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99 problems

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If you haven't got problems I feel bad for you son
I got 99 problems and a bitch ain't one

- Hugo


Peter Vincent wasn't sure which casino bar he had wandered into. It looked like one of the older, less frenetic watering holes for marks and tourists, which was the same thing, really; definitely off the strip, probably last updated in the late 80s.

He had the general impression of chocolate-cherry colored wallpaper and shadows, of single drinkers who looked like they could be named Vinny or Guido staring mournfully at the spot on the bar that should hold an ashtray; former smokers making do with booze. Sometimes he got flashes of empathy about stuff like this, or maybe his inner showman just liked spinning drama out of body language and situations. Since the Bad Night, the moment his inner showman was born, he'd been wary as an unwilling zookeeper with an empty cage labeled "sabre-toothed maneaters," who spends his days trying to avoid stepping in sign from the escaped beasts.

The kid. Funny his inner showman didn't catch on sooner. Vincent hadn't started to sweat until he caught the look in the kid's eyes: how do you kill a vampire?

But that was in the past. Razor fangs had worried at his own flesh, had slurped his blood, and he was still alive to have pants-wetting nightmares about it.

Vincent poked a stick at that memory, forced it into a nice oubliette where he kept the 3D and soundtrack from the Bad Night, then took further blurry interest in his surroundings. He didn't think there were any single women around when he materialized at the bar, only one Teutonicly-blond young man wearing a tailored dress shirt and tight leather pants. He'd sidled up, desperate envy in his eyes at the sight of The Duster. Vincent had told him to bugger off you nancy at full stage volume, then ordered something green. The bartender shrugged, gave him a green appletini, and kept them coming without making a fuss.

It was a great bar, Vincent decided, a great bar. He finished the second appletini before he began to wonder why he was thinking of his entrance to the bar as a materialization. Except, really, after leaving his penthouse to the young fornicating vampire killer, there was a long, wiggly impression of many bars and many drinks, and the sequence of perambulation on legs between these bars was vague. Very vague. Very fucking vague.

Materialization was a better explanation.

"That looks good. I'll have one."

Vincent squinted at the bartender. Nope. He hadn't spoken. Gel's voice, coming from somewhere close. He turned, slowly, slightly more than 45 degrees to his left. Down the bar Guido reached between his thighs and itched his balls. Nope.

"Not a bad drink. I really like your duster." The voice was in the stagey too-good-to-be-true category, a little throaty laugh in back of the words, a little you'd like to fuck me and I'm greatly fuckable quality in the voice making his nipples and dick drunkenly argue about which direction they ought to be pointing.

Forty-five degrees to his right. "Hello. I really like your tits." Since they were the first things his eyes focused on, he felt the sentiment was honest and fairly stated. Leather bustier under a silk overblouse, very stagey, and were those things buoyed by helium, or just clever lacing? The breasts weren't freakishly large, but large enough, sweetly rounded and high. Leaning closer, Vincent thought he could see the crescent trace of a cream-colored aureole against her starkly white skin where the bustier dipped low.

"Now there's something I don't hear every day." The lips sipping the appletini were also the color of chocolate-covered cherries. For a moment Vincent had the most overwhelming craving for chocolate. He shook it off, squinted, and forced his eyes to her face.

Red alert! Motherfucking red alert! His nipples and dick did their imitation of a threatened tortoise, withdrawing into his flesh and plastering condemned! enter at your own risk notices behind his eyelids. The skin of her face was the same milk white perfection as her breasts. Her eyes were La Brea tarpits, under peek-a-boo bangs the color of dried blood.

"You're kind of cute," she said, "for a spaz who's got vampire miasma leaking from his pores. You had a bad night? Join the club. Let's move to a booth and talk about it."


Another minor materialization, and Vincent found there was a hard vinyl seat under his ass, a candle in a Chianti bottle and two fresh appletinis on the booth top in front of him.

"I recognize The Duster," she said, claiming one of the appletinis. "You're Peter Vincent. I'm Arimatheaelucta. Ari." The lips were parted by a tongue. Pink and precise. Agile. "You're a stage magician. I'm a succubus."

Vincent regretted the appletinis, regretted unnamed, unremembered drinks of verdant hue. "Hooker who specializes in orally servicing big dicks?" he guessed, half-heartedly.

"Yeah. I've never heard that one, either." Ari snuffed the candle with her thumb and forefinger, and everything around them got brighter, in an infrared, only spookily, intensely clearer kind of way. "I'm not after anything. I just ate. That's the problem." She stirred the appletini with a soot-blackened finger leaving a smoky trail through the green. "I didn't know there was an Old One in the area, looking to build a local nest. You got bit, and you're still human, so someone smoked his verminous ass. That's worth going out and drinking yourself oblivious for."

"Yes. Well. The nest is no more," Vincent stated grandly, waving one languid arm. He swiped the candle, sent the bottle rolling.

"My day wasn't as productive. I ate my partner."

Vincent looked at her fingers. She had picked up the candle, was holding it in her palm while running her thumb up and down over the runnels and ridges of wax. Up and down. Up and down.

He realized her fingernails were the same cream color as the imagined aureole. Vincent cleared his throat. "When you say ate, you're referring to a sexual act, I hope?"

