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Pearl looked at the “us versus them scorecard” Skinner left her on her ice box before he left Pearl's boarding house. The “scorecard” listed the differences between vampires with their origins in Europe, specifically a group of them led by B.D. Bloch, and the vampire Skinner was, a mutation of the European vampires. Bloch's vampires fed off of Pearl and left her for dead. Hattie, her roommate, borrowed a car and ended up traveling thirty miles away from Los Angeles, close to Claremont, California, to find Pearl. Back in Los Angeles, Pearl succumbed to her wounds and died. But with a few drops of his mutated blood, Skinner brought Pearl back to life in the hospital morgue she was left in. He even was kind enough to bring Pearl back to her bed in her room in the boarding house.

The information on Skinner's “scorecard” was vague. Pearl concluded the European vampires couldn't handle sunlight the way Skinner and she could, and the European vampires could be harmed by wood. Everything else Skinner left on the “scorecard” was trivial, like Skinner's dislike of the clothes Bloch and his fellow vampires liked to wear.

Before Pearl could finish reading the list—she made it to the “us” part of the list, where “us” meant Skinner and herself—Pearl's door opened again. It was Skinner.

Pearl looked at Skinner. “I thought you were leaving.”

“Changed my mind, Dolly. There's something about you.”

“You said I had spunk.”

“I like that spunk. I think I need to give you a little bit of guidance. I forget it's kinda hard realizing some people need guidance when you're the first of your kind.”

“So I'm your friend now?”

Skinner shrugged. “I did try to warn you about Bloch, didn't I? You finish my scorecard?”

“No.”

Skinner grabbed the scorecard, crumpled it up, and threw it out of a window. “Since I'm here to guide you, you won't need that anymore. Let me show you what I have in the closet for you.”

“Your little surprise.”

“Follow me.”

Skinner led Pearl to the closet and opened it. The man inside the closet started screaming at the sight of Skinner. “Miss, miss, you've got to help me! This man kidnapped me. I was leaving my dressing room when this fiend grabbed me from behind—”

“I know you,” Pearl said, her voice filling with rage. “You're Chase Hamilton.”

“How?”

“You don't remember me? We did some scenes on Bloch's new movie together.”

Hamilton blinked. He shook his head. “No, I don't remember you.”

“And you let them kill me!”

It was when Pearl felt rage when she realized what those teeth behind her normal teeth were. Long canines from the bottom of her mouth, and longer canines from the top shot out of her mouth. Her fingers grew longer, thinner. The nails on her fingers were pointed. She hissed.

Hamilton screamed “no,” but it wasn't enough to stop Pearl. Consumed with her newfound thirst for blood, she sank her fangs into Hamilton. Pearl was irritated when Hamilton was able to get away from her, but she soon learned one of the differences between her and the European vampires. The European vampires never paralyzed Pearl when they were feeding off of her. Pearl's bite, through a snake-like venom, was able to paralyze an adult man. Pearl and Skinner followed Hamilton and found him clinging to the boarding house's staircase.

“Don't you have work today?” Skinner asked Hamilton.

“Yes.” Hamilton's voice was a whisper.

“Pearl, you know where he works.”

Pearl, still in her monstrous form, nodded. “I can't wait to gobble you up,” she said to Hamilton with a gleeful tone and a smile. She remembered it was Hamilton who said Bloch was going to gobble her up while inviting her to Bloch's house. And it was the party at Bloch's house where Pearl, as well as other women who worked as extras for Bloch's studio, were attacked by Bloch and his fellow vampires.

“Not yet, Dolly. Let's escort him to work. But you need to calm down. Don't wanna be stopped by the cops looking like this.”

 

Skinner covered the bloody gash in Hamilton's neck as he helped Pearl take Chase back to his dressing room at Bloch's studios.

Skinner threw Chase against his dressing room mirror. Pearl sunk her teeth in Chase's body, ripping and spitting out pieces of his flesh and rib cage on his dressing room floor. Pearl bit through muscle and various veins and arteries to suck Chase's blood. She nearly drained Chase dry from feeding on him, leaving him a pale and emaciated mess against his mirror.

