HONK IF YOU’RE DISCLAIMERING: All XWP characters are copyright so-and-so by what’s-his -face. No copyright infringement intended and no profit gained. The story is mine, so think twice about plagiarizing.
HAPPY TALK!: I know what you’re thinking. “Ew, another depressing Mel and Janice story! Run for the freaking hills!” Au contraire, my dear readers. This one is extremely low on the angst meter, has a happy ending, and is even—dare we say it—“humorous.”
THANKS: To governal for beta duties.
NOTES: This reads better if you print it out—those footnotes are a bitch to follow!
The Fangs of Academe
Percival Latrobe lived
encased in a world of shadows, quiet, angst-ridden solitude, and argyle socks. In
other words, he was a librarian. Very few patrons of the
And they were all right—none of these things lurked under Percival’s sweater-vest. He did not work in the library so much as hovered in it, a bow-tied angel shelving books and defending ancient, dog-eared copies of Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Forever Amber from the prying eyes of hormone-addled adolescents and general all-around perverts.
Nonetheless, he possessed a secret that would have shocked
most of his colleagues. His
annual vacation plans involved monitoring and rectifying a certain situation in
the eastern part of the country—namely,
And if he got to be goggle-eyed and lovestruck in the presence of Janice Covington, well, all the better.
Department of Archaeology & Anthropology
Two days later
Despite his long acquaintance with Janice Covington, he was not accustomed to seeing the young archaeologist in anything other than grubby, worn khakis, a battered leather jacket, and a perpetual scowl. Had it not been for that endearing, enduring look of dissatisfaction upon her lovely face, he would have not recognized her as she strode down the hallway toward her office: Her hair was combed and organized into a bun at the back of her head, and she wore a skirt. A skirt! 
He tensed in anticipation at her approach, but her eyes
betrayed no sign that she saw him, let alone recognized him. In fact, she
sailed right by and opened her office door, no more than 12 feet away from
where he stood. Percival was about to issue a squeak of protest at this
ignominy when a hand seized his sweater vest and dragged him—not unlike
Breathless with a fear that manifested itself in the alarming constriction of his bladder, Percival looked up at the angry woman standing over him.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Janice hissed. “What did I tell you about showing up here? People will talk. I have a reputation.” 
“I’m sorry, Janice, really I am,” he sputtered. “But I need you.”
“Shut up.” She pulled off the dark jacket covering her white blouse, kicked off her heels, and, with a breathtakingly fierce passion, straddled him and sank her hands into his hair, intoxicating him with savage tenderness as she pulled on his scalp. “And so you shall have me, my prince,” she growled before plastering her lips to his.
Unfortunately for Percival, the last paragraph was a mere
fantasia playing out in the darkened theater of his mind (except, of course,
for the “shut up”). Her flaring nostrils always did that to him. She was truly
a magnificent creature, and how she failed to win Vampire Hunter of the Month
in April of 1947 was beyond him! He had lobbied tirelessly on her behalf,
thought that taking out a werewolf would be an added laurel upon her heaving
breast and would indeed clinch the award, but no, Mr. Harvey Wolpert of
Janice flopped down in the chair behind her desk and began rummaging through the drawer for a cigar. “I thought we were square, Percy. I told you, the last time was it. I’m done with all this crap. I don’t have the time for it.”
“I understand that.”
“Do you? Then why are you here?” She rescued a cigar from the chaos of the desk and lit up.
“You don’t understand. The situation is critical. The local cell is active again.”
“Call the National Guard.”
“Please don’t be facetious. It makes me break out in hives.”
Janice blew smoke rings. “I got no sympathy for you.”
“And bad grammar is an affectation I could do without as well!” Percival burst out. “Oh!” He stamped his foot.
She squinted at him. “What’s the deal here? This is about more than that bunch of vampires hiding out in the old Radclyffe mansion, isn’t it?”
He was pleased. “So you are aware of their presence.”
“I’m a member of the Chamber of Commerce.”
“Liar,” Percy retorted defiantly.
“Okay, the kid across the street from me delivers papers. The Radclyffe joint is on his route. He told me about ‘em.”
“I—“ His mouth formed words but none came. How to proceed? he thought miserably. He knew he had to tread very carefully.
Janice sat attentively at her desk; she mustered a fair approximation of a concerned look upon her face and folded her hands as if she were a real estate agent ready to lay to rest her clients’ each and every concern about the dilapidated fire hazard they were about to purchase.
“You know,” Percival croaked, “I am very fond of you, and I have the greatest respect for your considerable, variable talents. It’s true that the, ah, situation with the vampires in this area brought me here, but since my arrival I have become aware of a problem that is potentially very, very grave and involves you directly.”
