Monday, 2 December 2013

Night Rendez-vous (The Barney Chronicles) by Martin Petrovský

Chicago at night is wonderful. Among all the artificial lights I get the feeling, as if it was day here all the time. This was a pleasing fact considered that I haven´t seen the real sun since long. I roamed the city streets without any goal. I was unemployed, poor, homeless and most of the time drunk like a Russian after he got his pay check. This was the fault of the homies and their blood richly diluted by cheap alcohol, which besides tastes like piss. How do I know how it tastes? Don´t even ask. Another part of my life I am not proud of at all. All this got me to think – where did I make a mistake?

My whole existence is but a chain of blunders and personal failures, as it has been since the moment I woke up 200 hundred years ago, at the edge of the forest, after a night spent in the village pub of my native Valachia, propelled by a strange urge to bite into human necks, and robbed of the only precious thing I owned - my gold medallion with the family arms. Even for me it was not so hard to add two and two.

A few trials and errors and a couple of escapes from the enraged village mob richly armed with well sharpened stakes and dung-forks taught me, that leaving blood marks and generally behaving suspiciously is rather unwise. If vampire skin could hold scars, they would tell stories of fierce battles of past just like the senile pensioners were telling in rest homes.  I quite enjoyed remembering those times. I always got that warm feeling around my heart, because in those times, when the vampires were still circled by young beautiful women, a quality super meant to eat a noble young lady, not a random drunkard or homie.

The night is still young. I love these moments as well. Thanks to modern technologies and current lifestyle, when people party through the night, sleep during the day, and earn they living doing odd jobs, the city is alive for 24hours a day. It means also, that there is always potential supper on its way, or an adventure, if that´s your preference.
Just like that brunette. The one who looks like someone chases her. She dashes exactly towards me, as if her life depended on it. Maybe she should better look in front of her, instead of constantly glancing back over her shoulder. But for some people it´s more important to run away than to run somewhere.

I could have avoided the crash. I could have done just a small step to the side. A teeny little step. But let´s be fair- how else could one meet someone new?

I got everything planned. In the moment of the impact I intended to catch her, turn on my heel, spin her elegantly in the air and place her safely on the ground with the nonchalant „Whoopsie! Why the hurry, lady?“ Sadly, something went wrong and both of us ended on the ground. Precisely, I was on the ground and the lady landed on me. I just want to comment that her landing was accompanied by un-ladylike curses. To be honest, she sounded more like a construction worker who just discovered, that his wife packed a big green salad for his lunch and to top it all, she also forgot his favourite apple-cinnamon muffin as snack. Still cursing she stood up, snatched the big travelling bag, which she lost in the impact, and then, to my great surprise, she grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me up as well. As she touched the flesh on my neck, I shuddered: her hands were a bit cold. The shock maybe?
“Move, idiot,” she barked at me. “Quickly, follow me,” she said, and throwing one last nervous glance behind her back, she towed me to the side street. I obeyed dutifully. Why to defy the wishes of such a beautiful woman? I dare say that our meeting left a notion, but I really didn’t expect such a quick progress.
When we were in the dark alley and the pushed me against the wall, I almost lost control over my teeth. Her body got yet closer to me and I leaned toward her neck. Someone’s got dessert for dinner. For that reason I got rather startled, when instead of the expected intimacies I felt her slipping something heavy into my hand. It was her travelling bag. “Take good care of it. I’ll pick it up later,” she whispered into my ear, turned away and disappeared on the other end of the alley.

Well then, this did not turn out quite as expected, and was over sooner than I thought possible. What the hell just happened? I didn’t have time to really think about it because of the two shots, which sounded too close to my liking. One end of the alley got blocked by two bulky men that looked as if someone fastened their heads directly onto their shoulder and used the neck just as a minor fashion accessory. One of the hulks pointed at me a meaty finger. My gaze automatically slid down to the bag, which I was still holding in my hand and suddenly everything clicked into place. I’m the bait. Typical.

“He’s got the bag, get him Vincenzo!” was not something I’d be keen on hearing from someone, whose face obviously got a hard schooling in prison. In situations like this there was only one possible solution- to run away immediately. Fortunately, my legs in times of danger work as an independent unit, so I was running the opposite direction even before my brain caught up and gave the command to run.
It wasn’t really hard to outrun them. Being a vampire has several advantages beside immortality. You never need to catch your breath after running, you don’t get exhausted and you even don’t sweat. On the down side, fish cold hands and an the occasional whiff of fresh blood in your breath are not exactly lady killers, but a man- beg your pardon, a vampire- has to get the work done with what he’s got. I slowed down.