Skinner grinned after Chase was dead and Pearl was finished feeding. “I pity the person who has to clean that up.” He turned to Pearl. “Remember what I told you about lookin' normal again. Think of something. Whatever calms you down, Dolly.”

Pearl once again thought of the only thing not attached to Skinner or Bloch: her family. She thought of her mother, her father and her siblings. She even thought of Hattie, although Hattie knew who Skinner was, somewhat. Pearl was sure Hattie didn't know Skinner was a vampire. Her nails started to retract. Her fingers shrank back to their normal, human size. Her fangs retracted back into her mouth. And once again, Pearl looked human again, or as close as human as she could get now.

“I have to go home,” Pearl said to Skinner..

“I wouldn't do that. Don't you live with that redhead?”

“Yes. My friend Hattie.”

“That's why you can't go home. Think about it, Dolly. She know you're dead?”

Pearl remembered being taken to the hospital and remembered seeing Hattie as well as a group of doctors before she died. “I think so.”

“You're staying with me for a spell.”

Pearl blinked. “A spell?”

“'Till we get to Bloch and the rest of those cheese-eating vampires. That Hamilton guy's a start. We're sending Bloch a message.”

“You think Bloch's looking for us?”

“Me. He doesn't know about you yet. Bloch knows me. He'll think it's me. So he'll send some goons over to try and find me. I think it's time for you to have your coming out party. You know, like those frou-frou de-bu-tants.”

“We're going to stay in this studio and wait until Bloch sends someone to investigate Hamilton.”

“Right.”

“That's boring.”

“We can make it fun. We can look for some wood and candy.”

“Candy?”

“The candy's for me.”

“Why do you like candy so much?”

Skinner shrugged. “I just do.” He noticed a Ronson lighter beside Hamilton's corpse. “I told you those vampires don't like sunlight. You know what else they don't like?”

“What?”

Skinner pointed to the Ronson lighter. Pearl grabbed it.

 

Skinner couldn't find any candy on the set. But he did find a couple of pieces of wood thick enough to turn into stakes from an empty set with a log cabin on it. He also snatched up some rope and a couple of knives from the same set. Skinner handed one of the pieces and a knife to Pearl.

“Let's carve some stakes while we wait for some of Bloch's friends,” Skinner said.

 

By the time Skinner and Pearl were done with the stakes, a car pulled up at Bloch's studios. Skinner and Pearl sneaked into the indoor parking for the studio and hid.

“I know them,” Pearl said as the occupants of the car stepped out.

“Do tell.”

“The blond guy's Tad Chesterfield. He's a big movie star. And I saw the blonde woman at Bloch's party.” The blonde woman was named Lucia.

“You think she's one of them? Never seen her before.”

“She probably is. I think the other guy's her lover.” The other guy, a guy with black hair and pale skin, was named Edgar. Both Lucia and Edgar were European vampires; you could see it in their yellow-orange eyes. Tad, on the other hand, was human.

“They're probably here to inspect Hamilton's body and report it to Bloch.” Pearl pointed at the motorcycles in the garage. “There are some motorcycles, Skinner. Let's follow them when they leave.”

“Kick the kickstands, roll them out quietly, turn them on, and we'll be on their trail in minutes, Dolly.”

“Off them one by one.”

“That's what I mean by using your instincts, Dolly. But right now, we're lyin' in wait.”

“If we're going to be transients for a while, at least learn my name. Pearl Jones.”

Skinner blew a raspberry. “Nah. I like Dolly better.”

 

Pearl and Skinner, stakes firmly tied around their waists, and the lighter firmly tied around Pearl, waited until Tad, Lucia, and Edgar went back in their car and the other people in the studio's garage went back to the studio. Pearl and Skinner kicked the motorcycles' kickstands, rolled the motorcycles out of the studio, and turned the motorcycles on.