He could tell she was torn among genuine curiosity, natural skepticism, and the need to encourage him further; as a result, her eyebrows squiggled and her mouth bent into an uneasy smile. She resembled an actress in a silent movie, pantomiming crude emotions for the benefit of an audience of simpletons.
Percival continued. “And so you will understand why I feel the need to express—most emphatically and vociferously—my heartfelt concern over your current living situation.”
Here Janice’s fraudulent expressions collapsed in genuine confusion. “Huh?”
“That—woman that you live with.” Percival shuddered. “And I use the word ‘woman’ loosely.”
Her eyes narrowed in a way that made him exceedingly uncomfortable. “Just what are you saying?”
“What I am saying, what is so patently obvious, it simply devastates me that the truth so blatantly flaunts itself, and that you are so blind to the fact that you live with one of them—you live with a vampire!”
As he feared, Janice burst into giggles. “Hoo boy,” she wheezed. “You think Mel is a vampire?”
“All the evidence points to it!” His hysteria escalated. “She’s pale as a corpse, never goes out during the day, and the other evening when you two were at that Italian restaurant she positively recoiled from the garlic!”
Janice stood up and walked over to him. He was expecting a sympathetic reassurance, perhaps, as she let him in on her grand master plan—she wasn’t really in thrall to a vampire, she was stringing the creature along. Yes, she was doing “undercover” work as it were—in fact, perhaps the scary tall woman was the leader of the Northeastern Contingent!
Instead, Janice boxed his right ear rather severely. He yelped in pain. “What did I tell you about following me?” She bent over so that her mouth was level with his pink, throbbing ear. “I don’t like it!” she hollered.
“I’m sorry,” Percival whined as he skittered away from her. “I was worried.”
“It’s touching, in a sick kind of way, but I assure you, Percy, I can take care of myself.” She paused; reassuring him was clearly a second thought. “My friend is not a vampire.”
“Are you certain, Janice? She’s so big!” Percy exclaimed. “In a fight, could you take her?”
A cocky smile spread across Janice’s face like melted butter as she settled back into her desk chair. “Oh trust me, I can take her.”
Instead of assuaging his fears, this statement only pointed to the existence of previous scuffles. “Have you?” Percival gasped. “Has she ever—hurt you?”
Janice scratched her jaw thoughtfully. “Well, there was one time she almost cracked my head like a coconut, but that was when—“ She stopped abruptly and unleashed a symphony of Garbo-in-Camille fake, histrionic coughs in an effort to camouflage a sudden and rare blush.
The vampire hunter leapt to his feet and presented a clean, neatly folded handkerchief to the object of his affections.
“Thanks,” Janice replied grudgingly. “I’ve never gotten a clean one before.”
“You’re welcome.” Percival dipped his head bashfully, causing blonde curls to tumble upon his fair brow and lightly graze the frame of his tortoiseshell glasses. “You know, I do need your help to defeat the Northeastern Contingent. I can’t do it alone.”
She snorted. “You can’t do it at all.” The handkerchief—which Janice quickly deposited in a desk drawer—was not, unfortunately, an adequate offering to the esteemed Dr. Covington. “Told you. I’m done with it.”
“You can’t be!”
“You shan’t be!”
“I shan.” Janice retorted then frowned, disappointed that once again grammar, like the best-looking and easiest lay at a bad party, so easily eluded her.
Percival loathed what he was about to do, but he firmly believed there was no other option available to him. He fumbled with the locks on his briefcase, and five minutes later—after Janice had pointedly yawned, stretched, and hummed “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”—out came the contract. He ruffled the thick, bound stack of legalese that, unfortunately, had committed her—forever and inextricably, it seemed—to the duty of vampire hunting.
Janice squirmed. “That’s not my signature.”
“I have witnesses.”
“Trotsky is dead!”
“Frida isn’t, and she’s still mad about what you said about her eyebrow.” Percival’s thumb stopped at exactly the page he wanted. “Let me direct your attention, once again, to Paragraph 187, clause 17c: ‘If the hunter signs the contract in his own blood, thus the contract is legal and binding until the expiration of the undersigned’s mortal life, or parent company Acme Vampire Hunters of Wichita is bankrupt or legally acquired by another corporation except U.S. Steel and/or Coca-Cola.’”
“I did not sign in blood! It was red ink! Red ink!”
“Janice,” he rebuked her sharply, “do stop this charade. If you agree to help me, I agree not to follow up on my quite legitimate concerns about your roommate.” This was a lie. He had every intention of keeping an eye on the suspicious Melinda Pappas. It was a necessary precaution; he had to keep the woman he loved absolutely safe but given his extreme fear of anyone over 5’7”, it would be quite a challenge.
Janice stared at the loathsome document. “Tequila. Never again,” she muttered.
If only I could burn the contract.
