As the plane approached the runway like a goose learning to fly I reveled in the fact that this would be the first Horror Writer’s Convention that the three of us would be attending. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve gotten together many times in the past to do stuff together, like skiing in Utah at Bryce’s place.
As we filed off the plane, if one could call it that, I saw my buddies waiting for me at the end of the ramp. Bryce Beattie and J Dane Tyler. My amigos. I remember when Bryce first published Oasis and it became a huge hit. He was the keynote speaker at the first convention he went to and this year the honor fell to Dane. ‘Ghost Hunters’ was a giant success when it hit the stands. The following of people that latched on to his writing was amazing and quite evident as I witnessed Dane sign about ten copies as we were leaving the airport.
As usual, the jovial bickering began immediately between Bryce and I.
“I told you shattering his leg would get him to finish.”
“You don’t think it was too much?”
“Nah. He finished the editing didn’t he?”
“True, but we could have just as easily held him hostage!”
During our ski trip to Utah, Dane had an unfortunate run in with a stubborn pine tree resulting in a broken leg and ankle. During his recuperation time, he managed to finish the tedious task of editing his work and getting submitted. The manuscript was snatched up by a major publisher, like a child taking Halloween candy from a bowl. Four months later the shelves were graced with a New York Times Best Seller and the Tyler family’s life changed forever.
Me? I was still writing shorts and poetry but more and more of my work was being published in different anthologies. I sold enough to not have to hold down a 9-5 job, but still was putting the finishing touches on ‘Journals of the Apocalypse.’ I’ve received a few offers on it and we’ll see where it goes.
The three of us piled into the back of a cab and proceeded to the hotel that we were staying at. Along the way Dane pointed out different landmarks that make Chicago unique like the Marina City Towers and the Sears Tower. As my gaze shifted across Dane and Bryce to look out the window something caught my eye.
Let me digress and explain what happens when the three of us are together. THE PARANORMAL. I don’t mean creaking footsteps or weird noises. I mean MONSTERS. When Dane broke his leg and ankle you probably thought he ran into the tree. Not quite. Sasquatch threw him into the tree like a discus, would be more accurate. Imagining Dane spinning through the air makes me laugh but remembering the sound of him hitting the tree doesn’t.
So what did I see in the cab? Our cab driver had no reflection in the rearview mirror. Great. Here we go again. I nudged Dane, who was perched on the hump, nodded at the mirror and his eyes got as big as the moon. He proceeded to nudge Bryce, who just put a palm to his forehead making a resounding SMACK. The driver never even flinched. Didn’t turn his head, hit the brakes, or any of the things you would expect. He just pulled up in front of our hotel and let us out. Thinking on his feet, Dane asked the driver if he could pick us up at 6PM and take us to a good restaurant. The driver nodded and mumbled that he would be here. Dane slipped him an extra twenty and we walked into the hotel, shaking our heads in disbelief. This of course led to more bickering.
“It’s your fault Bryce. You always bring us this type of luck!”
“Ben, do I need to remind you that you are the one that peed on Sasquatch?”
I shut up pretty quick with that comment.
The first day of the convention went well with signings and lectures. I was approached by a publishing house and accepted an offer I couldn’t refuse. I felt like I was in the ‘Godfather’ but in the end everyone made out like a bandit. Let’s just say my daughter won’t have to worry about college.
When we were done at four we met in Dane’s room to discuss how we would handle the cab driver.
Dane, as always, had his trusty crossbow but Bryce and I were left with nothing to use as a weapon. What do you use on vampires? Wood stakes, garlic, and beheading. The whole Holy Water thing doesn’t work. Anything that is based on faith, like a cross, will not defeat a vampire. We broke off the legs and sharpened the ends to nice sharp points and then rubbed them in some garlic oil that Dane had for his crossbow bolts. We wrapped our weapons in torn up shower curtain to try and hide the garlic smell and proceeded down the elevator looking very similar to the three stooges as we exited through the revolving doors. I never heard the story about how Dane explained the garlic oil and destroyed chairs in his room when he checked out, but I’m sure it was a whopper.
Our taxi sat there waiting for us like a chariot at the races. We introduced ourselves to the driver whose name was Vlad. I almost blew it because I started laughing and tried to hold it in so the only noise I made sounded like a bad fart through my nose.
He led us down the streets of Chicago to an older neighborhood that reminded me a lot of the older areas of Pittsburgh where you would find the stubba bubbas making pierogies and kielbasa. He let us out in front of a restaurant called ‘Antones’ but looked like ‘Ant s’ because there were lights burned out in the sign. Bryce invited Vlad in with us as a reward for driving us around the town and showing us some of the sights that evening.
It was so funny because the door opened with the stereotypical loud groan as the protesting hinges permitted us access to the inner confines of ‘Antones’. Antone himself sat us at a table in the middle of the room and what is the first thing I noticed? No glass, mirrors, anything that could cause a reflection. There it was. The proof we were looking for. A nest of vampires in downtown Chi-Town.
As Antone came through the kitchen doors with what appeared to be glasses of water, five others followed him out in an ambush trying to catch us off guard. I had flashbacks to the B-grade movies from the seventies as I took out my stakes and proceeded to do damage. Behind me I heard the twang of Dane’s crossbow and the umph of Bryce putting down the fangheads. In the end it was only the three of us left standing.
We left ‘Antones’ to find dinner someplace else and as soon as the grumpy doors closed we heard what sounded like the air escaping from a balloon. As one, we turned to look and see as the building simply collapsed into an empty lot, strewn with debris. No one said a word. Dane climbed into the driver’s seat, Bryce and I hopped in the back, and away we went to find dinner.
“Damn Bryce, this is the last time we get together.”
“It’s not my fault man. I had nothing to do with it.”
“Dane this is your town. What the hell?”
Looking in the rearview mirror, I couldn’t see Dane’s reflection. My heart leapt into my throat as I watched in silence as Dane reached up and flipped the mirror around.
I could see that huge grin of his and best of all, I saw no fangs.
“I’m not coming next year guys.”
“Neither am I….”