Thanks for continuing to read my story. Please let me know how you like it at vichowel at aol.com.
I'll note again that this is predominantly a political thriller set in the US. It is not a tract against any major American party or politician. It's also a romance and this chapter reminds us of that, even as it rubs our noses in the racial hatred that still taints this land.
Another of my stories, FLIGHT AT PEENEMÜNDE, can be found in the Beginnings folder.
"What is this insanity?" I demanded as I read The Washington Blade's first issue of the new year.
"What Wahnsinn, Karl?" Emil asked absent-mindedly from the dresser as he leaned back against it to pull on his Reeboks.
I glanced over at him and nearly laughed at the lad -- the adult -- so proud of a brand name shoe. Reeboks weren't even shoes, they were trainers. Canvas and plastic with touches of leather. But because they were British-made, they commanded a high price and tremendous, even instant, respect.
Unglaublich! Two generations after horrible deprivation and even more disastrous war, the world had given birth to a materialistic generation. Definitely unbelievable.
I pulled my thoughts back to Emil's question. "In the Virginia suburbs something called the Christian Center is going through the public libraries and taking The Blade from them."
"Oh, that." He sounded almost bored. "They're just a group of fundies."
"Fundies?" Emil was picking up much too much American idiom. It was beginning to reach the point that I couldn't understand his English any more. And we had made a pact to speak the patois to help me regain my fluency.
"Religious fundamentalists. They say homosexuality is condemned in the Bible -- so, they want anything to do with it removed from public places."
"Emil, these are public libraries! What you're talking about is book burning..." I glanced at the newspaper in my hands. "Or newspaper burning."
"Like the Nazi book burnings all over Germany in 1935?" he asked resignedly, stifling a yawn.
"Yes, damn it!"
"You're seeing things that aren't there, Karl. Over at Georgetown University, I've met some of the people who will rule this country twenty years from now. They aren't like that. These fundies are the last gasp of a dead religion trying to keep itself from the tomb."
"I hope," I mumbled. I didn't want to argue with him. I was too fond of him by half. I wanted to be with him, to enjoy looking in the small shops of Georgetown, to enjoy exploring. With him.
Only, he was becoming as blasé as most young Americans I encountered -- like the young Berliners I had met in 1930 when last I visited Germany.
"Where are you going tonight?" I asked, changing the subject.
"To the library." He shrugged. "Where else?"
"You're spending a lot of time at Georgetown now that you've found it."
"I want my degree. That means papers I have to research."
"Are you sure there isn't a particularly attractive young thing who's caught your eye?" I asked, meaning it as a joke.
He looked up sharply. I immediately plastered a grin across my face to ensure he didn't think I was serious.
He shrugged it off, and I dearly wanted to touch his thoughts. Emil Paulik, however, had learnt to feel my touch at the corners of his mind. "I'll probably be after 2300 getting back. You going out?"
He smiled across at me, only love in his eyes. "You can always have some of me."
I shook my head. "I'll take another part of you, though -- when you get back."
"I want to be a vampire too, Karl!"
"Why? So you can go around being a pain in people's necks?"
"Scheiße! You make everything into a joke. All I want is to be with you -- always."
I nodded. "I'll remember that, dear Emi."
"Does that mean you'll do it?"
"Probably. But it's not something you can turn off after you turn it on. I want you to be very sure. Maybe after you see your family and have time to look at the world without me there to influence you."
"You aren't influencing me."
I laughed. "I've noticed. Go to the library, Emil. I become hungry."
He would take the Volkswagen I bought us as a holiday present. He would also take me, but not know it. I was suddenly inordinately curious about his evening excursions. After all, he could study and research during the day as I slept; and that knowledge left me mildly suspicious.
Besides, Georgetown wasn't that far from DuPont Circle, and I was developing a distinct fondness for young Nazi-flavoured blood that had not been basted in drugs or alcohol.
"Did you see today's Post?"
I looked up quickly at him.
"Some fundy preacher killed an abortion doctor in Florida yesterday."
"They captured him?"
"Of course. He was standing in front of the body when the police arrived."
I bit as he knew I would. "Why did he do it?"
"He said God told him to do it so that murders like he performed can be stopped."
"Abortion is legal here, isn't it?"
"So, the doctor commits no murder. This preacher, however, did commit a murder."
"He confessed," he answered and picked up the keys. "See you."
* * *
I felt more than slightly foolish as I flew alongside the lights and sounds of Georgetown from the dark quietude of the university. Our Volkswagen had indeed pulled into the library's car park and I watched through the windows as Emil found books he would need, moved on to the main reading room, and found an isolated space in which to read and work.
I may have been feeling foolish as I flew away, but I did not regret having made sure of his commitment to our relationship.
