Do you realize how much trouble you've caused me, Charley? Spying on me. Almost disturbing my sleep this afternoon. Telling policemen about me! You deserve to die, boy. Of course... I can give you something I don't have. It's a choice. Forget about me, Charley. Forget about me, and I'll forget about you. What do you say, Charley?
--Jerry Dandrige to Charley Brewster, Fright Night (1985)
Jerry Dandrige ran one sharp nail along the banister as he stalked out of the shadows. Deep scratch marks were created in their wake, with thin trails of wood falling to the floor. Unnoticed. Forgotten. As Jerry Dandrige gazed down at the intruders in his home, he smiled.
This was a moment that had been anticipated. This was a moment that had been planned for since before he had taken Amy and instructed Charley to come. This had been deliberated upon since a pencil had plunged through his palm, and Charley had rejected his offer. Since he had rejected his opportunity to forget what he had seen and heard. What happened next was all on his head, as he hounded his sleeping hours and dragged policemen to his door in the stark brightness of day.
He had designs on Charley Brewster now. If they were refused this time, if he could not be swayed, this night would end in blood…and, perhaps, a few shed tears for Charley from the others as he tore through the teenager’s jugular. Still, nobody ever said he couldn’t play to expectations. Nobody ever said he couldn’t feel satisfaction in them falling into their perceived roles with perfect synchronicity.
Charley was watching him with wide, terrified eyes. Good. That was his cue, and he casually sauntered closer to the steps, arms crossed. He rarely indulged like this. If the boy gave up now, he could save himself so much pain. If only he would hold up his hands, and surrender. With great relish, savoring each syllable and rolling his r’s for maximum effect, he spoke the only words that suited this situation perfectly.
“Welcome to Fright Night…for real.”
If he were truly as terrible as they believed, he would have bitten Charley as he lay sleeping in his own bed. He would have caused him to forget, and left him reeling in confusion at lost memories. He would have controlled him when he was at his lowest, and sent him to attack first Peter Vincent, and then his best friend. Dear Ed, whose pain he had sensed as the repugnance of the cross blistered and puckered, branding it into his forehead. It was a cruel fate for any vampire. Only death could free him of it.
If he were truly as demonic as they feared, Charley would pay for that affront with the steepest of costs. His free will would be stripped from him. He would bleed him, but not enough to turn him. He would torment him, enthrall him, enslave him, make him a mindless husk that only yearned to serve him, and followed his orders to the letter.
But he knew in the darkest shadows of his heart that that was a bit much. Charley would likely become insane. If he regained his senses, he could burn the house to the ground and refuse to leave the grounds as it fell down around his ears. Just to prove he was free. He was that sort. No. The best option was that which was yet to come.
There was a long moment of silence that amused Jerry. Perhaps they would merely run? No, the wheels were turning in Charley’s mind now.
“Where’s Amy?” Such wide eyes the boy had, as he realized how out of his depth he truly was.
“Up here,” Dandrige said playfully, beckoning them onward. Upstairs. “All you have to do…is get by me.”
A cross was held up, surety it would work the only thing there. A fallacy. “Back, spawn of Satan,” Peter Vincent shouted. The drama was there, but the power that should have been there was not. Laughter was the only response. He was not a vampire newly turned like Ed, still susceptible to just the sight of the object. There must be more.
Charley Brewster and Peter Vincent thought they could sneak into the house of a vampire in the middle of the night, and not draw his attention. They thought they could save Amy. They thought they could be the heroes of the tale, humans against the legend of the vampire, soon to be staking the fiend.
They were wrong.
To prove Dandrige’s power, the cross was crushed without a hint of pain. This man was just playing a role. “Really. You have to have faith for this to work on me, Mr. Vincent,” he spat with condescension. This was too easy. Without hope, without faith, they had not a chance in Hell.
Yet Charley did have faith; enough to make his eyes burn with the puny cross. The boy had one surprise, but it wasn’t going to be that easy. While it may have been enough to drive Jerry into the shadows for an instant, Billy Cole wasn’t a vampire. His faithful servant, best friend, and roommate never strayed too far when he sensed he was needed. It would mean dirtying his hands himself any other day.
A sweeping backhand sent Charley careening over the railing. Peter Vincent was forced to retreat in fear for his life as Charley fell, screaming all the way. A single headshake from Jerry signaled Billy should be ready.
They had rushed into the vampire’s territory, his house. This was his realm, his domain, and they would live or die at his whim. Or, rather, Charley would. Peter he would find in time. It made no matter if it was tonight or the future. He could hear the self-proclaimed actor that had tried to become “vampire killer” shouting for aid as he ran.
None would come. Slowly, surely, he descended to the middle of the staircase.
Charley was struggling to get his bearings and sit up to continue fighting. Charley knew he needed strategies, he needed plans, and he needed a damn flamethrower to burn it all down and a pistol of holy water to shoot what made it out of the flames. All he had left was a single, solitary stake, and the fall had knocked it away. His cross was gone, too. As he moaned on the floor from frustration and pain, he realized he had heard Peter slam the door as he fled. His palm slapped the floor in frustration.
Charley couldn’t hate him for it. If their positions were reversed, and he didn’t throw himself at a monster without thinking, he might have retreated, too. And then he would have run to the closest church, found the first priest and dragged him back to the house. There had to be a lot of faith in a priest, right? It was too late to bring anyone else in now, with his (lack of) plan already in motion.
Charley’s knee was a ball of pain, but it wasn’t fatal. It was bleeding through his pants, so that might be tempting to a vampire on a good day if he wasn’t already on the menu. He ignored it, getting a jolt of hope as he saw where his cross was…beneath the packing crate. He didn’t know where his stake had gone, but if he could reach it…he had all the faith he needed and could drive him back for long enough to get out of this mess. He dove, before shouting out in pain when Billy ground a boot onto his fingers and knocked it further, out of his sight. Out of his reach.
As the boot came down a second time to grind his palm into the carpet, Charley cried out. He impulsively lashed out as Billy increased the pressure; he flung himself onto his stomach, biting the man’s ankle through his sock before his bones could turn to dust. He was victorious in his goal as the pressure lessened…until a horrible taste hit him, and he scrambled into the corner just as Billy began to kick him away.
What was that? Sand and something disgustingly green, viscous and nasty came away as he frantically scrubbed at his mouth and tried not to retch. Billy might have a reflection, but Charley understood that he damn well wasn’t human. Charley wondered what he was, a pod person from Andromeda? Nothing had sand beneath the surface of its skin; nothing that he knew of could survive like that. Maybe there was a legend Ed might have heard about, but he was gone.
The taste was getting worse, and Charley dry heaved until his stomach calmed. Stupid move, stupid! For all he knew, Billy was a human-shaped nightshade plant, and he was going to die in five seconds. He didn’t feel like a poisoning victim. He shuffled until his back hit the corner, never taking his eyes off the guy. He gradually pulled himself to his knees as Billy laughed, and the sludge evaporated where it had spilled. It didn’t smolder on the carpet; Charley’s tongue had not burned out of his mouth. There was no acid. The slimy substance was simply gone, as if it had never been.
The tang was fading now. Charley could think. As he clutched his hand to his chest, he made his next mistake. He looked up…and unthinkingly locked eyes with Dandrige. Those red eyes shocked him, mesmerized him, and ensnared his thoughts. Even from the middle of the stairs, where the vampire casually stood, they could trap him.
Charley couldn’t look away, or reach for anything to aid him. What was Jerry doing to him? He blinked, and saw a dark smile cross the other man's face, before he was suddenly inches from his face, staring into his eyes. Had he moved, or had Dandrige? Charley didn’t know anymore, it felt like everything was falling away. His heart pounded in fear. Something in him just knew without a doubt it was Amy in the club all over again.
He waited (unable to do anything else) with dread for the bite, or for his neck to be broken. The bite never came. Dandrige leaned close to his ear, and Charley could feel the breath on his neck.
A cry welled up within Charley as those eyes burned into him; it was smothered as a clawed finger traced its way down his face and tapped his lips. He was keeping him quiet, unable to squeak out a whimper of fear. The urge slowly faded, as Dandrige signaled him to be calm. Or that he should listen with rapt attention, Charley wasn’t certain. A frantic fear flitted within the teen, as he wondered where Billy was. Was he out back now, digging a grave for him? He remembered the story on the news. Would he find out where the dumping ground for their victims was, once he had lost his head?
“We must speak more when you’ve rested, Charley,” Dandrige muttered before looking over his shoulder with a smile. His head was on his shoulder for an instant, the vampire mocking him. Oh, Billy was over there, Charley realized. He could just make him out in his peripheral vision, collecting the items that had spilled…a cross, a stake; the first broken across Billy’s knee. The creak and thuds made him suspect everything was being thrown out an open door. The loud thump must have been Peter’s prop. Maybe if he knew where to find a crossbow on his allowance, this wouldn’t have gone so wrong so fast. He had another cross; it was hidden in his pants, but it was so small and he couldn’t move his fingers. If only Jerry would let him go for an instant; if only Charley could speak.
Amy would have been safe; Ed would still be human, and not biting people in darkened alleyways for sport. Charley heard a growl fill his head, and his attention snapped back to the creature. “This will be your last chance to make a choice,” the vampire purred.
Sleep. Those red eyes filled his mind. The command vibrated through his skull, to his very being, and he was powerless to resist. It was all Charley Brewster could hear in his head, as Jerry grabbed him by the throat, and stared deeply into his face with those so very red eyes. As he was held, unable to look away, he found he was doing just as commanded as his eyelids fluttered frantically. His eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed into the waiting arms of the vampire with a worryingly contented sigh.
Charley didn’t even have time to worry about the possibility of a concussion from plunging off the railing; he was simply out.
From the back of his mind, the periphery of consciousness, he was distantly aware that he could feel himself being carried like a kitten by the back of the neck, before awareness faded again. It was a dreamless sleep, as much a trance as anything else. He would regain consciousness when the command came. Or, if left alone, when dawn arrived.
Awake. Charley, I command you to…awake!
Charley jerked, blinking awake as his senses returned with a jolt. Beneath his head was a pillow, but Charley knew there was no way in hell this was anything but stark, terrifying reality. His heart thudded, and he gasped air. A hand went to his neck with trepidation. Was this what it was like for Amy after leaving the club? He had slept against his will…even if it was the best sleep of his life, it still scared him. What else had happened? His head was fuzzy. He felt like he was forgetting something important, but shook it off. He had a dim recollection, a hazy impression of being carried like a small child who had tried to stay up past his bedtime. He had been in Dandrige’s arms.
Charley refused to look too closely at the part of himself that found this madness thrilling and almost wanted to be bitten, wanted to give his soul to the night if he was being dramatic, if only so he would know what it felt like on the other end. He shook his head, adamant it was something residual that lingered from his short-lived psychic jolt of a knockout drug.
He looked up…and straight into the eyes of Jerry Dandrige. It was the surprise of the vampire’s face so close to his own that made him fall backwards, off the bed where he had been sprawled. He looked again, and the vampire had stepped around him, standing at the foot of the bed. As he scrambled up, he heard a faint chuckle. How was he to know he was that close to the edge? He didn’t even remember lying down! His eyes squeezed shut, before realizing that was stupid. If Dandrige wanted him, he’d have him if he liked it or not.
At least he hadn’t shrieked. What time was it? Vampire o’clock still, or Jerry would be a pile of ash. But while he was down there…his eyes frantically looked beneath the bed for a weapon. Aside from a stray packing peanut, there was nothing. Packing peanuts were decidedly not things that someone used to defend you from a vampire; that was handfuls of rice in Chinese folklore, according to what Ed had told him.
“Relax, Charley. If you keep that up, I won’t have to lift a finger. You’ll see yourself off into the next life with a broken neck. You’ve already flung yourself over a banister once, with Billy’s aid.” He watched the teenager’s face grimly, waiting for a flimsy attack. The look of his face told him what troubled him. “No, I didn’t bite you. I brought you here to discuss our little…situation,” he sighed.
“I’ll relax if you stay out of my head.” Charley rubbed his face, and then steadied himself as he leapt up and bumped into a table. Could it be, something he could use as a weapon? He felt triumph as he smashed it, and brandished the table leg in front of him with a grin. It wasn’t pointy, but it was a weapon! It could hurt like hell going in! Jerry was watching him, as though waiting for the light to go on, and he frowned. Wait, it didn’t feel right. It wasn’t even mahogany, so he dropped it in the corner. “Damn you. It’s plastic.” It wouldn’t be strong enough.
