Handel's House of Horror
As Handel sailed through the air, he considered that he might not have thought his latest case through properly. Sure, going back to 1851 to help the late Professor Van Helsing's beautiful (and rich) daughter, Raven, to kill three vampire sisters that were terrorizing a Rumanian village had looked like a good idea. The prospect of making a tidy profit had made it look even better.
He crashed through a wooden hut and landed heavily (and painfully). Vampires were a lot stronger than they looked.
The red haired vampire who had just thrown Handel grinned at Raven, giving her a full view of her teeth. "Idiot," she said. "Raven, how could you have betrayed us like that? Hiring a dirty mercenary to kill us. Don't my sisters and I protect this village?"
Raven tried to shake her head but found it difficult with the vampire gripping her throat. "He's not a mercenary," she gasped. "He's a detective."
"I know exactly who he is," Red said. "He's that detective with the mystical doorway. The one who keeps interfering in matters in the past that don't concern him."
That was true enough, kind of. Handel's office did have a doorway to the past. He had no idea how it worked, or why it was there. All he knew was that people kept coming through and asking (and paying) for his help.
"However, now that he is dead I guess that won't matter."
"Not quite," Handel said, rising from the wreckage like a phoenix from the flames. "I'm afraid it takes more than you've got to put me --"
He never finished that sentence. The other two vamps, one blonde and one wearing what could only be described as a fright wig, hit him at the same time. He managed to block one punch, but Blondie caught him on the jaw and he staggered back. Before he fell over Wiggy grabbed his neck and lifted him from the ground.
"It's time to die," she said.
"That's not very original," Handel said.
The vampire didn't comment further. She merely opened her mouth and bit the detective's neck.
At least she would have if Handel hadn't shoved his crucifix into her mouth.
The vampire screamed and dropped Handel, steam billowing from her mouth. He was pleased that his case preparation, watching endless episodes of Britney: Vampire Hunter on DVD had not been in vain. He'd always known there was more to that programme than just a blonde babe in her undies slaying vampires.
He waited for Wiggy to explode in a cloud of dust, as seen on Britney: VH.
After a few seconds, she spat out the cross, and although her mouth was blackened, she didn't seem to be in any danger of exploding. She wasn't happy though; she screamed a torrent of curses and then kicked him in his happy sacks.
The pain hit Handel like a wall and he only just managed to stop himself throwing up.
"Handel!" Raven's cry cut right through his pain. Getting painfully to his knees, he noticed his gun, no more than three paces away.
The fright wig did too, she laughed. "Guns don't hurt us, mortal."
Handel dived towards the gun and made it. "Maybe not but it will give you one hell of a headache."
The shot went straight through the vampire's head. The creature cried out and fell backwards. Handel guessed she wasn't dead but it gave him breathing space. He fired a second shot straight into Blondie's chest; the force of the shot took her down.
"You've just shit out of luck, Ginger," Handel said, resting the barrel of his gun against the third vampire's temple. "This is a Magnum .44, and although it wouldn't kill you, it might spoil your good looks."
Red made a low growling in the back of her throat, glanced to her fallen sisters and dropped Raven.
"You may have won this round but we'll be back," Red said.
Won? Handel thought, he felt like he had just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. "Just go," he said with false bravado. "Before I change my mind and blow your head clean off."
Red let out a blood-curdling but melodramatic scream and disappeared with a tiny 'pof'. The other two followed suit.
Handel visibly sagged. "That went well," he said, then threw up.
"Jesus, how can they still hurt?" Handel complained, shifting uncomfortably in the chair and rubbing his sore bits. It was dawn. They had spent a restless night in the village and he was not a happy camper.
Raven indicated that being a woman, and a nineteenth century one at that, she had no idea.
It occurred to him that this was why it made sense for women to do the vampire hunting: fewer vulnerable parts in easy reach. "Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the shittiest case I've ever had the misfortune to be involved in," Handel continued.
"I am sorry," Raven said. "When I hired you I did not realize it would be this hard. My father always made it look so easy."
"I guess it is easy if you know what you are doing," Handel said. "Britney always seems to know what to do. If only they had a weakness, something, anything."
Raven remained silent. Handel had mentioned this 'Britney' woman before. His mistress, perhaps?
Handel stood up. "I've had an idea, the fountain of youth which keeps them young and powerful."
"What about it?"
"That must be their weakness. Didn't you tell me when you first came to see me that they have a fountain of youth in the depths of their castle?"
Raven shook her head. "I said my father believed that."
Handel struck a heroic pose, fisted hands on hips, chest fully expanded, feet slightly more than shoulder width apart. He managed not to whimper when that last part turned out to be a bad idea.
"Good," he said, gritting his teeth, "then I know what we should do. We're not sitting around here waiting for those loons to come back and finish us off. We're taking the fight to them."
Raven was looking at Handel like he was mad. "Are you insane? After what happened last night?"
"Would you rather wait here until they come for us?" he said.
Raven shook her head.
"Well then," Handel said. "Now where's the bathroom?"
Handel looked up at huge black castle. "Hmm, nice and homey," he said. Also large, dank, and equipped with hot and cold running vermin.
Raven was looking quite anxious; she was continually glancing around fearfully and fingering the pommel of the sword that slung from her belt. "Stop gawping, the staff entrance is this way. That should be the easiest way in."
"You certainly know a lot about this place," Handel said.
"My father spent a long time researching it," Raven said. "Before they killed him."
