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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #1457175
Bartolomeo Cristofori wages war against the icons of Rock and Roll
The Vampire Virtuoso
Chapter 3 

A host of unsavory aspects exist, associated with life in the 21st century. Pollution, crime, and overpopulation, but I concede that there are, as well, certain pleasures. The opportunity to earn a living as a concert pianist seems quite improved over what I experienced in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe.

      During the Baroque Period, the state, the rich and the church supported musicians and artists. Such a patronage system existed as status quo in Italy for hundreds of years, including the late 1400s and early 1500s when Michelangelo labored as a sculptor and artist for the Medici family in Florence. Today, rather than being supported, I find myself taxed exorbitantly by the state. Yet, a paid performer possessing talents such as mine can become incredibly wealthy. Artists may find themselves worshipped by a large congregation of adoring fans, such as those who attended my concert in Los Angeles on the night that I murdered Janis Joplin.

~    ~    ~
        From the Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1970: “Exhibiting the epitome of elegance in a burgundy waistcoat and a flowing black cape, the silver haired Christopher Bartholomew seemed to step out of a time machine, striding confidently onto the stage at Sunset Center in Carmel last night to inaugurate the Carmel Music Society’s season. Before the evening ended, he demonstrated to any doubting Thomas’s that the classics reign supreme in the hearts of those living in the 21st century. Bartholomew is best known for his amazing performances of 18th and 19th century pianoforte repertoire and, in fact, professes disdain for the majority of today’s music, heavily influenced by the shallow pop cultures of the 20th and 21st centuries. Displaying a style suggesting many years ago he could have been and indeed today should be considered a contemporary of the likes of Schumann, he magically wiped away the years and transported his mesmerized audience back into the romantic golden era of the piano.”

      And as an encore, from the October 6, 1970 edition of the Los Angeles Times: “Janis Joplin was found dead yesterday evening in room 105 of the Landmark Hotel at 7047 Franklin Ave. in Los Angeles. Joplin and her band were in the process of recording a new album...”
~    ~    ~
      I met Janis around eleven-twenty, on the evening of October 4th, when she stopped at Barney’s Beanery, one of her favorite watering holes, before heading to the Landmark Hotel. I bought her a couple of drinks at the bar and spiritedly debated the need for more keyboard-oriented material in her repertoire. Though I had no intention of allowing her the luxury of time to change her musical style, I nonetheless enjoyed the intellectual sparring. I implored her to turn away from the rebellious, screaming, “hard rock” tunes which would only damage her vocal chords and encouraged her to perform more songs to which the general public could relate.

      She argued that her current band was far less acid- rock oriented and that her new album, to be called “Pearl,” included several tunes in the vein I suggested (I appreciated her choice of words), such as her rendition of the Kris Kristoferson tune, “Me and Bobbie McGee” and a song all hardworking men and women could relate to, called, “Mercedes Benz.” It didn't take long for her to succumb to my charm, hypnotic influence, and the Vodka. Weaving on rubbery legs, she followed me out back to the alley where I drew enough blood to slake my thirst while she leaned for support against the back wall of the establishment, after which she satisfied her heroin addiction.

      Rather than injecting it intravenously, I remember that she skin-popped the drug that she claimed to have purchased around four that afternoon. The advantage to skin-popping was that it delivered a delayed reaction of up to ninety minutes. Janis knew she would be safely in her hotel room by then, but she didn’t realize that the loss of slightly over a pint of blood would render her far more susceptible to an overdose, or that the heroin she injected was, by far, more pure than any she had previously used. Blame George, her connection, for that. Being the conscientious sort, he usually tested the product before distributing it to his list of clients, many of them well known music or big-screen stars. But on this day, he failed to employ his customary screening protocol.
~        ~        ~

        It is said that vampires have no soul, or that their souls are damned. Harold Obermeyer would, no doubt, agree. As you may recall, Harold is the fool that was fired from Scotland Yard. I recently learned that this outcast nuisance sought out and procured financial support from the administrators of the Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin estates and has actually begun to investigate the backgrounds of many entertainers, myself included, in his quest to solve the deaths of his music idols. 