Pearl and Skinner followed the car riding side by side at first, . Pearl sped up as soon as she saw the car. Using her monstrous form, she ripped the roof of the car off and threw Tad out. Skinner stopped his motorcycle at where Tad was thrown out of the car. Tad was scratched up by Pearl's nails, but he was still alive.

Skinner bared his fangs at Tad before hiding them again. “Changed my mind,” Skinner said to Tad. “I was going to have you for myself, but I need you to send a message. Tell Bloch ole Skinner and his girl Pearl send their regards.” He road his motorcycle down the street and drove it off the hill, following where the car and Pearl crashed.

By the time Skinner arrived where the car had crashed, Pearl had torn Edgar's face off and stabbed him with her stake. Lucia escaped the wrecked car and was engaged in a fight with Pearl. And Lucia was losing. No way Lucia's claws could compete with Pearl's longer, sharper ones.

Lucia tried to stand up and charge against Pearl, her last stand. She didn't even get to meet Pearl's claws one last time. Skinner appeared behind Lucia and stabbed her with his stake, the wood passing cleanly through Lucia's body, killing her. “Hi, Dolly. Still got that lighter?”

Pearl took off the lighter from her rope. “I do.”

“Let's have a barbecue and roast some vampires.”

Skinner grabbed Lucia's corpse while Pearl grabbed Edgar's. They threw the bodies on the car's wreckage. Pearl threw the lighter inside the car. It took a while, but the lighter started a blaze that could be seen from miles away from the Hollywood Hills.

After the fire started burning out of control and Pearl returned to her human form, Pearl and Skinner fled the wreckage. The fire department was going to come to the wreckage at any moment.

 

It was good Pearl and Skinner fled the wreckage of the car and the motorcycles. Night fell over Los Angeles. But the moon was not out. It was a new moon.

Pearl and Skinner were long out of the way of the wreckage, in the Hollywood Hills. But they couldn't move. They were huddled together, Pearl in Skinner's arms, looking at the sky.

“Why didn't you say no moonlight was a weakness of ours?” Pearl asked Skinner.

“Never had that problem, Dolly. Guess I found my way indoors when the moon wasn't out.”

“You're lying.”

Skinner looked up at the sky again. “Okay, maybe I lied. Been alive for over seventy years, a vampire for...I don't know, but it was 1909 when I saw the sun again. Can't remember everything.”

“So we're going to be stuck like this until the sun rises.”

“Exactly, Dolly.”

They said nothing. They couldn't think of anything to say. Then Pearl broke the silence: “Why'd you create me?”

“Your country's celebratin' one hundred and forty-nine years of bein' founded. Wanted you to stick around for that.”

“That's not a good reason to keep me alive, Skinner.”

“It's the truth.”

“It might be the truth, but there's more you're not telling me.”

Skinner groaned. “All right. I turned you so I could use you against Bloch.”

“What?”

“I really did try to warn you about Bloch. You wouldn't listen. I sensed you comin' back to that hospital.”

“Why didn't you save my life?”

“Dolly, I ain't related to you. You think I could make my way past those doctors without biting them?

“Thought you'd be perfect to go after Bloch. He lured you to his party. He attacked you. Thought you'd have enough rage to tear him apart yourself after you became a vampire.”

“How sure were you that I wouldn't die while trying to kill him?”

Skinner shrugged. “If you didn't finish the job I would've came back...about ten years later, I guess.”

“Ten years later?”

“I was goin' to Las Vegas. Make a little money there somehow. And then I'd come back to LA and kill Bloch myself.”

Pearl kicked Skinner. “You bastard.”

“I was sure I didn't care about you.”

“It sounds like you don't care.”

“To tell you the truth, Dolly...I kinda care. Been a while since I had a partner.”

“Like me?”

“No. I was thinkin' of someone I wouldn't fuck in a million years.”

“Prostitute?”

“Good guess. I haven't had one of those in a while. But I was thinking of someone else who's dead, I think.”

“Skinner, I feel something. Did you keep your stake somehow?”