Janice bundled together a batch of small, sharp, and very pointy wooden stakes. She placed the bundle into a rucksack.
That means I have to get at that briefcase, and to get at that briefcase, I might have to get—close to him.
Her face curdled with such intensity that she gave herself a headache. She knew Percy was sweet on her, and a little bit of flirting might do the trick, but that was precisely the problem. It was all fine and well if you were Mel, where the merest twitch of a suggestive eyebrow and the lowest purr of a Southern drawl could ensure a better cut of meat or an extra bottle of milk—no charge—but for Janice flirting was limited to broads because when she flirted, she meant business.
Thinking of Mel, Janice realized she hadn’t quite figured out what tack to take in regard to her activities this evening. She had never bothered to share with Mel the truth on this particular matter; Mel had a skeptical streak several miles wide and no doubt would think her lover quite demented. As if she doesn’t think you’re a loon already, Janice thought. She rubbed her lower lip thoughtfully. Percy was right—the situation (as he kept calling it) was bad. The population of the vampires in the Northeast Contingent had doubled. A large segment of them were holed up in the Radclyffe house. She’d been lucky in the past whenever Percy had called upon her to kill the bloodsucking little fuckers; only once had she taken on more than two at a time, and at the time she had been armed with her deadliest weapon: garlic breath. But now, on such short notice, there was no way to get any of the stuff: It was late, the market was closed, as was the local Italian restaurant, and they didn’t have any garlic in house. It occurred to Janice to inquire about borrowing some from a neighbor, but she was certain Mrs. Grove would—after what happened to Buddy—slam the door in her face.
Janice unfurled a sigh. This is fucking serious. I’ve got to tell her the truth. Especially if I get bitten—she’ll need to be prepared. She’ll need to defend herself. God, if only I could rely on Percy to protect her, but he’s so hung up on that idea of her being one of them!
She slung the rucksack over her shoulder and with single-minded intent stalked through the house until she reached Mel’s sanctum sanctorum.
Janice’s violently melodramatic kicking open of the study’s door had no discernable effect on the absorbed Mel. The translator sat crouched over her desk, blue eyes riveted to a stack of paper, left hand cupping the back of her neck, right hand curled around a fountain pen. Janice worried that someday Mel’s writing hand would permanently lock into a crone-like position, so fiercely did she hold the pen.
“We’ve got to talk about something,” Janice announced severely. “Now.”
Mel made a noise of consent.
Janice drew a shaky breath. The best way is the direct way. “I’m going vampire hunting.”
It was only after she said it that she realized how ludicrous it sounded.
Mel did not move a muscle. “That’s nice, dear,” she replied in most conciliatory tone.
“I’m not kidding around.”
“Do you want me to pack you a lunch?”
“Goddammit, are you listening to me? I’m not going ice skating or something here!”
“I haven’t seen your skates, honey.”
“Fuck!” Janice shrugged the rucksack off her shoulder.
The noisy clatter of the wooden stakes within the sack finally claimed Mel’s attention. She stretched ominously and stood, peeking over the edge of her huge desk as several wooden stakes slid out of an opening in the rucksack. “Just what on earth is going on here?” Mel demanded.
At last! Janice thought. She opened her mouth but was cut off by further Southern exclamations of disbelief.
“I’m not a complete fool, Janice. I know you told me that baseball season ended, but what am I supposed to think when you’re walking around with a whole bundle of bats in a sack?” Mel frowned and walked around the desk for a closer inspection of the strange baseball bats. “Aren’t the ends usually rounded? These are sharp. They look very dangerous.” She tilted her head curiously. “But wait—wait a moment.”
Are you getting it? Janice thought frantically. Comprehending the situation? Please say yes.
“Is this some sort of alternate version of baseball?”
Janice felt a vein throbbing along her temple; the sensation was not unlike a hangover.
“I shouldn’t be surprised that someone devised a way to stretch this tedious, so-called ‘national pastime’ into a year-long spectacle,” Mel was muttering. “What do you do? Stab the balls?”
“Will you please fucking listen to me?”
Mel gaped in shock at being addressed so; her eyes generated an icy outrage.
“I’m sorry,” Janice said automatically. “But I need you to
listen to me. I’m about to embark on something dangerous here. I don’t want to
do it, but—I have to do the right thing or I’ll never be able to live with
myself.” She paused. “Okay, okay, I signed a contract and the guy said if I
don’t follow through he’ll throw my ass in jail. He is kinda stuck on me but I
wouldn’t put it past him not to do that. I know once upon a time it was my goal
to be arrested in every country I’ve ever been in but after
Mel folded her arms across her marvelously ample bosom. “Is there a point to this charming anecdote, darling?”
