Fangs for Nothing (Vampire Hunting and Other Foolish Endeavors)

BOOK: Fangs for Nothing (Vampire Hunting and Other Foolish Endeavors)
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Fangs for Nothing

by

Adrianne Ambrose

Fangs for Nothing

Copyright
©
2011 by Adrianne Ambrose

 

For all legal information, please see the end of this book.

 

This book is dedicated to:

“Cleveland, city of lights, city of magic”

~ Randy Newman

 

Special thanks to:

My husband, Jason, for excellent suggestions and advice.

Phoenix Zoellick for the wonderful cover art.

See more of her work at:

http://phoenixzoellick.com

 

Bridge photograph courtesy of Chris Cousins.

http://
UrbanOhio.com

 

Prologue

 

“Do you want to see the vampire?” the old man
rasped.

I was
wandering around Chinatown by myself because my friends were lame and wanted to go dancing instead of actually trying to see something of the city. The answer to the old guy’s question was yes; damn straight, I wanted to see the vampire. I mean, if there was one available for viewing.

Judging from
the thick layer of grime he was sporting, my new friend was more than likely a homeless person. He drew a crude map on the back of a Lone Dragon Restaurant menu some hawker had forced on me earlier and I had yet to throw away.

“And take this,”
he said, pressing into my hand a dirty, sealed envelope which he had fished out of his crusty overcoat. “Don’t open it till you get there.”

“What is it?” I asked, wishing I had some
Handi-Wipes or something. The envelope was a bit sticky, and I didn’t want to think about what had made it that way.

“Something you’ll want,” the old dude rasped.
He cracked into a jack-o-lantern smile. “Trust me.”

After that,
he gave me the usual shakedown for money, and I ended up parting with two bucks. If I got to meet an actual vampire, it was a good deal. And even if I didn’t, the old guy looked like he could use the cash.

Following the map, I
crossed the street and made a left down an alley. San Francisco’s Chinatown had been crowded with vacationing families pawing through piles of silk fans and faux jade talismans when I first started looking around. After the sun went down, the tourists quickly evaporated. Besides the old guy and the customers at a few late-night noodle shops, I was pretty much on my own.

M
aking another left down a smaller, darker alley, I nearly bumped into a young woman leaning against a wall. She was Caucasian but wearing one of those snug-fitting Chinese silk dresses with the high collar. Burnt red chopsticks pierced a dark brown bun of hair piled on the top of her head. Lifting a clove cigarette to her crimson lips, she gave me the eye. “Are you here to see the vampire?” she asked in a gravelly voice.


Um, yeah.”


I thought so,” she said, dropping her cigarette to the pavement and grinding it out with a stiletto-clad foot. She grabbed me by the arm. “Come with me.”

Up close
, I could see that she was probably in her early twenties with large dark rings under her eyes that she’d tried to conceal with makeup. Somewhere in the distance, I could hear the muffled throb of music from a dance club. Xander and Rini were going to be miserable that they’d chosen to try to sneak into a club instead of hanging out with me. “So this is a real vampire?” I asked as she hurried me along.

“Shhh
.” She hushed me, pausing to listen. In a voice just above a whisper, she asked, “You never met a vampire before?”

“Not exactly.”

A grave look crossed her face, and she nodded. “Okay.” Hiking up her dress, she pulled something out of her black lace garter. “You’ll probably want to hang on to this.”

I was so intrigued by my glimpse of the top of her stocking that I almost didn’t grab the thing she thrust at me.
“What is it?” I fumbled. It was a long cone shape with a very pointy end. I became acutely aware that Miss China Doll Dress had just handed me a stake.


Come on.” She began pulling on my arm again, hurrying me further down the alley.

At that point
, I was pretty excited. I was armed, had a hot babe at my side, and had been assured by no less than two San Franciscans that I was about to meet a vampire. The only thing that gave me pause was that the stake didn’t have the heft I would have expected. It felt more like balsa wood than an implement strong enough to drive through a vampire’s ribcage and into his heart if necessary. Not that I was planning on snuffing a vampire or anything, but it was good to be prepared. China Doll didn’t seem too ill at ease, so I let her confidence bolster me. It was weird that she was my voluntary guide, but I assumed I was reasonably safe. Unless she was one of the vampire’s servants who brought him his dinner each night, choosing from whoever was foolish enough to wander the abandoned streets of Chinatown after sunset. That idea made me slightly uncomfortable. She was urging me faster and faster down the darker and darker alley.


Um.” I was starting to feel a little nervous. “You know, my friends would probably really like to meet the vampire, too. In fact, they’re waiting for me right now. I should probably go get them, and then I could meet you back here.”

