Wednesday, October 27, 2010

There Ought to be a Law - Rant


This isn't fiction, or an article, or even a recipe for red velvet cake. This is a rant about some random things that just piss me the hell off. Why, you ask? Just fucking because, that's why. So, if you are easily offended...well, if you're easily offended why the fuck are you here anyway? - Author

There Ought to Be a Law…

□ Smoking Bans

In this lovely state of Ohio it a crime to light up pretty much anywhere outside your house. Even then, I think you’re limited to the hours of 10 p.m.–2 a.m., and then only on the third Saturday of the month. They say it’s for the protection of the non–smoking public and for the protection of workers that are employed in restaurants, bars etc.

News Flash
If you work there, you knew the risks when you took the job and nobody’s holding a gun to your head to pull that tap or serve that smoky table. And ask any waitress that wants the graveyard shift on the weekends; drunk smokers are often the best tippers. Smokers may go out to the bar and chatter their teeth or sweat to death outside to have a smoke, but I’ll bet you they don’t go hang out very long at Denny’s or Eat ‘n Park to put some food on top of the booze before going home. Take–out business goes up, tips go down. Besides, whatever happened to letting the marketplace dictate conditions? If I own a business and I have a sizeable customer base that tells me through word or going somewhere else with their money that they want a smoke–free environment, if I want their business then I’ll do something about it. Lots of places did it before the bans, and it seemed to work just fine for them. I know it’s bad for me. I know it may eventually kill me. So will booze and broads. Nobody’s outlawing them, now are they? Noooo. Can’t do that. I bet booze and broads kill far more than cigarettes do. There ought to be a law…

□ Turnpikes

If I have to pay to use the road, why the hell is there a speed limit? And for that matter, they’re always under construction; lanes closed, speeds reduced… shouldn’t they discount the tolls when they’re limiting your use of the road you’re paying good money to travel? There ought to be a law…

□ Packing Cigarettes

Okay all you Gen X, Y and whatever the hell letter they’re on now. Take a little advice from a career smoker; STOP BEATING THE FUCK OUT OF YOUR CIGARETTE PACKS. A few good taps against the heel of your hand is all that’s required to pack the tobacco inside those little coffin nails. When I hear you two tables away, beating the hell out of your fresh pack of cloves or Newports or what have you for the better part of five minutes, I and every other guy out there with half a lung want to walk over and punch you in the throat. It’s really annoying, and it’s unnecessary. Oh, and by the by, when you tap the top of the pack, then flop it over and tap the bottom of the pack, then repeat for 10 minutes, you’re defeating your purpose. Tapping the top of the pack forces the tobacco to pack down at the filter. What do you geniuses think happens when you tap the other end in the same fashion? And don’t give me that “it crimps the paper so tobacco won’t fall out” bullshit. You’re not hitting hard enough to do that to any benefit. Just stop it. Please. There ought to be a law…oh, wait, in Ohio there is…

□ Those of you with monster SUV's and pickup trucks that work in offices

You have a vehicle that’s supposedly designed for off–road use and you come to an almost dead-stop on those little ¼ inch rises going into parking lots and on speed bumps. And don’t tell me you bought that huge pickup truck because you never know when you may need to help your buddy move his bull rhinoceros. The rest of the world knows it’s a compensation issue, but the cover story is easier to tell than if you would have bought a sports car. But, if for some reason you feel this big ball will stop spinnin’ if you don’t have that $40,000 SUV in your driveway then for the love of Baby Jeebus learn how to park the damn thing using only one space. There ought to be a law…

□ Professional Wrestling Fans

You'll note I didn’t say Professional Wrestling. Those guys have got their shit together. Millions and millions and millions of dollars and the marketing machine rolls on. It’s the fans that piss me off. Even the ones that say “I know it isn’t real…” Especially the ones that say “I know it isn’t real…”. And while the actors are certainly athletic, it also isn’t a sport. Please don’t give me that load of horseshit again. Sports don’t have scripts. And let me let you in on a little secret… if I come running at you and hit you in the head with a cinderblock, guess what happens in the really–real world? You fucking die. Period. You don’t stand there and start shaking with this really cool look in your eyes then rip your shirt off and start performing aerial acrobatics off the turnbuckles. You die. End. Of. Fucking. List. Against these people breeding? There ought to be a law…


But first let me qualify. Not ALL NASCAR fans, just the ones that have the stickers on their cars and then do 60 m.p.h. in the hammer lane. Whatever happened to emulating your heroes, huh? Either take the stickers off or hit the gas pedal. This is especially true when you mix this one with the aforementioned “Those of you with monster SUV's and pickup trucks that work in offices” crowd. Hint: the accelerator is the long, skinny pedal on the right. The more you push it down, the faster you go. There ought to be a law…

□ Flagmen (or the variant Flagwomen) in Construction Zones

Fuck! Would you pay attention? Your job is not that difficult. I mean, don’t ruin your good gig by letting traffic back up for 6 miles in rush hour for outbound traffic while you leave the inbound lane with its all–of–6 cars open for a half hour. Please, for the love of all that’s holy, realize 2 things;
1) The people that sit there waiting for you to do simple arithmetic aren’t making $22/hour to sit there like you are, and
2) you could be easily replaced by a bucket of sand to hold your sign and a simple motor, belt and remote control commonly available at Radio Shack for about $15.00. There ought to be a law…

