Ella’s college buddies

Two Saturdays ago Ted Spindle had a party at his home to commemorate the spring equinox. Among the guests were me, Ingrid, and Ella, and Ella brought her college roommate Tesla. Tes had about the same petite stature as Ella, with light brown hair, and appeared to constantly have an expression that made her look like she was contemplating something mischievous. Ella seemed downright jovial around her.

“Hello,” Tes said cheerily when Ella introduced us. “You’re the blogger Ella saved from an evil spirit, huh?” That was a common greeting during the party. “Oh, you’re the guy the bookstore owner saved after a frog cut off your head.” “Oh, you’re the guy Ingrid and the movie director saved from zombie cows.” I guess it was cool that people there read the blog, though.

Ella and Tes had a friend there they introduced me to, a lithe and elegant woman named Morgane. “Oh, sure, and you’re the fellow who likes to annoy vampires,” she said. She had an Irish accent. I asked how she knew Ella and Tes.

“It was when these girls were at Miskatonic,” she said. “I had a bit of a problem with those froggy folk you ran into at the cabin and they helped me.”

“OK,” I said, “Sort of a paranormal Charlie’s Angels, huh?” I said, striking a kung-fu pose. The three looked at each other in a way that suggested were silently trying to decide which one would try to get rid of me. “So you were a student there?” I asked Morgane

“Oh,” she said, “Well, student of humanity, let’s say.” Ella and Tes seemed amused by that.

“What, like, sociology?” I asked. All three laughed at that.

“You can probably tell him,” Tes said to Morgane

“Well, all right, then” said Morgane, “I’m a selkie.”

There was a pause, during which I failed to remember what a selkie is, assuming I ever knew.

“Is that, like, a part of Ireland?” I asked.

“No, it means I normally take the form of a seal.”

“A seal, really?”

“Oh come on,” said Ella, “Morgane’s hardly the most unusual character you’ve encountered.”

“Well, no, I just wouldn’t have thought a seal. Dolphin, maybe. But…” I turned my palms outward and struck the backs of my hands together. “Ohr ohr – that kind of seal?”

“And what’s wrong with a seal, then?” asked Morgane, a little annoyed.

“Nothing, nothing, I just…you don’t really have a seal…look.”

We got along better after that, once I unequivocally accepted Morgane’s catalog of qualities that made the seal a superior and majestic creature. I also avoided the temptation to make comparisons to Aquaman or to ask about Morgane’s ability to balance a ball on her nose. I wonder if the incident she mentioned is the same one Ella called an “adventure” the night of her unexpected visit. I hope Ella will share the story sometime.

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Maestro does not appreciate my roguish charm

From last post:

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

I slid the door open a crack. “You’re looking for Ella?” I said. She had followed me to the door but was standing in a corner, where she couldn’t be seen from outside.

“My time on earth has been long so it is simple to overlook such an inane quip. Yet my patience is not infinite.”

“So why wait for me to…” I looked at the threshold, which Maestro had made no move to cross. “That’s an actual thing? You can’t come in here unless I invite you?”

“It is a taboo. Even those among us with little interest in tradition would not violate it.”

I opened the blind fully but slid the door only slightly further, so the opening was as wide as Maestro’s shoulders. “Be right back,” I said, and retrieved the two chairs from the dining table. I pushed one outside and put the other in front of Ella. For myself I pulled over a kitchen stool. Ella and I sat down, and then Maestro.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked Maestro. “Some wine?”

“I am familiar with the reference. I do not do requests, sir.” Maestro then spoke to me with a faster cadence then he had before, without losing any of his precision. “When we last spoke I advised you to stay on good terms with those who walk in the dark. Since then you placed one of us in a situation where she was manipulated by one human and injured by another. Perhaps you think showing defiance in spite of your limited powers gives you a sort of roguish charm.”

“I didn’t place Leticia in that situation. I’d like to know how she’s doing.”

“She is well. Nevertheless there are those, more prideful than I am, who see her injury as an affront to be avenged. Those following Miss Sherrinford tonight are among them.”

“So they’re with you?’ said Ella. She actually seemed relieved that she was being stalked by vampires and not by a Welsh goat-worshipping cult.

Maestro nodded. “I accept the veracity of Mr. Ormand’s account and do not believe you acted out of malice. I would regret your loss and have told your pursuers of this. They will not impede your return home.”

I decided to overlook the “your loss” crack but wanted to press Maestro on something else. “What about Pickman’s camera being stolen? Do you know about that?”

“It is possible that the thief performed a favor for you. There are some things that are best left unknown even to a highly disciplined human mind.” He looked at Ella again. “You know of what I speak.”

Maestro stood and so did Ella and I. “Until we meet again,” he said. He turned and I asked him to stop. He stopped but didn’t turn back around.

