T.M.I, Part 1
T.M.I., Part I
Of course, the answering machine flashed an angry number three at me when I returned from my walk.
The City Commissioner had three more bodies from a Salvation Army homeless shelter that required interment. He had to add that warning about “breach of contract” for failing to bury the three. The next message told me why.
Treasurer Meecham received a similar call and he resented it. Resented it tremendously and in more words that were synonymous with “imposition” than I have ever heard. I stifled the urge to look the last three up in the dictionary to confirm that Meecham knew what he was saying. He hinted that agreements with the City Commissioner needed to be “revisited in the coming days,” but directed that I call the union and deal with the burials “post haste.” Lawyer-speak for “We want out of this ancient contract, but for now, plant the stiffs and keep those City bleeding hearts happy.”
I consulted the map David had helped me draw of the “available” plots and found we had two “spares.” According to David, the lady who had died a suicide in 1929 on the west end of the Field had at last decided she would never get her home or her family back and passed on a little over a year ago. The other spirit he knew very little about; and he didn’t think that ghost had lingered more than a day or two back in ’77.
That left one body without a place to bury it. Meaning I had to go out that night and hope he would come to my aid once again. I supposed it could have been worse. I could have had to deal with Missy or Mischa, who couldn’t find their own plots if I set up neon signs. Sometimes I was certain they hung around my front room only because Trumbull cut a corner too tight and knocked down the Section markers. They would have to wait for Rin and Lallie to show them the way ‘home.’
At least, the weather forecasters were not calling for rain. An unseasonably cold night, but no rain. Well, I had sweaters. And I could hope the cold would keep Charlie and that weasel Jerry from plying their resurrectionist trade again over in Fair Chapel.
I reluctantly ate cheesy toast and milk for lunch. Fussing over a meal without company felt like a waste of time. I recorded the phone calls, filed the necessary paperwork to bury the dead, and played computerized solitaire for two hours before the silence in the house left me on the edge of screaming. I retreated to my bedroom and to my romance novels until sunset.
I have no idea how ghosts know what they know, but David met me armed with Grandpa Dov’s flashlight by the bench at the edge of the Potter’s Field as the sun sank behind the houses facing the CPF on Mansfield Road.
“How many?” he asked. His specter was shimmering in the pole light, as if he were made of standing water and something had caused a vertical ripple. I could not tell if he was angry that I had come with another request for spaces given years, even a century ago, to his neighbors, or he simply wanted to imitate contained water after a sideways shove. David’s face, ripples and all, appeared impassive.
“Three,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“Did you cause their deaths?”
He waved an opaque hand. “Then do not apologize.” He gestured towards the narrow dirt path down the center of the field. I walked. He floated. “There is Magda the suicide’s grave. And Jarrod, the 1977 overdose.” He paused. “I wonder if Walker would mind? Missy said the living over at the Egret Road shelter found an old vest of his and he’s been haunting there for the past few nights.”
“Why would he do that? I thought you…folks could haunt only one spot.”
David moved closer to me. I thought I should have brought another sweater and shivered. “We revisit, we do not haunt, but, in some senses, you are correct. We revisit only where there are remnants of our lives, such as clothes or personal items. Did you never wonder why Greta Helgenmuth never haunted her ungrateful children and their descendants?” I shrugged. “Her sons burned down her house with all her clothing and belongings inside. Burned it all to ash and threw the ashes into one of the Finger Lakes.” He made a sound like a sigh, which felt like a sudden draft of winter wind. “As for Walker, I could ask if the move to the shelter is permanent.”
“Could you ask tonight? They want to bury the three in the morning.”
I believe David frowned at that, but I could not be sure. I could not keep my eyes on his face. The rippling was giving me a headache. “Your employers have little regard for the poor.”
I nodded. “Living or dead. To them, poor people matter less, if they matter at all.”
“What do they think about the undead?”
I laughed. “They choose not to believe in the undead.” “And you tell them nothing?”
“Would I still live and work here if I did?”