□ Using Your Religion to Tacitly Explain why You are an Asshole

Or why you are better than someone else. Or why you obviously know far more about the world and are far more enlightened because you can find East without a compass or moss on a tree or anything. Or why your viewpoint on a religion or a people has more credibility because you fucked somebody once who’s sister’s cousin’s uncle’s former roommate’s next–door neighbor was a(n) <insert chosen minority/nationality/et al here>. For the love of God (and I mean that), get the fuck over it already. You’re just as screwed up as I am, and you don’t know shit from Shinola anymore than I do when it comes to what, if anything, is out there. Or what, if anything really is out there, it/he/she wants from us. There ought to be a law…

□ Giving an Asshole such as Yours Truly a Forum

That’s just insane. There ought to be a law…

Until next time, just write, damn it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Details...An Open Letter to Film Makers

First and foremost, my sincerest thanks and appreciation go out to all of you that bring us the movies and television programs that have become a near and dear staple to our way of life. Our lives would be far less richer without your efforts, from the big-budget, big-studo productions all the way down to the guy on Youtube with some fake blood, a bad zombie script, a digital camera and fifteen minutes to kill. Good movies, bad movies, movies that are so bad they're good... we watch 'em all.


Now that you are making movies, you want us to watch them. We have, do and will, make no mistake about that. But since we've often as not paid for the experience in one way or another, whether through money or just our time, we really need you to pay more attention to the little things; the details. And before you start rallying the indie troops against me, let me make clear that I'm not talking about some "Nitpickers Guide" shit here. I'm not going to care a whole lot that the Starfleet Insignia on Kirk's uniform is a half-inch to the left in this scene and a half to the right in the next. I don't give a shit that the tiny nick on Bruce Campbell's chin seems to disappear and reappear at random throughout a movie. I don't really even care when you play a song from 1956 in a movie that's set in 1954. Well, okay, maybe that one I might comment on. But these things don't nag at me. It's the practical details and not necessarily the continuity errors that really get to me.

Okay, okay, it's a movie. Got that part. I realize that often (especially in the genres I tend to watch) we're dealing with what could be considered an alternate history, present or future. I accept that there will be differences in our reality as opposed to the one on the screen. Got that part, too. But, and I have driven creative partners crazy with this over the years, whatever your mythos is, it has to make sense within its own world. Not only that, but you can't fall back on the "I'm portraying a different world here" talk when you're using items, conventions and practical issues gleaned directly from our own reality. I'm not talking about the elements that comprise your story here. I'm talking about the common-sense things that any professional on-set advisor or, lacking the funds for that, some good basic research will alleviate. We all know the concept of the "hero gun". You know, the weapon the hero's using that never seems to run out of ammo unless it increases the drama, that never seems to miss until it's important to the story that it does etc etc. I'm not really addressing that here. As an author, I understand how something like that is a plot device. I can handle that, though I'll still frown when you do it. Mostly because I've done my research and you apparently haven't. So what exactly am I talking about here? I'm talking about the little things that are esily corrected yet my mind will snatch up to the point that it takes me out of your story. Things like....

