My Paranormal Network

If you live in Los Angeles, you know Del Howison and his famed bookstore Dark Delicacies. But did you know that Del has played the actor Renfield in countless productions? In this episode of Spine Tinglers, An actor known for playing the character Renfield auditions for a power couple whose powers may not be of this world...

#Dracula #Renfield #Vampires #DarkDelicasies #myPN #myParanormalNetwork #DarkDel
I stopped and looked up at the red neon sign above the dark doorway – “Blood and Black Lace” – then back at my phone. Yep – my appointment was set for 9 p.m., and it was now 9:01. But the gallery looked closed, lights off and door locked. 
I was about to try a phone call when I heard keys in a lock. I turned to see the door swinging open. “Del,” said a woman’s voice, deep and slightly husky, with an indefinable accent, “come on in.”
I couldn’t quite make out the voice’s owner yet, but this had to Lilith Carville, who ran Blood and Black Lace with her husband Nathaniel. Although I’d been to their gallery when it had opened a month ago – they were only a mile from my store, Dark Delicacies – I’d never met the actual owners. Then, a week ago, I’d gotten the e-mail: they’d decided to move from dealing strictly in fine art to movie-making (hey, everybody in L.A. has to try the movie thing eventually, right?). They wanted to finance a movie called Renfield’s Revenge. They knew I’d played Renfield more times than anyone else, but this time would be different because Renfield was the lead. I read their script and it wasn’t bad, so we agreed to meet. 
“I’m Lilith,” she said, as she locked the door behind me and then turned to make her way through the dimly-lit gallery. I could just make out the framed pieces on the walls; their monstrosities and Gothic settings I remembered from my previous visit, but they somehow seemed even more menacing viewed in this light.
From what I could see of Lilith Carville, she was tall, built like an Aztec goddess, dressed in something tight and black. We reached a door at the rear of the gallery, went down a short hallway on the other side, and wound up in something that was probably supposed to be an office, but the word that came into my head was “lair”. The walls were painted dark red, there was an antique secretary in one corner, its cubbyholes stuffed with papers, a glowing laptop on its desk, and most of the rest of the room was taken up with a black leather couch and two facing armchairs. 
A man rose from the couch as we entered. “Del,” he said, as he extended a hand. His voice had the same, slight accent that his wife’s did, his hand was dry and so cool it was almost cold. Although this room was far from bright, it was well enough lit by an extravagant overhead chandelier that I could at least see them: the Carvilles were both striking looking, aside from their velvet-and-lace Goth-dandy outfits. They had gleaming brown skin, long, straight black hair, and a suggestion of confidence so strong it was almost arrogance. I hoped they wouldn’t turn out to be just assholes.
After Nathaniel finished introducing himself, I was about to take the armchair he’d motioned to when I noticed the art in this room: it was different from what hung in the gallery, less hip and more Old Master-y. I walked up to examine the closest one, which showed a man bent over backwards, his throat exposed, while a woman with a crazed face and two-inch fangs knelt over him. Something about the style was familiar, it took me a few seconds… “Goya,” I blurted out. “This looks like Goya, but I didn’t know he ever painted a vampire scene.”
“You’ve got a good eye, Del,” purred Lilith. 
“Nice print,” I said.
Nathaniel agreed. “It is, isn’t it?”
There were five more paintings hung around the room. They all showed vampire scenes, and they were all looked classical. Hey, whatever, I thought, half my store’s clientele has stuff like this in their homes.
I sat, and they both looked at me intensely. After a few seconds, Lilith said, “So you liked the script?”
Considering that the script had her listed as writer, I chose my words carefully. “I’ve seen a lot of first drafts, but that one was really solid.”
“Thank you,” Lilith said, with a faint smile. “It was my first screenplay.”
“Then that was a really good job. So this would be your first movie as producers, too?”
Nathaniel nodded. “That was one reason we wanted someone with your amount of experience.”
Flattery usually works pretty well on me, but there were some alarm bells starting to go off. It took me a couple of seconds to figure out one thing that was bothering me: I’d been here for a couple of minutes now, and I was pretty sure that neither of them had blinked once.
Well, that and they hadn’t offered me a beer.
“Do you have a director yet?” I asked.
They exchanged a look, then Nathaniel leaned forward; he didn’t say anything, he just stared at me intently. What the hell? I was thinking. I started to wonder if they actually wanted to make porn and just didn’t know how to ask.
After a while, Lilith set a small carton down on the coffee table between us; it was the kind of thing you’d get take-out noodles in, but whatever was in this wasn’t noodles. I heard a skittering sound from inside the carton, and it jittered about on the table.
This was definitely getting weird. Nathaniel just kept staring at me, and Lilith was doing the same thing now. “Pick up the carton, Del,” she said.
Whatever was inside there, I was in no rush to see it. “I’ll pass, thanks.”
They both frowned; then Nathaniel said, his words commanding, “Pick up the carton, Del.”
“Now why would I do that?”
“Because,” Lilith said, “we want to see you eat what’s in there.”
Bug-eating. Renfield. Right.
“Sorry,” I said, “but I’m not going Nicolas Cage for an audition.”
Nathaniel blinked in dismay and leaned back. The two of them exchanged some angry words in another language; the argument ended when Lilith leaned forward, doing the staring thing now. A few seconds passed and she said, “Give us Dark Delicacies.”
I was on my feet in a second. “I’m out of here –”
Instantly, Nathaniel was between me and the door, his lips pulled back to reveal nice long fangs. I looked at them for a moment before saying, “Good job on those – they almost look real. Now, get out of my way because I’m going.”
Lilith joined her husband, looking perplexed. “You don’t feel anything? Not even a little pull…?”
“You people are nuts.” I pushed past them and rushed out into the hallway.
I’ll admit I was a little unnerved; okay, I was scared. These people were whackjobs, and even if I made it to the front door I was still locked in.
Just as I reached the front they were there, laughing. “Del,” said Nathaniel, “we’re so sorry! We were just trying out some improv. We want to scare an audience, not you.”
“Unlock the door, okay?”
Lilith did. As I walked out, I heard them shouting at each other in that language I didn’t know. 
When I got home, my wife Sue asked me how the meeting had gone. “I’m not sure,” I said, “but I don’t think they’re even making a movie. I think they wanted our store. I’m pretty sure the whole thing was some kind of set-up to get Dark Delicacies.”
The next day I called a guy who’d recently bought an authentic nineteenth-century vampire hunting kit from us and asked him if he knew anything about a couple named Nathaniel and Lilith Carville. He asked me to describe them, and gasped when I did. “Their last name isn’t really Carville,” he said. “It’s something much older. You’re lucky you got away. Did they try to hypnotize you?”
“Yeah, they did. It didn’t work.”
“I think it did once, but humans are more sophisticated these days. Thanks for the tip, Del – gotta run.”
He hung up. 
Later I drove by the Blood and Black Lace Gallery. I wasn’t surprised to see a “For Lease” sign in the window. 
Just when I was thinking they couldn’t have been real vampires – the fangs had been good, but…real? – I thought about the paintings in their back room. I’d assumed they were prints, but now, looking back, I thought I remembered seeing actual swirls of paint. An original Goya no one else had ever seen? 
I’d be a lot more careful in the future about who I auditioned for. 
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