Skinner looked down. “Nah, Dolly, I think that's my big one.”

“Pervert.”

“But that's a lesson, Dolly. Those cheese-sniffers can't fuck. All they can do is prey on everybody they think is weak. And that's a whole lot of people.”

“You want to fuck me?”

“If you want me to, Dolly. I can back away and stroke my big one on the dirt.”

“No.” Pearl's voice was low. “I want this. I had a rough day. I'd like to forget it.”

“You sure, Dolly?”

“Make it rough.”

Skinner ground into Pearl's ass. Pearl was irritated Skinner didn't consider himself hard yet, that he was rubbing himself off on her, in a way. She wasn't expecting to wait. But she didn't say anything. Skinner was young when he died, then mutated, then turned. Who knows what might have happened if Skinner turned into what he was when he was, say, seventy-five and maybe impotent.

And yet, the feel of Skinner's erection excited Pearl. She'd been so busy trying to get a job in Hollywood. She needed to pay for the room she shared with Hattie at the boarding house. Hell, she was trying to make enough money for Hattie and herself, since Hattie wasn't as lucky at finding roles the way Pearl was. There was hardly any time for romance, let alone sex, for Pearl. Death freed Pearl from everything she was trying to do before her death. There was no way she'd be a movie star now, not unless she did a good job pretending she wasn't herself when she was in her fifties or so. And Pearl couldn't show up at the boarding house, not when Hattie was, by now, convinced she was dead. Pearl could finally let go. Pearl had no idea how well Skinner could fuck a woman, but she didn't care. As long as he was hard, she wanted him inside of her. Waiting for him to figure out how to hike up her dress while the moon wasn't out made her want Skinner more. To her surprise, she discovered she was wet. But she still had to wait for Skinner.

Skinner's right hand hiked up Pearl's dress and camisole. Half-inch by half-inch, Skinner was able to pull up Pearl's dress and camisole, getting it covered with dirt.

“Almost there, Dolly,” Skinner said, now fumbling with the zipper of his jeans. With his jeans unzipped, Skinner pushed down his pants. Pearl wasn't surprised Skinner wasn't wearing underwear.

Pearl felt Skinner trying to guide his way to her pussy. She could sense he was hard; every time he tried to enter her, he kept rubbing on her lips. Pearl bent her legs as much as she could and guided him inside her.

Pearl wasn't expecting to gasp when Skinner entered her. It had been so long since she felt something between her legs. She'd forgotten what that felt like in her search to pay the bills.

“What are you waiting for?” Pearl was hissing. “Fuck me.”

“That's what I'm doin'.”

Skinner grabbed Pearl's waist and went at it. Pearl tried to concentrate on Skinner, but her mind started to wander. She thought about being separated from Hattie only because she was undead and Hattie was not. She thought about Bloch. She thought about Skinner turning her only to cowardly settle his grudge with Bloch. And all for what, something in Las Vegas? This was why she was letting Skinner fuck her, so she could get her mind off of everything that happened to her over the span of several hours.

“Harder, Skinner. Harder.”

Skinner obeyed Pearl, grunting as he did so.

Pearl finally found herself forgetting about her life before her death and her recent woes, focusing on Skinner's motions and how they made her feel. Between the two of them, there was an absence of heat. They were dead. Pearl assumed she'd never feel body heat again, at least between two vampires. If there was any body heat between them, it would be a surprise to her. But she liked how Skinner gripped her ass, and she liked his motions enough to rock in time with him.

Pearl's sharp gasps turned into stammers and moans. Skinner was good at this. She wasn't expecting Skinner to bite her shoulder, but she liked it. The teeth Skinner was born with felt amazing, but the pain she felt from Skinner's fangs scraping her shoulder sent her over the moon. That pain was what she felt she needed to feel. If more physical pain caused her to forget about her own emotional pain, if only for a short while, she was fine with it.

Pearl knew Skinner was done when he pulled out of her. She felt come spurting out of him and landing on her thigh. At first she panicked; what if she found out she was pregnant? Then she relaxed; she had never heard of a pregnant vampire. Theda Bara's vampire didn't get pregnant in A Fool There Was. She assumed she wouldn't get pregnant from Skinner's come, either.

But Pearl was still angry. Here was Skinner, panting and moaning from fucking her, and she hadn't even come yet. Pearl reached down between her legs and finished the job, moaning as she reached her climax before passing out, feeling weaker, but much more satisfied, than before.

 

Morning came. Pearl and Skinner cleaned up the best they could. Then they started walking.

“I don't understand why we're walking,” Pearl said to Skinner. “Aren't we going to get revenge on Bloch?”

“We are, Dolly. But I'm looking for wood.”

“But where are we walking?”

“A studio. Somewhere away from Hollywood. Don't know exactly where it is yet.”

“We're headed towards Los Feliz.”

“That's exactly where we're going.” Skinner pointed to a building in front of him. “The Vitaphone Studio. I bet they've got plenty of wood in there. Maybe they have some nightsticks for the coppers there, just like my nightstick.”

“I don't want to hear about your nightstick right now,” Pearl said.

 

Skinner and Pearl took whatever wood, rope, and knives they could pilfer from the Vitaphone Studio and headed back to the Hollywood Hills, hiding in the Runyon property, a canyon. The wood they stole came in different sizes. Skinner carved a couple of the more prism-like pieces into stakes. Pearl carved a flatter piece of wood into a sickle-like piece and tied it to a longer, skinnier piece of wood.

“Why the sickle, Dolly?” Skinner was refining the point on one of the stakes.

“My daddy reaped and sold wheat growing up. I always wanted to be like him. He'd always tell me I couldn't reap because I wasn't born a man. Guess this is my way of idolizing him.”

“So if you could reap wheat, you wouldn't be out here.”

“I always wanted to be an actress. Besides, Daddy's farm failed before I came out here. I'd have to find my own land if I wanted to farm.”

“You still want to farm?”

Pearl shook her head. “I want to kill Bloch.”

“That's it. Eyes on the prize.”

 

The moon was still not fully out the next night, so Skinner and Pearl hid their weapons under some brush on the Runyon property while hiding themselves in another part of brush. Pearl rested near Skinner again, still huddled near him as if it was a cold winter's day instead of early July.

A light roused her and energized her a bit. Pearl stood up as Skinner remained where he was. It was Tad. “Pearl?”

“Tad? You're alive?”

“Skinner spared my life. Mr. Bloch has a message for you.”

“Let's hear it, Tad.”

“He wants to meet you at the Hollywoodland sign right now.”

“Now? What about Skinner?”

“He doesn't want Skinner. He wants you.”

“I'm not going.”

“He's kidnapped Hattie. He's not going to let her go until you show up at the Hollywoodland sign.”

Pearl whispered Hattie's name. She cleared her throat. “Okay. I'm going.”

Pearl tried to walk, but she fell trying to follow Tad. Tad picked her up and escorted Pearl to his car, a car that Bloch personally owned.

Skinner realized Tad and Pearl were heading to a car that had no business in land they were all trespassing on. They were all lucky the Runyons hadn't chased them off the property yet. Skinner stood up. “Dolly? What are you doin', Dolly?”

Tad helped Pearl to Bloch's car. Skinner caught up with Tad and Pearl and held on to the back of the car as Tad sped off of the Runyon property.

 

It wasn't impossible to drive a car up Mount Lee, the mountain the Hollywoodland sign was on. The actor Harry Neville managed to do it in 1923. But it was tricky.

Bloch ordered Tad to drive up the mountain, right above and behind the sign. There Bloch, his associates, and Hattie were waiting for Pearl. Tad hoped the dirt on the mountain wouldn't give way and crash Bloch's car to the road at the bottom of the mountain. But Tad made it to the top without a scratch on Bloch's car.

Tad escorted Pearl out the car. Bloch told him to drive away as soon as Pearl was at the top of the mountain. The plan was for Hattie to attack Pearl with a silver knife, since silver was a weakness of Bloch and his fellow vampires. Pearl would be wounded enough to fall. Bloch's associates would chain up Pearl, and they'd torture her before killing her. Pearl tried to run back to Bloch's car as it was going down the mountain, but she was too weak to catch up to it.

Tad didn't know Skinner crept into Bloch's car as he was escorting Pearl out of it. Bloch and his associates didn't see Skinner, either, as they were all focused on Tad and Pearl.

Skinner climbed into the passenger seat beside Tad when the car was on the dirt road. He grinned at Tad. “I should've killed you earlier. Then again, you were useful to me, even though you didn't realize it.”

Tad slammed the brakes of the car, but it was too late. Skinner punched Tad in the temple, knocking him out. Skinner placed Tad in the passenger seat of the car and moved over to the driver's seat.

There weren't a lot of places to hide a car on Mount Lee. But aside from the lights on the Hollywoodland sign, it was dark on the mountain at night. Skinner drove far enough to avoid the flickering lights of the Hollywoodland sign.

Meanwhile, back on top of Mount Lee, Pearl stood in front of Bloch, his associates, and Pearl. It was an uncomfortable stillness. Bloch and his associates looked silently at Pearl. One of the associates, a brawny bald vampire, held a large metal cuff in his hands. Bloch held Hattie by her shoulders.

“What's going on?” Pearl said. “Hat, you okay?”

“I'm sorry she has to do this to you,” Bloch said.

Hattie charged towards Pearl and stabbed her with a dagger in her back. Pearl grabbed her, attempting to stop her attack, but the two fell over the edge of the mountain.

Pearl and Hattie spent a while tumbling down the mountain. Hattie lost the dagger and Pearl, despite being stabbed by Hattie, did her best to shelter Hattie from the fall.

They stopped near where Skinner's car was further down Mount Lee. Skinner was out of the car, keeping an eye on Tad. “Climb up, Dolly. We gotta go.”

“Can you help Hattie?”

Skinner blinked. “Your roommate?”

“She stabbed me.”

“We can leave her down there.”

“No. I had to leave Hattie before. I don't care what she did to me. I'm not leaving her now.”

Skinner sighed. “All right, get your girlie in the car. Now. We got a hot car and some free blood. Judging from the blood on your back, you're gonna need it.”

 

Skinner drove from Mount Lee to just outside the Runyon property. The party left the car by the road and retreated to Skinner and Pearl's hiding place on the property. The sun was out by the time the party was back on the Runyon property, so Skinner had his strength and other powers back. He throttled Tad by the throat and dragged him to the hiding place. Pearl had some of her strength back, but not a lot. Hattie was badly hurt from the fall off of Mount Lee, but she was still alive. They carried each other.

“Why'd you stab me in the back?” Pearl asked Hattie.

“Bloch said you'd kill me.”

“I'd kill you?”

“Bloch called me at home and told me to meet him at his studios. He told me you're a vampire now.”

“I am.” Pearl showed Hattie her fangs, not as big as they would be if Pearl was focused on attacking someone.

Hattie was took weak to recoil. “Bloch said you were a bad vampire and he was a good vampire. He'd said you'd come for me and kill me. So Bloch armed me with a silver knife.”

“And set me up so he could enslave me.”

“Bloch lied to me. He told me he'd restrain you until you died. He didn't say he was going to enslave you. But you didn't die with the knife in your back.”

“Silver kills Bloch, Hattie. He's one type of vampire. I'm another. Bloch didn't create me, Skinner did.”

Hattie looked at Skinner. Skinner nodded. “We thought we wouldn't see you again, so I convinced Dolly here to not go back to your place.”

“You saw me die, Hattie. It would've been hard to explain I wasn't dead, that I was more like Theda Bara.”

Hattie nodded again. “I understand.” A pause. “I'm sorry, Hattie. I should've never trusted Bloch. What kind of crackpot keeps a flunky around with irons?”