  • I see a plain-clothes cop. He has his pistol holstered on his right hip. He has two magazine pouches on his belt behind the holster. This isn't done, because it would require the cop to shift the pistol into his off-hand, draw a magazine, load it into the pistol and then swap hands again.
  • When the dead rise, they are not doing so from the grave. First and foremost, they're under 4-6 feet of dirt. That's aproximately 78-117 cubic feet of earth and rock with an approximate weight of 6200-93o0 lbs. pressing down. The body is typically buried in the prone position, meaning that it would first have to dig a cavity for itself (with nowhere for the earth to go) before it could even begin to try to surface. You're not digging through that with human hands. But then, the zombie wouldn't get the chance to, at least if it had been buried by proper convention. The zombie would ideally be interred in a coffin of some sort that has been built to withstand the pressure of said earth and rock pusing down on it without crushing it. Again, human hands, especially rotting ones, are not going to be able to get through the coffin. Add to it that most municipalities have required cement vaults to be placed in the grave to receive the coffin. Please, give me more zombies. But, stop showing them crawling from the grave unless you're also going to tell me their amazingly strong. You can do that, and I'll buy it, but you have to tell or show me that.
  • And another thing about my zombies; please, please do not show me zombies walking around mostly whole and hale that are also dated to anything more than a few years past. Don't show me pilgrim zombies, Native American war-painted zombies or ones that obviously died generations ago. Modern funerary technology is just that, fairly modern. Yes, we have formaldehyde and other preservation methods now, but your older-generation zombies were likely buried pretty much as-is, meaning their rate of decomposition is much faster than today's properly-prepared corpse. And, unless they've been a member of the undead elite since shortly after their natural deaths, there's no body left to get up. Perhaps a few bones, maybe some skin and hair, but there's no muscle tissue, eyes or much of anything else left there to work with. If you want to use this, you have some pretty fancy explaining to do to get me to buy it. That's not impossible to do, mind you, but it's something you'll need to do regardless.
  • The machette, the katana, even the axe are all great weapons. However, in unskilled hands you are very, very unlikely to completely sever a limb or head from the body in one attack. It requires a great deal of skill in the placement of a strike, knowledge of the weapon and physicall power to lop off a head or arm with even the best-made of bladed weapons. The tiny little smart-blonde that's only used a steak knife is highly unlikely to to be able to cut off the killer's head with one swift blow.
  • Back to guns again, especially for all of you that are using all digital-effects to show gunfire. You really need to understand the basic workings of the gas-operated action commonly used in one variation or another by most semi-automatic and automatic firearms. It's not enough to have muzzle flash, sound effects and (though many forget this detail) ejected rounds done in post because you don't have the skilled weapons handler on site or even functioning weapons. The action has to move and the port has to open to eject the spent casing. I see the flash, hear the bang and notice the spent casings flying out. However, they're coming out of nowhere. The action is closed or in some cases locked open. If you're going to do this, okay... but stop showing me closeups of the discharge side of the weapon or extend your CGI efforts to have an opening and closing action. We notice these things, and it bugs us.
  • Hate to go back to the well on this one, but I don't care if you are as big as Ahnold; you are not firing a .12 gauge shotgun with one hand without some serious consequences. I won't go into those, all I'll say is if you ever get the chance to see someone do this, take the opportunity. Bring popcorn for you and band-aids and aspirin for the shooter.
  • Flicking a cigarette into a puddle of diesel fuel will more often than not extinguish the cigarette, not cause it to immediately blow up. Gasoline, very likely. Diesel fuel, no. I won't go into the physics of it here. Look it up.
  • Canning jars, beer bottles and other retail glass receptacles are made to withstand cross-country transport and rough handling. Try throwing a Mason jar onto grass from the 2nd story. Odds are better than good it's not going to break. And if you've ever tried the "break the beer bottle and use the neck as a weapon" trick, you were either very disappointed or made a very quick trip to an emergency room.
  • Getting hit by a crowbar across the face will drop you, hero or no. End of story.
  • The TSA is not a romantic agency. They will not be letting you run after the love of your life so she doesn't get on that plane. Please don't try this. We've all flown since 9/11. We know better.
  • If your character has an unnatural lifespan, you need to realize that he can't keep going back to or keep living in the same town. We've been led to believe that it's easier than ever to assume a new identity in this internet age. This is true to some degree, provided you are simply stealing an identity for a short time. Establishing a new identity now is much, much harder than just going and getting a birth certificate that matches your needs and using that to establish an identity. This is even worse if that character is going to continue his life in a highly professional capacity, such as a doctor, lawyer or even a cop. You're going to be investigated by your insurance company, hospital, federal agency et al. And, they're going to find out rather quickly that the character is not who they say they are. There are exceptions to this, but they are very few and far between. If you're going to do this, do your homework.
  • There will never be as many people at a karaoke night as you will show me. And if there is such a place in the real world, I don't want to know it.
  • When you have a character in a zombie/infected movie, it seems you're rather selective about secondary contamination. You'll show me a character hacking a zombie apart with a chainsaw with blood spattering all over the character, including into their mouths and eyes and nothing will happen to them. Meanwhile, in the same movie, another character will get a single drop of infected blood in their eye or mouth and they're infected. This is a very common thing that, if you haven't noticed it before now, I bet you will from now on. You need to be consistent with your mythos. I understand you're using this as a plot device. Okay, I can go with that. So, just don't show the first guy taking fluids and bits to the mouth etc.

There are so many more, but that's all I have time to cover for now. Yes, I'm likely nitpicking. Yes, I can be insufferable when you watch a movie with me. However, I can't help that. I'm a detail-guy. I notice these things. And if I'm noticing them, you can bet others are, too. You've spent so much time, effort and money to bring your vision to my screen. With just a little more effort and attention to detail, I'll be able to more fully involve myself in your tale and spend less time trying to figure out how the cop's going to reload or the zombie got out of the grave.

Until next time, just write, damn it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rotting Meat - Fiction

Here's another little tale from one of my favorite continuing characters; Shakespeare. Please note, my vampires aren't cute, nor do they sparkle. On the plus side, they also don't knock up teenage girls and they don't play baseball. This story first appeared in "Night to Dawn" magazine, issue #13. - Author

“Ah… Shakespeare, is it?” Bruce Verago asked. The stink of old money mixed with his cologne as he crossed the room. “Right on time.”

“I’m on time. You’re late.” Shakespeare said.

“Really? I would have thought a man in your line of… work... would be used to unpredictability.” If the man was intimidated by the massive, long–haired assassin, he didn’t show it. Money had a way of lending false bravery to even the smallest of men.

“Tardiness is a sign of flawed character.” he returned simply.

“What?” Verago said, trying to decide if he had been insulted. He sat behind his massive desk and indicated a high–backed leather chair. Shakespeare sat and watched Verago. In at least his mid–sixties, the subtle scents of tanning lotion and hair dye gave the impression of a man trying desperately to retain his vital appearance. “I suppose you’re wondering why I called?”

“No. I’m wondering why otherwise intelligent people consistently ask that question. Stop wasting my time.”

