by Monica Marier
Andrew steeled his courage. He knew he would in very big trouble for doing this. The world did not smile on eleven-year-olds who were all alone in the city at 11pm, especially if he were one of “The Meatheads.”
The “no trespassing”, “no soliciting”, and “keep out” signs hung on the gate of Number 23 Girton Rd. certainly didn’t indicate that Mr. Bates would be happy to see him in any case.
Rumours abounded concerning Mr. Bates, the neighbourhood’s bizarre recluse. Big Dan said that he was a murderer in hiding after escaping from jail. Others said he had some weird disease that he picked up in India or China that made his skin and hair turn paper-white. General consensus, even among adults who didn’t know he was listening, was that Mr. Bates was “weird.”
Andrew had overheard his mum one morning before school talking to Mrs. Canuddy. Bates was mad or on medication or both and his relatives had dumped him there when they didn’t want to care for him anymore. He was an “angora-phobic” (Andrew wondered what a fear of fluffy jumpers had to do with it) who wouldn’t leave the house. Mr. Bates paid for one of the neighbor lads to bring his groceries once a week and everything else was handled by post.
Andrew, of course, had different suspicions. Tonight he would find out if he was right. His hands and knees began to sweat as he approached the white door. He kept telling himself it would all be fine. If you’re wrong you just look like an ass and you run home.
But what if I’m right? He asked himself.
His hand trembled as he lifted the ring of the knocker shaped like the head of Mercury. Before Andrew could strike the plate with it, the door was jerked inwards by a very strong hand. Andrew sucked at his fingers as his eyes darted up to the pale scarecrow in front of him.
Mr. Bates was indeed pale, Andrew had only gotten a look at him from a distance, but up close it was even more apparent. He looked washed out, like the Star Wars t-shirt Andrew had accidentally spilled bleach on. Mr. Bates was the colour that Han Solo had turned. He was tall too; Andrew was the biggest boy in his form by four inches and a good 10 kilos and still Mr. Bates towered over him. Most chilling of all were his eyes. Andrew had knew lots of people with pale blue eyes, but Mr. Bates’ eyes were so blue they looked white. All and all, he looked like a man that had had every ounce of blood wrung from him like a rag.
Mr. Bates’ expression at first had been one of pure bewilderment. It had now gone through impatient to irritated.
“Well, what do you want?” he asked in a strained reedy voice.
Andrew could only stare at the man, dumb and ready to piss his pants. He’d never felt more stupid or alone as he had at that moment.
“Come to bother the creepy old neighbour?” sniffed Bates. “That’s very clever of you. Your parents must be so proud.”
At the word parent, Andrew was suddenly reminded of his mission.
“I know what you are!” he shouted at the pale man.
Bates stiffened and froze; he then thawed into a calculated pose of casual indifference. “And what is that, pray tell?” he asked lightly, but Andrew wasn’t fooled.
“I’ve been watching you!”
“Do your parents know you’re here?” asked Jeremy gruffly, trying to change the subject.
“You’re really pale, you stay indoors all day and only come out in the dark!”
“I have porphyria—it’s a disease. Sunlight doesn’t agree with me.”
“Animals don’t like your house, dogs try to break their leads, and cats and squirrels stay away!”
“I don’t like animals getting in my garden. I have a system to keep them away. Now what are you driving at?”
“You wear really old clothes and talk funny.”
“That’s because I’m a loony. Now b-bugger off,” said Bates stumbling over the swear-word, like it was something foul-tasting. It reminded Andrew of his Gran, which immediately set bells ringing in his head.
“You said you were old! You’re not a psycho, and you don’t look old. You must be still in your twenties!”
Mr. Bates paused here and didn’t say anything. Flustered, he moved backwards and tried to fling the door shut, but by then it was too late. Andrew had stepped across the threshold, his meaty pre-pubescent arms extended and locked, while his bulky legs were braced against the door sill. Mr. Bates seemed momentarily flummoxed by this turn of events and struggled uselessly against the boy.
“Who are you?” asked Bates in astonishment, still trying to push the door closed.
Andrew knew that now it was time to drop the bomb before his arms gave out. “Look! I know you’re a vampire, Mr. Bates.”
Bates’ stopped fighting with the door and stared at Andrew.
“Prove it,” said Bates in a thin hollow voice.
“I can’t, but I just know, alright?”
“Well, have a jolly fun time explaining your theories to the police then,” said Bates a grim smile on his thin lips.
“I ain’t going to the police, Mr. Bates,” said Andrew.
“Since you don’t have any proof, you have nothing to bargain with, so hold your blackmail threats for someone else, I’m not buying.”
“I’m not trying to take your money either,” said Andrew with a sigh.
“Then why are you here?” asked Bates harshly. His body was hunched defensively behind the door, his strange white eyes screwed up in loathing and suspicion.
“I need your help,” said Andrew.
Bates cocked his head to the side. “Me? You want my help? But I’m the big terrible vampire! Aren’t you scared?” he asked, still cringing behind the door.
“I’m not scared of a tall pale nancy,” said Andrew carelessly. “Look, I’m not looking for money, I just want your help.”
“Believe me, little boy, vampires don’t help anything,” sniffed Bates.
“I know that!” shouted Andrew, angry at being called a little boy.
“Then how did you ‘just know’ I’m a vampire, and what do you want?”
Andrew looked Mr. Bates square in the eye. “I know you’re a vampire because me dad’s one.”
“Your dad?” asked Bates in astonishment.
“Yeah. And I need you to tell me how I can kill him.”