(NOTE: This story begins immediately after "The Vampire" episode of the ABC TV series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," and incorporates some events portrayed in the motion picture "Scream, Blacula, Scream.")
I DO NOT OWN THESE CHARACTERS. THEY ARE OWNED BY WHOEVER OWNS THEM, WHICH IS NOT ME. I'M JUST PLAYING WITH THEM. THIS WORK IS NOT FOR PROFIT.
Did you really think I’d just let them get away with it?
Well, to be honest, so did I. And I would have, had it not been for an extraordinary set of circumstances.
By “them” I refer to a small group of individuals who once wielded enough political power in Las Vegas to crush and discard a reporter who committed the sin of making them look stupid. Human beings will forgive you for all sorts of transgressions, but politicians never do. They are a breed weaned on vindictiveness and spite for whom “public service” begins and ends with their own careers. Power is the all-important end, pursued for its own sake by any means necessary and/or convenient. And once it is attained, any vestige of conscience... Well, I'd best jump off this soapbox for now. You get the general idea. More on this later.
You can ask anyone who knows me, I’m not the kind of guy whose name you’d expect to find following the words “The Revenge of” in a title. I seem to be curiously immune to personal insult, and indifferent to prospects for vengeance over any personal injury. But, as Hamlet pointed out, “seems” covers a lot of territory. I put a good face on things because I have to. In spite of certain appearances to the contrary, I take my career very seriously indeed, and personal vendettas are lethally unprofessional for a journalist. Generally speaking, I cannot afford to take much of anything personally, at least on the surface.
But I’m also not one to squander a wonderful opportunity when one is dropped into my lap. And that’s what this tale is all about.
My name is Carl Kolchak, and I assume if you’re reading this at all, you know something about me and my journalistic career. If you don’t, let me sum it up:
I’m the one that found a genuine vampire in Las Vegas in 1971, and killed him. That's how I got into the mess I alluded to earlier. The cops and the D.A. didn't much like the fact that I did something they couldn't, and the way I went about it rankled. For a few brief moments, after the vampire was dead, I thought I had won. But, in the way that Vegas is famous for, my high roller status got yanked out from under me in a split second, and I got dumped head first into the shithouse of defeat. Viva Las Vegas!
Anyhow, a year or so later, in Seattle, I grappled with a 144-year-old alchemist who had murdered a couple dozen women during his 80-plus year career. Shortly after that, I moved to Chicago, where I ran afoul of about 20 entities that could be described as being of a more or less supernatural nature. For about a year, I bumped into one right after another.
And yes, I know how all that sounds. If you don’t believe it now, you never will. Approach this account as you would a thrilling piece of horror fiction. Don’t even bother with benefit of the doubt, because it will never work.
In the course of these events, I made an interesting acquaintance. I wouldn’t call him a friend, or even an ally as such. We should have been natural enemies. However, for a time we needed one another, and in the end we both got what we wanted and then some.
And, for once in my life, I got to see how the other half lives. Or doesn’t…
I was headed back home to Chicago from Los Angeles. Catherine Rawlins was dead. I had pounded a stake through her heart just hours earlier. Which was not really murder, or even manslaughter, because she had already been dead for three years at that point. Or dead-ish. The authorities threatened me with a murder rap. Ten or fifteen cops, after all, had seen me drive a wooden stake into her heart. They had an excellent view, too, thanks to the 30-foot tall cross I had set on fire a few dozen yards from Catherine's rented house.
You really had to be there.
I considered my work done. My editor, Tony Vincenzo, on the other hand, would not see things that way. I had connived to get sent to LA on an assignment to interview a boy guru, Amurta Something, from Somewhere Exotic. I had not let that whole thing get in the way of my vampire hunt. Sitting on the plane out of LA, I was not looking forward to walking up the stairs to the offices of the Independent News Service, where the wrath of Vincenzo would be waiting, implacable, pitiless, and more certain than death or taxes. I wouldn’t be able to hold him at bay with a crucifix. I did, however, toy with the idea of a wooden stake and a mallet.
I was filled with dread as I got off the plane in Kansas City for a horribly brief layover. I slouched around in this mood for a little while, wondering if getting drunk would help anything, until I happened to glance at a headline on an LA paper at an airport newsstand.
My Vincenzo anxiety was swallowed whole by a dizzy numbness as I picked up the paper and read the first paragraph. Two more murders. Blood drained, puncture marks in the throats. Early that morning.
An hour AFTER I killed Catherine.
It was a shock, followed by something like relief.
I had to go back. No question. If I got caught back in LA, they’d find a way to get me sent up for the rest of my life. They’d do it if they caught me walking down the street, never mind interfering with an official murder investigation, which I was virtually certain to do. But I had to go back.
Not only that, I would have to joust with Vincenzo again, but at least it would be from afar. Not that it would prove any less lethal, of course, but there would be no immediate physical danger.
Then it hit me. I hit on a scheme so bold, so devious, that it would go down in Kolchak history as the bravest and most foolish act of my career.
I would tell Tony the truth.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
You can keep your Woodwards and your Bernsteins, my biggest journalistic hero was always Nelly Bly. She was the first female reporter to achieve worldwide fame. Her big break came in 1886 when, on assignment from the New York World, she infiltrated the notorious Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum by pretending to be off her rocker. She turned her experiences into a book called “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” which led to the inception of some serious reforms in the system.
I wasn’t that ambitious, but I could see where such a ploy might be to my advantage now. Feigning mental illness wouldn’t be too difficult for me, surely. I always half-suspected that Tony was just waiting for me to hand him enough irrefutable proof of insanity to have me committed. I knew how dangerous my idea was, on a number of levels. Maybe I really WAS crazy, but at least I had a say in it.