      Regarding the condition of my soul, I may be cursed, yet I cannot fathom the raison d'être for the almighty creator to condemn a creature of such unimpeachable integrity, one so pure of heart, as I. What purpose would it serve for my soul to be eternally damned? For whatever reason, if truly damned my soul should be, or if no longer a soul I possess, I wonder why these confessions invariably elevate my mood.  If I have no soul, why should I crave this form of journalistic absolution? 

      Just after sunset the other day, while the sky still burned with deep, radiant blues and oranges, I was sitting by an open window in my penthouse suite, perusing the food and entertainment sections of the New York Times, ruminating as to how my unique role as a defender and promoter of the pianoforte and classical music has evolved considerably over the past 350 years. Until the 20th century, the majority of my efforts were benevolently spent in assisting those that showed compositional promise or virtuosity beyond the norm. Mozart, Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven all benefited from my tutelage at one time or another. Ah, that is an era I yearn to revisit.

      Hungry and contemplating what sounded good: Italian, Chinese, Indian or Mexican, I discovered an advertisement for a new opera set to premier that evening. Operas always attract those that wish to convince others they are vibrant, important and intelligent. “Excellent,” I thought, “Tonight I am in the mood to sink my teeth into some continental cuisine.” Curtain time would be at eight o’clock, so I figured, depending on the crowd milling about the theatre, I would enjoy hors d'oeuvres, see the show, and afterwards, select and dine upon a suitable main course by no later than midnight. Had I known Harold Obermeyer would be in attendance that evening, I might have chosen a different entertainment venue.

      At the theatre, before taking my seat, I visited the men’s room and noticed, a clotted speck of blood from the hors d’oeuvres, which I discreetly removed from my cheek. No, we aren't invisible in mirrors unless we so desire.

      Still chuckling as the intermission began I made a note to personally congratulate the playwrite and producer. Mel Brooks, the man known for such motion picture successes as Blazing Saddles, and Broadway smashes, such as “The Producers,” had another unmitigated success on his hands. His first venture into the world of opera, “The Barber of Seville,” proved to be a delightfully satirical presentation that had the audience virtually rolling in the aisles.

      About to rise and head for the lobby to stretch my legs, I felt a tap on my shoulder and heard the words, “Pardon me,” spoken with a nasal English accent. Turning around in my seat, I beheld a rather mousey looking man, in his late forties or early fifties. Clad in a poorly tailored black suit that judging by the width of the lapels was quite old and, in addition, was badly in need of pressing, his appearance resembled that of a hippie. A holdover from the 70's, desperately clinging to vague, drug-clouded memories of Woodstock and free love, his hair receded in front and thinned badly about the crown. Dirty brown and disheveled, it spilled past the collar onto his shoulders; twisted and tangled in a way that couldn’t possibly be mistaken for fashionable.

    Mildly surprised, but smiling pleasantly, I inquired, “May I help you?” In New York, people rarely approach strangers. You could be lying on the sidewalk convulsing, and people would step over you, if you were lucky, or on you, without so much as giving it a second thought. But due to my celebrity status, I was frequently recognized and asked to sign autographs by my fans, one of whom I figured this must be.

      “Could I bother you for a moment?” the man asked. Obviously intimidated, the timbre of his voice rang weak with what I surmised to be fear; not uncommon amongst mortals when encountering a celebrity.

      Anticipating a request that I sign his program, or some other piece of paper that he might add to his collection and show to his friends, I responded, “Why, yes,” my smile widening slightly (but not so much as to reveal my teeth).

      “Did you kill Jimi Hendrix?” He stared at me intently, holding his breath, his eyes blinking as he waited for my response.

      “My dear sir, I must apologize,” I replied cordially, without letting my smile fade. “You have me at a distinct disadvantage. You certainly seem to believe that you know me, yet I've not the faintest clue as to your identity.” I was lying. Fooled for but a moment, I recognized the man to be Harold Obermeyer. It was inevitable, I supposed, that the obnoxious gnat would eventually show up — and here he sat, threatening to ruin my picnic. I wondered how he came to be seated behind me and what course of action he planned.

