Crazy Larry the Beach Bum was sprawled out on the hot sand enjoying some South Florida sunshine. The tide was coming in and the waves were creeping up the beach. Already cool rushes of water were washing over his toes and running up almost to his knees. The air was hot and humid and laid over Larry’s face like a hot towel at the barbershop. There was just enough breeze coming in off the waves to cool his cheeks. An almost, but not quite, empty bottle of white rum was planted in the sand next to his head.
Life was good.
Life was about as good as it had ever been for Crazy Larry, at least since the “Crazy” part got latched on to his name.
He stretched and smiled at the sun and wiggled his toes in the Atlantic surf.
Larry’s reverie was interrupted by a dull thumping sound drifting in from the sea. There was an ugly, snarly noise underneath the thumping beats. A woman screamed.
Larry’s eyes shot open.
Maybe it was just a seagull?
Then the scream came again, followed by some indistinct shouts.
Larry’s heartbeat began to race.
He sat up, frowning, and squinted out across the waves.
A motorboat was racing around, bouncing on the surf. It left a boiling white scar on the sea behind it.
Larry relaxed a little bit.
His hand was trembling.
He swallowed hard. His mouth was dry. Crazy Larry unscrewed the cap on the almost, but not quite, empty bottle of rum and emptied it.
The thumping sounds were the beats of rock music, muffled by the surf and muted by distance. The woman’s screams were frolicsome, not frantic.
Larry let out a sigh and felt a little less crazy.
He smiled at the kids dancing on the boat. The guys were shirtless and muscular and crispy brown from the sun. The girls were lithe and limber with sun-bleached hair, golden skin and skimpy little bikinis.
Larry sat up and smiled wider.
One of the girls was waving in his direction, swaying back and forth with arms up flapping.
He raised a hand and gave them a timid little wave back. Soon all the kids in the boat were waving and whooping. They raised beer bottles in rowdy salute.
Larry lifted his now sadly empty rum bottle and waved back.
First one, then another of the girls reached back and undid their bikini tops. Screaming again, they whirled the tops over their heads, bare breasts bouncing like white bubbles, pale against the tanned torsos.
Crazy Larry jumped to attention and stood up. He put his fingers to his lips and let rip a wolf-whistle that easily pierced the distance between him and the boatload of kids. The motorboat roared around in another couple of turns, then raced off to the West along the beach. The girls waved bye-bye and dropped down laughing, to sit on the deck.
“Children, they are so amusing.” Said a rich, cultured voice from behind Larry.
“Ah, they’re okay!” Larry replied, grinning. He didn’t turn to look at the speaker because he knew there was nothing there to see.
“What are they doing out here?” Larry asked. He shielded his eyes with a hand and watched the boat dwindle into the distance.
“They’re here to shoot a movie, if you can believe that!”
“Here? On Viuda Island? They must be mad!” There was alarm in Larry’s voice.
The unseen speaker chuckled.
“They are young. Youth is nothing if not a bit of madness.”
“How long are they going to be here?”
“I don’t know, for sure. Not long. They just want to shoot a few scenes on old ‘haunted’ Viuda Island for publicity. Then they’ll go back to the studios in La Mirada.”
“They’re not afraid to be here? They’re not afraid of monsters and ghosts and bloody death?”
Larry sounded a little offended.
“They’ve heard terrifying stories about the island. So of course they are thrilled to be here. The excitement just rolls off of them in sheets.”
Larry sighed. Shook his head.
“They are so amusing.” The cultured voice repeated, a little darkly.
“They’ve got to go Geoff! They can’t stay. Not for long. The Moon will be full in just a few days. They have to be gone by then!”
“I know. I know, old friend. I have to put my face on and go talk to them. Then…” Geoffrey chuckled. “Then I will see what I can do to convince them to leave.”
Crazy Larry the Beach Bum ran his fingers through his hair. He rubbed his cheeks. He was a little jowlier than before. His cheeks were rough with stubble.
“I need a drink.” He muttered.
Larry shuffled over to his shack, nestled between a pair of palm trees, and began to rummage around inside, looking for another bottle.
“I’m out.” He muttered angrily.
“Don’t worry. I’ll bring you another bottle down from the House. Right after I talk to our guests.”
Larry nodded glumly. That would have to do.
“They have to leave, Geoff. Soon!”
Crazy Larry watched the footprints walk away down the empty beach.
He didn’t quite trust Geoffrey Radcliffe, even though they’d known each other for years. But what else could he do?
The kids had to leave. Before the Moon was full again.
They had to leave, or they would die.
“What’s the matter, Andrea? You’re a million miles away!”
“More like a million years.” Whispered the brooding brunette. “You shouldn’t be here, Frank. Not tonight. You’re in danger being here. Being with me.”
“Aw, you’re not getting rid of me that easily, pretty lady.”
The muscular young man flexed his biceps and grinned. “‘Sides, I’m up for a little danger!” He leaned in and tried to kiss her but she turned away.
“I’m more than a little danger. I’m… death.”
“A little death never hurt no one.” The man whispered hoarsely.
He seized her shoulders and dragged her close to him, smashing his mouth upon her lips.
A white fog began to boil out of the nearby ocean. It spread quickly across the oil-dark waves and spilled over the sand.
“Oh, no…” moaned the girl as she surrendered to the kiss.
A head appeared, rising out of the sea.
It was not a human head. Covered with armored scales, long whip-like antennae curled off the forehead. The hair was thick like metal wire and plastered tight against the skull. Huge black, unblinking eyes stared over the waves toward the shore. A mouth full of fangs opened and salivated.
As the man continued to crush the girl to him, bender her shoulders back and her head down beneath his mouth, She began to emerge from the sea, to stalk toward the beach.
Shoulders as broad as a linebacker’s rose above the water. She was a nightmarish blend of human and crustacean, nearly eight feet tall. Great round breasts the size of bowling balls sat upon her chest, covered by slabs of hard shell. Her abdomen was a serrated nightmare, lined with curved spikes to either side. She raised arms above the surf, brandishing lobster claw hands.
As the girl continued to moan and make whimpering noises beneath Frank’s mouth, which soon slid down to her neck, the armored She-Creature waded out of the water. A dark wake swirled in the fog behind her. Silently, the antediluvian monster lumbered up behind the couple, claws poised to strike.
The girl, Andrea, saw it first when her eyes fluttered open for a second. Her eyes were rolled up almost under her lids, showing almost entirely white, but she registered the sight enough o give a convulsive heave and scream.
Frank stepped back, startled by the sound, just to have a huge lobster claw descend upon his neck.
The foam-rubber claw flexed, spilling seawater that had soaked into it all down the front of Frank’s shirt. Then the claw rose and jabbed him several more times, flexing and folding each time.
“Grrr! Argh!” snarled the She-Creature in a decidedly masculine voice.
Man, woman, and monster all broke into giggles simultaneously.
Director Roger Tennant dropped his bullhorn in the sand and wiped his face with weary hands.
“Could be please get through just one take without you three cracking up? We’ll be losing the light soon and I don’t want to stay on this creepy island an hour longer than absolutely necessary.”
Bobby Burton in the sopping wet She-Creature suit made squelching noises with a shrug of his shoulders.
“This thing weighs a freakin’ ton once it gets wet. Can I get out of it for awhile?”
“NO! It takes half an hour to get it back on you each time. We need to get through three more scenes before we’re done with the She-Critter today. We can’t afford to have you hopping in and out of the suit between every take.”
“I need to take a bathroom break!” Bobby complained.
“You said the suit was already wet, right? No harm, no foul. Have at it!”
‘Har! Har! Har!”
“The scene’s supposed to be at night. I don’t see why we have to film it all in the middle of the afternoon.” Whined Bobbi, the brunette.
“Because we need the light to film, genius. It’s ‘Day for Night.’ That means we shoot in the daylight but it will look like it’s night-time when the print is made.”
“If we’re lucky.” Smirked Thompson, the camera-man.
Roger sighed and took a swig of the coconut and papaya juice drink that his doctor swore would be good for the ulcers he was developing.
“What’s that?” shouted Toni, the blonde dancer/actress who wasn’t in this part of the movie and therefore was sunbathing several yards up the beach.
Roger and the rest of the crew turned to look in the direction she was pointing.
A strange figure was walking toward them through the scrub brush and stunted trees that passed for woodlands on the island. Covered from head to foot in a flowing white hooded robe that looked vaguely Bedouin, the approaching man’s face was covered with thick white cream and he wore enormous dark sunglasses that gave his face an unsettlingly skull-like appearance.
“Shit.” Muttered Roger, tossing his shooting script to an assistant.
“Okay, everybody. Let’s take an hour for lunch and reset. Mike, help Bobby out of the She-Critter before he soils her insides. I have some business to attend to.”
“Too late!” shouted Bobby merrily.
“I didn’t hear that!” Roger shouted back.
Tennant sighed wearily, got out of his folding beach chair, and went to intercept their approaching visitor.
“Mr. Bierce! So good to see you.”
The man in the white robe chuckled, as if at some secret joke.
Roger shook hands with their host, noting that Bierce wore long opera gloves that covered his hands and arms up into the sleeves of the robe.
All types. Roger told himself, remembering to smile.
“You didn’t have to come down here, not in the daylight. Not with your condition, Mr. Bierce. I would have been happy to call on you up at the house.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” Bierce replied with his usual crisp accent.
“I do love a bit of sunshine, myself. You see. It’s just that the sun doesn’t love me. Or perhaps she loves me a bit too much, hmm?”
Roger knew about Edgar Bierce’s medical condition. He was apparently hyper-sensitive to sunlight and didn’t dare venture outside during the day without complete protection. When Bierce greeted the film crew at their arrival on the island, he’d been dressed much as he was now, covered from head to toe with a thick layer of sunscreen cream slathered over his face and dark sunglasses. He’d carried a huge black umbrella as well, but had left that at home today.
Roger laughed politely at his jest.
“Have you given any additional thought about that matter I discussed with you?” Roger asked hopefully.
Bierce gave him an almost pitying sidelong glance.
“Mr. Tennant, you know that I am merely the caretaker here. The House belongs to the Castillo de Viuda Trust of the La Mirada Historical Society. Any filming of historical landmarks has to be approved by the full Board of Trustees. I still haven’t heard from them. Frankly, I’m still surprised that the Trust granted any approval for filming on the island.”
“I can be a very persuasive guy.” Roger said with a smile.
They both knew that it was really the money of Tennant’s Producer, Dmitri Lejos, that had convinced the Historical Society to grant the company filming permits for the island. The island was under the broader, looser administration of the Historical Society in general, rather than the much tighter restrictions of the Trust that technically owned the single building on Viuda Island.
Everyone called it “The Castle” on the mainland, and it had started as a Spanish fortification that guarded approaches to La Mirada’s harbor. An eccentric industrialist acquired it during the 19th Century and renovated it into a luxury home that looked more like a classic European castle, complete with crenelations and parapets. It had later been acquired by a wealthy but disreputable scientist named Mornay. The House, “Mornay House” on most relevant documents, was the site of now legendary misdeeds and criminal experiments which led to the property being abandoned for many years, and to rumors that it was haunted which persisted to the present.
“Well, regardless of your charm and ample persuasiveness, Mr. Tennant, I must decline to take any risks that could end in my dismissal.”
Tennant shrugged with a boyish smile.
“Can’t blame me for trying!”
“Of course not.” Bierce’s zinc-covered lips granted him a tight little smile. The cream-covered moustache above them twitched like a loaded paint-brush.
“I just came to inquire about how much longer you and your crew would be shooting on the island. Hurricane season is coming and it would be unfortunate to be trapped on the open beach during a storm.”
“Oh, the height of the season is still weeks away and there’s nothing in the weather reports so far that is cause for alarm.”
“Nevertheless, storms can blow up around here very quickly, especially during the full moon. I need you to understand that the House is not to be opened to outsiders without the express instructions of the Board of Trustees. Not even for shelter. Not even in an emergency. If the weather turns sour, you will be entirely upon your own.”
Bierce’s voice dropped the air of charming banter he usually affected and had become stern, even cold.
“I’m sure we’ll be alright, Edgar.” Roger smiled even wider than before.
Bierce visibly winced at the use of his first name.
“Perhaps it would be best if you returned to the city, then. Just at night, mind you, and did all your shooting during the day. For safety’s sake.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.” Roger said in a tone that made it clear that he would do no such thing.
Bierce gave him a tight, unfriendly smile, a slight nod, then turned around and began to saunter back up the steep, winding path to the House.
“Wow.” Said Thompson. “What was that all about?”
“Don’t know.” Roger replied, squinting at the ghost-like figure in white working its way up the path. “But I think we’re beginning to wear out our welcome.”
“We were welcome? When did that happen?”
“Never before Opening Night!” They both said in unison. It was a running joke with the crew. They rarely had the luxury of permits for filming.
Mike grabbed a handful of the She-Creature’s breast, cupping the bowling ball-sized mound of foam latex. And squeezed. Seawater gushed out over his fingers.
“Oh, Baby!” He moaned.
“Boss! Mike’s squeezing the Critter’s tits again!” Bobby yelled.
“Quit molesting the She-Critter, Mike.” Came Roger’s bored, absent-minded reply.
“Just can’t help it!” Said Mike with a grin. “She’s just sooo much woman!”
“Better her than me.” Muttered Bobbi, sweeping off the long brunette wig she wore as Andrea over her own blonde bob.
“You’re next, Sweet Meat!” Mike swept a hand out in the actress’ general direction, eliciting a mock shriek of dismay.
“Just get me out of her.” Bobby said. “I’m sweating like a pig in this thing.”
“Hey!” Burton shouted toward Roger. “What’s the deal with these things anyway? Since when do lobsters have tits? And how are they supposed to work? They’re covered with armor plates. Do the scales tilt up, or what?”
“It’s the She-Creature, Bob. Shes got tits, that’s how we know they’re Shes. So the She-Critter’s got tits. To show that she’s a She. Got it?”
“Got it.” Mike said, honking the fake mammary again, with another squirt of seawater.
“Quit molesting the She-Critter, Mike.”
Chapter 2: PARTY ON HORROR BEACH Chapter Two
Things get steamy between two of the cast while unseen menaces draw near.
Once the lobster claws were off his hands, Bobby could pull the She-Creature mask off himself. The hot South Florida afternoon felt deliciously cool after being stuck inside the dank foam-rubber mask for over an hour. Mike tugged at the zipper down the back of the monster suit until it finally gave and helped slide the padded shoulders off. Bobby was soaking wet under the suit, first from sweating heavily, then from all the seawater the suit sucked up during his “emergence from the deep” scene. The suit, already heavy to start with, practically tripled in weight when it was wet. Finally freed from the wet-sponge burden, Bobby emerged like an insect molting out of its shell.
“Whew! Feels good to be able to move again.” Bobby exclaimed. “Where’s Bobbi?”
“Went down the beach a ways to get some sun and take a little nap, she said.” Replied Mike as he laid the She-Creature suit out on a plastic tarp.
“Oh. Well, maybe I’ll go check on her, see if she wants a beer or something.”
“Unh hunh. Or something.”
The affair between the stuntman and the production’s leading lady was an open secret among the cast and crew.
Bobby grinned and winked.
Whistling merrily, he set off at a brisk jog.
About a quarter mile down the beach was an outcropping of rock and jumbled boulders. The rocks provided adequate privacy and the little cove on the other side had become Bob and Bobbi’s favorite trysting spot, also an open secret among the production staff, who studiously avoided going anywhere near it.
As Bobby scrabbled over the rough stones, he felt the cold creeping sensation that someone, or something, was watching him. He paused, the hair prickling on the nape of his neck, and looked around. There was no one in sight, just sand and rocks and a couple of curious seagulls hovering on the ocean breeze overhead. He shrugged the feeling aside and continued on his way, but an icy trickle down his spine persisted.
All of which was burned away by hot, racing blood when he caught sight of Bobbi, wearing a skimpy bikini, stretched out on a white towel. Her skin was covered with a glaze of suntan lotion and glistened wetly. Her eyes were closed. She stretched and squirmed in the sunshine, her slow-motion writhing reminded Bobby vaguely of hot dogs rotating on a vendor’s cart at the boardwalk.
He was suddenly aware of the smell of sweat and foam-rubber sticking to his skin. With a twist of his head he veered toward the ocean and dove into an oncoming wave. After some quick splashing about, he waded back out, feeling salty and slick, dripping with brine, sea-foam crackling in his hair.
Bobbi was sitting up, one hand shading her eyes, watching him.
He grinned and put on his best swagger.
She bit her lip and crossed one leg over the other.