I love parks! People tend to avoid them during dark, but that’s the point I like about them. And I wasn´t disappointed today either. I mean, night parks are just awesome! The dark night sky and the mellow light of the twinkling street lamps mix just the right horror ambience for a midnight picnic. I sat down not far from the fountain and explored the content of the strange baggage. It was a medium sized, travelling canvas bag covered with the logos of some fashion designer. A nice heap of money wasn’t what I was expecting to find inside, but who was I to complain? Besides, it would be much harder to get rid of drugs. Bundle after bundle of crispy hundred dollar bills. I ´sposse it would make several hundred thousand. I wouldn’t dare to be more exact, as I was never very good at math. Anyway, I could always blame it on the weak educational system in Valachia. Anyone who could count the fingers on his hand and feet would have been worshipped there as a genius.

In these few second the vision of my future radically changed. I lost my last job at the gas station yesterday after my boss found out, that my driving licence is a scam. I should have realized sooner that after 21 years of its issue I would be over 50. He didn’t believe me when I told him I always had a baby-face. And with my job I also lost my little room, my chamber, my lump of clay, my refuge from the sun and the sanctuary of my daytime sleep.
To find another night job, which you can seek only during night is much harder that you’d imagine. “Please come for an interview tomorrow morning. Why can’t you come during the day? Everything alright with you, sir? You look quite pale,” are questions suggesting, that you are too suspicious to get the job.
My life expenses are minimal- I don’t need to eat or drink and all in all, my maintenance is very simple. All I ever wanted was a place where I could return before sunrise and some blood with alcohol content less than 0,5 ‰. And thanks to this bag filled with money I can finally realize this dream of mine.  Now I can live my life as I always imagined it. People will fear me, they will respect me. And my name won’t be just Barney, but Barnabas the Bloody (Hell yeah, it sounds even better than William the Bloody). Exactly as it ought to be!

At this point my conscience woke up. The one I should have lost together with my soul, which is misleading information, by the way. The bag was not mine; you could say it was given over to me for protection by that brunette. She trusted me. Although, on the other hand you could say she just horribly misused me. But anyway, those two hulks looked like they wouldn’t have any moral impediments hurting a woman, or just anyone. All right, I will look for her, but only because she could carry other suspicious bags, or maybe she needed more help. Saving the damsel in distress. You can’t deny it sounds cool.

I left the park and tried to figure out, where I should start with searching. That bar on the other side of the street looks like a place, where a lady could flee from her hardships. And even if she didn’t, I could just look elsewhere. This is what’s great about Chicago. It is full of similar places with soft lights, jazz music playing in background and thick veil of cigarette smoke pouring out of the door with the coming and leaving of the guests.

I settled down directly at the bar and ordered a nice, 15 years old, imported Irish whiskey Midleton Very Rare. From now on only the best things would do for me- I was rich, I needn’t to skimp on such an important thing as alcohol. I breathed in the vapours ascending from the glass. As soon as the rich woody smell with a hint of leather tickled my nose, I felt like in heaven. This was the real liquid gold, not diluted with haemoglobin. I enjoyed even the sight of her and I couldn´t wait to actually savour her on my tongue. I sighted with satisfaction and propped my elbow on the bar desk. Maybe the seductive atmosphere and my joy from the recently found treasure were at fault that I never noticed her. When she suddenly spoke to me: “Hey, champ, I knew I could trust you,” I almost dropped my glass. “But if I were you, I would probably take better care of my things,” she said, dropped on the bar chair next to me and with her leg she pushed the canvas bag deeper under my stool. Then she nodded her head at the barman and gestured at my glass. When the same whiskey appeared in front of her, she smiled at me: “Be my guest.”

“How did you find me?” I asked. The brunette raised her left hand, in which she held a dark oblong thing with a display and little lights. A following device, I could figure that much.
“My name is Monica. Monica Grieve,” she introduced herself. “Barnabas,” was my short, but carefully intonated answer. It should make clear, that I’m not against getting more intimate, but I don’t trust her fully yet.

