Charly and the Pink Lady

A Psalm of Vampires vignette

Charly and the Pink Lady
Image by Midjourney v6.0

Final Tap

“So why are you here, man?”

That question alone was far bolder than what most humans would consider asking Charly. The place where the man asked this question, Lou’s Final Tap, was filled with so much smoke you could barely make out the faces of the hustlers, hookers, and hitmen.

Charly smiled with his mouth closed the way he usually did. