The crucifix was ornate and sparkly, and Adam pounced on it. ”Ooh, will you look at this! How very Madonna. I love it! I call dibs on using it for the grand finale.”
”I will not have you bring that tacky piece of fascist bijouterie into our show, thank you very much,” said Bernadette.
”Madonna is not a fascist,” said Adam, clutching the crucifix to his frilly green brassiere. ”And what of Mitzi's quaint little uniform?”
Tick raised both hands. ”Don't drag me into this!” He was already feeling self-conscious in the pink flip-flop outfit; a catfight about his other ensembles was the last thing he needed.
Bernadette flicked away the protest. ”Kink doesn't count.”
”Well, then.” Adam's jaw set in a manner that would have been rather masculine if he hadn't offset it by pouting. ”This is kink.”
With that, he dropped the pendant in his shopping basket and moved on to the scarf stand.
Bernadette tightened her fingers to an imaginary choke grip, which made Tick smile.
”Let him have a bit of Madonna,” he said. ”Not at the grand finale, of course. Somewhere in the middle.”
”Oh, if you must,” Bernadette grumbled. ”This trip would have been so much easier if we'd just left that at home.”
”I know, dear.” Tick patted her shoulder in as consoling a manner as he could manage. ”Don't worry. It will all be fantabulous once the show is finished.”
”I'll hold you to that promise,” she muttered and walked off to see if there was anything remotely buyable in the God-forsaken shop.
”Something's different,” Bernadette said, leaning her head back against the pillow to keep the wet cloth in place over her eyes. ”I can't name it, but...” She spread out both hands and listened intently. ”Ah. No prattle. No singing. The hellspawn is elsewhere?”
”With a local boy,” Tick said, lighting a cigarette.
Bernadette opened her eyes, which caused cucumber juice to trickle into them. She blinked, winced, and tore off the cloth. ”Oh, is that something we want to do now?”
”All velvet and satin – our Felicia will have him on his knees in no time.”
The door flung open and Adam staggered inside, hand pressed against his neck. ”Ladies, I think I may faint.”
”Looks like somebody's a bit smitten,” said Tick and put out his cigarette.
”Spare me the details,” Bernadette said, only to jump to her feet when she noticed the blood seeping out between Adam's fingers. ”My God! What happened?”
The two of them lowered Adam to the bed, and Tick, in lieu of bandages, grabbed his least favourite underskirt to stop the bleeding.
”I am feeling a tad lightheaded at the moment,” Adam said, his eyes fluttering to a close, ”but I think I can draw a conclusion, based on the available evidence. One, fashion style. Mitzi?”
”You look terrible,” Tick said, holding the underskirt firmly against the wound. Wounds. Two identical puncture marks – what could have caused them?
”No, no, his fashion style.”
”Oh. Too many black-and-white horror films.”
”If one can have too many of those. Second, biting.” His bloodied hand once again moved towards his neck.
”Third, stopped biting, and indeed recoiled, when he touched this.” Adam pulled out the crucifix.
Tick recalled the look of the wounds, and shook his head slowly. ”You can't possibly mean...”
”Vampire,” Bernadette said. ”Really?”
Adam opened his eyes. ”Really.”
”Well.” Bernadette flexed her fingers and stood up. ”I guess we have to do something about that, then.”
”I feel ridiculous,” Tick said. ”I haven't been woodcarving since school. And even then, I hated it.”
Bernadette moved her knife in steady, determined strokes, careful to keep the blade away from her fingernails. ”It's a question of self-defence. Everyone agrees that vampires can be killed with wooden stakes. Hence, we make wooden stakes. All you need to do is take one end and make it sharper. No one's expecting a piece of art.”
”Mine's a piece of art,” Adam said proudly and tossed it on the table.
Both of the others stared at it.
”No,” Bernadette said, an icy finality in her voice. ”Absolutely not.”
”Jesus, look at those balls,” Tick said. ”And the veins.”
”It got a tad too veiny,” Adam admitted. ”I haven't done any woodcarving since school either. Still, the idea comes through, and that's the important thing.”
”The important thing is killing the vampires,” Bernadette said. ”I've taken a lot from you, but this is a life-or-death situation, and I demand that you approach it with some vestige of seriousness.”
”This will kill,” Adam protested, taking hold of the phallus again. ”It will definitely kill!” He held it up in a dramatic thrust forward-upward, narrowed his eyes, and declared, ”I shall stake you, Mr. Sutherland! I shall impale you upon my mighty weapon until you quiver and moan for my pity...”
”May I practice by killing him?” Bernadette asked Tick. ”Please?”
Tick said, ”I might have nightmares about this. Mr. Sutherland?”
”Kiefer, obviously,” Adam said, breaking character. ”Not Donald.”