“Thanks a bunch, Barney.”

Shucks, not again! For some reason everyone who heard my name immediately started to call me Barney. “Hi, Barney. Whassup, Barney? You mowed the lawn yet, Barney?” And Bloody Barney sounded like someone from the Muppets and not like a dangerous predator, which I was, in fact. What didn’t people like about Barnabas? It was such a majestic and imposing name. Maybe things would change if I left a trail of dead bodies and a bloody inscription on the wall: “Barnabas the Bloody,” or “Barnabas was here.” And who would then dare to call me Barney, haa?!

“Listen, Monica, you’ll hardly find a better guy than me, I always help anyone who needs it, but some things are over the limit. Those two bouncers who chased me didn’t look exactly chaste. I don’t like when someone misuses me and then disappears,” I shot her a side glance in case she would show some remorse. She didn’t move a muscle! “Only my hunter’s instinct prevented me from ending up a goner in a ditch.” The instinct of a hunter, who was I trying to kid! I was more like a frightened gazelle than a leopard, but she didn’t need to know that. “Don’t you think I should get at least some compensation?”

Monica leaned toward me with a little pout. “You looked inside the bag, right?” she asked.
I nodded. Ah, Monica was so beautiful. I looked deeply into her eyes. They were fascinating, at least a C cup! “If you help me out once more, I´ll split them with you.”

I lifted my face just to see her lick her full lips. “And maybe you’ll get some bonus.” These words almost sealed my fate, but somehow I managed to grasp the last bits of reason escaping from my head with light speed.

“What’s that money about, and anyway, where did you get it? You know, people usually don’t walk the streets with travel bags stuffed full with hundred dollar bills and don’t get chased by suspicious blokes with names like Vincenzo, Beppe and such.” This question, in my opinion, was more than valid. If my head was the main prize, at least I wanted to know why.

Monica sipped from her whiskey and let her gaze linger in the room. Finally, when I thought that she was remembering her whole life in her head, she turned to me.

“When I met Salvatore, I was but a naive, young thing. Something like Dorotty, and this was the Land of Oz, just imagine! And then I realized I was pregnant, and that changed everything. I didn’t want my baby to grow up among thugs. And that’s why I took that money, for my future, and for the future of my unborn child,” said Monica and as a final gesture she caressed her flat belly, as if reassuring her future infant. Maybe I would have been moved by her little story if I didn’t hear something similar in TV recently, and if I didn’t notice how she managed to empty three glasses while telling the story.

For I while I observed her with a gaze of an immigration worker who was about to interrogate a bunch of Mexicans close at the borders, when she burst into laugh and clapped her hand on my shoulder.

“You can’t get fooled so easily, right? Ok, I confess, that money is not really mine.”

“I thought that much,” I muttered with a deadpan face.

“Still, you don’t need to know, why I have the money and how I got it. It’s enough when I tell you, that the former owner won’t get struck hard by this loss, because the money doesn’t actually exist. Don’t worry, nobody saw me when I lifted them and they don’t really know who to chase. So they went after you when they saw the bag, because they know it. How did you outrun them, anyway?”

I put on my most suave expression and a grin: “As I told you, I have the instinct of a hunter...and some other hidden talents.” I leaned closed to her. “I’m  a vampire.”

Monica straightened on her seat and the corner of her mouth twitched. “Ah.” She looked me up and down with a look which could probably chop iron to slices thinner than a sushi master the cucumber. She didn’t believe me, but I was not offended. Remember, I was a good fellow.

“I really am. Right now I can’t prove it to, you know, I don’t want to rouse attention. But let us find a dark place and I can show you my teeth.” Ok, I really could spare her the mischievous smirk, but I let myself get carried away by the atmosphere. Monica changed her expression several times and said at least: “Ok, let’s say I believe you. But what’s my bargain in working with a vampire? You know, I enjoy my life, I love the sun, I spend hours and hours getting tanned on my terrace in summer. I love bronze skin.”
It was my turn to look at her doubtfully. In spite of what she just said she looked relatively pale. But I let it be, I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers.