“Ah! A man of few words, right down to business… I like that.” Verago said as he flipped open a large humidor.

“Prove it.” Shakespeare reached into the humidor without invitation and slipped a Cuban into his coat.

“First, I must say that I’m no stranger to… to the things that go bump in the night, so to speak. I know there are many things in this world that defy explanation but are nevertheless real…”

“Your mother must be proud.” Shakespeare interrupted dryly. Verago winced away the comment with a small smile then lit his cigar.

“I’m sure. My problem, and consequently yours, is a man named Felix. A drink?” Verago asked suddenly.

“Whiskey.” Shakespeare said as he lit a cigarette. Verago poured for both and handed him his glass.

“At any rate, this Felix seems to be a self–styled… vampire, for lack of a better term.” He handed a dossier to Shakespeare. Inside was surveillance–style pictures of a man in his late twenties with dozens of teenagers and twenty-somethings clustered around him, all dressed in varying shades of black.

“Goth. So what?”

“My son, Travis, is mixed up with this character. He’s been moping around dressed in black, wearing make–up and what have you. He even got dental implants to look like fangs.” He shook his head and sighed lightly. “Some nights he doesn’t come home. Nothing I do or threaten seems to help.”

Shakespeare stood and finished his drink. “You need Dr. Phil. Don’t call me.”

“Wait! I need you to find out if this Felix is really what he claims to be or if he’s just another kook. If he is a vampire, I want you to kill him. If he’s not, expose him. Either way, I want him eliminated from my son’s life.”

Shakespeare flipped through the pictures again. “You realize if this punk isn’t the real deal, you’re going to spend a lot of buck for very little bang.”

“That’s why I will give you half of your fee now. If Felix isn’t what he claims, then we can call it even. If he is, I will pay you the rest when he’s dead…”

“My fee is non–negotiable. Fuck you.”

Verago smiled and turned his chair to the wall. “Very well; but I will require proof that Felix is one or the other.” He slid a panel off the wall to reveal a safe. After a few moments of fumbling he pulled out several stacks of neat, new bills. “I don’t normally deal in cash.” he commented dryly.

“Don’t think your platinum card could handle it.” Shakespeare returned. “Pay me when I come back. Where’s the kid?”

“In his rooms, if he’s here. One of the servants…”

“I’ll find it.”


The sounds of death metal music drew Shakespeare to a large set of once–ornate, locked double doors, their deep–grained oak painted black and adorned with all manner of stickers and signs designed to make parents cringe. A heavy boot admitted him into the dimly-lit room beyond, a massive plasma screen in the corner mutely showing The Lost Boys the source of the thin illumination. No slave to Edison’s inventions, Shakespeare could easily see empty pizza boxes, beer and soda cans and general filth; the natural habitat of the unsupervised teenager.

He followed the music down the hall into a large bedroom. A computer screen provided the only light, its screen swaying and pulsing to the beat. Shakespeare pulled a large revolver from his coat and put the computer out of its misery, the report easily heard over the dying music. The boy sat up from his bed and screamed as he fumbled for a light. By the time the small bedside lamp winked to life the assassin stood over him.

“Who… what the fuck…” Travis Verago was a typical, scrawny young man, the type that hadn’t yet grown into his body. Shakespeare almost laughed at the sleep–smeared makeup and glossy implanted fangs that made him look more like a raccoon than the undead as he reached down and grabbed a handful of Travis's hair and lifted him from the bed.

“I hear you don’t listen well.” Shakespeare said around the boy’s screams for help. He threw Travis across the room. “Shut up.” He picked Travis up by the shirtfront and slammed him against the freshly–broken plaster. “Scream and I rip out your barker. Clear?” The boy fell mute as he realized his feet were no longer in contact with the floor. The boy stared at the assassin with unconditional fear, unable to take his eyes off his dark glasses. “Your dad was wrong… you can listen.”

“Who… what…” Travis stammered.

“That's not listening, Travis.” He held Travis suspended above the floor and examined his neck and face. “I could grow corn behind those ears, boy.” Shakespeare commented as he put Travis down and stepped back. “We can do this easy or hard. Either way, I don’t care.”

“I don’t… what do you want?” Travis shouted.

“Did Felix mark you, or is he just a wannabe?”

Felix? My dad put you up to this… what is this, some kind of scared straight bullshit?” Travis said, emboldened.

“Oh, good… the hard way.” Shakespeare said. He snatched Travis’s chin and threw him back to the bed. He was on him in an instant, ripping the young man’s bedclothes from him. Travis struggled and screamed as Shakespeare examined every inch of him.

“Jesus! What are you… a perv’?” Travis screamed. Shakespeare backhanded him across the face. The boy screamed even louder and held his face while Shakespeare continued his examination without further interruption. Two small wounds no larger than a pencil tip peeked at him from high on the boy’s left inner thigh.

“Perv’? I’m not the one that let a vampire suck me off.” Shakespeare stood and looked down at the boy. The blood had flowed freely from Travis's nose and onto his naked chest. Shakespeare breathed in the heady scent of fear tinged with copper and smiled. “Some things you just never get tired of.” He lit a cigarette as Travis sat up weakly, one hand still cradling his face.

