The traveling vampire sh.., p.15
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       The Traveling Vampire Show, p.15

           Richard Laymon

  Stunned again, I mumbled, “Your house?”

  “It’ll be perfect,” she said.

  I pictured the mess in her mother’s bedroom.

  “I don’t get it,” Rusty asked. “Why do we wanta go to your house?”

  “We won’t have to worry about sneaking out when it’s time to leave.”

  “We won’t?” I asked.

  “We’ll have the whole house to ourselves.”


  Smiling and nodding as if very pleased with herself, she said, “That’s right.”

  “What about your mom?” I asked.

  “She’ll be gone. She’s got a date tonight.”

  “What do you mean?” Rusty asked. He had a dumbfounded look on his face as if he’d just woken up from a nap and couldn’t figure out what was going on.

  “A date, you know? With a guy.”

  “Tonight?” I asked. I was feeling slightly dumbfounded myself.

  “Who’s the lucky guy?” Lee asked.

  Slim shrugged, this time using only one shoulder. “I don’t know. She met him at Steerman’s last night.”

  “You don’t know his name?”

  “Charlie something. From across the river. He lives over in Falcon Bay. Anyway, he’s taking Mom out tonight in his cabin cruiser.”

  “He’s got a cabin cruiser?” I asked.

  “A thirty-foot Chris-craft.”

  “Holy shit!” Rusty blurted. Then he said, “Sorry, Mrs. Thompson.”

  Lee reached over and patted his thigh again. I wished she would stop doing that.

  “Mom won’t even be coming home at the end of her shift,” Slim explained. “Charlie’s meeting her at the restaurant. Then he’s taking her out for a night on the river.”

  “How do I meet this guy?” Lee asked.

  “Hey,” I said.

  She laughed.

  Eyes on Slim, Rusty asked, “So when’s your mom getting home?”

  “I’m supposed to expect her when I see her.” Slim tried to smile, but it didn’t come off very well. “When she says that, I usually don’t see her till the next day.”

  I tried not to look upset. “She leaves you alone all night?”


  Why was this the first I’d heard about it?

  “It’s no big deal,” she said. “I am sixteen.”

  “So am I, but…I wouldn’t like it.”

  Slim met my eyes. “It’s okay. Really.”

  “It’s not that okay,” Lee said. “If you ever feel like coming over here…”


  “Let me know the next time your mom’s planning to pull an all-nighter, okay? You shouldn’t have to stay alone like that.”

  “Anyway,” Slim said, “it’ll work out great for tonight. After supper, we can all hang out at my house till it’s time to go. There won’t be anyone around to stop us.”

  “Sounds great,” Rusty said.

  “Yeah,” I said.

  “Why don’t you come over, too?” she asked Lee.

  “Thanks, but I’ll pass. I’ll probably take a nice long nap after supper. Wouldn’t want to fall asleep in the middle of the vampire show.”

  “If you change your mind…”

  She shook her head. “Not me. But let’s not have any hanky-panky over there. You really shouldn’t be having boys in the house when your mom’s not home.”

  “Yeah, but we won’t do anything.”

  Looking at each of us, Lee said, “I want everyone to be on their best behavior, okay?”

  “We will be,” Slim said. She glanced from Rusty to me. “Won’t we, guys?”

  “Sure thing,” said Rusty.

  I nodded in agreement.

  “Okay,” Lee said. “So then just come on over here around ten, ten-thirty.”

  “We’ll be here,” Slim said.

  Chapter Twenty-three

  When we left Lee’s house a couple of minutes later, Slim led the way. We hurried after her, but she managed to keep ahead of us until we reached the corner.

  There, she turned around, faced us, and set her grocery bag down on the sidewalk. “Can one of you give me a shirt?”

  We must’ve looked perplexed.

  “Come on, come on.” She snapped her fingers. “Dwight, let me have yours.”

  “It’s actually Rusty’s.”

  “She can have it,” Rusty said.

  I took it off and handed it to her.