He was mortal and young. Were he to be involved with another human, the bonds that had been developing between us would be severely weakened.
That might sound unfair, given my continuing commitment to Sergei Alexandrovitch who was now Tom MacPherson; but it was true nonetheless. Our relationship could be dangerous to me physically and, despite my best efforts not to be egotistical, my life still had an all-consuming importance to me. Too, such a relationship would call into question his commitment to me specifically as well as to the immortality I represented.
The doubts that had threatened to fester within me had needed lancing. They were now lanced; and Emil was proved to be but a zealous student, his devotion to me unsullied. I was mollified and turned my thoughts to the night's dinner possibilities.
It was barely 1900 hours, but the quiet residential streets of Georgetown were deserted. The residents of this part of Washington, what Americans called yuppies, were dining in their own homes, enjoying their children and the fruits of their labours. A wet chill hung in the air and snow-laden clouds hovered above the city. I ignored the boisterous commercial section along lower Wisconsin Avenue and flew into Rock Creek Park to follow it back to `P' Street and the predominantly gay DuPont Circle section of the city.
An occasional derelict huddled in his layers of filthy clothing, his mind blank -- blanker than those of the animals about him. Mice and an occasional rat scurried through the underbrush beside the creek. An owl hunted for his dinner with more single-mindedness than I thought to devote to mine.
I reached `P' Street beach, a two-block long, wide-wooded glen surrounded by old but still maintained apartment buildings on the Georgetown side. Its northern border was the `P' Street Bridge, its southern border was the block devoted to a public primary school facing the U. S. News And World Report building. Its eastern side was Twenty-third Street housing gay bars and businesses and another apartment building.
`P' Street beach was the gay cruising area of Washington. Three blocks to the east was DuPont Circle and two blocks to the north was the beginning of embassy row that took up most of Massachusetts Avenue this side of Connecticut.
Hispanic youths from Adams-Morgan came to pander their manhood as did Negro youth from further east in the city. Men from Maryland and Virginia came to buy the moments of anonymous sex the boys offered a mere stone's throw from gay bars.
The skinheads came to watch and intimidate.
In the bars along `P' Street from the park to the circle, men from the city and the suburbs met men from the embassies and were more interested in a mutually enjoyable evening than money or power.
`P' Street beach had already proved to be pleasant hunting grounds for me.
At the southwestern corner of the park, I alighted on a winter-denuded bush and hopped to the ground, changing into wolf form. I moved deeper into the park then, sniffing through the underbrush for the scent of what might have been there since my last visit.
I heard scuffling in the thick brush under the bridge across the park.
"I got one of the damned faggots!" a whiny, young male voice called out.
Between dialect and unfamiliar vocabulary, I wanted to know more before I committed myself. I reached out my senses.
Fear. I felt fear so complete the lad was wetting himself as he stared at the leather-clad youth blocking his escape.
"I got me a goddamned nigger faggot!" the same voice called again, satisfaction lacing it as it carried through the park.
"We can kill this one, boys," another, gruffer voice said nearing the first.
A mugging. What The Blade called a gay bashing if the words in the voices had meaning. And I was in on its beginning.
Unglaublich! My canine snout grinned at the possibilities I had found to embellish dinner with fun.
I ran towards the wooded embankment beneath the bridge.
"Hey, man, you keep your hands to yourself. What's wrong with you?" a baritone voice exploded from among the trees and brush under the bridge.
I felt fear rising into a crescendo and beyond in that voice even as I associated the accent to our cab driver's from the airport.
"You're a nigger, boy!" the whiny voice exploded and I sensed its owner's feeling of superiority as two other skinheads joined him in front of the Negro. "And queer. That's what's wrong."
"Yeah," the gruffer voice growled and I found their path through the brush under the bridge. I heard cars rumble across the concrete span above me, obliterating the sounds from the park for mortal ears.
"What you boys think you're gonna do?" the Negro youth asked hesitantly, trying to rein in his fear even as he looked around for escape.
The whiny voice kneed the youth and the man bent double in sudden pain. The gruff voice pulled a knife with one hand as he grabbed the back of the wounded boy's coat, pulling his face back up to them.
I found them then. The knife was crossing the distance between the leather jacket and the youth nearly on his knees.
I felt bone break as my teeth clamped down on the man's knife arm and carried it with me as I sailed through my jump. The image of me tearing the SS agent's arm from his body flooded my brain and I snapped my head and the man's arm away from him as my front paws touched the ground.
The whiny-voiced youth's scream split the air about us but was lost in the rumble of cars above us. I turned and sprang at his throat, smelling only his blood now and feeling my hunger.
