something profound before the Ancients descended upon me.

I realized that I hadn’t felt this alive in a century. It is our nature to kill. To rip and rend, to tear and break…and to revel in that destruction. My clan, of all clans, the Dakhanavar, are trained to guard and attack. Tonight, I’d killed a score of Bobhan Sith, Dearg Due,
dhampirs,
and were-creatures. I think I may have killed an Ancient, too—I certainly injured one. Its stinking blood had splashed on my face, and I had a long moment of disorientation as memories of times and places that had never been inhabited by humans crashed into my consciousness.

Well, if I was going to die—and that seemed likely—then at least I’d go out fighting.

I opened my eyes and the pain came, flowing along my outstretched arms and up my legs like hot metal. A misguided sense of pride was all that kept me from crying out; I didn’t want to give those bastards the satisfaction. I was in a basement, dank, musty, and echoing. It stank of old wood and mould, of rotting flesh and decaying meat, of tainted blood.

And pain.

It smelled of pain.

A single bare low-wattage bulb cast yellow light over a ghastly scene. I had been crucified to a stone wall, solid silver rail spikes driven through the bones of my wrists and ankles to pin me to the solid brickwork.

And I wasn’t alone.

All around me, similarly crucified to the basement walls, were the Vampyres of Hollywood.

One by one they raised their heads to look at me—Douglas Fairbanks and Orson, Peter Lorre and Theda Bara, her husband, Charles Brabin, and James Whale, Olive Thomas, Mary Pickford and Pola, even Tod Browning, and the always elusive Charlie Chaplin. Only Rudy was missing.

“Now you mustn’t blame yourself,” Orson said immediately. I had been nailed to the end wall and he was on the wall to my right. He even managed a ghastly smile.

“Who else do we blame?” Theda snarled.

Olive nodded, then grimaced as her weight shifted on her outstretched arms. “It’s because of her we’re here.”

“Ladies, ladies,” Douglas murmured, as cultured and urbane as always. “This is no time for arguments and apportioning blame.”

“Besides,” Peter hissed, “we all know who is to blame!”

“Enough,” I gasped. “Enough.” I turned to Douglas, who was hanging on the wall to my left. “Tell me what happened?” I asked. I tried to wrench my arm away from the wall, quite willing to pull my flesh out over the nail if necessary, but my vampyre metabolism conspired against me. My flesh kept healing around the wound, sealing the silver spike deep within my arm. The same process prevented me from Changing—but even if I had succeeded in a transformation, I would still have been pinned to the wall.

“Save your strength,” Charlie advised.

Tod nodded in agreement. “We tried.”

“Douglas? What happened?”

“Lilith,” he said simply. “Lilith happened.”

“And Rudy. Lilith and Rudy,” Orson added. Although he’d lost some weight, his great bulk pulled him forward, stretching his arms back at a frightening angle.

“The shrew and the slime,” lisped Peter.

Rudy. I should have known.

“Rudy betrayed us,” Douglas said. “We’re sure of it. We’ve talked about it over the past few hours,” he said, nodding to Hollywood’s elite pinned to the basement walls, like so many butterflies. “The attacks on your clan and then your staff were all designed with one end in mind: to bring each of us out of hiding and gather us all together in one place, your home.”

“But you called the meeting, Douglas,” I said.

“Yes, I did, but I realize now it was Rudy who put the suggestion to me. He was adamant that we should all come together to confront you. I remember now that he grew angry when Tod and Charlie refused to come. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, just Rudy being his manipulative self.”

“I wouldn’t go anywhere for that egotistical deviant,” Tod croaked, voice perpetually raw from the Lucky Strikes he never quite gave up.

“Why was it necessary to bring you all together?” I wondered. The pain was making me woozy and slow.

“Do you know where each of us lives?” Douglas asked.

I shook my head, then winced as the effort strained my shoulders. I looked around the room. I knew that Tod had stayed in Malibu and I knew Theda and Charles were in Manhattan, but I’d no idea where the others lived. Only Solgar knew how to contact all the Vampyres—

“Solgar,” I snapped. “Solgar knows.”

“Solgar is Clan Obour,” Peter lisped. “He is above reproach. He would never have betrayed us.”

