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by Ray Garton
Description: NIGHT LIFE, a brilliant sequel to the classic novel of vampires re-imagined--LIVE GIRLS When Ray Garton's LIVE GIRLS was published in 1987, it changed the face of vampire fiction. The gritty, urban story of Davey Owen's dark seduction and reluctant transformation into a creature of the undead has become a classic of the genre. In NIGHT LIFE, nearly two decades after battling the vampires of the Midnight Club in New York City, Davey is a marked man. He lives a quiet life in Los Angeles with the love of his life, Casey Thorne. The vampires he did not destroy back then have been hunting him ever since, eager to take their revenge--and now they have found him. For what he did to them, they are determined to make him pay with his last drop of blood. With the help of old friends and new allies, Davey and Casey must face the bloodthirsty nightmare of their past. This time, they may not have a future.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: July 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [330 KB]
Reading time: 211-296 min.
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Karen Moffett arrived at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Monday afternoon, just minutes before her appointment. She went to the elevator, her footsteps silent on the plush, smoky-colored carpet. She pressed the button and waited.
A man came to the elevator and stood beside her. He was tall, in his early forties, with a chiseled face and a five o'clock shadow shortly before two in the afternoon. His black hair was streaked with silver. Although trim and fit, he looked tired. He carried a black briefcase in his left hand and wore a dark gray suit that looked expensive, but slept in. He smiled and nodded at her.
Karen returned the gesture, then the elevator opened and they both stepped inside.
"Floor?" the man said.
The man smiled again as he pushed the button. "Me, too."
Karen turned her gaze up to the floor lights above the door as the car rose to the third floor. It opened up and they both got out and turned right. Karen worried for a moment that the man was following her--she hoped not. She stopped outside room 308.
So did he.
"Are you following me?" Karen said.
He cocked his head to the left curiously. "Are you here to see Martin Burgess?"
"Yes, I am."
"Well, so am I."
"Oh. Well. Okay, then. I didn't realize there would be anyone else here for the two o'clock appointment."
"Neither did I." He stepped forward and knocked on the door.
"Come in," someone called on the other side.
The man opened the door and let Karen go in first.
Martin Burgess was forty-seven, a man of medium height, his dark hair thinning on top, a paunch pressed against the black T-shirt he wore that read, I'M WEARING BLACK TILL THEY COME UP WITH SOMETHING DARKER! His T-shirt collection was well-known--he received so many from the millions of readers of his horror novels, he probably didn't need to buy any more. Karen had read up on Burgess as soon as she accepted the invitation to meet him at the hotel only a couple days ago. He'd become a rich man by writing best-selling horror novels, most of which were made into bad movies. But the quality of the movies had no effect on the amount of money he'd made from them. He lived in a sprawling mansion near Mt. Shasta in northern California, and had a house in Topanga Canyon, and another in Florida. Every Halloween, he threw a big party at his mountain home for underprivileged children, particularly kids who were terminally ill. He'd divorced Sheila, his wife of almost twenty years, to be with a much younger woman, Denise, whom he'd married ten months ago.
Karen had read a couple of his novels. They were easy reading and the stories were quite good, as was the development of characters. She'd encountered moments when the books actually had given her chills. Burgess's writing was effective, but he wasn't going to win any major book awards anytime soon. It was apparent in interviews with Burgess that he did not labor under any such delusions. He'd once said that his books were the literary equivalent of an order of spicy nachos.
"Please come in and sit down," Burgess said with a smile.
The man closed the door, and they crossed the suite, and Karen sat on a couch with two chairs facing it over a coffee table. On the table was a fat black binder. The man sat down in one of the chairs.
"So, I take it you two have met?" Burgess said as he planted himself in the other chair. Burgess wore khaki pants and black loafers, a pair of wire-framed glasses. His black T-shirt was untucked.
"No, we haven't," Karen said.
Burgess said, "Karen Moffett, meet Gavin Keoph." He turned to Keoph. "I hope your trip down from San Francisco was a pleasant one, Mr. Keoph."
Keoph shrugged. "I don't travel well. Never have." He leaned forward, reached out a hand to Karen, and they shook. "Nice to meet you, Miss Moffett," he said with a smile.
"Karen is fine."
Burgess said, "Can I get you anything to drink? I'm only here for this meeting, but the room has a bar, or I can have room service bring something up, if you prefer."
They both declined.
"I'm very interested to know why you sent for me, Mr. Burgess," Keoph said.
