YOU can jump into this book even if you didn’t read the first three. Making this your first read is like playing a musical recording really fast just to listen to the last verse. It seems like it is cheating somehow. I mean, shame on you for skipping ahead, but this book will still make sense to you. I think. I hope (knock on a wooden coffin).
My name is Mårten Larsson, and my literary agent said that I swore my Vamp Camp autobiography was a trilogy. The sexy covers on each of the prior Vamp Camp volumes claimed that it was a trilogy. Books don’t lie, of course. Literary agents never ever lie, except when they promise to pay an author.
Cross my heart, my agent told me about sending a check a few years ago. I was waiting for the second half of that old saying. Say it, lady! “Hope to die” is something I can help with, being a vampire and all. I waited, but she never said it. One day, she’ll let it slip.
The problem with the volume you’re reading is that it would be book four of the trilogy. It’s a technicality. Minor. Microscopic. Given the turmoil and problems in the world as a whole, nobody was ever going to notice.
HER: It’s your agent.
Me: Hi, are you calling to say you’re sending me a check this month?
Her: (disrespectful snickering) I’m calling to say that I got your manuscript.
Her: And I notice that it claims to be the fourth book of your autobiography. That’s impossible, right?
Her: Why’d you write it?
Me: I have bills.
Her: But you… because it… it is book four.
Me: You can count!
Her: Your autobiography was a trilogy.
Me: It’s way too important to be contained in three books.
Her: You know what a trilogy even is? It is a collection of three books.
Me: Sure, like The Lord of the Rings? That was a four-book trilogy.
Her: I knew J.R.R. Tolkien. J.R.R. Tolkien was a friend of mine.
Me: You are not going there, are you?
Her: Mårten, honestly? You write like Kilgore Trout.
Me: That is so harsh. I’m a sensitive artist, and you are borderline carnaptious.
Her: If you nap on my car, I’ll have you arrested.
Me: I’ll shop the book around by myself if you want.
Her: That’s not what I’m talking about.
Me: Do you want it or not?
Her: I think you don’t know the difference between a three and a whole case of Shinola… blah-bum-blah-blah-blah….
CONTEMPT was dripping out of my telephone earpiece. It was brown, gooey contempt—well known to be the worst kind.
She went on and on. I think she was afraid that her literary bigwig my-ink-don’t-stink golf buddies would notice the issues with the math and give her a hard time about a four-part trilogy.
At one point, I suggested we call it “Volume 3.14159” to keep the number under four. She said that number was already taken. Who knew?
Volume three. I know about the number three. I am proud to say that I fully grasp three-ness. I know that the number three never grows fat enough to be a number four, even when it goes on a crème brûlée binge over three weeks. Every three is exactly the same. You can have three horses and three literary agents. The number three would be exactly the same in both places, although the three with the literary agents would be trying to bribe the other three to switch places. The three could be ashamed or embarrassed, but it would still be a three.
Numbers neither age nor die. Nobody can step on three and squish it into a two. If you throw one of the literary agents into a barrel of sulfuric acid, you have to stop using the number three. The three itself wouldn’t change, but it would cease being accurate. I may be running that test at some point.
But three is only one of so many other numbers. I can actually count at least to forty-eight. That’s the honest and complete truth. Just to make sure, I did that just now.
I think I can probably go to sixty or beyond, but I didn’t want you to wait on me to run tests. You want to read, so I’ll skip taking the time to prove myself.
Yes, Vamp Camp is (or was) a trilogy. This is book four of the trilogy. Friggin’ deal with it.
In my defense, gobs of shit has happened since I wrote Silver Mask. Some truly weird shit. Beguiling doo-doo if there ever was any. I was dodging shit every day as it was flung out of my electric fans, so I had to get it into a book.
Let me catch you up, in case you forgot what my life was like before now.
I was born in the late 1800s, fought in World War I in the AEF, got shot down while strapped to an observation blimp, and was turned into a goddamn vampire by an asshole guard in a German POW camp. The guy just left me a note of instructions: drink blood and avoid sunlight. The asshole wrote it in German, so it might as well have told me how to play the saxophone. Without help from my original maker, I survived. Fuckwad. Most days I’d say that I thrived, but that was because of a vampire mentor named Menz who found me and taught me how to survive.
I went on to become a member of a vampire assassination squad that enforced vamp laws. Vampire leaders would hire Oberon and me to kill a vampire who couldn’t be controlled. If some vampire goes nuts and lashes out at children, we get called when the local leaders can’t off the vampire by themselves. Give me a sniper rifle, and I don’t miss. It isn’t bragging if you can do it.
