The Fangs of the Woosters
By Lorraine Anderson
I sighed in satisfaction as my fangs withdrew from my friend's arm. He looked up. "I see what you mean," he said. He grinned. "This doesn't mean that we're attached for life now, does it?"
I wiped my mouth. "Gads, no. You're not my type, Gussie." I stared at him. "You didn't feel anything, did you?"
"Just a little tingle on the back of my head. What did you think I should feel?"
I noticed my dear elderly Aunt Dahlia sitting to one side. She seemed to be floating in mid-air. "Are you quite sure you did it right, Bertie? You had better consult Jeeves." She raised her voice. "Jeeves!"
Jeeves came in. "Are you gentlemen finished with your – activity?" He proffered a hot towel to me and I wiped my mouth. He then took a pair of tongs and offered a hot one to Gussie. I gave the towel back with a measure of distaste.
"Jeeves, I don't believe you approve," I said languidly, savoring the taste of blood in my mouth.
He pursed his lips and offered no comment.
"Why," I said, "I've finally discovered a use in life, so to speak."
"Heavens only knows he needs one," Aunt Dahlia said, drifting on the breeze over to the window.
Jeeves ignored her. "By draining the memories of your fellow man?" His voice was sharper then I've ever heard it. No, I've heard it sharper, back when he were abandoned on an desert island and had to swim back to England.
"Ah," I said astutely, "unwanted memories. For example, I have helped Gussie by easing his memory of his erstwhile fiancé, Madeline Bassett!"
"The unfaithful wench," he muttered. "God's daisy chain, indeed."
"Now Jeeves, none of that."
"I can hardly approve of this activity, sir."
"Yet you wish to stay in my employ." He stayed silent. I could detect a note of worry in his face, then flinched. Why was I so unpleasant to Jeeves? "We'll talk later," I finally said, just as I woke up.
I grimaced as I stared up at the ceiling. "Gads, what a horrible dream." I said to no-one in particular.
"What would that be, sir?" As usual, Jeeves anticipated my waking up and had come in with a well-steeped cup of tea and a scone.
I took a grateful sip, washing a foul taste out of my mouth, then a small bite of scone. Delightful, as usual. "The dream I had last night, Jeeves. You and Gussie and Aunt Dahlia were there." I shuddered. "I dreamt I was drinking Gussie's blood right out of his wrist."
Jeeves started ever so slightly. "Most unpleasant, sir."
"I was draining Gussie of his memories of Madeline, whom he had seemed to have broken up with once again."
"Most charitable of you, sir. Mr. Fink-Nottle would have been most distressed."
"Better him then me, Jeeves. Madeline Bassett is certainly not my type." I looked up at the ceiling. "My dear Aunt Dahlia seemed to be supervising my job."
"A rather odd occupation for her, sir." He laid out my clothing. "Shall you go out again this afternoon?"
"Is it afternoon already?"
"It is, sir." He picked up my abandoned napkin and folded it into thirds, then picked up the remains of my breakfast.
"Yes, I shall go out to the club." He had me set with his usual good order, and I had a delightful afternoon. But later on, I had a tickle to go out, so I excused myself, and suddenly it seemed like I was in a dream –
He emerged from a shadow. I flinched back. It seemed like I knew him. Actually, he had a remarkable resemblance to Sir Watkyn Bassett, which was enough to normally have me screaming into the night. But it seems I wasn't afraid of this man.
"Don't do that!" I looked at him closer. "You know, capes went out with the last century. You simply must keep up with the times, Vladdy."
"I called you here last night."
"Oh," I sniffed. "Last night was out. Poker night, you know. I had the most wonderful Brandy last night, then by the time I woke up, it was afternoon again, and I don't see so well in the dark." I peered at him. "At least, I didn't used to."
"A side effect of your condition, sir." I blinked. Instead of Vladdy, Jeeves was standing in front of me, and I was in my flat, sitting on one of my kitchen chairs. A most disturbing feeling. He turned away. "Will you have some tea, sir?"
He brought out the teapot and started to steep the tea. "Of course, Jeeves, I would love to have some tea." I looked at him. How did the blighter do it? I shall never learn the finer points of tea. He poured it, and I savored the aroma before I took a sip.
Which I immediately spat back into the cup. "Jeeves, are you trying to poison me?"
"Just testing a theory, sir."
"To poison me?" I squeaked. I lowered the register of my voice. "To poison me."
"No, sir. I took the liberty of procuring some holy water from the local priest."
I stared down in the cup. "Holy water? More like Holy acid is more like it Jeeves."
"Holy water is like acid to you in your condition, sir. Touch it with your finger."
I stuck the tip of my finger gingerly in the cup, then as rapidly pulled it out. It was blistered. "I have never been so delicate before, Jeeves."
Jeeves stuck his finger in the cup, left it there for a moment, then pulled it out. It came out a bit red, then turned rapidly pink, as I watched. He turned it over and the blasted thing was the same on the other side.
"Then," I said, "I shall not drink tea poisoned with holy water."