“The antiques are downstairs,” Jerry conceded. He was humoring him. “Wooden tables threaten lives if they splinter,” was his innocent, though mocking, statement. The wooden furniture was cast aside with the mirrors the night he moved in.
“Where’s Peter?” Wait, no, that much was coming back to him. “Never mind. He ran, didn’t he? He’s coming back!” Unless something happened to him, he would come back. He knew it. He trusted him not to abandon him.
Jerry nodded with encouragement. “I know he is. I can smell him. He’ll be around here somewhere very soon. Billy can entertain him while we discuss a few things.” He could practically hear Charley thinking about the other man being chained up. “He isn’t locked in my basement.” If Charley believed himself to be trapped, what else could he do but talk? He couldn’t wreck anything else.
“Could you let Amy go? You have to let her go,” he sternly requested, ignoring the shaking of his voice. Was it too late? Ed had obviously gone full on vampire relatively quickly, but Amy was still shaking and in so much pain. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did, and looked at Dandrige questioningly. From the piercing look, it was a fragment of knowledge planted in his skull, just like when he’d been ordered to sleep. Charley tried to take a breath and settle down, because otherwise he would dive for the older man and end up being flung out a window. Or he’d just trip over the bed. Again.
“Amy cannot be freed, Charley. My nature doesn’t work like that. That is out of my power. Once bitten, you don’t have the option to take it back. You were too late. So very late, actually.” Jerry offered the boy knowledge. It was like he was discussing being late for a bus, as opposed to altering the course of people’s lives. “Amy is too far along. Were I able to let her go, she would die now. By dawn, without a bond to the one that turned her, her life would be forfeit.” It was a lie. It was believed. At the teen’s despondent face, he grasped the boy’s shoulder.
“This isn’t a fairy tale, Charley Brewster. I am not the dragon you’ll slay to rescue her,” he hissed. “This isn’t a film of Mr. Vincent’s, and she’s not the swooning maiden.” She hadn’t swooned until quite a bit of blood was lost to his thirst. “It varies from person to person…sometimes the blood type of the person speeds the change. Sometimes, it is a slow process that takes longer. She is one of the latter. I knew it once I tasted her.” At Charley’s slow, sad nod of understanding, he continued after he raked his eyes over his body. “Yours is different, you wouldn’t take more than an hour, two at the most.” He could be ready before dawn. He could be ready to feed, to revel in the taste of life’s blood spilled by tomorrow evening.
Charley frantically checked beneath his shirt for bite marks. Finding none, he glared. He was now worried about bites he couldn’t see or feel, hidden in private places. “How…? Oh, God.” Right, he realized as Jerry tapped his nose with a smile. A great nose, plus a wound on his knee that had bled at some point in their utter failure of a siege would have revealed everything. And his scraped hand, he amended as he looked down.
“You’re A negative, for your information, Charley. Congratulations,” the vampire dryly replied. Yes, he had sampled it through the wound. A negative was splendid. It was difficult to resist. “People don’t magically transform back to their lost humanity upon the death of their sire. Your deadline is not dawn. You failed.” He had seen the look in the boy’s eyes, and added, “Killing me won’t change things. Your friend, Edward?” Here, he paused, unsure whether to continue.
“Yeah? What did you do to him?” He was conflicted, still wanting to go off and help out Ed, guessing that wasn’t possible. Had Ed been killed by Jerry a second time?
“Your Mr. Vincent has staked him,” Jerry admitted. He knew it now without a doubt. He took pleasure when Charley closed his eyes in disbelief. “The one who bites them knows these things. While Ed went into the throes of death in excruciating agony, he removed the stake. Given the time, Ed should be dragging himself away to somewhere calmer. He has surely found a quiet, dark place to heal by now. You will see him again.” Perhaps he was nearby. “Don’t you find it easier than pouring blood upon a pile of ashes?” Admittedly, in his centuries of life, he had never heard of such a thing actually succeeding without harm coming to the vampire’s mind.
Charley swallowed, unsure if that meant he’d have to figure out how to stake his best friend later. He couldn’t do that. Beneath that, he was relieved. “Okay, you want to talk. If I wasn’t so dumb, would you have still bitten Amy? Or Ed?” He knew it was all his fault. He knew the answer. “Mom was right,” he moaned with feeling. “I shouldn’t play with binoculars when neighbors have their windows open!”
Jerry couldn’t suppress a laugh at that. “No. You shouldn’t peep or you’ll see something you don’t want to know about. It’s impolite, Charley.” Prostitutes would have continued to vanish, yes, but the police would not have been led to his door. “You’ll learn things that open your eyes.”
Now he lowered himself to sit on the stool beside Charley, watching him with great interest. “There is another choice to make. To atone, if you wish to think of it like that. For me, it would be another way to keep myself secret. It would be a way that doesn’t lead to me holding you by the throat. People rarely enjoy that. I’ll give you this choice, Charley. One…final…choice,” Jerry drew out carefully. His eyes gazed into Charley’s—not enthralling or enslaving his mind, but hoping he could guess where this path would lead. It was his choice to make. He had to say the words.
“I can’t just forget everything you’ve done. I won’t,” Charley shouted. Unless he was forced to, because he didn’t want to be ignorant of what was lurking in the darkness. He lowered his voice, and shook his head. See? He had an indoor voice when vampires were civil for five little minutes! “That’s not what you meant, I know, I know. Do you want me to be your Renfield? I won’t eat bugs!”
“No, there will be no insects,” Jerry agreed, snarling at the disgusting thought. “An aspect of that is Billy’s job, to guard me in the daylight hours.” But he never ate flies! “He is mine, and it has been that way for us for one hundred and thirteen years. You need not be bound to me in that way. But I do have a proposal.” Charley was obviously wary, keeping his distance. Now Jerry moved closer, as he held up a hand when Charley was on the verge of saying something he shouldn’t.
“Do not interrupt. Become like me. You have a choice in this, above all things. Your mother will not be harmed,” he whispered. The knowledge would sweeten the deal. For that fact had been worrying him, and would have been the next question to fall from his lips. He was certain of it. “If I turned you…made you like me…it wouldn’t be like Dracula, boy. There are no grandiose speeches, as one is hunted across the countryside.” Here, Jerry smiled pleasantly. “There is no blood of my blood. No flesh of my flesh. We would just be hunting together, or apart, for as long as you so desired.”
Nobody seemed to realize he could have harmed the boy’s mother the instant she had invited him inside. Was that what he was in town for? No. One doesn’t settle into the small town of Rancho Corvalis, Iowa, and then draw attention to the supernatural purposefully. He wasn’t looking to cut a swath of destruction through the town with a scythe. He was not seeking to raise an army and become conspicuous. He was just a supernatural entity that understood the time and place he dwelled in. If he didn’t grow himself an army, it was because he valued his privacy and was cunning. He could blend in.
He was close enough now to see Charley found the offer enticing, but was trying to hide the truth. A look at his face before he glanced at the fog-shrouded window betrayed him. Oh, so tempted beyond words. He was listening. A gesture pierced the veil, so Charley could see beyond it…could see his home as he thought. They both heard the pounding of the hands and feet of Peter Vincent pounding against the door, but neither dared look away from the other at that moment. They were in their own little world.
He wanted to listen. Charley thought he should have listened when Jerry came to his room before. The night he should have said yes. The night he should have looked the other way instead of rushing around like a crazy person; even if it meant mowing the lawn of the damned for the rest of his days and pretending it was all perfectly normal.
He… could adjust to not having a reflection; even if would hamper attempts to shave. He jolted away from those thoughts, and grew suspicious. As he opened his mouth to question Dandrige, to find out if he’d made him sleep only to screw with his brain and plant suggestions while he was pliable, the man smiled and shook his head. He knew his fears. He knew the accusations that were coming.
“This is all you, dear Charley. Join me willingly,” Jerry breathed into his ear. It was calmly said, but a thrill of relish hid beneath the cloying sweetness in which they were uttered. “It is your own blame…untainted by my will. Remember that. I did nothing to you.” It was Charley’s desire, and Charley’s curiosity alone that was leading him into acceptance. “The less you fight, the easier it becomes. It doesn’t have to be like the movies,” he soothed.
Without a fabricated, self-styled vampire hunter within the room, shouting to look away, they could speak civilly. Even if he was in the hallway listening. Jerry’s mind then brushed Amy’s swirling thoughts, a frantic maelstrom, gently nudging her enough that she would not jolt awake. Enough that she wouldn’t snarl into consciousness again before her time. Not yet, he soothed. She should rest now; it wasn’t time to satiate that hunger. He was sorry she had been disturbed before her time.
“Your mother will be under my protection…our protection if you come with me. No matter what you decide, she will be safe. I would never harm one of your family…just as you would have been left alone at the start, had you not sought to provoke me.” Jerry wouldn’t slaughter everyone. It would lead the police straight to his door, if he were the only one left standing. It was time to end this foolishness. “I would never seek vengeance upon her for your misinformation.” There was a hint of truth to that. There was just enough to captivate Charley.
There was no hypnosis. There were no commands. It must be his choice, he had said, and he wouldn’t be withdrawing that offer. There was only calm, rational discussion, in a moment when Jerry wasn’t enraged by the impudence of the threats of a powerless teenager, or by the shock of a wooden pencil piercing through his hand or a cross shoved in Jerry’s face with a hint of faith. He could be persuasive. “Take my hand, Charley.”
“I…I can’t just stall until dawn gets you, like in Nosferatu, can I? I’m not lucky enough to stall you like that, or things don’t even work like that,” Charley ground out. He was scared, but had given up stalling. Jerry was too smart to fall for those tactics. He frowned, then, knowing what he would pick, and yet hesitant. “What about Peter? You’ll stay out of his head? And you swear I won’t be a monster,” Charley whispered angrily. The anger surged before draining away quickly, like a pool of blood from one of Jerry’s victims. He was so close to the precipice. He could see this was the only option he could possibly take, and he wanted it.
“A few centuries go by, and a few trappings of humanity melt away here and there. Not the soul, dear Charley, never that…just the restraint, unless daylight is involved. Guilt. Inhibitions. You will not be a monster, Charley,” Jerry vowed sweetly. There could be monstrousness to them, but they would not be monsters to those that were under their wing. He seemed genuinely inquisitive as he calmly asked, “Do you wish I would swear upon my grave, empty these thousand years? I won’t.” Charley would still have to drink blood, after all. People would die at his hands…but that was the price of his survival.
If Charley just took his hand, now outstretched, it would all be over. Take that waiting hand, and nobody else would get hurt. Jerry saw Charley’s head turn back to the door, and nodded solemnly before he could speak. It was so human of the boy to fear for the safety of others. “Mr. Vincent will be safe as well, for as long as he should live. No matter what happens, no hair shall be touched upon his head; no matter what happens, his suit will not be mussed more than it already has tonight. Not by me. Not by Billy. Nobody else needs to die for your snooping. He will be free to depart, and his mind will remain his own.”
Jerry could see the desire to give in in Charley’s eyes. He had him in his grasp, and so he leaned closer. “You can see your friends again, Charley. You would have them back,” he whispered seductively into his ear. “Without fear. You would be safe. You wouldn’t need to fear the unknown, once it’s claimed you.” A pause. “Take my hand, Charley,” he urged without looking away.
Charley still had one last thing in his back pocket…literally. He finally felt a tiny metal cross, tucked safely away. It hadn’t been big enough to be lost when he had fallen, and too much had been going on to flail around until he’d grabbed it…but he shouldn’t have forgotten it was even there. Why hadn’t he even thought about it when he woke?
But…he had already chosen. Charley knew it was the vampire that had done it; Jerry had to know when there was a cross in the room, but had made him forget it was present until now. So they could talk. He knew it was those red eyes. He locked eyes with Jerry now without fear as he sat on the bed, all defiance gone. He pulled out the cross, not once looking down at it; he was wrapping it around his fingers for dear life, before he shook his head…and after a moment of it letting it dangle at the end of its chain, he sighed and let it fall to the floor without a word. He witnessed the vampire observing it uncomfortably, mindful of its power. The guy probably wouldn’t hiss unless it was thrust into his face. He would have had so much faith behind it.
Charley cast his eyes about for a way to get rid of the thing. Beneath the bed wasn’t an option, because Peter might grab it once he was allowed to come in. The window! Peter would never have to know it was ever there. It could be a secret, he decided as he grabbed the cross from the floor. In two steps, he was there. He wrenched it open roughly…it almost stuck too well due to the warped wood. With a tiny grunt, he threw the holy object into the night, and let the fog swallow it up. He wanted to scream, but knew it would scare Peter in the hall. The window closed quickly; the mist wouldn’t have entered without Jerry allowing it.
