Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Just a Bunch of Dummies

Roland felt strangely detached as he watched Vladimirescu gulping and trying to regain his composure. The past twenty four hours had just been too strange – he felt that he had experienced every emotion that a werewolf was capable of and that he was trapped in some horrible joke that he couldn’t find his way out of.

Costello, Antonescu and Kingsteignton just remained where they were, not moving and with a completely blank look in their eyes. It was like someone had pulled a plug and they had just shut down like robots or computers. The big question in Roland’s mind was whether they had been hypnotised or had had a spell cast on them and were subsequently being controlled by someone else? Or was it that they had never been real people at all, but were just plants sent into their lives to gain information or influence events in a certain way? In either case, who was doing the controlling and why?

‘So what do you think, Vladimirescu?’ Roland asked abruptly, startling the shocked vampire out of his reverie.

Vlad turned to face Roland, and tried to pull himself together.

‘I don’t know what to think’ he whispered ‘I just don’t know what is real anymore. Are you even really De Cazalrenoux, are you really a werewolf?’

Roland growled low in his throat, allowing his canines to drop down in his gums and the red tufts of fur to sprout once more from his ears. It was getting ridiculous; he had half-turned so many times in the last few hours that at this rate he would get permanently stuck there, and then what would happen to his high-flying career and equally high-flying love life? Hairy ginger ears were not a common sight in a Mayfair nightclub!

‘If I ripped your throat out, would that be proof enough that I was a werewolf?’ he snarled.

Vlad merely looked irritated by this testosterone-fuelled display of werewolfhood.

‘For god’s sake De Cazalrenoux, can’t you put your inflated ego away for one minute, so that we can actually get on with working out what the hell is going on here!’

Roland was taken aback by this flash of assertion from Vlad, and resumed his fully human form although he still looked stormy.

‘Well, I think that one of the first things that we must do is search this house from top to bottom and see if there is anyone else here that we can get some information from. Even if we have to throttle the truth out of them!’ stated Vlad in a cold, flat tone.

Roland lifted an aristocratic eyebrow at this statement, slightly startled at the sudden appearance of this new, assertive Vlad.

‘Well I can tell you that from the scent signatures on this floor that there has only been vampires here and that one, not particularly hygienic, human. I know when Antonescu entered your life, but how long have you known Mike Costello?’ queried Roland.

Vlad frowned as he cast his mind back.

‘I met Mike about two years ago. He came and knocked on my front door, bold as brass, and demanded to be let in. He told me about the paranormal blog he wrote, and that he had been given a tip off that the house was a vampire lair. Come to think about, he never did say where the tip off came from, but I am convinced he is a real human. He acted like a human, smelled like a human and had a human vibration. I’ve never seen anything like this morning’s display before from Mike; he was always so boisterous and full of life and real, if you know what I mean?’

‘Only too well’ replied Roland wrinkling his nose in distaste as he turned in Costello’s direction.

‘And how well do you know Kingsteignton?’ countered Vlad.

‘Well the pack has had dealings with Kingsteignton for several centuries, and usually not very pleasant ones! But he is quite an elusive character, and I have never had too many personal encounters with him. He is basically a coward who prefers to get other people to do his dirty work for him!’

‘It’s like trying to grab hold of jelly from a bowl’ declared Vlad randomly and both the Old Kingdomers momentarily became lost in their own thoughts.

The creaking of the room door opening snapped them both back to their full awareness and their jaws dropped to the floor at the sight the creature that minced into the room.

‘Definitely a vampire’ thought Roland sniffing the creature’s scent ‘but the strangest vampire that I have ever come across’.

The creature came to a halt in front of Vlad and Roland, who didn’t try to hide their astonishment as they just stared. This bizarre vampire was only about 4ft 11in tall, with a diminutive, wiry frame. His hands and feet seemed to be disproportionally large for his body, and he had a very pale round face, like the moon, with bulbous blue eyes and sparse, improbably yellow curls covered the back of his head. He was dressed in a bright orange quilted satin smoking jacket, with a pale blue velvet cravat pinned with a huge diamond at his throat, and tight, black satin trousers.
‘Good morning, gentlemen’ said the strange vampire in a thin, reedy voice ‘Lord Kingsteignton at your service’.

He held out his hand politely to Vlad, but Vlad just continued staring at him as though he had been turned to stone.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Vampire Trance Games

Roland retreated back towards the fireplace and watched the scene in front of him unfold.

Costello was still waving his chicken leg in the air cheerily, but Vlad's face had crumpled like a kicked little puppy and Kingsteignton had assumed a faintly supercilious smirk. Interestingly the usually loquacious Count was still silent and had got rather a blank look on his face.

'Maybe the Count is just a robot or zombie controlled by Kingsteignton after all' thought Roland to himself with a little inward laugh.