"That is not the point, sir," He pulled out a cross, a cross so bright that it hurt my eyes as bad as an all night bender with a gin-and-tonic ring.
I shaded my eyes. "So I won't go to church. No big loss, to myself or to the church."
"I would beg to differ, sir. But that is neither here nor there. I am quite concerned about you, sir."
I remembered my odd dream of this evening. "Jeeves, I'm afraid I don't remember how I got home this morning."
"You walked in, sir"
"No picking me up off the pub floor? No drop off from Gussie or Tuppy? No conveyance.?"
"No, sir. You came in, rather distant looking, and sat in my kitchen chair. You were talking about Brandy, sir. I then asked you if you wanted some tea…"
I waved him off. "I remember that part." I glanced at him. Furrows were dug into his brow as he looked at me.
"Do you trust me, sir?"
"Unreservedly," I said, then remembered a twelve mile bike ride in pouring rain to procure a key that he had in his possession, all in order to cause an arguing group to bind together, with my dignity tattered and torn in the process. "Almost unreservedly."
"I happen to have done some study in vampire lore, in my youth…"
I interrupted him here. "Indeed, Jeeves. This takes the proverbial biscuit. Am I to believe that the study of supernatural lore is par the course to be a gentleman's gentleman?" I waited breathlessly for his answer.
"Ah. A whimsical expression of your giddy youth?"
"No, sir." He hesitated. "I was served a gentleman who – if you'll forgive the vulgarism – was a bit batty on the subject. It was my charge to convince him that he was not a creature of the night and that indeed, there were no such persons."
I stared at him "I see, Jeeves, you have now adopted a 360 degree attitude."
"A 180, sir."
I did the calculations in my mind and gave it up as a bad occupation. How many gentlemen had Jeeves served? But I knew I would never get a straight answer.
"What changed, Jeeves?"
He seemed a bit uneasy. Watching Jeeves be uneasy is like watching the cat, the dog, the fish, and the hare lying down into a puddle of water. Very uncomfortable for all involved. "I met a vampire, sir. I shall not say any more. Needless to say, he informed me that all of my studies were accurate, most especially for the new vampire."
"But not for the old vampire?" He didn't say anything; I didn't force the issue. "What convinced you that I'm showing the signs of the undead?"
"Your fangs, sir."
"My what?" I felt around in my mouth. The old molars seemed as normal as I could tell. A sudden suspicion bubbled up in my mind. "Jeeves, you aren't having a bit of fun at my expense, are you? A little amusement for your friends?"
"How old Bertie fell for the old saw that he was a vampire?" I rose out of my chair. Ha, ha. Well, Bertram Wooster will not…" I stopped speaking. An expression I had never seen before was on Jeeves' face. He was looking at my feet and his mouth had gone a bit slack-jawed.
I looked down. I was floating two feet off the ground like a Bertie-sized balloon.
"Oh, I say," seemed inadequate to the situation, but I said it anyway.
Jeeves' mouth shifted. "Indeed, sir."
After I had pulled myself literally off of the ceiling and had touched down, so to speak, I stared at Jeeves. "Jeeves, if ever I never asked before, I am asking now. Apply your considerable intellect to get me out of this ghastly jam!"
"I will endeavor to do so, sir. May I see your hand?"
I stared at Jeeves. "Is holding hands part of your plan? If so, I don't think too much of it."
"Only to ascertain your degree of infection, sir."
"You make it seem as if I have a cold." I proffered the hand. It looked a little pasty, but not much more than usual, especially after a night out at the club. He held my hand up to the light, seemed to massage it, then turned it over and took my pulse. He seemed pleased.
"So, Jeeves, how's the old ticker?"
"Still beating, sir. And your hand is warm." He placed my hand back into my lap. "We are not too late."
"Vampires are commonly known as the undead, sir. They do not have a pulse." He glanced across the room, where I had hung a mirror. We stared back at each other. "Nor do most reflect in a mirror."
I approached the mirror and looked at my eyes. The blue was surrounded by a lot of red. "I do believe I'm a bit bloodshot, Jeeves."
"Indeed, sir, But you can see yourself."
"So… what shall we do?" I was sounding a bit whiny, and tried to reign back as if this were a normal, everyday occurance.
"You should go out as normal, sir."
I stared at him. Jeeves continue to confound me. "I would have thought, Jeeves, that the normal course of action would be to tie me to my bed. Perhaps take me to a priest for an exorcism."
"No, sir. I shall endeavor to follow you."
"Surveillance work, indeed, Jeeves?"
"But what if I should 'give you the slip', as it were?"
He looked as grim as I've ever seen him. "I will not fail, sir." He looked out of the window. "I believe, sir, at this point you should be going to bed."
I looked out of the window. "I should? It's just dawn, Jeeves."
"Yes, sir." He chivvied me towards the bedroom. I fell towards the bed…
- and woke up the next evening, fully dressed in my pyjamas. I rang for Jeeves. "You knew that would happen, Jeeves."