Hattie and Pearl laughed until Pearl fell to her knees. “I need blood.”

“Take me, Pearl.”

Pearl looked up at Hattie. “You sure, Hat?”

“I wanted to give you blood when you died, but the doctors wouldn't let me.”

“I might kill you.”

“I don't care. Turn me into you. I want vengeance against Bloch. He took away my best friend.”

Pearl smiled. “We may as well stick together.” Pearl bared her fangs. “You're not going to be able to move once I start feeding.”

“I don't care.”

Hattie knelt in front of Pearl. Pearl sank her teeth into Hattie. There was no need to shred Hattie to pieces like Chase Hamilton, not if she wanted to turn Hattie into a vampire.

Pearl held Hattie and taking her to the ground as the venom from Pearl's fangs started paralyzing Hattie. As Hattie was dying, Pearl bit her hand and squeezed out some of her blood on Hattie's lips. “Drink.”

Hattie lapped up Pearl's blood with a smile.

There was a brief, peaceful moment when Hattie died. She woke up with a piercing hunger for blood.

Skinner shrugged. “I'm guessing you want Red to have ole Tad over here, Dolly.”

Pearl nodded.

“Have at it, Red.”

Hattie tore into her first meal as a vampire, turning Tad into gray-looking stew beef.

 

To the surprise of Skinner, Hattie, and Pearl, the car they took from Tad, and by proxy, stole from Bloch, was still outside the Runyon property. They took the car short of where Bloch's residence was in Hollywood. Skinner and Hattie carried the stakes Skinner carved while Pearl carried her wooden scythe.

Not surprisingly for Bloch and his fellow vampires, but very odd for Hollywood, the windows of Bloch's house were painted black. Bloch and his associates may have been able to hear a car approach his property, but they couldn't see Skinner, Hattie, and Pearl approach the house. They walked slowly and quietly, making sure not to make any sudden movements and loud noises.

As the three entered Bloch's house, a reel of the film Pearl and Hattie made with Chase was playing in a movie theater without any musical accompaniment. The sound of a projector running was clear, as was the chatter of Bloch's associates talking about the movie Chase, Hattie, and Pearl filmed before all of them died. The smell of blood, coming from a grotesque sculpture where an elevated and chained corpse, her head covered in a cloth, her arms and arms cut off and capped in metal sockets, and all of it tethered above a large metal dish, was strong.

“Any word on Ms. Jones?” one of Bloch's associates, a balding vampire with mutton chops, asked him.

“Nothing as of yet, but I've sent word to many of our friends. Ms. Jones can run all she wants. Eventually we will—”

Pearl kicked down the door of the lounge. “Find me?”

“Friends? You have friends?” Skinner said.

“I killed one of your friends.” Hattie licked her lips, then giggled. “He was delicious.”

“You sure you have more friends than the ones sittin' around in these chairs?” Skinner added. The bald vampire who had plans to chain up Pearl earlier, and who was sitting in a chair when Skinner said this, was not amused.

“Enough!” the vampire with the mutton chops yelled. “You will never leave here alive!”

“Wanna bet?” Pearl said.

Pearl charged at the vampire with the mutton chops with her scythe, crippling him. Hattie followed Pearl's scythe blow with her stake, stabbing the vampire with the mutton chops until he was no more.

Before Pearl could go after the vampire with the mutton chops again, to make sure he was dead, the bald vampire grabbed a broadsword from a display hanging on the wall. He slashed Pearl in her arm with the broadsword.

"That's not going to work, Baldie,” Pearl said, aiming her scythe at the bald vampire. She knocked the broadsword out of the bald vampire's hands and attacked him with her fangs, paralyzing him. A few swings from Pearl's wooden scythe and the bald vampire was done for.

"Enough!" Bloch yelled, causing Pearl to stop her carnage.

"I'm not going to stop until you're dead," Pearl said.

"My dear Ms. Jones, this is nothing but a mere fight. You see, you and Ms. Hargrove and Mr. Sweet are in the midst of a war, a war in which your mind will never win. You may be stronger than us, but we are many, and we are varied, unlike your kind, an abomination that should not have been allowed to exist.”

