PART ONE: THE OLD DOG
Andrew had scarcely draped his coat over the armchair (which Jeremy had asked him not to do over fifty times) when heard a cry and crash upstairs and ran to see what was going on.
After a clumsy hike up the narrow stairs, Andrew stood in the upstairs hallway, trying to discern where the noise came from. He checked in his room first. He knew that Jeremy liked to poke around in his room while he worked at the pub. Andrew didn’t like it, but decided not to let Jer know that he was on to him. He wasn’t worried about things disappearing — Jeremy wasn’t the sort to go around pinching things, he was merely curious. He sifted through Andrew’s belongings like an archeologist dug through ruins; he was to find out about the world outside his stuffy townhouse. Jeremy didn’t get out much. The last time he’d gone to the Odeon at Swiss Cottage, “The Shawshank Redemption” had been playing.
Every few decades, Jeremy would get lonely and curious about the world and decide to stick his head out. He’d try to suck up all the information that he could and then he’d lose interest and cling to those facts for the next fifteen years or so. Andrew had observed him one time with a pile of his t-shirts next to the computer. The man was laboriously typing (with two fingers) the band names on his shirts into the Google search engine and would occasionally gasp at the results. The internet was one of the few concessions Jeremy had made to modern innovation; it allowed him to do his shopping without leaving the house.
Andrew peered into his room which was empty and (to all appearances) untouched. He checked Jeremy’s room and there was nothing there either, but something was different that Andrew couldn’t put his finger on. He eventually looked in the guest bedrooms, which were resolutely empty despite the “Rooms to Let” sign by the privet hedge. It was in one of these that Andrew saw a fallen curtain rod and a pile of dusty cloth in a large pile. There was something thrashing under it muttering a stream of Victorian obscenities.
“Jer?” asked Andrew, picking up the pile of cloth. The awkward bundle weighed as much as a small child, which would have given the anemic Jeremy some trouble. It was immediately apparent to Andrew, however, that Jeremy’s main struggle was with the cast iron curtain rod that had skewered him through the chest.
“Jer?” cried Andrew in alarm.
“Little help?” gasped Jeremy, his face screwed up in pain.
Andrew immediately grasped the heavy rod in his hand and yanked it out of Jeremy’s ribcage with a sickening “crunch.” Jeremy uttered a sharp cry and shuddered, but he seemed to shake it off shortly and sat up. His punctured shirt was damp with clear plasma, as was the carpet beneath him.
“You alright?” asked Andrew in alarm, kneeling next to his friend.
“I’m fine. It missed my heart by a few inches, but that was a close shave.”
“I would think you’d have been a little more careful about your choice of décor, Jer,” said Andrew, eyeing the menacing spear on the end of the rod.
“It was an antique,” said Jeremy with a shrug.
“So are you,” said Andrew shaking his head. Already the hole in Jeremy’s chest was getting smaller, and Andrew could see paper-white skin through his rent shirt.
“What were you doing anyway?”
“I was taking the curtains down to be cleaned. Need to tidy up for the new lodger.”
“We’re getting a lodger?” asked Andrew.
“Yep, should be here tomorrow. He’s an American fellow here on a sabbatical.”
“A yank lodger?” asked Andrew in surprise.
“Americans need rooms to stay in like everyone else,” said Jeremy with a shrug.
“You going to be…”Andrew trailed off uncomfortably. “Okay with it?”
“I need the money, Andrew. Vampire-hunting doesn’t pay the bills, and things have been getting tight.”
“No I mean with the…” Andrew stared at Jeremy’s chest as his wound shrunk to the size of a pea and then disappeared, leaving behind only pale, blue-veined skin, still damp with yellowish plasma.
“Oh, you mean, am I going to drain his blood like it was Ribena?” said Jeremy with a shrug. “Oh please. It would take more than some American priest to make me go berserk.”
“He’s a vicar?” asked Andrew agog.
“No, he’s a papist something-or-other. He’s a deacon or a seminarian or something… I forget which he said it was.”
“A religious nutter? Are you barking?”
“I don’t really care what he is as long as he pays rent. Help me carry these to the laundry room.”
“And you think he’ll be okay with living with a vampire?” asked Andrew with a frown. He shouldered the dusty bundle with a violent sneeze before following Jeremy downstairs. Apart from a few stiff jerks and quiet groans, Jeremy seemed otherwise fine again.
“I don’t intend to tell him I’m a vampire, Andrew,” said Jeremy rolling his eyes. “And you better keep mum too, got it?”
“Oh, because I’m Mr. Subterfuge, ain’t I?” said Andrew with a snort.
Jeremy paused and gripped his head. “…I can see where this may lead to some difficulties.”
“I’ll try to keep it secret,” said Andrew with a shrug, “but you know me.”
“Yes,” said Jeremy looking nervous. “Just put the curtains down there. I’ll have Olivia take care of them,” he added, pointing to the stone floor in the laundry room. Andrew complied and tried to wipe his dusty hands off on his black jeans.
“How’re you feeling?” asked Andrew eyeing Jeremy anxiously. He only realized now that the curtain-rod had gone completely through Jeremy’s sternum. There was a twin hole through the back of Jeremy’s white shirt as well.
“Bit peaky. And frankly starving,” said Jeremy grimly. “It takes a lot out of me to regenerate like that.”
“You want me to go get food?” said Andrew.
“Would you?” asked Jeremy, looking hopeful.
“Yeah. Who do you feel like hitting up then?” asked Andrew. “Singh?”
“No, I can’t do Indian on an empty stomach,” said Jeremy with a grimace.
“How about Maarouf?” asked Andrew.
“Yeah. Lebanese would hit the spot,” nodded Jeremy. “Get some lamb kebabs (rare) with rice, falafel, tabouli salad — oh! And get that really good hummus with the pita bread,” said Jeremy eagerly.
Andrew’s face spread in his usual lopsided grin full of chipped teeth. “Yeah, sure, Jer. See you in a bit, eh?”
“Thanks,” said Jeremy.
“No problem. I was hungry, myself,” said Andrew.
“No, I mean thanks for… well, everything. I’ve been feeling a lot… better since you moved in,” said Jeremy.
“No man is an island, Jer,” said Andrew. “I think being around other people is good for you. Even if ‘other people’ is only me.”
“Oh, you’re good company, Andrew,” said Jeremy. “You just listen to rubbish bands.”
Andrew shook his head and grabbed his coat again on his way out the door trying to remember Jeremy’s order. “If that priesty-nutter starts to suspect, he can just watch you eat all that GARLIC and relax,” he mumbled.
Next week: PART TWO: Lodgers