He paused by what I gathered from the brass plaque was his grave. “True. The well-to-do living are quite particular about what they believe and do not believe. Particular,” he added, as he began to sink into the earth below the plaque, “and intolerant of those who disagree with them. We indigents cannot afford to be so fussy.”
“You’ll ask Walker?”
He paused. “I can try. Perhaps you should invite one of your employers – or all of them – to stop by the cemetery at night. I gather from Mischa one of the vampire women is very visible these days. I saw her fly away in the opposite direction of the rest of them tonight.”
I winced. “Ambr’ Cadwallader. Did she stop over here?”
“Yes.” He’d sunk to his waist now. “Gave Missy and Mischa and Mrs. Broughton over on the north side an earful about women and modesty and much I did not hear. She disliked my listening in, I fear.”
“Me, too,” I said. “But only because I think she’s full of…” Grandma Rose told me never to say that word outside of a farm animal’s pen.
“I agree. She is.” His head hovered over the dry grass. “But you must ask her what her true intentions are. Perhaps her ego will not allow her to lie, even to you.” His specter stopped rippling for a moment and he smiled. “If Walker won’t consent, I will come to you with another vacancy. Rest now, Grace Farmer. You have difficult days ahead.”
I walked back towards Section A, thinking I might see Ambr’, even if I had no idea what I would or could say to her. Something along the lines of, “All right, Ambr’, what kind of twisted social revolution are you plotting? If you’re mounting a campaign to return society to pre-Great War mores and morals, you’re too late. We’ve got one major political party already working on that. So far, they’re only blowing methane. And they can go out during the daytime. What chance do you imagine a night dweller would have?”
Not that any such words would accomplish much other than sending Ambr’ into a screaming fury. Reason was not her strongest attribute. Rather, she worshiped passion and blood lust, both of them bound for frustration thanks to Derek, who ruled her victim’s-blood-filled heart.
Before she was made a vampire, and definitely every since, Ambr’ needed to get laid.
A question you may or may not wish to ask, but must be wondering: can vampires have sex? That is, sexual intercourse as we living experience it. Well, those of us living who have experienced it. The answer is, I don’t know for certain. I have not witnessed it between either gender, or both genders for that matter, among the undead. I imagine if they do copulate, the process is not much different from the frenzy of limbs and genitals and body fluids described in my romances. I would bet they even kiss, albeit it carefully so the fangs don’t lock and again tongues are optional.
Older supernatural novels indicate that the undead do copulate: with still living friends and/or mates, or any particular living being the vampire takes a fancy to. Some, particularly the Victorian vampire stories, imply that the blood-sucking done to sweet young virgins was as much sexual intercourse as feeding. Some of the busier bodies among that era’s “Moral Majority” insisted that vampires had the same insatiable desire for sex as for blood, literally laying waste to the living with too much sex or not enough blood. An object lesson to us all, no doubt.
Which makes a sort of repressed sense for a sexually repressed and generally physiologically ignorant generation. Victorians, so I have read, preferred their sexual fantasies in an underground and quite violent form, which can and should result in death or, at the very least, profuse bleeding. Women’s blood in particular, so long as men and not Nature caused the flow. Such things were certainly never spoken of or read about in proper households, of course, except among the men. The ones who had the physical desire, and the legal right, to commit such violence.
It always infuriated me that so-called proper women, like Ambr’ who arrived a generation too late, who also may well have suffered the violence as their “duty,” were allowed their own titillation almost exclusively from the stories of a handsome, if deadly, inhuman creature. This mysterious stranger came, pressed his lips and teeth to their necks or wrists or other tender areas of the body gentlewomen knew but would not name aloud. He took his victim’s blood (read “innocence” or “virtue”) by force, but without the battering a clumsy living man would inflict. The loss of virginity was understood, but never spoken of in or out of the novels. That is, of course, in the few bolder, realistic novels where the under parlor maid turned up in the “family way.”
