Authors: Adrienne & Scott Barbeau,Adrienne & Scott Barbeau
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Fiction
Maral stood by the door and watched the detective amble across the lot towards his car. Her voice was shaking with anger. “What do we do about him?”
“Well, we don’t underestimate him. And we don’t lie to him again. At least,
don’t. He knows you lied.”
“I didn’t really lie. I don’t know why Eva was killed. She wasn’t one of you. Maybe her death isn’t connected to the others at all.” Her anger was giving way to wishful thinking. And fear. I could smell it overriding the Jo Malone Wild Fig and Cassis she must have bathed in.
“You’re too genuine to carry off a lie, Maral. He picked up on it right away. You obviously know more about Eva than you volunteered.”
She turned back to me slowly. Framed in the doorway, with the sunlight turning her blond hair into a white halo of fire while leaving her features in shadow, she was breathtaking. I had to concentrate on the conversation; lust was flushing through my system unbidden.
seeing someone…well, more than one person actually,” she said, coming back into the trailer and closing the door. She opened the fridge and took out a bottle of Xango and a bottle of Defense flavored Vitaminwater. Her hands were trembling as she measured a tablespoon of the Xango and followed it with the Defense chaser and suddenly I realized how hard this must be for her. It isn’t every day a colleague turns up spectacularly dead. Nearly half a millennium wandering this earth has inured me to the sight of death. I’ve seen it in all its ugliness, from individual bodies to entire corpse-strewn fields. Now, only the death of a loved one still has the power to move me; it’s one of the reasons I’ve avoided any close associations in the last few decades. Except for Maral. Eva Casale was an employee, and probably a nice person, but I wasn’t going to get too emotional about her death, nor was I going to make any foolish promises about avenging it. I had to believe that her murder was a warning or a threat, a threat I had to take very seriously. The Vampyre Hunter was showing me that he knew how to kill my kind.
Maral lay back on the couch and stared at the ceiling. She pressed the cold bottled water to her forehead. “There was a time when Eva and I were…involved.”
I’ll be damned. I must be slipping in my old age; I’d never picked up on it. I kept my face expressionless.
“It was a couple of years ago. You were shooting
at Cinecittà in Rome.”
I remembered. Maral had stayed in L.A. to oversee production on our other films. The irony of shooting a movie based on the life of Elizabeth Bathory had rather appealed to me. She was born ten years after me, in 1560, but I never met her. I suppose today she’d be classified a serial killer—650 women, according to the register of names she kept. A thousand more according to the Hungarian emperor, when he finally imprisoned her. To my knowledge, she wasn’t vampyre, just your garden-variety psycho like Vlad III, the Impaler. Evidently she took it into her head that bathing in the blood of young virgins would restore her youthful beauty. This was pre–plastic surgery; she didn’t have a lot of alternatives. She strung them up by their ankles and bled them alive into a nice warm bath. I had a great time playing that scene. Even with fake blood.
“It didn’t last long,” Maral continued, “and when we broke up, we managed to remain friends. She told me recently that she was seeing a new man.”
“‘A new man’ implies that there is an another man.”
“She was having an off-and-on relationship with the preacher I told the cop about.”
I sighed. Preachers, no matter what God they said they worshipped, were trouble. I didn’t like the way the pieces of this puzzle were beginning to slot together. I’ve come close to death on several occasions over the centuries, and with only a few exceptions the Church and religion of one stripe or another had been involved. If it wasn’t the Christians trying to burn me at the stake, it was the devil worshippers trying to sacrifice me to their horned god. I sent them all to their respective makers.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said suddenly. “We’re going to need to get legal advice. I want to talk to Solgar and I can’t do it over the phone.” Maral looked at me blankly. “That detective is going to discover your connection to Eva. He’s already suspicious of my connection to the three dead stars. And…he wants my fingerprints.” I held up my hands. The pads of my fingers are smooth, without whorls or patterns. The anomaly is unique to my Dakhanavar Clan, and I knew with a chill certainty that my non-prints were going to turn up all over poor Eva’s FX hut.
“We’ve got an alibi.”
