Thursday, November 11, 2010

Slaying the Blues

Heather Field readied herself for the last set of the night. Her real name was Heather File but she felt that "Field" was earthier, greener, and more memorable. As she sat on the stool she viewed herself in the mirror behind the bar. She decided that she looked good. Enough men had hit on her that night, as on every other night, to reinforce her opinion.

Still, she knew she was no longer a kid. Heather was 34 and admitted to 27. Even the latter was older than record companies liked. They preferred to sign new artists on their 18th birthdays. She was a decade older than the last major label rep to whom she had spoken.

Heather was able to survive in New York City despite her slim earnings thanks to her mother, who had died two years earlier. Although her relationship with her daughter always had been tempestuous, Mrs. File, when her health was failing, had purchased a one room condominium on Bedford Street in the West Village for Heather. Heather later split a $400,000 legacy with her estranged sister. Heather already had spent most of her share subsidizing her musical career.

Heather downed her first shot of the evening. Within a minute she could feel the warmth in her stomach seep into her bloodstream. A familiar unease accompanied the glow. She knew something evil was about. Heather enjoyed the sense of importance this knowledge gave her. She knew that few other people shared her special sense: When drunk enough, Heather could see the vampires inside people. These were not movie vampires with all the nonsense about bats and mirrors. These were the real ones who inhabited people whose souls were dark enough to admit them into their bodies. It was no wonder that by and large they went unnoticed. When sober, even Heather doubted their existence.

Heather had a drinking problem, or at least other people thought that she did, but she didn’t let it interfere with her music. Her self-imposed rule was no booze until the last set. The other band members drank steadily throughout the night. They also slipped out to the parking lot between sets to mellow out with some weed.

The club was a dive called the Midnight Café in Budd Lake, NJ. Heather thought this was an inappropriate name for a bar that shut its kitchen at ten, and turned out the lights at one o’clock in the morning. Playing Jersey was a pain, but there simply were not enough paying clubs in the city to keep the band working steadily. She was thrilled finally to have played at The Bitter End on Bleecker in the Village the previous week. It had been early on a Wednesday. Prime time for the club was definitely late night on Friday or Saturday, but the gig was a foot in the door.

The unimaginatively but satisfyingly named Heather Field Band played traditional-style blues-based Rock and Roll. The band on any given night consisted of herself on vocals and electric piano plus three other musicians who varied from gig to gig. There were three guitarists, two drummers, and four bass players who frequently booked with her. All of them lived hand to mouth, so any one of them would abandon her for a higher paying gig on an hour’s notice. She was frustrated by the disloyalty, but she understood it and expected it. She was especially concerned about her drummers. She was down to two regulars because a third, once her favorite, had announced he was going on a working tour of Europe and then vanished. There was an endless supply of musicians in New York, of course, so she always could cold-call one at the last minute, but she liked to rehearse at least a little before hitting the stage, even such a tiny stage as the one she was playing that night. She hated working with a total stranger new to her material.

Tonight the drummer was one of her regulars, a peculiar young woman named Krista. Heather had mixed feelings about working with another woman. On the plus side it was easier to communicate with her than with the guys, and she was an added novelty for the band in an industry that still was very heavy on the testosterone. In the negative column, what Krista had to communicate wasn’t always pleasant, and there was no doubt that she took some of the shine off Heather as the star of the band.

Tonight Mike was on bass. He was competent and loud. The man was overweight, 30-ish, and sported a thick beard. He lived in his mother’s basement in Westchester.

Harlan was on lead guitar. He was short, good looking, and 20. He had an idiosyncratic style that Heather couldn't decide whether she liked. There always was an identifiable edge to the band’s sound when Harlan played with it. The irony that he was the sole black member of a blues-based band was not lost on him. Harlan lived in Alphabet City with his girlfriend, a bartender from New Zealand. She, like so many Significant Others of musicians, paid most of the bills.

Heather swallowed a second shot at a gulp and ordered another. She glanced over at the table where Arthur sat. Arthur was a roadie, though she hadn’t thought of him that way until this moment.