"Letís make sure his work wasn't in vain," Handel said, which was lame he knew but it seemed to make Raven feel better.
The staff entrance was wooden doors with no markings save for a bell. The ancient lock was so big Handel could have picked it with his finger.
As Raven had predicted, the door was unguarded. Who in their right mind would break into a vampire's lair?
Who indeed, Handel thought.
They came across their first person in the kitchen. It was Fright Wig. She was dressed in a nightgown and taking some headache tablets. Her face hadn't grown back and she looked awful.
Handel gestured to Raven to deal with her quietly with her sword.
"What?" Raven hissed, completely oblivious to the gesture.
"Kill her," Handel said, louder than he had meant to.
The vampire turned instantly and saw the pair lurking in the kitchen doorway. "You dare come here?" she said.
Raven stepped forward and drew her blade. "Remember this sword?" she said. "It belonged to my father."
Wiggy smiled evilly, as vampires often do. "I remember him," she said. "He tasted old."
Raven lunged angrily at the vampire, but the creature easily dodged. However, Fright Wig hadn't considered that her opponent knew what she was doing, and even if she had granted the vampire hunter a smidgen of respect, she was still half-asleep.
Mrs. van Helsing's daughter brought the blade back around and it cut straight through the vamp's arm. The creature cried out and clutched at its stump.
"This sword was designed specifically to kill vampires," Raven said. She swung the sword and decapitated the creature. "Just like that."
To Handel's satisfaction, the vampire exploded in a cloud of dust, leaving behind an empty nightgown and a mop of black and blue hair. "What do you know, it was a wig."
Raven wobbled, and Handel grabbed her until she steadied herself. "Are you okay?"
Raven nodded although she looked pale. "I didn't think I had it in me," she said weakly.
The kitchen door opened, Handel's magnum was drawn and fired in one swift movement; in the home of the enemy, he who hesitated lost. He looked down at the hunchbacked butler he'd just shot. Perhaps just a little hesitation might have been prudent, he considered.
Handel stepped over the dead body. "I think we may have lost the element of surprise. Stay close."
The pair moved carefully out of the kitchen and found themselves in a long corridor. Handel looked one way and then the other. "Which way?"
Raven shrugged. "I don't know, down?"
Handel bit back a cutting reply and just "hmmídí.
They moved in silence along the passageway, expecting at any moment to be confronted by the remaining vampires. They weren't. Twenty minutes later, they had found neither the basement nor any of the castle's residents.
In fact, it wasn't until they finally found the dungeon that they saw the vamps.
They were standing by an ornamental fountain, dressed in dressing gowns and drinking.
Handel drew his gun. "One way or another, this won't take long."
"You read my mind, Detective," Red said, turning around slowly. "I admire your courage coming here, to your deaths."
Handel didn't comment. He had no plan other than to get close to the fountain. Other than that, he was playing it by ear, which is never a good idea.
Red let out a blood-curdling scream and leapt. Handel was ready for this though; he feinted right then dived left. Right into the path of Blondie.
He got one good punch in before she picked him up and threw him against the nearest wall. He felt a sharp pain in his chest. He would have passed out -- the pain was almost unbearable -- if Blondie hadn't picked him up and shaken him violently. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Red had overpowered Raven and was putting the bite on her.
Things were not going well. Raven was in trouble and he was sure that he had a cracked rib. Of course, in a few moments that might not matter.
Blondie held him by the throat and laughed. "What a pathetic creature you are, Detective! Why you continue to help all the world's hopeless saps I'll never know. If I had your magic doorway, I could rule all of Europe."
"I'm one of the good guys," Handel said. "We don't rule."
Blondie punched Handel with her free hand, dislodging a couple of his crowns.
"I'm not even going to get my teeth dirty by biting a disgusting creature like you."
Handel spat blood and a tooth in the vampire's face. "Fuck you, bitch."
Blondie roared in anger and threw Handel towards where he needed to be, the fountain. He had expected this; being the hero of the story, it was his due.
He landed painfully, in agony but smiling.
"What's so funny?" Blondie asked. "Your friend is one of us and you are finished."
Handel pulled a bottle of bubble bath from his pocket. "No, you're finished," he said and emptied the bottle into the fountain.
Within seconds, the fountain became the world's largest bubble bath. The two vampires didn't even have time to scream as time finally caught up with them.
It wasn't a pretty sight. They aged a hundred years, then rotted in place before they could even fall to the ground. Two seconds later, they were dust.
That was when Handel passed out.
The next thing he saw was Raven looking down at him. "Aargh! Get away from me." he cried, scrambling away.
"Calm down, Handel, I'm not one of them," Raven said quickly. "When vampire die, their curse dies with them. Donít you know anything about vampires?"
Handel shook his head. "I thought I did. But apparently not."
"I do have one question though," Raven said. "Where did you find bubble bath in the Carpathian Mountains? I can't even find soap or decent parfum."
Handel smiled uneasily. "Um -- trade secret?"
© 2006 by Craig Cornwell
Bio: Mr. Cornwell says, "I have been writing for as long as I can remember, I have previously contributed to Aphelion (most recently Hamlin 2: Village of the Damned, December, 2000), as has my wife (Karen Yeo, whose story Meet the Bartletts appeared in the August/September 2006 issue). I help run the Creative Island writers' web-site and am at present finishing the second draft of a novel-length Dave Handel story. I am 39 years old and spend my free time writing and looking after my two sons."
E-mail: Craig Cornwell
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