“Depends on the exact time of death. And we are one another’s alibi. That’s enough to make Detective King even more suspicious; then he’ll really start digging. You know how vulnerable I am to a comprehensive investigation.” Although I have extensive paperwork, the best money can buy—birth certificate, Social Security card, even SAT scores—no paper is infallible. There’s an ancient Celtic saying that translates as “Happy the man who exists unknown to the law.” For generations my race has survived in the shadows. Now technology is making that increasingly difficult. Where the Church and the crazed hunters had failed to eradicate us, twenty-first-century computerized record keeping might prove our downfall.
Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” howled from Maral’s purse as we hurried across the lot. Her latest choice in ring tones. Just when I’ve forgotten how young she really is, her phone rings to remind me of her puerile sense of humor. It was Bobby Wise, the production manager. Officer Gant on the main gate had phoned in to report that the journalists and news vans had arrived. I was surprised it had taken them so long.
The December sun was beginning to dip in the sky and I pushed my Fendi Suns up into my hair to turn my face to the light, delighting in the heat. Start again from scratch and forget everything you know about vampyres: almost none of it is true. And none of it makes sense. An aversion to the cross—why? That wives’ tale came about from the Christians who hunted us down in the Middle Ages. The crosses didn’t do any harm; it was the guys bearing them. And what about Jewish and Muslim vampyres—what effect was a Christian symbol going to have on them? It would have to be a menorah or a crescent, wouldn’t it? Believe me, those don’t work, either.
Vampyre mythology was created mostly by the movies.
I know. I wrote a lot of it.
It’s a mythology that has been informed by books, movies, and, more recently, TV. And most of that was a figment of some novelist’s or screenwriter’s imagination. And since everything they know is built upon a lie, they are simply perpetuating the lie.
I’ve been writing scripts for the past eighty years and rarely have I included any real truths about my kind. So contrary to what people believe, we don’t burn in sunlight, though we are sensitive to the ultraviolet radiation, but that’s to do with diet, we don’t sleep in coffins lined with our own earth, and we don’t crumble to dust when we die: rather, we dissolve into a particularly foul sludge.
Maral and I climbed into the Lexus and used the security code to drive out the back gate, successfully avoiding the media circus that was making Officer Gant work for his money at the front entrance.
“Tell me about this preacher and the new boyfriend,” I said when we finally turned into traffic.
“I only met the preacher once. He came to the studio—”
I hissed in anger. This was pissing me off. I pride myself on knowing everything that’s going on in my studio, and it was fast becoming clear I didn’t. I’d taken my eye off the ball while negotiating the Japanese deal. It didn’t take a genius to work out that Eva had found out about me from Maral and had revealed it to the preacher. A man of God had an obligation to cleanse this earth of the unclean, didn’t he?
“I don’t think he’s involved,” Maral said quickly. “I’m not even sure he’s a real preacher, just one of those guys who puts on a white collar and calls himself a reverend. He also sells star maps as a sideline…,” she faltered, and added, “He conducts those tours that go to all the places where stars have died….”
“Jesus. I’d think after you, Eva would have had better taste in men. So, not only was he a preacher, but he was a preacher obsessed with dead movie stars. Maybe he’d graduated from visiting them to making his own. What about the new one?”
“I never met him,” Maral continued. “I got the impression she was a little in awe of him, maybe even frightened.”
I picked more polish off my nails. “What does he do?”
“No idea. He must be in the business, though, ’cause he was always telling her stuff that hadn’t even hit the trades. He sounded powerful.”
“We need to find out.” I had Peter King on my mind as I sorted through my options. This sudden police interest in the studio might frighten off the Japanese. I’d worked too long and too hard to allow that to happen. The Japanese arrived in three days; Anticipation had to be running smoothly by then. On a personal level, I needed to avoid having my fingerprints taken. I was going to need some subtle and expensive legal help. And I needed to aim the police in a different direction…away from me. For that, I was going to have to do their job for them. Time for
vampyre to hunt the hunter.
“Head over the hill. Phone Ernst Solgar and tell him I’m coming.”
“Just like that?” Maral blinked. Solgar and Solari, Esquires, are the best entertainment lawyers in Century City.
“It’s me, Maral. Solgar will always see me. He has to.”