Arthur was a musician of sorts himself. Of Sorts. He had studied classical trombone as a teenager. At the time, he had written a number of arrangements that had impressed his teachers. Arthur's father, however, a well-meaning but domineering man, made it clear that Arthur needed to pursue a more marketable skill in order to expect any help with college tuition. Arthur had bent to his father’s will, and took classes in computer science at Rutgers. Rather to his own surprise, Arthur soon found he had a knack for programming. In a way, a computer program was analogous to a musical arrangement. He graduated in time for the PC explosion, and had made a good if unremarkable living ever since.

All through high school and college, Arthur had made ignorance of popular music a point of personal pride. Among his tapes and CDs, Mahler’s works played by the Chicago Symphony were the closest to being hit recordings. This didn't help his social life, which already suffered from his introverted personality. He never partied on a Spring Break road trip. He never lost in love, nor won either. He never attended a major rock concert. Now, pushing 40 and single, Arthur believed he had missed something in life, and there was some justice to his opinion. The first time he heard Heather sing in a tiny bar on 9th Avenue in NYC he decided to find it while he still had time.

Arthur's first heard Heather on his birthday several months earlier. Two of his male co-workers, Jack and Nguyen, had taken him on the town as a present. The present was mostly to themselves. Both were married and the birthday "dinner" gave them an excuse to go home late. There was no dinner, but there was alcohol. They had led Arthur to several music bars, and he had allowed himself to be led. As they walked along 9th, the sound of Heather’s band drew them in from the street. The club was named Llama for no obvious reason. Once inside, Arthur’s companions soon noticed osculatory activity at a nearby table, and grasped that the primary clientele in the club was lesbian.

"Hey dude, let's move on to The Pink Pussycat like we planned," Nguyen suggested.

Arthur declined to accompany them.

"I think I'll stay," he said.

"I don't think you'll have much luck here, but suit yourself," Jack answered.

Jack and Nguyen left without him.

Arthur approached Heather shyly between the third and the last set and said he liked her sound. He mentioned that there were a lot of clubs near his home in New Jersey she might consider playing.

“I don’t have a car,” she explained. “One of my drummers had a van, but he went to Europe and I don’t know what the hell he did with it. A couple other guys have subcompacts, but they can barely fit themselves and their own instruments into them, and I can't rely on them anyway. So, I can’t play Jersey anymore.”

“I have an SUV,” Arthur offered.

Heather looked at him closely. She didn’t see a vampire inside. That wasn’t proof, of course. For one thing she wasn't drunk yet. For another, some vampires were good at hiding even when her alcohol level was elevated. She decided to gamble on trusting him. She reached into her purse.

“Here’s a demo tape. If you can get me some gigs out there you can drive me to them.”

She gave Arthur her phone number. Arthur called her a few days later. He actually had gone from bar to bar out in Jersey and managed to line up gigs.

Ever since then, Arthur had driven her, and often another musician or two, to New Jersey clubs. He stayed through all the sets and then drove her back. He was a reliable designated driver. Heather never saw him even mildly drunk.

Arthur was a normal enough male to make passes at her from time to time, but Heather would have none of it. She wasn’t above teasing him. She rather enjoyed doing so, but in the end she always would put him off without clearly shutting the door for the future. She had no compunctions about this. Men had taken advantage of her often enough. The last loser with whom she had lived was a worse alcoholic than she was. She had given him a place to live, food to eat, and gas for his bike. His thanks was to dump her for some 17-year-old runaway. For the past year she had persisted in a sporadic affair with a married man. He plainly was just using her. Besides, she felt Arthur should be happy just to hang out with her and her friends. She was part of New York’s artistic bohemian crowd. She hoped he appreciated the opportunity.

Heather sometimes changed clothes between sets if the mood struck her. She always kept a few outfits stored in Arthur’s car just in case. On this night at The Midnight Café she chose to stay in the fringed black leather in which she had started.

Heather belted down one more shot and walked back to the stage. The rest of the band slowly took their places.

Arthur’s table was right next to the women’s rest room door. That was an uncomfortable place but it was where Heather had asked him to sit, because it was the best spot for the cheap tape recorder he tended to pick up the sound. Heather liked to listen to tapes to evaluate the performances. Several women had given Arthur sidelong looks, however, as they brushed by. One long-haired brunette even chided him in passing, “You like hanging out by the ladies bathroom?” He didn’t.

Heather covered several classic numbers including a powerful version of Unchain My Heart. Her voice had a marvelous range. It could be sweet and smooth. It could be ragged and dirty. People often compared her to Janis Joplin but that wasn’t accurate. Her voice was as strong, but the style was all her own.