Burgess got up and went to the small refrigerator behind the bar and took out a beer, popped it open on his way back to the chair. "I called you here because you're both very good at what you do. I've done extensive research, and I've found you to be among the most respected people in your fields. Your agencies-- Moffett and Brand, and yours, Mr. Keoph, Burning Lizard Security and Investigations--have great reputations. And to get to the point, I have work for you. But this won't be a typical job."
Burgess put his left ankle up on his right knee and sipped his beer.
"I want you both to work for me," he went on, "full-time. I want to be your only client for the duration of the investigation, so you'll need to clear your schedules for awhile. I know this is asking a lot, but I plan to pay a lot, because this will be unconventional work for both of you, to say the least."
"What kind of work is it?" Karen said.
Burgess put his left foot on the floor, moved his chair closer to the coffee table, and put down his beer. "I'd like to show you both something. I've been researching this ... event, this ... phenomenon for about eighteen years. I've scoured newspapers from major cities all over the world for every reference to this story." He laughed. "I've even paid off newsroom clerks to get my hands on the original negatives of the only couple of photographs that have been taken. Before anyone was even calling it 'the Internet, I bought a computer and got connected to it in hope of finding any scrap of information I could, of meeting any person who might know anything about it. I've made phone calls to six continents looking for the truth. I've traveled coast to coast following what little evidence I've uncovered. But I've taken it as far as I can on my own. From here on out, I need you two. For all the work I've done, I've gathered surprisingly little information, but that's the nature of these ... things. The highlights of my work are contained in this scrap-book. I've condensed it to this body of newspaper clippings and photographs and notes from my interviews with witnesses.''
Burgess reached out and opened the scrapbook to the beginning, a news clipping under the plastic. He turned the book so they could both see it.
The author of the article, published by the New York Post, was someone by the name of Woodrow Hill. The headline read VAMPIRES IN NEW YORK? EYEWITNESS SAYS YES!
Burgess sat back in his chair and said, "It seems a little peep-show in Times Square--this was back before they cleaned it up and turned it into a family theme park--was owned and operated by vampires, a little place called Live Girls. The article claims the vampires bit the horny male patrons on the penis while performing. . . sexual favors through a hole in the wall. They would take just enough blood to satisfy themselves, not enough for the victim to lose consciousness or anything. The victim might've felt bad for awhile, but that was all. The writer of the article claimed that, because of Live Girls, a friend of his had been transformed into a vampire by one of the peep-show girls, and someone near and dear to him had been killed."
A cat came out from behind the couch, hopped up onto the table, and stretched out beside the open binder. It was a sleek gray cat with long hair and a luxurious tail. It had some Persian in its blood--it didn't have the classic Persian face, but fur grew out of the bottoms of the big puffy paws. Karen recognized it because she had a couple Persians at home.
"This is Angie," Burgess said as he stroked the cat. "That's short for Angelica, to which she also answers. I take her everywhere with me. My wife thinks I'm crazy. But, then, I've found that when you marry a woman who isn't even half your age, she will almost always think you're crazy." He smiled, then laughed a little. He seemed disappointed that they didn't find his remark funny. He picked up Angie and put her on the floor, and she wandered off.
Burgess leaned forward in his seat, elbows on his thighs. He said, "The Post story begins with a brief editor's note, which claims that Woodrow Hill is a pseudonym for a prominent reporter who prefers to remain anonymous. I was very intrigued by this. The day after the article was published, I called a friend of mine at the Post and asked him who it was. This guy told me he wouldn't make any promises, but he'd try to find out. A few months later, he called me back and said the writer of the article was one Walter Benedek. He was a reporter for the New York Times. It's all in the scrapbook. I tried contacting him, but he returned none of my calls or letters. He eventually retired and disappeared."
Karen frowned. "Wait a second," she said. "If he worked for the Times, why did he write something for the Post?"
"Because he probably knew good and well that the Times would never publish such a piece," Burgess said. "In the article, he also named a New York night club called the Midnight Club, which he claimed was run by vampires who preyed on the clientele. Within twenty-four hours of the explosion at Live Girls, the Midnight Club folded up and cleared out, hardly leaving a trace. This information came from the Global Inquisitor, but I had it checked out. I hired a New York detective to look into the Midnight Club. It had never appeared in any phone book and had never advertised. It was almost as if it had never existed. Anyway, Benedek seemed to know the Times would never print his story. The Post is a tabloid, they had no trouble publishing a piece about vampires in Times Square.