“Why?” Maral wondered.
“Because I am the Chatelaine of Hollywood.”
Ernst Solgar has been my lawyer for years. He’s also a vampyre. He’s heard every bloodsucking lawyer joke ever told, and passes them on to me via e-mail every once in a while. He’s a rather charming, affable man who could be anything from fifty to seventy—though he’s close to a thousand as far as I know—with a wild head of hair he pays a fortune to keep groomed and old-fashioned circular wire-framed glasses. The glasses must be an affectation. I’ve never known any vampyre who has trouble with his vision.
Ernst is Clan Obour.
The Obour have a single nostril and are without fangs. They take sustenance through a sucker-like opening on the tip of their tongue, but they need an open wound to feed on; they don’t have any way to puncture or slice their host. Not an effective design, if you ask me. Most of them carry a concealed
to do the trick. Solgar has had the surgery that gives him a septum, but I make it a point of never allowing him to kiss my hand. Although he is much older than I am, he acknowledges my position as the Chatelaine of this city. In the
the vampyre bible, ownership of a city is clearly defined as belonging to the first to “inhabit, occupy or possess a township of greater than nine hundred and ninety-nine souls.”
Hollywood is mine. I came here when it was nothing but orange groves. When Samuel Goldwyn was still Shmuel Gelbfisz and before he became Samuel Goldfish, and Hollywood was actually a city in its own right. I inhabited, occupied, and possessed it. When it consolidated with the “City of Angels” in 1910, I became the de facto Chatelaine of the entire L.A. basin. The few vampyres then living in the city acknowledged me as their ruler and swore fealty. Over the decades, the occasional rogue vampyre or mongrel clan has attempted to muscle in on the city. They forget most of us learned our statesmanship in Caesar’s Imperium, the Borgias’ Roma, or the Medicis’ Florence. In my case it was the Paris Terror. I give them a little leeway in the beginning, but eventually those who don’t assimilate we destroy or, perhaps more correctly, we allow the city to destroy. Hollywood can be as lethal to a vampyre as it is to the Warm.
I could tell Solgar’s secretary was a fan from the way she jumped up to greet us. She led us down the long hallway where Ernst displayed his collection of Naïve art—he had two new pieces by Elke Sommer I hadn’t seen before—and into his office, which always looks to me like Pierre Deux on speed.
Solgar came to his feet and scuttled around the French Provincial desk to greet me, both hands held out in front of him in the traditional greeting—a subtle way to show he wasn’t holding a dagger in either hand.
“Ovsanna, Dakhanavar, a pleasure, a pleasure as always.”
“Solgar, Obour,” I acknowledged his name and clan.
I’m five foot six; Ernst Solgar is two inches shorter. Clan Obour didn’t get the height gene. He was wearing a dark blue silk suit that had to be handmade, probably from Savile Row. His shirt was Charvez from Paris and the loafers were Italian, most likely hand-stitched in Rome. Like most of his clan, his feet are tiny. He bowed over my hand but didn’t kiss it, and when he raised his head he nodded to Maral, who hovered by the doorway. She didn’t like Solgar; I’d yet to find a Warm who did. They instinctively distrust both the Obour and Nosferatu Clans and not without reason. In this town, most of them are agents and lawyers. I glanced over at her. “Maral, why don’t you give us a few moments here?” She nodded and slipped from the room without a backward glance.
Solgar & Solari had the penthouse suites at 9200 Sunset, the Luckman Building. Ernst’s office took up the entire east side of the building. Three of the walls were glass and the view out over the city was spectacular, even with the smog touching everything a sulphurous yellow. I stood by the window, taking in the view. Across the street three men were covering the billboard of HBO’s latest cancellation with an ad for a show that wouldn’t last the season. I think they lost their touch when they canceled
“I have a problem, Ernst,” I said, reverting to the Armenian of my far-distant youth.
“I did not think this was social,” he replied in the same language, though his accent was atrocious. It’s hard to speak Armenian when you don’t have a tip on your tongue. “I was wondering when I would see you. The three dead were yours.” It wasn’t a question.
“My Creations,” I agreed.
“Killed in the old ways.”