The Vampire's Valet
The servant stuck his head through the laboratory door.
"In the bedroom."
Willie trotted down the hallway to his master's chamber. "Yessir?"
"Julia and I are going to Collinwood. Help me dress."
"Uh, okay." The servant buttoned up the vampire's vest and attached cufflinks to his dress shirt. Of course Barnabas was perfectly capable of dressing himself, but Willie figured it was an aristocrat thing. Or maybe the boss was looking for an excuse to make conversation, as he sometimes did. The master sat in an upright velvet chair as Willie knelt on the floor to tie his shoelaces.
"There's a good lad," He patted Willie's head; the young man flinched but resisted the urge to pull away.
"Why do you always treat me like some kid? I'm 28 years old, almost 29."
"Are you really? I hadn't noticed. The passage of time means little to me."
"One of these days, you're going to yell Willie and a crotchety old man will hobble in."
"I am sure you will retire before that on the tidy sum I have been coerced into paying you."
"Speaking of money…" he hesitated. "I, uh, need some more." The master's smile inverted abruptly. "I want to get my truck fixed. Julia only gives me an hour to go into town but won't always loan me her car so I have to walk. By the time I get there it's time to come back again. So I called the shop to tow the pickup and they said it would cost $1,000 to do all the repairs."
"That's a great deal of money, boy—rather, young man. What does Polonius say?"
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be. But you'd get it back, a little each week. The garage won't let me pay it off on time because I don't have a credit card." Then Willie muttered to himself, "I used to have a lot of different credit cards."
"I will consider the matter based on your performance of duties over the next few days. Fetch the maroon tie." Willie smiled with the knowledge that it was Barnabas' way of saying yes and hastily procured the accessory to wrap it around the vampire's neck.
"Uh, I don't know how to fix these things; I never learned."
"Then we are not off to an alacritous start. In 28 years, you've never worn a necktie?"
"Well, yeah, at school, but that was a clip-on, and once for my wedding; Julia did it for me." The master proceeded to knot the tie himself. "I do have one, though. It's blue. Got it for a Christmas present once."
"Bring it here."
"Don't question me. A proper valet must know how to dress his master, so I'm going to teach you."
"Five minutes ago would have been better."
"Of course in my day we wore ruffled cravats so this is a skill I too recently acquired." Barnabas stood behind the young man and reached around his neck. In the full length mirror Willie saw himself alone and the tie moving by itself. However, he could feel the vampire at his back.
"Stop squirming and pay attention." Barnabas sniffed the other man's collar. "What is that scent you're wearing?"
"Laundry detergent. Uh, I ought to be checking in on the blood monster. Julia's going to get mad."
"Am I the master here or is Julia?"
Brother, you don't want to know the real answer to that question.
Dr. Hoffman appeared in the doorway, arms folded.
"And what are you boys up to?" She flashed her plastic smile. "Is Willie joining us tonight?"
"Of course not." Barnabas turned his manservant around and held him at arm's length. "Let's see now. That is quite charming, much more mature and dignified." Willie looked away awkwardly. "'Tis pity it is so wrinkled. You must hang this in your wardrobe, because someday you will want to go somewhere special, and it will be at the ready."
Willie couldn't imagine where he would be going that would require such formal attire. Of course, Barnabas wore suits and ties just to hang around the house
"I cannot abide spending one more evening in the same room as that witch, Julia." Willie helped the vampire into his suit jacket and proceeded to utilize the clothes brush handed to him. "She's toying with me, like a cat with her captured prey."
Dr. Hoffman decided to change her earrings. "Cassandra won't dare make a move with Roger and everyone right there. When you let her get to you like this, she wins. You must try to ignore her."
"Hard to ignore those crazy eyes," Willie muttered as he hung up the master's dressing gown. He looked around to see the couple staring at him. "What?
"What do you know of Cassandra Collins?" Barnabas looked concerned.
"Nothing. I-I never met the lady. David told me about her when he came to visit me at Wyndcliff. He don't like her either."
"You must say nothing to Mrs. Collins, no matter how seemingly innocent, and never let her into this house."
"Yessir. Can I go now?" Barnabas waved his hand dismissively as the servant swiftly left the room.
"So before here I was at a luxury resort for loonies called Wyndcliff. They say I tried to kill myself but I don't remember much about that night, except it was Christmas. It must be true, though, there's all these scars on my arms to prove it. Of course, you got me beat in that contest; you look like a patchwork quilt."
Willie continued his one-sided conversation to the comatose creature as he attached a new IV drip.
"This one is so you don't get dehydrated. Anyway, it was probably because Julia yelled at me that day, and Maggie asked for a divorce, and Barnabas, well, let's just say he got mad. But, if it weren't for him, you wouldn't even be here. That's who this blood is for, but he don't like them bags much. I can tell from the way he looks at me sometimes. Julia thinks it's because when live people get attacked, they get this surge of something called adrenalin and that probably gives the old man a rush. But she don't approve of that so he's not allowed to bite her, even though they're married. Seriously, I never saw such a pussy-whipped vampire. Hey, look, here's the new stuff I'm going to inject in this tube that's supposed to make your red-cell blood count climb faster.
"Before Wyndcliff I lived in a party palace with my wife, Maggie. We're divorced now. Boy, did I fuck up that big time. Now, you never met Maggie but take it from me, she is just about the prettiest girl in the world. It's a wonder she ever went out with me, and I'll tell you something else…"
"She gets very horny when she's drunk," he whispered in the monster's ear.
"So Sam said Maggie and me had to get married because she was having a baby but I went bat-shit crazy and scared her off. I think I'm all cured now, then again, maybe not—here I am telling you all this stuff and you don't hear one damn thing I say. You're just a big, blood-pumping vegetable, just like the zombies in Ward C. But I figure what the hell, because Stanley used to talk to me when I was a zombie, and that may be how I got better.
"Do you get tired of this same food every day, or can you even taste it? I guess not if it goes right into your stomach. Looks like spinach water because it's full of iron to make you strong like Popeye.
"Just between you and me, Maggie's not the only looker in town. Miss Carolyn Stoddard, man, I thought she was a hot number from Day One. And that pretty new bartender. And Nurse Jessie, I am seriously in love with her; she has such a sweet stack. I used to cry whenever she came in the room just so she would hug me. You'd be surprised what you can get out of women by crying.
"You know, since I'm not a patient there anymore, Jessie might go out with me; do you think? I sure would like to go see her—and say hi to the other guys too; I miss them a lot, didn't even get to say goodbye or nothing. Well, Stanley's not there anymore; he went home to be a dentist again, but there's Bug Eyes, Roberta, Wendy, Moira, Angela and Tranny Jack. And Gene was my favorite therapist. He's the one who got me to talk good again and pronounce all my words, just like Barnabas the aristocrat."
The lab assistant dumped a bag of brown liquid into the waste container.
"Shit, it won't work; Wyndcliff is too far away and I can't leave the baby alone." Willie considered the matter for a moment. "Unless…what if I turned down the knobs, that would slow down the drips? Then they would last longer and the other bags wouldn't fill up as fast, right? Then I could run over there and come right back. Makes sense to me, as long as Julia don't find out." He smiled. "You won't tell, will you?"
Willie labeled the red bag and placed it in the corresponding compartment in the fridge.
"Yes, yes, I'll read to you some more. Let me finish my job here first, will you? What do you want to hear tonight? Not Hamlet again! That always makes you sad at the end when he says The rest is silence. Wait, I have a surprise." He pulled a large library book from the armoire. "This is by a guy named Stephen King, who lives over in Bangor. He knows people a lot like us."