His head bowed low as he stared at the window, now shut and the curtains pulled closed. He had made his choice; it didn’t matter if there had been a cross on him the whole time or that he had been made to forget that detail. He scared himself, because he was starting to understand Jerry’s reason for it. He felt eyes watching him from behind, and sensed approval, before he turned back and returned to the foot of the bed.
Actions weren’t enough. He needed to voice his decision, so it could say it was all him. This was his choice. He was going to be bitten soon, and he was going to be a vampire by the time the sun rose.
“Open the door, Jerry,” Charley whispered after a shaky breath. He wouldn’t cry, not now, no matter how much he wanted to. He would be brave. “I want Peter to be here for this. He needs to know that I’m saying yes. I want him here. Please.” He took his hand as they stood, Jerry’s clawed fingers tickling the veins on his wrist, as he savored the moment. Charley was vainly trying not to shiver as Jerry reached for his neck with the other hand.
It was merely to cradle Charley, not to strangle him. To caress, rather than choke off the air of life. It was three o’clock. There was time enough before the dawn.
Peter Vincent made has way back through the fog, which felt like it was getting thicker with every step he took. Knowing his adversary, he believed it to be doing just that. A flashlight would have proven utterly useless. It swirled around him in tiny tendrils, as though it could choke the life from him. He took a deep breath, and silently prayed that he didn’t trip over something innocuous in the creature’s yard and die a pitiable death. At this juncture, he supposed he should be grateful that quicksand wasn’t accompanying this supernatural pea soup.
Peter should not have run away in fear, he should not have lost his nerve when the creature’s servant had struck the boy. But if he hadn’t, he would be in the same dire straits as Charley. He was an actor, an unemployed actor dragged into things that he knew nothing about. He wasn’t a character in a movie. He touched the tip of the stake clasped tightly in his palm; grateful he wasn’t leaving a blood trail behind him for a vampire to sniff out. Still, his fingers came away sticky with blood that had yet to fully dry from the staking of poor Ed. Peter was still shaking from the shock of the boy’s suffering there at the end. The man wanted to go home, and just hide beneath the bed until his landlord came calling in three days’ time to seize his property. Well…a day and a half now, if he were honest with himself.
If he survived the night, if Charley could be aided, perhaps he really would stock up on communion wafers and holy water. Real holy water, not ordinary, run of the mill tap water. Not a lie told to placate what he had first believed to be a hysterical, truly mad teenage boy.
A hysterical bit of thinking longed for a holy hand grenade to be reality, to make his work go quickly. If he failed tonight, who could light a candle for their souls? There was nobody else left that understood the danger!
He swallowed as shaking fingers first found the wall of the house, finally finding purchase on the windowsill. Was he leaving bloody fingerprints for Dandrige to smell? For the police to find? He prayed not, suspected the affirmative. Still further, he discovered the doorknob. It had opened for them once before, before their frontal attack went horribly wrong. Would it do so again on rusty hinges, for the proper atmosphere, or would it prove to be locked and barred against him?
No. It was unlocked, he was relieved to find. He had his gun still. His makeshift stake would go into the foe, if he were strong enough. Unless Charley had turned, unless Amy was deceased. But no. He couldn’t think like that. Even if Dandrige had destroyed his cross, perhaps he could fashion a new one out of items littered about the residence…he still had a bit of faith in reserve, he hoped. He had more determination now. If he was the only one left standing, and Charley and Amy were already dead or damned, he would need it. He didn’t want to see an imperfectly made cross burn at the hands of a monster, as had once happened in an old film of his. Should he say a prayer for courage?
He said the first thing that sprung into his thoughts, suddenly feeling foolish. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil?” No, of course he feared it! He would be stupid if he didn’t! Okay, then. He was Peter Vincent, the great vampire killer, and he had a job that entailed rescuing someone from the clutches of a vampire. It was simple, he thought with a large dose of sarcasm. It was his mantra.
He flung open the door, and scuttled inside, stake outstretched and ready for an attack. Nonplussed, he saw no one. His eyes scoured the first several paces in expectation of vampires appearing from behind or beneath the sofa, a mortal foe behind the curtains. Perhaps they were now upstairs, even further than the landing? A soft thud as he approached the spot of their previous confrontation, as he stepped over the damage caused by that instant, made him jump. There was a drop of blood upon the floor. Charley. His heart thudded in his chest. He walked cautiously as he made his way onward, holding his breath too many times to count at the creak of an unruly stair.
As he rounded the corner to where the bedrooms were, he heard a grunt in one. Amy? When it was followed by harsh whispers, he knew he was mistaken. Did a trick lay ahead? A trap? Would he fall through a hole and into the basement, to be devoured by dreadful creatures? He was thinking more and more like a B movie protagonist, he deemed. Not even from one of his better movies.
He wiped the sweat of fear from his brow…and just about screamed when he backed into someone. Not Jerry. No, it was Billy. He recognized the other man seconds before he was shoved into the wall. An arm was at his throat, as all his sacred items were wrenched from quivering fingers. With that done, the vice-like grip on his arms was released.
What was he? Peter Vincent couldn’t help but wonder that as he rubbed his arms. He could feel the bruises already. He winced as Billy held up the stake with a grin, expecting it to be plunged into his own heart. He would live to be annoyed for a further few minutes, as Billy merely tossed it out the hall window, curtains billowing with an unexpected wind, until he slammed it shut. He frowned, and put a theory to the test.
“Would your master allow me to speak now that I’m unarmed, Billy? Would he let me walk where I please?” He could be free to go now. He could be free to wander. Or he could be free to die in this spot.
That smirk, the nod, both were disarming. The house’s acoustics didn’t tell Peter which room was the correct one. What he really wished for, desired for, was a regular conversation with these fiendish devils. To separate the fact from the fiction, to sift through the folklore. If he were younger, if fewer had died, he would have had so much to discuss. Scripts to write, movies to make, he supposed was the endgame of that line of thinking.
That way might lead to hell, but the intentions were justifiable. He kept an eye on Billy as he wiped his hands on his coat. Getting a second wind, feeling the sarcasm rise, he huffed. “Any keys?”
“Several,” was the grim reply from the man leaning against the wall. A key dangled in front of Peter Vincent’s nose. “But none for you, except this one.”
“You remind me of my first agent. No, you’re worse,” Peter accused with disbelief. When Billy blinked in confusion, Peter simply shook his head and snatched the key away in great haste. Even if it was the truth, even if there was a story behind it, he would let him wonder. This wasn’t the time.
He had the keys, but he wouldn’t fall into this trap blindly. He wasn’t an imbecile. A quick peek into the room after fumbling with the key confirmed what he had suspected. “Amy,” he whispered. Fangs were bared, as she assumed a sitting position from where she lay upon the bed. She was still turning, that much was obvious, and was understandably groggy. With his not-so-expert opinion, she could have been blinded by bloodlust. She murmured something too faint to hear, but he believed it to be his name.
Was there a hint of recognition, then, before she spun in his direction and dove for the door? Peter didn’t wait to find out, jumping aside after slamming and frantically locking the door. Billy looked smug, but annoyed at having missed a prime opportunity to lock him in with a famished creature. “I suppose I should thank you for not throwing me in.” He took two steps backwards. He felt naked without props, grasping for the metal candlestick, giving it a critical eye. “Not even silver?”
When he turned back to face Billy, he ducked a swipe that appeared designed not to render him unconscious, just to keep him out of the picture for a bit as he nursed a black eye or some similar injury to his person. He shouldn’t have mocked him. He glanced back to the door when he heard frantic scratching at the wooden door behind him, and Billy took the moment to put the candle back into its original place. The dear girl was, perhaps, distressed by the sounds she heard. Or she smelled blood and was frenzied, if she was not entirely aware of her surroundings. Best not to learn which when he wasn’t around anything that could make a foe fall back.
He took a step forward, and glanced at the other man. This was growing tiresome beneath his terror, and he almost didn’t care anymore if the larger man lifted his body upon his shoulders and strode off with him to his grave. His eyes scanned the doors, before his ears caught the sound of Charley’s voice behind the next door. Jerry’s dulcet tones could be heard as well.
He was only catching part of the conversation, he knew that, but he soon became frantic from what he discovered. He had to get into that locked room. Of course there wasn’t a skeleton key easily provided. He pressed his ear close to the door, hoping perhaps he was in error…but no. They were discussing something horrifying, and the boy was being soothed, swayed, and seduced. Tempted into his downfall. Perhaps he was being melodramatic, but the feelings were true.
“No,” he whispered fiercely. Peter Vincent slammed his fists upon the door, first in anger, and then with more worry behind it. “Charley,” he called desperately. too caught up in everything. “Don’t listen to him, whatever he says! He’s lying!” One foot lashed out at the door, just to see if it would give, before he resumed his pounding. “We can still stop the silver tongued devil, whatever else he says!” He could be heard, provided Charley wasn’t in a hypnotic trance. Or he was being ignored, he realized. He pounded one more time for good measure, before he sagged with a sigh of exhaustion. He knew it was futile.
“You are listening, aren’t you, dear boy?” He said it to himself, for one look behind told him Billy had left. Billy’s vampire master could handle things quite well, obviously. Peter leaned against the door with a sigh, before moving to sit on the wooden floor. Now came the wait. He knew what was likely to lie ahead. While he leaned into the door, he realized his error and moved to the wall so that he wouldn’t fall head first against anyone. He would sit here, and if the boy was dead he would mourn. He would carry on.
They would fall tonight. Or it would be like Eve giving Adam the apple, being offered the greatest of all temptations for such a boy as he. Hope.
He wanted to talk to him, to shake him. To provide one last stab of reason, at clarity, before things that had once been superstition alone could destroy their lives. When the door creaked open, he scrambled to his feet. There was a look in the vampire’s eyes that seemed to say that he knew what Peter had done to Ed. Peter was afraid of retribution.
Above all, the vampire’s face practically glowed with triumph. “Charley will see you now, Mr. Vincent,” he jovially stated.
Charley shakily looked down to his wrists as Jerry approached the door. No, Jerry hadn’t drawn blood with those claws. He had imagined he might, but Jerry was careful.
He didn’t jump at a strange phantom caress, making the assumption that Jerry was gloating. It made his brain tingle. It was just another mental thing, and he did his best to ignore it. Another stroke, and Charley looked up with a shocked, tiny grin. That had actually felt scarily enough like the vampire was psychically telling him things would be okay, and he didn’t know what to do with that information. Did he really have his back? Those eyes met his to reveal just that much, and Charley nodded. He was ready.
He had to know if Peter was disappointed in him. Charley didn’t listen to the vampire's unholy pleasure as he granted him entrance.
Peter strode through with all the dignity he could muster, hands in fists at his sides as he gave the one at the door a wide berth. He was angry at himself for running and leaving Charley alone with this creature of the night. He was horrified by this night of frights. But he couldn’t fault Charley for giving in. He took refuge in his anger, so that tears would not fall. It was not the time. Charley didn’t need that.
He tilted Charley’s neck from side to side, as he saw for himself that there were no telltale marks of the vampire upon his throat, before he ran a hand down his sleeves and held him with relief. His mind was still his own. He could listen to pleadings for sanity. He could still see reason, if his words didn’t fall on decidedly deaf ears, which he feared they would. If there was another choice, they would steer themselves into that. He shared a look with Charley, both understanding that Peter had heard all he needed to. He paced away for a moment, before he twirled back, words rushing forth. They held an undercurrent of fear, worry, and hope for a child’s future that would never be fulfilled after their brief time together.
"Your soul will be forfeit, Charley! Sullied, if the movies are right! You will be like him---stalking the good and decent of humanity, drinking from their jugulars. Maybe you'll be as suave as him while you do it, but is it worth it?" He wasn’t getting anywhere, he saw that. The teenager’s mind was made up, but Peter didn’t want to abandon him. He didn’t fear Dandrige in that moment.
“Fine!” Peter raised his brow haughtily at the vampire watching less in patience and more with curiosity and that ever present amusement at their antics. “I don’t suppose you have room for another soul? A medium sized model of your best coffin would be simply splendid, if you please. I’m not leaving him at the mercy of the undead alone.”
“You don’t mean that, Peter,” Charley said before Jerry could answer, as he watched Peter pull back his collar and tap his foot impatiently. The teen put an arm around him, leading him back with a shrug.