He stood and walked over to a small table against the wall. He opened the briefcase on the table and took out two thick manila folders.
"I've had all the pertinent information in the scrap-book copied and compiled in a file for each of you. Each file contains a check for your first payment."
Burgess handed them each a folder, then sat down again. He took a drink of his beer, and put it back down on the table.
"I still don't understand what you want us to do, Mr. Burgess," Karen said.
"I've managed to track down Walter Benedek. I hired that New York detective I'd used to look into the Midnight Club. It took awhile. Mr. Benedek had done a good job of covering up his tracks. He didn't want to be found. But my guy managed to find him . . . sort of. He lives in upstate New York, up in the Finger Lakes District. Unfortunately, all he could find was a post office box, which he staked out for awhile. Mr. Benedek never showed up. He's in a town called Honeoye, but that's as specific as my information gets. Miss Moffett, I'd like you to track him down. Before you do anything else, I would like you to pay a visit to Mr. Benedek and get him to tell you all he knows about these vampires."
"What do you want me to do?" Keoph said.
"I'd like you to wait until Miss Moffett learns all she can. In the meantime, Mr. Keoph, you might want to bone up on vampire mythology. It might come in handy. Then I want you both to work together toward one common goal. I want you to find the vampires for me." His eyebrows rose and he grinned at them.
Karen slowly turned her head to Keoph, who turned to her. They looked at each other for a moment, then turned back to Burgess. He seemed a perfectly reasonable man, pleasant and unassuming.
"Are you serious, Mr. Burgess?" Karen said.
"Serious as a heart attack." He continued to grin.
"You know," Keoph said, "I have other clients who are depending on me."
Burgess nodded. "You also have an excellent staff of investigators to take on those clients. I'm paying you a ridiculous amount of money to do this. If you choose not to, of course, there's nothing I can do about it. But before you make that decision, I suggest you open your folder and take a look at the first check."
Karen and Keoph opened their folders. The check was paper-clipped to the first page of the file. Karen's eyebrows rose. It was, indeed, a ridiculous amount of money for a first payment. She and Keoph exchanged another look.
She closed the file and said, "Let me get this straight, Mr. Burgess. You think these vampires really exist?"
"That's what I want you to find out," Burgess said. He smiled again. "Of course, my mind is pretty much made up. My investigation turned up enough evidence for me to think I was onto something. Yes, I'm inclined to believe they really exist. But like I said, even over eighteen years, I've been able to gather surprisingly little information. These things don't want to be found. So, I guess, while I'm already convinced they're out there, I'm curious to see if you can find them. I've provided you with all the information I have. The tabloid papers all followed up on that Post article with lurid stories of vampires in the New York sex trade, particularly the Global Inquisitor. The Inquisitor has done a story on these vampires two or three times a year ever since, milking it for all it's worth."
"You believe the Inquisitor?" Keoph said.
"Ah, welcome to my world, Mr. Keoph," Burgess said with a chuckle. "Many people think that tabloids print only lies. But you'd be surprised. During the O.J. Simpson media explosion back in the nineties, the most accurate reporting came from, of all places, the National Enquirer. Yes, it's true, tabloids publish a lot of utter bullshit. I mean, we all know the story about Batboy meeting the Pope is bullshit, right? But sometimes, they're the only place to find the truth, because unlike the legitimate press, the tabloids will go to whatever lengths necessary to get it. And they're a ruthless bunch. All the articles are in the file. You may find some helpful information in them, you may not. But don't dismiss them just because they're from tabloids."
"Why aren't we both going to see Walter Benedek?" Karen said.
"I'm sending you because I suspect that Mr. Benedek will be more forthcoming with a woman than a man."
"Have you talked to him?" Karen said.
"No, I haven't, but I've talked to someone who knows him, a man named Ethan Collier. They knew each other professionally and personally for many years, but Collier hasn't heard from him in a long time. It's all in the file. Anyway, Ethan Collier tells me Mr. Benedek is an incurable flirt, and that women love him."
Karen said, "Am I supposed to interview him, or flirt with him?"
"A little of both couldn't hurt," Burgess said. "Look, I'm not asking you to have a relationship with the guy, just don't be afraid to be charming if you think--"
"Mr. Burgess, with all due respect, I've been doing this for fourteen years," Karen said.