“You broke my nose…!” Travis said.

“The bite.” Shakespeare said. “When?” Travis looked up at him with watery yet defiant eyes and tried to wipe away the blood. “Hey, I’m easy.” Shakespeare said, a toothy smile spreading across his face. He slipped a short, polished stake from his coat and started to twirl it around his fingers like a magician’s coin. “See, I can find out what I need just by looking around. You Goth punks are all the same. A bit of poetry here and a journal entry there about how the world is just so damn unfair and I’ll know just where to look without you. That would mean I have no use for you. And since you’re bit, I’ll stake your ass anyway just to be sure.” He leaned over and grabbed Travis by the neck, shoving him deep into the mattress. He raised the stake over his head just as Travis gasped and shook his head back and forth rapidly. “Oh… something to say?” Shakespeare eased his grip enough to let the young man breathe.

“Two… two… weeks ago…” Travis gasped, sucking in great gulps of air.

Shakespeare let go, stood and slipped the stake back into his coat. “This is how it works. You’re going to answer every question I ask with perfect truth. Cross me, you’re nothing but noise. Got it?” Travis nodded slowly. Shakespeare reached down and touched the tip of his finger to the blood. He slurped noisily and smiled. “You’re lucky.”

“W… why…?”

“You’re still human.”


“Never been on a bike before, huh?” Shakespeare asked the trembling youth as he dismounted and lit a cigarette. “Could tell by the screaming. Not very brave for a guy that wants to be a vampire, are you?”

“Felix will kill you.” Travis said softly. “He’s powerful.”

Shakespeare paused and looked down at him. “Is he? Tell me, why would such a powerful cocksucker like him waste time on runts like you?”

“We’re the new race…” Travis said, his voice stronger. “He’s going to bring about a new world… a world where we rule…”

“Come on, kid. Don’t you think if that was going to happen somebody would've done it already? Do you know how long vamps’ have been around? Wouldn’t he have already turned you and a bunch of other punks? Face it kid. You’re nothing but blood.”

“He’s waiting for the right time…!”

“His plan…” Shakespeare interrupted, “…is to keep his little farm. Hunting is the biggest problem a modern vampire has in this CSI world. He’s got enough punks he can rotate every few weeks without having to. And if a mistake happens and one of you fucks goes and dies on him…”

“That’s when we turn! That’s when the promise comes due and we take our rightful place!” Travis nearly cried out.

“Really? Have you ever met one that was turned that way? Has any of your buddies come back with real, new dental work? Wake up. You’re cattle.”

“Felix wouldn’t…”

“Whatever.” Shakespeare cut him off. “Where…?”

When Travis didn’t answer he turned to find the young man running down the alley. He smiled and started walking, the scent of Travis’ blood like breadcrumbs on a path.


“Again, Travis… slower this time.” Felix said soothingly. “Who is this man?”

“I don’t know, Master! He didn’t give his name… he just started beating me up… I think my dad sent him… he knows…”

“Knows what?” Felix asked. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him nothing, Master! I swear! He knew your…!” Travis wiped the sweat from his face, smearing the blood that had remained. “Look! He broke my nose because I wouldn’t talk…”

“Fool! You’ve led him right to us!” Felix fluffed the ruffles on his silk shirt and smoothed his badly–dyed black hair and goatee before he strode into the dilapidated house’s living room. A dozen young people lounged on rotting furniture, listening to loud, jarring music and talking amongst themselves. “Turn the music down.” he instructed. A girl of not more than fifteen turned the music off as all heads swung towards Felix. “We may have a problem. There may be a hunter coming for me, and I hold each of you to your oath to defend me.” Shocked silence ran thick through the room. When they had taken their oaths, they had promised in blood to do their master’s bidding even to their deaths. But youthful promises held little meaning in the face of real danger. Felix cast about the room, looking deeply at each. “Was your oath given in fair weather, only to be forgotten in the face of the storm? I said to arms!”

“Master…” a twenty–ish man dressed as close to Felix in style as he dared started, “…who’s coming?”

“I do not know. Yet. Prove your loyalty. Kill him and bring his still–warm corpse before me so that I may feast!” He went to an old cabinet and threw open the door, revealing various firearms that his children had stolen. He started grabbing weapons and throwing them around the room, stopping only when each was armed.

“I don’t know how to use this…” a young girl mumbled. In a burst of inspiration, she dropped the revolver and ran for the door.

“Travis!” Felix bellowed, “Kill her!” Travis raised his pistol, his face a knot of conflicted emotion. Breathless seconds later, her hand upon the door, Felix ripped the weapon from his uncertain grip and shot her in the back of the head. He turned the weapon on Travis and backed him against the wall, his fangs bared. “The next order refused will be the last sound any of you hear!” He jammed the muzzle against Travis’ forehead as the group started to scream. “This is what happens when you deny your oath…!”

Just then the front door burst open. Splinters and dust filled the air as Shakespeare stepped over the girl’s body. The room erupted into a cacophony of screams as some raised their weapons and others threw them down and ran for other parts of the house. Felix trained his weapon on Shakespeare and hissed. “Kill him, my children! Kill him and take your place by my side!” Felix roared.