He shook some water out of his hair, then dropped down beside her, half on the towel, half on the sand.
He reached over and spread his hand across her bare belly. Her skin was hot and oily from the lotion under his fingers. He could feel a faint flutter of heartbeat beneath his palm.
“I was going to take a little nap.”
“Now you’re going to do something else.”
He leaned in, pressing his lips to hers.
She playfully nipped at his lips. Her teeth were sharp.
He pressed down firmly with his hand on her belly and began to rub in small circles. Then he plunged his tongue past her teasingly coy lips, which were pressed tightly together.
She moaned and opened her mouth to him.
One arm languidly rose and draped itself across the back of his neck, her hand gripped the solid cords of muscle in his neck. She squeezed her fingers and palm, bunching up the skin just below his hair. The other hand raked fingernails down the length of his backbone into the small of his back. Surprisingly cool fingers slipped beneath the waistband of his swim trunks.
The hand on her belly paused, as if trying to decide just which way to go. Fingertips swirled just above the top of her bikini bottom, a little rake of fingernails, a teasing scratch, then slid up her torso toward her breasts. Fingers, collided with the taut fabric of her bikini. They pressed down into soft flesh and slid under the obstruction, shoving it up and aside. His fingertips found the rubbery stub of her nipple and pinched until he could feel her heartbeat pulsing though the skin. There was a sharp pulse in the nipple itself, then an echoing ripple that fluttered through the soft mound around it.
She shoved him up and away from her, smiling indulgently. Then she arched up, reached behind her back, and unfastened the bikini top. She dragged it off and tossed it lightly aside.
When she sunk back down on the towel, his head lowered onto her, first kissing her jawline, then the soft flesh along the side of her neck. His teeth nipped lightly, but carefully so as not to leave a marks which would get both of them yelled at by their director. He touched the tip of his tongue to her skin and lightly traced down over her collarbone, wincing slightly at the palm oil taste of the lotion.
When his mouth found her breast his fingers slipped off her nipple to cup and squeeze instead. His lips pinched it, then his tongue began to lick circles around it.
She moaned, mostly for his benefit, to be truthful.
Someone nearby chuckled.
Bobbi’s eyes snapped open and she whipped her head from side to side, but there was no one in sight anywhere on the beach. She half-closed her eyes, still wary.
Bobby left off teasing her nipple. His mouth clamped tightly over her breast and he began to suck, hard. It hurt, but in that achingly pleasurable sort of way. Bobbie closed her eyes and moaned again, for real this time.
With one hand Bobby pulled her bikini bottom out, then tucked it into the crease along the side of her left leg. He fumbled himself free from his bathing trunks.
Just as he was about to slide into her, the feeling of being watched, the sense of dread, became too much for her. She shoved him back off her.
“There’s someone watching us.”
Bobby smiled crookedly.
“Let them watch, the sneaky perverts. We’ll give them a show!”
She shook her head.
“It’s not someone we know. It’s… dangerous. I can feel it.”
Her bikini top, twisted tight into a makeshift garrote, dropped to the sand nearby.
Bobby frowned. He didn’t want to stop. He was rock hard and his heartbeat thudded so heavily inside that it hurt. But he had to admit that he could feel it too. There was someone watching them. The tingling in his tailbone felt like an alarm going off.
He stood up and tucked himself back away. It took some effort.
She rolled over to grab her bikini top, couldn’t find it, then looked around and saw it twisted up just a couple feet from the top of her head. With trembling fingers she flipped her bottom back into place and snatched up the top. The latch was broken and it wouldn’t fasten. She gathered up the beach towel and wrapped it around her chest, tucking it tight.
“Look.” Said Bobby, grimly. “Someone was here.”
There were bare footprints in the sand just a few feet from them. The breeze off the ocean suddenly felt chillingly cold.
“Let’s get out of here!” She said.
Bobby nodded in agreement, disturbed that there were no additional footprints leading away from the pair that were practically right next to them. They set off at a quick walk, back toward the production camp, both of them casting fearful glances at the empty beach all around them.
“So amusing.” Whispered a voice after they’d left.
Crazy Larry lay on his belly, chin cradled in his hands, watching the young people pretend to party around a roaring bonfire. The girls were in bikinis and were shimmying energetically to a Surf Rock song that seemed to be all electric guitar and bongos. There were two blondes with long straight hair who were alternating between a fairly pedestrian Twist and an undulating Belly Dance move. They’d been at it for over an hour and their bellies were slick with sweat. They wore expressions of slightly entranced boredom with flickers of concentration through the tummy ripples. Another blonde with short-cropped hair was doing a painful-looking dance move that involved sudden convulsive jerks of her torso that thrust her breasts at the camera in wobbly stabs.
Larry had learned that she was an actress, not just one of the dancers that the director hired from a Go-Go club in La Mirada, and she played a couple of different victims in middle distance shots as well as one of the leads.
A redhead wearing a red fringed bikini danced opposite of the others. Her bottom was shoved up almost in the camera while she shimmied and rotated through well-practiced, professional moves.
The redhead was Larry’s favorite. He grinned while he watched her dance and took another pull from this fresh bottle of rum.
“Hey, Red!” Shouted Thompson, the cameraman over the music. “Your boyfriend’s back.”
He nodded toward where not-quite-hidden Larry peeked over the top of a sand dune.
The redhead tossed a glance over one shoulder and smiled.
She did a sudden duck and twist and came up facing in Larry’s direction. Mouth open, eyes half-closed, she ran her hands up over her hips and belly, shoved up under than across her breasts, and finally flung her arms toward Larry, hands reaching out. She blew him a kiss, winked, then did another duck and twist that ended with her butt shoved back up in the camera’s lens.
Larry, not particularly bothered at being spotted, grinned and let loose a wolf-whistle that echoed over the beach. Red nodded her head in acknowledgement and shimmied twice as hard.
“Oh, he’s not so bad.” She said, panting slightly with exertion. “I’ve danced for worse. At least he keeps his distance and his hands to himself. He’d probably be a good tipper, too, if we were at the Club.”
She smiled at her admirer, then spun out from in front of the camera, her close-up scene finished. Mike handed her a towel and she wiped her face and neck, but left the sheen of sweat built up over her belly and cleavage. With barely a pause to catch her breath, she stepped back out and took up a position among the other dancers.
“Right, “ Shouted Roger. “Cue the monsters on three… two… one… Go!”
Two stuntmen lumbered into the shot, each wearing an elaborately ridiculous rubber monster suit. One was a scale-covered wet-suit with a huge fish-like head. Gills flopped like limp ears at the sides and weird rubber protrusions poked through a mouth full of sculpted rubber teeth.
“Grr! I’m a Hot-Dog Monster!” snarled Bobby Burton in his Party Beach Horror costume.
From the other side, Charlie waddled up to the girls wearing a conical-headed, google-eyed suit draped with yards of crepe-paper “seaweed.”
“Arr! I’m Crazy Kelp-Head and I eat girlie-girls!” He shouted, waving his arms in a comically “threatening” gesture.
The girls screamed on cue and tried to cover their grins with hands as they cringed.
Party Beach Horror Bobby lunged forward and clawed at Bobbi. Carefully placed chocolate syrup on the insides of the rubber claws left dark streaks across the girl’s belly and breasts. One hand reached up to grab her by the throat. She gurgled convincingly and drooled fake blood from the capsule she’d just bit down on. The stricken “victim” shuddered through death throes as the Party Beach Horror dragged her carcass away for unspeakable purposes.
The Kelp-Headed Monster shambled blindly among the beach-girls as they scattered. Red bit her knuckles and fainted dead away at he feet as the monster leaned menacingly over her.
“Gonna eat you up, Girlie-girl!” Charlie growled.
“Promises, promises.” Snickered the dancer as she was lifted up and thrown limply over one foam-rubber shoulder.
“Oof!” the supposedly unconscious girl cried.
“What big teeth you have!” She whispered as Charlie tried to stagger off with her.
“CUT!” yelled Roger, as his entire cast broke into laughter and tumbled about the sand.
Crazy Larry’s pulse was pounding like a jackhammer. He scrubbed his face with both hands before ducking and rolling back down the far side of the dune. He stared miserably at the clear blue sky overhead. He could feel the Beast clawing at the inside of his chest. He hyperventilated for a moment before grabbing his bottle of rum, taking a deep, desperate draught from it, then he lurched to his feet and staggered away from the beach.
The Full Moon was coming. They had to leave soon. They had to!
Chapter 3: PARTY ON HORROR BEACH Chapter Three
"Red" gets some bonus screen time while Larry dreams of The Wolf.
“Okay! Let’s pick up Scene Twenty Seven—Footprints of the Monster. Rod, you ready with the Doc’s first reveal?”
Rod Spencer, former Western Heavy turned brooding Method Actor, as of about two years earlier, came trotting out of the make-up tent. Chiseled good looks with a hint of perpetual glare around the eyes, Spencer was playing the second lead scientist, Dr. Adams. He was graying at the temples, which Margie the make-up girl accentuated with a bit of hair paste, and had salt and pepper tangles of hair over his chest and stomach. A bit of an aging stud, but Spencer kept to a grueling regimen of morning and evening swims against the surf to stay in shape. He looked pretty good, for a washed up second stringer trying to jump-start a second acting career.
Roger was happy to have him. The familiar name would do wonders for the Marquee when the movie opened, and a seasoned hand might help whip the gaggle of stunt men and dancing girls he was forced to work with into some kind of real performance.
Speaking of which, Roger frowned and looked around.
“Where’s Bobbi? Isn’t Andrea supposed to be in this scene?”
“She’s off somewhere with Bobby.” Mike called back.
“What the hell are they doing?”
“Bobbin’.” Giggled Toni, the blonde dancer who was really a brunette under a bad peroxide job and an okay wig.
“Again?” Roger was stupefied. It seemed like he had to yank the Bobbies out of a clench every time he turned around. It happened so often that the rest of the cast and crew had taken to calling any kind of sexual shenanigans “Bobbin’” after the over-eager couple.
He drew a line through several lines of dialog.
“Hey Red, want some extra lines?”
Some quick actress substitutions might settle his main lead down some, plus it would score him points with the red-haired firecracker, who had made it abundantly clear that she hoped to get more out of the production than a dancing extra credit.
Roger had high hopes for cashing in some of those points at the wrap party when the shoot was over.
“Sure, what do I have to do?”
“Just listen to the Doc here and react to whatever he says. Nothing fancy, just play him up some. Got it?”
Doctor Stephen Adams, marine biologist and world class spear-fisher, was going for a walk along the moonlit beach (under a blazing three pm sun) with Bridget, the hot tamale party girl he’d had his eye on lately.
Roger scribbled the name “Bridget” and “hot tamale” on the page in his shooting script, so he’d remember the off the cuff character name later on. Just in case there was an opportunity to score some more points with the firecracker.
“What are these?” Asked the Doctor suddenly, dropping to a crouch to examine something in the wet sand.
Hot Tamale Bridget, curious, leaned over his shoulder to get a look, bikini-cleavage aimed straight at the camera.
That’s a girl! Thought Roger with a grin. The girl was a natural.
“Why, they look like footprints, but these were not made by any human feet!”
Bridget’s eyes went wide, her mouth formed a frightened “Oh”.
“What are they then, Doc? If they ain’t human?”
Roger blinked but gestured for the actors to keep the scene going.
“Why, from the shape of those lateral fin tarsals, and the rudimentary phalanges… No, it’s not possible!”
Bridget raised fingers to her mouth, nervously tugging at her lip.
Oh, good girl! Roger gestured for the camera to move in some.
Thompson was way ahead of him.
“Why, these look like the kind of marks that would be made if a South American Fantigua fish grew to huge proportions, at least six, seven feet long, over three hundred pounds, easy—if it were using its anterior lobe fins as, well, as legs of some kind. As feet to walk upon the land!”
Doctor Adams rose slowly to his feet, a look of dawning horror on his face.
Bridget clutched his shoulder, her eyes wide with contagious dread.
“What the fuck is a Fantigua fish?”
Larry was having the dream again.
He always had it, when the Moon was nearly full. It was one of the dreadful constants in his otherwise currently idyllic existence.
He was The Wolf, in the dream, chasing a terrible enemy through a confusing maze of darkened rooms. Furniture and other obstacles crashed, thrown aside as he continued the chase. Doors closed in his face, only to be broken to splinters. Other prey animals bleated with alarm, but he had no time for those just yet. His deadly predator’s mind was entirely focused on the enemy, who continued to elude him, but only by the slimmest of margins. His enemy’s lead shortened with every frenzied exertion, each burst of ferocious energy The Wolf could muster.
The enemy’s scent filled his nostrils; rank curdled blood and the dusty stink of something long dead, mixed with a strong musky cologne and the whispery smell of fine cloth. It moved with preternatural quiet, slipping like a shadow from room to room, but The Wolf’s keen ears could still follow the faint scuff of shoe leather, the rustle of a silk cape, the flutter of a bat’s wings. The usual sounds of prey, panting breath and pounding heartbeats, were absent. In times past that absence along with the lack of sweat’s aroma or the whimper of panic had confused The Wolf. But he had hunted this prey before, many times. By now he was familiar with all the peculiarities of this particular Enemy. The Wolf could no longer be misled or shaken from the hunt.
Even the presence of the lumbering Other was no more than a slight distraction. It was big and it was loud, its heart banged like a huge tympani drum, far too fast and far too hard to be anything human, but it was slow, clumsy. The Wolf knew the smells of the Other far too well to be alarmed by them. Spoiled meat, the antiseptic sting of medicinal fluids, the nostril-tingling prickle of ozone, these things no longer startled or confused The Wolf.
The Enemy and its utter destruction by fang and claw was all that The Wolf cared about.
And, finally, that precious mouth-watering moment arrived! The Enemy, out of places to run, with no place to hide, found itself trapped between The Wolf and a wall. There was only a glass window overlooking the sea open for a possible escape. The Enemy shed its false human form, took on the shape of a huge bat, and tried to smash through that window to reach the open sky beyond. The glass slowed it just enough. With no hesitation, no concern for the long certain fall to rocks and sea below, The Wolf leaped after its prey.
There is no human equivalent for the type of joy felt by The Wolf when its prey is seized, when the hunt has reached its inevitable conclusion. The wholeness of being, the utter savage satisfaction of digging fang and claw into something that one has pursued with single-minded intensity for far too long---it is something that cannot be experienced by sane men.
The Wolf felt that bestial tranquility when it sank its teeth into a fat, furry body. As its claws shredded paper-thin wings, it was as if some excruciating inner itch were being scratched. As the pieces of the bat came apart with a great burst of stolen blood, sundered like a flimsy chew-toy shaken to bits by a great hound, The Wolf felt the complete satiation of its predatory yearnings.
A vast swell of joy filled its furry chest, just before it hit the crashing surf. That joy was so great that even the bone-shattering benumbing shock of landing on rocks could not overwhelm it. Being engulfed by the South Florida sea was like diving into a vast pool of warm, salty blood. The Wolf embraced the blackness of oblivion with the shreds of its enemy sticking to its teeth, happily fulfilled.
Lawrence Talbot woke long afterwards, his body washed up on a sandy beach. The taste in his mouth was even fouler than usual after a night spent as The Wolfman. He spat it out and took in mouthful after mouthful of clean saltwater, swirling and spitting that out until the godawful taste of death was purged. Larry sprawled for a long time right where he found himself. His face was hot from the sunshine beating down upon it. His body shivered from the chill of being long submerged in deep water. Each wave lifted him slightly then dropped him back on soft sand. The incoming tide nudged him bit by bit up the beach.
When his head cleared as much as it was likely to, and the fractured memories of what he’d done as The Wolfman began to form a coherent picture, Larry laughed out loud. He whooped with glee and slapped his arms in the thin fringe of surf.
Dracula was dead!
That much he remembered with startling clarity. He remembered the bat coming to pieces in his teeth. The sweet music of its pained shrieks still echoed in his ears. After long years of stalking and hunting the Undead thing that had killed his wife, Millitza, Larry finally felt the sweet joy of revenge.
The crisp, calculated balance of scores settled, of justice achieved, the deep methodical click of all the pieces of an equation coming to final resolution, was something that no frenzied, chaotic animal mind could comprehend.
For the first time in many years Lawrence Talbot was fully and utterly at peace.
His body felt like it weighed a thousand pounds when he finally dragged it to its feet and stumbled out of the surf. Though he initially had no idea where he ended up, Larry soon enough learned that he was still on the island of Viuda, off the coast from the city of La Mirada, Florida. The tides and current had washed him out to sea, then rolled him southeast along the sandy shoal of the island before eventually washing him back up on the shore.
