Tales of a Night Walker
By Bert McKenzie
Copyright 2010

Chapter 24

Kelly tugged on my arm, pulling me toward the gate.  Our boarding had
already been called and Tony was standing at the desk, handing the
uniformed woman our boarding passes.  I had made it through all the
preboarding checks, but now I had to actually get on the airplane.  I
didn't remember being this nervous years ago when she and I flew to
Virginia in that terribly time when we were trying to rescue Frank.

I had come back through Auburn and stopped to see Kelly.  It was so
wonderful to see her again.  Of course she looked a lot older, now being 60
and I was still 23.  She said if only they could bottle that magic, we
could make a fortune.  To hell with Oil of Olay.  Tony, her nephew was
staying with her, having recently graduated from the University of Kansas
with a Masters in theatre.  He was just hired on as the new artistic
director at the community theater.  She told him all about me, which kind
of made me nervous.  I would rather Kelly not be so free with my secrets.
But Tony was excited when Kelly suggested we all take a trip to New York
together before the new season at their theater started.  I pulled some
strings, calling my office in New York and with my influence and money, we
were on our way.  "Come on, you're the big bad vampire, what have you got
to be afraid of?" Kelly asked me.

"What am I afraid of?  How about dying in a fiery crash?" I answered.

She laughed and pulled me toward the desk.  "I thought you were already
dead."

"Not funny," I said under my breath as we all walked through the door and
into the long corridor leading onto the jet.  "I've seen these things go
down on television.  Even I couldn't survive that."

"Oh, that almost never really happens," Tony laughed as he guided us to a
row of three seats and we clambered in.  Kelly reached over to help me
strap in, ever the mother, and we sat back to await take off.

      * * *

As we picked up our luggage, Tony caught our attention and pointed.  Not
far away from the baggage checkout stood a group of people holding signs.
One said 'Jefferson Smythe.'  "I think your people sent a welcoming
committee," Tony said.  The three of us headed over to meet the young man
with the sign.

"I'm Jefferson Smyth," I said as we stepped up to the man with the sign.

"Hi, I'm from the Hannover Agency," the young man said and grabbed my hand.
"Wow, you've got cold hands."

"He gets that a lot," Kelly said and introduced herself and her nephew as
my family.

"Pleased to meet you," the young man said.  "I'm Peter.  Your office
contacted our agency and said to pick you up.  I have a limo outside
waiting to take you to the Plaza."

"The Plaza?" I said in astonishment.  "Are you sure?"

"Yeah," Peter replied.  "The agency said you were to have the best.  Your
office apparently made all the arrangements.  Strictly speaking we are a
theatrical agency, but we're pretty small so we do a lot of contract work
for other organizations.  By the way, you know I think you'd be a shoe in
for the lead in Jason Milner's new show.  You've got just the look we've
been searching for.  Have you ever acted?"

I just gaped at the young man, but the mother in Kelly took over.  "Has he
ever acted?  Why he is one of the best actors in the Midwest.  You should
have seen his Hamlet."  Peter grabbed some of our bags and started down the
concourse.  "That's great.  Once we get you settled, let me make a few
phone calls.  It is late, but I know how desperate they are getting and I
think I can get you an appointment to meet with Mr. Milner.  Can you be
free tomorrow around two?"

"Two?" Kelly said nervously.  "Is it going to be sunny tomorrow?"

 "Is there a problem?" Peter asked.

"Jeff is allergic to sun," she answered.

"Kelly, I can answer for myself," I said.  "And we came here for a
vacation.  I'm not really interested in doing any acting."

"Well, that's not a problem," Peter answered Kelly, totally ignoring my
comments.  "We can make arrangements to pick him up in the hotel garage.
The limo has tinted windows and it's not far to the rehearsal hall where
they are holding the meeting.  I can let them know about his allergy so
they will know to meet in a windowless conference room, so it shouldn't be
much of a problem."

"Sounds like you're getting the royal treatment," Tony remarked.

"Nothing's too good for our stars," Peter replied.  "And I can't tell you
what a promotion this would be if I can bring in the person for this part.
Jason has rejected just about every actor in town, but you are the exact
description of the guy in the script."