Shakespeare looked around the room as he brushed a few errant splinters from his long mane. “Drop the weapons. Leave now.” he said as he stepped away from the door. Almost as one, seven of Felix’ remaining followers threw down their weapons and ran. Felix screamed and fired several times, dropping two of them as they fled, then fired several rounds into Shakespeare and emboldening the remaining youths to fire. Most of the bullets failed to hit anything but wall, but a few lucky shooters managed to hit their mark. Shakespeare slumped, his back against the wall.

“Ohshitohshit…” one girl blurted out as she backed away towards the furthest wall of the room. She was joined by the rest as they realized that the man wasn’t dying. On the contrary; he was smiling.

“I’m feeling generous today…” Shakespeare whispered darkly. “You could even say downright fucking giddy. Get the fuck out, or so help me I’ll skull-fuck every last one of you…” he warned, his smile never wavering. The room devolved into panic as the youths pushed and shoved each other to be the first out of every available door and window save for the one he occupied. When the dust cleared, only Felix, Travis and the assassin remained.

“Stay back…” Felix warned. He slipped behind Travis and held the gun to the young man’s temple. “I’ll kill him!”

Shakespeare shrugged. “I give a fuck?” Felix tightened his grip as the assassin came near.
“Damnit! I’m not kidding here!” Felix screamed, his voice devoid of the strength and persuasiveness it held only moments ago. It also seemed to lose the European accent he'd been effecting.

“Not without this…” Shakespeare said. Less than a blink later, Felix's pistol was on the floor. “Sweet little misguided Travis…” Shakespeare said, his voice soft and mocking. “Guess money can’t buy brains, either.” He reached out and threw Travis to the floor while he snatched Felix’ throat with his free hand. Travis rolled a few feet across the floor then finally sat up, tears streaming down his face.

“I… I… I want… I want to go… home…” Travis blubbered through his sobs.

“Aw… what’s the matter? Playing vampire a little too much for you?” Shakespeare said.

“I… I…” Travis stammered back at him.

“Travis…” Shakespeare interrupted as he looked at the boy then back to Felix, “I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to your buddy, here. So what came first, the fag thing or the vampire thing?”

Travis stood on shaking legs then braced himself against the wall as he looked at the pair. Felix’s eyes betrayed a fear that he was sure had been in his own just a few moments before. “I don’t understand…” Travis said.

“Kid… think…” Shakespeare let go of Felix. “There. You’re free. Do something a vampire would do. I mean other than that horrible accent.” Long moments later, Felix finally bared his fangs and hissed violently. Travis reached down, picked up a discarded pistol and aimed it at Shakespeare’s back.

“Leave him alone!” Travis said. “Just… go… just get out of here… leave us alone…”

“Pardon me, will you?” Shakespeare asked Felix before punching him. The vampire hadn’t even hit the floor before Shakespeare had Travis against the wall, his weapon dangling forgotten from nerveless fingers. “Time for an object lesson, little man.” Shakespeare kicked at the body of the young girl Felix had killed when Travis wouldn’t, rolled her over to face them then thrust Travis’ face near the ragged exit wound. “Dead; nothing more, nothing less. Your buddy over there, the one you’re ready to kill and die for, shot her in the head. You knew her, didn’t you?” Shakespeare waited for a response but got only a choked sob. “What was her name?” Again, silence. He shoved the boy’s head into her dead, bloodied face and rubbed his nose in the cooling crimson like a house training puppy. “Damnit, I asked you a question! What was her name?”

“Tina!” Travis screamed, his voice muffled against the corpse’ face. “Her name’s Tina!”

Was Tina. Now it’s rotting meat.” Shakespeare let the boy roll away from the body then smiled as he picked him up by the shirtfront so that their eyes were level. From this vantage Travis could look down at the assassin's broad chest to see thick, black blood seeping through the bullet holes in Shakespeare's shirt.
"What... what are you?" Travis asked.

“Me? I’m just like Tina…” Shakespeare said, chuckling. “…just another bag of rotting meat.”

Felix had come around and was staring at Shakespeare, eyes wide. “Master!” Felix suddenly screamed as he scrambled to his feet and started down the hall. Shakespeare cursed then heaved Travis's flailing body down the hall after him. The boy didn’t have time to scream as he sailed unerringly into Felix’ back. The two crashed together and hit the floor in a heap of pumping arms and legs. Shakespeare reached down and dead Tina's head from side to side, sighing as he did.
“Just one more thing to wrap up.” Shakespeare said as he went down the hall and stopped to loom over the pair as Felix and Travis as they tried to untangle themselves. “Felix… where you going in such a hurry?” He looked down the hall and saw a door at its end. “The cellar, right? Travis… I'll bet that none of you were ever allowed in the basement without this fuck.” Shakespeare said as he kicked Felix in the ribs for emphasis. Felix fell to his side in the fetal position. Travis sat dazed from his flight but managed to nod mutely. Shakespeare grabbed both by the hair and dragged them down the hall. He broke the cheap lock and hasp with one pull on the door then pushed both of them down the steps to the basement.