    “And how about Janis, did you kill her as well?” I looked around, making sure nobody was within hearing distance to detect the nasty bite in the tone of this little pest’s voice. His beady brown eyes were full of fear, yet he stared at me defiantly, knowing I would not attack him in this public place.

      I turned a bit further towards him and said, “Look, sir, this is preposterous. I assure you that you are confusing me with someone else. Furthermore, you haven’t even been polite enough to introduce yourself…”


      “Alright, Harold, and what did you say your last name was?” I remained quite calm and remarkably pleasant.

      “I didn’t say, but in the spirit of proper introductions, it’s Obermeyer. I’m Harold Obermeyer, formally of Scotland Yard, now employed by the estates of the late Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I’m being paid to continue the investigation into their murders, which, as I believe you know, took place over thirty years ago. Now that you know my name and what my business is, would you be so kind as to tell me your name? After all, you say I am confused concerning your identity, right?” He leaned further forward, so close I could smell the fear within him. A vein pulsed on his forehead, catching my attention, the blood coursing through it keeping time with his rapidly beating heart.

      Indignantly, I replied, “I am Christopher Bartholomew, the concert pianist. Perhaps you've heard of me, or maybe you have one of my CD’s?”

      Obermeyer shook his head, no.

      “You’ve not heard of me? That is odd, indeed. I have —"

      Obermeyer interrupted, “Oh, I’ve heard of you. I know all about you, but like most murderers I've encountered, you are lying to me, sir.”

      “Lying to you?” This simpleton appalled me. How dare this gnat accuse me of lying? Of course I lied, but I didn’t appreciate the likes of him pointing out my insincerity. “Why do you feel that I am lying to you, Mr. Obermeyer?" I inquired. "Where exactly do you feel that my words and truth part company?”

      “For starters, your name, Señor Cristofori.”

      “Why did you call me that?” I asked, remaining unruffled. “I told you, my name is Christopher —”

      “No, it’s not,” Obermeyer insisted. “At least that’s not what Keith Richards said.”

      “Keith Richards?” I cocked my head to one side and peered quizzically at Obermeyer. “And just who might I ask is this Keith Richards?” My mind reeled. The blabbering bastard! How could Keith have possibly given this worm my true name? There would be hell to pay.

      “Have you ever heard of the Rolling Stones?” Obermeyer asked.

    “Of course, who hasn’t? But outside of the lead singer with the abnormally big mouth, Mitch somebody, I wouldn't recognize any of their names,” I insisted. “I don’t listen to that kind of trash. I listen to the classics.”

      “Yeah, well, Richards is the lead guitarist and he told me quite a story about you and about the night Jimi Hendrix died.”

      “What have you been doing?” I inquired. “Following me wherever I go? Stalking me over something that happened thirty years ago? There are laws against —”

      “There are laws against murder, Señor Cristofori, and when murder is the crime there is no statute of limitations.” Obermeyer’s fears had evidently subsided, as his voice no longer quaked, and the vein in his forehead no longer bulged as if it were going to burst. “Now,” he said, “I suggest you leave with me before I cause a scene. We can go down to the local police station and you can tell your side of the story, which should be very interesting.”

    At that point I realized he had no idea of what I could be capable. Keith may have told him I was involved in Jimi’s death, he may have implicated me as the killer, but I doubted that he revealed everything about me - about us and our kind. I nodded, indicating my acceptance of his suggestion to leave and rose from my seat. He did likewise.

    Together we headed up the aisle towards the lobby and the exit as the rest of the audience returned to their seats for the second act. Trailing just behind him, I smelled the odor of garlic and realized he must be carrying it as protection. “What a fool,” I thought. Neither garlic nor crucifixes affected me adveresely. As we passed by a large mirror, I saw the look of surprise on his face as he viewed my reflection.

    “No doubt,” I figured, “he felt I would cast no image in a mirror.” I shook my head and chuckled as we briskly made our way down the steps outside the theatre. Obermeyer raised his arm, whistled shrilly for a taxi and then turned to say something to me. It was all I could do to keep from laughing as I stood there looking at his mouth hanging open in surprise. I had disappeared; or at least I had as far as he could tell.

