By Carol Marrs Phipps
Toad sat in the back seat of the hearse and studied the back of his maker’s head as he wondered what would become of him. No one spoke and it was really getting on his nerves. Finally, he could stand it no longer. “So,” he said, a bit proud of the fact his voice was a lot steadier than he had imagined it would be. After all, he was still scared shitless, “if I don’t need to feed anymore tonight, why did you bring me along with you?”
“To watch and learn,” Beaumont said, not even bothering to look back at Toad.
“Oh,” Toad replied and sank back into silence for several minutes as he pondered. “So...” he said again, “I thought vamps were s’posed to all be...you know, real lookers. And if that’s so, how do I fit in?”
Sacha glanced aside at Beaumont with a smirk plastered on her lovely face. He glared at her then sighed. “Little toad,” Beaumont said, “it remains to be seen if we will even be able to fit you in anywhere as a vampire. Would you prefer to die?”
“I thought vampires were already dead.”
“Yes, but there is death and there is real death, as I thought you were beginning to understand.”
“Ah, then by real death you mean a death from which one no longer walks the earth in any guise?”
“But what about ghosts and zombies? Are you saying they don’t really exist so I couldn’t come back upon this earth as one of those?”
Sacha burst out laughing which earned her a quelling look from Beaumont before he turned a long-suffering gaze back upon Toad. “I am not saying that, no, but ghosts have no corporeal form, therefore they are not alive. Zombies are merely re-animated dead people and their actions are controlled by a living being, they can no longer think or perform any action of their own accord.”
“Well, in that case, I don’t believe I really want to be dead. Maybe as a vampire I’ll at least earn a little bit of respect from people!” he added with a bit of vehemence.
Beaumont stared at Toad for a moment. “I expect that is...possible, but, I must caution you, and heed me well, none of us can afford to become...known. Do you take my meaning?”
Toad sat back in his seat. “By that I guess you mean if a vamp starts getting noticed then he runs the risk of people starting to believe vampires are more than just scary stories or some whacko’s wild imagination and then they might actually begin to hunt us down...”
“Exactly,” Beaumont said. “So, one of the things you definitely need to learn is how to keep a low profile.”
“Let me tell ya, Beaumont, when you look like me, your profile can’t get much lower!” Toad snorted. “And ya never answered me before. Aren’t vamps supposed to be like, really attractive? And just why is that, anyway?” Toad fired off just as Beaumont was about to turn back around.
The handsome vampire glared at Toad but the squat, newly made vampire just glared right back until Beaumont sighed again and explained. “Yes, it is quite true that vampires are...at least, we were until now, all exceptionally attractive. The reason is vampires realized long ago they needed to mesmerize...and draw their victims to them with the least possible resistance or trouble. When a vampire chooses to make a new vampire he is careful to do so only if the new vampire meets the current standards of attractiveness.” Beaumont stared hard at Toad and held up his hand to stop him from interrupting what he was saying. “When the new vampire completes his change, all of his features are even further enhanced and he becomes virtually irresistible. In your case, I’m afraid, you were far from the standard from which new vampires should be measured in the first place...and your enhanced features...most unfortunately, only have resulted in making you appear even more toad-like than ever you did before.”
Suddenly the hearse stopped and Sacha announced blithely, “Here you are Jules! Della’s house of Rapture! Where even a vampire’s pleasure can be satisfied...for the right price!”
Beaumont cast her a barely tolerant look and Toad stared out the hearse window at the dilapidated Victorian house with garish peeling hot pink paint with a wide, sloping, purple porch. The uninviting-looking place had eerie red light filtering out of partially closed faded red drapes which hung in all the windows. Two hulking brutes stood either side of the brilliant red double doors that were obviously meant to be the customer entrance. “You gotta be kiddin’ me!” he said before he thought better of it. “Dude! A whorehouse? I mean...even if you aint worried about STD’s, surely you don’t wanna risk getting aids! That’s passed by blood ya know!”
“Such diseases only afflict the living,” Beaumont said offhandedly. “Now...stay here with Sacha until I return.” Without so much as glancing back at Toad to be sure he had complied with his orders, Beaumont got out of the car and soon vanished inside the house of ill-repute.
“Well...damn! How am I supposed to ‘watch and learn’ if he makes me stay in the car?” he fumed.
Sacha laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, this is just a quick stop. Jules will be back soon enough and you will get to begin your education long before the night grows old.”
“I see. Kind of a 7/11 for us vamps, huh?”
Sacha looked incredulously at Toad and then broke into a fit of helpless laughter. When she finally wiped the tears of mirth from her eyes and regained her composure once more she eyed him speculatively. “You got a wicked sense of humor, you know that?”
Toad shrugged then cocked his head at Sacha curiously. “Yeah, well...what about you then?”
“Me?” Sacha asked, eyes widening. “What do you mean? Ask Jules and he’ll tell you I have a lousy sense of humor.”
“I’m not talkin’ about your sense of humor. I was just wonderin’...well...doesn’t it bother you that Jules is...with other women...and apparently even sometimes men...if they piss him off enough, that is,” he chuckled uneasily before he continued. “I mean, every night you have to drive him from...victim to victim and sit in the car waiting while he...does...whatever he does with them...doesn’t that upset you at all?”
Sacha laughed again. delighting Toad with the almost musical sound of it.“Dear me no,” she said after several moments. “Why would it?”
Toad shrugged, pulling his gaze away from her perfect face, at least, that’s how he saw it. “I don’t know. I guess this is just the way of vamps, huh? I mean, it’s obvious you care deeply for the jer...guy and yet, all you seem to get out of the deal is being his beautiful chauffer. And, when do you get to feed, anyway?”
Sacha grinned and shook her head. “I’m afraid you misunderstand my relationship to Jules, Toad. You see, he is my brother. We are very close since our parents died when we were both very young. Who do you suppose would help and protect him, if not me? And, I do not feed the way you and Jules feed. I am no vampire.” Then she smiled, displaying a set of gleaming fangs which seemed to Toad to contradict her last statement. “I have my own...cravings, you see.” she said without explaining further, leaving Toad to ponder on that until he was startled by the opening of the front door announcing the return of Jules.
Toad noticed Beaumont and Sacha exchange a look as Jules shook his head and then climbed into his seat where he appeared sullen and distracted until the hearse stopped again in front of the Old Boathouse Tavern several miles down the river from the Dockside Tavern where Toad had met Jules the night before.
Jules turned around in his seat and studied Toad with a dark, brooding look. “You want to know why I made you, little toad? I’ll tell you. It is because last night I was to meet someone who had some very important information for me and you insinuated yourself right into the picture just as that person arrived. The moment she saw there was trouble, she vanished and thanks to you that information which I had searched months for...has been denied me. My informant was found in her room early this morning by one of her regular john’s...alive, but no doubt wishing she weren’t. You see, she’d had her tongue cut out, her eyes poked out, her eardrums punctured beyond repair and both hands and feet cut off. Her assailant made sure to bind her limbs securely with tourniquets so she would not bleed to death.”
Sacha’s eyes flashed. “So she could suffer for the rest of her life for the information she tried to give you.”
Beaumont nodded. “And, of course, the most awful part of it is that she never even gave me the information she had.” He glanced back ominously at Toad. “She’ll now live the rest of her life in a dark, silent world totally dependent upon the pity of the few people there may be in this world who will even care for the life of a whore.”
If it was possible for a vampire to look any paler at that moment, Toad did. He dry swallowed and tried to melt into the backseat fearing he was about to watch and learn what real death was like.
to be continued...