Warm skin, sinew, and cartilage collapsed as my jaws closed across the man's neck. He gurgled, his hands reaching to protect what was no longer there. The scent of warm, fresh blood possessed my nostrils, demanding I feed. Even in a blood frenzy, a vampire knows instinctively to leave no enemy standing.
The last skinhead stared as I opened his companion's throat and began to edge backward along the path, his head shaking from side to side.
"Jesus!" the Negro youth squeaked and backed into a bush trying to distance himself from the carnage before him.
"Good boy," the remaining skinhead's husky, fear-filled voice said as he gained the last stand of underbrush. "Nice doggy. You just stay there."
He glanced over his shoulder to see the open meadow of `P' Street beach a metre away. "Yeah, you just stay there one more minute, boy; and I'll be out of here."
Sensing his fear beginning to evaporate, I growled and went after him at full speed. He had turned and was just stepping into the deserted glen when I sprang, hitting him in the back and bowling him over.
He rolled onto his back and I took a long moment to meet his horror-filled eyes. I touched his mind and swam in his fear.
I stepped slowly after him, gaining on him as he tried to push himself across the dead grass.
"Nice doggy," he mewled.
I pushed roughly into his thoughts, making no attempt to hide myself from him. His eyes rounded even more and I smelled the stench of his invigorated fear through his clothes.
"Good doggy!" he cried softly.
|The nigger?| his mind demanded of me as I stepped on his chest. |Did you get him, dog? Did you kill the worthless son of a bitch faggot nigger?|
My snout lunged, spreading his fingers as if they were brittle, fallen leaves. My jaws opened, taking his neck between them.
"Jesus!" he screamed and I bit down hard.
He only gurgled then, his windpipe severed. I smiled to myself as my tongue felt blood coursing through his jugular like a rushing stream. He thrashed and tried to prevent me from pulling him back into the bushes. He messed himself when I sank fangs into his jugular to open it.
His legs still twitched as I began to lap at the gush of blood. Even as his consciousness darkened forever, the skinhead's brain knew I was feeding on him. He knew, unlike his companions now dead.
Vampir! I howled to the unseen moon as I left his body and started back along the path into the foliage.
"Sweet Jesus!" the Negro youth moaned, greeting me when he saw my shaggy head break through the bushes he had pulled himself into.
"Oh, God! I won't ever suck another dick if you just let me live." It took me moments to work my way through the dialect.
My snout shortened and became my face, hair disappeared, arms lengthened, paws became hands. I became myself.
He saw only the transformation of my face and head, but it was enough to round his eyes and make him hunch up inside himself.
"I'm neither Jesus nor a god, young man," I told him and reached my hand into his nest, offering to help him rise.
"I know who you are, Mr. Man! You're the devil! You're Dracula!" His voice was low, husky with his fear.
Dracula? The impaler? The petty noble on the Empire's ancient eastern marches Stoker made a romance of.
"I'm not him, either. A bit of a nasty chap in his time, though."
The youth's face relaxed as his mind accepted a man speaking to him wasn't especially likely to kill him. "You're a vampire, though, ain't you?"
"I accept that appellation. Now, get up."
"Why? So, you can kill me?"
"I suspect I just saved you from being killed."
He gazed at me as his mind sought to assemble facts in the muck that was his fear. "You saved me?" he asked timidly, remembering the skinhead kneeing him.
"You did, didn't you?" he laughed, grinning in relief as he stood up.
He stared at me then and I realised I stood naked before him. "Lordy! You vampires got the equipment, boss man. Can you use it too?"
I touched his mind and realised where his thoughts had gone. One moment, he was being beaten to death; the next, he was afraid a non-existent Satan had arrived to claim his soul, and, now, he wanted to get into sex with that Satan.
His heart hadn't even had time to stop racing from the adrenaline his fear had pumped into it.
"I would suggest you disappear. Go home and stay there for a while."
"Why? Those skinheads ain't gonna do nuttin' to me now."
"But the police are going to ask you a number of embarrassing questions if they find you here."
His face fell. "Yeah."
"Do not so much as breathe a word of what happened here tonight. They'll either declare you insane and put you in an asylum or they'll find some way to make you the killer."
"Jesus, no! That Lorton Prison's no place for a black boy with sugar in his tank."
"Then forget what you've seen and heard -- and get out of here."
"Yeah, man." He took a step along the path before stopping to look back at me. "You staying around?"
"No," I told him and changed into a bat, beating my wings mightily to gain altitude.
"Jesus H. Christ!" the Negro youth groaned below me and started to run along the path, not caring about the branches he crashed into.
* * *
I sat in my black silk lounging pyjamas before the fire I had set and which roared as a fire once was supposed to. The scratches to my face and hands my encounter with the skinheads had left me were already healed.