”Yes, yes,” Bernadette snapped. ”Terrible taste in boys, terrible taste in fashion... can we please leave off the bitching to focus on the actual work?”
”Look who's talking,” Adam said, rolling his eyes.
”All right, then,” Tick said. ”I'm declaring my stake sharp enough. What's next, garlic?”
”For instance. And we should bring our lighters, in case we need to set the vampires on fire.”
”And booze,” Adam said and started looking through the cabinet. ”Everything burns better with booze.”
”Shame on the booze, though,” said Tick. ”Pick something we won't miss later.”
”I seem to recall something about poppy seeds, too,” Bernadette said. ”Though I can't remember for what.”
”The vampire has to count them,” Adam said. ”It's a stupid tradition, though, I don't think it ever made it into a film, I mean, can you imagine?”
”Ooh, look at you two, vampire geeks all of a sudden.” Tick thought for a moment and then dived in under his cot for a bag of spare sequins. ”Will this do?”
Adam laughed. ”Shiny!”
Bernadette's lips twitched. ”Well, if it works, it'll certainly be interesting to see.”
They found the vampires – three of them – just as Velvet&Satin prepared to bite down on a cute, dumpy redhead.
”Bisexual,” Adam scoffed. ”Figures. Depraved, the lot of them.”
The vampires stiffened, hissed, and the nearest one turned around slowly, yellow predator eyes fixating on them.
”Shut up, Felicia,” Tick said, brandishing his stake as steadily as he could.
”Ooh, I knew you'd take that personally, AC/DC!”
”I'm not...” Tick broke off with a squeal as the nearest vampire attacked him. He managed to plunge in the stake, but at a wrong angle and far too low, so that it stuck in the vampire's stomach. Holding on for dear life, Tick dodged the flailing claws and felt the fangs scrape his shoulder. He suspected that if he hadn't been wearing his jacket, he might have lost a good chunk of arm.
Meanwhile, Velvet&Satin seemed to decide that the interruption wasn't worth losing his meal over, and sank his teeth into the redhead, who screamed and tried to knee him. Bernadette jumped into the fight, ripping the bag of sequins open with the nails on her left hand and, as the vampire turned to give the sequins a puzzled look, used her right hand to stake him.
Adam made a small, discontented noise and watched the third vampire nervously. It was lanky, pale, and almost bald. ”She took my date,” he said. ”I'm stuck with you, aren't I?”
The vampire growled and rushed forward.
”Oh!” Adam lifted the crucifix over his head and held it up. ”Uh, the power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!” He raised his stake and grimaced at the sight of the balls. ”I'll have nightmares about this, now.”
Adam's aim was terrible, but he had the energy and muscles to make up for it. When the first attack didn't take, he struck again, and again, all the while repeating the Exorcist quote and trying to stop himself from closing his eyes. At last, the vampire exploded in a cloud of dust, and Adam blinked.
Bernadette and Tick came rushing towards him, but stopped when they saw that he was still standing.
”What?” he asked. ”You don't think I can take down one pesky little vampire?” The dust got into his mouth, and he stuck out his tongue and shuddered. ”Ugh! Not as sexy as I'd thought!”
Tick shook his head and returned to the redhead, who was scrambling to get her shaky legs in an upright position.
”Are you all right?” he asked.
”I think so,” she said. ”Wha... What are you, anyway? Vampire hunters?”
Tick looked back towards the others and shrugged. ”I like the sound of that.”
”Yes,” said Bernadette, brushing the dust from her blouse. She gave the redhead a beatific smile. ”I suppose we are, at that. Your passing-by vampire hunters, to the rescue.”
”Except you're a bunch of nancy-boys.”
Bernadette's smile froze.
”That's rather rude, after we saved your life,” Tick said. ”Well, I guess a good deed is its own punishment.”
”You know, I have a thought,” Adam said. ”This might make a nice addition to the show.”
”Oh, don't you start again.”
”No, no, think about it!” Adam struck a pose with his hand high in the air. ”A nice, pale moon, some hooowling...”
”Those are werewolves,” Bernadette said. She pushed the sequins away with her shoe and started walking off.
”We can have both,” Adam said, following. ”Peas in a pod. And then, maybe, 'Soul Dracula'?”
”Worst the disco ever produced,” Bernadette said. ”Keep thinking.”
”'My Son, the Vampire'?”
Tick joined them and asked, ”You two aren't seriously considering this, are you?”
”Could be just lovely, with the right music.”
”Which is not Allan Sherman,” Bernadette said scathingly.
The redhead remained on her own, staring after them with a frown on her face. ”Uh... thank you!” she called. ”For saving me!”
Nobody listened. ”Well, I'm not getting anywhere near 'Moon over Bourbon Street',” Adam said. ”And that's final.”