The traveling vampire sh.., p.39
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       The Traveling Vampire Show, p.39

           Richard Laymon
 

  At last, the engine roared and we were off.

  We sped down Route 3 toward town.

  At Lee’s house, we turned on all the lights. Then we took turns taking showers. After our showers, we got into clean dry clothes that Lee had gathered for us. I wore my brother’s stuff. Lee and Slim wore Lee’s. We got together in the living room. Lee let us drink beer. She even made popcorn. We were so freaked out that we hardly talked…not for a while, anyway. By the time we’d each polished off a couple of beers, though, we had calmed down.

  The talking began. And decisions were made.

  In the early morning hours before dawn, we went out to Lee’s garage to start getting ready. We made a couple of stakes by sawing off a broom handle and whittling a point on one end of each shaft. We gathered a hammer and a hatchet. We also equipped ourselves with the tin of gasoline that Danny kept around for his power mower. And a box of wooden matches and a cigarette lighter.

  We loaded all this into Slim’s Pontiac.

  After sunrise, we climbed in and Slim started the car. But Lee said, “Just a minute. I just thought of something.”

  She climbed out of the car and hurried back into her house. A couple of minutes later, she came back with my brother’s Winchester .30-caliber lever-action repeater. As she climbed in with it, she said, “In case we have human trouble, too.”

  “Always thinking,” Slim said.

  Then she drove us up Route 3 until we came to the turnoff. She made the turn and drove slowly up the dirt road toward the place where we’d left the hearse and its awful cargo.

  It was a lovely summer morning. Sometime before dawn, the rain had stopped. You could still smell it, though. There is nothing like the scent of a forest after a heavy rainfall.

  The sky was cloudless. Birds were twittering all around us, bugs buzzed and sunlight slanted down through the treetops like transparent rods of gold.

  It was one of those mornings that makes you feel great.

  At least if you’re not on an errand like ours.

  After a while, Lee said, “Where is it?”

  “I don’t know,” Slim said, and kept on driving.

  I think we all expected to find the hearse around every bend, but the dirt road ahead of us remained empty.

  “Somebody must’ve moved it,” Lee said.

  Then we came out the other end of the dirt road. Ahead of us was Janks Field, all rutted and muddy, puddles and bits of broken glass flashing sunlight.

  Lee’s red pickup was still there. So was the Cadillac I had disabled. So was a VW bug. I supposed it had probably belonged to one of the other volunteers—Chester, most likely. Scotty had been with a bunch of his hoodlum friends; they must’ve gone off without him after the lightning struck. As for Chance the Marine, who knows?

  On our way over to the bleachers, I noticed several fresh holes in the dirt. They weren’t filled in. Just holes. I didn’t know who or what had made them, or why, but I suddenly remembered the poodle that had nipped Rusty’s arm and how it had squealed underneath one of the cars.

  Slim drove us all around the bleachers and between them. There was no sign of the black bus or the black truck or the black hearse or the black-shirted crew of the Traveling Vampire Show.

  The cage was gone, too.

  “‘Folded their tents like the Arabs,’” said Slim, “‘and silently slipped away.’”

  It seemed they had left nothing behind except Slim’s bow, her arrows, and the special quiver she’d won at the Fourth of July archery contest.

  When she spotted them, she cried out, “Ah-ha!” and stopped the car. Lee jumped out and retrieved them.

  A few minutes later, Lee jumped out again. This time, she ran through the mud with spare keys in her hand and climbed into her red pickup truck.

  We followed close behind her all the way back to town.

  Chapter Sixty-four

  There was a big investigation, of course, but the Traveling Vampire Show was never seen or heard of again. Neither were the bodies of the volunteers or Stryker or Valeria or any of the workers we’d killed.

  Or Bitsy.

  Yeah, Bitsy vanished that night, too. I don’t know, she simply never turned up again. Searchers, including me and Slim and Lee, scoured the woods for her. Parts of Janks Field were even dug up. Four bodies were found, but not Bitsy (no one else from that night, either, strangely enough). To this day, Bitsy is a big mystery. I keep hoping she’s alive and happy somewhere, that she chose that night to run away from home, that she didn’t end up getting grabbed by remnants of the Vampire Show or by some other form of degenerate…or whatever it was that got the poodle. If anything bad happened to her, it would’ve been partly my fault.

  I won’t get into the whole mess about Mr. and Mrs. Simmons, the parents of Rusty and Bitsy. Let’s just say it was grim.

  Rusty had won the wager about Valeria’s beauty, no doubt about that. We didn’t have to go through with the pay off, but we did. As sort of a tribute to Rusty, Slim shaved my head. We never told anyone why. Only Lee. We pretty much told her everything.

  My father recovered nicely from the injuries he’d sustained in the car accident.

  The next year, Lee and my brother Danny had a baby girl.

  Slim started calling herself Fran, short for Frances, and we began going steady and everything was just about as great as it could possibly be…except for Rusty being dead and Bitsy being gone and Lee and Fran and me never being able to completely get away from memories of what we saw that night in the back of the hearse.

  I guess maybe it was the “real” vampire, and maybe Valeria had been some sort of bait…

  I don’t want to think about it.

  Anyway, that’s my story.

  I just want to say, if you ever get word that a Traveling Vampire Show is coming to your town, stay away from it. For God’s sake.

  RICHARD LAYMON

  Richard Laymon is the author of over 30 novels and 65 short stories. Though a native of Illinois and a long-time Californian, his name is more familiar to readers in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world (where he is published in 15 foreign languages) than it is to most Americans. He is the author of such novels as The Woods Are Dark, Out Are the Lights, Tread Softly, Resurrection Dreams, Midnight’s Lair, The Stake, Quake, and Savage. He has also written The Beast House Chronicles comprised of The Cellar, Beast House, and The Midnight Tour. Two of his novels (Flesh and Funland) and his short story collection (A Good, Secret Place) were nominated for Bram Stoker Awards given by the Horror Writers Association. Richard lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Ann, and his daughter, Kelly.

  Check out the Richard Laymon Kills! website at: www.rlk.cjb.net.

 


 

  Richard Laymon, The Traveling Vampire Show

 


 

 
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