“Yes. I’m trying to tell you—that I’m going vampire hunting. It’s dangerous. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Or even if I’ll come back. But no matter what happens, I want you to remember one thing: I love you. I’ve never loved anyone like you. You are my life. You mean everything to me.”
“Oh, God. Janice.” Mel turned away quickly.
Janice reached out and gently grasped her wrist. “Don’t cry.”
“Cry?” Mel’s voice was hollow. “Why should I cry?”
Geez, I dunno, baby, maybe ‘cause I might be dead by morning? “I don’t know. I—”
“I mean, really—“
Dismally, Janice realized that the conversation was once again taking a hairpin turn into the absurd.
“—is it necessary to make up these ridiculous stories?”
If Janice’s mouth hadn’t become so dry from the sheer shock and stress of it all, she would have spit. “What?” she roared.
Mel rolled her eyes. “I know you want to go out. It’s true I haven’t been much fun lately. I am very sorry, but—if you want to go out and get drunk, just say so. I don’t quite understand why you must get so intoxicated sometimes, but I know you need to do it, so just do it. Don’t lie to me about it!” She sighed in exasperation and retrieved her purse from the desk. “I think I have enough for bail this time—if it comes to that.” She gave Janice a truly frigid look indicating that if indeed it did come to that, it would be advisable not to return home ever. “I’ll at least give you some money for a cab. I really don’t fancy having Mr. O’Neill calling me again at to come peel you off the barroom floor. In fact, I don’t know what’s worse—a drunken Irishman or a leering bail bondsman, so please try to have the presence of mind to get a taxi home, would you?” Finally, she pressed a twenty-dollar bill into Janice’s limp hand and steered the befuddled archaeologist toward the front door. “Just promise me you won’t start anything violent. Or do I have to remind you of what happened the last time we were in a fight?”
One last shove sent Janice tumbling over the threshold. When the door shut behind her and she noticed flurries of snow dancing in the darkened sky, she feared the night would only get more surreal.
After such a long acquaintance with Percival, Janice found it easy to dwell on the negative aspects of his character: His innate cowardice, his shameless exploitation of a contract that she had signed in a state of complete inebriation, his spineless, dewy-eyed devotion to her, and most creepily of all, those fucking Shirley Temple dolls, which gave her a serious case of the chills every time she thought about them.
Thus it was easy to forget that Percy was nothing if not resourceful. Having left the house in such a daze, Janice recalled too late that she had left the wooden stakes on the floor of Mel’s study. Fearing ensnarement in another ridiculous conversation, she didn’t relish going back to try and fetch them. Now garlic-less and stake-less, she realized she needed to come up with a completely new battle strategy. Fortunately, inspiration hit. When she rendezvoused with Percival outside the elegant Radclyffe mansion where the Northeastern Contingent had their base of operations, Janice wasted no time and gave the following urgent instruction for her vampire-battling comrade: “Get me some handcuffs. As many pairs as you can. Now.”
Well into the wee hours of the morning, she arrived at Percy’s hotel room and stared—with complete awe—at a large suitcase filled with almost fifty pairs of handcuffs. “How the hell did you get all these?”
Percival squirmed in glee at the unexpected praise from his princess and basked in the warmth of her admiration. “A boy must have his secrets,” he replied coyly.
She shook her head in pleasant disbelief. “I’ll be a sonofabitch.” Together they picked through the merchandise. Janice carefully examined each pair she encountered, checking for weak links, broken bits, and faulty locks, while Percival cradled and cooed over the shiniest cuffs, much like a debutante let loose in a jewelry store.
“This one is strange.” Percival held up a pair padded on the inside with leather trim. “What kind of police organization would coddle criminals so?”
“Ah.” While Janice did not blush, she had no desire to detail what kind of degenerate would find use for such a pair of handcuffs. “I—think they’re Swedish.”
A skeptical frown creased Percival’s brow. “Oh.” The tone of that single syllable indicated he hadn’t a clue as to what she intimated. He cleared his throat. “Janice, you haven’t told me what your plan is yet.”
“You don’t need to know, Percy. Just leave everything to me.” For the plan to succeed Janice hoped that tonight—Halloween, this most sacred holiday in the calendar of the undead—the vampires were having a hell of a good time and drinking themselves into enough of a stupor so that the element of surprise would be in her favor.
And for once, it was. Several long, hard hours later, in an operation involving the utmost stealth and concentration, 23 drunken, passed-out vampires—obviously unable to resist several rare cases of priceless Bordeaux—were handcuffed to one another, linked together like a dull chain of dead daisies, or tarnished tinsel around a lifeless, brittle Christmas tree. One end of the vampire chain was latched to the foot of an appallingly heavy, seemingly unmovable (or so Janice hoped) sarcophagus made of iron, lead, and brass—obviously where the head vampire usually “slept.” To impede any escape, the heavy doors were locked and barricaded from beyond with as much furniture as Percival could pile against them. The only good thing about his increasing hysteria was that his ability to move heavy objects quadrupled.