“I know that, but think,” Peter groaned heatedly. “Think of what will happen and what may happen. Vampires everywhere! Think of your mother.” He was as frustrated as when they had fired him. But he saw that Charley was adamant. The boy wouldn’t actually die. They hadn’t known each other for very long, but he was saddened. He was brave. “But I suppose you have thought it out every step of the way, haven’t you? You know what may happen once you walk away into that good night.” They had both seen Ed, though Charley had not witnessed the end of him. Peter couldn’t stop thinking of the boy’s crumpled face as he died. He didn’t suppose the sight would ever leave his mind, let alone nightmares that would leave him slick with a terrified sweat.
That would not happen to Charley. Peter rubbed his face, finally spinning around to the vampire lurking in the corner. “Thank you for not taking advantage of my generosity, Mr. Dandrige. Shall my blood remain with me when I leave in the morning? Yes?” He nodded, drawing as much courage as he could to himself. He was resolved on one point, if he couldn’t dissuade Charley. “I shall not depart until he is fully turned and safely within a coffin in your basement. Or a perch in the corners of the rafters, wherever you people rest.” He was adamant on that fact, even if he had to shoot the man who served the vampire...once he reclaimed his firearm.
There was the flaw in his determination. Still, he cautiously stepped backwards a pace. As though the man couldn’t simply stride towards him and slash open his throat if he really wanted to. He could be at his mercy. He was at his mercy, being in his house unarmed.
“Think, Mr. Vincent,” Dandrige echoed. “If vampires ruled over all, what would we eat? We aren’t villains on a quest for global domination. We merely hunt for food. We live in secret. We don’t bite everything that flashes its neck at us. Everyone would know!”
But was that deference or victory on the creature’s face? So wound up was Peter, and his mind so filled with expectations of a frontal assault, that he (quite loudly, to his embarrassment) yelped in fear when Charley grabbed him from behind for a warm hug. As it might be his last chance to hug the boy while he was a human, Peter Vincent clasped him tightly. He didn’t want to think of the teenager as a bloodthirsty creature of the night.
“You will remain safe until you depart this house, Mr. Vincent. You will go untouched on this property. From me. From Billy. The same can’t be said for all vampires if you stumble across them or storm into their home brandishing a stake.” He shared a look with Peter, after a murmured ‘you can let go now, Charley’ from the man finally penetrated whatever state he was in. “You are certainly safe from Charley.” Suddenly, piercing blood red eyes locked with the actor’s and waited. “And you will not bring back others to destroy us with stakes and holy water, I trust? Nobody will be swayed to your cause? You would choose to pretend that you know nothing about me?”
At Peter’s calm nod of assent, the vampire’s eyes lost their anger. “Good. I’ll see that you keep that promise.” A simple word to the right people, could have caused him torments the likes of which he could not hope to imagine. Whether it was maliciousness or spite, it didn’t matter what caused the vampire to whisper, “Awake.” They knew to whom he spoke, and where, though.
A screech interrupted as their answer, causing Jerry to smile as the other two men jumped. So close. It was just the next room. “Ah, you must excuse me. Dear Amy is hungry…further along than I expected her to be…if she is awake. She requires sustenance. A taste.” This was turning into a halfway house for newly turned vampires tonight. At least the basement was wide enough. Charley was struggling to remain calm, and not pace. Was he frightened for his girlfriend, or nervous about losing his humanity? It was a tough call. “I’ll bite you when I return,” Jerry pleasantly called as he departed.
It was almost friendly. Then they heard the sound of a lock. The meaning was clear. The promise once made, could not be broken by stage fright. They couldn’t change their minds about leaving him to his own devices, and they were not to intrude on whatever happened with Amy in the next room. Nothing but a strange sense of unease hung in the air, before Peter put his arm around Charley’s shoulders. Despite the horror of their situation and the dawning of a new life to the boy, he was no longer quite so worried about Jerry…well, not unless he were forced to clamber out a window for unforeseen reasons to ensure his own survival. He had to trust that the boy would be in safe hands once he changed, or he would go mad with fear.
“I made a deal,” Charley began quietly, anticipating a fight. “I’m not going back on my word. Don’t worry about me, Peter.” His mother would be safe, and so would Peter. He wouldn’t think about the ones he might end up killing one night out of hunger, because that would only scare him more. Charley wasn’t blindly marching into doom; he was just ignoring the signposts that warned him to turn back now.
“Don’t say that,” Peter replied seriously. “Because until I walk out that door downstairs, I am worrying. I said I wouldn’t leave this house until I saw for myself that you weren’t in trouble. Remember that? Even if you have fangs, if you ever want to run from those men, you find me, Charley Brewster,” he said fiercely as he pointed at him. If Charley’s mother didn’t understand the truth, then Peter was all he had right now.
“I swear, I’ll call you,” Charley assured him. In the face of that much feeling, what else could he say but yes? For a guy that had to be paid to listen to, had thought Charley was insane, they had come a long way due to the danger binding them together. They wouldn’t abandon each other. “If I wake up one night, and need help…yours will be the first number of a living, breathing person that I’ll dial,” he pledged.
“Good boy,” Peter praised. It was someone else that filled Peter’s thoughts with fear now as he sank down to the edge of the bed with a sigh. “Oh, Charley. Just how will we explain all of this to your mother?” Incredulous, if borderline hysterical laughter was his consolation for the change in subject. Another careful look, and Peter saw what Charley had been attempting to hide from Dandrige; from him; his eyes were welling up with tears. Peter waited the emotion out, companionship all he could provide.
After a moment, Charley was fit to talk without breaking down. “You’re worried about her, too, huh? You don’t even know her yet, Peter! She was gonna kill me for failing Trig!” She was working the night shift tonight, lending more worry to his thoughts.
“I really must pay Mrs. Brewster something for breaking that table, don’t let me forget,” he weakly resolved. He patted Charley’s shoulder. “And for whatever else was ruined in the melee, of course.” What a thing to come home to after a night out working.
“I’ll never bite her,” Charley exploded. “Or you. I’ll never bite you after he bites me!” Peter didn’t reply, only wrapping his arm around Charley’s shoulder again. He was proud of him, but anxious for his soul. When he frowned, Peter tapped his chin, silently urging him to speak. If he had changed his mind and wished to fight his way out, he knew that Peter would do everything in his power to aid him; even they died for their audacity.
Charley swallowed, filled with anguish at something that had to be done. “Peter, if someone is made into a vampire, then they can’t come inside without an invitation from the rightful owner. So unless Mom says the right thing, I can’t go in and tell her what’s going on. Jerry’s invited, and that can’t get revoked, but I don’t know if he’d tell her. Or if he’d go, with all the garlic I’ve got strung up. Would you…? Would you tell her something? I told her about the vampires, but she thought I was having a nightmare. I don’t want to just…just disappear, and see missing person signs. I don’t want to scare her. I know that was a joke, what you said before, but…please.” Was he too old to have his face on a milk carton? Would he care about her feelings once he’d changed?
Peter shook his head in wonder. Being added into the legions of the undead certainly didn’t end familial strife. “I can try,” he steadfastly resolved. “Has she even seen my show? Is she a fan? Or would I just be a doddering old fool to her eyes, a stranger who had seemingly been claimed by an act long gone stale?” Would she recognize his face, or mistake him for a traveling salesman and slam the door?
At this, Charley looked away and struggled to remember. Most of the time, she had just walked through to tell him something, but had never sat down to watch it downstairs. She had only peeked once that he knew of, due to a particularly spirited shout from the television. “Well, she hasn’t seen you hosting Fright Night. She saw the last hour of Vampires From Hell’s Morgue last year. She said you were cute with your stake.” A moment later, alarm flashed in his eyes. He remembered her flirting with Jerry, and thinking he was cute. Peter was more her type. “Talk to her…but don’t you date her!”
Peter brightened until the last, when the look turned dubious. “Do you honestly think I would do such a thing, Charley? Would that be so bad?” They hadn’t even spoken, and Charley had them on a fifth date in his mind, solely judging from the boy’s disgust.
“Sorry. Brewster-Vincent just sounds awkward, is all. You’d be great, even when I’m undead,” Charley quickly muttered. He hadn’t meant to offend him.
“Brewster-McHoolihee, actually,” Peter gently corrected. “It would be Charley Brewster-McHoolihee.” There was silence as that sank in. “You understand why I changed it, I see.” Peter pointed out. Actually, the marketing department had protested decades ago, but that was a whole other issue Charley didn’t need to know. It wasn’t mortification. He watched as the boy ducked his face, obviously embarrassed by the way the conversation had turned. He patted his shoulder comfortingly. “From what I’ve seen tonight, it would be a pleasure to be related to you once this imaginary relationship between your mother and I bore fruit,” he said with great dignity.
It was a welcome, if strange, distraction from their plight.
When Jerry returned, it was with a surprise. He had a glass in one hand as he sauntered by, and locked the door behind him. He passed the mystery drink to Peter. “A gift, from Billy. It’s a welcome to the fold, he told me,” Jerry verified. “Not a murder attempt. If you were going to die here, it would be open and painful.” It was also a ‘sorry I can’t bury you in the backyard’ consolation prize, but Peter didn’t need to know that.
“W-what is it?” Peter looked to Charley, suspecting he knew. His eyes revealed some mysterious knowledge was passing between them, but he shrugged as though he were innocent of it. Still, he knew.
“A Bloody Mary. We have enough from Charley’s mother…she seemed to think I needed the ingredients when I visited her. Remember, Charley?” She had shoved him a list of ingredients for the best drinks. He must remember to try Satan’s Whiskers. The vampire seemed grateful that between he and his servant they had presumably succeeded in not turning it into a rancid waste of good vodka. To Peter, he added, “You drink. Focus on the taste. Read a book. Tear out the pages of the pamphlets that aren’t worth a fortune, and plug your ears with them, I don’t care. Just distract yourself while Charley and I…see to ushering him into a new life.”
It was a private moment, of course. Charley would not desire to be watched as he was bitten. As he lost control, and gave himself over to pleasures he had never dreamed existed. Charley had seen enough B-movies to guess that. The boy nodded his thanks, as he shifted from foot to foot nervously. He would not cover him with bat wings like a cape. That would cause undue terror.
“How,” Charley started voice breaking. He tried again after taking a breath. Quieter, “What do we…” Most of the movies had it either as a seduction or a savage attack, and Charley didn’t get how it would start between them. He was out of his depth. More rambling was coming…and then it wasn’t, as Jerry put a finger against his lips, mentally urging silence and obedience for what came next. Charley slowly pulled down the collar of his shirt as he stared into eyes that would be red any second.
The powers this vampire wielded scared Charley to his core. Unspoken between them, he knew a fraction of it could become his, if he were old enough to figure things out. If they grew over time. Did he want it? Would he revel in it later, or would it all be too much? Would he lose his sanity? He didn’t want to lose himself, he wanted it to be…nice. He chuckled hopelessly, because the anticipation was getting to him. “Make it quick?”
With a fond smile, Jerry replied, “You may not think the same once we’ve started. People rarely do.” He steered him a few steps backward, ignoring the flinch. “Sit. Relax. When you fall, there will be a bed under you.” The vampire’s hand stroked the teen’s throat. Jerry returned his eyes to Peter’s, until the man looked away. With the speed of a striking cobra, Jerry grasped Charley’s throat, so he couldn’t scuttle away. Much more thought, and the boy might talk until dawn or talk himself out of his choice. It was time to finish this.
It was time to make Charley Brewster his.
Fangs immediately pierced the tender flesh, enough to spark a change before the drinking began in earnest. Enough blood would be exchanged, dripping gently down his throat, to hasten along the process. While some blood poured down Charley’s neck, the vampire strove not to be wasteful.
The shock was replaced by a brief agony that would not scald Charley’s soul for long. When Charley gasped, he didn’t know if it was just surprise anymore. He knew that for now, he didn’t care, and just clung to Jerry’s shirt. He would be too weak for that soon. From a distance, he knew that his shirt was ruined, and he needed to get a new one. He couldn’t now. Later. He could just focus on not passing out, he could just focus on the palpitations of his heart as it stuttered along, working on continuing to pump as it was being denied precious blood. Focus on the surprisingly incredible sensations shooting through his entire body, making him want to faint.
The worst of it wasn’t being bitten; it was the feeling—that felt so sensual, like the best massage ever after a few minutes. Charley could barely handle it, couldn’t hope to describe it…and soon he would barely be able to convince his legs to carry him away. He clung to a wispy thread of fear. The unknown shouldn’t scare him now, but it did. If something went wrong, he might die. He clung to Jerry’s neck, unsure if he was trying to make him bite harder, or stop it now.