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
The Moon beckons The Wolfman, nights too early for the change, and the film-makers are terrified by something from the dark.
La Viuda Island was shaped like along, feathery teardrop. The western end of the island was a solid crag of rock, thrust up with deep water around three sides. The Spanish had built their fort atop that outcropping of rock, where the cannons could easily control passage through the deep water channels nearby. The rest of the island was a long, low-lying shoal of sand that built up in the lee of the rocky headland. Most of that part of the island was covered with scrub brush and long grass with stands of stunted trees in thick clusters closer to the rocky end. The island was home to a herd of miniature deer that one or another owner of the mansion had imported, and a small pack of wild pigs. Rhesus monkeys, escaped from Dr. Mornay’s lab years ago, lived feral in the trees and along the rocky cliffs of the island.
Larry soon found that he had neither any need nor any desire to be “rescued” from his island. He fished for food, hunted shellfish, trapped sea-gulls, and plucked berries and coconuts to eat. Once a month he hunted the miniature deer that populated the island and consumed bloody red meat as The Wolfman. Most of the time he sat on the beach and watched the waves roll in. He napped in the sunshine. He gazed at the stars and sometimes wished he had a telescope like his father’s to see them more clearly. Every once in awhile a boat full of sleazy associates would come to the island and Larry would trade conch shells that he gathered illegally for necessities like fish-hooks and rope and clothing, and rum. Especially for rum.
All in all, life as a beach bum agreed with Larry. He didn’t mind that others thought of him as “Crazy Larry”, as long as they left him alone. Alone upon his island, far from anyone he could hurt, Lawrence Talbot even learned not to dread the coming of the Full Moon. He and The Wolf were finally at peace with one another. They were neighbors and allies, if not friends.
When Geoffrey Radcliffe, not so dead as he’d let loved ones believe, arrived on the island and took up residence in Doctor Mornay’s castle-like house as “caretaker,” he and Larry became close friends. Larry sometimes resented the Invisible Man’s acerbic wit and sometimes Radcliffe’s crisply intellectual cynicism reminded Larry too much of his father, Sir John Talbot, but in general Larry was glad to have someone to talk to other than himself. They were both outsiders, they both could not trust themselves in the company of normal men, and they both took solace in the peacefulness of solitary existence. They had much in common.
More importantly, Geoffrey made sure that Larry had a reliable supply of rum, keeping a case or two of it stashed at the house and doling it out to Larry in sufficient quantity to keep him comfortable, but not so much as to fuel the sometimes explosively violent drunken rampages Larry was capable of.
Life was good on Viuda Island.
Until outsiders came there to throw things out of balance with their noise and their meddling. Whenever fools came to monster-haunted Viuda Island, there was always the potential for murder and horror.
Images of murder and horror flitted through Larry’s mind, interspersed with memories of female torsos barely clad in skimpy bikinis, shimmying and shaking. Red hair was tossed over a come-hither smile, like a splash of fresh blood across the Moon. Chocolate-drenched claws scraped and slashed at bellies, at breasts. But when has chocolate syrup ever been red and sticky and tasted coppery? The images in Larry’s mind began to stutter. Smiling, laughing women’s faces went out of focus, became instead the startled faces of deer, the uncomprehending bland visages of sheep. Long, slender legs and hips in bunched-up bikinis turned into rabbits running through the night. The glare of arc-lamps became the cold radiance of moonlight.
Larry felt thirsty and hungry and excited all at once.
His heart thundered in his chest like a frenetic bongo beat.
His skin itched all over. His teeth ached.
“No!” he cried out in his sleep.
Larry snapped awake, swinging in the hammock stretched inside his shack. The itching and the aching did not go away. The pounding of his heart did not slow down. He held his hands up in front of his face. Hair bristled across the backs, crawling up out of the pores. His fingernails were too sharp and too thick. He rubbed his face. A beard had grown along his jawline overnight, his cheeks were fuzzy with short fur.
“No! No! No!”
Larry twisted and fell out of the hammock.
“This can’t be happening!”
He looked up out of the shack’s window. The Moon still had a black crescent of darkness across the top. It was not full, not yet. This shouldn’t be happening.
That did not stop his teeth from forming into jaggedly pointed fangs. He was ravishingly hungry.
The Wolf was tired of eating pygmy deer.
There was something juicier on the island, something waiting to be hunted!
On the beach, cast and crew sat around a crackling bonfire. Beers were passed hand to hand from the cooler chest. Skewered hot dogs blistered over the sizzling flames. An oversized portable radio blared Rock music from a La Mirada station as loudly as its batteries could bear.
Frankie DeWitt, who had already died twice during the previous day’s filming—as two different characters, leaped into the firelight with an unplugged electric guitar in his hands. He smiled at the girls, fingers strumming furiously to keep up with the Surf Guitar riffing on the radio. Sliding from foot to foot, he swung his bare, muscular shoulders in time with the music. He lip-synced to the singer’s voice on the radio, though the words he silently mouthed were all scandalously obscene.
Charlie and Mike jumped in behind him and began lip-syncing the harmony parts. They both wore big, goofy grins and snapped their fingers.
The girls howled with laughter.
The only person not laughing in the circle around the bonfire was Roger. It was his idea to get the boys to practice performing to playback music before trying to shoot any of the movie’s “musical” numbers.
Roger was not optimistic about the probable results.
When the music abruptly cut off for a news bulletin, the boys stopped moving and just stood awkwardly looking at each other. After a second or two, Mike stepped forward and began mouthing words along with the announcer’s voice. The expression on his face was gravely serious.
“Authorities report that the famous Gill Man has been spotted swimming in an Everglades estuary close to La Mirada. One man was killed and several were injured in an encounter with the beast. A Park Service boat was overturned during its rampage before the Gill Man disappeared into the sea. The Gill Man is still at large and authorities request that all civilians who live near the shoreline lock their doors and windows and avoid beaches until the monster is recaptured or killed.”
“We now return you to your regular radio broadcasts.”
Everyone around the campfire had fallen silent during the news bulletin.
Roger was the only one laughing when the boys picked up performing to the song as if nothing had happened. He had to give them credit for their dedication to the shtick, if nothing else.
“Do you think we’re safe out here?” One of the dancers asked in a frightened voice.
She went by the name of Toni Twist, but had been born with the equally improbable name Antoinette Merlot.
“Ah, that report is from practically the other side of the State. We’re fine over here. Unless, y’know, the Gill Man commandeers a motorboat or something.”
The image of the Gill Man at the wheel of a speedboat elicited a chorus of laughter.
The film-makers had just relaxed back into a lightly buzzed chatter of conversation when an unearthly shriek or howl erupted out of the darkness near their camp.
Everyone fell silent again and several of the men jumped up to look for something to use as weapons. Rod Spencer snatched up a largely useless prop spear gun and aimed it into the dark, as if the thing were capable of actually firing.
There was a real, functional, spear gun of course. It would be needed for some of the underwater shots planned. But by general agreement it was kept where Rod couldn’t find it and only one of the stuntmen, Charlie or Bobby, would actually fire it on camera. Rod was notorious for having once shot a co-star with a loaded six-shooter on one of his Westerns. There was an industry-wide perception that Spencer should never be allowed near anything with a trigger again.
The ghastly shrieking sound ripped through the night again, nearer this time.
One of the tents set up for the crew wobbled violently and crashed to the ground. Roger winced. Rental fees for the camping supplies were among the largest of his expenses for this outing.
Most of the girls screamed and rushed to hide behind the stuntmen and actors. Roxanne “Red” Cannons—born Judith McAllister—was the exception. She calmly bit the hotdog off the end of the stick she held and pointed the sharp end at the darkness. The look on her face made it clear that anything coming near her would become familiar with the business end of her skewer.
“Go…baaaack!” Moaned an echoey voice. “Leave this place, or suffer its cursssse!”
Another tent crashed to the ground. Several of the oxygen tanks stored behind Mike’s properties tent rolled across the sand on their own. Then the empty scaled rubber suit of the Party Beach Monster crawled out of the tent. Headless, the flaccid suit flopped and dragged itself toward the crew.
Rod stepped up, calmly leveled his fake spear gun at it, and pulled the trigger. There was a very business-like click, but the spear glued to the gun’s stock didn’t go anywhere.
Rod looked genuinely surprised. He let out a frightened yelp and stepped backwards, fell to the ground, then continued backwards at a fast paced crab-crawl.
Several crew-members threw beer bottles at the menacing, flopping suit. There were a couple of audible thuds and a very normal sounding cry of pain. The monster suit fell to the ground and stopped moving.
Cautiously, Bobby and Mike stepped up to poke it with sticks.
There was no sign of life or movement from it.
Suddenly, one of the dancers’ bikini top unfastened itself and leaped off a pair of perfectly shaped white breasts, untouched by the sun that had tanned the rest of her skin. The bikini top fluttered in the air like a strangely shaped moth for a moment before hurtling off into the darkness.
Baby Blue, birth name Norma Reese, stared in petrified fascination at her rebellious swimwear and only remembered to cross arms over her exposed chest as a kind of absent-minded afterthought.
Footprints appeared in the sand, moving toward Red Cannons.
There was a loud smack as an unseen hand whacked her ass-cheek. Purely out of reflex, Red snapped out a right jab that contacted with something solid. There was a meaty thump, a cry of pain, then a roughly body-shaped outline appeared in the sand at her feet. Still acting on instinct, Red lashed out twice with her foot, connecting both times.
“Oof! Oof! Get away from me, you crazy beast!” yelped a pained but otherwise crisply cultured voice.
Sand flew up in spurts, then footprints appeared racing for the safety of the darkness beyond the campsite.
“You better leave a helluva tip!” Red shouted, purely by rote.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
The film crew recover from their fright and the show must go on!
Crazy Larry was on his knees at the edge of the surf, splashing seawater over his face with trembling hands when Geoffrey came stumbling into his camp.
“I think that madwoman may have dislocated my jaw!” Geoffrey moaned.
Larry didn’t seem to hear him.
“Still, I gave them all quite a scare. They should be leaving in the morning, if not sooner.”
Radcliffe cackled with glee, then moaned and rubbed his jaw again.
“Good.” Answered Larry in a monotone. “They have to leave. They have to leave or I will kill them all.”
He held up his shaky hands. The backs were still bristled with thick hair.
“I almost turned. The Moon isn’t full yet, but I almost turned.”
When Larry turned to look toward Radcliffe’s voice, his eyes reflected the moonlight with an eerie, blood-red shine.
Geoffrey didn’t say anything, but a ripple of dread ran down his spine. Invisible or not, The Wolfman would be able to find him, if he weren’t safely locked inside the fortified house first.
After a moment a half-full bottle of rum floated out of the open door of Larry’s shack.
“I think we both need a drink.”
Larry grunted and nodded.
Together, under a not quite full Moon, the Invisible Man and the almost Wolfman shared the rest of that bottle of rum.
“So, are we going to pack up and get out of here?”
“No. We are not.”
The majority of the cast and crew stared at Roger as if he’d just gone completely insane.
“After… after THAT? After that we’re not bugging out? This place really is haunted. We all saw that!”
Roger shook his head stubbornly.
“I don’t buy that for a minute.”
Roger turned to Thompson and his own assistant, whose name he never could quite remember.
“Didn’t you guys recognize that voice? Especially after Red socked whoever or whatever that was?”
They both looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Bierce.” Thompson said. “That was Edgar Bierce’s voice. I’d recognize it anywhere.”
Other than Roger himself, his cameraman and his assistant had the most interaction with the eccentric caretaker.
“Right. Whatever else he is, Bierce isn’t dead. He isn’t a ghost. I think that whole thing was an elaborate hoax designed to scare us off. I think he rigged it all, somehow, with strings and mirrors and speakers or something.”
Mike the Properties Manager looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Yeah. I could do most of that. With some time to set it up. Wires and puppet rods for the suit. Maybe a black bodysuit to seem invisible in the dark. Whoever it was didn’t get too close to the fire, but stuck to the edges of the camp. A blacksuit could make someone SEEM invisible, it they were good at staying out of the light. Yeah. Yeah! I could do all of that!”
Red seemed unconvinced but didn’t say anything. The rest of the girls seemed relieved to hear an alternative to the Supernatural and were willing to consider the whole thing explained.
“Now, I’m not saying it wasn’t a fantastic performance.” Roger continued. “Hell, I bet ol’ Edgar is a stage magician with a ton of tricks up his sleeve. He’s sure got the voice for it. I mean, I’d hire him in a second after a resume-builder like tonight. But I’ll be damned if I’ll let one guy scare us off in the middle of a shoot! We’re already behind schedule and over budget as it is.”
“We have a budget?” asked his assistant, in a cheeky mood.
“Yeah. You need a microscope to see it, but it’s there.”
The group chuckled together and relaxed.
“If ol’ Edgar comes down here again to try and scare us off, I’ll offer him a job on the Special Effects crew, ‘cause he’s damned good at what he does.”
“I thought I was the Special Effects ‘crew.’” Mike complained.
“Yep. And I’ll give him your job, if he’ll show us how to set up a scene like that.”
“Damn. I LIKE my job!”
Toni and Baby Blue patted him on the shoulder and gave him sympathetic doe-eyes.
“Okay. Enough goofing off. We had a good scare. We’re making a scary movie. Sort of. Let’s put those jangled nerves to work in front of the cameras! Set up Scene Thirty Four. We start shooting as soon as there’s enough sunlight.”
Roger clapped his hands and his crew scurried off to get everything set up for the next day’s filming.
Mike wandered over to Roger, a sheepish look on his face.
“Look, I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I have no idea how Bierce could have pulled off any of that. At least not without a helluva lot of prep, and I don’t know how he could have done that without us seeing him. I’m really stumped, Boss.”
Roger smiled nervously.
“Yeah. He’s not just good, he’s sneaky good. He might be dangerous too. We’ll have to keep a watch for him from here on out. Just… don’t say anything about that to the girls. They’re frazzled enough as it is.”
Scene Thirty Four was one of Roger’s brainstorm babies. Just about every Monster Movie ever made has a scene in it where a female lead is running from the monster but falls and twists her ankle, giving the beastie a chance to catch up to her and carry her off--after she conveniently faints, of course. Heck, his movie had two scenes like that already. But his movie also had three monsters, one of which was very obviously female. Roger’s brilliant inspiration was to do the classic old chestnut, but switch the genders. Shake things up a bit!
In Scene Thirty Four, Dr. Adams and Andrea are confronted by the She-Creature and run for their lives, but Doc trips in the sand and twists his ankle. He cowers helpless until the She-Creature clobbers him unconscious, then scoops him up and carries him off to have her evil way with him!
Roger even imagined having three different posters and newspaper ads made up, two showing the other monsters carrying unconscious bikini girls and the third featuring the She-Creature with Doc in her arms, limp and helpless in skimpy bathing trunks.
The Art Department of the studio loved the idea. Dmitri, his Producer, seemed skeptical and not at all eager to pay for three different ad campaigns, but he hadn’t ruled out the suggestion, just yet. Roger had high hopes.
“Okay, here we go! Doc, you’re out with Andrea when she suddenly becomes distracted and distant. Then, the She-Creature appears. The rest plays out just as it’s written in the script, okay?”
Both actors scanned their shooting scripts for what must have been the fourth or fifth time.
“I don’t know…” Bobbie muttered.
Rod looked kind of dubious as well. The expression on his face suggested that he’d just bitten into something sour.
Roger was ready for this. He’d prepared for his male lead’s predictable objections.
“Now, Rod, I know I’m asking a lot. I mean, it’s pretty hard for a two-fisted action guy like you to have to play helpless and vulnerable. If you’re not comfortable with the scene as written, or don’t think you can do it, we can skip it and go into shooting Scene Thirty Five while I do a quick rewrite.”
Rod looked like he’d just been slapped. He went from sourpuss to indignant in a heartbeat.
“What do you mean ‘can’t do it’? I’m a Method Actor. I can do any kind of character. I don’t need to be comfortable, I need to ACT! I can do this, as written. No problem.”
Roger tried not to grin. Nothing was more predictable than Rod’s ego.
“Wow. Okay, then. I keep forgetting what a dedicated professional you are. I’m used to dealing with hacks all the time. Working with someone like you on a film like this is a rare treat for me.”
He turned to his leading lady and lone genuine actress.
“Now, what’s not working for you?”
Bobbie scanned the pages again and frowned.