“You see…” Shakespeare said as he walked down the steps behind them, “…here’s the deal. Travis, your buddy here is a real vampire.” He reached down, opened Felix’ mouth and pushed his upper lip to his nose. “A very young one, but still a vampire.” he said as he examined the fangs. “Less than a year.” Shakespeare drug Felix to the steps and put his mouth around the bottom tread. The vampire, sensing what was about to happen, started to struggle. The assassin smiled as he lifted his foot and brought it down on the back of the vampire’s head. The viciousness of the curb bite broke the tread from the riser as the vampire howled then rolled away. Shakespeare picked up the broken step, the young vampire’s fangs still stuck in the wood.
“See…” he said, displaying the board for Travis, “…for the first year or two, you’re not very strong at all. You don’t get to the neat stuff ‘til around five years. He couldn’t have turned you if he’d wanted to.” Shakespeare plucked the fangs from the board then put them in his shirt pocket. “And, I bet if you looked down here, you’d find some needles, bags, what have you. He was draining blood from all you little geniuses then drinking it, not biting you. His jaw muscles aren’t developed enough for clean hunting. Have to admit, though; pretty sweet scam.”

“I… no… he bit me… and…” Travis said, confusion mixing with the pain from his last few violent minutes.

“I don’t need to hear about the and part…” Shakespeare interrupted. “Just one other thing…” he said almost to himself. He looked around, shrugged and pulled a stake from his coat. He used his foot to roll Felix over onto his back then plunged the stake into his chest. Felix howled like a banshee and bucked against the assassin’s fist still wrapped around the stake. “Come out, come out wherever you are…” Shakespeare sang as he brought his other fist down, plunging the wood so deeply that none of it was left above the flesh.

Felix’ body shook. Smoke roiled from his chest as his flesh and muscles started melting away. Within moments, only a black pool of putrid ooze remained in the silk shirt. Travis stared at the transformation with tears streaming down his face. He opened his mouth to speak but his words were drowned out by a muffled, pain–filled moan. Travis looked about wildly then crawled behind Shakespeare as the lid on a large, rusty chest freezer opened from the inside.

“They feel what their whelps feel.” Shakespeare said by way of explanation as a man, bald and gaunt, slowly climbed from the freezer and regarded the pair. “So when you find a whelp, you usually find its master.” Shakespeare nodded to the newcomer and took a drag from his cigarette.

“Ready to die, slayer?” the vampire asked, his hands dropping to his sides as his fingernails grew to the size of small knife blades.

“You’re not on the list.” Shakespeare said simply. Travis stood but remained behind the assassin. “Get a good look at him, kid. That’s what a real vampire looks like. You hide where you can. Feed where you can.” He nodded to the vampire. “Aren’t you getting tired of this shit? Look at yourself… you’re sleeping in a freezer for Christ's sake. ”

“I am what I am…” the ragged vampire answered.

Shakespeare flicked his dying cigarette away. “Boy toy over there made a mess. Cops’ll be along as soon as I call them. Lots of bodies, lots of questions. My guess is… they’ll check the freezer.” He turned and put his foot on the stairs.

“You’re leaving?” Travis asked, his hand gripping the assassin’s drover coat tightly.

“Well, if you want to stay, go ahead. He may be looking for a new understudy. That’s what you wanted, right? Be like good ole’ Felix over there?” Shakespeare nodded to the pool of congealing goo on the floor and smiled. “That’s the point, right?”

Travis looked between the hunter and vampire. “No… no… but… you’re just going to leave him here?”

“Well, I’m not taking him home. He’s not housebroken.” Shakespeare quipped. “You’ve got a nice, big place though.” he said thoughtfully.

“I mean…you’re not going to kill him?” Travis said, whispering. The vampire growled low in his throat and stared at the young man.

“Hey, kid…” Shakespeare said in a stage whisper, “…I think the v…a…m…p…i…r…e can hear you…” He looked at the vampire and shook his head. “No contract. Wouldn’t be fair to my paying customers.”

Before Shakespeare took more than two steps Travis was pulling on his coat like a three year old in a candy store. “But he’s the reason Tina and the others are dead… if you don’t kill him, he’ll just do it again!”

“Yeah. Sucks. Still not my problem.” Shakespeare started to move again, but Travis wouldn’t budge.

“What’s your fee?” Travis asked.

“I don’t take change, kid. Even if you roll it…”

“You know my father… I can have all the money I want. I’m good for it, whatever the price…"
Shakespeare smirked, shook his head then dropped over the side of the stairs to the floor below.


Travis led the assassin past the gaggle of worried-looking house servants. It was late, but he knew his father would be waiting for them. The odd pair walked into the study, Travis going ahead of him to the side of his father’s desk. Verago turned his chair to face his son, a deep streak of concern etched on his face.

“What the hell happened to you?” Verago asked as he turned the boy’s head this way and that, taking in the bruises and cuts he’d suffered. “Shakespeare, hurting my son wasn’t part of the deal.”

The slayer pulled out the cigar he’d taken from Verago’s own humidor earlier. “You didn’t say I shouldn’t, either.” He bit the end off the cigar and spit it into the ashtray on his desk several feet away. “Next time, be specific.”

“My God… what did he do to you…?” Verago asked in a loud whisper.

“Nothing.” Travis answered, his voice soft but clear. “Nothing I didn’t deserve, anyway.”