      Actually, I stood within six feet of him employing a little trick Aset taught me. He looked to the left and then to the right. The cabbie that stopped rolled down the passenger side window and yelled, “Hey Mack, what’s it gonna be, huh? You need a taxi or not?”

      Not seeming to hear the cab driver, Obermeyer turned a complete circle, his eyes opened almost as wide as his arms, displaying confusion and astonishment. Again the impatient cabbie shouted, “Hey, Hey you! Ya’ deaf or somethin’? I said d’ya need a friggin’ taxi or not? Jeez, c’mon already!” Amused, I turned and walked away, shaking my head.

      After grabbing a bite, I went home to consider the potential ramifications if I were to give in to the overwhelming impulse to simply swat this bug out of my way. Feeling like a stone gargoyle, looking down on the city from my terrace, twenty-nine stories above the traffic, I watched as the endless line of vehicles snaked their way down the long avenue, stopping briefly and then moving ahead again, like blood pulsing through an artery. Funny how I tend to see things that way, isn’t it?

~        ~        ~

    Keith Richards didn’t answer his phone when I called him, which may have been for the best. It gave me the opportunity to leave a rather pointed, yet non-threatening message, which he would have time to consider. “Hello Keith. This is Bartolomeo Cristofori. It has been quite some time since we last spoke; however, I am not calling simply to have a non-purposeful chat. During intermission at the opera this evening, I had a rather interesting visit with a man who claims to be a mutual acquaintance of ours; Harold Obermeyer, formerly of Scotland Yard, now employed by the estates of the late Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Ring any bells? Harold shared a fascinating story with me, which he claimed originated with you - something about your views as to who may have been responsible for the death of Jimi Hendrix. If you could shed any light on how he may have come by this information, I would very much appreciate a call. I’m currently in New York at 212-555-2483, that’s 212-555-BITE.” I hung up and smiled. I had specifically requested that phone number from AT&T and paid a healthy premium to obtain it and to be sure that it remained not only unpublished, but also unlisted.

      To amuse myself, as I pondered the considerable indiscretion committed by the Rolling Stones guitarist, I leaned out over the edge of my terrace and began flipping my wireless phone high into the air and then snatching it before it plummeted to the ground far below. I resolved that in the future I would have to be more careful. Why I ever trusted Keith to begin with is beyond me.

      I wondered why my former employer, Ferdinando, ever determined that rather than being killed, Keith should be given the gift, even on a limited scale, of immortality. I suppose I should just be grateful that Keith could not, in turn, pass life everlasting on to those he favored. The only ones that can do that are those that have been…how shall I convey it… converted, transformed, initiated? No, let’s say chosen and instructed by Aset.

    I realized, as I flipped the phone as far up into the air as I could, that Ferdinando and Keith both had a great deal in common. They were both slightly aloof - a couple of extroverted peacocks strutting about, secure in their belief that their talents eclipsed those of their peers. Deeply immersed in speculation, I nearly forgot my phone and at the last possible instant, reached out with lightning-quick reflexes and deftly plucked the tumbling phone from the air. Humph, 351 years old and still faster than a serpent’s tongue. I smiled, satisfied with both my cognitive and corporal abilities.

      In summation, recalling Ferdinando’s flamboyant plumed hat, I felt compelled to admit he and Keith are two birds of a feather, which undoubtedly explains why Ferdinando became attracted to Keith in the first place. I concluded I would deal with Keith Richards later, perhaps after the Rolling Stones Super Bowl appearance. First and foremost, I needed to discreetly take care of this pathetic, pseudo Van Helsing, known as Harold Obermeyer.

The Vampire Virtuoso   
Chapter 4

Relaxing on my sofa, listening to a remastered CD of the late Leonard Bernstein directing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, I opened one of my journals chronicling the war I have waged against unwelcome musical influences.

    The initial blow I dealt against Rock and Roll occurred around one o’clock in the morning on February 3rd in the year 1959. Many recall it as “the day the music died.” I recall it as a dark and virtually glacial night, during which a light, wet snow fell like frosty tears from overcast, sorrowful skies at the Mason City, Iowa airport.

