Bride of the Vampire
Of course the wedding was at night. The Gothic granite of St. Andrew's, tinted Halloween-orange by the sodium streetlights, made a perfect backdrop. Joe centred its square tower in the viewfinder, then tilted down past the glowing rose window to the blocked intersection. A gaggle of black-draped teenagers held pairs of red and white roses and pointedly ignored everyone, even the street-theatre group parading giant puppets of skeletons and politicians.
He panned along the sidewalk, where vendors stood guard over displays of t-shirts: Bite Me; I never drink...wine; Vamps Suck! and occult jewelry. "Moonstones, the mystic jewel with the power of the full moon! Real silver, for protection!"
A phalanx of pastel-suited protesters lined the sidewalk of the Baptist church across the street, clutching signs, ready to wave them when the cameras or the couple appeared. Distracted by the arrival of the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered protesters, they hadn't spotted Joe. The two groups traded uneasy glances.
Middle-aged women were scattered in knots among the crowd. Some held banners: Best Wishes Nikolai and Julie from Anne Rice Fan Club; LKH Fans
The motorcycle cops leaning against their propped bikes looked uneasy. Nerves or embarrassment? Other media were out in force; Joe and Anna would have to fight through the scrum to get near the happy couple when they showed up.
He shouldered the camcorder and looked down at Anna Chan. "Who do you want to hit first?"
#Questions from the studio audience.
Kimmie Franton, 37: Julie, I just love paranormal romances. Is your fiance as hot a lover as those vampires?
Laughter. Julie blushes and glances at Nikolai. He smiles, revealing long white canines, and pats her hand.
Julie: Well, we're not married yet, and Nikolai is kind of old-fashioned, so I can't really answer. But he's really romantic. He fills the house with roses and candles, and makes me feel like I'm the centre of his universe. So I guess I'd say yes, and even more.
Albert Whitaker, 48: Has he bitten you yet?
Julie: That's, um, kind of personal.
Whitaker: When he bites you, it's not just you and him. You're sharing blood with everyone he's bitten in his career. Have you considered the health issues--
Nikolai: If I may answer for my beloved. There are so many misconceptions about the Undead lifestyle, tragic misunderstandings which have led to my people's persecution for generations. The sharing of blood, for instance....
#As Joe approached, the protesters shuffled into formation and raised their signs. Anna glanced up to check that the Record light was off, then muttered, "Undead stay Unwed? And I thought Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve was a lame slogan."
Joe grinned and pointed at a sign in the back. Adam and Eve not Dracula and Eve.
"Lamer," Anna said. "Why not something straightforward like Fangs off our wimmenfolk, Bloodsuckers?"
"Leviticus 17:12? Is that the bit about not eating blood?" People who expected Joe to know the Bible by chapter and verse made him want a good stiff drink.
"Probably. Looks like he painted out 20:13, men lying with men. Think they've given up protesting gays or will he repaint it every time?"
#Taped interview on Sunnyside.
Rick Klofski: Nikolai, after your marriage to Julie, you'll have Honorary Living status. What do you say to those who suggest that's the motive for your marriage, taking a shortcut through the bureaucracy of the Re-naturalisation process?
Nikolai: What those narrow-minded bigots forget, Mr. Klofski, is that many Undead simply pass as Living. But when I met and loved my dearest Julie, she inspired me to openness, to her and to the world. If that exposes me to slander, even to personal danger...such is Life.
Rick Klofski: Gay activists charge the Undead with riding the coattails of their same-sex marriage fight. Can you comment?
Nikokai: It is a pity that we who strive for the right to exist and love openly should fight amongst ourselves.
#The young women with roses did their best not to look at the camera, but Joe caught the sidelong glances and just-too-loud chatter. They'd act blase about being interviewed, but afterwards most would ask quietly when the segment would be aired.
"If I can find a vamp who'll bring me over," said a plump girl with black-outlined eyes. "I mean, why not? Now it's legal to be Undead, who wouldn't want to live forever?"
"Really," said another, tossing her matte-black hair. "What's so great about going out in the daytime anyways?"
"No way I'd marry one, though. Not if they're all like Nikolai. That centre of the universe masterful thing? So last-millenium."
A girl with bird-bones twisted into her thin braids stared at Anna. "I'd do it. But only if marrying a vamp made me legally dead instead of him legally alive. That would piss off my mom so bad. Hey, aren't you Anna Chan? Your undercover Bad Jobs articles rocked."
#Questions from the studio audience.
Lee-Anne Tremblay, 26: Julie, would you ever consider becoming a vampire yourself?
Julie: Oh no. I know people worry about me losing my soul, but really, Nikolai loves the life in me, he says I bring sunlight to him for the first time in centuries. I'd hate for him to lose that.