"Indeed, sir." He emerged from the living room into the bedroom in a most odd state of uniform. Instead of his usual immaculate, highly creased suit of grays and blacks, he was dressed head to toe in black. He hadn't even a black tie. He looked positively like a ruffian.
"Your costume, Jeeves?" I said, looking him up and down.
"Yes, sir. I have found that to wear the usual gentlemen's gentlemen accoutrements at night draws unwanted attention. I also find it easier to hide in shadows."
"I see. Do you do this often, Jeeves?" I tried to imagine him slinking around the shadows of the night and failed. Jeeves, while discreet, was not the shrinking around type, to my mind.
"I have had a few occasions to do so, sir." A glint came to his eye, one I didn't wish to know about, and I thanked the heavens that Jeeves deigned to stay with me. Suddenly, my dissipations, my habits, my enjoyments made me ashamed of my lifestyle. But the moment passed, and I was again Bertie, man about town.
"And what shall I do?"
Jeeves shrugged. "Go about your normal nocturnal activities, sir."
"Ah. Supper at the club, a little whist with the boys, a bit of brandy? Stuff like that."
So I went to the club, Jeeves lurking somewhere behind. I kept looking around, nervous as a dog without a tree. Once, Jeeves showed himself and nodded at me. Thus reassured, I went to the on.
But everything tasted like ash and sackcloth. The brandy was abominable, and, moreover, I had developed a fascination for my fellow men's pulses. So I mostly sat at the bar, watching the jolly fellows cut up, as they do almost every night.
Then I was out on the street, looking at the pasty-faced Vlad. "It's time," he said.
"Time, old man," I said. "Time for what?"
He looked at me sideways, as if wondering what I was saying. I shrugged. I always make perfect sense. I find it puzzling when others misunderstand me.
"It is time for your final change," he said, floating down to the sidewalk.
"Oh, I can do that, too." I lifted two feet above the sidewalk. I landed back down. "Final change for what?" I looked down at my apparel. "I rather like these clothes." I scampered backward.
I was not going to stand still, the Wooster mind had figured him out. But what the keen mind couldn't figure out was why Jeeves had not followed. I looked around, ducking to one side of the alley.
I looked down at my feet, wondering if some sudden rope had come out of the ground to tie them down. "Be still, do not talk, and look at me."
Distressing feeling. I could only look into his eyes. His bloodshot eyes glinted in the street lamps, looking almost to glow and grow to fill my line of vision.
"You are not to touch him," said another commanding voice. "He is mine."
I seemed to see, out of the corner of my eye, Jeeves landing on the ground beside me, his eyes glowing in the moonlight, his teeth showing below his lip…
Then I was staring at the sunlight dappling the ceiling of my room. I hopped out of bed, ringing the bell as if all the bells of Notre Dame had jumped out of their places. "Jeeves!" I yelled.
Jeeves came in placidly, a cup of tea and a scone on his tray. "Sir?"
"Did I see what I thought I saw last night?"
"Indeed, sir, what did you think you saw?"
"You were landing on the ground beside me, defending me from Vlad."
A look of concern came into his face. "Sir, you should get back into bed. You have been ill." A hand reached out to touch my forehead. "You still have a bit of fever, sir."
"Fever! I was one of the undead."
"Sir, you have been out of head for two days. You are, sir, quite alive, although your dreams were apparently quite distressing."
"My dreams! Jeeves, I was one step from becoming a vampire! Doesn't that concern you?"
"It would, sir, if indeed it were real."
I shook my head, realized that I was quite dizzy, and flopped back onto the bed. "Jeeves, it was so real."
"I am told that fever hallucinations quite often are, sir."
Something was not quite right. "If I indeed were quite so ill, why am I not in a hospital?"
"Because, my dear dim nephew, I would not allow it."
"Aunt Dahlia!" I sat upright. "What are you doing here?" I looked at her feet, which were firmly planted on the ground of my living room.
"Waiting for you to make sense." She gave a sniff. "I suppose this is the closest you're going to get."
"My dear old relic, the Wooster mind is always working."
"Mmm, yes, and that's why you get in so much trouble." She softened her scathing remark with a smile. "I'm glad to see you better."
"Well, Jeeves, with such overwhelming evidence, I have no choice but to believe your story."
"A wise choice, sir."
"You'll be up to mischief in no time," Aunt Dahlia said. "Well, Bertie, I think I shall go home. Jeeves is a fine cook, but he's no Anatole."
Remembering Aunt Dahlia's Chef's wonderful creations, I sat back and tried to create a hungry expression.
"Good day, Bertie."
As she left, I saw Jeeves murmuring lowly to Aunt Dahlia. She seemed to look glassy-eyed for a second, then glared back at me.
Did I see a glow in Jeeves' eyes and a glimpse of fang on his lip? I decided it was a side-effect of my fever dreams and dismissed the disloyal thought with a shrug and a hearty bite of my scone. Bertie was well again and all was right with the world.
But I still couldn't help but think… just how old was Jeeves?
(with apologies to P.G. Wodehouse)