Janice realized that she was more or less trapped in a room with 23 vampires and if her plan didn’t work, she was a dead woman. Or even worse, she would become one of them. Oh fuck it, I can’t think about that now. On with the show.
She leapt onto a banquet table situated near a long, velvety curtain, and sent some rather priceless-looking goblets crashing to the floor. As she expected, the noise roused some members of her audience. “Ladies and gentlemen! Mesdames et messieurs!” Even at this crucial moment, Janice could picture Mel wincing at her lousy French. “Thank you for joining me today. It’s great to be here! But I gotta say, tough crowd—not single a clap! Now when was the last time you heard a girl complain about not getting the clap?”
There were ominous stirrings—the vampires groggily awakened. Some even realized they were handcuffed.
“Geez, that was my best line, too. Well, I’m disappointed, really I am. But I realize a lot of you aren’t here to see me. Nope, you’re here to catch the really big star of the show. And who I am to deny you that?”
Many vampires were pulling frantically at the bonds that held them together, but were in too weakened a state to do so; others banged the cuffs desperately against the floor, trying to smash the handcuffs open. All of them, however, now knew the gravity of the situation they were in.
Janice hurried along. “Very well, then. So let me present, without any further adieu, that star you’ve been dying to see for years, the biggest star around for about the last 10,000 years—“ She latched onto a thick, tasseled cord that hung listlessly against the heavy, dark velvet brocade curtain and pulled on it as hard as she could, and shouted—“the sun!”
For the first time in almost 100 years, sunlight from the now exposed picture window filled the room of the mansion—as did the piercing screams of the dying vampires. Each one exploded into brilliant flames, rivaling the sun for glory, but in the end amounting to nothing more than a suffusion of ash floating aimlessly in beams of golden light.
“Thank you, thank you!” Janice bowed at her now obliterated, still smoldering audience. “I’ll be in the Catskills next month, Lake Tahoe in the spring.”
“That was amazing!” he cried. He peered into the now empty banquet room, littered with dust and handcuffs. “You’re a genius!”
Janice coughed and greedily inhaled the clean, cold sharpness of the autumn air. “Christ, I hate the smell of vampire in the morning.”
Percival dropped onto bended knee and lovingly proffered her leather jacket, which had been given to him for safekeeping during the mission.
She managed not to roll her eyes as she pulled on the jacket, and sighed happily at its familiar warmth. “Did you secure the area?”
“What? Oh, yes. Yes. I checked everywhere, from attic to basement. We—rather, you—got them all.”
“Good.” She rubbed her neck and wondered if there was possibly any way she could sneak back into the house without Mel noticing. If she were lucky, Mel would be just as immersed in her work as she was yesterday.
Unfortunately, before she could even take a step in the direction of home, Percival had seized her arms with uncommon force. “You are the most incredible woman I’ve ever met.”
Oh no. She knew what that meant.
He leaned in toward her. Her sinuses still tickled from all the vampire dust and she sneezed, pleased that a natural reflex quickly saved her from pummeling Percy. “Er, sorry. I’m allergic to boys.”
He wiped away a fine mist of
Janice contemplated what to do. She couldn’t let this go on. A little worship was good for the ego—even when you had a beautiful, brainy, buxom brunette waiting for you at home—but this was rapidly getting out of hand. And as much as she was loath to be dishonest about her queerness, she was certain that Percival would not understand it. He was far too entrenched in the world of vampires and misty castles and noble heroines and unselfish deeds done for the greater good. She lived in the real world of underpaid academics, cold coffee at department meetings, and a lover who got cranky and would withhold sex whenever she didn’t mow the lawn every week.
Percival opened his mouth to speak again. She reached out, hoping to place a feather-light touch against his chapped lips. Instead her fingers crashed against his moist nostrils. She winced. It must be something they teach in charm school, she thought. “Don’t talk,” she commanded breathlessly, going into a histrionic, Bette Davis-like overdrive. “There’s something I must tell you about myself.”
“What?” He, too, was caught in the whirlpool of melodrama and blinked with mad abandon.
“You see,” she began, “I have a war wound.”
“A—war—wound.” His voice was teetered on the apex between belief and skepticism.
She thrust her chin out and clenched her hands together. “It happened on an air transport. We were high above the French countryside. It was crowded, you see—they were transporting not only WACs but cargo too. There weren’t many places to sit. I was sitting on a crate filled with—“ Janice bit a knuckle. Don’t oversell! she cautioned herself. “—tins of baked beans. Well, the air pressure in the cabin was just too much and it exploded and—“ She turned away from Percival and gurgled violently, hoping the noise would pass for a sympathy-inducing feminine sob.