  “You’re welcome,” Rusty said.

  As she slipped into the shirt, she said, “I don’t mind much if you guys see me like that, but…” She shook her head. “Not everyone else in town.” She started fastening the buttons. “Lee wouldn’t let me put my own stuff back on after I showered. I wanted to at least put my swimsuit back on, but she said it’s too dirty. Which it is. I’m probably better off not wearing it.” Slim finished with the buttons. “All set.”

  “Almost,” I said. “What happened to telling Lee about the dog?”

  “Oh, that.”


  She shrugged. “I don’t know. I just didn’t want to screw things up for you guys.”

  “All right!” Rusty blurted.

  “I mean, it’s pretty clear you’ve both got the hots to see Valeria in action.”

  “You betcha.”

  “I’m not so sure I do,” I told her.

  “Well, it’s up to you. I just didn’t want to be the one to ruin it. I’m still not going. But let’s hang out at my place anyway, okay? Then when it’s time to go you can just head over to Lee’s without me. If you feel like it.”

  “She’ll wonder why you didn’t come,” I said.

  “Tell her I got a headache or something.”

  “The trots,” Rusty suggested.

  She scowled at him. “Not the trots, a headache.”

  “You got your period!”

  Slim and I both blushed furiously.

  “No,” she said.

  “Why not say it’s your period?”

  “Forget it.”

  “Can’t go to vampire shows when you’ve got your period, you know. All that blood? Drive’s ’em crazy and they come after you.”

  “Jeez,” I muttered.

  “It’s the truth, man. It’d be like going into bear country or swimming in shark-infested waters.”

  Glaring at him, Slim said, “Get bent.”

  Rusty started to laugh.

  Slim reached toward his face. Very quickly, she tucked down her middle finger, hooked it in place with the pad of her thumb, built up some force in her finger and let it go. It flicked upward, nail thumping Rusty’s nose.

  His eyes bulged. His face went red. His laughter stopped.

  taggering backward, he cupped a hand over his nose.

  “No more talk like that,” she told him.

  “Shit,” he gasped.

  “You never know when to quit,” she said.

  He blinked at her, his eyes red and watery.

  I didn’t feel sorry for him. And I was glad Slim had hurt him. Now, both of us had brought tears to Rusty’s eyes.

  He sniffled a few times. Then he muttered, “Now you’ve done it,” and lowered his hand.

  Bright red blood was running out of his nostrils and spilling over his upper lip.

  “Oh, great,” Slim muttered.

  Rusty sniffed and licked the blood. “Happy?” He tipped back his head.

  “You’d better lie down,” I told him.

  He stepped off the sidewalk and stretched out flat on someone’s front yard.

  “You’ll be all right in a minute,” I said.

  Slim squatted down beside him. Patting him on the chest, she said, “Too bad, sport. You can’t go to a vampire show with a bloody nose. Drives ’em crazy. They’ll come right after you and suck you dry.”

  “Screw you,” he said.

  Calmly, Slim reached toward his face, tucked down her middle finger and gave his nose another har
d flick.

  “OW! DAMN IT!”

  “Be nice, Rusty, and these things won’t befall you.”

  “Go to hell,” he muttered.

  Chuckling, Slim stood up. She said to me, “Poor Rusty, everybody’s beating up on him.”

  “He likes it,” I said. “He must.”

  “I do not,” he said from the ground.

  “Anyway,” Slim said, “where’re we going now?”

  “My place?” I suggested. “We can hang out there till supper time. You’re going to eat with us, aren’t you? Dad’s grilling burgers.”

  “Sure. But why don’t I meet you there? I want to run home and change clothes.”

  She saw the look on my face.

  “What?” she asked.

  “Do you have to?”

  She stared down at herself, holding her arms away from her sides, bending her knees, grimacing as if she’d just gotten up from a face-first fall into a mud puddle.

  “You look fine,” I said. She looked great, but I didn’t want to push it.