“I would of course respect your decision. In any case, I can run very fast, I see in darkness and I’m strong. I can help you getting rid of those mafiosos. And afterward- who knows? Maybe you decide to join me. Just imagine, we would be a great couple. I would be like Spike and you my Buffy. I would be the Lestat to your Louis. The Edward to your Bella.”
Monica blinked several times. “Who?”
What was with her? Didn’t she read any novels or watch TV? I continued a bit uncertainly: “Dracula to your Min...” when she cut me off. “Ok, whatever, Dracula. Now listen, I’ve got a plan.”
- - -

When I finally got out of the bar, the moon was already high up on the sky. But even such a late hour didn´t stop people from their busy life. I held the bag close to my chest. Trying to arouse the so much invoked instinct of the hunter inside me, I only managed to wake the gazelle.  Maybe I should have got a sip of blood, after all, but Monica didn’t look very keen on cooperation, and there was not enough time to talk her into it. But maybe after all is done I’ll find a soul mate in her. I really meant the things I said earlier. Every qualified vampire had a woman on his side, one who would absolutely adore and follow him. Only I wasn’t so sure if the part about adoring and loving applied to Monica as well. It was more like calculation and cold blooded manipulation that I saw in her eyes. On the bright side, if I really could call myself an expert character reader, probably I would have been well on the rich side unlike my present self.

From my trouser pocked I fished out a paper napkin with the sketch of a map and tried to locate myself. This time my legs needed a bit of reasoning and a few courageous words to keep on moving to the place labelled on the map. I knew that any kind of fear I might have felt was irrational. I couldn’t die. Well, technically I could, but I really didn’t think those bouncers would have well sharpened stakes at their disposals, or that they would take the trouble to separate my head from my body. People since long stopped believing in vampires despite of their present popularity in literature. But maybe this was the reason. From the hunters of the night, the fearsome creatures of past - to pomaded sighting young men who were more upset about their love to some bimbo as about soothing their everlasting hunger- How did we end up like this?

I glanced cautiously over my shoulder. Only few more steps! When Monica explained her plan, it all sounded so simple and clear, but now I wasn’t so certain anymore. In theory I wasn’t suppose to possess any moral scruples, but this whole situation smelled like trouble. And I don’t like troubles. I avoid them like holy water. Even if I won’t die, I am sure it will hurt a lot. I gazed into the murky water that flowed in the wide canal flanking the pathway. In Chicago canals like these cross almost every second block, creating an intricate net and reflecting the city lights. You’ll find various things swimming in the water but for fish.
I followed the stream, careful to avoid furious Chihuahuas and their frowning owners. Why would someone walk his dog at 2 a.m? Maybe I should change my residence. Perhaps I could go to the countryside, I am sure I’d have a lot less stress there. On the downside I ´d have to give up my anonymity. Well, I could think about it later. I made a mental note right to other numerous mental notes. The thought about moving appeared just beside- what about a job in a blood bank? Do they employ in night shifts?

Shortly I should reach a restaurant called Mamma Leone. A big led title and the bulky types in front of it told me I arrived at the right place. I hesitated for a while. I really hate when someone shoots at me. Did I mention that it sounded very simple when Monica explained it? A trifle. Monica was sure they would not shoot, at least not immediately. They would have too many witnesses. But now, now I wasn’t so sure about it. All of the potential witnesses looked like they would turn away just in the right time and swear they never saw nor heard anything. Actually, they´s swear they weren´t even there. Me too, I´d like to be anywhere but here. No help, it was time to start out plan.

Only thanks to my iron will I managed to detach the bag from my chest and swing it nonchalantly across my shoulder, so it would be in a visible spot. First part of the plan- check. From now on it could get only worse. I slowly crept up to the restaurant. Bouncer Nr. 1 noticed me as the first one- dark hair, dark eyes, an ugly scar on his right cheek and a murderous expression. Judging from the fashion how he slid one hand inside his jacket and how he waved the other at the bouncer nr.2- sandy blond with sunglasses- during night??- and bouncer nr. 3- bald, also with sunglasses- I knew that they took the bait. They knew exactly what was supposed to be in the bag. Probably they knew how I was supposed to look as well. Before I managed to turn, all three of them had their guns out and the bouncer nr. 4, Vincenzo, yelled something inside the open door of the restaurant. I didn’t hear what, because at that time I was already scurrying in the opposite direction. These bouncers kept close to my heels, except for Vincenzo. They tried more than those before.