“Well, everywhere else in the screenplay, Andrea goes into a kind of trance when the She-Creature appears. The She-Creature is the materialization of her prehistoric past life. She has to be in a trance for the monster to appear. That was established in the first film. But here, the She-Creature is already materialized and solid, but Andrea is walking around talking as if nothing has happened. And here, where she actually comes face to face with her past self, instead of freezing up or becoming unconscious she takes off running like a jackrabbit. Even worse, she leaves Stephen, Doctor Adams, behind with barely a thought. And he’s supposed to be a man she’s falling for. None of that makes sense!”
Bobbi paused for breath and bit her lip.
Roger looked at the script again and scratched his head.
Son of a gun. She was right. She was totally right. Scene Thirty Four just didn’t make sense as it was written. He was so busy doing something unconventional with his male lead that he didn’t think through the female lead’s actions at all.
“You are absolutely…” Roger scowled for effect. Bobbie looked apprehensive. “…Correct, little lady. Good catch.”
Time to earn some more Firecracker points, Roger thought to himself.
“Would you mind if I swapped out your part, then? We already used Red for the footprint scene, so we’ve established a relationship of sorts between them. Would you mind if I put Roxanne in this scene instead of you? There aren’t many lines. It’s mostly just screaming and running.”
Bobbie pouted a little bit, but decided to be a trooper.
“I suppose that makes more sense. I mean, it’s not like I don’t have enough to do already. Don’t I get to die again this afternoon?”
Roger flipped ahead in his shooting script.
“Yeah. ‘The Girl in the Black One Piece.’ Blonde again. You go for a swim and get dragged under by the Beach Girls Monster.”
“You mean ‘Crazy Kelp-Head?” she asked with a grin.
“Yeah. I think that’s what Charlie’s been calling him!”
“Well, it’s settled then. I’ll go chat with Charlie and see if we can spice that scene up a little.”
With that all settled, they shuffled the personnel around a bit, checked the light, and set up the shot.
Doctor Adams and Bridget the Hot Tamale were walking along the beach. They played at not quite holding hands. Doc couldn’t take his eyes off her. The redhead played it cool and pretended not to notice, but from the way she was breathing, from the quick rise and fall of her breasts, the feeling was mutual.
Thompson got a close up of their bare feet walking through the thinnest edge of surf, kicking up little splashes of water between laughs.
A thick layer of low-lying fog began to spill in, swirling around their toes and ankles. Something splashed heavily in the water. There was a coarse, guttural growl.
The couple looked up to see the She-Creature wading purposefully toward them. Both of them froze in shock for a critical instant, giving the amphibious she-thing a chance to come up on them before they could react.
They both turned to flee.
“Run!” Shouted Doctor Adams.
They only made it a step or two before Stephen stumbled in the sand and went sprawling on his face.
Bridget paused, looked back.
“No! Don’t stop. Don’t worry about me. Save yourself!”
The redhead lingered a second more, torn. Then the She-Creature was upon them. It loomed over Stephen, drool slathering out of its fanged mouth. Overcome with terror, Stephen screamed pitifully, covering his eyes with a raised arm. The She-Creature clobbered him with an oversized lobster claw. He fell silent and limp, helpless before the primordial monster.
The She-Creature turned its attention to Bridget, looking up with a snarl, raising its claws to fend off any challenge to its claim to the fallen male.
Without another thought, Bridget spun around and ran. It wasn’t any dainty arms flailing girlie run, either. The redhead put her head down and took off elbows and knees. Feathery rooster-tails of sand kicked up at her heels.
The She-Creature tilted its head and watched her go. Then it looked down at its prize. Half twisted around so that his hips and hairy chest both showed, Adams groaned helplessly. The She-Creature drooled some more, then stooped menacingly over the fallen man.
It scooped him up easily in its arms, one claw under a knee, the other under shoulders, and carried him as if he were a child. His right leg dangled free, foot brushing the sand with each swinging step.
The She-Creature raised its head and let loose an eerie howling bellow, declaring its intention to mate to any potential rivals. The antennae atop its head twitched with anticipation.
Then the crew broke into uncontrollable fits of giggles and laughter.
Bobby Burton stared at them from inside the She-Creature’s mask. He looked down. Rod was grinning and pumping the huge foam-rubber She-Creature breast with one hand.
“I can’t help it.” He said with a shrug. “She’s just so squeeezably soft!”
“Oh, for God’s sake!” muttered Bobby.
He dropped the Method Actor on his Method Butt and scowled, foam lobster claws planted on his She-Creature hips.
Roger rubbed his face with both hands.
“Rod, stop molesting the She-Critter.” He shouted through fingers laced over his face. He tried very hard not to laugh.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
The crew gets ready for an underwater shoot while a new visitor arrives at the island.
Thompson went over the underwater shot list with Roger while Charlie conducted safety checks on all of the diving gear and loaded it on the motorboat.
“I was thinking about trying to get as much footage as possible on the north end of the island, out by the burned out docks. The bottom drops off here.” He pointed to a swathe of closely spaced squiggles on his contour map. “Drops a couple hundred feet straight into the La Mirada Channel. Should make for some spectacular shots. Cliffs dropping into the black depths. That sort of thing! There’s supposed to be an old shipwreck on that side of the island too.”
Roger nodded eagerly.
“Sounds good. Sounds very good!”
“We’ll just do some swimming footage and establishing shots. I don’t want to take any of the monster suits out into deep water. They’re awkward enough as is. We’ll film the monster scenes close to shore, here, and just keep to tight shots on the action scenes.”
Roger nodded again. The suits were expensive, even if they didn’t look it, and he didn’t want to risk losing one of them. They didn’t belong to Lejo’s production company but had just been rented along with the rights to the monsters themselves from the original studios. If he lost one it would come out of his salary!
Besides, he really didn’t want to risk having an actor drown during the production, even if the resulting press would be sensational. He couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to be trapped in one of the bulky suits, water-logged and heavy as lead, while the current dragged you under, dragged you down into the black depths where divers couldn’t even reach you. To become gnawed bones rolling in the muck of the lightless bottom.
He shuddered at the image inside his head and wondered why it was so terribly clear.
Even if the sensational press would likely translate into additional percentage points at the box office.
“What the bloody hell?”
Roger was snapped out of his reverie by Thompson’s outburst. The man’s British accent only came out when he was startled or excited, or drunk.
Roger followed his cameraman’s gaze and saw Rod Spencer slapping his way along the beach with flippers and full diving rig on.
“Rod, what are you doing?”
The actor pushed his facemask up and smiled broadly.
“I’m ready to do the underwater scenes!” he practically chirped.
“Rod, you know that Charlie’s doubling for you on the diving scenes.”
The stuntman already had white paste slathered through the hair on the sides of his head, to match the older actor’s salt and pepper gray.
“I know. But I took talent training on diving right after I read the script. So I could do, I don’t know, some close ups or mid-range stuff where you can see my face. It’ll be more believable that way. Charlie can do all the serious diving and swimming around and stuff.”
Roger looked at Thompson.
The cameraman shrugged.
“It will help put things together if we have same location establishing shots with Rod on site.”
Thompson looked at Charlie who’d come running over to check out Rod’s gear while Mike got the boat ready to move out.
Charlie nodded, clearly somewhat impressed.
“Yeah. All his gear checks out and everything is rigged properly. He SEEMS to know what he’s doing. Can’t see any reason why he couldn’t bob about in the water and get his picture taken.”
Rod glared at him but said nothing.
“Okay, well. Great! It’ll save us time if we can get as much shot on one outing as possible. Let’s do it!”
Roger gave a thumbs up to the cameraman and his divers.
He was happy to let them get as much done as possible, while he went over lines with the girls. In his tent.
“What about what they were saying on the radio, about that Gill Man creature? Is it safe to go out in the water?”
Rod seemed about ready to ditch the whole scene, after going to some lengths to get himself included into the shooting trip.
“Oh, the bloody Gill Man is probably halfway into the Everglades by now, being chased by Park Rangers! He’s nowhere near here.”
Really quite nearby, it dragged itself up out of the icy black deep with its long, curved talons. The Creature’s fingers spider-walked up the steep slope of sand and rocks. Its legs trailed limply behind it. The air-breathers had sprayed it with bullets during its last foray. The thick armored scales covering its torso stopped the bullets, but the brutal pummeling bruised and injured its insides. Added to that was the bone-chilling cold of the deep water it sank into while dazed, deadly painful for a tropical creature such as itself. The Gill Man was in dire need of a safe place to curl up and recuperate.
Up ahead, tilted at a precarious angle on the sandy slope, loomed the rusted, barnacle-encrusted hull of a bootlegger’s lost boat. The Creature glided up to the wreck, fingers digging into the sand to resist the undertow that tried to drag it back down into the deep water. When it was near enough, it reached out and gripped the edge of a jagged hole in the boat’s side. Gracefully, it pulled itself up and into the wreck with a movement that was part pirouette and part one-handed chin-up. A cloud of silvery fish scattered as it glided among them.
Safe inside the wreck, the Creature rested. It sucked in great gulps of seawater, which still burned the delicate tissues inside its mouth and throat and gills. It preferred freshwater. The peaty taste of rotting wood inside the wreck calmed it, though. The musky aftertaste of stale flesh piqued its curiosity. Nosing about, nudging flotsam and crumbly bits of debris aside, it found surprisingly well-preserved corpses hidden inside the flooded staterooms. They were long dead, but for some reason the sea-creatures had declined to feed on them, so despite being buried at sea for many years, their corpse flesh was wrinkled, almost pickled by sea-brine, but still mostly intact.
The Creature cupped a deadman’s jaw and lifted the face toward its own. The amphibious beast, hunted and far from its native waters, found it oddly relaxing to stare into those empty sockets, to trace the lipless, toothy grin with a single, hooked claw.
It had no idea how long it floated in reverie, staring into the drowned man’s face. Time passed differently for the antediluvian creature, part of the secret of its long survival while the World fluttered and changed around it. But it was shaken from its peaceful repose by dull thuds hitting the water not far away. A muted burbling tickled its ears. The Gill Man knew what that sound meant. It was the sound of air-breathers invading its realm. Those sounds usually led to struggle and death. Never its own.
The Creature’s black fishy eyes irised open. Its mouth gaped wide, then snapped shut hard. With a kick and a couple sweeps of its wide webbed hands, it glided through the wreck, twisting and tumbling until it reached an algae-smeared porthole. Impatiently it rubbed the blurry glass clear. And there they were! Humans, slapping their feet awkwardly and rocking side to side as they swam by, long lines of silver bubbles trailing behind them.
The Creature uttered a guttural growl, then drifted back from the porthole, disappearing into the wreck’s dark interior, before the invaders could spot it.
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
The divers find something Monstrous and plans are made to salvage it.
The north end of Viuda Island was just as dramatic as Thompson hoped. Above the water there were sheer rock cliffs with clumps of tenacious scrub growing in the cracks, crowned by the Castillo de Viuda with all its 17th Century stonework and 19th Century windows, standing rigid and grim above the waves.
Beneath the waves jagged rocks lined the shore and extended downward like row after row of crooked teeth. Loose stones, broken free from the cliffs above spilled down a steep sandy slope toward another underwater cliff. Clumps of black curlicued seaweed clung among the rocks. In several places long streamers of seaweed whipped back and forth like strips of torn packing tape, churning in the bottoms of waves.
There was the wreck, right where it was marked on Thompson’s dive map. It was a metal-hulled packet boat with wooden decks that used to run rum and drugs between La Mirada and Mafia-infested Cuba. The wreck was tilted at a precarious angle and looked ready to roll away at any moment. But the thick crust of barnacles and the webbing of seaweed that enshrouded it bore testament that the wreck had remained at this angle for many years and was lodged hard and fast to the bottom.
The wreck was the place Thompson wanted to start filming. Mike dropped anchor and manned the boat as Thompson, Charlie, and Rod toppled backwards into the sea. Frothy white flowers of foam marked where they went in. Mike broke out a girlie magazine and a bottle of beer and settled in to wait for their return.
Swooping in from above, Thompson swept the camera in its water-proof casing along the length of the wreck. He was startled by a glimpse of something horrible inside the wreck, hovering at a porthole, but when he focused the camera on that spot there was nothing to see. Probably just a particularly ugly Grouper, he told himself. Sensing drama the way a shark senses blood in the water, Rod came churning past him, into the camera’s view, face grim, fake spear-gun held at the ready. Rod paused, floating upright as he covered the wreck with the spear-gun, then turned and gestured toward non-existent frogmen behind him.
Shot captured, he broke character and flashed a thumbs up at Thompson, who returned the gesture.
Together they turned back up the slope and made their way toward the burned out docks that used to stand along the beach below the house. A fire consumed the docks years ago, burning planks and wooden piers down to the waterline. But beneath the water, the pilings still marched in a double row out toward the sea. Because of the steep slope, the pilings nearest the shore were short, only as tall as a man, but as the slope fell away the pilings grew taller until the furthest pair were nearly thirty feet tall. Scattered on the sand between the rows of pilings were black smudges of ash and blackened debris from the fire. Carbon-scaled planks were scattered about with coils of charred rope, gone frayed and furry from years underwater winding between them like gray snakes. Heat-buckled metal fuel cans and blistered oil drums lie in rusted heaps near the shore. Something long and lumpy lay sprawled lengthwise among the wreckage.
Thompson gestured, then held his camera up ready to film. Charlie, doubling for Rod, came knifing down from the surface, legs kicking fiercely, driving him like a slow motion bullet toward the burnt out pier.
Partway there he paused and waited for Thompson to catch up. Rod came wobbling in behind. When Thompson reached his position and raised the camera again, Charlie resumed his frenzied charge, as if he’d never slowed.
Abruptly Charlie held up, waving his arms to check his forward motion. He pointed vigorously at something in the blackened debris below. All three divers pulled together then descended toward the object as one. Thompson filmed the whole time.
There was a body in the debris, half-buried in ash and sand. The body wore tattered clothes that may have been black before the fire but now were charred and singed and ragged. The skin, apparently untouched by flames, was a greenish-gray. It was wrinkled from being long underwater but generally looked tight and firm and totally unlike the puffy gelid ooze that one would expect from years of being submerged. And the body had clearly been there for years, since the fire that consumed the dock more than a decade before.
Thompson trained his camera on the figure in the ash. There were terrible scars around both wrists. The fingers on the hands were curled as if only recently unclenched. The chest was broad and huge. Gray skin showed through gaps in the black shirt and overcoat that covered it. There were more scars, horrible braided cords of ravaged flesh around the neck. Two metal bolts had been driven into the flesh at either side of the neck. The skin was puckered and livid around each bolt’s base.
The face! The thing’s face was ghastly.
Pale sallow cheeks sunken tight around a misshapen skull beneath. Black lips, wrinkled, bared in a grimace of pain or anger or both. Bleary yellow eyes, hard like marbles—not softened by the seawater, peered blindly from under barely parted eyelids. There were metal clamps fastened over crude sutures all around the top of the skull, half covered by strands of stringy black hair. The clamps held the top of the skull in place, flattened like the bottom of a bucket, the tell-tale mark of a crude version of brain surgery.
Rod got a good look at that face, peering over Thompson’s shoulder, and screamed. Great gouts of bubbles exploded from his face and he immediately began to choke on seawater. Charlie and Thompson had to leave off examining the strange submerged carcass so they could drag a kicking, panicky Rod to the surface before he drowned.
“It’s the bloody Frankenstein Monster. No doubt about it!”
Thompson breathlessly filled Roger in on that morning’s find.
Roger bit his lip and thought hard.
“No it isn’t.” He said at last. “But I know what it is!”
He snapped his fingers excitedly.
“If it’s not the Monster, what is it?” Charlie asked.
Rod hadn’t said anything at all yet. He just sat stunned and pale faced in a beach chair, too numb with horror to participate in coherent conversation.
“It’s not the Frankenstein Monster, but it’s supposed to be! Don’t you get it? It’s the Wax Museum exhibit from McDougal’s that those two con artists, Chick Young and Wilbur Grey, stole to stage their big hoax. It must have been lying there since the party that last night at Mornay’s house, ten—fifteen years ago.”
“Wouldn’t wax have melted in the fire?”
“Maybe. Maybe it isn’t made of wax. Maybe it’s some kind of plastic instead? Maybe it was specially treated to protect it from heat damage or make it less flammable? I don’t know. I don’t care. What I do know is that it’s a valuable prop, way beyond anything our budget could afford, and it’s just sitting there on the bottom, waiting for anyone to come along and claim it.”
“You want to salvage it and use it in the movie?”
“Hell yes, we’re going to use it in the move! I’ll rewrite the whole script if I have to, to get it in there.”