The strangled squeak that emanated from Charley before the vampire’s fangs were withdrawn was exquisite…the moan, moreso. There was intensity in the boy’s blood, the sensation of fear, horror, and…beneath it all, acceptance. Desire. As Jerry withdrew from the embrace, his head lowered once more. His tongue lapped teasingly at an errant drop of blood that had escaped him, that was slowly making progress down Charley’s now pallid neck. Fangs scraped against the bite, gently tracing the wounds until he was finished.
Charley pulled away, or tried to. He thought they were done, but remembered some of Peter Vincent’s movies. Sometimes more was needed, but he couldn’t think. Was there more? He was groggy. His head felt like it was filled with cotton. He was trying to catch his breath, which was coming in great gasps, and shot an incredulous look towards Dandrige.
“Yes, there is more,” Jerry darkly noted. His voice was low enough, close enough to Charley’s ear that Peter would never hear them in this moment. Not unless he wished it. “You take a few drops from me.” The vampire waited for Charley’s mind to catch up, before slashing open the palm of his hand. The same one that Charley had stabbed with a pencil, just for some warped footnote to Charley’s turning.
“Drink up, Charley,” he coaxed. The blood dripped into Charley’s mouth, just as a trickle at the first. It was just a sample, a taste, to make him take more into himself. The vampire stroked the teenager’s throat as he turned his body. He was helping him to get as much as he needed in this moment only.
Charley did drink; he had his fill, but he wanted more. Was this how it was supposed to be? The teen couldn’t think of anything but warm blood dripping sweetly, and then rushing down his throat, before coiling inside his stomach. He felt greedy and gulped swiftly. It was life, and he clung to it.
He lost himself in it for an instant, before the hand was withdrawn entirely; he stopped himself in the middle of acting to yank it back. Still, the centuries older man cast him a knowing look as he touched the nape of his neck. He hadn’t taken too much. He was at his limit, was what new instincts and Jerry’s eyes were telling him. Charley watched with mild curiosity and a dash of awe, as the vampire’s hand healed over in moments. Even the small scar from the pencil vanished from sight. His body would block the sight of it from Peter, but if he could, he would babble about it later. There were questions he was desperate to ask about the next step, but Dandrige shook his head.
Charley found himself leaning into the cool touch; the room faded, consciousness swirled, and Charley felt like he was going to pass out. When he could think again, and verified that he was still seated where he had been, he saw that Jerry was still there. He felt an arm now wrapped around his waist, and knew why he was still upright. He hadn’t fainted, but it was a near thing due to the blood lost in the bite.
Dandrige was studying his face. To an unspoken question, he nodded. “You did exactly as expected.” It was praise for not coming to rest sprawled at his feet. They didn’t need to shock the other man to his core while he was stuck there. They didn’t need to make him uncomfortable to the point that he climbed out the window and took up residence on the roof in the dark.
A finger brushed his cheek, and Charley sighed. Damn. He’d lost track of time, of Peter, of his mind altogether. Getting bitten was heady stuff. His brain was whirling with giddiness, while his body just wanted a nap. While he sensed there would be a surge soon, Charley didn’t care as his head flopped backward onto the waiting pillow.
Charley grinned unabashedly at Jerry, before he caught himself. He didn’t know how to react to him anymore. It was easier when he thought he was a monster. He was unsure, and looked away guiltily. He didn’t like that feeling, and tried to dismiss it. His fingers nervously picked at the blanket of their own accord as he stared at a mark on the ceiling. He was really waiting for the unusual (and who was he kidding, he was doing equally bizarre stuff) bonding ritual between Billy and Peter to wind down.
“So,” Charley whispered. “Turned a lot of people into vampires tonight, have you?” He wasn’t jealous. A chuckle close to his ear was his only answer, but it cheered him.
“Merciful Heavens,” Peter breathed in shock. The sounds, the gasps from Charley. The grunt of pleasure from Jerry were particularly disheartening if he chose to fixate on them. He turned, and bent on the windowsill. He placed his Bloody Mary shakily upon first it, and then the table.
The actor turned away after another furtive look. He shouldn’t be seeing this, it felt wrong to intrude. He had the desire to throw open the window and sit upon the roof until the coast was clear…but that would be foolish. There was nowhere to walk, so he stared out through the curtains…or tried to. There was nothing to watch but that mist, swirling around the house. The only way to part it would be to ask the vampire. The currently very busy vampire, with fangs deep in his friend’s neck. Uncertain as to what would be the right thing to do in this situation, and hating the fact he didn’t even have a stake, he crossed his arms before uncrossing them with a huff and picking his glass up again.
Peter bit into his celery, taking great satisfaction in the absurdly loud crunch it made. It only drowned out the noises for an instant, he was sad to realize. He heard the vampire urge Charley to drink and thought ‘don’t mind if I do myself,’ as he took a long sip. He coughed, unused to the vodka. He spun at footsteps behind him, suddenly wary.
Billy was suddenly positioned at the door, as though waiting for an excuse to drag him bodily from the room if his master appeared to be in danger. How could he be, after taking all of his weapons? Did the man expect him to smash the door into kindling, fashion it into stakes, and attack in thirty seconds or less? Smash a window and throw glass at them? Dandrige and Charley were still immersed in their blood soaked duty, but they weren’t deaf.
“Come here,” the actor urged. He held up his drink, unsure of how to complete a toast in good taste (then again, what good taste remained when the moaning in the corner was getting to him?) alone, until he saw that the servant had brought extra, even if just to humor an old man. Brandy! “Would you care to join me in a toast?”
Billy frowned down at his drink, before shrugging and tilting the glass his way. The tinkling of glasses didn’t bother the other two in the least. They were lost in the moment. “To us winning.”
“No,” Peter insisted as he cautiously tapped the man’s arm. “Simplicity, yes, but elegance! Melville, Poe, somebody! Drama, under the circumstances, is the only way.” It was ridiculous, yes, but it would conceal the sounds of blood being drained. It would set his mind away from the knowledge of how much Charley was enjoying it. Why couldn’t he have requested he sit outside the door? It would have increased his worry tenfold, but he could have been ignorant of the sounds.
There was a long look that seemed to say Billy was starting to wonder about him. "If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended—That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear." Then, the omnipresent smirk returned. “Not good enough? To vampires, both in the process of being made and ancient.” He tilted his glass in Dandrige’s direction, and then had a great view of Charley’s actions. Sarcastically, he continued, “Save something for the rest of us, kid.”
Shakespeare. For an evil servant of a presumably ancient terror, the man was well read. Peter was pleased Dracula had been avoided, as well as quotations from his own films. How close had the man been to saying ‘for blood is the life’? No matter, he clinked his glass to his, before sampling more of his Bloody Mary. It burned his throat, and he scrunched his nose in response, for he was not a heavy drinker. “Brandy for me, next time,” he said with a strained voice.
“You can have mine,” Billy offered with a tight smile. He had yet to touch his. He glanced to the vampire and the one soon to be coming across to their side, and looked away. The bite was a private moment. The sounds were a natural process. When he set down his glass without even a sip, Peter seemed almost…hurt. “Did I fail your test? Some things in this house are only mostly dead.” Let him mull over that revelation, as he passed the untouched glass to the other man. He leaned against the door, eyebrow raised patiently. Another gasp from the corner, and it was time to make himself scarce. He knew what that sound signaled, and he had chores to finish before the sun rose.
Windows didn’t paint themselves black.
Peter turned when he realized that behind him, there was now only silence. He feared the boy was dead, that something had happened.
No. Charley and Jerry were simply staring at him. At the strange sight of he and the now departed Billy getting along. Jerry withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket, and dabbed excess blood away from his lips. He had finished dining. When Dandrige offered the teen the same courtesy upon kneeling beside him, he accepted with a vague wave.
Charley, face paler than normal from the extreme blood loss, was beginning to recline upon the bed. He was clutching a satin pillow now stained with his blood and seemed to be trying to get his bearings, before his eyes drifted back to Jerry. Finally, he shook his head to rid himself of dizziness. A trickle of blood still dripped from the wound that was now upon his neck, but it was minor. It seemed to be unnoticed.
Peter took a step forward, as though to comfort him, before halting in his tracks. Gently, he asked, “How do you feel, Charley?” From the corner of his eye, he saw Billy edge back into the room after claiming his empty glass. Now it was time for privacy. To call him an odd fellow would be an understatement. He didn’t even hear retreating footsteps, just the gentle thud of a closing door.
“Incredible and terrible,” Charley moaned as he stretched back to the head of the bed. It seemed as though he would be making snow angels upon the bed, if the blood hadn’t been drained from him. He was too lethargic. “Like I’m freezing and burning hot at the same time…or maybe I’m falling to room temperature. I don’t know how it works, do I?” An accusatory glare was aimed at Jerry, but there was no real fire behind it.
Peter watched Jerry, who seemed to take it in stride. “Is a fever part of it?” Or had Jerry done something incorrectly, as blood was exchanged? Was it a fast-acting infection? He didn’t want to accuse him of doing something if this was the natural thing that occurred when a supernatural creature was born.
“His body is changing.” Jerry explained as he dimmed the lights. Charley’s altering eyes would not tolerate the brightness for much longer. “It won’t be too long, as I told him,” he reiterated as he sank into the chair beside the window. His part was done, but the actor didn’t need too many details. He was almost proud that Charley had been unable to shout out and goad Peter into taking action. The vampire had not allowed a scream…just moans and whimpers, and gasps of pleasure.
The vampire looked into Charley’s eyes, then. “Shh.” A finger was pressed to Charley’s lips, to halt the flow of words. “Rest, boy. Sleep. The deed is done. You’ll have more before the dawn comes. Human tomorrow night.” There was variety with every turning.
A stir of fear made Charley’s heart flutter (or was it the blood loss?) when Dandrige told him to sleep…but it was a proposal, not a mental command. Some blood was still on his lip, at the corner of his mouth; he could taste it. He scrubbed it off with the clean handkerchief, knowing he shouldn’t lick it off his own hand. He knew he was being overcome with exhaustion, because his arms felt like lead. Jerry caught the handkerchief as it fell from his fingers.
As Peter stood awkwardly, picking up on their new bond and about to demand answers, Billy returned to light and stoke the fire, to ward off any chills for those that were not undead. Charley jolted forward unexpectedly, and pinned an accusatory stare on Billy. His eyes were glassy, but determined. “Do you need to light a fire where Amy is? How is she?”
The man stopped, already half out the door. He poked his head back in, nodding with a genuine grin. “Already did, kid. She dove for my neck and missed. She’ll get better at it when the shivering stops; she’s primed to drink the next one that sets foot in there. She won’t freeze.” He laughed to himself as he left.
Peter felt it particularly appropriate as the flames leapt and crackled, casting frightening shadows that lit and silhouetted Dandrige’s face at intervals. Perhaps it was his instinct for drama that had crept up on him like a bad itch that needed scratching, but it was quite fitting. Charley had made a Faustian pact, after all, to save those he loved. If he weren’t the co-star, and this weren’t reality, it would be a fantastic tragedy to film. Peter Vincent would never say so aloud, though. It was tasteless to think such.
Fingertips touching, the vampire watched the old actor. “There used to be more of a belief in vampires,” Jerry confided. “Charley wouldn’t have been ignored. They used to pick us out by placing a virgin upon a horse, sending either him or her to canter through the freshly dug graves.” It was usually a male virgin. He had Mr. Vincent spooked by his tone, simultaneously rapt with curiosity. “If the horse reacted in fear or neighed, there was a vampire. I saw one such demonstration in a small village in Albania so many centuries ago as I passed through. I had a friend about to rise from the ground, you see, due to a mix-up that buried him too soon. They made the mistake of performing their test at midnight.” His eyes glittered in glee.
Peter now leaned forward, involuntarily on the edge of his chair. He scarcely dared pose the question, but he must. He feared how the story would end. “What did you do, Mr. Dandrige?”
“Why, someone bit the virgin when they weren’t looking, of course.” It was the most obvious thing in the world to him, but the villagers hadn’t noticed their clumsy virgin had grown pale as a ghost. “They were flabbergasted to find that another large bat had mysteriously bitten the horse.” His sister, Regine.
Charley chuckled strangely from the bed, now under the safety of the comforter. Muffled, he asked, “Did Billy do something to the cross-wielding people, or was that before his time?” Because a tiny mob of villagers searching for vampires in the midnight hour would either brandish religious symbols or torches. Lots and lots of torches. He’d seen it in horror movies, it must be true. Except in the case of Dandrige, when it wasn’t. Clutching at his head, he suspiciously wondered, “Do I need to worry about vampire horses? Does anyone?” Was that paranoia or delirium? Traditional vampires were real, after all.