  “Yeah, well, I like to wear my own stuff. Anyway, it’ll only take a few minutes.” She started to turn away.

  “No, wait,” I said.

  . She faced me.

  “Why don’t you not go?”

  She raised her eyebrows, put her head forward and spoke slowly as if talking to a goon. “I want my own clothes?” She lifted her voice at the end so it sounded like a question. “I want clothes that fit? And shorts that aren’t red? And something to wear under them?”

  “Okay,” I said.

  But I must’ve looked pained, because her mocking attitude changed to concern. “What is it?”

  I shrugged.

  Someone was sure to discover the mess in her mother’s bedroom, anyway, sooner or later. This might be a good time for Slim to find it. She would have no reason to suspect Rusty and me, especially if she went by herself so she couldn’t see the looks on our faces or hear us say something stupid.

  I should’ve told her, “Nothing’s wrong. Go on ahead.”

  But I didn’t want her to leave.

  Before I could think of what to say, Rusty spoke up. “He’s scared you’ll get lost.”

  Slim met my eyes.

  My eyes must’ve looked astonished, because I could hardly believe that Rusty had come up with an explanation that was so close to the truth.

  Especially since I hadn’t realized it, myself, until the words came out of him.

  “I just think we oughta stick together,” I said. “It’s been a weird day, you know? We didn’t know where you were, and…I don’t want you to get lost again.”

  “I was never lost.”

  “But we didn’t know where you were. We were afraid maybe they’d gotten their hands on you…”

  “And shoved a spear up your ass.”

  Just when I was starting to appreciate Rusty again, he had to say that.

  Slim smirked down at him. “You didn’t know about the spears then, moron.”

  “We assumed them.”

  Slim and I laughed. But then we looked at each other and I said, “Anyway, I’ve spent most of the day worrying about you, and we finally found you and now you want to go off by yourself.”

  “Just for a few minutes…”

  “What if they are after you?” I asked. “Somebody might’ve seen you run away…”

  “Even if they did, they don’t know where I live.”

  “They might.”

  “They have ways,” Rusty said from the ground.


  “Magic ways.”

  “Yeah, right.”

  Rusty sniffed a couple of times, then took his hand away from his face. All around his mouth, he was smeared with blood. He looked as if he’d been eating someone raw. Smiling, he said, “Maybe they put the dog on your scent.”

  “It’s dead.”

  “They put its ghost on you.”

  Slim looked uneasy for a moment. Then she smiled and said, “Good one.”

  “Maybe you should be the writer,” I told him.

  “Slim can write ’em. I’ll be the idea man.”

  “Anyway,” Slim said, “they can’t possibly know where I live.”

  “What if they’re watching us right now,” I asked, “and they follow you home?”

  She almost smirked, but not quite. Instead, she turned her head and looked over her shoulder.

  “Maybe they’re already at your house,” Rusty added, kidding around.

  “Yeah, right.”

  “Anything’s possible,” he said.

  “Anything is not possible.”

  “What if they’re waiting for you?”

  I looked down at Rusty, impressed and a little annoyed. He’d just given a whole new meaning to the mess Slim would find in her mother’s room. Now, instead of wondering about the mystery of it, she might figure the gang from Janks Field had paid a visit to her house.

  “I’ll take my chances,” she told Rusty. “See you guys later.” Again, she turned away.

  Again, I said, “No, wait.” Then I looked down at Rusty. “Get up. If she’s going, we’re going with her.” To Slim, I said, “Is that okay?”

  “Okay by me.”

  “How’s the nose?” I asked Rusty.


  “Is it still bleeding?”

  He sniffed a couple of times. “I donno. Maybe not.”

  “Come on. We’re going with Slim.”

  Chapter Twenty-four

  As we climbed the porch stairs, my stomach started to feel funny. Not indigestion funny, scared funny. I was nervous about Slim finding the spilled perfume and broken glass in her mother’s room, but it wasn’t just that. Dumb as it may seem, I half believed that Julian or some of his gang might be hiding in the house.