Arthur, as always, was impressed. Whatever her quirks as a human being, he figured Heather was a real talent. He was aware, however, that Heather’s sound was passé. Basic rock and roll had a following and always would. As demotic music went, it was good, meaty, solid stuff. The surviving old bands still sold CDs. Yet, for new groups it hadn’t been truly commercial for a generation. One might have better luck trying to revive disco -- in fact, the currently dominant pop sound wasn't far off. In his opinion, an opinion he never voiced to Heather, The Heather Field Band was destined to play in small bars and nowhere else. All the same, he found his experience with Heather rewarding on some level, and maybe he was wrong about the market. He hoped so.

Heather, as usual, finished with an original number. It was a mischievous warning to any boozy floozy in the bar. The male band members never complained about it. It probably didn’t make any difference.

“This is a song called Subterranean Groupie Blues,” she announced.

He sure looked foxy up on the stage
With his shag, his guitar and all
And as he winked at me I thought
He might be fun to ball

One week later he moved in my place
We had burst his waterbed’s seams
His amps filled up my living room
But who cared we were such a marvelous team

A rocknroll dream

Every night with the other band chicks
I sat and watched him play
We snorted smoked and tripped all night
And then we slept all day

But it got to be a drag
Oh yeah babe
Our love began to sag

He never even wakes up till noon
And then he rehearses all day
Claims he has no time to sweep the floor
But he’ll sure find the time to smoke a jay

The drummer and keyboard man lounge around
Watching football on my tv
Eating my food smoking my dope
And they want me to silk screen their shirts for free

And when the band goes off on tour
He wants me home and true
But every time I pick up the phone
A female voice asks who are you

He dedicates his songs to me
Up there on that microphone
Think that’s a blast, well later on
He’ll be too tired to get it on

Things are going a little too far
When I take a backseat to a fuckin guitar

I’d rather not have an old man at all
Or one that’s really uptight
Than to be a band man’s girl
And to sit around horny all night

After the set, Heather collected $400 from the manager. She gave Mike, Harlan, and Krista $75 each. She never offered anything to Arthur and he never asked. Before leaving the bar, Heather bought a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

In the dark parking lot, Krista, Arthur and Harlan loaded up the car. Mike drove home in his own Escort. Arthur’s Chevy SUV barely was large enough for the drums, amps, piano, guitar, and passengers. Harlan sat in the back seat with the equipment that overflowed the cargo area. Arthur got behind the wheel. Krista slid in next to him. Heather sat next to her. Arthur could see nothing through the rear view mirror and the girls blocked the right outside mirror. He backed up carefully while looking out the left window. There were no thuds or bumps. He changed gears to Drive and exited the parking lot.

As they rolled east on Route 46, Arthur made conversation. “You know, a body was found in the reeds down in Stirling. Remember that place we played that backed up to the swamp?”

“Man or woman?” Krista asked.

“Man. It was a local guy. They didn’t find him for weeks even though his car was in the lot. He lived alone and worked at a gas station. The station owner didn’t report him missing because those guys often come and go. It took a while before anyone noticed he was gone.”

“What happened to him?”

“They said he was stabbed.”

“Yeah, well you know what can happen when guys get drunk in bars,” said Harlan. “They get into fights about stupid shit.”

“That’s pretty much what the cops said too.”

“Have you booked us into other deadly spots?” asked Krista.

“Actually some guy was killed in Randolph near a club we played too. But that wasn’t on the grounds. It was right around the corner in his own apartment.”

“That doesn’t count,” said Harlan. “I didn’t know there were so many crazy asses out here. Everyone says New York is bad.”

“There are vampires everywhere,” said Heather. She unscrewed the top of the Jack Daniel’s and took a swig.

“You’ll have to point one out to me sometime.”

“Maybe you’re one.”


“I have to talk to you about your playing,” she continued.

“Have you got a problem?” Harlan asked.

“Yeah. This is a blues band.”


“You don’t play blues.”

“What the fuck do you mean I don’t play blues? What do I play?”

“I don’t know, but it’s not blues. And please don’t talk to me that way.”

“What is your definition of blues?”

“Blues notes are flattened third, fifth, and seventh notes of the major scale.”