      The temperature had dropped to where the mucous from 17-year-old Ritchie Valen’s runny nose froze on his upper lip. Scared to death of airplanes to begin with, the poor boy seemed as sick as a dog and never would have considered going by plane to their next show in Fargo, North Dakota, had there been a working heater in the touring bus he preferred to take.

    Charles “Buddy” Holly had chartered the plane so that the trio, which also included 29-year-old Jiles P. Richardson, who went by the name “The Big Bopper,” could fly in heated comfort and arrive in plenty of time to check into their hotel and get some rest before their next show on their Winter Dance Party tour.

      The considerable discomfort of the temperature, which hovered at eighteen degrees, was exacerbated by a bone-chilling wind of twenty miles an hour as the small, red plane took off from a southbound runway. It climbed smoothly and banked to the left before being swallowed up by the dark clouds. I couldn't be sure what would happen as I stood there with a shivering Waylon Jennings, the bass player for the Crickets.

    Jennings had refused to fly and responded with, “I hope your plane crashes,” to Buddy Holly when Holly joked, “I hope your old bus freezes up.”

    I knew practically nothing about the engines or steering mechanisms of an airplane, but evidently the wires I disconnected caused enough trouble to doom the Beechcraft Bonanza piloted by Roger Peterson, which crashed within minutes after takeoff, killing all aboard.

      In retrospect, Rock and Roll seemed to be experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity, while at the same time piano sales and the popularity of music without amplified instruments began to plummet. I couldn't allow these trends to continue without at least attempting to intervene.

    Looking back, I may have been overzealous in the rather persistent way I pursued the group called “The Crickets.” They were becoming so popular, so quickly and, I don’t know, I just didn’t like that name, “The Crickets.” I’ve detested crickets ever since one nerve-racking evening in Paris when Anastasia played what she considered to be a little joke and left me trapped for hours in a locked crypt with a full choir of those hopping, singing annoyances.

    After Buddy Holly died, Ronnie Smith became his replacement. Ronnie ended up becoming the first performer I talked into hanging himself via a hypnotic suggestion I implanted in his subconscious. This was the very same technique I used November twenty-second in 1997, on Michael Kelland Hutchence, the lead singer for the group INXS. Please understand that these individuals, although not suicidal, were not exactly what you would refer to as stable to begin with, which made my job much easier.

      Another popular performer on the Winter Dance Party tour, Eddie Cochran, was supposed to be on the plane with Buddy Holly, but I dealt with him a bit later. On Easter Sunday in 1960, Eddie was killed in a taxi crash. Ironically, the last song he recorded was with the Crickets. The next singer for the Crickets was Bobby Fuller, who was found beaten to death in 1966. Again, an ironic side note is that Buddy Holly wrote the last song Fuller recorded before his death. The next singer with the Crickets, David Box, eventually went solo and in 1964 died in a plane crash at the age of 22, the same age as Buddy Holly when he died. Finally, I washed my hands of musicians associated with “The Crickets.” I truly detest crickets.

      Taken from my journal, here is a partial list of musicians’ deaths, not necessarily in chronological order, for which I claim sole responsibility.

      Jim Morrison, the lead singer for the Doors. He died of a fright-induced heart attack. Imagine being quite drunk or stoned or both, which he frequently was, relaxing in your tub and looking up at the ceiling to see me looking down at you.

      Keith Moon, the original drummer for one of Rock’s original super groups, “The Who.” Ironically, this out of control individual wouldn’t ingest either the drugs or alcohol with which I tempted him. Instead, I convinced him to overdose on the very medicine that was supposed to keep him from sliding back into the throes of alcoholism.

      More recently, their bass guitarist, John Entwistle, succumbed to the temptations I laid before him. Poor guy, he just couldn’t stay away from cocaine and at his advanced age, it didn’t take that much to push his heart over the edge.

      Tommy Bolin’s death was almost as much his own doing as it was mine. Sure, the dose of heroin I gave him was lethal, but he would have killed himself with the stuff sooner or later. For a short while after Ritchie Blackmore left the group, he played lead guitar with “Deep Purple.”

      Keith Relf, the original lead singer for the legendary Yardbirds and later the lead singer for “Armegeddon.” I convinced Keith to play his electric guitar while seated in a filled bathtub…that was a short and shocking performance.