“Oh.” Again, this befuddled syllable indicated that he had no idea what had happened to Janice on that fictional air transport, but neither did he have the words or the guts to plumb the fraudulent depths of the strange story. Nonetheless, he pressed on, determined to win her love. “Well, gosh, I don’t care about that. I love you. I want to marry you.”
Janice dropped the act; her shoulders slumped. “No, you don’t. Listen: I drink like a fish. I’m a bum. I get into fights. I’d burn all your Shirley Temple dolls. I’m not worth it, Percy.”
“I don’t care,” he retorted stubbornly.
She countered, in a warning sing-song, “You’re forcing me to tell you the truth.”
“Very well, then!” Percy cried. “Let’s have it!”
“Fine: You’re not my cup of tea. I like girls, not boys. Particularly that big girl I live with. In fact, I’m downright nuts about her. Got it?”
“Oh.” There was a resignation to his tone now. Absently he bunched up the edge of his tweed jacket with nervous, sweaty hands. “That’s kind of—immoral, isn’t it?”
“So is eating shellfish, they tell me. I think I can live with it.” He was staring at the ground, and immediately she regretted her flippant tone. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to hurt you, really, but it’s not gonna happen. I love someone else.”
He swallowed his bitter disappointment. “I understand. And I appreciate your being honest with me.” He paused thoughtfully and accepted her gentle pat of his shoulder. “But Janice?”
Percy shot her a timid, embarrassed gaze. “How can you—do anything with your war wound?”
Like a cloak, the night offered him some protection—not only from easy identification, but, strangely enough, from his own simmering fear. For a solid week he had been carefully monitoring the comings and goings of Melinda Pappas—for a vampire, she was an alarmingly habitual creature.
Percy could deal with Janice’s predilections—albeit reluctantly—but what he could not accept was her being in love with a vampire. It was too dangerous. Not to mention unseemly. No, it would not do at all. So he took upon himself the heavy mantle of responsibility—he would have to kill the creature. Or, at the very least, die trying. Or, at the very, very least, frighten her out of her wits with a dazzling display of heroism and bravado that would show her that he was aware of her, he was watching her, and he would kill her if she so much as harmed a golden hair on Janice’s sacred skull.
As usual, the object of his surveillance walked with brisk grace; her head was bowed as if she were deep in thought, and she clutched a purse against the side of her long, dark coat.
Weeks of practice finally paid off; he timed his exit from his hiding place with perfection and leapt in front of her.
With a loud gasp, she stopped.
Yes, he thought gleefully, she was afraid of him! He had the advantage, the upper hand! Dramatically, he pulled the large, glittering cross from the safety of his coat pocket. “The power of Christ compels you!”
As Percy expected, she took a frightened step back. He also anticipated the dark, glowering look, and the glint of her bright eyes calculating the situation. His hand shook. She seemed to grow and loom with increasing menace. With his free hand, he tightened the red scarf around his tender neck, the very part of his anatomy that he was certain she would be feasting off of within a matter of minutes. Goodbye, cruel world! Goodbye, perverted archaeologist who would not love me!
What Percy did not expect was precisely what happened. Mel’s right arm whipped out as she clobbered the side of his face with the heaviest, hardest clutch purse a man had ever encountered in modern times. As he lay in a crumpled heap upon the snow-blown sidewalk, desperately willing the head-splitting pain and the quadruple vision to go away, he heard, at last, the entrancing voice of the vampire:
“The power of Christ compels you to learn some manners, young man!”
The rapid click of her heels grew distant, as did his obsessive infatuation with Janice. Like Krazy Kat smitten with a brick, so true love was revealed to the fickle Percival. Gosh, what a pretty voice she has, he thought dreamily. That accent is just—divine.
Janice sprawled on the couch in the living room as she read a newspaper. When the click and creak of the opening front door announced Mel’s arrival, she, like Pavlov’s Mad Dog, immediately yanked her dirty stockinged feet off the coffee table.
Mel was muttering to herself, a sure sign that once again she had encountered disturbing minutiae in the modern world. Perhaps someone had sneezed in the library and no one said “God bless you,” or a taxi driver didn’t thank her when she tipped him, or someone out there was violating all the laws of civilization by wearing plaid with stripes. It could be anything, Janice surmised, so she waited patiently until Mel made her entrance into the living room.
When she did, Mel pulled out of her purse a small yet thick Greek grammar book. The thing was so heavy that Janice wondered if the cloth binding actually covered leaves of steel.
“Hey,” Janice drawled.