"But what about our vacation?  I didn't plan to come to New York to get a
job.  What if I'm not right for it?" I remarked hopefully.  "What if I'm
really quite awful?"

"You won't be," Peter replied.  "You've got the looks they want and that
southern drawl is really charming.  You're just perfect for the part.  I've
got a script here in my bag so you can look it over tonight or tomorrow
before the meeting."

We were dropped off in front of the Plaza Hotel and Peter escorted us in.
He already had the room key and followed by two bellmen carrying our
luggage, took us up to our suite.  It was a beautiful sitting room with two
bedrooms.  The suite was decorated with flowers and a fruit basket.  Peter
handed Tony the key and said he would call the next day to confirm my
meeting.  Once he left and I had tipped the bellmen, we relaxed.

"Are you okay?" Kelly asked, looking at me.

"No, I'm not okay.  In fact I'm just a little overwhelmed at the moment."

"What about your thirst?"

"I drank three bottles before we left for the airport.  I'll be fine for
quite a while.  In fact I still feel a little too full."

She breathed a sigh of relief.  "Well that's a good thing.  We'll get up
early and see if we can find a butcher somewhere.  Maybe the hotel can even
suggest someplace."

"Yeah, type 0 isn't likely to be on the room service menu," Tony quipped.
"Or is it?  Look."  He had opened the small refrigerator beside a wet bar
and inside were several bottles that were unmistakable, filled with bright
red liquid.

"Well, my office made the arrangements for the hotel.  I guess someone
there thought to take care of this detail as well."

"You should give them all a raise," Kelly said as she kicked off her shoes.
"Well, I'm exhausted," she then remarked and headed toward one of the
bedrooms.

"Me too," Tony said as he stretched.  He looked expectantly at me, then at
the other bedroom door.

"You're bunking with me," she said and grabbed the boy by his collar,
pulling him off to their room.  Once the door was shut I could still hear
her with my acute vampire hearing.  "You have to give Jeff the space he
needs and the respect he deserves," she said.

"Yeah, well you said he was gay," Tony remarked.

"That doesn't mean he will want to go to bed with you," she answered.
"Jeff is very old school.  He's not one of these modern gay men who screw
anything with a dick."

"Really?" Tony asked, sounding somewhat crestfallen.  "I thought maybe...I
mean, he's such a fox."  I had to grin, but I was glad that Kelly
discouraged him.  I wasn't intending to have any more sexual relationships
with humans, or anything else for that matter.  It was too painful in the
end.

      * * *

"They are incredible here," Kelly said as she came into the room.  "I
talked to the concierge and told him that Jeff had an unusual medical
condition and that the doctor said he should actually drink a soup made of
fresh blood.  The man took me to the kitchen and I spoke to the chef.  He
nodded and said he has had other 'special' guests and completely
understood.  He said your office had already arranged for your special diet
and to call and ask for him specifically while we stay here.  He said he
would make sure we have a supply of what you need."

"Pig's blood?" Tony asked.

"Well you don't think it would be human," she quipped.  "Breakfast, Jeff."

"Thank you," I said and took one of the bottles from the small
refrigerator.  I hated cold blood, but had gotten used to it over the
years.  When at home I usually warmed a bottle of blood in a pan of hot
water until it was closer to a human temperature.  I was pleased to find
they had a microwave on the counter.  It made my liquid diet much more
palatable.

"I'll call down to room service and get us something as well," Tony said,
picking up the phone.

I took one sip and paused nervously.  "Um," I said, catching their
attention.

"Is it bad?" she asked in concern.

"No, it's good.  Very good.  In fact it's too good," I replied, looking at
her with apprehension.  "This is indeed human blood."

"Are you sure?" Tony asked, putting down the phone.

"Yes, believe it or not, I can taste the difference.  It may not be real
fresh, but it's definitely not pig's blood."

"Well maybe they got it from a blood bank or something," Tony hypothesized.

"Tony, I don't think you can go to one of them and just make withdrawals."

"Well, the Plaza does supply the best of everything.  You might as well
enjoy and we'll just assume they have a safe, non-lethal supply," Tony
suggested.  I nodded, wondering if they had the same supplier who shipped
to my former home, and took another sip.  It was remarkable how invigorated
I felt after drinking it.