'M...Mm...Mike!' wailed Vladimirescu 'I was so worried about you! How can you be looking so cheerful! How can you eat!'

Mike Costello carried on chewing and swigged some more coke.

'It's cool Vlad, just pull up a chair and grab some fries' replied Mike happily.

Roland's eyes narrowed. Either he was getting paranoid or he was seeing the same blank look in Costello's eyes as he was seeing in the Count's.

Vlad was now just standing and staring at Mike in disbelief; it was as if the whole little tableau had just been instantly frozen in time.

Roland strolled over to the table and snapped his fingers under Costello's nose. Mike did not so much as blink. Vlad jumped at the noise but the Count still remained where he was staring at the table in a vacant, fixed manner.

'So what have you done to him Kingsteignton?' drawled Roland 'Very clever, big bad vampire hypnotises the human? Or have you drugged him?'

'What makes you think I have done anything to the human?' queried Kingsteignton softly 'I found him wandering around outside the house last night and gave him a bed for the night and his favourite breakfast'.

'Well, I knew that vampires were liars, but that one takes the biscuit' ground out Roland 'You know that I know that you took Costello from The Bricklayer's arms and so do the Laurel and Hardy of the vampire world over there?'

'Prove it!' retorted Kingsteignton childishly.

'Why' replied Roland, by now thoroughly confused and thinking he had fallen down the rabbit hole and into some Vampire Wonderland.

'Because I say so' shrieked Kingsteignton even more childishly.

'He's going off again' interjected Vlad 'He can't hold it together. He's going to start writhing and dribbling again in a minute!'

'Look Kingsteignton, I know you took Costello from the pub; I could smell him there and you left this behind'.

Roland took the elegant calling card out of his jean's pocket and held it out in Kingsteignton's direction.

Kingsteignton's eyes had lost all awareness and he gazed at the card dully.

'Prove it' he repeated again in a monotone voice.

Roland raised his eyes to the heavens and groaned. Inwardly he felt like howling. What had he ever done to deserve getting mixed up with the affairs of a bunch of vampires! Feeling the need to blame anyone rather than himself, he cursed Eunice Batchworth under his breath.

Checking Vlad's eyes carefully, and seeing a spark of what passed for normality in a vampire, he backed away from the table.

'It seems Vladimirescu that we are stuck in a vampire's house with one human and two vampires who are in some kind of trance. What do you suggest we do now? It wasn't very pleasant to watch the last time Kingsteignton fell apart, and it didn't smell to good either!'

Vlad gulped in dismay; he wished that someone had told him earlier that this leadership stuff wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Vampire Etiquette

'Kingsteignton' started Roland cordially 'What a nice surprise?'

'Hardly, De Cazalrenoux, when you are wandering up and down the street outside my house with your two companions' returned Kingsteignton smoothly 'I was actually expecting you a lot sooner? What happened, did you have trouble getting Vladimirescu to agree to come?'

'On the contrary, Vladimirescu was the one urging us on, but a good night's rest and daylight both seemed to be a good idea'.

'And I suppose that there was the little matter of you being in wolf-form to be considered, hmm!'

By now it had occurred to the two vampires that Roland was no longer partaking in their conversation and was in fact talking to someone a few feet away from them on the pavement.

'Roland, Roland what are you doing?' shrieked Vlad 'We have important plans to make, you don't have time to give out directions! Just give the guy 50p or something and stop wasting valuable time!!'

A second later Vlad's bottom jaw was on the ground as 'the guy' turned around and he clocked that it was Kingsteignton.

'Good morning Vladimirescu, Good morning Count Antonescu, I was just issuing an invitation for morning coffee at my house. I believe that you were interested in seeing inside?'

Vlad looked helplessly to Roland for directions as to what he should say or do next. Roland pointed meaningfully at Kingsteignton's front door and mouthed 'say yes'.

Vlad, however, was not convinced.

'Umm, I'm not sure that would be appropriate Lord Kingsteignton, we are just out doing a bit of shopping you see and are in a bit of a rush!'

Kingsteignton merely raised his eyebrows a fraction.

'But it would be a lot easier to walk through the front door, Valdimirescu, than try and break in at the back? You will find that all the back windows are barred and alarmed. You won't be able to get in without being detected.'

'But why would we try to get in the back' squeaked Vlad, who was by now thoroughly unnerved.

'Come, come Vladimirescu, you know that I have something that you are seeking' said Kingsteignton in a soft voice as though he was soothing a child 'And you will be perfectly safe, what could I do to three fully-grown and strong Old Kingdomers in broad daylight?'

'Look Kingsteignton, the last time I saw you, you were a raving wreck in my hall, so I really don't know what you are capable of!' retorted Vlad.

'My boy, you really need to trust a fellow vampire to always have your best interests at heart! And please take heed of De Cazalrenoux's frantic gesturing behind me and join me for coffee. It will only take a few minutes of your time'.