“Do you know if there is an insane asylum in our neighborhood?” Mel placed the old, beloved book on the coffee table. “If there is, I’m going to give that real estate agent of ours a piece of my mind—“
“Why? What happened?”
“I was accosted by some wild man.”
Janice jumped to her feet. Guilty at alarming her companion so, Mel placed a calming hand upon the smaller woman’s shoulder. “It’s all right. He didn’t hurt me. He just scared me, that’s all.”
“What the hell happened?” Janice repeated.
“I was walking down
“Holy shit!” roared Janice. “I’ll kill him!”
“No, it wasn’t that.” Mel blushed and gently backhanded Janice in the stomach. “It was a cross. He shoved this large, bejeweled cross in my face. It was obviously Byzantine, I’m guessing early 12th century, but it was so dark that I couldn’t be sure—“
“Mel. No academic discourses at home, remember?”
“Sorry. Anyway, he was yelling something about Christ and I hit him with my purse and knocked him down. Then I ran.”
A sneaking suspicion overtook Janice. “What did he look like?”
“Oh…very meek, mild-mannered. Sort of like Harold Lloyd.”
Wearily Janice covered her eyes and shook her head. Goddamn Percy. When will he go back
Mel sat down next to her. “Halloween was a week ago.”
“For some idiots,” Janice said as she picked up the newspaper, “the holiday just goes on and on.”
“Hmm.” Mel curled up next to her lover, propping her chin upon Janice’s shoulder, her breath tickling the sheaf of golden hair about the perfect round little ear. “You mean, for some people…like vampires?” She made a loud, feral hissing noise. That, combined with a quick, teasing flash of her large, unfanglike teeth sent Janice pole-vaulting over the couch.
“That wasn’t funny,” growled Janice from the presumed safety of the floor behind the couch.
“Really? I find it rather hilarious myself.” Mel looked over the back of the couch at Janice, who was curled protectively into a fetal position. Her voice dropped into a low octave a-swirl with dark silkiness and sexy menace. “You don’t really think I’m a vampire, do you?”
“Cut it out! I hate it when you do this! The psychiatrist said you shouldn’t be exploiting my irrational fears!”
“Don’t be silly. Come here, let me prove it to you, darling. Let me bite your neck.”
“No!” Janice wailed.
“Just once. Let me bite you. I promise you’ll love every minute of it.”
That was enough. The intrepid, fearless vampire hunter, who had finally met her match, bolted up the stairs for the questionable safety of the bedroom, pursued not by a vampire or any supernatural creature, but merely a lustful, Southern-bred academic possessed of an occasionally cruel sense of humor.
 Percival Allen Latrobe,
born 1909 in
 This great secret—to be
revealed in the next couple paragraphs, by the way—is not what Percival himself
considered his great secret: A secret collection of Shirley Temple dolls. See Hero in a Bow Tie: A Hagiography of
Percival A. Latrobe, D.J. McCrackey, unpublished dissertation, 1972,
 Janice Covington,
controversial figure in the world of classical archaeology and—until she was
relatively domesticated by the love of a good woman—legendary boozer, brawler,
and inveterate skirt-chaser. Said acquaintance between Percival (or “Percy” as
only Janice called him) and Janice began in the autumn of 1937 in
 To the eternal horror of Janice’s companion, Melinda “Off the Rack Gives Me a Heart Attack” Pappas, the skirt was purchased from the “Rummy Old Lady” bin at the Salvation Army.
 This is true, but it was nonetheless a bad reputation.
 As a result, she was not kissed for approximately three days.
 A reference to Janice’s terminally pale, garlic-averse Sapphic friend, Melinda Pappas (see note 3), the noted translator and Southern Belle in Exile. For a fascinating look at the oppressive manifesto that is Southern Ladyhood, see “A Cream-Colored Complexion Will Win His Heart,” Mrs. Seth Gunderson III, Ladies’ Home Journal, May 1932.
 This incident, occurring on March 7, 1947, left Janice with a mild concussion and Mel in the position of desperately concocting a plausible story to the emergency room doctor, who nonetheless refused to believe that the two young women in the ER that night were Lithuanian circus acrobats practicing a watermelon toss with their thighs.
 The contract was signed in
 The actual signature, while indeed issued from Janice’s own hand, read “Ignatz J. Mouse.”
 The exact quote was, “Sweetheart, get that anchovy off your forehead first and maybe we’ll talk.” See “Sex and the Single Eyebrow,” Camille Paglia, International Journal of Hirsute Studies, volume 19, number 5, p. 45.
 He pronounced it “sha-rad”—quite pretentious for a boy from
 Percival was unaware of Janice’s intimate sexual relations with her “roommate.” So caught up was he in the supernatural pursuit of vampires, his awareness and attentiveness to the physical world he lived in was dangerously low and he believed Janice was merely a typical “bachelor girl” too dedicated to her own work to pursue any kind of romance.