"Of course I am. But that's only part of it."

The chocolate-cherry lips pouted, an embarrassed moue that looked kissable, suckable and fuckable. And evil, Vincent added quickly to the catalog of impressions, probably very evil.

"I liked Stan. I told him sex was a bad idea. But no, he had to go on about I know you can control yourself, just let me stick it in you until I lost perspective. He was pretty good in the sack. First thing I know, I've come five times, and the last two were with a corpse."

Vincent shuddered and tried to edge out of the booth. He was stopped by her hand on his knee, reaching under the booth. Her knees wedged between his, forcing his legs apart.

"You're safe. I've got the equivalent of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner on board." Her hand crept up his thigh. "I could have sex with you right now, and you'd be perfectly safe. Although, I thought the same thing with Stan."

"Don't think that would even be possible." Vincent moved away from the hand, evading her knees. "Lovely idea, but too much to drink, you know."

"Not a problem." Ari licked her lips and moved her fingers. "Watch me pull a hard-on out of your pants."

His yelp sounded like a small chihuahua who'd just been nailed in the ass by a well-placed Doc Martens. Vincent cradled his dick with both hands and drew his knees up slightly. "No. Stop that. Bad succubus."

"You're adorable. I was working with Stan, doing this and that. We worked for the census. Served subpoenas. Stan liked to check out the places he served, go back later and make an offer on antiques and collectibles he saw. We've got a couple of storage buildings full of stuff. Sometimes I make the effort and list something on eBay."

The idea of someone who looked like her making a living off eBay struck Vincent as inexplicably weird. "I lost my assistant tonight, too. Fucking vampires. W'as going on, anyway? Creatures of the Night Con in town? W'as going to turn up next? Werewolves? Bigfoot?"

"We Are With You Always." Ari licked the edge of her appletini glass and leaned toward him. She seemed to be a very orally focused person. "Vampires are so stupid. No big picture with vampires. They blab lodge secrets to weedy writers over the centuries, work up a rep, then act all surprised when saps show up with the proper weapons and kill their asses. Do you have any idea how to kill a succubus?"

"No." Vincent leaned away from her. "But do tell."

"Exactly. And we're only one of many Others blending, walking, living with, living off saps -- homo sapiens. The quiet ones, the old ones who don't try to decimate the population to replenish their ranks. Cull the herd carefully. One here, one there." Ari sighed. "Poor Stan. I warned him. I never meant to eat him. I'm going to need to find a new job. If I don't stay busy, I put on weight." She inserted the tip of her finger between her lips, thoughtfully. "I start eating when I'm bored."

Vincent decided a sense of outrage was safer than wondering what her tongue would feel like on his dick. "You call me a homo something? Assure you I'm primarily attracted to women. Not bad in the sack myself." It seemed very important to emphasize this. Her mouth looked delicious, like a Special Dark Hershey Kiss.

"And sapiens. Although I was giving you the benefit of the doubt." Ari smirked. "I've never seen your show. Everyone says you're good, but you're also an abusive little diva. Let's have sex, then I'll know for sure how good you are. Showmanship, manual dexterity, timing, a great blow-off . . . give me a private performance, Peter."

"Thought you just ate." He wasn't, absolutely was not going to put his dick the same place a corpse had recently been. Corpses. The night had been too full of corpses.

A blinding flash of inspiration struck, probably leftover radiation from opening the oubliette. "You ever think about acting? I'm going to need a new assistant."

Ari blinked. "Appear on stage with you? In front of a howling, orgasmic crowd?" Her lips curved into a devil's bow of sinful anticipation. "I'll try anything once, especially if it includes howling orgasm. Will you still honor the offer when you sober up tomorrow?"

"Help me out of this booth. Going to go home and see if the kids are still naked on my floor. I thought the girl had nice tits, not as nice as yours, but maybe if I saw all four at the same time I'd know for sure." Vincent upset his appletini glass, but it was empty, so no harm done. "Got an extra room if you need it. No worries I'll reneg on the offer. Don't plan to sober up tomorrow."

They materialized inside the entrance to the apartment. Either succubussies, (succubi, suckublowers?) didn't need invitations, or he'd already welcomed her to his world. Vincent watched Ari's shapely ass wander between islands of wreckage, and wondered if he should shout a warning to the kids. He would have, but there was a vastly uncomfortable feeling of sticky wetness around his crotch, and the beginnings of a soul-destroying headache in the back of his skull.

Vincent headed for the bathroom. He was going to lock himself inside, crawl into the shower and get a good night's sleep. He wasn't going to dream about blood, or teeth, or smoking corpses, or Ari's white hips riding a corpse, or chocolate covered cherries. Sufficient unto tomorrow the evils of all these things. The vampire who killed his parents was gone. That was worth a decent night's sleep. If only he could discourage the snide remarks filtering up from the oubliette; one problem solved only uncovered the existence of two more, a horrible progression that would never end well.

But on the problem-solved side of the ledger, he'd just upgraded in the assistant department. She'd need a stage name. Something like . . . Lady Pulchritude. Yeah. The show would go on.

If the showman didn't get eaten first.


You can come inside but your friends can't come
99 problems and a bitch ain't one