'Oh very well then' mumbled Vlad ungraciously 'But you had better have Mike and he had better be unharmed!'

That's the spirit, Vladimirescu!' beamed Kingsteignton as he slipped his hand under Vlad's elbow and started leading him to his front door.

Roland waited until the Count has started to follow the other two vampires inside, before he moved to catch up the rear.

He still really didn't trust Antonescu and found it strange that the normally outspoken vampire had not said a word since Kingsteignton's sudden appearance on the pavement.

Roland had a brief sensation of cherry-striped walls, expensive walnut furniture and gleaming silver as he entered the house, before they were led into a large, elegant morning room shaded from the sun by special blinds to protect the vampires.

And sitting at a small table in front of a crackling fire they found Mike Costello halfway through a KFC Bargain Bucket, which he was washing down with liberal swigs from a litre bottle of Coke.

'Hi guys' he cheeerily greeted them, waving a half-gnawed drumstick in the air 'How's it going?'

Monday, 18 January 2010

On The Street Where You Live

Roland shuddered at the thought of what he must look like as he walked down Clarence Crescent with the two vampires. He had put on the tatty green sweatshirt with Che Guevara emblazoned on the front that Vlad had tearfully thrust at him, and had found a thin purple nylon windcheater in the hall. It offered no protection against the sharp spring breeze, which was nipping at his ears and nose despite the watery sunshine. Purple and green together, what would his stylist think?

Not that the vampires looked any better. Both of them were hunched up in long black cloak affairs that reached the tops of their shiny, black shoes. Both had large floppy black hats pulled right down over their ears, black scarves wound high up over their chins, long black leather gloves and wrap-around sun glasses. No wonder everyone else on the pavement was avoiding them and surreptitously turning around to check them out!

'That's Kingsteignton's house there' hissed Vlad urgently, snapping Roland out of his reverie.

'This isn't a movie, Vladimirescu, you don't need to be so dramatic' retorted Roland, annoyed that Vlad had made him jump. 'You can talk normally, nobody is listening!'

'How do you know that Kingsteignton hasn't got people on security looking out for us?' replied Vlad anxiously.

Roland just rolled his eyes and the Count, who had not uttered a word since leaving Vlad's house, just glowered.

'Well he must know that we are going to figure out that he has Mike and that we will try and get him back?'

'Well its not like we are looking inconspicuous or anything?' drawled Roland in response 'Did you actually have any ideas as to how we are going to get into the house? Are there likely to be any vampires awake in there at this time in the morning?'

'Well, I would have thought that someone like Kingsteignton would have non-vampire servants to keep the house running during daylight hours, but you never know!'

'Helpful, Vladimirescu' replied Roland shortly 'Does our silent companion have any ideas?'

Before the Count could open his mouth, Vlad had interrupted.

'I know, I know, one of us vampires could fly round and see if there was an open window, fly in and then go and open the door for the rest of you!'

'That could almost be a good suggestion, Vladimirescu, but the problem is that you would botch it up as soon as you got a fright and neither of us trust your tall, dour friend over there?

Vlad looked affronted but before he could reply Roland continued.

'Look at it this way Vladimirescu, what do you really know about the Count? Is he really who he says he is? You've never seen him before in your life, yet you let him into your house and confidences without bothering to check up on him?'

'He's a vampire, he was injured' squeaked Vlad indignantly.

He could also be a Kingsteignton plant, or be working for someone else entirely?' queried Roland.

They both turned to gaze at Antonescu, who was looking remarkably unpeturbed by the turn the conversation had taken.

'Well, Count?' asked Vlad 'What do you say? I told you earlier that you still had questions to answer?'

'I told you who I was' answered the Count 'I do not have to repeat myself or justify who I am'.

'Well, maybe you do' replied Roland silkily.

'It is an insult to have a werewolf question my credentials and my leader should not need to question my loyalty'

'This is going around in circles' retorted Vlad 'If you do not help me to clear this up by giving me some proof of identity and an assurance that you are loyal, I am going to have to ask you to leave us.'

'I am insulted that you listen to a werewolf and take heed of things written in notes' replied Antonescu loftily 'And I refuse to go'

Sensing that another round of vampire bickering was about to break out, Roland sighed. He didn't trust the Count, but there seemed to be no way to verify that he was who he said he was. And he didn't think that Vlad was strong enough to follow through on his threats to banish him.

He turned away from the warring vampires and fished out his mobile phone from his pocket. He was just about to hit the speed dial for Malvolio when a shadow fell over him and a cultured voice spoke in his ear that he recognised instantly.

'Good morning, de Cazalrenoux, were you looking for my house? It's just over there, and I'm sure that your vampire companions would be more comfortable out of the sun?'