“I issued the order for Solgar to gather the clan; Rudy kept insisting upon it,” Douglas said. Even though he was in as much pain as the rest of us, his voice was even, perfectly controlled.

“This…all of the…the killings were done so Lilith and Rudy could discover the whereabouts of the Vampyres of Hollywood? Why?” I demanded.

“You’re not old enough to remember when Philip IV moved against the Templars in 1307,” Douglas said. “He knew if he captured some and left others free, then they would attack him, so he sent out sealed secret orders to every bailiff, deputy, and officer in his kingdom with instructions that they were not to be opened until the night of October 12, under penalty of death. On Friday, October 13, five thousand Templars were captured and imprisoned. Only twenty escaped. Philip wasn’t creative enough to conceive of that plan on his own…his mistress at the time was Lilith.”

I closed my eyes and tried to rise above the constant pain and concentrate on what Douglas was telling me. Everything that had happened—the deaths of my clan and my staff—was nothing more than a ploy to rouse the elusive Vampyres of Hollywood from their hiding places. Obviously they had been tracked from my home back to their lairs. My eyes snapped open. “And the Ancients?”

Douglas nodded. “She needs the Ancients. No ordinary vampyre,
dhampir,
or were-creature is strong enough to stand against us alone. But the Ancients…the Ancients, especially banded together, have the power to destroy us.”

“Three came to my house in Silver Lake,” Peter Lorre whispered; then his lips twisted into an ugly smile. “I may have killed one—”

Pola nodded. “Two came for me.” She shuddered. “I swear I will never grow that old, that ugly. I will destroy myself first.”

A thought struggled through my pain. “Why wasn’t I taken with the rest?”

“I had an altogether more fitting end for you, my dear.” Rudolph Valentino came down the stairs. He stepped into the basement and walked slowly down the middle of the room, his dark eyes lingering on each crucified vampyre. Gone was any vestige of Rolph Valenti; no pretense that he was a theatrical agent. He hadn’t shaved and he was wearing his costume from
The Son of the Sheik:
high black boots over flowing pants, a brocaded blouse and vest, a cummerbund, a cloak, a scimitar, and a headdress. He looked like he’d lost his mind.

Pola screeched and struggled against the spikes as he walked past her with barely a second glance. A ghost of a Change briefly warped her face into something feline, before the pain of the spikes in her arms brought her back to her human form.

When I first met Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filiberto Guglielmi di Valentina in 1918, he’d just arrived from New York, where he’d been working as a gardener, a dishwasher, and a dancer. It took three years in Hollywood before he got his first break in
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
and his nickname Tango Legs. When
The Sheik
appeared later that same year, “Tango Legs” gave way to “Latin Lover.” He was handsome, charming, a wonderful actor…and completely self-absorbed. Along with millions of other women across the globe, I fell instantly in love with him. And I believe he loved me. Briefly. As much as Rudy could love anyone. I Turned him, made him vampyre to preserve his beauty and, in truth, to keep him for myself. That didn’t work. What can I say? I was young; I was in love.

Calling upon all my reserves and more than a century of acting skills, I kept the pain out of my face. “How long have you been plotting this, Rodolfo?” I knew he hated being called Rodolfo; it reminded him of his middle-class Italian upbringing.

“Decades, Ovsanna, decades.”

Rudy stopped directly in front of me. I was pinned two feet off the floor, so he had to look up into my face. He had looked dissolute yesterday, but today he was even worse. The bruises beneath his eyes and his black tongue suggested that he was overindulging in blood, and probably tainted blood at that. I could smell its rancid stink.

“Once Hollywood belonged to me.” Rudy tossed his headdress off his face with a carefully practiced gesture. All he needed was a camera. “I was the most famous actor of my day.”

Douglas and Charlie both stirred and opened their mouths to respond, but Rudy pressed on, lost in his own private fantasy.

“My career should have spanned decades. But you convinced me otherwise.”

“I told you if you died, then you would become immortal,” I said through gritted teeth. “You needed to disappear, Rodolfo. You had made too many enemies, both mortal and immortal.”

Rudy spun away, cloak swirling behind him. “You became jealous of me. All of you. I was a threat to your egos. You made me die too young.”

“It was a beautiful funeral, though, much grander than mine,” Olive observed.