“Oh, that’s bullshit, lady. I don’t care what you learned in a textbook. Blues doesn’t come out of textbooks. Blues is about what you feel and how you make that sound. If you get too formal about it you miss the whole point. And by your definition, you don’t sing the blues yourself.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No you don’t. And that’s OK because it sounds good. Why would you want to sound like anybody else?”

“I don’t want to argue with you about it. I’m just looking for a particular sound. We need to rehearse some more to get it, that’s all. What do you think, Arthur?”

Arthur was on the spot. He didn’t want to offend Heather by disagreeing with her, but neither did he want to lose her respect by agreeing to absolutely anything she said. The question was outside his particular training. He decided simply to express his taste. “I like the sound of your band when Harlan plays.”

“You don’t know shit about it,” she responded.

It was nearly 2:30 before they reached the Village.

“It’s still early. Why don’t you guys come up for a while?” Heather offered.

“Just drop me off across town,” Harlan said.

“Oh, don’t be so sensitive. Come on up.”

“Maybe for a while.”

Arthur found a parking space on Grove, less than a block from Heather’s apartment building. Each of the four grabbed some of Heather’s equipment. The walk was pleasant. It was a warm night.

The four clambered up both flights of stairs to 2B, Heather’s apartment. Walk-up apartments in New York often are numbered in European fashion in the hope that innumerate tenants won’t notice the extra flight.

Sufficient alcohol also can affect one’s step count. Heather once told Arthur she had visited the apartment of a vampire. As soon as she had perceived the nature of her host, she had fled. The apartment was one flight up but she had to run eight flights to get back down. She offered this variable geometry as proof of vampiral power. “I just barely got out of there,” she said.

As Arthur more than once had helped her up steps that made only tenuous contact with her consciousness, the testimony of Heather in this instance lacked credibility with him. While a skeptic by nature himself, he nevertheless found Heather’s mysticism entertaining.

Heather's apartment measured 10 feet by 20 including the bathroom and kitchenette. A TV tilted precariously on a plastic egg crate that bent under the weight. A boom box perched on the TV. A frameless futon mattress that could fold into something resembling a couch presently was open and topped with rumpled sheets and blankets. A small chair backed up to the window. A Baldwin upright Model 248 piano was next to the futon. All surfaces except the piano top and the piano bench were strewn with clothes, empty beer bottles, empty whiskey bottles, cat toys, CDs, used paper plates, cosmetics and less identifiable objects. A black cat was curled up on a jacket on the floor.

Heather settled down amid the clothes on the open mattress. She drank deeply from the Jack and passed the bottle to Harlan. He shrugged, swigged and passed the bottle back. He sat in the chair. Papers audibly crunched as he did so. Krista raided the refrigerator. She cracked open a Budweiser and handed one to Arthur. Heather knew it would last him all evening. Arthur sat on the bench. Krista plopped down next to Heather.

Arthur knew Heather's superstition and alcohol were closely related. When sober, Heather would entertain something close to a naturalistic world view. She was not close such a view tonight. The last time Arthur had seen Heather this drunk she had asked him if he were a vampire after her soul. It was a serious question.

“Thanks for the ride, Arthur. Why did you talk about those murder victims? Did you stab them?”

“No. I just worry about you sometimes. You walk out of bars sometimes at 4 in the morning. A lot of the guys in those places are watching you.”

“Thank you. You don’t think that maybe they like my music? The only reason anyone would stay in a bar where I'm playing is because he wants to fuck me?”

“You’re welcome. I’m sure they do like your music, but they still might have other ideas. Obviously, some guys are dangerous.”

“That’s why we want you there, tough guy,” teased Krista. “Notice he doesn’t give a shit if anyone comes after me with a knife. He just worries about the songbird. Or ain’t I hot enough to arouse that kind of passion?”

“Sure you are,” said Harlan gallantly. “I frequently feel like killing you.”


Krista pulled a joint from a shirt pocket and lit up. She passed it to Harlan. He took a hit and offered it to Heather. She shook her head and swigged Jack Daniel’s. Arthur declined with a hand signal. Harlan handed the joint back to Krista.

“Well at least that’s one thing you two have in common,” said Harlan, referring to the weed refusals. “Probably the only thing. I’m amazed that you get along.”

“Arthur has some motive I haven’t figured out yet. It worries me sometimes,” said Heather.