Around one in the afternoon the phone rang and Peter told us he was coming
by in twenty minutes with a limo.  He suggested that perhaps he could take
Kelly and Tony sightseeing while I had an interview with the director he
talked about last night.  I tried to argue but he hung up the line before I
could get a word in.  In twenty minutes we took the elevator to the garage
level and soon we were out on the street.  In no time at all, Peter dropped
me in front of a large downtown building.  The sun was hidden by the
shadows of the other skyscrapers, so I was able to dash from the car into
the building with only a minimal bit of discomfort.  Although able to
function during the sunlight hours, the humans had no idea how much anxiety
it caused.  We left Kelly and Tony in the car while he escorted me up to a
third floor rehearsal space.  Inside the room had been darkened and bright
lights shown on an empty area with a freestanding door and some furniture.
A short, chubby man was seated at a desk near the door to the room and
stood to shake hands with Peter.

"Mr. Milner, this is Jefferson Smythe."

"Pleased to meet you, kid," the man said and grabbed my hand.  "Jeez you
got cold hands," he grunted as he pulled me over to the area of furniture
and indicated I should sit on the couch."  Peter quickly disappeared.

"Okay, here's the deal," Milner said in a rapid fire New York accent.  "You
are exactly what I'm looking for physically.  But you have to carry this
show entirely.  You are the lead, kid.  We've already got a theatre and a
date.  We'll have a brief out of town run then we're on Broadway.  Did you
read the script?"

I started to answer, but the man cut me off.  "Fine, fine.  You're perfect.
You play the brother in this show.  Your sister has brought you home to
take care of you.  You're dying of AIDS.  That pale complexion of yours is
just perfect, we won't even need to put on much makeup.  Can you play gay?"

"I am gay," I replied.

"Even better.  Then you know what all this is about, and that kiss in act
two won't bother you a bit."

"Kiss?"

"You brought your script?"

I was a little overwhelmed.  "Yes, but I ..."

"Fine, the other actors will be here in a few minutes and we can start.  I
understand you're staying at the Plaza.  You might want to look for an
apartment in town."

"This is all very . . ."

"Here's my leading lady," the man said as the door opened and a cute woman
in her forties entered the room.  "Jeff, meet your older sister, Patty
Burns.  Patty this is Jeffrey Smith."

I jumped to my feet and extended my hand.  "Jefferson Smythe," I said.

"Whatever," Milner said and turned back to his desk.

"Wow, you've got cold hands," the lady said as she shook my hand.

"Okay, page 1, act 1, scene 1.  Let's read it and see what you sound like,
kid."

      * * *

A number of hours later, Peter knocked on the door of the rehearsal hall
and stepped in.  I quickly grabbed my script and said my goodbyes and
followed the young man out of the hall.  We rode down in the elevator and
stepped out into the growing dusk to grab the limo and head back to the
hotel.  "How was your first rehearsal?" Peter asked.

"There's just so much to remember," I said.  "The director didn't seem too
happy with me.  He yells a lot, but the woman, Miss Burns said to just
ignore him.  Tomorrow I'm to meet the other cast member, the guy who plays
my boyfriend in the play."

"Russ Neworth," Peter said.  "You'll like him.  He's a real fox."

"Well I can't believe they are doing a play about homosexuals.  I mean I
just find it so... open."

"This is the 20th century," Peter said, not knowing how this affected me.

"And I'm supposed to kiss this other man?  On stage in front of the
audience!"

"Hey, it's only acting.  You're an actor doing a job."

I just shook his head.  "But I'm not really an actor.  I don't think this
is right for me to be doing this.  Just because I did a play in Kansas
doesn't mean I can act in front of New York City.  And I can't imagine
being paid to kiss a man in front of an audience.  It just seems, almost
like prostitution in front of peeping toms."

Peter laughed.  "Be glad you don't have to do a nude scene."

"Oh!  I wouldn't...  I mean they wouldn't...  I mean, people do that?"

"Well, not in this play at least," Peter said, laughing again at the
innocence of his newest charge.  "Now what about the paperwork?  Did the
director tell you anything we need to know?"