People shirked out of our way and in this way created a nice escape route. This was a popular part of the city, full of bars and first classed restaurants, which resulted in masses of people. And probably half of the restaurants were Mafioso firms, I remarked in my head. Maybe that’s why people were so quick to step out of our way, they were used to similar chases.

When I reached the bridge I knew I lost the game. Vincenzo and his crew almost breathed on my neck and the other part of the bridge was blocked by two more figures in dark suits. I stopped dead and turned on the spot. Probably I still thought I could escape somehow.

I felt the bullet in my chest before I heard the shot. The blast thrust me backwards and then I was falling and falling. If the wooden railing was supposed to prevent people from falling over, it was a sad failure. I flew through the air, surrounded by bills that floated out of the bag, which was hurtling down next to me. My faithful companion, right until the end. I thought that this would look so cool in the movie. The impact on the water surface was not exactly gentle, I could just as well hit a wall. The last thing I saw before the water curtain closed in upon me was the bright moon and some furiously gesturing muscle men who were obviously blaming each other. I couldn’t suppress my pity upon the one who would have to deliver the news of the definitively lost money to their boss.

I let the water drift me for a while. The spot where the bullet hit me was almost healed but it still burned like hell. I scrambled up the side of the channel. When my  effort to squeeze out as much of the dirty and suspiciously reeking water from my clothes as possible failed,  I decided to let it be and walk, wet as I was, to the place where I was supposed to meet Monica. It was a park, of course, and when I arrived my clothes were almost dry and I even cheered up a bit. The wound closed up completely and the distress of night was almost forgotten. From now on I was about to meet a bright- well, let’s say a full moon lit- future with a beautiful woman on my side.

Naturally I was dumbfounded when I saw the empty space at our supposed meeting place. When I crept closer to the bushes I still believed that I was only cheated by a foul play of shadows and that every second I would spot a familiar figure with long brown hair. But the only thing I found was a heap of clothes on the grass and a white envelope, which didn’t look very encouraging. The last bits of hope vanished after I read the note that I found inside.

Barney hone,

thousands thanks for your help. I don’t know if you’ll read this notice, which means you escaped, or if you simply bugged out. Anyway, you really helped me out and I am sooo grateful to you!!! Even if we won’t see each other again.... When I noticed you standing there on the sidewalk, I know you were heaven sent. For reward I got you a few things to change to (I am sure you are all wet after the bath) and something to remember me. Maybe you think I just misused you like that, but I think even you know it wouldn’t work out between the two of us. Well, it didn’t work 200 hundred years ago either. And by the way- I am Lestat and you are my Louis.


In the envelope I found my gold medallion, which I thought lost for 200 years. My frustration about Monica was tinged with a desire to remember what exactly happened that long past night in Valachia. But should I meet her again, I will be definitely the predator and she the gazelle. I could ´t change the past, but neither of us gets old, and I won’t neither forget nor forgive. I shouldn’t have agreed with her plan and give her the money. All I got in exchange was a promise, that we’ll split later.  I bore the whole dangerous load and she stayed in the bar and drank the expensive whiskey. “You’ll let yourself get shot, fall into the river and toss a couple of notes in the air for the show. Everyone will think you’re dead and the money lost forever. Didn’t you say you’re immortal, or were you lying?” Bullshit, I was supposed to get shot so she could take the money without anyone seeing her face and asking her wrong questions. And what did I get in exchange? A few rags and the medallion, which was mine, by the way. My life will never change, I don’t know why I even tried to think otherwise.

I got into my new jeans and T-shirt and slipped on the sneakers which Monica luckily provided as well. After that I left the park. I need to leave this city. Chicago is too small to share it with Salvatore, Vincenzo or Beppe and the last thing I desire is another meeting of the close type with a shotgun bullet. But let’s do it step by step. Sunrise is nigh and if I won´t find some suitable shelter I’ll burn like a firecracker on 4th July. 

I walked down the street as I walked few days ago - with no money on my name and no luck on my side. Oh joy.


This is an original fiction written in an attempt to answer a question, that since long troubled its authors: How come all the famous vampires are rich, beautiful and irresistibly attractive?

Author: Martin Petrovský, aka Miyu and myself 

Planned as the first episode of the series "The Barney Chronicles"

You can find the original (slovak) version here: Nočné rendezvous


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