Vegas had been the start of a very strange cycle. There, I met and destroyed Janos Skorzeny. Then, in Seattle, I played the same basic script opposite Dr. Richard Malcolm. From there, I went to Chicago. In the year or so I had been working there, I had run up against the original Jack the Ripper, a Haitian zombie named Francois Edmonds, an invisible alien, and now, with Catherine, another vampire. In between these episodes, I managed to also produce a number of really first-rate crime stories. That is why, in spite of everything else, I managed to keep jobs a bit longer than I should have. That’s why Tony Vincenzo had hired me three times, and why he had not yet fired me from my berth at the INS, but I knew how hard I was pushing it. We both did, and we dreaded whatever it was that I might one day make necessary.
While I was an accomplished liar, I was not in the habit of making excuses for myself. I seldom admitted personal weakness. In other words, this was something Vincenzo had never seen before, and I hoped it would take him by surprise. I would tell him the full story behind the Rawlins affair, which was, by any sane standard, unbelievable. From there, it's just a short hop to crazy.
I was constructing a good story in my head, filled with the odd little details that make total bullshit sound plausible. I'd stick to the facts, but shade it here and there and imply a lot more than I actually said. If it worked, Tony would be worried sick, and I felt bad about that.
But if there was another vampire loose in one of the nation's largest cities, a lot of people would be more than worried, and quite a few would be more than sick.
For some reason, I decided to go into a restroom to spruce myself up, as though that would help me over the phone with Tony.
It was then that I made a discovery that chilled my blood.
A cliche, I know. But there's a reason things become cliches, and in this case it's because that's exactly what it feels like. I hobbled on into the men's room and splashed water from the sink onto my face, rubbed it vigorously, then studied myself in the mirror. I had numerous small scratches on my cheeks and forehead, though again it was not enough to command undue attention from anyone.
I rubbed a few of them with a fingertip, noting that they were very sore, but not discolored or swollen. I remembered the vampire on top of me, pinning me to the ground. She felt at once incredibly dense and heavy, and strangely insubstantial. Her skin was so cold you could feel the chill without even touching it. She squirmed on top of me and those eyes and that mouthful of teeth were right in my face. I recall thinking that the worst thing about her was her breath.
Because there wasn't any.
Even when she was right in my face, snarling and hissing like a cat, no air passed her lips. I don't know what powered her vocal chords. She didn't breathe, she didn't sweat. Nor did she stink of the grave, like so many fictional vampires. Which makes sense, since one of the chief attractions of vampirism is the fact that you DON'T decompose. She smelled of nothing, apart from some perfume she must have put on earlier. It smelled just like perfume smells right out of the bottle, with no human scent underneath, no body chemistry with which to interact.
It had been a terrifying moment, and my reaction was one of total desperation. I dropped the large silver cross I was holding onto her back. The burning distracted her enough for me to push her off. I recall mentally congratulating myself and giving thanks to Something that she had not managed to sink her fangs into my throat. However...
By now, you have surely deduced what I'm about to say, so further dramatic buildup is unnecessary. (Pardon my melodrama, but I seldom get a chance in my usual line of work.)
There were two small puncture wounds on the right side of my neck, a bit below and to the rear of my earlobe. My blood did the cliche thing in my veins, and I probably would have done another cliche in my pants if not for the fact that I hadn't eaten anything for two days.
I must have let out some kind of a noise, because a guy I hadn't even noticed standing at the sink next to mine said, "Buddy, you okay?" I glanced briefly at a small man of no particular age, height or appearance.
I was still reeling and very distracted, and I said, "She bit me. I didn't even feel it, but she bit me!" I was twisting my neck around, trying to get a better view of the wounds.
"Who bit ya?" my neighbor asked with genuine interest.
"She was a vamp..." Vaguely aware that I now had an audience, I edited myself a little bit, though I was still pretty frantic. "A hooker. A hooker bit me."
My new friend nodded sagely. "I hear ya," he said. "You never know what to expect. Lucky for you, you can't catch anything just from their teeth."
"This one you can," I said.
"Naah, that's just an old wives' tale. Like getting something off a doorknob. If you're worried, just get your doc to give you some antibiotics. 'The Magic Bullet,' they call it. There was a movie with Edward G. Robinson, he played this Doctor Ehrlich, who invented..."
"You're thinking about a werewolf," I said absently, prodding at the punctures with a forefinger. "Magic bullets are for werewolves."
"Edward G. Robinson wasn't in no werewolf pictures. That was Lon Chaney Jr. He did a bunch of them."
"Maybe it'll be okay," I rambled. "All it is is a bite. It doesn't even hurt. Why, the skin is barely broken. She didn't have a chance to suck me dry."
"Well, then, looks like you missed out on the whole point of the thing. What happened that she didn't do that?"
"I got lucky. I was able to get her on her back. It wasn't easy. either. She almost finished me off right there. But while she was stretched out flat, I pounded my stake into her. God, I pounded harder than I ever have in my life," I said, rotating my right shoulder, still sore from the exertion.
"So it wasn't a total loss, then."
"No," I said, "you're right. I got what I was after. I left her good and dead. I almost got charged with murder. The cops let me go, though, since she was technically already dead before I got my hands on her. But I'm gonna have to pay for that huge cross I set on fire. Do you have any idea how much a thing like that costs?" I turned to my new friend to receive a bit of sympathy, but he was gone, leaving only the men's room door swinging back and forth on its spring hinges to mark his passage.
I laughed as I mentally reviewed our disconnected conversation, imagining what the poor guy must have thought. Encouraged by this impromptu demonstration of my ability to look like a dangerous lunatic-- a successful warm-up act-- I girded my loins for the main event, one Anthony Albert Vincenzo.
TO BE CONTINUED