  Because of Rusty’s remarks.

  Sometimes people say stuff that doesn’t make any sense, but it gets to you anyway. This was one of those times.

  I knew Slim’s house was empty, but the fear wouldn’t go away.

  It didn’t help matters, watching her open the screen door and front door without unlocking either of them.

  Anybody might be in her house.

  When I started to follow Slim through the doors, Rusty grabbed my arm. I frowned back at him.

  “Maybe we should wait out here,” he said.


  “Her mother’s not home.”

  In the foyer, Slim turned around. “You’re coming over tonight, aren’t you? So what’s the difference?”

  “I thought tonight we’d sneak in the back way,” Rusty explained. “We don’t want your neighbors seeing us, do we?”

  She made a face to show us what she thought of nosy neighbors. “If they don’t like it, they can lump it.”

  “You’re only gonna be a minute, right?” Rusty asked. “Why don’t we just wait out here for you?”

  “Don’t you want to come in and wash up?” she asked him.

  “Nah, I’m fine.”

  “You’re a bloody mess,” she said.

  “That’s okay.”

  “I think we should go in with her,” I said, still worried for no good reason that she might have intruders.

  Slim nodded. “Yeah, come on.”

  Leering at her, Rusty said, “If we come in, can we go upstairs?” Before she could answer, he added, “We’ve never seen your bedroom.”

  Her eyebrows lifted.

  Rusty nudged me. “You’d like to see her bedroom, wouldn’t you?”

  Scowling, I shook my head.

  “How about it?” he asked Slim. “Do we get to see your bedroom?”

  “In your dreams.” She whirled around and hurried toward the stairway. As she trotted up, she looked over her shoulder. “In or out, I don’t care. But stay downstairs.”

  When she was gone, Rusty grinned at me.

  “You jerk,” I whispered. “What’re you trying to pull?”

  “Just playing it safe, you know? We don’t w
anta be around when she finds the surprise in her mom’s room, do we?”

  “I guess not.”

  “Outa sight, outa mind.”


  “No matter what, we act dumb.”


  I hated the whole idea of being dishonest with Slim, but we’d already deceived her. If we tried to tell the truth now, we’d look like jerks.

  Expecting Slim to shout at any moment, I gazed at the top of the stairs. So did Rusty. We stood side by side, watching and listening. Quiet sounds came from the second floor: footsteps, the creaking of a board, soft skids and bumps that might’ve been drawers opening and shutting.

  Rusty leaned toward me. “She hasn’t noticed it yet.”

  “Guess not.”

  “Maybe she won’t.”

  Nodding, I whispered, “The smell might’ve dissipated.”

  He turned his head and frowned at me.

  “Spread out and faded away,” I explained.

  “I know that. I’m not stupid.”

  “Hey, guys,” Slim called. “You want to come up here a minute?” She sounded a little worried.

  We glanced at each other. Rusty looked like a school kid ordered to the principal’s office.

  “Oh, man,” he murmured.

  I ran to the stairs and raced up them two at a time, Rusty pounding along behind me. At the top of the stairs, I knew I would see Slim down the hallway, standing in front of her mother’s bedroom.

  She wasn’t there.

  The hallway was empty.


  “Over here.” Her voice had come from the left—the direction of both the bedrooms.

  Heart thumping hard and fast, I hurried down the hallway, certain to find Slim inside her mother’s bedroom.

  The two doors were on opposite sides of the hallway.

  As I neared them, I smelled the sweetness of the spilled perfume. Maybe the scent had dissipated, but it certainly hadn’t vanished.

  I turned toward the mother’s door.


  I spun around. Slim was in her own room. I hurried to her door and got there just before Rusty. We both stopped and gazed in.

  Slim was standing beside her bed, a nervous look on her face. She was barefoot. She still wore Lee’s red shorts, but she’d taken off the shirts and put on her own bikini top. The powder-blue one, a favorite of mine. The matching bottoms looked as if they been tossed onto her bed along with the two shirts she’d taken off.

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