“Frankenstein Meets the Beach Monsters!”
“Monster Beach Party!”
“Monster Mash Beach Party Bingo!”
They all broke into laughter.
Roger started shouting orders and preparations were made to salvage the strange body as quickly as possible.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
The Frankenstein Monster is salvaged and changes are planned for the movie.
The film crew didn’t have access to cranes for lifting their find off the seafloor, so Mike was forced to improvise. Diving with a tube attached to the air-compressor they used to fill the oxygen tanks, Mike and Charlie tied empty trash-bags and deflated beach-balls to the Monster’s arms and legs, then inflated them with air from the hose. With some scrambling and adjustments, they eventually had enough buoyancy to lift the body off the bottom and float it to the surface above. Then Mike slowly guided the motorboat along the coast until they reached the beach where the film crew had set up camp. The stunt-men jumped into the surf and waded ashore with the heavy eight-foot tall body. Once on the sand, they placed it on a plastic tarp spread out waiting for it. With the Monster’s body on the tarp, they could drag it further up the beach. Everyone had to pitch in for that effort. There was a long line of suntan-lotioned, bathing-suit wearing workers tugging and hauling at the sides of the tarp while the Monster’s head lolled from side to side. Eventually they muscled it into place and almost in unison dropped onto the sand panting and exhausted.
During the salvage operation, an unseen presence watched them though the windows of Mornay House. As clear as the pane he stood behind, Geoffrey Radcliffe stared down at the motorboat bobbing on the waves and the circles of bubbles rising from the divers below. The bubbles formed rings on the surface, like glass mushrooms sprouting on a sea green lawn. He chewed his lip and occasionally took a sip of champagne from a long fluted glass.
“They’ve found the Monster and they’re trying to raise him.” Radcliffe said, through he was the only one in the room.
He leaned forward, invisible hands pressed against the glass as the black shape of the Monster bobbed to the surface. He laughed at the colorful beach balls tied to the bolts on his neck and the inflated trash bags that lolled about like a flotilla of black Portuguese Man’o’wars surrounding him.
“They’ve brought him up! It worked!”
For a few moments he nodded to himself, as if listening to a distant voice.
“But there is no way they can revive him. They are film-makers, not doctors or scientists. They don’t have the equipment or the knowledge.”
A voice that may or may not have been actually audible whispered in his ear.
“Leave that to me.”
Far below, in a stone-walled secret vault hidden beneath the castle, something stirred inside a coffin made of slick black-lacquered wood. Fingers clawed impatiently at the lid, but the sun was still up and the Thing in the coffin was still pinned to its grave of native soil, strewn across velvet padding.
“Leave that to me!” a richly accented voice said aloud.
Laughter, a woman’s voice, echoed from a coffin nearby, as hollow and dark as the box that contained it.
“So, you think you can rig up something that looks like a gizmo to recharge the Frankenstein Monster?” Roger asked, licking his lips and gazing on the incredibly life-like prop they’d salvaged with something disturbingly like love.
“Boss! You gotta ask?” Mike replied, holding a hand over his wounded heart.
“Can you have it by tomorrow?”
This time Mike frowned and chewed his lip.
“Sure. That’s what you pay me for.” His eyes were already roving around the camp scanning for bits and pieces he could use.
“Yeah. No problem. But, if you don’t mind me asking, why the rush?”
“Margie’s been listening to the radio. They’re saying that there’s a storm brewing up just south of here. It’s boiling up right out of nowhere. Weather Service is saying that it might start moving toward the coast in a day or two. I don’t want to be camped out on a beach when a hurricane comes stomping across this island. I want to wrap up the big finale scene tomorrow and bug out before nightfall. We can film the rest in studio or on La Mirada’s beach.”
“Right. I better get right on it then!”
That night, while Mike was banging away and spray painting and cussing, going through the crew’s supply of silver duct tape at a terrific rate, Roger gathered the rest of the crew together to go over the changes he’d made in the script. They were sitting cross-legged at his feet, like kids gathered round to listen to a campfire tale. A bonfire crackled and hissed behind them. Beers were passed around. His sentences were punctuated with the snap of pull-tabs and the occasional appreciative chuckle. Rod sat on a folding chair facing out toward the ocean. He listened intently, waving his hands in time with Roger’s voice, as if knitting or conducting an invisible orchestra.
Bobby kept trying to sneak a kiss with Bobbi, or slip his hand into her lap, but she wasn’t having it. She was all work, focused entirely on the changes to her dialog.
“Okay, the biggest changes are to our villain and his motivation. Instead of Professor Erik Lindsay, out to avenge the death of his brother Otto, we now have Johnny Frankenstein. Johnny is a wacked out would-be doctor who got thrown out of Med School. He’s out to revive the Monster built by his great-grandfather and he’s using the Beach Girl Monster…”
“Crazy Kelp-Head!” Shouted Charlie and the crew laughed.
“…and the Party Beach Monster…”
“…to collect parts he needs to patch-up the Monster.” Roger smiled indulgently. “Instead of the brooding war criminal Erik, I see Johnny as a crazy Beatnik disc-jockey with an over the top laugh.”
“Cool!” Frankie shouted. “That gives us an excuse to slip in a couple more songs.”
“Indeed it does. Hope you’ve got a couple more we can use.”
“Daddy-O, I have a trunk full of songs!”
“Well, you’ve definitely got a trunk full of something.” Baby Blue cooed, snapping the elastic band of his tight swim-trunks.
Everybody laughed some more. Bobby succeeded in planting a sloppy kiss on Bobbi’s cheek and she patted his head, which only encouraged him more.
“If Johnny Frankenstein knew what he was doing, he wouldn’t need so many bodies for parts. He keeps dropping organs or cutting too deep when he’s taking them out. He’s more butcher than surgeon, but he doesn’t know it.”
“He would probably get away with it if it weren’t for our two heroes.” Roger pointed to Rod and Bobbi. Rod raised his hand and waved, even though he was sitting with his back to the group.
“Dr. Adams figures out where the monsters are operating from and tracks them back to Blood Cove, where Johnny is just about ready to revive the Monster. Andrea’s already there, having been kidnapped by the Beach Girl Monster in scene fifty-eight.”
“Damn Fantigua fish!” Red shouted. “Can’t keep his fishy hands off the goods!”
She tossed an empty beer can at Charlie’s head.
“But!” Roger raised a finger dramatically, “Being in danger summons her alter ego, the She-Creature, who wades in out of the mists and oceans of time and attacks the other two sea-monsters.”
“Go, She-Critter!” Bobby shouted, shoving his head past Bobbi’s hands and dropping it into her lap. He stared up at her with goofy waggling eyebrows and lascivious intent.
Despite her determination to focus on the script changes, she began to feel tingly and squirmed, ever so slightly.
Roger knew he was about to lose them so he cut to the chase.
“The She-Creature tears up the other monsters, throws Johnny Frankenstein into his own machinery before the Monster can be awoken, then vanishes back into the mists, having saved the day!”
The crew laughed and applauded.
“I have copies of the new scenes for all of you, make sure you read ‘em and are ready to go at sun-up!”
The Production Assistant, whose name Roger never could remember, caught his cue and began to hand out the pages he’d spent all afternoon typing up.
Bobbi snatched both copies, twisted out from under Bobby, and jumped to her feet to run off into the dark sands down the beach. Bobby smiled at his companions, saluted briskly, and ran off after her.
Everyone else settled in to read typescript pages by firelight and party long into the night
Chapter 9: Chapter Nine
Dracula makes his presence known.
Later, during the wee hours when everyone but Mike was sound asleep, clouds drifted across the Moon casting dark shadows over the beach.
One of those shadows detached itself and glided silently over the sand. The living darkness crept to the side of the lifeless Frankenstein Monster. A silver signet ring with a carnelian stone was pressed to the Monster’s neck bolts, first one then the other. There was a sharp crack as energy discharged into the Monster. Pinpoints of light, bright as an arc-wielder’s torch, flickered. Streamers of metallic-tasting smoke rose from the bolts, which glowed white hot in the dark.
A shudder ran through the Monster’s body. Its black lips trembled. Its eyelids flickered, straining to open.
The darkness laid a spider-like hand across the Monster’s chest.
“Not yet, old friend. Soon. You will know the time.”
Then the shadow slipped away, vanishing into tangled woods just as the clouds scudded past the Moon and pale silver light washed over the sands.
No one had even noticed the dark presence.
Dracula rose out of the suddenly still sea. Water cascaded down over his dead white face. A long black silk cape hung in tatters from his shoulders, waterlogged and heavy. Cold fire blazed in his eyes. The sea seemed to hold its breath in the face of his anger. He strode stiffly out of the water. Bedraggled and drenched, he walked with what dignity he could muster. Despite his stiffened back and squared shoulders, he shuffled with barely enough energy to pull himself free from the tide that pulled at his ankles.
The darkness of the deep water preserved him against the sun. But he was still weakened from being denied rest on his native soil. Worse, terrible things crawled and slithered across his face as he lie helpless in the black depths of the channel. Cold mouths with tiny sharp teeth nibbled and snipped at his lifeless flesh. Things crawled into and under his clothes, defiling him with the slimy trails they left. Dracula, whom Death could not touch, was forced to feel what it was like to be a dead thing on the bottom of the ocean. He had not relished the experience.
After an indeterminable time, Dracula gathered the strength to pull himself free from the ocean floor. The marks that the Wolf Man left on his flesh, on his bones, still ached, dull and hot, festering with the occult contamination of the beast's cursed claws. He had survived. But it had been a near thing.
He looked up at the Castillo de Viuda, where lights blazed in every window. Purposefully he strode up the winding path to the House. There was debris from the masquerade party still strewn about the gardens. Crumpled paper-mache mask faces littered the steps leading up to the front doors. Their frozen smiles and blank eyes mocked the Lord of the Vampires. Dracula gritted his teeth and clenched his fists as he strode over those false faces.
With a gesture he flung the stout oaken doors open.
Stepping into the grand entry hall, he narrowed his eyes and squinted about. A sly smile played across his lips.
“I know you are there. Explain your presence in this house.”
There was a sinister, silken laugh.
“Allow me to introduce myself.“ Said a rich voice with a clipped British accent. The voice echoed through the hall, though no speaker was evident. “My name is Geoffrey Radcliffe. I suffer from a…rather unique condition. I have been searching for a certain Doctor Mornay, who is said to have experience with ‘unusual conditions’ and to have an admirable lack of concern toward the moral restrictions that could complicate my treatment.”
“You see, I thought my condition had been cured with a blood transfusion. But it slowly returned. I tried subsequent transfusions, but those only provided temporary relief. There was a bit of unpleasantness over the way I acquired donors for my transfusions, so I faked my own death, easy enough under the circumstances, and set out to find a permanent cure.”
All this talk of blood and transfusions stirred the hunger that sustained Dracula through Undeath, but he gritted his teeth and ignored the throbbing pain as his fangs pushed through the gums.
“I learned about this Doctor Mornay, Sandra Mornay, and set about trying to find her. I followed her trail here, but I seem to have missed her.”
Dracula nodded and purred out a small chuckle.
“Do not worry. She should be along, shortly. It takes more than a fall from a window to kill the blood of my Blood. She is currently finishing a…swim at the beach.”
“Well, that is convenient. I hope you don’t mind if I wait?”
“Not at all.” Dracula paused. “But one thing, Mr. Radcliffe. Why are you naked?”
The Count turned and looked directly at the Invisible Man, a predatory smile on his lips.
A cold chill gushed down Radcliffe’s spine and he suddenly felt intensely vulnerable, standing naked before the vampire’s gaze.
Dracula glided out of the room with a silken laugh.
Chapter 10: Chapter Ten
The Last Day of Filming Dawns.
Roger woke early the next morning, sweating from nightmares he couldn’t quite remember. The only images lingering from those dreams were of running through tangled woods at night while something with huge dark wings chased him. His mouth was dry and he had a terrible, throbbing headache.
Roger needed coffee.
As he stepped out of his tent, the Production Assistant put a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee in his hands, along with a pair of aspirin. Roger swallowed the pills and washed them down with a mouthful of coffee which was black, with lots of sugar, and almost but not quite scalding hot. Just the way he liked it.
“Thanks.” He mumbled without even looking at his assistant.
His eyes were glued to the horizon.
The Eastern sky was red. Crimson. Blood-red without a hint of cloud or any other color. The eerie red light spilled over the beach, making the camp with its burnt out black lump of bonfire and littered beer cans look like a crime scene.
“That’s not good, is it?”
Nearby Thompson the cameraman was polishing the lenses he would need for today’s shoot.
“Means there’s a storm coming.”
“Are we going to be able to film today?”
Thompson glanced at the bloody horizon and shrugged.
“Too early to tell. If it’s not bright enough by noon, we should clear out. If it is bright enough, we should probably still clear out, but we might have enough time to shoot the main scenes before the weather turns ugly.”
“We’re going to film today.” Roger said, as if the sky itself were expected to take his direction.
Thompson went back to work on his lenses.
Roger took another swig of coffee. Boiling hot caffeine, sticky sweet, brewed strong enough to strip varnish.
Damn, What’s-His-Name makes a fine cup of coffee! Roger thought to himself as he awkwardly stumbled over the loose sand on his way to check out his Property Manager’s overnight construction work.
Mike, red-eyed and stubble-cheeked, was just putting on the finishing touches as his Director walked up.
“What do you think?”
Roger whistled appreciatively.
The “Gizmo” Mike had constructed looked like a cross between a jagged, frozen lightning bolt and a skeletal Christmas tree. He’d stripped most of the beach chairs for their hollow metal tubing, across which he layered strips of duct tape until the final result looked remarkably like steel girders. He’d even drawn on darkly shaded bolt-heads with magic marker, which looked cartoonish up close but was fairly realistic from mid-distance or beyond. Half the portable radios had been cannibalized with their transistors and wiring glued to the framework. Metal antennae sprouted from the upper reaches of the Gizmo like spines. Hooked up to the crew’s portable generator, nasty-looking electric sparks coiled between them. The Gizmo was crowned by a tall metal tube atop which an inflated beach-ball, spray-painted metallic silver, was fastened with glue and more duct tape.
“It’s…beautiful!” Roger gasped. “It’s simply beautiful!”
Mike let out the breath he was holding and sagged with exhaustion.
“That’s what you pays me for, Boss.” He joked hoarsely.
He walked over and gave the structure a little shake. It wobbled slightly but all the pieces remained solidly in place.
“It won’t stand up to any heavy winds, but it should be able to manage a stiff breeze or accidental bumps.”
Roger nodded and clapped him on the shoulder.
“That’s good work, Mike. Class-A improvisational engineering. You really came through for me. Thank you.”
Mike grinned like a kid.
“Why don’t you crash and take a couple hours worth of nap. We can manage without you until we need all three Monsters on camera at once. You earned it.”
“What about the suits…” Mike started to protest.
“Aw, Charlie and Bobby can manage the suits well enough by now. I’ll have What’s-His-Name help them out. You just get some rest. I want you clear and focused when we get to the big finale.”
Mike nodded gratefully and staggered off to his tent.
Roger walked up to the Gizmo and looked over the Wax Museum prop they’d salvaged the day before.
“Frankie, my boy, I’m gonna make you a star!”
He patted the shoulder of the remarkably life-like statue. The Monster was strapped by all the belts Costuming could spare to a “table,” which was really a beach-lounge straightened all the way out and covered with a tarp. The flesh showing through rips in the jacket shoulder was cold and hard, but Roger could have sworn that the eyelids of the Monster flickered ever so slightly, that there was a hint of an unpleasant smile on the black lips.
Roger took another blistering sip of coffee and swirled it around his mouth. Those dreams must have gotten to him more than he thought.
The ominous red of dawn drained away to reveal typically clear blue Florida sky by mid-morning. An ugly wall of black clouds crept up on the horizon, but seemed in no hurry to come any closer. Just in case, Roger had everyone not needed on scene pack up and load whatever could be moved out onto the motorboat. Anxious to squeeze as much filming as possible into the available window of clear skies, Roger drove his team at a frantic pace. They sped through a dozen scenes by that afternoon. Though some were rougher than Roger would have liked, “We’ll tighten it up in editing” and “We’ll cover that with a studio insert” became his mantras. Second takes were few and far between.
Much of the shooting covered improvised scenes with Roger playing the “Johnny Frankenstein” character, cackling, staring menacingly, fumble-juggling fake plastic organs, all the time laying down a non-stop patter of hipster lingo. Roger based a lot of his depiction of the character on a late-night television host from the Chicago area.