Marilla Houston, 52: What about children? Can you have children?
Julie: Um, no, I don't think we can. But lots of couples can't have children, and there's so many babies in the world who need good homes...we might adopt.
Nikolai: If my darling wants to adopt children, I will fight that battle as I fought for marriage rights. But we have not even had our honeymoon! Let us think only of each other, for a little while.
#The black stretch limo growled up to the roped-off sidewalk. Tinted windows must be a selling point for the Undead, Joe thought, and checked his sightlines. To get a better angle on the vampire and his bride he'd have to trample bystanders. Anna would do it in a heartbeat, but Joe was squeamish and camcorders were expensive.
The crowd hushed. Joe's neck prickled. The buildings facing St. Andrew's had been searched, but a high-powered rifle reached a long way, and the night air was dead still. There had been threats.
"Solid line of cops in front of the fundies," Anna whispered.
Nikolai stepped onto the red carpet. A sigh billowed out around the street as humanity's night terrors were embodied in one tall, impeccably dressed man. His shoulder-length hair swung over his bone-white face as he bent to help Julie out of the limo.
Virgin sacrifice, thought Joe. The girl looked so young, so alive, ripe as a peach and asking to be bitten into, to be devoured--He didn't know whether he wanted to protect her or devour her himself. Okay, straighten out. The craziness is getting to you.
Nikolai's hired security filed around the couple in a wall of dark-suited muscle.
#Questions phoned in from listeners.
Devon Harman, 18, from Abbotsford: How many humans have you killed in your life?
Nikolai: Young man, you have been reading trashy horror, the sort I hope will soon be prosecuted as hate literature. The blood sustains us, true, but it must be given willingly....
#"There," Anna said. "The blond guy, brown jacket, thirties. Following the Laurell K. Hamilton Fans."
Joe swung the camcorder and found the LKH Fans
"How long till the cops spot him?" Joe kept the guy in the viewfinder. If he filmed the takedown, that would be something. Maybe not enough for Anna.
"Come on, Joe. This way, and keep the camera on him." Anna elbowed through the crowd at an angle, aiming for the spot where their target would intersect the police cordon.
The blond reached under his light jacket as two cops spotted him through the barrier. Anna closed the gap and leapt. Her smooth dark hair lifted and fell like a hawk's wings. Her arms wrapped around him, tangling his hands in the unzipped jacket. He fell hard, Anna on top. Glass shattered under him and he screamed.
"Silver nitrate in lightbulbs, I bet," said a teen in a Hellsing t-shirt. "That's what they used in Portland." His girlfriend nodded and took a picture with her cell.
#Special evening filming of Winnie!
Winnie: Nikolai, is it true that vampires live forever?
Nikolai: My dear Miss O'Fray, how long is 'forever'? We are long-lived, yes. I myself am two centuries old, but only when I found Julie, my lady of light, did I understand how lonely those centuries had been.
Winnie: I hate to bring up sad thoughts on a happy occasion, but Julie is human--right, honey?--and she's going to age. What will that mean for your marriage?
Nikolai: Beautiful as my love is in her body, her soul is yet more beautiful. I will never tire of her mind and soul.
#The St. John's Ambulance attendant was cleaning Anna's skinned knees when Nikolai and his security came in. The vampire bowed. "I am told, Miss Chan, that it was you who saved my darling and myself from a fanatic. I am greatly in your debt."
Anna squinted up, and her card appeared in her hand like magic. "I'll take an exclusive interview the night after you get back from the honeymoon, and call it even."
He laughed, flashing white teeth. "A true newswoman's instincts. Consider it a promise." He turned at a flurry behind him. "Cara mia, stay where it is safe."
"Oh Nikolai, I had to thank her. She saved you!" Julie pushed her way between the suits, her Belgian-lace veil lopsided and her antique-cream train dirty from the pavement. "Ms. Chan, you were wonderful. So brave! Thank you so much!" She bent over Anna, hugging her enthusiastically.
Joe got it all on tape. He had instincts too.
#"He was right there." Joe said, as St. John's packed up. "Where were your trademark penetrating questions and put-'em-on-the-spot attitude? Was the old Dracula charm working on you?"
Anna shook her head. "Wait for the exclusive, when I can corner him. I know his type. Shitloads of charm and a controlling bastard. Like my husband."
"I didn't know you were married."
"I'm not." She paused, and Joe decided to drop it. "She's what, twenty-two, twenty-three?"
"Twenty-three." It had been in the press release.
"Still a kid. She'll grow and change, he won't."
"He's dead, Joe."
"Well, it's over now. The circus has left town, and you're a hero. Buy you a drink?" He put out his hand and pulled Anna to her feet.
She looked down at her bandaged legs and sighed. "Sure. Hah, you think that was a circus? Wait for the first vamp divorce."