Now, before you give up on me completely, I have gathered from Internet and book research that the modern-day vampires continue to lot of sex with both genders and, to in the author’s unstated opinion, with considerably greater satisfaction for both parties than any two human lovers can achieve. These are also the writers that tell us that vampires can go all night until sunrise, giving mortal men, even Casanova and Don Juan or men taking Viagra, serious competition for ultimate lover status. Vampires, they are certain to emphasize can without fail pleasure each other and humans willing or unwilling into an ecstasy scarcely meant for the mortal coil. However, after wading through about a dozen of these “love stories,” I’ve concluded that much of the initial sexual frenzy to be more akin cases of rape that “magically” metamorphose into love than honest physical relationships. The authors call it romance and celestial love. Those not under such a psychological “spell” would call it Stockholm Syndrome.
And don’t ask me about making baby vampires. None of Derek’s crew have ever attempted it and frankly, it seems a poor literary device to sustain a cultish worship of the bloodsuckers.
Before you ask the next question, remember I told you and Derek that my virginity was still intact. So, no, I don’t have feelings that way and don’t know what I would do if the opportunity to break that layer of tissue with a vampire presented itself. To date, neither he nor any of his “family” has ever approached me. Not even the women.
And, on the side of the living, Charlie was taking his time.
“What are you doing out after dark, Grace Farmer?” Derek demanded. He stood behind me. He’d returned to the tailored suit and button-down shirt with gold cufflinks. “Shouldn’t little girls be in bed at this hour?”
I spun around. “Cemetery business. And I’m looking for Ambr’.”
“As if she would speak to you, should you find her. After the other night, I doubt even my wrath would prevent her ripping you open and feeding on your tainted blood.”
“Then I’ll have to settle for you.” I may have pushed my immunity a bit with that snark, but I did, and still do, tire of Derek and his, well, of Derek being Derek. “Tell me something, Derek: do you always take your suits off your victims or take their money and buy what you want at an all-night menswear store?”
He gave me a predatory smile, all fangs and malice. “It’s a bit of both. Now, about Ambr’. What do you want with her?”
“I’d really like to know what last night was all about.”
“If you’d been invited, perhaps she would have told you.”
“You didn’t seem to mind me being there,” I said. “Why did you allow it? You could have barred my way. You could have thrown me back into the house, come to think of it.”
The smile widened. Sweat beaded on my neck despite the cool night. “Perhaps I simply wished to, how do you say it? Piss her off?” he purred.
“Perhaps,” I purred back, matching his expression sneer for sneer, “but you’re still allowing her to – what is it she’s doing again?”
Derek shrugged. “That remains to be seen. She has not fully confided in me.”
“What if it causes you trouble?”
Fangs and malice again “I learned with our family dog that at times, the strongest lesson can be taught by allowing the animal the length of the leash and then yanking it back to heel.”
“So how many people have to die before you start yanking?”
That was one snide comment too many. Derek snarled. He spun around, ready to leave for his nightly hunt.
I stopped him for one more questions. “Where’s Ian?”
He turned back, his grin too wide for my comfort. “It seems you were, pardon the expression, dead wrong on the night of his initiation. Ian can hunt alone. He does hunt alone.”
“I don’t see how –“
Derek leapt forward. He grabbed the front of my sweater, the front of my blouse. I thought he would have grabbed the skin from between my breasts if he could have. Then, he pulled. I felt a blast of cold wind in my face as he lifted me up off the ground over the oak trees in the CPF and the Ace Hardware store owner’s house. Then, with the feeling like two people had swung logs hard against my back and lower legs, he flew me over houses and schools and a park, three shopping centers, a dried-up creek bed, two gas stations and down a residential hill past a senior apartment building, all with his long fingers still tight on my clothing. All within a minute at most.
Abruptly, Derek stopped our journey. He descended far enough to drop me so that I would land on my heels, then fall back on my tukhas, but not far enough that would risk any of my bones break. Then he was gone.
He’d left me in a poorly-lit parking lot in a poorly-lit and poorly-kept neighborhood. The parking lot hosted no cars, but quite a few pot holes and cracks from the six-month-long winter. I reminded myself of city and county regulations regarding this kind of neglect near a housing or business unit. That is, until I turned around.