“Here,” she said, jerking me to a stop. “We’re here.” We stood in front of a large wooden door. It looked about a zillion years old
, and the large windows on either side of it had been bricked over. “Do you have something for me?” China Doll asked. When I gave her a confused look, she added, “Something the old man gave you?”


Oh… yeah.” I pulled the sticky envelope out of my jacket pocket.

“Open it,”
she commanded, hammering on the door with three loud strokes.

My hands trembled slightly
as I worked at tearing open the envelope. “Hurry,” she told me. “What does it say?” The clouds that had been crowding the sky all evening chose that moment to part, and the light from the moon shown down on us. As I pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it, I could hear someone on the other side of the door turning a very rusty lock. “Read it. Read it now.”

I squinted, confused
. “Two-for-one drinks until midnight?”

The door flew open. “
Velcome to Fangtopia!” a balding Dracula in plastic fangs called out. Before I could get my bearings, I was ushered inside. “Fangtopia is San Francisco’s only roving vampire dance club.”

“He got two
-for-one drinks,” China Doll chirped in a bright voice, instantly more cheerleader than seductress.

“Congratulations
,” Dracula said as if he was genuinely happy for me. “Now all I need is to see some ID. And there’s a twenty-dollar cover charge.”

I peered into the
poorly lit room. About a dozen Goths dressed in black swayed listlessly on the dance floor. Others lounged on battered couches looking bored. The whole place smelled a little too much like sourdough bread. I wouldn’t have wanted to go in, even if I had a fake ID.

My
vampire host was getting impatient. I could tell he didn’t like me sizing up the club. “Come on, kid,” he said, clapping his hand on my arm. “You got twenty bucks or what?”

“Suck it, Dracula
.” I jerked away from him, dropping the stake in the process. It bounced off the dance floor with a hollow
fwap
, nothing more than spray-painted plastic. “I’m out of here.”

Chapter 1

 

“San Francisco sucks!” X
ander snarled in an overly loud voice. I mentally willed him to keep it down as I felt the glare of huffy San Franciscans from every corner of the airplane. Unfortunately, he kept talking at the same volume. “I mean, how many posers can you cram into one city?” I glanced over at his black boots, black slacks, black belt, black shirt, enhanced black hair, and chipping black fingernail polish and tried not to crack a smile, fully restraining myself from busting his chops. It had been a long trip, and Xander was not a fan of irony, especially if it was directed at him. And after all, it was Xander’s father, Mr. Mega-Lawyer, who was the unwitting sponsor of our trip by always paying off his son’s credit card debt without bothering to check on the purchases.

“For me
, it was the dog poo,” sniffed Rini from where she nestled in her cozy seat by the window. She always looked a bit like one of those kittens with the flat faces, and when she curled herself into a ball, it didn’t help. I was wedged in the middle seat, naturally. Rini went on, “I mean, don’t let your dog crap where you eat, right?” I had to agree with her. Downtown San Francisco seemed reasonably clean in the touristy spots, but we’d stayed at a cheap hotel in the heart of the Mission District. Once you got into the more residential areas, the City by the Bay was oddly smeared with feces. Rini went on, “Did you know that there are five dogs for every child in San Francisco?”

“Really?” I was surprised. “Is that true?”
Rini stated emphatically that it was true. I had my doubts. I mean, it felt true, but I also knew that Rini liked to be the authority on everything, even if that meant flat out making things up. The flight attendant started her safety spiel, so I didn’t shake Rini down for where she’d found such an interesting statistic. I always pay attention to the safety instructions. I look for my nearest exit, even if it is behind me; I double check my seatbelt; and I make sure everything around me is in an upright and locked position. It’s not like I’m afraid to fly or anything. But I do dread a few aeronautical possibilities, including plummeting to a fiery death, motion sickness, smelly people sitting next to me, and the person in front of me fully reclining his or her seat. Besides that, I’m totally cool on a plane.

Xander
fired up his iPod and turned up the volume, even though you’re not supposed to do that kind of stuff during takeoff. Normally, I’d have said something, but I really just wanted to get home with as little hassle as possible. We were all feeling crabby and discouraged. San Francisco had not quite been the Mecca for vampires that we’d anticipated.

Don’t get me wrong
; there had been plenty of vampire clubs in the City by the Bay. There were also a lot of vampire bars, vampire tours, vampire drycleaners, vampire gift shops, and even a vampire taqueria. What there hadn’t been were any vampires. Or at least, none that we could find. There were a ton of people posing as vampires, or as familiars, or even as vampire furries, which I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around. Essentially, there had been a lot of people hanging around dressed in black, sipping Bloody Mary cocktails, and wearing fake fangs, but we discovered no legitimate presence of the undead.