“This is the second time we’ve talked,” I said, “and I still don’t know your name.”

“The name you applied to me in your account of your first meeting.”

“What, ‘Maestro Nosferatu’?”

“That will suffice. Farewell.” And he was gone.

Problems

Something disquieting happened to Pike shortly after he posted his comment about Pickman’s footage: someone broke into Pike’s home and stole the camera. And nothing else. And the folder on Pike’s computer containing the files he transferred from the camera was gone too. There was some transferred footage that was either undiscovered or left alone, however, which he showed to Ella and me.

There were a few woodland shots of a beast similar to the one we had encountered. Others showed buildings in the background that looked like those at the corporate campus we investigated a year and a half ago. There was movement in the foreground but there wasn’t enough light for me to tell what it was. Another shot appeared to be looking out a window from the inside and the screen just showed blackness within the frame of the window, as if the camera wasn’t registering whatever was out there.

The last shot showed part of a town street at night. The camera was perpendicular to the street and close to the back corner of a building, as if Pickman were trying to avoid being spotted. Moving down the street was what I initially thought was a line of people in frog or fish costumes doing some sort of weird dance. Then I saw that they weren’t dancing, but hopping. A couple of the figures had what looked like tall white tiaras on their heads. Even though we didn’t see much of the street it seemed familiar, as did the weird figures. Pike thinks it may have been the main street at that strange town we visited in our trip up north.

A few nights after that, Ella stopped by my apartment unexpectedly. I’ve seen her in a lot of different situations and she’s always had a measured sort of attitude, even when she’s been fearful, so when she paced around my living room looking pale and anxious I was pretty alarmed. I asked if she was all right.

“I’ve been a little…pressed lately,” she said. “This thing with Pike getting robbed…” she stood against the wall next to one of the windows and moved the blind slightly to look outside. “You probably hadn’t heard of those entities I’m studying before I told you about them.”

“What,” I said, “the goat thing and those other guys?” Ella grimaced. “No, I hadn’t,” I said, before she had a chance to chastise me.

“Well, people besides folklorists do know about them,” she said. “Tes and I found that out in college. We were working on a project that we thought was historical research but ended up being…” She uttered a sardonic chuckle. “An adventure, I guess. Us versus a whole organization.”

“An organization? Like a secret society?”

“Sure. I thought we took care of them.”

“You and Tes took out an entire society?”

“Not alone. I only mentioned that because I didn’t think I needed to take any special precautions anymore. But then the Pickman footage was stolen. And tonight I’ve been followed.”

“What? Are they out there?”

“I don’t see them.”

“Well, do you want to call the police? Or Ingrid?”

“I guess I…”

“ELLA SHERRINFORD.”

We both jumped. It was a voice from my balcony. A commanding, resonant voice that I thought I recognized. I went to the balcony door and slid open the blind. Looking back at me was a cold, aristocratic figure. He was alone, so while our second meeting wouldn’t have the same danger as our first, his stern expression told me that it was going to be at least as nerve-wracking. Maestro Nosferatu.

Awkward

From last post:

Leticia stopped fighting and had the same blank stare she did when Pickman first showed up. Then, with a look of fury, she ran toward me.

Leticia grabbed Pickman and flung him. She raced to where he landed and threw him again. Ella, Ingrid, and Pike stagger-jogged over to me and we followed Leticia.

After a couple minutes we came across her at the edge of a gully, with her back to us. She was tossing aside the crossbow bolt previously lodged in her back. Her head turned slightly as she approached.

“I really wish you guys would stay back,” she said. “I got a little, ah, carried away.”

Ingrid borrowed Ella’s flashlight and shined it into the gully. “Whoa-ho!” she said.

“So he’s dead,” said Ella. She sounded almost irritated.

“Hey, um, Leticia, what happened with you back there?” I said.

“I don’t know,” she said. She still wasn’t looking at us.

“Was he controlling you?” asked Pike.

“Not exactly,” Leticia responded. “Out of nowhere I had this urge. No, it was way stronger than that. It was like I had to…”

I waited for her to finish but she didn’t. “Do you suppose Pickman did something when he took our memories?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “I’ve got people I can ask.”

“Miriam might know,” said Ella.

Leticia turned around. She looked at Ella for a few moments. I thought would be a good occasion for Ella to apologize for shooting Leticia but she just looked back.

“I think,” said Leticia, “I should probably…keep my distance for a while. Until I know for sure what happened.”

“You’re fine now,” I said. “Getting rid of Pickman is probably all you needed to do.”

Leticia sighed. “Maybe. But still…I guess I need to work out whether it’s safe for me to be around, you know, regular folks.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Ella, without much trace of anything resembling sympathy. I looked at her with a little annoyance and she did the same with me.