      At the age of 35, Stevie Ray Vaughan died on August 27, 1990, in a helicopter crash. He was headed for Chicago after a concert in Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin. Because the location of the Wisconsin concert was difficult to reach, Stevie had stayed in Chicago and flew in before the show. Eric Clapton would have returned to Chicago with Stevie in the same helicopter, but got delayed at the last moment. Dense fog and my hypnotic suggestion contributed to the pilot crashing the helicopter into the side of a man-made ski mountain.

      Kurt Cobain; He appeared to be a very stressed and unhappy young man. I actually liked Kurt on a personal level and tried to talk him out of using that shotgun. With all the suicides I’ve seen, I felt sure I could stop the young man. In retrospect, considering the results, I suppose I should abandon the idea of manning a phone in my spare time for the crisis hotline people.

      In case you wonder, I want to be sure you understand that I had nothing to do with the death of Brian Epstein, the original manager of the Beatles. Additionally, I did not cause John Lennon’s death, although there were times I considered doing something about his wife, Yoko. Her voice grates on my nerves like fingernails on a blackboard.

      Lennon and the Beatles liberally used and promoted the piano in their music and although they certainly were not great keyboard artists, they were innovative song writers and were encouraged by George Martin, the producer of many of their albums, to compose on a far grander scale than the average pop music icons. One of my favorite modern songs is a John Lennon tune, “Imagine.” Although by no means is it technically a challenge to perform, I find the message and the structure of the composition to be peaceful, lilting and deeply satisfying. Speaking of “The Beatles,” I also enjoy “Let it Be” and Paul McCartney’s, “Maybe I’m Amazed.” So, there you have it…I prefer Beatles to Crickets.

      In the world of popular music, I do have some other favorites such as Keith Emerson, of “Emerson Lake and Palmer.” There is Rick Wakeman, the keyboard virtuoso of “Yes.” And I thoroughly enjoy Bruce Hornsby. Bruce is a fine technician. And let’s not forget Sir Elton John. How I love his song, “Goodbye Norma Jean.”

      I recognize that in order to avoid stagnation and thrive, one must accept, adapt to and initiate positive changes. My instrument must evolve, and the music it is intended to bring to life must progress as well. As long as the evolutionary process does not threaten the appreciation of the piano and classical music, then I shall not deem it necessary to intervene.

      I do not claim to be “the hand of God,” nor do I claim to be infallible. Over the years, always with the preservation of the piano as my motivation, I’ve made some bad choices. But having been assigned a task and left in charge on the front lines to make hard decisions, I am like a loyal general, dutifully following the orders sent down from the commander in chief.

      “Why,” you may ask, “does A-Set not join me in this war? Would not two do a better job of defending than just one?”

      I posed that very question to the green-eyed goddess who softly stroked my cheek and replied, “I am with you in your heart. You know that to be true. But I have far too many areas of concern to allow me to physically stand by you.”

      Eloquently, she waved a metaphorical flag of patriotism to inspire me, saying, “It is your instrument, Bartolomeo. It is your battle to win or lose. No one else could possibly feel the same amount of passion and pride for this cause. Fight to win, Senor Christofori. Strike down your enemies. For to lose, to see the lovely instrument with which you have blessed us and the beautiful music it has produced fade from existence, would constitute an unthinkable travesty.” How can eloquence and inspiration like that originate from one with the eyes of a serpent?

      I closed the journal, got up and went to the round music room. Designed with gray, stone walls and gas burning torches to remind me of the Medici castle, this is where I come to think, to compose and to refresh my spirit. Sitting at my small four-octave instrument, running my hands over the perfect finish of the centuries-old original (one of only five in existence…the other four reside in museums around the world), I pondered how dim-witted or how brilliant my adversary, Harold Obermeyer, might be. What had lead him to Keith Richards?

    In the solitude of my sanctuary I began to play, my hands and heart performing as a means of expressing what my mind and mouth could not conceive or reveal. Weary to the bone as dawn approached, I stopped and leaned forward, laying my head down for a moment upon the instrument I fought to preserve. I knew what I had to do. I sighed, rose from the piano bench and retreated to the innermost chamber of my abode. Closing the lid to the polished, piano-black coffin that served as my resting place each morning, I knew I would soon face the greatest challenge I had ever known. My fate and perhaps the future of what I consider being listenable music rested upon the outcome of my plan.