"You're right, I'm sorry. Forget I said that. I don't mean to tell you how to do your job. Forgive me. I just think he'll be more receptive to a woman than a man. By all accounts, the man's a perfect gentleman, so it's not like I'm sending you into a situation where you'll be--"
"I understand, Mr. Burgess," Karen said.
"When would you like us to start?" Keoph said.
"Immediately," Burgess said. "I realize you'll need some time to farm your clients out to other investigators at your agencies, but I'd like you to get started as soon as that's done. I recommend doing that today."
Karen paged through the file, thinking. It sounded like a wild goose chase to her, but Burgess was paying a lot. Vampires. It was probably going to end up being some group of goth misfits who wore a lot of black clothes and phony fangs and wrote bad poetry. But she was intrigued by the fact that a reporter for the Times would write a pseudonymous piece for the Post--why would he do such a thing? Obviously, he truly believed he had encountered vampires. Mental illness? Possible, but how likely? Karen's curiosity was stirred by Walter Benedek.
"All right," she said. "I'll do it."
Keoph thought about it a moment longer, then nodded. "Yeah."
Burgess grinned again and clapped his hands once, then rubbed them together vigorously. "Wonderful, wonderful. You'll want to go over all the information in the files. Miss Moffett, I've taken the liberty of booking a flight to Rochester, New York for you. It leaves at six forty-five in the morning."
Karen said, "Sounds like you were pretty confident we'd take this job."
"Like I said, Miss Moffett," Burgess said, "I'm paying you a ridiculous amount of money to do this, and I know how loudly money speaks to us all. I had every confidence you would come on board, if not just for the money, then certainly out of curiosity. I would imagine people in your line of work to be very curious in general, am I right? Just a little?"
Karen smiled. "Yes, you are. Just a little."
Angie hopped into Burgess's lap, and he stroked her back as she settled down across his thighs.
"My cell phone number is in the file," Burgess said. "I'll be staying at my Topanga Canyon house for another week or ten days, so I'll be in town if you need me for anything. If you have any questions or important information to share with me, feel free to call me at anytime, day or night. Don't worry about waking me. I'm a night owl, anyway. I do most of my writing at night. If you wake me, it'll be in the morning, when I sleep." He turned to Keoph. "You've been awfully quiet, Mr. Keoph. What do you have to say about all this?"
One heavy brow rose over Keoph's right eye. "The truth?"
Burgess smiled. "Always, Mr. Keoph, always."
"The truth is," Keoph said, "I think you're a taco short of a combo plate."
Burgess released a single abrupt, "Ha! That's exactly what I expected. I'm sure you both think I'm insane. But I'm not. I'm just curious, very curious. I've made my living by making up stories about vampires and ghosts and demons and werewolves for the last twenty-two years--things that are so ingrained in our culture that, even if only for the length of a book, people are able to believe in them. Then there are those who do believe in them, with great sincerity."
"Like you?" Keoph said.
"Those old legends and superstitions have to come from someplace. I find it difficult to believe they're all completely false. They started somewhere, somehow. I believe there may be more behind them than we think. I want to find out. And now I can afford to do it. Based on your reputations, I've hired you to do it for me. I want to start with these vampires."
"You want to start with the vampires?" Keoph said.
"Yes. This isn't the only scrapbook I have, and this isn't the only story I've been following. But I think this is a good starting point."
"I usually work alone," Keoph said. "Why two of us?"
Burgess said, "To save time. You can do twice the work. I'm not saying you have to work together every minute. Spread out, follow separate leads, just... do whatever it is you do," he said with a big boyish smile.
Karen turned to Keoph and said, "If it's okay with you, we can use my Century City office as a base of operations."
He nodded. "Sounds good." He put his briefcase on the coffee table, opened it, and put the file in, then closed it again.
"Well, then, that's that," Burgess said. He put the cat back on the floor and stood. "I'm sure you want to get to those files, and you have preparations to make now that you've signed on."
Karen stood as Burgess headed for the door. As Keoph stood, she said, "Do you have a car yet?"
Keoph said, "No, I took a cab straight here from the airport."
"Where's your luggage?"
"I didn't bring anything but this briefcase. I hadn't planned to spend the night." He took the case from the coffee table. "I'll send for some things now that I know I'm staying. Or I might just buy some new clothes."
Burgess stood at the door and shook their hands with enthusiasm, that same boyish smile on his face. "It's been a pleasure meeting you both, and I look forward to working with you. I don't know about you two, but I think this is going to be fun."