I nodded.  "Yes, he said he was waxing something to your office.  I know
that doesn't make sense."

"Faxing," Peter replied and nodded.

"He said I should find an apartment in the city.  Can you help with that?"

Peter smiled and nodded again.  "That means you'll do it?"

"I guess I'll try."  I had to admit it was kind of exciting.  After living
alone for years in the back woods of Idaho, the thought of being in the
heart of New York City really kind of thrilled me.

Peter reached for the phone in the limo.  "I'll have some places for you to
look at by the end of the week.  Your family will be staying with you, I
guess?"  He looked up at me.

"For a short while," I nodded.  "But Tony will have to be going back to
Auburn soon to start his new job."  I wondered how I would handle any of
this life without Kelly here to help me out.  "By the way, do you know how
much I'm getting paid to do all this?" I asked the young man.

Peter grinned and tapped a keyboard of his pocket calculator, then held out
the miniature screen for me to look at.  "That's pretty standard for your
billing."

"Holy crap!" I said in astonishment.  "Oh, sorry," I blushed.  "Is that the
total amount I get for the play?"

"Oh no, sir," Peter answered smoothly.  "That's per week."

"Well, that'll pay for several bottles of blood," I said to myself as he
sat back in the seat.

"Blood?" Peter asked.

Suddenly realizing I had said more than I intended, I ducked my head.  "Um,
I'm on a special diet."

Peter's eyes widened in surprise and I could hear his heart rate increase.
"Oh," he said as if something had just occurred to him.  "Allergy to sun.
Now I understand."

"Understand?" I said nervously.

"Not to worry," Peter replied quickly as he imperceptibly scooted further
away from me on the limo seat.  "We've had special clients like you before,
sir.  I just didn't know.  I mean your office didn't say you...Well, I'll
make sure you are well taken care of."  He seemed more nervous than I had
ever seen him before, and more deferential.  I could smell the tang of
sweat that was breaking out on him, all the classic signs of fear.  "Your
family members don't have the same allergy to sunlight," he said as he
remembered dropping Kelly and Tony off to go sightseeing earlier.

"No, I'm the only one.  They are very close friends actually, not blood
relatives."  I had to smile as I saw him flinch slightly at the world
'blood.'  When we pulled up to the curb in front of the hotel, Peter
quickly jumped out and held the door open for me.  He then led the way into
the hotel and to the elevator.  At the suite, Peter opened the door and let
me into the room.  He stood quietly by while Kelly and Tony came to greet
their friend.

"If there is anything else you require, sir," Peter said.

"No, thanks.  Will you be by to get me in the morning?  I guess I'm in
rehearsal all day tomorrow too."

"Yes, sir.  Of course, sir," Peter said.  "I'll give you a call in the
morning, sir.  Goodnight, sir."  He bowed himself out of the room and shut
the door behind him.

"Sir?  What got into him?" Tony asked in surprise.

"I'm not certain," I said, "but I think he knows."

"Knows what?" Kelly asked.

"Knows what I am.  I think he put a few things together in the car.  He
mentioned the blood and the allergy to the sun and suddenly his whole
demeanor changed.  He said they have had special clients like me before."

Tony just grinned.  "Well, I suppose a vampire would be pretty special, and
usually pretty rich and powerful, so I can see why they might be a little
subservient."

"But I don't want that," I whined.  "Growing up we had slaves.  They were
always treating us like that when my dad was around.  Yes, master.  No,
master.  Whatever you say, master.  Beat me some more, master."  I pulled
off my coat and gloves as I relaxed.  "I'd much rather be treated like you
two treat me."

"That bad, hunh?" Tony snickered.

"Oh, and we're moving to an apartment," I said as I collected my thoughts.

"That's nice," Kelly said as she stepped behind the chair and began
massaging my shoulders.  "But what about Tony's job?" she asked.

"I can use my return ticket to go home and you two can cash yours in," Tony
told her.  "I have a feeling you're going to be living in New York for a
while."

"Then again," I contradicted.  "I might get fired and we'll be on an
airplane back to Kansas in a week."

"You, not a chance," Tony said, then added, "Master."

 

 

 

 

 

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