“It was a bit before his time, Charley,” Dandrige conceded after a moment’s hesitation. Back then, he didn’t have a familiar. “The villagers ran to their homes, where a vampire cannot be invited in.” Until his sister seduced one, and gained entrance due to her ministrations. Let Charley and Peter believe it was to safety, it was of no consequence. “No. If you don’t count the natural vampire bat when it suffers from rabies, there are none to fear aside from our kind.” Silence, and then, “No, child. There are no true vampire horses.”
There was no reply. Charley had fallen asleep. To Jerry’s entertainment, he had shoved his head inside the pillowcase, presumably to block out the world. He wouldn’t suffocate. Jerry stretched back casually into his chair, face momentarily hidden from sight by a patch of darkness.
More minutes passed with soft breathing the only interruption. Everything was calculated to disarm him, and make him forget just how dangerous the man beside him was, Peter concluded. It was designed to make him lower his guard, just as the drink was to make him relax. Every gesture and look, every phrase was perfectly choreographed toward that end.
He had almost forgotten himself as they had chatted. Peter swallowed, and scrutinized the glass of brandy that had been forgotten until now. Billy had left it behind untouched, and Peter had claimed it. It had yet to be sampled, and he placed it beside the chair. Dare he ask? Yes. “How old are you, Mr. Dandrige?” He couldn’t put his finger on it, but it felt as though he must be centuries older.
Dandrige spread his hands in a gesture reminiscent of surrender, before they returned to the side of the chair. Peter had finally asked the accursed question. He smiled tightly. “I told Charley. I doubt he’ll tell you now,” was the blithe retort. A glance would tell both men that Charley was diligently endeavoring to block out the nightingale that sang upon a tree outside. The sound must make the turning vampire’s fangs ache. “I could be as young as you. I could be older than civilization,” he said contemplatively. “Does it even really matter, Peter?”
“No,” Peter blustered. Cryptic seemed to be the order of the day, but he had called him Peter. Not Mr. Vincent, so perhaps this was the only chance before the walls went back up. The mention of villagers earlier had intrigued him. “I suppose it doesn’t.” When Charley was settled…when Charley was stable, and not potentially prone to biting his neck on a deserted street…then he may ask. Not now, not when the boy was busy altering his very species. He was highly strung tonight. Hell, so was Peter.
“One thousand years old,” was heard from the depths of the pillowcase. Charley was sweaty, and withdrew his face from it. He was having waves of discomfort, but the edge was coming off the outside noises. Just because he was turning, it didn’t mean he wasn’t listening to them chat. It was calming him. It gave him something to focus on. His ears were picking up crickets in the walls of a house two doors down, for God’s sake! There was an owl nearby; it was catching a mouse! He had detected the little thing shrieking as it died and envied the bird’s successful hunt, before he could focus on Jerry’s words again.
How could he possibly miss them talking?
How could he resist poking a hole in Jerry’s ‘Am I from the dawn of time, or not?’ mysterious act? “He’s been around a while,” Charley shrugged after they locked eyes.
“Thank you, Charley,” Peter beamed. It was enough to thoroughly satisfy him. Judging by the rueful respect that was shared between the two, Peter determined that anything more personal than age would never be divulged. He sensed that not even blackmail would pry it loose from Charley’s lips, as the other’s eyes grew fiercely stubborn and almost protective.
“Yes. Thank you, Charley.” Jerry’s fingers splayed before him with glee, signaling an end to the conversation. He was playing with Peter, for it was rare that he could speak so openly about his nature. While they were not friends, would never be more than civil enemies, truths could still be dangled just out of reach.
Peter gazed suspiciously at the vampire, as he alternated between watching the boy he respected beyond, and remaining certain nobody would take him from behind for an unwelcome snack. What was he slashing at in that corner?
“What might that be, Mr. Dandrige?”
“An apple,” was the odd reply. The vampire had slashed it in half with claws. “Would you care for a bite, Mr. Vincent?” He chuckled as Peter blanched as though the thought of accepting an apple from him were appalling. He waited for the emotion to pass, watching expectantly. “Whether they be human or vampire, an apple keeps the breath from smelling like a charnel house, after a busy evening.”
The claws weren’t poison. What would it hurt? Thanks to Ed, and the perils of the current situation, the actor had skipped his dinner. “Yes. Thank you.” Before he took a bite, another thought struck him. Because really, what was the point of politeness and formality when in the presence of a vampire? “Call me Peter, if you don’t mind.” Not just once, to startle him. Always.
Before the request could be rejected outright, he noted that Jerry tilted his head and frowned. “What’s wrong?”
He put one finger to his lips, for silence. “It’s Charley. Gasping, ever so quietly. He should be ready soon…then his heart will be stopping between dawn and dusk.” The stink of change was in the air. Soon, the smell of mortality would be washed from the boy. He had fallen asleep again for a little while, and should hunger soon. He took stock of the boy here, and Amy in the next room. Charley would be complete soon...Amy would linger in her state for not much longer. It was just as he had said, but she awed him with her stamina. Then, the vampire’s attention returned to Peter, and he saw the reluctance, his fear.
Jerry's eyes cleared, and he appeared to be in the mood for chatting once more. “Now where were we?” Yes, the vampire had a very important question to ask. As a connoisseur of Peter Vincent’s older films, it was one that had nagged at him ever since he had stepped into his home. “Blood Feast On Broadway? Psychedelic Death? Really, Mr. Vincent? You agreed to those two?” The lore was so far off the mark in that one, it was just sad. It had been utterly hysterical to both him, as well as Billy.
Now thoroughly abashed, Peter shrugged and wrapped his coat tightly about himself. A harrumph may have been squelched in its cradle. “Yes, really. Some of us have a diet that requires more than liquid refreshment, even if it doesn’t pay all of the bills.” While he would defend the first film to his dying day (which could be today if he wasn’t careful with his words, he mused as he rubbed his neck) he would never deny the latter was an atrocious one.
"I struggle to keep those two out of rotation,” Peter cautioned as he warmed to the subject. “They really are quite popular…or they were. I can't recall why just now. The producers loved to air them. To me, the snowy reception at two in the morning is more entertaining and less embarrassing." That thought led to remembrance of his firing, and he wondered again what he should do.
"But Mr. Vincent,” Jerry said with great merriment. “You killed a vampire with a kaleidoscope, backlit by the moon!" It was something that had been genuinely amusing. If it somehow spread misinformation about his kind through terrible special effects, all the better.
Peter massaged his temples with a put upon sigh. This man really had followed his missteps, hadn’t he? “Don’t remind me, Dandrige. Don’t remind me.” It hurt his head to think about that script, it really did.
To his surprise, Jerry wasn’t offended. This creature could instill a greater horror than any of his films…but never let it be said that he wasn’t a good actor himself, when it came to guests. He tried to relax, answer that which had plagued him since the belated death of poor Edward. A moment’s hesitation, before he plowed on. “He won’t be like Ed when the change completes? Unable to stop laughing?”
“No,” Jerry conceded. “Perhaps Ed awakened too soon. Ed might have been merely…overwhelmed with joy at his new existence, his new place on the food chain, as it were. Impatient before another kill,” Jerry deduced. Some were like that upon the change settling in: antsy, frenzied, or hysterical. Others were lethargic, shiftless, until forcibly dragged from their dying place to feed. Ed had simply been frenzied with thirst from the moment the scream ended in the alley and his eyes opened upon a new world. “Or he wanted to make a grand entrance. He’ll gain another soon, since you removed the stake.”
Charley had been temporarily blinded for thirty heart pounding seconds as his eyes shifted and warped deep inside. From the outside, black eyes saw nothing before fading into something almost normal, though tinged with gold. The pressures in his face made him startle, then, when vision returned, notice he had quietly hissed and torn a hole in the sheet to the mattress beneath. He had bitten at nothing, gnashing fangs extended in a widened, unnerving rictus. He closed his eyes as streetlights pierced the fog and dazzled him. It hurt. He clung to the strange banter of the men like a lifeline until it passed.
His thoughts calmed, and it was like coming up from the bottom of the ocean. He could think again. Something brushed his mind, and he realized Jerry was providing a cool wave of succor. The mental caress, strangely paternal, assured him that Peter hadn’t seen the facial change; he didn’t know. Jerry, Charley somehow knew, had distracted him with perfectly timed words. He had diverted Peter’s gaze with talk of his worst films. A tapestry of lies cushioned in a speck of truth from Jerry, would keep Peter from hysteria.
“You don’t know what he was like,” Charley finally ground out from the bed before heaving himself up. Their conversation had managed to help him, and he needed to talk. He looked deep in the grips of some horrid illness, with only rings of yellow in his eyes saying otherwise, as they, too, were still changing. He was coherent enough, just annoyed. “He’s like that,” Charley continued. “It’s all a big game, and he’ll flash his fangs at everybody until dawn! Watch out, he’ll spray paint ‘blood is the life’ all over your house, Jerry!” The boy seemed grimly satisfied by the thought, and irritated all at once.
Only then, did Jerry outwardly seem concerned. It was a show for Peter. “We’ll look for him if he isn’t here by tomorrow night,” he growled darkly. He had yet to sense the briefly deceased teen’s location, so he couldn’t be in too much trouble.
Charley’s dazed fingers brushed the fang marks, then, shaking as he held his hand to his face. It wasn’t bleeding, and he knew the last scrap of dizziness would go away any minute. He would be able to stand up after it passed. Jerry’s look was ordering him to relax, and he would. If only he weren’t jittery. Charley distractedly wiped at the blood, accidentally smearing it on his already ruined shirt and pants when he wasn’t paying attention. He was suddenly hotter; as though his blood was boiling…so from beneath the sheets he ripped off his shirt and moved to his knees enough to throw it into the corner.
Twin looks of disapproval (one with a knowing smirk) delighted and infuriated him into putting the pillow back over his head. He heard one man sigh, and the other lean back and rise from a squeaky chair. There was some heightened bat hearing come right about now, he judged. Why couldn’t it just be bat sonar? That might not make his ears ache so much.
The feelings swelled up within, until he felt Jerry rubbing his back soothingly. A vampire back massage would kill a regular human. Bruises healed and torn flesh knitted itself closed wherever it occurred as the change worked its magic. His canines ached as newly formed fangs inched slowly downward. Ow, he’d accidentally bitten himself. Vampire teething was the worst of all, it simply had to be. Due to the quiet, he wondered if Peter had left. No, he heard his heart beating.
He peeked out with one changing eye, and saw Peter worriedly watching. He gave him a fumbling thumbs up that was only a little white lie, before sighing ‘sorry.’ He was gratified to see that was enough, as the man leaned back in his chair in wonder. Charley nuzzled Jerry’s arm (he’d wrapped it around him without him noticing) instinctively, knowing he would understand the danger. They locked eyes.
Minutes slowly ticked by as humanity lessened within him, and became but a dream to awaken from. Except the parts that remained, which he would never let go. The older vampire could understand his plight.
Soon, he suddenly knew, the edge would ease off. He would give a warning before Peter would ever come to harm; he’d promised he would never bite him. He wouldn’t go back on his word. “Please,” he whispered, too quiet for anyone but a vampire to hear. Jerry nodded solemnly and whirled to face Peter. One hand remained clasped to Charley’s shoulder, as though to measure how near he was to losing control. It wouldn’t be much longer, but there was a solution. They just needed Peter out of the room for a moment. Then he could focus.
Jerry moved to the corner of the bed, sliding one hand across Charley’s knee. “Peter…step out into the hallway. He’s thirsty, and at this stage…well, you’re the only one actually breathing in the room. Even if he doesn’t want to harm you, the first meal is the strongest desire. I can’t fault him that,” he said pleasantly. “I can fix it until the time has come for real blood.” Since he was the one that turned him, he was the one that could sate his desire with blood suckled from a wound.
When Peter hesitated, a voice came from the huddled form on the bed as it shoved away the comforter and held its stomach. Seriously, eyes bright, Charley stared at him. “Listen to him, Peter. You need to get out now. He can help me, it’ll be safer soon. I’ll be safer.” Peter nodded solemnly. He thought he heard a weak growl. The man only needed a glimpse of those strangely glowing, now fully orange, eyes before he obliged and put the door between them.
Once Charley was settled, it would be time for Peter to depart. Peter leaned his head upon the door, gathering his wits. It was a mild shock to see those eyes, but he should have expected it. Through the door, he heard Charley cry out impatiently, “Damn it, how do I get rid of the claws?”
Jerry’s reply was calm, the tone of a parent explaining something to a frightened child. There was a rustle of clothes, of satin sheets against bare skin. “You’ll feel better with something in your stomach. You can focus on your shape. Now drink.”