The Vampire Virtuoso
Chapter 5

Sitting at the desk in my library I pondered the twofold challenge I faced. In one week, at 9 P.M. on Friday, February 10, backed by none other than the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, I was due to perform a solo concert in New York’s Carnegie Hall. It would be broadcast live and worldwide on the A&E channel and I could not risk interference of the sort that I anticipated from Harold Obermeyer. The obvious solution was to see that he joined his beloved idols that had preceded him in death. That part of the problem could be easily resolved. The other, somewhat trickier obstacle to overcome was going to be eliminating those with whom Obermeyer had shared my secret. As a safeguard, he would almost certainly have passed his suspicions along with whatever evidence he had garnered to his benefactors at both the Joplin and Hendrix estates. I was convinced his demise would trigger the release of incriminating information that would destroy my performing career for say the next two hundred years or so. On the other hand, failure to put a swift halt to the threat he represented would surely result in legal complications. I assumed he would wait until the greatest possible attention-grabbing moment, most probably the concert, to have me arrested. 
      Every music and performing arts critic from every daily, weekly, and monthly publication across the nation would be alerted to the fact that something exciting and unprecedented would happen that night. Representatives would be on hand from all of the major networks: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, UPN, FOX, along with hundreds of other cable and local TV stations around the country and around the world. If my suspicions were correct, it was to be a media circus, the likes of which had not been seen since the Beatles hit the Ed Sullivan show back in the 1960’s. The publicity explosion immediately before the event would leave my agent thrilled with the sudden, unanticipated increase in booking inquiries he would receive until he (and the rest of the world) saw me fleeing from the police to avoid arrest and arraignment for multiple murders. I don’t imagine that would be the type of booking he would appreciate. On the other hand, he garners 15% of everything I earn; once he witnessed the skyrocketing sales of Christopher Bartholomew music CD’s and the books on pianoforte history that I have authored (“Soothing the Savage Beast” and “Immortal Classics”) triggered by the sensational story, he would be overjoyed with the increased income he stood to gain.
      I decided I would personally take care of Obermeyer and the heads of the Joplin estate. But in the interest of saving time, while I was in Texas I needed an ally to take care of business in Seattle, so against my better judgment, I called on my former employer, Ferdinando. Now I knew Ferdinando was not a brilliant man, to be sure, but my jaw dropped when I got a call from him only two days after I heartily patted him on the back in my penthouse, said “Bona Fortuna,” and sent him on his way to eliminate the administrators of the James Marshall Hendrix Foundation. He was calling to ask if Seattle was in North or South Carolina. At first, I remained calm on the surface, but inwardly I was seething.

      “Surely you jest, Ferdinando. You are merely trying to do what Americans refer to as ‘getting my goat,’ are you not?”

      “What do you mean, Bartolomeo? I am not —”

      “Please do not tell me you have not yet reached your destination! You do not mean to say that you are lost, do you?”

      I was answered by immediate silence, then Ferdinando stuttered for a moment, “I-I mean to say you,” he cleared his throat and then continued, “You send me out to who knows where…”

      “To who knows where?” My voice escalated slightly as my level of frustration grew. “To who knows where? I asked you to —”

      “Yes, to who knows where and to extract you from this mess you have gotten yourself into. You ask me to do your bidding and you do not so much as supply me with directions —”

      “Directions?” I blurted out. “I gave you directions!” I gave you the —”

      “You gave me the name of the foundation, the street address of 139 Twenty-third Avenue South, and the name of some town. Surely you can’t expect me to know the name of every town in this nation and the state in which it is located.  I am disappointed, Bartolomeo, very disappointed, indeed. Be honest with me, Senor Cristofori, do you know the name and location of every little town in this —”

      “But Ferdinando, this isn’t a little —”

      “Do you? Hmmmmm?” The smug, accusatory intonation of the drawn out, “Hmmmmm” was most disturbing. I could see any protestations I might present would be in vain. After all, how can one reason with the equivalent of a box of rocks?