“Maybe he’s in love,” suggested Krista.

“Are you in love, Arthur?” Heather asked.

“I’m not sure I know what the word means.”

“That is an evasion.”

“Maybe, but I still don’t know what the word means.”

“Haven’t you ever had your heart broken? Or broken somebody else’s? The second is worse, by the way.”

“No and no. The second is worse for whom?”

“For yourself. The only affair I feel really bad about is the one where I chased him out. He was a loser but he was a sweetheart, you know?”

“I know,” said Krista.

Heather swallowed more whiskey and stood up.

“Get off the bench, Arthur. I have to sit there. Sit down next to Krista."

Heather plunked a key on the Baldwin.

"This is my Mean Woman Song."

burned out baby
hitching around
mountains and deserts
bringing him down

didn’t wanna travel
nothing else to do
sweet souled man
just wanted to be true

living in a sleeping bag
instead of my warm bed
no loving to remember
just mean things I said

wish I had a tv screen
to follow where he’s been
wish I had a time machine
I’d love him again

if I were the sunshine
I’d dance before his eyes
If I were the ocean
I’d rock him as he cries

I burned out my baby
I sent him away
he hitched to the West Coast
he wanted to stay

There was a pounding from the wall in back of the piano. Krista and Harlan pounded back.

"Have the bench back, Arthur."

“So you feel guilty when you break hearts?” asked Arthur.

“No, just that one. You can’t expect me to regret mistreating all the guys who love me. I can handle guilt for only one. He’s it. Fuck the others.”

“Right on, sister,” toasted Krista.

Krista drained her bottle and went for another beer. She brought one back for Harlan too. She lit a second joint and shared that with him too.

Harlan noticed Krista’s muscled arms. “Those drums make you strong, don’t they?”

“Uh-huh, but it’s not just the drums. I work out a lot. I’m a good trainer too.”

She poked Harlan’s belly. He was not fat but he wasn’t athletically trim either. “Let me train you, Harlan baby. You listen Mama Kris and we’ll bust that belly and work up a wealth of health. Eat what I tell you, and work out like I say and you’ll be chiseled bitch bait in no time. The hookers will be all over you.”

Heather always found suburbanites who attempted to affect an urban style of banter to be silly. Hailing from the suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon, Krista passed beyond silly and approached surreal. She reminded Heather of a bar in Hawaii where she had witnessed Japanese tourists learning to line dance.

“How much fat are you planning to take out of my wallet?” Harlan asked.

“Fat is bad. Look what I can do for you. Drink my six pack, Harlan.” Krista pulled up her blouse to reveal a firmly muscled stomach. “We’ll be bouncing quarters off you in no time. Another hit?”


Heather caressed her bottle and swallowed yet again. “I’m beginning to get buzzed,” she said.

“I believe that,” agreed Arthur. “The last time I saw you this way you asked me if I were a vampire.”

“What did you answer?”


“If you were, you wouldn’t say.”


“I’m not going there with you.”


“Don’t be so smug, you jackass! There is more to the world than you think there is. There are vampires. There are ghosts too, Arthur. I’ve seen them. You would see the them too if you would just open your mind.”

Arthur’s skepticism was a trait that actively annoyed Heather. She would have preferred him to claim he was a ghoul in disguise.

“I come originally from Virginia and that is bloody ground,” she continued. “Ghosts are everywhere there. One time I was driving home in the rain at night and there was this black woman walking along the road. Other people saw her too on other nights. I asked. I stopped to give her a ride, opened the door, and she was gone.”

“Let’s review this. An old black woman walking alone at night in the South. A pickup truck screeches to a halt. You would be gone too.”

“Not funny.”

“It wasn’t intended to be.”

Heather gave Harlan a look for assistance.

“I’m not touching that one,” he said.

Heather tried again. “Another time, my friends and I were partying in this house we were renting. It was haunted. I saw a face form on the wall with a derby hat. All my friends saw it too when I showed them. You can ask them. They started screaming and everything. They’ll tell you.”

“Partying on what? Never mind. It doesn’t matter. You can see pretty much whatever you want to see. And maybe whatever you fear too. I can see an image on the wall right now if I want to. Sober.”

“Arthur, you are so closed minded! It’s the one thing that really worries me about you.”