"Hey, Dolly? Mind if we switch weapons?" Skinner took the scythe from her hand and gave her his unused stake. Skinner took the scythe and threw it at the blacked window in the lounge, breaking it and letting the sunlight fill the room. "For all your talk, Bloch, I'm amazed you don't get in one of those coffins like Dracula. But why am I tellin' you this?"

Bloch burned quickly to a crisp, screaming as he finally died.

“Pearl, I think we should go,” Hattie said.

Pearl looked at the projector. The movie had stopped playing; the reel ran out before Bloch or one of his associates could load another reel on the projector. “You're right, Hattie. But not yet.” Pearl grabbed the reel. “There's a kitchen in here, right? If Bloch liked to lure girls to his mansion and feed them appetizers and champagne before killing them?”

“I guess so,” Hattie said.

“Let's bake, roommate.”

It didn't take long for Pearl, Hattie, and Skinner to find the kitchen, where there was indeed a stove. Pearl threw the reel on the stove's burner and turned the burner on, a grin on her face.

 

Bloch's mansion was a burnt shell by the time the Los Angeles Fire Department arrived. Pearl, Hattie, and Skinner were long gone. Any evidence the fire was sparked by a reel on a stove was eradicated. Any evidence Bloch was a filmmaker, or even a vampire, was gone.

The LAFD also found Bloch's studio burned down to the ground. The vault room, especially, was heavily damaged. Every film Bloch ever made, every piece of evidence the women Bloch and his associates tricked into thinking they were going to be movie stars, was destroyed.

The LAFD nor the Los Angeles Police Department discovered what, or possibly who, caused the fires.

 

Pearl sometimes went to a club in downtown Los Angeles while she was living. The route she took passed by Central Station. Sometimes Pearl thought about getting off the Red Car she was on, to escape the madness of Hollywood. If she hopped off the Red Car and entered Central Station, she could buy a ticket, get on the Los Angeles Limited, and then make her way home. What kept her in Los Angeles were her dreams of being a movie star and Hattie. Pearl's dreams of being a movie star were over. She had Hattie, though. And she had a new friend in Skinner, or so she believed, even though Pearl still found him repulsive. Now all three of them were on the Los Angeles Limited. Pearl's thoughts of getting back on that train did come true after all.

The train pulled into Las Vegas, which was exactly where Skinner wanted to get off. Hattie, on the other hand, was going to go wherever Pearl was going to go. At that moment, that destination seemed to be Omaha, a step closer to going back to her home.

Skinner stood up in the sleeper car the three were in. He tilted his hat to Pearl and Hattie. “Well, this is where I say goodbye. Shame, really. You two and I could have so much fun here. You sure there's nothing I can do to lure you two off this train?”

“No thanks, Skinner.”

“Maybe I'll be seeing you two again. I'm sure we can come up with plans the next time we meet.”

Skinner walked off the train.

Pearl thought about what she could see of Las Vegas off of the train. Las Vegas was not going to make her a famous movie star. Considering her condition, it was best not to attempt to be famous at all any more. But Pearl sensed an air of possibility around the city. Pearl could make some of her wildest dreams come true here. Maybe she could be famous here. For what, she didn't know. Maybe she'd be infamous here. But Pearl wouldn't know unless she got off the Los Angeles Limited. And besides, there was something about Skinner she found alluring, even though he was a manipulative, somewhat heartless bastard. And he knew how to fuck.

“Hey, Hat, you want to get off the train here? I've changed my mind. Let's have fun with Skinner.”

Hattie nodded. “We can do things here. What can we do in Omaha?”

“I have no idea what we'd do in Omaha.” Pearl grabbed Hattie's hand. “Let's go.”

Pearl and Hattie stepped off the train and caught up with Skinner. “I knew we'd find each other again,” he said with a smile. “Now let's talk about those plans I was talking about earlier.”