“All right,” I said, “Well, um, don’t take too long.”

Leticia smiled. “I should probably clean up,” she said. She went in to the gully and hoisted Pickman over her shoulder. She leapt to the edge opposite us.

“Hey Ella,” she said. Ella raised an eyebrow. “Nice shot,” Leticia said. It was too dark to see Leticia’s expression from where I was standing and I couldn’t really read her tone. She sped away.

We went back to the scene of the fight, where we retrieved what gear we could find. Pike was willing to wait until daylight to see if he could find his knife, and was pretty excited about finding Pickman’s camera. I asked Ella why she was less than pleased about Pickman’s death.

“He must have had some astonishing information that we’ll never know,” she said. “But I didn’t think someone I shot with a crossbow would be in a mood to accept criticism.”

We did consult with Miriam the next day, who said that Pickman probably implanted the magical equivalent of a post-hypnotic suggestion in Leticia, one that required his concentration to work.

Come back soon, Vampire Fangirl.

The bride of darkness

From last post:

Leticia was standing in front of Pickman, her shoulders perpendicular to his. She was holding her right arm straight out and in her hand was what I guessed to be the dart Ingrid had fired. Leticia looked over her shoulder at us, eyes wide and fangs bared.

“Oh crap,” said Ingrid. She got her crossbow ready. “Does silver work on vampires?” Pike said he thought so and that’s what his knife was made of.

“But is it, like, an allergy?” asked Ingrid. “If I hit her foot am I going to kill her?”

Pickman laughed. “You must be Ingrid and Pike. Mr. Pike, surely you appreciate the opportunity to give your life for visual art.”

“Die for an art film? Never. Your wolfman’s going to be cake.”

“I’m afraid my associate doesn’t do requests,” said Pickman. “Anyway, I prefer the smaller, more emotional drama of a fight between friends.” The creature growled something at Leticia and loped off.

“OK,” said Ingrid. “So, Leticia, I don’t know if you can hear me or what’s going on, but I’m really sorry that I might have to…”

Leticia charged at Ingrid, checking her with her shoulder and knocking her against a tree. Ingrid collected herself and raised her crossbow, but Leticia grabbed her and threw her into Ella, bouncing the pair of them off another tree. They fell to the ground.

Leticia whirled around in time to see Pike approaching, with the knife instead of the sword. They circled each other briefly, but Leticia put an end to that with a kick to Pike’s temple, knocking him down. She then kicked the knife out of his hand.

I could see why Pickman referred to the situation he created as art: Leticia was a visually stunning adversary, performing incredible feats of strength with elegance, her coat twirling dramatically around her. My awe overcame my common sense, causing me to stand still when she approached me, though I don’t see how flight would have been an option. She grabbed me by my neck and lifted me.

“Poor little man,” Leticia whispered. “Wanting what you can’t have.”

That statement may seem strange now. But looking at her face, whose beauty was weirdly enhanced by an almost feral exultation, the meaning was clear to me.

“Now that’s just the influence of the evil warlock talking,” I responded.

Leticia laughed softly. “I haven’t truly feasted on a human since I was first turned.”

She opened her mouth but instead of approaching my neck, she shrieked and dropped me. She spun around and I saw, sticking out of her lower back, a crossbow bolt.

Crawling to my right I saw Ella, holding an empty crossbow pointed at Leticia. Her head was angled over the weapon, so her hair hung over her face. She looked kind of hot.

Leticia ran at Ella but Pike and Ingrid intercepted her, grabbing her and tackling her to the ground. I saw a light approaching them: Pickman with his camera. I approached the light, walking in a wide curve. Leticia, meanwhile, was on her feet, but her three opponents were putting up a good fight. Soon I was close to Pickman. Close enough to Taser him.

Pickman dropped his camera with a yell. Leticia stopped fighting and had the same blank stare she did when Pickman first showed up. Then, with a look of fury, she ran toward me.

Pickman’s model

Two weekends ago Ingrid notified me that, as promised after our Twilight trip, she was ready to hunt the creature in Pickman’s video. She had been doing some searching over the last several weeks and discovered tracks that she thinks it left. The party would be Ingrid, me, Ella, Pike and Leticia, and we would be tracking it at night.

As with the werewolf hunt, we first gathered at Ingrid’s. Ingrid was bringing her machete again but was using a pistol instead of a rifle for tranquilizer darts. She also had her crossbow slung over her shoulder. She gave Tasers to Ella and me. Pike had the sword he brought to the cabin and a knife in his belt. “I guess you don’t need anything, huh?” Ingrid said to Leticia. Leticia responded by assuming a fighting stance and saying “Hwa-cha!” All of us were bundled up but she was wearing a simple black overcoat.