 Alas, Janice once again
surrendered to the demon tequila at an archaeology conference in La Paz in
September of 1954; she awoke four days later in her hotel room and discovered
new stamps upon her passport, which provided some explanation as to why she was
dressed as a Canadian Mountie and engaged to the Crown Prince of Denmark. See Great Moments in Crossdressing, T.H.
 “One minute I was
chatting up this gorgeous, heavenly little blonde with glittering green
eyes…named Jill or Janice or something…I think she said she was a student of
archaeology…the next minute I was naked from the waist down and bent over the
desk in my study….” Letter from Edna St. Vincent Millay to her sister Norma,
 “You mention in your last
letter that your friend is crazier than a loon. After witnessing her serenading
a wild tiger with a Rodgers and Hart medley, I think you are completely right.”
Letter from Ernest Hemingway to Melinda Pappas,
 Mel was hard at work on preparing a contribution to a scholarly volume on Ancient Greek death cults. Her terrible handwriting would be the culprit in many transcription errors committed by her typist, one Harriet Gooch: the phrase “fatted calf” saw its way into print as “feta carp” and “forgoing licentiousness” became “fruit loops for consensus.”
 It was an “mmm” more than anything else, a noise Janice interpreted as “Please proceed, but keep it short.” An “ahhhh” was more a consensual noise of sexual availability, and “muh” indicated that frankly my dear, she couldn’t give a damn.
 The unfortunate wording made Mel think of her third fiancé, the equally unfortunate Jarrett Tolliver, a ukulele-playing, rum-and-Coke swilling Vanderbilt senior who made the mistake of grabbing the tender inside of Mel’s upper thigh while she was scribbling notes on a student production of The Mikado during a rehearsal of the show. In reality and despite his frequent insistence to the contrary, her pen narrowly missed his testicles. Jarrett later died tragically in an explosion that happened as he toured his family’s eraser factory, leading one of his former girlfriends to comment that poor grabby Jarrett finally got blown, just not in a way that he ever intended.
 Michael O’Neill, proprietor of a neighborhood tavern that bore his nickname—Mickey’s. A gregarious man with a gentle heart, he nonetheless loved to repeatedly show shrapnel scars on his torso that he obtained from his tour of duty in the Pacific during World War II. Mel was no exception to this free show.
 Mel, firmly and deliriously convinced in the basic goodness of the vast majority of humanity, believed that no one would dare hit a girl with glasses, and one evening, upon arriving at Mickey’s to whisk away her drunken lover, she tested said belief by inserting herself into an argument between Janice and a 6’6” longshoreman. She suffered broken glasses, a bloody nose, and a loss of faith in her fellow man. Mickey suffered the loss of the wooden barstool that Janice broke over the longshoreman’s back and the bottle of Jim Beam that she smashed over his head. Janice was uninjured.
 Breaking into the apartment of a known fetishist had accomplished the task, although Percy, the owner of 27 Shirley Temple dolls, was oblivious as to why anyone would collect something so odd.
 While handcuffs did not
typically factor into many of her sexual escapades, Janice nonetheless
possessed fond memories of how she was introduced to such pleasurable use of
them—by the Countess Natalia Oblomov, a White Russian émigré living in
 She knew that he was about to go for a kiss, if only because, several years beforehand, Mel had said the exact same thing to her and what followed was the most mindblowingly incredible kiss ever bestowed upon her cherubic lips in her entire life. She was also certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that an interaction between her lips and Percy’s would not produce a similar effect.
 Mel’s observation on the “war wound” story—which relied greatly upon men’s fear and ignorance concerning certain female body parts— was thus: “Someday, you’ll meet a man who’s not so dumb as to actually believe that.” Unfortunately, her belief never panned out.
 Unbeknownst to Percival, Mel had already harmed a great many hairs on Janice’s head, as had occurred in many a misguided attempt to trim her companion’s split ends and perpetually long bangs.
 While Percival did not receive screen credit, over the remainder of his life he did receive small royalty checks for this line, which appears in the movie The Exorcist.
 As stipulated in a
hastily scribbled domestic partnership living agreement, perhaps the first
document of its kind. Written in Dr. Covington’s own hand, it is entitled “The
15 Atrocities.” The atrocity that pertains to this passage is Number 9,
“Academic palaver at home,” falling between “Saying the phrase ‘The South Shall
Rise Again’” and “Excessive flirting at cocktail parties.” See the
 An American movie actor known for playing sissies and milquetoasts.
 Janice was the unwilling
recipient of a mandatory psychiatric profile conducted by
 And while the vampire hunter was bitten repeatedly, and in a number of embarrassing places no less, she nonetheless lived happily ever after.