      “Seattle is in Washington, Ferdinando,” I said. “Okay?”

      “Ahhh, I see. The District of Columbia?” he asked.

      I sighed, “No, no, no—not Washington, D.C., that’s the capitol city.” I shook my head. “That isn’t actually a state.”

      “So it isn’t in Washington?”

      “Please, Ferdinando, you are trying my patience. Listen to me. It is in Washington state.”

      “But, you just said Washington isn’t a state; I distinctly heard you say it is the capitol city. Do not attempt to play games with me, Bartolomeo. Tell me, in which state is Washington the capitol, and what about Seattle? I thought Seattle was to be my intended destination. Is that a city or is it a county? Could it be the name of a business district or is it only a subdivision?”

      I hung my head and went over the directions slowly and carefully, making Ferdinando repeat them to me until I was absolutely sure he understood. How is it possible that I ever labored in the employ of this buffoon? The ignominy! It was becoming painfully evident to me that even if Ferdinando miraculously found his way to Seattle, he would fail to complete his mission. This was torture. A bath in holy water or a crucifix pressed against my forehead would have been preferable. Of course, neither of those alleged defenses against vampires would do me any harm because both are merely myths; fabrications manifested by the imaginative gypsies that once traveled from their origins in Egypt all the way to the Transylvanian mountains.

      While Ferdinando was attending to business in Seattle (hopefully he would at least find it), I was planning a quick trip to Texas to deal with those in charge of the Janis Joplin estate. After that, I planned a side trip to New Orleans to visit with some very old and rather famous friends (about whom a book or two has been written) that recently returned to the “Crescent City” after living in Los Angeles for a number of years.

      They have been adversely affected, as have countless others, by the heartbreaking changes to the city they cherished, causing them to contemplate moving once again. I am struggling to remember if I know or ever knew any female vampires by the names of either Katrina or Rita, because the life was quite literally sucked out of the once incredibly vibrant and deliciously seedy city of New Orleans.

      The new city that is currently crawling out from under the shadows of devastation cast by those hurricanes is little more than a homogenized, theme park version of the former. Painted, prettied up and sterilized in a way intended to prevent the return of infectious, undesirable elements, most of whom fled to neighboring hamlets that offered an overabundance of sympathy, sustenance, and financial support.

      Port Arthur, Texas is where Janis Joplin grew up. A slightly fleshy girl transformed into a bombshell via the alchemy of puberty, acne pimples, and a repressive education system typical of the deep south in the 1960’s. Voted “Ugliest Man on Campus” at the University of Texas in 1962, I heard that she cackled in her inimitable way at the prank to cover the pain. Spurned by those who didn’t understand the desire that raged within her, the glittering allure of sex, drugs and rock and roll motivated her to head for the west coast.  It was only 90 miles to William P. Hobby Airport in Houston and from there the accommodating hippie culture of San Francisco was five hours away by plane.

      From my suite in the Port Arthur Holiday Inn, which was adjacent to Babe Zaharias golf course (a sport by which I am intrigued, though its daylight requirement hinders my participation), I called several associates in London who worked at Scotland Yard and asked them to pull Obermeyer’s ongoing personnel file in an effort to see if there was any information I might use to my advantage. Similar to what happens when one leaves the CIA, being fired from Scotland Yard does not prevent your file from being regularly updated. Perhaps he had a surviving mother or father whom I could threaten. Brothers, sisters, even favorite aunts or uncles could potentially make excellent hostages.

      Alas, the report came back that he had no living relatives whatsoever. He had never been married so there were no ex-wives and no children, legitimate or otherwise. I had thought perhaps Obermeyer was gay, but my friends found no evidence of past or current lovers, male or female. He had never even had a dog. Seemingly, for a very long time he had been, and remained, as alone in the world as a man could be. The only things my friends at Scotland Yard could confirm that he truly loved and for which he cared deeply were Rock and Roll and a principally British sport. No, not rugby or soccer. Wouldn’t you know, he loved Cricket.
 The Vampire Virtuoso Chapters 6 & 7  (13+)
The Inventor of the piano wages war against Rock
#1457179 by George R. Lasher

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