Thompson managed to find several diplomatic ways of asking his Director to tone down the hammy over-acting but a lot of the material still came out as cringe-worthy scenery chewing. Directors directing themselves rarely turned in quality performances. Roger’s over-the-top Johnny Frankenstein was destined for side-splitting camp.
Thompson gritted his teeth, struggled mightily to maintain a straight face, and kept the cameras rolling.
Crazy Larry leaned back and let the sun warm his face. He wiggled bare toes in the shallow surf. Larry had a bad night full of chills and shakes and spasms but he’d gritted his teeth and maintained control. The Moon, just a thin splinter away from Full, tugged at him, pulled at his insides. Larry likened it to trying to control an explosive incontinence, complete with cramps and trembles and unpleasant internal gurglings. Geoffrey hated it when he described The Change that way, wrinkling his nose and frowning disdainfully, but it was the truth. That was the most honest comparison Larry could make.
But the night was over and that ghastly blood-stained dawn faded away to reveal lovely blue skies. Larry felt an immense sense of relief, and he didn’t even have to clean up the mess The Wolf usually left for him. He’d put on his loudest, brightest tropical shirt and white dungarees and came down to the surf’s edge to smile at the world. Radcliffe said that the movie crew were wrapping up and preparing to leave the island. They were already packing their motorboat to go. They planned to be gone before nightfall.
That came as an immeasurable relief to Larry.
Tonight the Moon would be too full to deny.
The Wolf would prowl tonight. There was nothing Larry could do to stop it.
But the kids would be away and, with a terrible storm brewing, even the pygmy deer were likely to be safe. The Wolf did not like to get wet. It’d had bad experiences with water and ice in the past. Most likely The Wolf would slink through the island’s scrawny woods until it reached the House on the top of the cliffs. There it would lurk and sulk under the eaves, trying every door, every barred window for the hundredth time until the sun rose.
With a little bit of luck, Geoffrey would be there in the morning to give him a hot toddy and let him dry off in front of the mansion’s huge fireplace.
At worst, he might catch a mild case of the sniffles, if the night was unusually cold or extremely wet.
Mid-afternoon, however, brought a terrible shock.
The surf got rougher after mid-day. The storm on the horizon was creeping steadily closer, though for the moment the skies overhead remained blue and clear. Larry moved higher up the beach to lounge against a sea-grass tufted dune. He sipped cloudy white coconut juice from a glass Mason jar. Just the juice, no rum. He never needed to drink during the day before a change. It was like his body was super-charged, clean and tingly like the air before a thunderstorm. Any alcohol would have just been burned off by his revving metabolism and he would be lucky to catch even a mild buzz.
So, Larry sipped coconut juice, lounged propped on his elbows, and watched the sea gulls soar by in wavering crescents.
The first tremble swept through his body, followed by an icy chill. Larry shivered a little and attributed it to a chillier breeze blowing in ahead of the oncoming storm.
Bewildered, Larry touched his face and found a soft layer of fuzz covering his cheeks. He looked at his hands. Hair was curling up out of pores on the back. The tips of his fingers felt raw and heavy. His fingernails were thickening rapidly into claws.
Horrified he jumped up and looked at the sky. It was still blue, though dark streaks of clouds were beginning to stretch over the island. He looked to the horizon. A cough of fear burst from his throat, part shout, part growl.
The Moon, Full and baleful bright, was edging over the horizon. It looked like the top of a skull rising out of the ocean. The Moon looked different in daylight. More china-white than silvery, and it was overlaid with a blue haze that made it look like sky-blue lakes filled the craters.
Certainly, the Moon rose during daylight hours, from time to time, but Larry had never experienced The Change until nightfall before.
This time, The Wolf burst suddenly out of his every pore, discharged through skin and muscle. A dark stain seeped out from inside his skin and soaked through his clothes. Once bright white with vivid colors, the clothes he wore now appeared dark gray. Because The Change was not just a physiological alteration, but the manifestation of a dark curse that bore with it a metaphysical shadow. Darkness, literal and bestial, took over Larry’s body.
For Larry there was horror, shame at losing control, and ultimately the immense relief of an unbearable tension flowing out of his soul. Larry had never experienced The Change so suddenly, so instantly. In just a few seconds, rather than the long agonizing minutes he usually suffered through, The Wolf Man squinted against the unaccustomed glare of sunlight. He sniffed at the breeze. So much salt and wetness from the sea, the flinty taste of sand, the poultry stink of gulls overhead, but there was something else too. Thin, from a distant source, he could smell the coppery tang of Meat! Stained with smears of rubber-scent, palm oil, and the grit and chalk odor of make-up, there was the fresh, pink, salty smell of Meat.
Drool spilled over the Wolf Man’s black gums and bared teeth to splatter on the sand.
He tipped his head back and howled at the sunny sky with all his might. Inside that howl, drowned out by the baying of the beast, were the sounds of Lawrence Talbot crying out.
Chapter 11: Chapter Eleven
The Wolf Man strikes!
The Wolf Man followed the scraps of scent blown across the island by ocean breezes. He prowled through the dense stands of Saw Palmetto trees, nose lifted to taste the breeze, eyes squeezed shut against the bright shafts of sunlight that lanced through the swaying tree tops. He ignored the startled miniature deer he encountered. They froze in place, petrified with uncertainty. The Wolf never hunted them in daylight. Their familiar scents tickled at his nose as he slunk past. Musky, gamey, thin and bitter like the meat on their bones. The Wolf Man barely glanced their way. He was hunting other prey.
He could hear the Meat now, laughing and shouting, almost drowned out by the banging rattle of their portable generator. Suddenly there was a scream, high and shrill, a woman’s voice. The Wolf Man’s mouth flooded with drool. He licked his lips and sniffed at the air, expecting the tang of blood. But there was nothing. Salty sweat. More palm oil. And the nauseating fumes of burning gasoline.
As he came to the edge of the woods, the Wolf Man dropped to all fours to creep through the tall sea-grass. He glared up at the sun, which glared back down at him. Prowling through sunlight was unfamiliar to him. It made him nervous, cautious where normally he would bound and run. The beast in him felt terribly exposed and tried to take advantage of every bit of cover he could.
In a few minutes, he reached the lip of the dunes. Slowly, carefully, sniffing at the breeze for clues, he parted the grass and peeked over the crumbly sand. He stared down at his prey, just a few yards away.
The scene below baffled his animal brain.
There was a tall structure near to the dunes. Jagged and metallic, electrical sparks hissed and crackled over it. There were bright flashes of light with loud pops as circuits fired in jittery sequence. Thin streamers of blue smoke curled away from the structure. The acrid smell of electrical fires, burnt wiring and hot metal seared his nostrils.
The Wolf Man squinted and whined a little, deep in his throat.
He had experience with the stinging shock of electricity and did not like it at all.
A huge shape was spread out on a table under a sheet next to the sputtering structure. It smelled of rotten meat and chemicals. Greasy, oily, and rank. Something almost like wintergreen, something a little like curdled milk. The Wolf Man knew that smell all too well, and liked it even less than the electricity that was always somewhere nearby when it was present.
A strange little man stood by the dormant Monster. He wore a flopping white coat and a beard that smelled like rug fibers. Synthetic. Fake. The man pranced about and waved his hands at the sky, pumping fists at the clouds gathering quickly overhead and yammering nonstop.
Another man prowled past him, sliding sideways past the table holding a boxy device to his face, aimed at the shouty man. A weapon? It didn’t smell like a weapon. There was no gritty tang of gunpowder or the waxen metal smell of lead, almost like butter to the Wolf Man’s nose. The boxy device made a whirring sound that he did not like.
The Wolf Man shook his head.
Farther down the beach were the Meat smells he was more interested in.
Three women, skin barely covered with scraps of cloth, lie bound or trapped in some manner. They writhed and twisted their arms, crying and screaming. The Wolf Man’s heart pounded faster at the sight of all that vulnerable bare flesh. Everything about the women’s cringing demeanor said that they were terrified, but there was no bitter-sweet fear smell coming from them. They smelled excited instead.
Standing over them, menacing them with long, wicked-looking claws was some kind of scaly creature. Its body was shaped like a man’s but was covered by heavy scales. An over-sized fishy head topped its shoulders with rows of gills like lace drooping down. The head flopped weirdly from side to side as it snarled and swiped at the women.
They were trying to cover it with hands pressed to their mouths and mugging expressions of terror, but they were, all three, laughing.
The Wolf Man stared at the scaly beast. There was something familiar about it. He had a dim memory of seeing it before, through The Larry’s eyes. He remembered seeing it attack a woman, remembered seeing claws and bloody flesh. The Larry had been excited by the sight. But the memory didn’t carry any taste of fear. The Larry was always afraid. But not of this scaly thing, which certainly looked dangerous.
The Wolf Man snarled. He did not like being confused.
On the other side of the crackling tower and the Monster’s table, there was another woman, this one with dark hair, who was tied to a rude cross of driftwood. A man stood defending her against another strange creature. This one had googly eyes and vicious-looking white teeth. Shreds of seaweed were draped over its arms and head. But it smelled completely dry. It smelled of rubber and man-sweat. There was a spear of some kind sticking out of its side. Thick dark ichor ran down its corrugated looking skin, but it didn’t smell like blood. It didn’t smell anything at all like blood. Actually, it smelled rather a lot like maple syrup and chocolate. But the creature staggered as if wounded.
And, to top off all the other weirdness, yet another strange creature was standing in the surf, surrounded by fog that smelled like smoke. A well-muscled man in tight trunks was spraying the smoky fog around the creature from a kind of hand pumped funnel device. The creature, which was clearly female since it had huge round breasts on its armored chest, paid no attention to the man and seemed intent on stomping its way, very slowly, toward shore. This female creature didn’t look like any female the Wolf Man had ever seen, and the man-beast had seen some very bizarre female entities. Whatever the strange she-creature was, it was wading out of the sea with an air of palpable menace and determination. It waved long lobster claws at the others and snarled with a mouth full of fangs bigger than the Wolf Man’s own.
The Wolf Man felt his hackles rising at the sight.
Mystified by the weirdness he was witnessing, and angry at the merciless hot sun beating down on his shoulders, the Wolf Man sunk down on his belly and hid in the tall grass. He would watch for awhile and see what happened.
The beach was very, very strange today.
It was full of Monsters!
Thompson whirled and backed about and kept constantly adjusting the focus, zooming in for tight shots and pulling out for wide-angle sweeps of the tableau on the beach. They’d already filmed each individual set-piece of the big finale, but Roger wanted big sweeping shots showing all the action at once as well. His instructions were, “Let the camera eat up the whole beach, gobble up all the monsters and the sand and the waves. Let’s milk this setting for all it’s worth before we have to bug out!”
Clouds were starting to drift in overhead. Thompson figured they didn’t have more than twenty or thirty minutes of usable light left, if that much. From the pitch-black heavy look of the approaching clouds, he figured they should have left an hour ago. They were going to have to pull out in a hurry and things were going to get rough before they could get all the way across the channel and into La Mirada’s harbor.
Bloody Roger and his bloody grand sweeping shots!
Thompson turned again and zoomed on the table with the Franken-dummy. Roger whipped off the sheet to reveal “his great-grandfather’s greatest creation!” The Monster prop was too realistic for Thompson’s taste. When he zoomed in on it, he could almost swear that he could see it breathing.
Then his sweeping camera lens caught something completely unexpected. As he arced away from the Monster and back toward the girls, he spotted some kind of animal lurking in the high grass. Something big. He zoomed in tight as he could and gasped out loud.
The animal had an almost human-looking face! Fangs and a black-tipped snout, like a wolf’s, but it also had smooth cheeks where the hair thinned out and a man’s high brow. The eyes, however, were pure beast. Dark, glittering, filled with a savage hunger, they also looked disturbingly clever. Too smart for a beast. Too feral for a man.
Those eyes squinted, the nose furrowed in a silent snarl.
“Jesus!” Shouted Thompson, dropping the camera.
The thing had been looking straight at him. It somehow instinctively knew that it had been spotted, that it was being watched, and it knew who the watcher was.
“What’s the matter?” Roger asked, halting his mad cackles and gesticulating to give Thompson a puzzled look.
The cameraman’s face was dead ashen white. He’d dropped his camera in the middle of a shoot. Thompson never dropped a camera!
Unable to speak, Thompson raised a trembling finger and pointed.
A hairy man-beast stood up and emerged from the stand of seagrass.
A wolf! Shrieked Roger’s mind for some reason. Despite what his eyes saw, his brain identified the beast as a wolf, standing on its hind legs. He had to blink several times to shake the false image out of his mind. What his eyes actually saw was a bipedal monster with fur-like gray hair. The lower part of the face, with its snout-like nose did faintly resemble a wolf’s, but the thing was wearing clothes! It had a dark gray shirt on and dark pants that almost perfectly matched the color of its hair. In fact, the image kept swimming in his vision. He only saw the clothes if he stared hard. Otherwise he saw a hairy body. It didn’t have a wolf’s lean body but rather the portly shape of an overweight man. In fact, it looked less like a wolf than like some kind of hairy ape-monster.
He saw a wolf! His brain stubbornly insisted.
Whatever it was, Roger felt a very strong urge to scream, so he did.
Tina and Baby Blue screamed in earnest when the snarling man-beast’s eyes turned toward them. It smiled, almost like a man, and licked its lips with a long rough tongue. Its eyes squinted with pleasure.
Red kicked off the loose-tied knots of stage rope and leaped to her feet. Without wasting a single breath on screaming, she bolted off down the beach at a dead run.
Tina and Blue screamed even louder.
The Wolf Man had a moment of indecision. He saw the prey he really wanted sprinting away. But he had two does practically at his feet, squalling helplessly. Instincts couldn’t be denied, he loomed over them, mouth open, preparing to drop down on soft white throats.
A heavy weight slammed into the Wolf Man, spilling him on the sand. The fish-headed monster had charged him and knocked him down. It stood between him and the does, clawed hands lashing out, head shaking side to side while it uttered a weirdly hollow, muffled bellow of challenge.
The Wolf Man smiled. He liked a good fight almost as much as he liked biting and killing helpless prey. The violence was like a drug to him.
The Wolf Man was back on his feet in a single fluid bound, circling his new rival.
The Party Beach Horror Monster circled with the Wolf Man, staying between him and the females. It lashed out with its oddly waggling claws, but didn’t make a serious effort to strike home.
The too clever brain inside the man-beast guessed that his opponent was afraid. It was making a good show of aggression, but seemed wary of actually getting into arm’s reach of him. It swiped but never actually struck.
The Wolf Man grinned, a sneer of a growl in his throat.
Suddenly the werewolf lashed out with a claw. The other monster tried to block the strike. Its long talons slapped harmlessly at the Wolf Man’s arm. The werewolf’s claws struck home, digging deep into the spongy body of its enemy until they bit muscled flesh and scraped bone. A great gout of blood splattered out of the enemy’s wound.
The fish-monster cried out, screaming with pain, then breaking into sobs.
In that moment the Wolf Man knew that his opponent was no real threat, just more prey wrapped in rubber scales. He drove in, teeth gnashing, claws raking, tearing deep into flesh until he felt slippery viscera beneath his fingers. Then he grabbed hold and pulled.
The wide-eyed fish head with its frill of gills and mouth full of odd hotdog-like protrusions fell loose and empty upon the sand.
With no more distractions the Wolf Man turned to the screaming females. They had both made it to their feet and were trying to flee. In a moment of cold-hearted, calculating clarity, Baby Blue reached out and shoved Tina back to the ground. She took off running with all her might while her companion spilled prone on the sand, a shocked look on her face. The Wolf Man looked at the fleeing female with something almost like admiration. Nature loves a survivor!
The werewolf accepted its offering and leaped upon Tina’s back. The claws on his toes dug into the back of the female’s legs and ripped down, tearing muscle and tendons.
Both hands reached around to grip flesh, fingers digging in, claws puncturing soft tissue and gouging, burrowing until they hit ribs. The Wolf Man took a deep breath to savor the smell of the prey’s hair, only to get a stinging snout full of peroxide and hair-spray scent. He sneezed, shaking his head. The female screamed and thrashed. Letting loose a howl of delight, the Wolf Man twisted his head in a circle before lunging down upon her throat.
His fangs tore through skin and flesh, severed arteries. Hot salty blood gushed into his mouth. He pulled his head back, ripping the main artery free, a rubbery spurting tube in his teeth. The Wolf Man pressed his bloody snout down as deep into the wound as it would go, then shook his head viciously from side to side, worrying the woman’s throat as a dog would a chew-toy.
