Tales of a Night Walker
By Bert McKenzie
Copyright 2010

Chapter 18

We slept soundly in each other's arms.  I awoke much later to the sound of
the shower.  I stumbled into the bathroom and found Jeff standing under the
water.  I opened the glass door to the shower and stuck my head in.  "Mind
if I join you?" I asked.  Jeff just stood there, not moving, the water
cascading down over his nude body.  "What's wrong?" I asked as I stepped in
and reached to hold my lover.  Although the water felt warm, his body still
felt chilled.

"I can't seem to get clean," Jeff said softly.

"Hon, you're spotless."  I looked at his beautiful naked body.  His skin
was pale, affirming the fact that he never saw the sun.  But there wasn't a
speck of dirt, or even a blemish or imperfection on him.

"I feel so dirty.  I feel as though I've tainted everything I have touched.
I've brought death to the theatre, to your friends, practically your
family.  I shouldn't be here.  I should be where I belong, buried under the
earth, food for worms."

I reached around and turned off the water, pulling my lover out of the
shower, and then began to towel off his cold exterior.  "Stop talking like
that!" I said as I rubbed Jeff vigorously.  "You brought life to me.  You
brought as much life to the theatre.  It wasn't you that caused this."

"It was," he answered.  "If I hadn't come here, if I hadn't auditioned for
you, Buddy and the others would still be alive.  You would have directed
your play and gone on to do the next with these people, your friends."

"If you hadn't come along, I would have cast someone awful in the role of
Hamlet, and then the theatre would have been the laughing stock of the
area.  I would never have directed another show and would have moved to
Cleveland and gotten a job at WalMart." Jeff gave me an odd look.  But by
now I had dropped to my knees and was drying Jeff's legs, working my way up
the thighs.  "I would probably never have had sex again in my life.  Do you
know who the last person I had sex with was?"

"No," Jeff replied.

"Neither do I.  It was some nameless person in New York before I moved
here.  It was just sex, it wasn't love.  I didn't even enjoy it.  Since
then I've only had sex in the privacy of my own apartment, alone with a
magazine.  How pathetic is that?  You have brought me such joy, such life.
You've shown me what it's like to be in love with another human being."

He laughed a sarcastic bark, "But I'm not even human."

"Whatever," I grinned up at him.  "You sure beat finding some cattle out in
the pasture."  I leaned forward and kissed Jeff's genitals.

"Gross," he remarked.

"You find my kisses gross?"

"I was referring to the comment about cattle in the pasture."  He then
looked down at me again.  "You wouldn't really have sex with... I mean
you've never..."

"It was a joke," I laughed.  "I've heard about these Kansas farm boys.
Besides, I'm not supposed to screw cows but you can drink a pig's blood.
How is that fair?"

Jeff finally laughed and picked me up in his arms.  "I guess it's the
thought that counts," he said.  "For what it's worth, I would much rather
be drinking your blood than that of any pig."  He carried me back to the
bed and we spent time making love and tasting each other's bodies.  When we
had finished Jeff remarked, "This is almost better than blood."  We lay
there in each others arms for a while, and then Jeff slowly pulled away.
"We must get ready if we are going to the party with Kelly."

"By the way," I asked as casually as I could while we were dressing.  "What
did you do with my car?"

"Your car?  I left it parked at the theatre."

"It wasn't there when Kelly and I arrived this morning."  I picked up the
phone and called the police.  I reported it stolen and told Jeff there was
a good chance the police would pick up Armand or his dad as car thieves.

"Don't count on it," Jeff replied.  "If they get stopped it will probably
only result in another death, this time of a police officer."

Kelly called up from the lobby and we walked out to take the elevator down
and meet her.  She looked much better, refreshed and rested.  The three of
us walked out into the parking lot, climbed into her station wagon and
drove over to Harry's.  Once there and parked, Kelly led the way into the
bar.  We slipped into empty chairs, joining the rest of the theatre people.
Most of the crowd acknowledged us with a friendly nod or voiced greeting.
A couple of the people at the table greeted Kelly and me, but pointedly
ignored Jeff.  It was obvious that a few people still blamed him or at
least associated all the murders and trouble with his joining our group.
It really annoyed me and I thought to say something, but Jeff caught my eye
and shook his head as if to say, "Don't make a scene."  We were all
grieving in our own way.  The sullen members of our troupe had a lot on
their minds and it was just easier to take it out on the most obvious
target.

"So what are we going to do about Steve?" Randy asked.  Several others
nodded and leaned forward.