Arthur nearly answered that he thought vampirism was the one thing that really worried her about him, but he thought better of it. “There is an argument that mystics are the ones who are closed minded. That they refuse to accept the evidence about how the world works. Instead they mindlessly persist in wishful or fearful thinking.”

“I'm not mindless. There are powers and energies in this world beyond what you can touch with your fingers, Arthur. I can prove it.”


“Do you believe in crystal power?”


“I can prove that one right now.”

Heather pulled out a crystal that hung on a chain around her neck. She walked over to Harlan.

“Hold up your hand, Harlan.”

She waved the crystal from side to side in front of Harlan’s palm.

“Do you feel heat as the point of the crystal passes in front of your hand?”

“Yeah, I do kind of,” said Harlan honestly.

She turned and did the same to Krista.

“You Krista?”

“Shit yeah.”

"Here. Try it, Arthur. Do you feel it?”

Arthur hesitated before answering, “No. I’m more aware of what my palm is feeling as I see the crystal pass. So I sense something. But the source of that is me, not the crystal. I don’t feel any actual heat from the crystal.”

“You are just being stubborn.”

“Close your eyes," suggested Arthur. “Hold up your palm, and let me wave the crystal at you. You tell me by the heat alone when the crystal is in front of your hand,”

Heather closed her eyes as Arthur removed the necklace from her. He waved the stone in front of her upraised palm.

“Speak up when you think the point is in front of your palm.”

“OK. Now... now... now... now... now... now.” She opened her eyes. “How’d I do?” she asked.

“Mixed bag,” Harlan answered.

"You were right twice and wrong four times," Arthur clarified. "A purely random result."

“That’s because of your negative energy. It works better when you aren’t so hostile.”

Heather shifted the subject to metaphysics. Her opinions were very Star Wars. “I’m not a Christian but there is a lot of truth in Christianity. There is a lot of truth in Buddhism. There are light and dark forces. The dark side is very powerful and people are attracted to it because they get what they want in this life. But reincarnation is a fact and you evolve toward the light only by associating with the light. Most people are on the fence. They are not real good and not real bad but sooner or later you have to choose which side you are on. The people who choose the light have a very hard time of it. They take a lot of abuse. But don’t take revenge on people. You have to know that people will treat you badly sometimes.”

"Hence the old saying, 'Let no good deed go unpunished.'”

Heather aimed an appalled stare at him. “Statements like that are why I stay up nights thinking about you. You know, I dismiss a lot of this stuff when I’m sober, but when I’m high I’m in touch with the way things are. I think that maybe you are very dangerous. What side of the fence are you on?”

“I don’t accept your cosmology. There is no dark side. There is no light side. There is no fence.”

“You say that because maybe you’ve already chosen the dark side.”


“Vampires are very seductive. People allow them into themselves willingly because they bring you great pleasure. But it is hard to get them out again. They consume you until they become you. Usually death is the best escape for anyone not totally lost. Are you a vampire?”

“I don’t believe in vampires.

“Are you a vampire?”

“You have seen me in the daytime.”

“That doesn’t matter. Vampires are not like in the movies. They are after human souls.”

“No such thing.”

Heather sighed and sipped more whiskey. “I’m sorry, Arthur. You always have been nice to me and generous to me. I shouldn’t accuse you of something like that. You are a good person. But your karma is at risk. You have to learn that there are ghosts. There are witches. There are vampires. There are demons. Have you ever started awake and had to catch your breath? That was a demon holding you down. There is evil in the world as real power and force. Do you believe in evil?”

“Evil is whatever fashionable philosophers say it is."

“That is so wrong and so dangerous to yourself. Will you believe your own ears? Will you believe your own eyes?”

“I usually do.”

“Talk to a ghost. Do it now. Speak to a dead relative. Just open your mind. You’ll hear an answer.”

Arthur parodied Svengali, “That would just be Arthur talking to himself.”

“No, it wouldn’t!” she insisted with exasperation. “I am going to conjure up demons. That will damage my karma but I can spare it. I have enough good that it won’t destroy me.”

“Time out!” shouted Krista. “Don’t do that, honey.”

“It’s all right. I can protect you. I’ll protect Harlan too.”

“I appreciate that,” Harlan thanked her dryly.

“Let’s pass on the experiment,” said Arthur.