Oberon—my lover and my assassination spotter. He gives me weather and range information. The two of us became a deadly sniper team and members of a worldwide group of vampires that get called in to handle impossible situations. We are really expensive, and the powers that be try everything else first. The vampire leaders would much rather take care of their own vampires, because they’re cheap bastards. They don’t want to spend their personal money on a hit squad unless they really have to. Plus they don’t look tough and scary when they have to admit they have trouble that is beyond their measly ability to control. And if they knew they were reaching out to a couple of fairies, they’d be beside themselves in shame for having to crawl to a couple of gay guys to bail their sorry asses out of a bad situation. Yup, they’d be beside themselves, which is a really difficult thing to pull off. Most vampires are lightning fast, even the fat-cat leaders, but no vampire is fast enough to pull off being beside himself (or herself, even though the women honcho vamps are usually more trim and fit).
I am going to call our group the Obscurati (as in obscure or hidden or secret). That isn’t the real name, because it’s secret. If I used the real name, I would anger the kind of vampires it isn’t safe to anger.
Let’s say that if I told you the real name of our assassination group, I would have to kill myself. Powerful vampires would hire the Obscurati to kill me, and that’s where things get really dicey. Because I’m the Obscurati’s best sniper, I would be hired to kill myself. Complicated: my sniper rifle is far too long to point at my head or heart. If I had to assassinate myself, the only thing I could figure out is for me to fire a round and hustle to the business end of the rifle before the round emerges. Can you imagine firing a rifle and scampering to the other end before the bullet blasts its way out? I’m a lightning-fast vampire, but I’m not that fast. And how do you aim on a shot like that? It’s easier just to keep the secret from hitting ink (or electrons, if you are reading an e-book).
The Obscurati made Oberon and me a couple of the richest vampires anywhere. It kills me that I can’t tell everyone how I got so much money, but that would make the Obscurati way too public. We just enjoy our wealth without making too much of a big deal.
The vampire queen of Europe knows about the group. Queen Cécile is the one who gets notified that something is wrong. She tells us about the job. I guess you could say that the queen is our pimp, and she doesn’t even take a finder’s fee.
OBERON and I have three homes: Lechmont Manor in Bavaria (southern Germany), a whole island in the Pacific, and an office building in the Chelsea area of Manhattan (New York City). Things got so out of control that we had to hire a human to take care of our properties. That worked pretty well until I fell madly in love with the human.
I was smitten. It could have been the end for Oberon and me as a couple, but Oberon fell in love with Lonny too. He’s an amazing young man, which you’d already know if you’d read my other books. Tightwad. We first met Lonny when he was an engineering student at a university in Munich. He was living at our Lechmont Manor estate while he studied. We provide room, board, and scholarships to dozens of students, and we only ask that we be allowed to drink their blood from time to time.
Back then, Oberon was completely oversexed. I didn’t mind him having sex with the humans; they enjoyed it. If we had had a closed relationship, my ass would have been rubbed raw several times every night. After a few hundred years, I’d need a butt transplant. Ouch.
Then everything changed. Sometime after Lonny became our mutual husband, Oberon decided to change his ways. He is no longer a sex fiend, and he rarely has sex with anybody other than Lonny and me. I think we still have an open relationship, but we act like we are exclusive to each other.
All modern vampires are extremely careful not to cause harm to humans. I’m still a predator; I love ripping off body parts. If I don’t rip out the throat of every human I see, it is because I’m trained not to go with my first impulse. I’ve learned to hunt and kill vampires who break vampire laws.
We have to drink blood from a living being, but we don’t kill. We are more humane than any human you’ve met. The Obscurati takes care of those who give in to the predatory leanings deep in each vampire.
Keeping college kids around makes it easier for us to keep our blood-food flowing, and they get a free education. At Lechmont Manor, all the human donors are college students. When they graduate, they move on—after we tweak their memory just enough to keep our fangs a secret. We have swarms of college grads who think we’re the kindest, sweetest hops farmers in Germany, and it’s been going on for more than a hundred years. The guys make an informed choice (even if they have trouble recalling the specifics years later). All our blood-scholarship recipients are male. Most are gay. Sex was available, but it was never forced on anybody. There’s something erotic about a vampire’s bite. Even if the human isn’t up for sex, he usually gets hard while we eat. I think there’s something in our saliva.
Eventually we agreed to turn Lonny into a vampire, and we welcomed him into our life as an equal. They all request it, don’t they?
Our ménage à trois works, and I think that is a rarity. Oberon and Lonny are the loves of my life. If I love one more than the other, I’m certainly not going to type that into a word processor.
I’m the tender predator with two husbands. I kill bad vampires and protect humans. I love two men, and they love me.
SO THIS is book four of my autobiographical trilogy. It grew a fourth book because my life keeps getting more and more “interesting.” (Read: Mårten is a type-B vampire pressed into a type-A lifestyle).
“BENOIT,” I screamed, and he came running.
“Could you wipe all the brown goo off the phone?”
He walked out of my office laughing and shaking his head. The French are so rude, you know.
“Don’t blame it on nationality,” came a woman’s voice in my head.