Ingrid had night vision goggles and Leticia had her natural version, and the moon was bright enough so that the rest of us didn’t need our flashlights to follow them. The local university operates a laboratory farm that includes a horse barn and rodeo arena, and it was there that we parked and made our approach to the wooded area that the amphitheater also borders.

The werewolf hunt had kind of a thrill but for this one the feeling of danger was stronger. It was kind of funny, trying to think of why hunting a werewolf wasn’t as big a deal as hunting a wolf Bigfoot or whatever it was we saw in Pickman’s video. Ingrid assured us she found only one set of tracks, which gave us some slight relief.

Leticia picked up on the creature’s scent before Ingrid spotted fresh tracks. As we mere humans followed the trail we too detected an odor like decaying meat. So we weren’t surprised when Leticia soon held up her hand and Ingrid raised her crossbow. We moved forward slowly.

We saw it in profile as it was digging in the ground near a fallen tree. After I had been looking at it for a few seconds it turned its head toward us with a smooth movement and stood. It was at least six feet high. I knew what it looked like from the video but seeing it in the flesh I saw that its face was more expressive than I thought, more like an ape’s than a dog’s. It growled in a way that sounded like it spoke a word. I thought it sounded like “gadara” but Ella says it was “garuda.”

“Whoa,” said Ingrid, “Ella! Should we, like, talk to it?”

“You’re asking me?”

“Well, yeah, you’re into weird stuff.”

“You hunt werewolves!”

“Shhh!” It was Leticia. “There’s someone else here.”

We heard footsteps on the snow and then a light shone on us. The surprise made the light seem larger and brighter than it was. Once I collected myself I saw that it was a light attached to a video camera. I heard a man’s voice murmuring. Then he spoke.

“So pleased to see you again,” the man with the camera said. “Though of course you don’t remember our first meeting.”

“Pickman,” I said. I looked at Leticia, who had fought Pickman in our first encounter, but she was just staring blankly. The creature hadn’t moved.

“That’s Pickman?” said Ingrid. “Should I put him to sleep?”

Ella and I agreed. Ingrid fired her pistol.

And then Leticia was standing in front of Pickman, her shoulders perpendicular to his. She was holding her right arm straight out and in her hand was what I guessed to be the dart Ingrid had fired. Leticia looked over her   shoulder at us, eyes wide and fangs bared.

Another blog, another Twilight post

This weekend I joined an actual vampire, a werewolf hunter, a scholar of the weird, and a sword-wielding filmmaker for a matinee of the new Twilight movie. It was something Leticia suggested, I guess to show us there were no hard feelings after we crashed the film festival last month. Or maybe to punish us.

Seeing New Moon isn’t something I would have considered if Leticia hadn’t asked and I think Ella, Ingrid, and Pike felt the same way. Before the movie started we would periodically look at each other with “So…um…Twilight” kinds of expressions. We sat on a side bank of seats near the back, so Pike and Ingrid wouldn’t obstruct the views of 90% of the people in the audience.

The order we were sitting in was Ingrid, Ella, me, Leticia, and Pike. My position in the middle gave me an interesting auditory experience. For instance, here’s what I heard from my left and right in the scene when Bella mopes around for three months:

I: chortle
E: exasperated sigh
L: sympathetic “mmmm”
P: derisive “pfff”

Here’s what I heard when Jacob whips his shirt off:

I: chortle
E: intrigued “mmmm”
L: luxurious “mmmm”
P: exasperated sigh

Afterward we went to Perkins, where Leticia assured us she wouldn’t take it personally if we didn’t like the movie. Her only complaint seemed to be that the sole red-haired vampire was a villainess. Actually, most of the time we spent on the movie was asking Leticia how closely it matched up with her experience. There weren’t a lot of questions she was comfortable answering directly.

Ella asked her if there was an actual vampire council like the Volturi and Leticia responded that if there was, you wouldn’t have to get in an elevator to see them. Ingrid asked if Edward was a typical vampire. “I’ve met some like that,” Leticia said with a smirk.

Pike wondered if vampires’ fangs get in the way if they kiss humans and requested that Leticia demonstrate a safe mouth-to-mouth kissing technique on Ingrid. Leticia and Ingrid laughed and Ella uttered the same sigh she did during the movie.

I  asked about human-vampire couples. Actually it was more like, “So, a human and vampire…you know…is that…I mean…do…” Leticia responded that it was complicated. Actually it was more like, “Yeah…I…there have been…it’s not…um…” Ingrid put an end to it by slamming her hand on the table. “Dudes!” she exclaimed. “We’ve got to hunt that dog thingy once there’s snow on the ground and I can track it!” We agreed.