“Charley,” Peter began with a hesitant rap as he stood outside the door. He was intruding on something, he realized. “Do you want me to leave?” He suspected his being there would only worsen the situation. His watch showed how close to the deadline the boy was if he needed to get to the basement. His heart ached at the thought of leaving, but his presence would cause the boy pain, as the temptation of biting a tender neck grew like the dark thing it was.
The door was yanked open with inhuman quickness, to reveal Charley. Peter frowned as Charley looked from Peter to Jerry and back. Jerry seemed to be having a silent debate with the boy, keeping him from giving in. Desperation struggled with lust, with thirst, as Charley licked his lips, his fangs, and hid talons behind his back. “Yeah. I think you need to go now, Peter. I’ll be okay here. I promise!”
Peter hid his mounting dread, understanding the only thing standing in the way of becoming Charley’s first kill was the boy’s will…perhaps bolstered by Jerry’s strength, along with Jerry’s blood now flowing inside him from the first occasion. Peter took a breath before stepping just out of arm’s length of Charley, restraining himself from a goodbye hug with all of his being. He would not turn his back on the boy until he rounded the corner to the stairs.
“Hey,” Peter heard Charley calling. His eyebrow rose expectantly. “Do I still have that standing invitation when you’ve got a new place?” Peter shook his head. The boy was incorrigible. It made him uneasy, but he could still see the brave boy beneath it all, who just didn’t want anyone to die. Charley wasn’t just a predator mingling with his prey until he pounced. Or was he in denial? It was hard to say.
“No. No, you really don’t,” Peter answered with a laugh, albeit one tinged with sadness. That was the most roundabout way of gaining entrance to a home that he had seen yet. He didn’t want Charley to come to regret something if he accidentally said yes. He didn’t want to endanger him, either.
Peter stopped, then, as his hand touched the railing. “Jerry…you take good care of that boy. Charley, you have my number.” As he rounded the corner, he heard Jerry urging Charley to drink again, before the door slammed shut.
This time, without Peter Vincent on the other side of the door to distract him, he would.
As the last taste of blood was relished, Charley’s desire to rip Peter to shreds faded. But he couldn’t take his eyes off the other vampire. There had been flashes. There had been impressions as he had drunk from Jerry’s now icy palm. Charley understood Jerry better, and was scared to know how he’d become what he was. It wasn’t his to know.
He’d seen Jerry (and God, did his age pre-date that nickname or what? Good pick to blend in) on a dusty road, in the darkness, getting attacked. Was it Rome? Charley didn’t know. Someone was hungry. It wasn’t the moors, but it was misty. He’d seen him waking, unknowing. It was near dawn. He’d seen him discovering what he was when the sunlight had scalded and blistered flesh, until a flimsy shelter was found in the depths of an overgrown bush, before he was beneath a grove of majestic olive trees. He hadn’t seen him killing, the vision was gone too soon, but had presumed that was the next obvious step.
He would never tell anyone. He tried to let Jerry know with a shaken look, for he was without words. Was it a fluke? Had Amy and Ed seen the same thing? Was it because he was willing, even if backed into a corner?
The message was clearly received as Dandrige inclined his head. The reveal was intentional; it was to make him understand what the alternative path could be like when one became a vampire. A finger ghosted down one arm, gentle as a cobweb, and Charley shivered. Given the implications, Charley knew he wouldn’t be cast aside as a quick goal achieved, abandoned on the road like a used burger wrapper…because Jerry knew what that felt like.
A face had flashed by there at the end of the vision, before it was obscured, and Charley hesitated. “What…who was that?” Charley knew what he had been allowed to see, but the way Jerry was turned was scary. He was right. Jerry hadn’t been given a choice in what he was. He hadn’t been given a chance to say yes or no. It explained all the chances Charley had received. Jerry’s biting was a nightmare compared to how Charley was being eased into this new life.
“My sister,” Jerry replied softly. He deserved that much information, and he was calm as he spoke. It had been centuries since the event, and had become a happy event to his mind. “I was trying to find her. She was missing for days. What a fool I was as a mortal; I searched the streets at night. We don’t know who turned her. She wasn’t told anything afterwards, and she made mistakes in her confusion. It was a regrettable error, as she was starving,” he mused. There was a pause, before he added wistfully, “Mistakes were made. Blood was exchanged in the frenzy. Neither of us wished to kill the other, or to die ourselves, so we moved on.” It was a good life to him, even if they ended up living on separate continents.
Charley didn’t dare ask what constituted a ‘regrettable error’ to a vampire. Dumping somebody ignorant of everything so they could make the exact same mistake that led to their creation had to be a forbidden thing. It was a sensitive subject, and he should have known better. “I’m sorry,” he whispered haltingly. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
A hand cupped Charley’s cheek, and he couldn’t look away. “No. I allowed you to see.” It had been just enough to entice him into asking more, privately, later, without a word being uttered. The spell was broken when the elder man nodded towards the closet.
“Get dressed,” Jerry gently advised. He should find himself a shirt, unmarred by the blood of a past life. “You can see Peter off from afar. We have little time.” A gentle shove urged him onward.
Let Charley say goodbye to his old life of his own accord. If Peter kept his silence, well…then Jerry would see to it that he was rewarded. He could be benevolent when he so chose. He was owed favors. They would be called in; the fired actor could reclaim his job and more. If there were resistance from any corner, he (or Charley, provided the boy was interested) would merely bite and enslave a producer’s mind. In two weeks, Mr. Vincent would have his old job back. In three, he could receive an unexpected pay raise. Within a month, as payment for his silence, he would be able to permanently move into a new apartment complex. He would not have to sell a single beloved prop to raise the cash for it.
It would be a simple matter to set it all in motion, Jerry deemed. He watched Charley dart out of the bedroom with a shirt halfway over his head, and moved to follow close behind. He was ready to pull Charley back by the scruff of the neck should he thoughtlessly dash into encroaching sunlight. They were almost out of time. Losing him to the sun this soon would be a waste of good blood.
All it took was a mental jolt urging caution, and the teen halted in his tracks before he could get further than the landing. Charley looked back expectantly as he clung to the banister, obviously worried and looking for guidance as to what to do next.
Peter Vincent descended the staircase, and peeked cautiously out the now unlocked door. He stepped outside and saw the fog had dispersed. He was not a prisoner here. He drew his coat tighter against the morning chill, and dared to look behind him. Charley watched from the top of the landing with longing, as though he wanted to go home, too. As though he had far more to say. Before he could speak, Jerry wisely began ushering him away from the growing light. There was a nod of acknowledgement as they made their way back into the shadows.
There was a fleeting glance inside, but once certain they were safely ensconced in the depths of the house and Charley wasn’t about to learn what the sun felt like on a vampire’s skin, Peter Vincent looked away again.
When a hand brushed his shoulder, Peter jolted. It was Billy, he saw…with company. Over one shoulder was slung a sleepy, yet still naked, Ed. “Look who I found sleeping in the tool shed,” Billy reported smugly. “Keep the door open, I’ll get him to Jerry. Your stuff’s back around the corner.” Peter nodded reassuringly, and held the door open before he held up a hand.
After a moment’s indecision, Peter removed his coat and draped it across Ed. Some privacy was required, and he doubted the vampire wanted to be carried around without a stitch on. He was gratified when Ed did not immediately sink his teeth into his wrist, but merely watched him. Peter inclined his head; to signal to Billy he could continue with his cargo.
“Jer! He wasn’t painting the house red after all,” Billy shouted. Ed was casting a pained glower Peter’s way, blaming him for his current predicament. He would heal, but he would not be invited into Peter’s new home. That trick only worked the one time. Still, Peter’s eyes showed a sense of regret that the young vampire had suffered so, coming back from such an anguished death at his very hands.
Peter shook himself from dwelling on that moment, and glanced around the directed corner. What was done was done; there was no changing it. Oh ho, his weapons! His prop box was in one piece! Was Billy returning his weapons to Peter now that his master had turned his back? Or perhaps simply because nobody deemed him even the most miniscule of threats. That was the most likely thing. He wouldn’t dream of that now, he judged as he placed the gun in his pocket. He would fail if he dared. To his bemusement, the stake had been wiped clean of blood. Why? Some things were best left unasked.
Charley had his phone number if he needed his assistance once night fell…or a soul who understood. For the next day at any rate. He would leave his new address with Billy.
Peter really must come up with a convincing lie for Mrs. Brewster now, as to why her son would not be seen in the daylight hours, nor would be attending classes at his high school. He had never met her before, but felt she would be a greater, more formidable adversary than a vampire. He frowned with worry, discarding several lies that contained greater holes than the worst movie script he could devise.
With a sigh, Peter strode to his car. As he walked, he became befuddled at the strange heat and growing traces of ash on his forearm. He sought the source, and plucked a trace of bloody wolf fur from his sleeve. Ed’s fur. His coat had hidden it, until the moment he had given away what concealed it. As he watched, it continued to smolder, to burn brightly with a sickly green flame, and then fell away like dust from his fingers before it could sear him. He wiped the remaining ashes away on his pants in awe.
If sunlight destroyed the traces on his person, then there must be more remaining within Mrs. Brewster’s house. He had evidence, and with that evidence came hope. Mrs. Brewster would believe…she might force him to sweep everything up with a broom as penance, but she would believe. He had the truth upon him.
His theory could still be wrong! He rushed into his car checking frantically for any traces that had yet to spontaneously combust. Upon finding one tucked in the fold of his other sleeve, he shaded it with his hands and stuffed it into his box of vampire hunting supplies. He waited. No smell of burning hair drifted to his nose…or of wood, with his stake in there. As with the regular vampire, hiding away from the sun in a box would preserve this fur.
“Forewarned is forearmed,” Peter proclaimed victoriously.
“Mind the clocks, Charley,” Jerry warned as he placed an arm around his shoulders. He was leading him downward again. He had risked sunlight to see the human leave. Away from the windows, where the stained glass could cause them to smolder, and into the shadows cast from the landing. He wished to lead him away from the danger of bursting into brilliant, green flame.
The clocks were beginning their morning chimes, their daily cacophony that could deafen a person not ready. A dozen cuckoos were not something to be ignored, but Charley could cover his ears. “Come along now.” He took Charley’s hand, tugging him along the direction of the basement. They would find him a place to rest. He followed Charley’s hungry gaze, as he looked frantically out the window and down the street, beyond the retreating form of Peter Vincent. “Later, boy. The sun rises in three minutes. You can bite someone tonight.”
Charley had seen a girl down the road, too, and realized how much he needed to feed. He had also felt guilty, because he wanted to be with Amy. He needed her more keenly than he ever had before. She wasn’t finished turning, though, and she was safe in the heavily curtained bedroom. If he went to her now, they’d tear each other apart from hunger. “You promise?” He knew he shouldn’t grab someone off the street so close to home (for this was home now)—so he asked for feeding as a whole. Not so close to home; that wouldn’t ever work.
Dandrige shook his head reproachfully. “When we find our prey, be certain you are not seen. Always remember that,” he cautioned. It was rare for people to divine what they were, but it had happened…not for centuries, but the chance was always there. Take the ones who were destitute, and would not be missed. Charley would glean as much from his words.
“Someone from out of town,” Charley guessed. “Someone who won’t be missed if we get out of control?”
Jerry nodded in pleasure as Billy passed them on the stairs, with Ed in tow. He reached out once to brush Ed’s throat with a claw as comfort, a silent welcome back passing between them. Ed was more awake now; the burn caused by the sanctity of the cross had vanished from his forehead, as if it had never existed. A crate in the basement could be turned into a makeshift coffin for him until a new one was procured.
When the weakened vampire caught sight of Charley, he emitted a squeaky snicker. If his chest weren’t still knitting itself back together, he would have howled with laughter. “Brewster got bit, yes! We’ll have some action now,” he impishly promised. With that it was on to the basement, as Billy had only paused to let the vampire speak and grind out a whimpered ‘ouch.’
“Only when you get some clothes on, and you aren’t so shriveled from the cold,” Charley teasingly shouted back. Billy was keeping Ed from procuring or throwing anything hanging from the walls at Charley as they trudged onward.
“Shush, now.” A finger delicately tapped his chin, reclaiming the teen’s attention. “Once the sun sets, we hunt where none will know. If you take too much…if any of you do…we will deal with it,” Dandrige cautioned as his eyes returned to Charley. Billy would remove the heads to keep them from rising again, and swelling their ranks into an incoherent mess. The older of the two gestured for him to watch his head, as they ducked through the secret passage that would lead them to their already prepared coffins.
