To Kill A Vampire
(View from South Street Seaport Mall, 3rd floor – Photos by Joe)
Twenty minutes had passed since I sat down with a decent cup of Joe and turned on my laptop. I was outside on the third floor deck of the South Street Seaport Mall. Just upriver was the much marveled Brooklyn Bridge. Not far beyond it was the representative-blue-steel Manhattan Bridge. The early afternoon sun presided over pastel blue skies and an East River breeze flowed upstream from the mouth of New York Harbor, a quarter mile to my back.
Hyper-focused, I was reading through the opening chapters of my book about Max Beckley. People familiar with this blog know of him as the Revolutionary War soldier that was abducted by demons as he lay dying in the marshes of what is now Park Slope. Outside of this blog, I’ve written well over 100,000 words about his saga and have enough material for two books. I see his life best when I’m by the Seaport. It’s real. Probably why I’ve been warned to pull my snout out of his story.
Someone dropped down at the other end of the wooden bench and over the next few moments was profoundly still. I imagined they were enrapt by the sight of the Brooklyn Bridge. The span can be like a magical loom that spins out dreams.
I glanced up and to my displeasure saw the slight frame of Benny, “the cigar store Indian.” Benny’s a clairvoyant and old homeless man. He claims that in another life he had been one of the Lenape Indians who met Henry Hudson in 1609.
And his eyes were set on me, though his presence was ghost-like.
Benny wore an old, three piece suit and had a brand new pair of black cross-trainers. I remembered that my lady friend had bought them in TJ Maxx. Now I know who “the kicks” were for.
“What do you want, Benny?” I said gruffly as if he was a dog. “Want a coffee or some food?”
He put his lower lip over his upper and shook his head. His tanned face had a fresh sunburn. “I want to talk to you about Robert,” Benny said, referring to the alleged vampire that we both “ran across” a few days before out at Calvary Cemetery in Queens.
I gazed down at my laptop and reread the last paragraph in the first chapter. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not . . .
Karl let his gaze drift up to the second floor window, to the room where Max unknowingly waited for the couple. A sense of anticipation spread over his stomach. He closed his eyes, daydreaming of how eternal light might feel. He imagined the final door opening and a ghostly hand beckoning him onward. It was then that from the primeval depths of his mind came a long-dismissed hope . . . God is forgiveness.
“The other night I saw Robert at the Pathmark on Cherry Street,” Benny said.
“Shopping?” I said with a smirk.
“He was hanging around the dumpsters, catching rats and sucking the blood from them.”
“He leaves the cemetery regularly,” Benny said.
“Good to get out of there, even if it’s at night.”
“I’m going to need you,” Benny said somberly, his countenance showing a seriousness that I’m not used to from him.
He wants me to help him kill the vampire . . .
I stiffened and looked to the Williamsburg Bridge that was the third span upriver. That span tends to get lost in the vista because of its utilitarian, Erector-Set-type design.
My mind’s eye took me further and “came ashore” on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg. In my head, I could just see the old Domino Sugar Factory set alongside Grand Ferry Park. My sight threaded up a small, paved hill and turned left on Kent Street. Soon my mind’s eye passed the new luxury condo towers that sit right on the East River and a sprawling, waterfront park. My “eye” made a right onto Greenpoint Avenue, moving through the urban landscape of brownstones, walk-ups, synagogues, churches, banks, and sundry stores that include Polish delis, bakeries, and butchers. Once over the border and into Queens, I saw the gentle slopes of Calvary Cemetery that were choked with tall monuments. Robert was interred there.
“I can’t do it by myself,” Benny said.
“What do you have in mind?”
Benny closed his eyes and gave a barely perceivable shudder.
“How?” I asked.
“Dismember him, limb by limb, until the soul slips off,” Benny said, with a serene light in his hazel eyes. (Btw, last time I saw Benny, I could have sworn his eyes were light brown.)
My body flinched, though it could have been my soul as it realized the mortal sin it might have to absorb. “I’ll help you find him,” I said and carefully folded my arms so as not to tip my laptop. I thought we must sound like soulless killers. “The cutting up part you’ll have to do.”
Benny looked up into my eyes and smiled. In retrospect, I can’t believe how I wasn’t repulsed or ashamed. I had remained calm. I’d like to say that there was some element in Benny’s eyes that held sway over me, though I can’t be certain.
The old homeless man had set a brown paper bag in my lap. “It’s not a knife,” he whispered, head bent. “Just a harmless stick that has a finely carved handle. It’s an antique. Priceless to some. Keep it on you. I’m not a powerful man, if Robert kills me, he will sense you are near. When given such a creature, it is the weapon of choice.”
(Max Schreck as Count Graf Orlok in Nosferatu (1922)
“Is he a vampire?” I asked, closing my hand over the bag. I ran my fingers over a slender object wrapped in a thin cloth. I pressed my thumb on its sharp point.
“He likes blood. He’s undead. I would say ‘yes.’”
“There must be others like Robert,” I said.
“There are things in the night, more strange and perverse than vampires.”
“Good God help us.”
“Don’t concern yourself. They are things you may never see or feel.”
“Oh, great, thanks, like I’m just going to forget.”
“It’s the price paid for knowing,” Benny said.
I stiffened, knowing I had little recourse. “How does Robert get here from Queens?”
Benny laughed. “He takes the 7 train,” he said, his brows high and face radiant. “He has a MetroCard.”
I looked up the East River and tried not to smile.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Twenty-Eight – April/May 2010 – “Something to do with Vampires”