New Orleans had been pretty much th
e same deal. The people were nice. There was a real southern southerness that I thought had its charm, but no vampires. I mean, none that made themselves known to us. It was quite the disappointment, but I’m not sure why. It’s not like Anne Rice has a direct line to the occult, and that’s why she located all her stories there, right? At least, I didn’t think she did.

*****

My name is Herbert Lehmer. Yeah, I know. I think it was some kind of practical joke my dad played before he decided to kick the bucket.

I like my last name because it’s kind of like those fuzzy creatures with the big eyes that hang out on Madagascar. But people are usually too fixated on my first name to pay too much attention to my last. Without fail, the first thing that flies out of people’s mouths is, “Oh, like
Herbie, the Love Bug
?” After that, they always laugh hysterically and look all pleased, like they’ve just said this amazingly original joke and have not, in fact, told a lame joke that I’ve heard two zillion times before. Every once in a blue moon, I hear, “Oh, like Herbert Hoover.” That’s not too great either, but at least it’s a change of pace and shows a sense of history.

Anyway, the
whole
Herbie, the Love Bug
thing got so bad that even Xander got sick of it by the time we hit middle school. That’s why when we started high school, he started calling me Sherbie, which is short for Sherbet. (Get it? Herbert, Sherbet. Yeah, it’s not really all that close, but whatever.) Anyway, it caught on, and now I go by Sherbie, which I’m not in love with either, but I guess it’s the lesser of two evils. I’m definitely going to change my name when I go to college next year to something cool, like... uh... yeah, I don’t know yet, but something at least as cool as Xander, which he swears his parents gave him as a nickname, but I’m pretty sure he ripped off of Buffy.

Xander, Rini
, and I are vampire hunters. Well, we’re not exactly hunting them to stake them or anything like that. We just want to find some. It started out as kind of a joke, actually. We were reading so many vampire novels that we thought it might be fun to actually meet a couple. But where do you go to meet vampires? It’s not like you’re going to stumble over one at a midnight madness sale at the mall or anything. So at the end of our junior year, we decided we would hit a few of the more obvious vampire hot spots around the U.S. on our summer vacation and see if we could unearth any (so to speak). I know it sounds kind of nuts, but people get obsessed about all kinds of stuff. What about that first guy who became fixated with summiting Mount Everest? When a reporter asked him why he was so hell bent on getting to the top, he shouted back, “Because it’s there!” That’s kind of how I felt about vampires. I mean, if they were out there and they actually existed, I wanted to meet one. Maybe not even meet one, but at least see one. Kind of like a celebrity sighting, but where the celebrity possibly wants to kill you. I’m not sure we seriously thought we were ever going to find any vampires, but as long as Xander’s dad was willing to keep the funds flowing, it wasn’t a bad way to spend a summer.

*****

We were standing at carousel number nine of Cleveland Hopkins waiting for the machine to spit out my luggage. Xander had his army surplus green duffel bag. Rini had her old hard-cover suitcase that she’d spray painted black and stenciled all over with white skulls. Very Emily Le Strange, although Rini denied it. I, of course, was still waiting for my grandmother’s flowered rollaway case. It was cringe worthy on many levels.

I noticed Xander had subtly adjusted his posture. He slouched slightly to the side, let his head hang,
and then looked up through his bangs to gaze at something in the middle distance. Uber James Dean. Xander managed to pull it off as if he was looking at nothing, just having deep thoughts about the faraway adventures he would be having if he wasn’t stuck waiting for a flowered suitcase at Hopkins International. I casually let my eyes slide across the room. There had to be cute girls somewhere close at hand. Otherwise Xander wouldn’t have broken out his middle-distance-gazing Tyrone Power eyes.

Yep, there they were, off to the left. Three of them. Long hair,
short skirts, tank tops, flip flops. They had definitely spotted Xander because they were whispering to each other and glancing repeatedly in our direction. It’s not like they were his type or anything, but he posed for them anyway, not wanting to go unnoticed. As if anyone could avoid noticing him. Xander was tall, lean meat on a big frame. His artificially blackened hair and pale, flawless skin only served to emphasize his electric blue eyes. If he wasn’t one of my best friends, I would have absolutely hated the guy.

“Cleveland sucks
,” Xander snarled, giving just a hint of Elvis lip.

“Huh?”
Rini jerked her head up, her concentration broken from the luggage carousel that had briefly hypnotized her while she tried to pry a sesame seed out of her braces. “Wait a minute. I thought you said San Francisco sucked?”

“I never said that
. San Francisco’s cool. I’ll probably move there after college.”

Rini didn’t catch on that the conversation was being staged for someone else’s benefit. “I thought you were going to move to New York to be a writer?”