They would hunt rarely in packs, and cause only enough bloodshed that the populace of a small town would believe it was caused by starving, feral dogs. Primarily, he only aimed to take those that would not be missed until long after they had passed, and their bones had become ashes.
Charley was absorbing every word. Before he could ask if it would be safe to hunt outside the doors of the club…the one where the bouncer had bit the dust…he heard a sound. Was that…? No, it had to be too soon. It wasn’t Peter; he’d swear to it—he had heard the engine of the car as he pulled away. The elder vampire picked up on the situation and ceased to speak, instead urging him forward so they could both see.
Charley was wary, but they were in the basement. They were safe, weren’t they? They would remain shielded, so long as those blackened windows never shattered. But…he recognized the footsteps now. She was ready! She was out! Was this a bad thing? “Amy, it’s me,” he called out in delight.
“Charley. I know,” Amy confirmed. Then, with more passion behind it as she appeared at the top of the stairs, “Don’t you want me anymore?” She was teasing him while she stood bathed in candlelight at the entrance. She was bewitching.
Charley thought she was gorgeous beyond words now, especially with fangs and that strangely longer hair. The dress was spectacular, and clung to every curve. “Always,” Charley inhaled, unable to stop the hint of fang as he smiled; unable to resist the desire, he pulled her the rest of the way into the darkness before spinning her around. He searched her face. Was she in pain? No, she looked…okay. She was gorgeous.
She pulled him in for a deep kiss, then. He wasn’t fully human, he was undead, and so was she. It was safe. She didn’t need to drink him, and they were equal in bone deep exhaustion caused by the rising sun…but the passion was there. The darkness was here beneath the house. Charley nibbled at her lip and things became frantic. If they didn’t stop now, there would be no rest. As they tumbled to the floor in a tangle of limbs the sound of something cracking jolted them to their senses.
Before they broke apart, Amy’s claws were raking his back. It would heal; it didn’t matter that another shirt was ruined. Charley pulled back, brushing with cautious fingers the formerly antique Bavarian chest that was now chunks of broken wood. He would be paying for that for centuries, if there were a way for vampires to get allowances…or jobs, came the baffled thought. He was breathing hard, and shook his head to clear it. “We’ll finish this tomorrow…please? I don’t want to stop but…” He didn’t know what to do, she was nuzzling his throat, and he reciprocated instinctually. His voice trailed off, he knew she understood the danger. They were out of time. They had a date when dusk fell.
“Jerry,” Charley hoarsely called. He was sorry for the loss, not for being with Amy. He was sorry he would have to stop touching her, and brushed Jerry’s wrist as he approached, before rising with inhuman speed. Unexpectedly close, the man was at his side. He had seen, he had heard, and they could pick up the literal pieces of the chest tomorrow. It was beyond repair, but there was no chiding him. It had been caused by the height of emotion, and could not be taken as anything else. He had waited for their little reunion was through before intruding.
Dandrige drew Amy him, already prepared as he gestured to her coffin. He drew her to him, breathing, “Amy…” as she kissed his cheek, his nose, his throat. It was platonic for a vampire at the start; she couldn’t stop the movements. There were no jealous looks from Charley, as he somehow intuitively understood. It was a way of thanking him. Jerry was satisfied and stepped back a pace, almost saddened by the loss.
“I know,” Amy smiled as something passed unspoken between them. She might have looked like someone else that was gone from his life. She wouldn’t go. A feeling was lost, now that mesmerism didn’t sway her to being his in anything but the culmination of a bite. There were residual feelings of something, primarily a lust that had been quenched. Amy stroked Jerry’s chest and moved in a way that unconsciously mimicked something of their earlier dance, before they separated.
Charley tilted his head, curious and enraptured. He had missed most of it with that call to Peter, and the general fleeing for their lives going on. Could she dance like that with him? Or just Jerry? Was there room for a third, or would it get messy? Fear melted away as Jerry pinned him with calm eyes, and held out his hand in a way that clearly meant ‘Come.”
Charley took hold as tightly as he dared. With a playful growl, they were swept into a dance. There was only so much room in the dark corners. Amy laughed almost like she used to when he did something unexpectedly cute, as Dandrige and Charley bumped and twisted awkwardly against each other, until moves were anticipated and motions became more fluid. It was only a moment as Jerry humored him, and showed him what might await him, but it was glorious. Once, Charley almost crashed into a rusty suit of armor, despite his ability to see in the dark.
Hey, foul creatures of the night could have fun in their first hours of life! Had Ed done something similar in the first hour after his bite? Aside from trying to bite Peter?
Amy was ready for night to come. Upstairs, she had known what would happen if she were locked inside, a feeling that could not be stopped even with massive curtains to protect her. It had welled up, and she had felt trapped. She had heard the chimes of the clocks; she had smashed the locks of the room with sharpened nails and descended the depths of the house. She had sought companionship; she had smelled Charley, and done the natural thing.
She had feared he would be too different, and he had feared the same. Neither was. Amy returned to Charley, then, kissing his ear and nose this time, before breaking away. “Not now! Tomorrow night,” she whispered as they both tried to stop panting. It would be a long wait.
Charley drifted closer, pondering joining her in the coffin as he reached for her arm…until he felt another wrap itself around his chest. A head touched his, and he bumped it from behind, looking up into Dandrige’s eyes. Another moment passed between them, and he was released. Right. Jerry. He wanted him in his own. Hers was too cramped, and they would be too busy for rest if they were together. His libido wasn’t dead!
Charley grimaced apologetically, and rushed further on to his coffin. He could practically feel the stirrings of the new day as the sun filled the sky, even though he wasn’t outdoors. It was so uncomfortable. If they weren’t careful, nature could burn them away. It would only take one mistake. Charley understood Jerry’s concern now. A coffin would take some getting used to, but he could sleep the sleep of the undead in peace, and play with his new powers from its safety. He was desperate to see if he could go into bat form in there, or if that was a strictly nighttime gig. He wanted to be as large of a bat as Jerry was, if he could. He wanted a lot of things…but he also had a concern about Ed.
With his arms leaning on the side of the crate that contained Ed, Charley asked, “So when does Ed get a coffin?” A muffled ‘yeah!’ from the depths of the aforementioned crate provoked a snort of amusement There was a sound of rustling, and Charley peered in—Peter's coat was now around Ed's waist like an apron.
“He will have a large coffin lined with velvet by sunset. Billy need only fetch it from storage. It isn’t far from the house,” the elder vampire comforted, lest they think their daytime protector would leave them helpless. Jerry always kept an extra coffin somewhere in town wherever he lived, lest some fool with a Dracula obsession and too much time on their hands desecrate one with something holy. Jerry had dozens scattered in various boltholes in case of an emergency.
A ‘thank you’ punctuated by a gleeful whoop signaled Ed’s appreciation of this plan. He was likely already tired of being buried beneath hay.
When Charley’s stretched, Jerry touched his shoulder. “Oh, Charley?” He waited for the new vampire to focus on him, seeing he was already beginning to drift. The boy needed to climb into that coffin. “The youngest of the flock to be bitten is taken hunting first. That’s you,” Jerry clarified.
Charley’s eyes glowed a fierce orange, containing a joy that only a vampire could understand. “I love this rule.”
Ed whimpered from his corner, moving until his annoyed eyes could be seen. “Well, I don’t. It means I’m last.”
Charley rolled his eyes. “But we still love you, Evil,” he sang out. It wasn’t a complete lie, laced though it was with a hearty dose of sarcasm. “You’ve bitten somebody before, right? You get a coffin tonight, don’t you? We don’t have to ship you anywhere by air mail in this thing.” It had to be cramped, but Ed was skinny.
“Yeah, but I was staked, Brewster,” Ed protested as he rubbed his chest gently. He still had a bad nick inside his heart, and two ribs were still fractured. He looked whole, but it really hurt. “That should send me higher up the list.”
The growl that erupted from Charley didn’t shock Jerry. It wasn’t anger; it was crankiness about being denied, and annoyance that Amy wasn't second. It was more the sound a sleepy lion cub might make than a ravenous demon thirsting for a sip of blood. He heard Ed snickering, and suspected he would mock Charley mercilessly for it later.
“Hey,” Amy shouted from her perch atop Jerry's coffin. She hopped down, and edged between Ed's crate and Charley If this stopped Ed from smelling like he was going for some weird internal bleeding award, she'd shove Evil to the front of the damn line. “Cut it out. Listen to him, Charley,” she growled. She moved to touch him behind his ear, with just the hint of a claw to threaten pain. Sweetly, she hummed, “He’s going to the front of the line, got that, Charley? The wounded--that's Ed, sweetie, then you, then me, because I can wait an extra hour for you to have some fun. You're too hungry to go third. Does that make you even happier?”
At Charley’s sheepish nod, she wrapped her arms around his neck briefly. He was impressed, and reaching for her when she let go. “Good.” She held his hand briefly, and frowned in confusion at the hastily mumbled plea 'just don't bite Billy.' She'd have to ask him about that tonight. Ed gave her a jubilant thumb up from his crate as she strolled by; she clasped his hand as a show of support.
Jerry stroked Charley’s cheek. “To your coffin, Charley,” Jerry advised. “Before you discover what it is to fall asleep in the midst of something entertaining.” He swept his eyes over Charley, taking in how close to falling over he truly was. “The sun will knock a young one like you out in about five more minutes. You can barely keep your eyes open now. Did I forget to warn you?”
Charley was aghast; he hadn’t known. He thought he could fight the tiredness, but curling up in a coffin…the pull couldn’t be resisted. With that in mind, he moved to it with a repentant expression, taking in the feel. The outside didn’t matter, just the protection. “Right. Good morning, Jerry,” he bowed before swinging himself in. He would get the hang of this eventually. He only checked once, peeking out to see the man’s humor as he walked amongst his family. Charley saw he was making sure each had found a suitable resting place. When Jerry stiffened and turned in his direction, Charley lowered the lid further. Still, he caught Charley watching, and gestured for him to lock it up.
Charley’s coffin closed with a thud, and he marveled at locks inside the lid, designed for an extra hoop a vampire hunter had to jump through. The new vampire yawned as he locked it from the inside. From a distance, he heard the muffled creak of Jerry’s coffin; of Amy’s; of Ed’s crate thumping around. He heard retreating footsteps thudding up the stairs as Billy left. Muffled, he heard Amy chastising Ed for something. Why would he risk Amy’s wrath, and the chance to die for a third time? He must have made a remark on them being aroused.
He heard Amy thanking Jerry for the gift to them all, and stretched. He knocked once on the lid from within, signaling the feeling was mutual, before he frowned. Could he schedule his hunting around Peter’s shows? He would try. He wouldn’t miss Fright Night just because he was a vampire. He could always order a pizza deliveryman.
He yawned. Sleep…it would be a natural one this time, hastened by his brand new life…it was carrying him away. He would be suspended in time, drifting mentally until sleep claimed him.
This could be so much fun, was the last thing he thought before his head gently thudded against the purple decorative pillow. Charley sighed, content as darkness coiled around his thoughts like a beautiful midnight quilt. He was home, he knew, as he snuggled into the soft decorative pillow.
Charley’s pulse slowed; his heart finally ceasing to thump with a semblance of mortality around noon. Jerry recognized the moment even as he, too, slumbered. Flesh would cool; fangs would grow even sharper as he slept. The bloodlust would boil within him; it would not merely nag him as a tiny rat nibbling upon the toes of a sleeping soul. The call of the night would allow nothing but obedience; the pull could never be denied so long as it thrummed through the mind, and inserted its corrupting claws deep into the soul.
His mind brushed the boy’s, gauging his health. He was fine. Jerry determined that Charley’s sleep was so profound that it would be nigh impossible to rouse him until the proper hour.
There was only a distant contented mutter; the sound of Charley’s claws as they brushed the interior of his coffin senselessly. It was just as it should be. He was so young that he needed every moment of his rest.
Soon, Jerry would teach him to master the art of feeding unnoticed even in a town as small as this one. Soon, the brave boy would joyfully—playfully—nip anyone that stood between him and his next meal. When the sun sank, the fun could begin for his new surrogate child…for all his new children. Jerry would teach them how to hunt someone properly once they awoke.
None of the curious were left to pry into the life of Jerry Dandrige. There would be no prying eyes to trouble them, as the biggest one slumbered on. Charley could watch the stars, but he would never be able to see the sun again. He could bask in the moonlight if he so desired, but he would never again dare to risk the burning agony of its warmth of it upon his face.
Charley’s soul belonged to the night. There was solace in the shadows, for both young and old vampires alike.