“I’m sure you all enjoyed it,” Rudy snarled, glancing sidelong at Pola. “Walking those eleven blocks jammed with eighty thousand of my distraught fans, I realized then what a mistake I had made.”

“You could have come back,” Charlie suggested, his British accent still clear after all these years. He nodded towards me. “You could have done as Ovsanna has done: come back as a son or grandson. Valentino’s son would have worked.”

“You killed me,” he snarled, no longer pretty. “Wrote me out of Hollywood history.”

“Hardly,” Orson protested.

Rudy ignored him. “So I decided to destroy you…but more, much more than that, I decided to reclaim my city.”

“It was never your city,” I reminded him.

“It should have been.” He returned to stand before me. “I once asked you to marry me.”

“August 1925,” I said.

He blinked slowly, perhaps taken aback that I remembered. His black tongue curled across his lips. “You should have said yes.”

“Rodolfo, you didn’t love me. You wanted to make Natasha angry. I loved you once, Rudy, when I Turned you, but not then. Then, I knew who you were, what you were really capable of.”

“You should have said yes,” he repeated, eyes glazed and distant. “We could have ruled Hollywood. Chatelain and Chatelaine, Master and Mistress of the most powerful city on earth. Think of what we could have created, Ovsanna! We could have made an empire.” For a moment, emotion overtook him and I watched the Change flicker across his face: his features turned lupine and vicious. He shrugged and his face resumed its human form. “But no matter. It was you who taught me the value of time, Ovsanna. So I waited. I spent decades tracking Lilith’s whereabouts and then invited her to Hollywood as my guest.”

So the mystery of Lilith’s sudden appearance in California in the late sixties was finally explained. I’d always thought Manson had something to do with it.

“So tonight the old order changes.” He spun back down the room and drew the scimitar. This was no movie prop; the edge glittered in the light of the basement’s single bulb. “Tonight the Vampyres of Hollywood die the One True Death. At sunrise, Lilith and I will claim Los Angeles as our own, Master and Mistress of the City of Dreams.”

“And the rest of my clan?”

“Why, they will swear fealty to the new chatelaines. They’re actors, Ovsanna, most of them. They don’t care who represents them as long as they get work. My London agency will open an office in Hollywood; maybe I’ll take yours. And Anticipation will need a new studio boss. I can do what you’ve been doing and I can do it so much better. Perhaps it’s time for…
The Return of the Sheik,
time to introduce the world to the ‘new Valentino.’”

Pola spat at him, “What’s happened to you, Rudy? We are your friends, your admirers, your family in blood. You can’t destroy us. You can’t.”

“You are all nothing to me. I can destroy you, all of you, and I will. The Ancients will do it for me; they worship Lilith.”

“But not you,” I reminded him.

“They will,” he said confidently. He gestured around the room with the sword. “Tonight we dine on vampyre flesh, we sup vampyre blood. The youngest of you is nearly half a millennium, the oldest close to a thousand years old. Lilith has promised me that eating your flesh will grant me a lifetime of memories, knowledge, and experiences. No single vampyre has ever drunk the blood of eleven of the most powerful vampyres in the world. I will experience all the lives you have lived, and all that you have done. That will make me the equal of Lilith.”

Chaplin stirred. “There are twelve of us here. Who escapes your Last Supper?”

“Ah, yes, the lucky one,” Rudy whispered. He walked down the basement to stand below me again. “Lilith has a special treat in store for you.” His voice was rising, bloody black spittle flying from his lips. “You could have made me the ruler of Hollywood, you could have saved me, but no…no, you refused me; you forced me to die, destroyed my career, my life, cast me out into the shadows, where I watched lesser talents claim my throne.”

“Steady on,” Orson muttered. “You were a pretty face, Rudy. You were never that good.”

“It is not enough that I kill you, Ovsanna Hovannes Garabedian; I must destroy you, ruin your name and your reputation, ensure that you are written out of the annals of Hollywood.”

My senses flared and I knew what was about to happen even before Ghul appeared at the other end of the basement holding the limp body of Maral in his arms.

Rudy drove his sword into the floor and took Maral from the ghoul’s white hands. Then he turned and held her up to me like an offering. I smelled her sweet perfume and the bitterness of fresh blood on her flesh. There was a bruise over her right eye, a thin cut above her eyebrow.

BOOK: Vampyres of Hollywood
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