"We can cut him from all the scenes except the opening on the battlements
and the grave digger scene.  Jessie," I said addressing one of the younger
guys who didn't have any scenes other than filling in the crowd and part of
the mime play in Act III, "you can take over those two parts.  Start
working on the lines tonight, you'll need to have them down by Thursday."
He nodded, obviously pleased to be promoted to a speaking role.  He really
wasn't very good on stage, but we didn't have much choice.

"And what about Buddy?" Tess asked.  There were general murmurs of concern
around the table.  The police had found his body during the day and the
news traveled fairly swiftly about it.  Everyone was concerned about how he
died, where was the killer, who would take over the role of stage manager.
It was easy to move a bit player into a slightly larger bit role, but
replacing the stage manager at this point would be next to impossible.  He
knew all the cues, he knew all the staging.  No one could just step into
that job without a couple of weeks of working with the cast and crew.

"I guess I'll have to do that myself," I said.  A few of the group looked
shocked.  Somehow they just expected me as the director to sit back and
watch every evening.  After all, once the show opened, my job was finished.
But I was the only one who really knew everything Buddy did for the show
and could jump in at this point.  "I'll give it a go at the brush up
rehearsal tomorrow," I announced.  "I really appreciate you all helping me
out and being a little patient with me.  It might be a bit rough, and no
matter what I do, I won't be doing the same as Buddy."

Harriet stood up and tapped her glass with a ball point pen to catch
everyone's attention.  "I just want you all to know that the theatre board
is behind you, and we'll get through this terrible time.  Please don't
speak to any of the reporters who are lurking about like vultures.  We
don't need that kind of publicity, and we don't want to hamper the police
investigation into these dreadful events."  She looked over at Jeff.  "I
know some of you have heard about the accusations going around.  Mr. Smythe
was cleared of all charges so I don't want that incident to cause any
problems for us.  He's doing a great job in the play and we appreciate his
hard work."  She paused and looked around.  Jeff just kind of ducked his
head modestly.  "The police have assured me," she continued, "that they
will be providing patrolmen in the parking lot to safeguard our arrival and
departure from the theatre.  They are also providing a number of plain
clothed officers in the house to blend in with the audience.  I might note
that those are seats we can't sell."  Ever the business woman, she was
disappointed that we might be getting safety in exchange for the loss of
potential income.  "And there will be two uniformed officers backstage
during this show.  I really didn't think that was necessary, but Chief
Warren insisted.  So please just ignore them and don't let them get in the
way of our remaining performances."  She sat back down and took a sip of
her martini, then jumped up again.  "Oh and we have hired a cleaning
company to come in and clean up after the shows while we are doing a search
to replace our custodian.  If anyone knows of any good hard worker looking
for a job, please pass the word on."  She sat down again.

At this point one of the actors raised his glass of beer and said, "Here's
to Steve!"  Everyone echoed, "To Steve," and sipped their drinks.  Jeff
touched his beer to his lips, but the level didn't seem to go down.  Then
one of the girls said, "To Mary Jo," and all toasted our missing make up
volunteer.  "To Buddy," someone said and everyone was a bit louder in their
toast to our missing stage manager.  "To George," Harriet added and
everyone toasted the maintenance man, though not as loudly since most of
the cast didn't even know him.

The general tone of the evening was somber from then on, people breaking
into various small group conversations or reminiscing about Buddy, Steve
and Mary Jo.  I was aware that although a few people chatted with me from
time to time, all of the conversation groups seemed to ignore Jeff.  I made
it my business to try and draw Jeff into several different conversations,
but he seemed as reticent to join as anyone else seemed to want to speak
with him.  This only depressed me more.

After a while two uniformed officers entered the bar and stepped up to
speak with the bartended.  He pointed to the theatre group.  "What in hell
is this about?" I asked softly.

The cops walked over and one asked loudly, "One of you Frank Williams?"
All eyes turned on me.

I slowly stood up and said, "That's me.  Now what have I done?"

"You reported your car stolen, a 1974 Chevy Vega?" the cop continued.

"Yes."

"Then you mind telling us what it is doing parked outside in the lot?"

"You remember where you parked it and just forgot to let us know?" the
second cop asked.

"Here...?"  I couldn't make sense of what they were saying.  "My car is
here in the parking lot?"

"Yeah well, you'll be hearing from our department.  Making a false report
like saying your car is stolen when it isn't, that's a misdemeanor with a
pretty hefty fine."  With that the two cops turned and headed back out the
door.