“I just spent a lot of money. I should at least get a story out of it, as well as the proof.” Verago said.

“You got it.” he said and nodded to the desk. Verago looked at the piece of cigar Shakespeare had spat and saw two stained fangs stuck in the tobacco. He pushed the butt around the ashtray with a pen skeptically.

“And how do I know that these are real? For the money I spent, I should get more proof than that.”

“All that’s left when you stake ‘em.” Shakespeare said, lighting the cigar. “I’m sure your boy can fill in the blanks for you. Time to settle up.”

“I know who you are, Shakespeare…” Verago said darkly as he pushed his son to the side of his chair and stood. “And unless you want the rest of the world to know, I suggest you consider tonight a personal favor to me and go about your merry way…”

“If you know so much, then you should know what’s about to happen, and what will happen to the men behind the bookcase…” Shakespeare said. Verago pulled a large crucifix from his desk drawer and brandished it just inches from Shakespeare’s face. The assassin smiled. “For one, that only works for a man of faith, not the moneychangers. Two…” He reached up and wrapped his gloved fingers around the central point of the cross. Thin wisps of smoke slivered away as the holy symbol burned the flesh beneath the leather. “…it doesn’t work so well on me, anyway.”
Guards stepped out from behind a bookcase and raised their pistols. “Hope you rented them.” Shakespeare said to Verago. Travis backed against the wall as the guards opened fire. Unlike the children, these men were well–schooled in their weapons. Lead slugs tore into Shakespeare's arm, chest and face, slamming him against the wall. Verago pushed his son away, pulled a wood stake from behind his back and rushed the assassin, seeking to sink the stake deep into his chest. But just as the stake came near, Shakespeare threw up a hand. The stake struck his hand and sank through the leather, through the flesh beneath and another inch past his palm. With his free hand, he grabbed Verago’s offending wrist and twisted it sharply until something inside audibly cracked.

“You have got to be kidding me…” Shakespeare hissed as he pushed Verago to his knees by his shattered wrist. He looked across the room at the guards and smiled as two of his incisors grew to twice again their length. He pulled his dark glasses from his face with his staked hand and stared at them with black, glittering eyes. The bullets had already started to expel from his body, the wounds oozing black blood as they slowly closed. “Two choices. Live. Die.” he said to the guards. They looked at each other only once before they started to move towards the door. “Good choice.”

Trevor stared at the assassin, mouth agape and eyes wide in terror. “You… you’re… one of them…”

“Yeah. Ain’t life a bitch?” Shakespeare answered quietly. He pulled the stake from his hand and winced as the wound started to close over then lifted the whimpering Verago from the floor and slammed him onto his own desk. “This is gonna’ hurt like hell…” Shakespeare said as he brought the stake down through Verago's already-injured wrist. Verago screamed as the stake slid through and embedded into the wood below, pinning his arm in place.

“You’re not going to… to…” Travis asked as he made himself as small as he could against the wall. Shakespeare didn’t need his acute sense of smell to know that the boy had voided his bladder moments before.

“What? Kill him? Drink his blood?” Shakespeare asked, the last in his best Count Chocula imitation. “I’m not that kind of vampire, kid. Not anymore. I’m a business man.” He looked down at Verago and smiled. “It’s called ethics. Look it up.”

“Take… take anything you want… just… just don’t kill me…” Verago said, his voice more afraid than pained.

“That was the plan.” He turned and hurled a punch at the wall behind the desk. The wood panel cracked and fell away revealing the safe. “Travis, if you would be so kind?” he asked, indicating the safe.

“What? I… I don’t know…”

“You’re the son of a rich man. Don’t stand there and tell me you don’t know the combination to his safe. Felix didn’t buy those duds on a vampire’s salary.” Travis slowly made his way to the safe, keeping as much distance between him and the slayer as he could. He spun the dial a few times, worked the combination and threw open the door. Shakespeare reached in and withdrew several thick stacks of bills, their denominations rarely seen anywhere but in bank vaults. He counted them, taking only what was his fee and left the rest as he had found it. “Now. There’s the matter of your bill. You didn’t plan on following your dad’s poor example, did you?”

“No… take what you want from the safe…” Travis answered, making a point not to look at his father.

“That’s not yours to give.” Shakespeare said. Travis stared up at him.

“I… I could dip into my trust, but I won’t be able to do that until in the morning…”

“Payment due when services rendered, kid.” Shakespeare said as Verago groaned on the desk. Shakespeare punched him in the shoulder, sending waves of pain down the arm to meet with their kin at his wrist, silencing him. He turned back to Travis and advanced on him.

Travis breathed heavily as he nearly collapsed against the wall. “No… please…” he gasped as the vampire hunter pulled a pair of chromed pliers from his coat. He was smiling.

Travis buzzed for his father’s butler then staggered to the window to watch the slayer’s motorcycle tear down the estate drive to the gates. Blood poured from his mouth where his artificial fangs had been, staining his shirt and the carpet below. Those silly teeth now lay bloody in the bottom of a pocket in the hunter’s voluminous leather coat. He realized that the life of a vampire wasn’t cool anymore. It wasn’t… useful. But the life of a vampire hunter? How cool would that be?