“Why not, if you don’t believe? You will believe when I’m done. They will swirl around you and bite your legs! You’ll see things that will scare you shitless! I have to do this to save you, Arthur.”

Krista waved a forefinger. “Uh …”

“Don’t worry. I’ll put a shield around you and Harlan. You won’t even see them clearly, but Arthur will.”

“No. Drop it, Heather.”

“Why, Arthur?”

“Because I know what is going to happen. I won’t see anything. Then you’ll resent me for saying so.”

“You’ll see something,” she said while beginning to pick candles off the shelves. “Sit on the bench.”

Heather cleared a space on the floor, arranged a pattern of candles, turned off the lights, and struck a match.

Krista’s eyes were firmly shut. Harlan was fascinated by the bizarre scene.

Heather sat with her eyes shut amid the burning candles. She opened her eyes slowly and a look of horror came over her face. “They’re hovering over you! Saliva is dripping down your shoulder! Don’t tell me you don’t feel that thing clawing at your leg! What do you see? Tell me!”

Arthur sat placidly on the piano bench.

“I see you. I see the shadows cast by flickering candles. There is no one else here but the four of us. Five, if you count the cat.”

Heather could see from Arthur’s expression that he was evaluating her sanity.

“I’m not crazy, Arthur. The demons are gone now, but they were here in this room. You would have seen them if you just let yourself!” There was desperation in her voice.

“Could somebody turn on the light?” asked Harlan.

Heather somberly stood up and flicked the wall switch. She bent down and blew out the candles.

"What did you see, Harlan?"

"I don't know. I really don't."

“I didn’t see anything because I didn’t look,” said Krista. “Well, I’ve got to run. My baby-sitter is on overtime.”

Harlan got up. “Yeah, it’s been interesting buds, but my lady will be pissed if I don’t show up soon.” He looked at Krista unsure whether she had been joking. “Baby-sitter?”

Krista smiled and nodded.

“OK, I’ll drop you guys off,” said Arthur.

“Wait,” offered Heather. “I’ll go with you.”

Heather picked up her oversized leather bag. She put the half-empty Jack Daniel’s into it.

The four returned to the car. Arthur drove first to Krista's building in the East Village. She propped open the front door to the building and ferried her drums inside.

“Chill, babies,” she said as she closed the door behind her

They proceeded to Alphabet City. At Harlan’s building on Avenue B, Heather asked, “You’re doing the gig next week on West 81st, right?”

“Yeah, if I learn to play the blues by then. Are you OK being left alone with a vampire?” he asked with a smile.

Heather shrugged.

The door slammed shut behind them. Heather stared at Arthur. “Let’s go to your place. I think tonight’s the night.”

“We’re closer to your place.”

“Don’t be so eager. Your place.”

Heather was quiet on the hour drive outside the city. She wouldn’t respond to Arthur’s attempts to start conversation. Occasionally she would drink from her bottle.

Arthur pulled into his driveway in Dover and parked in back of the house. His home and grounds were small, but the yard was fenced and private. He leaned over and kissed her. She allowed this for a few moments before pushing him away.

“Inside.” Heather exited the car with her bag strap over her shoulder and walked to the back door. Arthur hurriedly followed her. He fumbled with the keys at the door and opened it for her.

Arthur followed Heather through the kitchen and dining room and the through the living room. She shed clothes as she walked. By the time she stood by the bed in the master bedroom of the small ranch she was naked except for her necklace, watch, and bag. She dropped the bag on the bed.

Arthur was still mostly clothed. She pushed him backward onto the bed and straddled him.

“I’m going to save you, Arthur. That’s my job.” There were tears in her eyes.

Heather stroked Arthur’s head with her left hand. She firmly planted an open-mouthed kiss on him. With her right hand she lifted the sharpened stake from the bag and plunged it into his chest.

She was tired of ruining so many clothes from blood spatters. She had undressed first the time she killed that vampire not far from here in Randolph, too. After a quick shower she would be ready to leave.

Heather knew the Dover train station was only a few blocks from Arthur’s house. She would take anything belonging to her from the SUV and then head back to the city. This was Saturday morning. It was doubtful that anyone would find Arthur before Monday. No one ever found her old drummer. No one would pay attention to her on the train either. No one ever did.

Her band would need a new driver. She hoped the next one wouldn’t be a vampire.