I stumbled around the table and started for the door.  I was halfway across
the bar when I felt a firm grip on my arm, stopping me.  "Where do you
think you're going?" Jeff's voice hissed angrily in my ear.

"I'm going out to see if my car is really there."

"And who do you think took your car?  You don't find it a bit coincidental
that it happens to show up here at the very bar where we are tonight?  You
don't seem to think this could be a trap and someone could be outside
waiting for you?"

"Would you two ladies grow up?" Kelly said angrily as she pushed past us
and out the door.  We hurried to catch up with her.  The party had pretty
well broken up and several others were leaving about the same time.

We walked out into the parking lot and could see the patrol car; its red
lights still flashing at the end of the lot.  One cop was talking on the
radio and the other appeared to be filling out some paperwork on a
clipboard.  We walked over and there was my car.  I looked in the window
and saw the doors were unlocked and the keys in the ignition.  Jeff opened
the door and sniffed.  "Well?" I asked, looking up to see Kelly standing
right behind him.

"They were definitely here," he replied.  He suddenly turned and began
walking across the lot toward the main entrance, stopping by the side of
the driveway.  The two of us ran after him.  "They got into another vehicle
and drove off."

"How do you know that?" Kelly asked.

"Because the scent just vanishes right here."

"Scent?  You mean you can smell them?"

"Of course.  We are predators and hunters.  Our senses are a lot stronger
than yours."

"Well, they're gone, thank God," I sighed with relief.

"Kelly, you'll spend the night with us in our hotel room," Jeff said as if
it was a foregone conclusion rather than an invitation

"What?  No," she replied.

"Why?" I asked in confusion.

"If they are close by, which makes sense, as they probably want to track
us, then they most likely are watching us right now."  Kelly and I both
glanced around nervously, but Jeff just kept talking quickly.  "If we leave
separately, they may follow you," he glanced at Kelly.  "I won't have
another cast member murdered.  They won't attack us at the hotel.  It would
be too obvious and public.  Now go to your car and we'll follow in Frank's
car.  And don't open your door for anyone but me.  When you get to the
hotel, just wait until I knock on the window before you get out."  She
nodded, and then ran to her station wagon and jumped in starting the
engine.  Jeff and I went back to my Vega and got in.  By now the patrol car
had driven off.  I almost wished the cops were still there.  Kelly pulled
out to the drive and I pulled in line behind her.  "Whatever you do, don't
let us get separated by a traffic light or anything," Jeff said as we
followed her down 10th Street.

"Do you think they would do something if we weren't together?" I asked.

"Yes, it would be another way to hurt me, by killing more of my friends."

"Maybe they aren't there.  Maybe they went somewhere else."

Jeff glanced behind, out the rear window.  "They are following us right
now," he said calmly.

I looked in the rearview mirror trying to spot who was following us and
drifted across the center line, only to be shocked back into attention by
the blare of a horn from an oncoming car.  "Please keep your eyes on the
road," Jeff said with a chuckle.  "My vampire relations can finish you off
just fine without any help from your driving."

We turned left on Madison Avenue and followed Kelly the three blocks to the
hotel.  I followed her into the drive to the hotel parking lot while Jeff
looked out the back window.  "They went on," he said as I found a parking
place.

"How do you know it was even them following us?  Maybe it was just another
car going this way."

"They were parked down the street from the tavern.  They pulled out just
after we did, but were careful to stay quite a way back from us, even
slowing and almost stopping down the street when we were stopped at that
one red light.  Then when we pulled into the hotel drive, they slowed down
as they passed the drive, before speeding up and driving on down the
street.  Now let's be quick."  We jumped out of the car and quickly stepped
over to Kelly's car.  Jeff stepped up to the driver's side and knocked on
her window.  She opened the door and jumped out.  The three of us then went
into the hotel lobby and over to the elevators.

"Are you sure they won't attack us here at the hotel?" I asked quietly.

"No," Jeff replied.

"That's a great relief!" Kelly growled.

"But it would be better for the two of you to be here for me to try and
protect than for Kelly to be alone in her home where they could easily
dispatch her."

"You're going to protect the two of us?" Kelly asked.  "Like you protected
Buddy?"  Jeff visibly winced at that comment.  "I'm sorry, that wasn't very
nice," she apologized.

"No, but it was true," he said.  "I'm just hoping that I'll be better
prepared for them the next time."

"Are you sure there will be a next time?" I asked.

Jeff nodded.  "Oh yes, I'm quite sure."

 

 

 

 

 

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