Already forgotten was whether I would tell Emil of the evening. He had discarded my grumbling about the seeming appearance of pre-war Germany in post-Cold War America. I did not wish to be relegated to his grandfather's age in his mind any more than I already was. He might begin to search for non-existent grey hairs. He was obviously committing much of himself to completing his courses and I did not wish to distract him.
Besides, it would work to the best that he didn't know what I might decide to do now that I had seen the American face and strong arm of the new National Socialism.
Though I understood karma and had tried throughout my life as a vampire to select victims who would not leave me exorbitant debts to pay were I ever to die, this afternoon's discussion about Sergei/Würther/Tom gave me a new outlook on the necessary reality of this particular vampire's feeding.
Quite honestly, I felt no remorse that three young men were dead because of me. I felt, instead, spiritual strength that I saved one man who had done nothing to warrant death at the hands of the men I had killed. Those skinheads had caused unknown misery to others in their short lives.
I was quickly coming to see myself as a god of retribution exacting his due from them before they could acquire more cosmic debt. That had been the preamble of my thoughts on karma and things spiritual as they might related to me as a vampire. I had ascertained a justification for my particular feeding habits, but the meat of my pondering on things spiritual was to develop a rationale for my very being in this America I found myself.
The dead skinheads were but a cover for something sinister threatening America and, through it, the world. I thought it not at all illogical to realise the three most powerful countries in the world -- the US, Germany, and Japan -- each still had a strong fascist element seeking to destroy democracy from within.
America was the strongest of the three militarily, though it was no longer pre-eminent in economics or education. It was only a simple matter of time before superior German and Japanese education and financial power enslaved this country as it already had much of the rest of the world. It wasn't even a bad thing -- both Germany and Japan had learnt the lessons of war. Gentle, softly gloved hands on the helm of the lead barge brought all the ships home to port, in good formation.
America, too, was the centre of the most strident and best developed of the fascist movements. Like the Führer's high command before them, the American fascists had their street thugs on the street corners to intimidate the masses but they also had something stronger in this fundamental Christianity -- this Christian Center -- that would sever citizen from citizen, intelligentsia from Lumpenproletariat, knowledge from superstition.
And I was now here in America -- at the very centre of power and of the conspiracy to seize that power.
A question nagged at me. Why shouldn't I set out to expose that conspiracy? Perhaps to destroy it?
Admittedly, such a question was highly egotistical. One man -- well, one vampire -- against the Hun, so to speak?
I was a vampire. That gave me certain powers no mere mortal could hope to possess. I could be shot in the heart or, even, the head and, presumably, recover. The heart part I was sure of -- it was having my brains splattered about where I had my doubts.
Generally speaking then, I wasn't as susceptible to being killed as was a simple human. I could also persuade mortals to do things they normally wouldn't do.
I had more money than most men -- even wealthy men. That could buy a lot of information -- or provide the facade behind which I came by it and ultimately used it.
I was homosexual -- or gay, as the popular slang for it went these days. Surely, the Christian Center railed against my kind and the skinheads threatened us with bloody mayhem. However, after almost 170 years of life, I had come to understand the person screaming most vehemently against something had something hidden deep in his closet.
I hated fascists. They had killed Würther and they threatened good people who did no-one harm. They confiscated estates and properties of those in disagreement with them. They started wars in which many people, soldiers and civilians, died.
My natural inclination was already to sate my curiosity of the extent and identity of this cancer threatening destruction of the American body politic. It included sating my need for blood on those who rode the fear of others to power. To my natural inclination, I could add the health of my spiritual bank account. My inclination was no longer simply selfish. It had become ennobled, even as both my physical and spiritual needs were met.
Voilá! The perfect enterprise for a member of a discarded nobility, forced into idleness. Salvation of the race that fed him was a calling worthy of me.
I had settled upon a bold enterprise that would wed my curiosity, hunger, and spiritual well being.
I watched the evening news to justify myself further. Stony, hate-filled white faces lined the kerb before a small building in Philadelphia, the city that once hosted the meetings that gave America its very freedoms. Some poor woman began to shuffle her way through the double line of hate.
"Killer!" a hidden woman screamed and suddenly the line took up the cry as men and women began to close in on her. Police pushed through the crowd with their batons.
The right to life forces around the nation were picketing abortion clinics.
The vice president-elect of the United States smiled at me through the camera. "America cannot continue to condone nearly a million murders of innocent children a year," he told me quietly, his eyes on mine through the medium of television. "We need a government that understands the basic right to life that is so much a part of our country's experience.
"This Congress must continue to undo forty years of humanistic destruction of the American family. It can finish returning this country back to its people. The time to do so is right. The Democrats who control the House have to accept their responsibility."