His body shivered with delight as the prey spasmed through her last throes, then fell limp and motionless.
Utterly satisfied, yet still as ever-hungry as always, the Wolf Man looked up and cast about for the next thing to kill.
Chapter 12: Chapter Twelve
Roger gasped in horror and disbelief as the creature his mind kept trying to tell him was a “wolf” tore through his production. Charlie, inside the Party Beach Horror suit tried to keep it away from the girls with some of the finest monster-suit acting Roger had ever seen. Even the Wolf Man bought his performance, for awhile. Roger felt a pang of jealous annoyance, wishing Charlie had shown that level of commitment while the camera was rolling. Almost immediately he regretted the thought as the man-beast ripped both the suit and Charlie apart.
He winced as he saw the shreds of the suit blowing across the sand. That deposit was gone!
He continued to stand, rooted to the spot, as the Not-A-Wolf fell on Tina with ravenous ferocity. He watched Baby Blue speed past thinking, “She always seemed like such a sweet girl.” There was nothing sweet about the way she shoved Tina to the ground and to her death, to save herself.
The clouds that had been creeping in all afternoon now raced across the sky. Within moments it was nightfall dark on the beach. There was no rain, yet, but the sky was filled with boiling blackness shot through with flickers and sheets of lightning.
Damn it! There goes the light.
He turned, looking for Thompson, hoping that the cameraman would have some sort of fix in his bag of tricks. They were so close to finishing the shoot.
When Roger’s eyes found him, Thompson was at the driftwood cross frantically trying to untie Bobbi. The actress had insisted, “for authenticity”, that she be actually tied into place. Of course, Bobby had been the one to tie the knots and there had been a lot of giggling. There was probably something going on there that he didn’t want to know about.
Thompson was shouting at him, but Roger couldn’t make out what he was saying.
Just then there was a stark white flash and the terrible sound of the air being ripped apart.
A lightning bolt seared down from the clouds and struck the top of the Gizmo. The silver-painted beach-ball burst with a sound like a gunshot. The tower, mostly duct-tape and aluminum, burnt into greasy black ruins in an instant.
Despite the fact that the wires attached to it were not actually connected to the Gizmo in any way, a finger of electricity coiled away from the tower and struck the table with the Frankenstein prop.
The prop arched its back and let out a fierce bellow as sparks crawled over its greenish flesh. With quick jerks of its arms and legs the Monster snapped the belts holding it to the table as if they were tissue-paper. The beach lounge serving as a table warped and twisted like a soft pretzel and was in an unrecognizable shape when the Monster flicked it aside.
“I’ll be damned.” Roger said out loud. “It really is the Frankenstein Monster.”
“Boss, give me a hand here!” Thompson shouted again.
Roger nodded dumbly and began to fumble at the ropes around Bobbi’s right wrist. Damn, he thought, Bobby sure knows how to tie a killer knot!
Roger felt rather than saw a huge shape lumbering up behind him. Something snarled, the sound rumbling in its oversized chest.
“Finish untying her! I’ll try to slow the bloody thing down!” Thompson yelled.
Roger nodded, still fumbling. He turned his head to look over his shoulder.
Thompson ran toward the shuffling monster, waving his hands wildly about.
“Hyah! Hyah! Over here you big bastard!”
When the Monster barely glanced his way without slowing a step, Thompson leaped in and threw three or four quick, quite professional looking jabs at its ribs. There were dull smacks as fists met flesh.
Now the Frankenstein Monster stopped and turned to look down at Thompson. The man was hopping and weaving about, fists darting out, landing punch after punch on the Monster’s torso.
The Monster’s black lips parted in an angry grimace.
It swung its right arm out in a stiff arc.
The arm caught Thompson on the side of the head and didn’t stop. There was a horrible rip-cracking sound. The head was sheared off, torn from his neck in an instant.
Blood geysered out of the open throat in crimson spurts. Impossibly, the headless body still managed to land two punches before it began to twitch and stumble-walk away.
The head bounced a couple of times before splashing into the surf, where Bobby, in the She-Creature suit, was desperately trying to struggle ashore.
For Roger, it was as if somebody suddenly turned a tuning knob and the world came into crisp focus.
Roger looked into Bobbi’s terrified face.
“I’m sorry.” He said with genuine regret.
Then he ran away.
The film! A voice in Roger’s head screamed.
He raced away from the carnage on the beach as fast as his legs could carry him. He made a beeline straight for the production tent where Margie did make-up and What’s-His-Name the assistant managed all the paperwork Roger found “too tedious” to waste time on. It was also where the canisters containing the film they’d already shot were stored.
With his people dying and being torn apart all around him, Roger’s mind narrowed its focus to survival. For a Director, “survival” meant getting his film to the lab, no matter what the costs.
Roger skidded to a halt outside the production tent and ducked quickly through the open flap.
He ran into Margie who was sprawled in the folding make-up chair. A piece of swimwear was wrapped tightly around her throat. Her eyes bulged half out of their sockets and her tongue protruded through her lips. Her face was an ugly red-purple color.
The chair tipped over spilling Margie’s body on the floor. It landed next to what was left of the Production Assistant. The young man had been brutally beaten and likewise strangled.
“Keith.” Roger said aloud. “His name is Keith. Why can’t I ever remember that?”
“Oh, hello.” Said a crisp, cultured voice. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
Roger looked up and glanced around. There was no one else in the tent. Something white floated in the air in front of the lighted mirror. It took Roger a second or two to realize that the object was the face of the man he knew as Edgar Bierce, covered with powder and cold-cream.
“It’s a rather handsome face, don’t you think?”
The floating face turned toward Roger. The powdered eyelids flickered open, revealing empty space beneath. Roger could see his own face reflected in the mirror behind those empty eye-holes.
“A shame more people can’t see it.”
The face’s lips twisted into a sardonic smile.
For the first time in his adult life Roger forgot all about film and just wanted to run away as fast as he could.
As he sped off, stumbling onto the path that led through Saw Palmetto thickets to the house on the hill, Roger heard the laughter of the Invisible Man behind him.
Rod knew what he had to do the instant a snarling, hairy monster that he knew damn well wasn’t a wolf came jumping out of the tall grass. In the years before he went to the Actor’s Studio, before he was a Western matinee star, Rod really had worked on ranches and for rodeos throughout the Southwest. He’d seen his share of tough customers and been in enough tight spots to know what to do when trouble showed up unannounced.
He immediately threw down the worthless prop spear-gun he held and ran away as fast as he could.
He dove into the seagrass and scurried on all fours with no plan beyond putting distance between himself and the Whatever-It-Was that was rampaging on the beach behind him. With the snarls and the first shrieks Rod knew he’d done the right thing. He blundered through the grass and launched himself into the dense palmetto thickets beyond.
Saw-Palmetto leaves are stiff and covered with thorns. Rod’s hands were torn to pieces in no time. His bare chest was crisscrossed with bloody scratches. When the sky overhead went black, Rod knew he was in trouble. He could barely see his hand in front of his face. He had no idea if there were even trails to be found in this thorny tangle.
Exhausted and bloody, Rod dropped to his knees and panted in the dark. He tried to calm himself and listened for any signs of pursuit. He could still hear screams coming from the beach, meaning that the Whatever-It-Was was too busy to come after him just yet.
He wiped the back of his hand, sticky with blood and sap, across his lips and tried to think.
Soon he heard footsteps pounding along somewhere to his right.
“This way!” Shouted a man’s voice. It was Frank, the singer turned bit actor. “The house is up this way.”
A woman’s voice cried out from a ways behind him.
“Oh, thank God!”
That was Baby Blue, the dancer! Rod liked Baby Blue. She had good lungs. And very, very blue eyes. But mostly good lungs.
The slap of bare feet went past Rod then began to recede into the distance.
The trail! The house! Shelter!
Rod lost many precious minutes picking his way through the thicket toward the direction of the voices. He wandered off slightly and missed the winding path, blundering instead into more tangles. He might never have found the trail if it weren’t for the lightning. Hot white flashes lit up the sky, throwing blinks of light down through the palmetto fronds. Slashes of white and black, stripes across the palmetto fronds, it was like wandering through a zebra-patterned nightmare. In one flash Rod spotted the trail, just a couple of steps to his side.
Gasping with relief, Rod pushed through the thorny fronds and stumbled out onto fitted stones covered with a thin grit of loose sand. He could see a little better out from under the roof of leaves, well enough to follow the path as it wound back and forth up the rocky promontory.
Soon he could see the mansion up ahead, the stone walls and crenellations of the Castillo de la Viuda, Mornay House. Lights blazed in all the windows, shutters thrown open despite the approaching storm.
As he tiredly plodded up the hill, Rod heard something up ahead. Low groaning and a wet smacking noise. Chittering like rat or some other excited rodent.
Cautiously he continued.
On a wooded terrace with stone benches and a railed fence facing the ocean, Rod found Frankie and Blue.
Frankie sat slumped on the ground by a bench. A pale white-faced woman dressed in black sat behind him on the bench, curled down over him. Her mouth was buried in the side of Frankie’s neck. Her hands were shoved down the front of his swim trunks and wrapped fist over fist around an erection, the size and intensity of which was at odds with the twisted grimace of terrified pain on his face.
Frankie sat rigid, as if petrified, with only his eyes rolling helplessly in their sockets, his chest rising and falling with short, shallow gasps. The woman crooned softly and sucked hard at Frankie’s neck.
Baby Blue was sprawled on the ground nearby.
Her eyes were glassy, wide, pupils dilated as if high on some potent drug. She was making a wheezy, nasal keening sound. Her lips, which were turning blue, trembled. Tracks of tears marked each cheek.
Crouched atop her breast, wings folded down the curved sides, was an enormous black bat. The fingertip claws of its wings were hooked into bare skin. Its mouth was clamped onto the side of her neck, biting down so hard the skin was puckered around its snout. The bat made loud slurping noises, gulping down mouthful after mouthful of blood. Its body rocked in rhythm with Baby’s fading heartbeat.
Rod gasped in horror, then immediately slapped hands over his mouth to stifle the sound.
The bat paid him no head, obsessed with gorging itself.
The woman looked up at Rod with dark, luminous, sultry eyes. She pulled one hand out of Frankie’s trunks and reached toward him. Slow, sinuously undulating fingers beckoned him to come nearer.
To his horror, Rod actually took a step toward the ghoulish woman before regaining his senses.
He let out a choked yelp, then turned and ran as fast as he could up the stone steps to the castle. The doors stood invitingly open, brightly lit with the promise of safety.
The woman laughed behind him, voice muffled by the thick flesh of Frankie’s neck.
Chapter 13: Chapter Thirteen
Bobbi and Bobby attract unwanted attention.
“I’m sorry.” Hit Bobbi like a bucket of ice water in the face. She stared in shock and disbelief as she watched Roger run away.
“Rat BASTard!” was all she could choke out.
She frantically yanked and tugged at the ropes on her left wrist, which Thompson had loosened and nearly undone. Finally she pulled her hand free.
She immediately went to work on the ropes on her right wrist. In just a few seconds she realized why Roger had scrabbled so ineffectively at them. That knot was cinched too tightly to pull loose, especially with a half-numb left hand.
“Damn it, Bobby! Why’d you have to tie it so damn tight?”
The memory came to her unbidden and unavoidable.
“Tie it tight, Lover. Tie it real tight!” She’d whispered.
He complied, slowly cinching the knot while they exchanged breathy giggles.
“Oh. Damn it, Bobby! Of all the damn times to finally do as you’re told!”
Bobbi’s face flushed red and tears ran down her cheeks.
Thompson the cameraman’s headless body lurched by, almost bumping into her before finally dropping to the sand.
She pulled desperately at he ropes, to no avail. She broke two nails clawing at the knot.
Then a gust of hot air hit her cheek. She gagged on the smell of it, which reminded her of wintergreen and a refrigerator full of leftovers gone bad.
Fearful, she glanced up.
The Frankenstein Monster towered over her, just a few feet away. It’s square topped head was bent low toward her, looking down from above. The face was wrinkled and moldy gray-green, its eyelids half closed. But the hard as marbles eyes behind those drooping lids looked at her with a disturbing gleam. As if reading her mind, the Monster’s black lips curled into an ugly smile. It gave a little, almost imperceptible nod of its head.
The Monster was standing so close to her that she could feel the heat of its body against her skin, like the warmth from a roaring fire.
Bobbi screamed again.
Somewhere, in the distance, she heard Bobby’s voice, muffled by the heavy She-Creature mask, calling her name.
The Frankenstein Monster freed her from the driftwood cross, not by undoing the ropes, but by reaching past her arm and snapping the crossbeam like a dry stick. It reached down, huge rough hand sliding past and behind her hip, and did likewise with the thicker vertical beam.
With surprising grace and unimaginable power, the Monster scooped her up in its arms and lifted her effortlessly. The broken pieces of the driftwood cross fell away behind her, loose ropes dangled from her hands and ankles.
The Monster swung her around, like a man playing “airplane” with a little child, lifting and dropping her in dizzying swoops. A breast slipped out from the cup of her bikini. Hollow grunts that might have been laughter sounded from the Monster’s yawning maw of a mouth.
Somewhere, far away, she heard Bobby cry out again.
Bobbi, light-headed from being spun around, fainted, happy to escape into blackness.
The Creature could tell that something evil was at work. The skies above clouded over, but no wind touched the surface of the ocean. The seawater became bitter to the taste, tainted by an unseen presence. Beneath the small waves that rippled across the surface, the water was still and sullen, as if the ocean itself was holding its breath. Fish didn’t swim about. They floated frozen in place as if afraid to attract attention to themselves by moving.
The Creature glided up the sandy slope toward the shore, tracking the center of the disturbance by a kind of primeval radar. When it was close enough to hear muffled screams, cries from above the waves, it bobbed to the surface, floating with just the top of its head and eyes above the waterline.
The air-breathers were screaming and running about on the beach. The Creature cared little about them and ignored their scurrying.
Much nearer was a creature of a kind it had never seen before. Huge and blocky with broad shoulders and long, lobster-like claws, it was covered with thick armored plates and sharp spines. It looked like some kind of crustacean, but it was fiercely female with huge breasts and oddly flared hips. There was something powerful and primordial about it. It was wallowing toward the shore, bellowing hoarsely.
Something ancient and undeniable rose inside the Creature as it gazed at this weird She-Creature thing. Something stirred in its cold blood, flared to life, began to burn in its loins. Needs as old as Life in the seas swelled up like a powerful incoming tide. The pulsing of its heart sped up, pounding like waves upon a rocky shore, shaking the Creature’s body to its core.
The thing standing before it, the fantastically strangely female Thing, might finally be the mate it had always craved. Solid and aquatic and not squallingly fragile like the air-breathers it sometimes fancied.
The Creature’s head sunk slowly beneath the surface and it began to glide silently, cautiously, toward the she-creature. Its mouth gaped and snapped shut, breathing fast and hard through its gills, charging its body with the oxygen it would need for… exertions.
Bobby lumbered about, waving the She-Creature’s claws. He tried to project menace and power through his motions, but the lower part of the suit was so heavy with absorbed seawater that he could barely drag his legs toward the shore. Between the oily smog that Frankie was pumping out of the smoke-machine and the mesh covering the She-Creature’s eye-holes, Bobby could barely see what was going on. He saw a lot of movement on the beach, frantic running about and Roger, that ham, gesturing wildly.
When the screaming turned shrill and great splashes of red blood erupted, Bobby knew in his bones that something was wrong, deadly wrong.
He dragged at this legs, trying to get to the others, but it was like trying to running a nightmare. He could barely move his legs and each receding wave seemed to pull him back. The sand under his clawed boots sunk and swirled away until he was standing in ankle-deep pits.
He swung his shoulders for momentum and huffed for breath. The mask was heavy, tight, and stifling. He gazed in disbelief at the huge lumbering black form that climbed off the flimsy table Mike had built. When Roger broke suddenly broke and ran away, his fears were confirmed. Something disastrous was going on! Roger would never leave a scene in mid-shoot.
“Bobbi!” He yelled at the top of his lungs. “Hold on, I’m coming!”
Head down, arms and legs pumping, Bobby forced the She-Creature suit forward. If he could have shaken off the lobster-claw gloves, he would’ve yanked the mask off his head.
He felt a pressure well up from behind him. Something big was swimming in the water nearby.
Of all the times to have to worry about a damn shark! Bobby hoped it stayed away, or would choke on a mouthful of foam rubber if it dared to strike.
Either way, he was on his way to save Bobbi, and could not spare the time or effort to fret about a shark.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon reared up out of the water, blaring its harsh, raspy mating call. It wrapped its arms around the She-Creature and fell backwards, legs kicking, dragging them both out to deep water.