“Yeah, I’m gonna do that, too. I really just want to get out there and live life, you know? Not be tied down.”

I
saw comprehension filling Rini’s eyes. She glanced quickly around the baggage claim and found the girls, who were avidly eavesdropping. “What do you mean, not be tied down?” Rini raised the volume of her voice perceptibly. “I thought you said you were desperately looking for a girlfriend? Someone you could love and pamper and spend every second of your time with.” Looking up, she acted like she was seeing the cute girls for the first time. “Hey, there are some cute girls over there! Why don’t you go talk to them? Maybe one of them will want to be your girlfriend.”

Sometimes I absolutely love Rini.

My luggage came spitting out of the chute at that exact moment, and Xander yanked it off the carousel and thrust it at me. “Sherbie, take your damn bag. Let’s go.” Xander quickly hoisted his duffel onto one of his broad shoulders and half jogged across baggage claim. The girls giggled and madly tossed their hair as he went past. They reminded me of a flock of startled birds, dithering about but not really going anywhere. When I walked by, of course, I didn’t ruffle a single feather, but I was used to that.

There was
actually one girl at baggage claim who looked at me. She was standing with some friends, but they weren’t part of the hot mini-skirts or anything. She was more of a washed-out elf in jeans that were a size too big. She had dark, stringy hair pulled into a ponytail, and she didn’t so much check me out as glare at me as if I’d just bumped into her without apologizing. Xander got hot girls tossing their hair; I got unwarranted dirty looks from cranky chicks.

We
made our way over to long-term parking and piled into Xander’s cream-colored Dodge Dart. His dad would have bought him any car he wanted, but Xander went for the Dart. Something about the uncoolness of it making it cool. Of course, he got the two-door, convertible 1969 model with the significantly smaller back seat, which was where I was usually wedged. I’m a lot taller than Rini, but Xander always insists she gets to sit up front because she’s a girl.

Xander took the valley on the way home. I personally find the Clevela
nd Metroparks a little spooky after the sun goes down, but he insisted it was atmospheric. It was quiet with no one else was around, and Xander had the Dart’s top down, naturally. At first, I was feeling tense about it, imagining the eyes of God-knows-what staring down at us from the trees. But soon, the sultry summer breezes and gentle chirp of crickets lulled me into enjoying the ride.

That was until a
bunch of kids in a car careened up behind us with their brights on. I turned around and tried to signal them that they were blinding us, but that just made them drive closer. I swear—their bumper was practically touching ours. “What the hell are they doing?” Xander barked, gripping the steering wheel tightly to keep the Dart on the road. “What’s their problem?”

“I don’t know!” I shouted back,
doing my best to wave them off. There were obviously several girls in the car because I could hear them shrieking with the delight of terrorizing us. After catching a few snatches of their words above the cackling, I began to get a bad feeling, like they were waiting until the road drew closer to the river, and then they were going to ram us.

Xander stomped on the gas
, and the other car fell back a few yards. For a brief moment, I thought maybe they had decided to leave us alone—until I heard them rev their engine. They were just giving themselves space to get up to ramming speed. The car came hurtling at us again, and I knew they weren’t going to stop. We were as good as dead.

Xander wre
nched the Dart’s wheel abruptly to the left propelling us up a small lane to Wooster Road, and we shot out of the Metroparks. The other car wasn’t expecting this maneuver, apparently, and they missed the turn. I thought maybe they’d pull a U-turn or something, but I didn’t see any headlights, so I guess they kept going, barreling through the valley.

Once we knew we were in the clear,
Xander pulled the Dart over to regain his composure. “What the hell?” He slammed his fist into the leather seat. “What the fuck was that? They were they trying to kill us.”

“Maybe it was someone you
used to date?” Rini suggested as she unclenched herself from the tiny ball she had formed in the passenger seat.

“No
,” Xander protested a bit too loudly. “I don’t… I mean, I wouldn’t… I mean, those chicks were really trying to kill us. And I’ve never, you know… done anything that warranted killing.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Xander said vehemently.

Rini shrugged
. “If you say so.”

 

Xander pulled the Dart up in front of the post WWII bungalow that I shared with my grandmother. Almost every light in the house was on, but that’s the way Grandma liked it. She wanted to make it perfectly clear that people were home. She felt it dissuaded robbers, but I think it really only jacked up our electricity bill. Besides, what were they going to steal? The dusty hook-rug wall-hanging of a pony? The radio Grandma’s had since the seventies? I did have a nice collection of vintage jackets that I’d managed to score over the years from my dedication to thrift store shopping, but I doubted thieves cased a house based on the availability of classic menswear.

BOOK: Fangs for Nothing (Vampire Hunting and Other Foolish Endeavors)
4.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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