Bobby screamed in startled horror.
Bobby saw the huge webbed hands that clamped onto the She-Creature’s great foam breasts and the last thought that went through his mind before he was dragged under and off to what would prove to be an equally unsatisfactory coupling was…
“Why does EVERYBODY have to grab the She-Critter’s tits? Why?”
Chapter 14: Chapter Fourteen
Mike and Red struggle to survive the wrath of the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man.
Mike stood around, shuffling on the sand, waiting for his cue to charge into the scene. He was wearing the Beach Girls Monster suit, “Crazy Kelp Head” to the cast and crew, and was soaking in sweat. He kept one eye on Roger, looking for his cue, but mostly he watched Frankie work the smoke machine dispenser. The singer turned actor had no idea what he was doing. The way he was swinging the nozzle was all wrong, sending out puffs in clumps instead of a steady stream.
He could barely see out of the mesh in the back of the monster’s mouth.
He blinked and cursed, waggling to get the mesh straightened out, thinking the sudden gloom that engulfed the beach was a technical problem with the suit.
A sudden stark white flash of lightening showed him otherwise. As the terrible boom from the lightning strike rolled like a wave across the beach, Mike blinked his eyes, tears running down his cheeks from the blinding glare.
As soon as he could see again, the first sight to greet his eyes was the flaming wreck of the Gizmo tower. His long night of work had been reduced to burning wreckage and metal bones in the blink of an eye.
“Oh no!” He groaned, flapping Crazy Kelp Head’s arms helplessly. The crepe paper “seaweed” fluttered and crinkled.
The Frankenstein Monster “prop” got off of his table and staggered across the sand, snarling and waving its arms in front of it in a very threatening manner.
Mike watched in shock as carnage erupted across the beach. He could barely see what was going on, even the screams were muffled inside the monster suit’s head.
When he saw Roger streaking past, he knew something disastrous was happening. Roger Tennet never left a shoot without a finished scene.
He turned toward Frankie to ask a question, but the singer was nowhere to be found. Frank had dropped the smoke machine nozzle, which he had NO idea how to use, at the first hint of trouble and was long gone down the beach.
Seconds later Baby Blue raced past him at a stumbling, flopping run.
And she was gone before he could figure out just what to ask.
He turned back toward the ruined tower and the lumbering Frankenstein Monster. Thompson left off trying to free Bobbi. Damn those kids! He KNEW they cinched those ropes too tight. The Monster swung its arm and knocked Thompson’s head from his neck as if it wasn’t even attached. Blood geysered up from the stump and the body lurched about on its feet for a mesmerizing few seconds.
Mike closed his eyes in horror and tried not to throw up the egg salad sandwiches he had for lunch. There was no way he would be able to get the stink out of the suit if he barfed. He battled his lunch for several long minutes, throat clenched tight as a fist, teeth grinding with determination. He swallowed hard, finally winning the battle, if the taste coating his mouth could be called “winning.”
More tears rolled down his cheeks.
Mike opened his eyes wide, wishing he could wipe his face with his hand, just in time to see the Gill Man erupt from the surf and grab Bobby from behind. A second later both had disappeared, leaving a ring of bubbles roiling on the water.
“Hey, Bobby!” He shouted far too late for anyone to hear. His mind was going numb with horror.
He looked back toward the beach at the same moment that the Frankenstein Monster caught sight of him.
The Monster squinted for a moment, then snarled. It tucked Bobbi’s limp body under its left arm and raised a huge fist menacingly.
“Mine!” It rasped out in a gravelly, seldom used voice. It took a few steps toward him, growling, actually growling.
Mike snapped out of his daze and did the first thing that popped into his mind.
He raised both arms over his head, waving the rubber claws ferociously and let loose the loudest banshee wail of a scream he could muster.
The Frankenstein Monster flinched, unaccustomed to facing an active threat instead of yet another victim.
Mike pressed his faint advantage.
Crazy Kelp Head lurched toward the Monster, flailing his arms about and chattering angrily.
The Frankenstein Monster froze in its tracks. Its mouth gaped open. Then it began to back rapidly away, eyelids fluttering, thrashing with its right arm to fend off the “terrifying” monster confronting it.
Mike halted in mid-lurch and froze.
Seeing an opportunity, Mike bolted for the motorboat, which was partly loaded, prepped, and pulled in as close to the shore as was practical. He splashed through some shallow water, leaped into the boat, clambering rather clumsily, still in the heavy rubber suit. He fired up the motor then pointed the prow toward the mainland and gave it full throttle.
Meanwhile, Red was running full out, but the Wolf Man was closing the distance rapidly. A disturbingly human grin was on its animal lips. Drool splattered in thick drops as it loped after her.
Finally, Red hit a jumble of rocks and boulders that slowed her down. The Wolf Man leaped to the top of the largest rock, crouched, tensing inhuman steel-like muscles, then it launched itself at her, howling triumphantly.
To the hairy man-beast’s surprise, Red ducked his pounce by hitting the ground and rolling hard away. It took him a few seconds to pull his muzzle out of the sand and blink grains out of his eyes.
The Wolf Man rose to his haunches, panting. This prey was giving him the best chase he’d run in a long, long time. But now it was over. The red-haired woman was pinned against the ocean with no room to dodge around him to escape.
The Wolf Man smiled. He took a long moment to size up his prey, to smell the fear in the sweat on her white flesh, to listen to the pounding of her heart inside her heaving chest. He licked his lips, savoring the kill to come. He could almost taste the flesh in his mouth, feel the skin ripping beneath his claws, the blood gushing down his throat.
Surprisingly, the prey did not cower or grovel or scream.
She stood up, slowly, determinedly, never breaking eye contact with the Wolf Man.
“I’ve been outrunning wolves half my life, buster. There’s two things you have to know, Mr. Wolf.”
“One, wolves can’t swim worth shit.”
“Two, I grew up on a beach!”
Abruptly she spun about and dove out into the sea. She hit in a long, stretched out dive and began kicking her legs and pulling at the water with long, strong strokes.
The Wolf Man’s eyes went wide.
His smile melted.
He let out a loud frustrated growl and leaped out after her, snarling.
His powerful leap almost let him land on her back, but he was a couple of feet to the left of his target. He lashed out with his claws, raking her calves and drawing blood. With a desperate lunge the Wolf Man managed to bite one of her feet. His fangs barely broke the skin before a bare foot smashed into his snout, drawing blood and making him blink furiously.
In that second, she was gone, pulling out farther and farther ahead of him.
He dog-paddled after her but in a few seconds it was obvious that he would never catch her. She slipped through the water like a torpedo, a porpoise at home in the water. He splashed and thrashed frantically but only advanced a few feet.
As he treaded water, desperate to just keep his head above the waves, he watched her disappear into the darkness. He could still hear the slap and churn of her swimming, the steady sound of her breath growing fainter.
Defeated and dejected, there was nothing the Wolf Man could do but laboriously turn about in the water and begin to dog-paddle toward the beach, which suddenly looked a long ways away.
He whined and panted as he struggled back to shore. There was a very good chance that he would drown before he could reach it.
Eventually, Crazy Larry’s body would wash ashore with the tide and he would wake up coughing seawater.
Chapter 15: Chapter Fifteen
Roger reaches the safety of the castle, only to learn the shocking truth behind the film project he was to have directed.
Roger pounded up the path of crushed coquina shells toward the castle. Winds whipped the tops of the palmetto trees, sending down a blizzard of sharp-edged leaves. The sky overhead was black, shot through with purple-white flashes of silent lightning.
He tried to ignore the screams from the beach behind him.
He held his hands over his ears and ran as fast as he could.
Soon the crunch-crunch-crunch of his footsteps on the path turned into a light shuft-shuft as the path merged with a stone-flagged walkway.
He hit the stairs and half tumbled up them, casting fearful glances over his shoulder. Something pale and white and with rounded curves lie dead beneath the bushes to his right. He swallowed hard and turned away.
His outstretched hands smacked into the weathered wood of the manor’s front doors. The heavy doors swung silently open at his touch and he darted through them into darkness. He paused to look back down the path he had followed. Something huge and black might have been lumbering through the swirl of palmetto leaves. It was hard to tell in the stuttering light of the cloud-flashes above. Roger thought he heard the grinding crunch of heavy footsteps on the crushed sea-shells, but couldn’t be sure.
Quickly Roger swung the doors shut, leaning his shoulder into them. He fumbled around until he found locks and a heavy bolt, which he slammed home with a frantic thud.
Panting, he stepped backwards away from the doors.
They seemed to shake, hinges rattling, but it might have been from the wind.
“Is that you, Roger?” Called a richly accented voice from across the great hall behind him. Roger recognized the voice immediately as that of his Producer, Dmitri Lejos
“Don’t stand out there in the hall, Roger. Come into the study. Warm yourself by the fire.”
Roger blindly stumbled toward the voice, eventually coming to a door that swung open almost before he touched it.
The room beyond was spacious, but cozy, furnished with overstuffed chairs and a great long sofa. A hearty fire crackled and snapped in the fireplace, casting the only illumination in the room. Everything seemed to swim and waver amid shadows as the fire flickered.
Dmitri Lejos lounged in a high-backed chair, dressed as always in all black with a black beret on his head and a black silk scarf around his throat. His face was so white that it appeared almost luminous in the half-gloom. His dark eyes glittered brightly and there was a wry smile on his lips. He held a wine glass filled with a deep, dark red vintage that must have been a burgundy of some kind.
“Yes, do come in Roger!” Chimed a woman’s voice cheerily from the sofa. “We’re having a bit of a party. Sort of a wrap party for the production.”
It was Lejo’s assistant, Marnie. She was dressed in her habitual tight black pegged pants and Cat-Eye glasses. She wore a crisp-looking white men’s shirt, loose and half unbuttoned.
Next to her sat Rod, who was very, very pale and seemed to be trying to say something to Roger, but his lips barely moved. His eyes were feverish and unfocussed.
“A wrap party?” Roger gasped in disbelief. “The production’s a disaster! Almost everyone is dead! Everything is ruined!”
Hysteria tinged Roger’s voice. He seemed about to burst into tears.
“Oh, no matter.” Purred Lejos quietly. “Everything has gone quite according to plan. The project is a total success! You should be proud of yourself, Mr. Tennant.”
Roger’s mouth hung open in disbelief.
Lejos took a sip from his glass. The wine stained his lips a bright red.
“The production’s a complete shambles! It’s GONE! It’s all gone! I don’t even know where the film canisters with the footage we did manage to shoot are.”
Lejos paused for a moment, eyes fixed upon the ceiling.
“The canisters are on the beach, by the production tent. Where you left them. I will have them retrieved shortly. They might be valuable to certain types of collectors in a few years.”
“There was never going to be a movie, Roger. It was a ridiculous idea. Three monsters? In one film? The public would never have gone for it. It is hard enough to sell them one monster at a time. The whole idea was laughable.”
Roger stared. The breath froze in his chest. He felt like he’d been stabbed in the ribs.
“But!” Lejos raised one long, slender finger. “The three previous films with the beach monsters are already complete and proven commodities. Once the news gets out how your entire production crew vanished on the ‘cursed’ Viuda Island, interest will soar. We will just re-release the existing films and rake in pure profits.”
“You…you planned this?”
Roger’s face flushed red.
Lejos took another sip from his glass. He raised an eyebrow.
“You are quite correct, my dear. This has a remarkable flavor! Much richer than our usual fare.”
Marnie smiled and squirmed like a cat. She patted the half-comatose Rod on the head.
“Haven’t I told you? There is something special about the blood of Method Actors. There’s a greater nuance of taste, a more subtle bouquet.”
Rod’s eyes flickered open. He stared with desperate appeal toward Roger. Dry lips silently mouthed the words, “kill me” before Marnie laid a cold white hand across his mouth.
Lejos nodded thoughtfully.
“I would like to try another, to be sure. But if you are correct, my dear, we may have to sponsor an Actors’ School.”
Marnie giggled and clapped her hands.
“What…what about me?” Roger whispered.
“Oh. Well.” Lejos stared at him coldly, dispassionately. “We have a rather special need for you, Roger. Mr. Radcliffe needs a transfusion. I have promised him a vacation of sorts on the mainland for quite some time now.”
Roger gulped. He tried to smile, nervously.
“Oh. That’s not so bad. I guess.”
“Sorry, Old Sport. I’m afraid I’m going to need it all, actually.”
The voice came out of nowhere from the empty air beside Roger.
“Ahhh! A Ghost!” Shouted Roger, backing away from the voice.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Man. There’s no such thing as ghosts. I’m merely…invisible.”
Lejos smiled indulgently and raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Marnie giggled.
“All of it?” Roger gasped. “That’s…monstrous!”
“Monstrous, Mr. Tennant?” Lejos remarked. “No. It is merely unpleasant. And necessary. What Marnie is going to do to Mr. Spencer here, now that is truly monstrous.”
“I get bored.” Marnie said with a pout.
Roger tried to make a run for the door, but powerful, unseen hands seized him by the shoulders.
“I do rather like you, Roger. You’re a hack, but you are a pleasant and somewhat entertaining hack. I will miss you.”
Roger screamed at the top of his lungs as the Invisible Man dragged him off toward the laboratory.
La Mirada Radio Broadcast:
“Authorities are baffled by the total disappearance of Director Roger Tennant and his entire production crew, apparently swept off the beach of La Viuda Island by a freak storm.
Shortly after the storm, a motorboat ran aground on La Mirada Beach with a ‘strange creature’ in it. Initially identified by experts as some kind of giant, mutated Fantigua Fish, the figure proved to be a man in a life-like rubber suit. The man, as yet unidentified, is incoherent, mad from some terrible shock. He was transferred to a nearby sanitarium for observation and treatment.
Meanwhile, the hunt continues for the notorious Gill-Man, still believed to be at large somewhere near the La Mirada coast. Search teams remain on the water and vigilance is advised for all seaside communities….”
Aboard the S.S. Esmeralda, a battered, seedy sponge-boat that operated out of Key West, Ilzor Zandaab stood at the railing outside the pilot’s house and frowned angrily.
The skies above were black and churning with clouds stirred by unnatural forces. As a priest of the lines of Arkan and Karnak, Zandaab could feel the wrongness of the storm on his skin. He could taste corruption on the wind.
He wanted nothing more than to be on their way and out of these cursed waters as soon as possible.
The Captain, however, had pulled the ship close to a blighted rock of an island where he had some no doubt illicit business with a beachcombing hermit, and now the crew were engaged in an energetic effort to rescue some woman whom they spotted bobbing about in the waves.
There was a great deal of chatter and an excited buzz as sailors fell over each other trying to get lines to the water-logged wench. Two men gallantly pulled their shirts off and dove into the black water to rescue the girl.
She was lithe and limber, long-limbed with the ghastly pallid skin that infidels seemed to cherish so much. To Zandaab, she already looked too much like a corpse to bother with. The top of her swimwear appeared to have come undone just as she exhaustedly reached the vicinity of the boat and, after some weak arm-waving, she lie in the water on her back, great rounded breasts bobbing in the waves, her scarlet hair spread out like a blood-stain around her head.
“I wonder what happened to her?” Blurted his assistant Raghab with wide eyes.
Zandaab glanced at his underling with a frown.
After years of countless failures and betrayals by Priests of the line who were seduced by the exotic beauty of these infidel women, the wise men of Arkan had finally selected a man like Zandaab, a man immune to the charms of any woman, to retrieve the mummies of Kharis and Ananka.
His assistant, Raghab, however, was made of baser stuff and seemed vulnerable to the distractions of female flesh. Sadly, Zandaab had need of the man’s help and could only strive to help him attain a greater purity of service.
Zandaab sniffed disdainfully.
“It matters not.” He said tersely, with the sharp inflection of a schoolmaster correcting a pupil. “As long as it does not hinder the performance of our mission. We have been delayed here too long as it is.”
Zandaab turned abruptly and glided serenely back toward the filthy cabin he shared with his servant.
Raghab stared at the red-haired woman a little longer. He licked his lips. She seemed to be okay, with only a single ragged bite wound on one foot. Mostly, she was just limp, in a swoon from exhaustion.
Raghab wondered if he should fetch a blanket to wrap her with, then noted, with annoyance, that several of the sailors had the same idea. The nearly naked girl was bundled up in blankets and a bottle of fiery spirits was raised to her lips.
He winced at the impatient snap of his Master’s voice.
Reluctantly he turned away from the red-haired beauty and back to the holy mission he and his Master had been given.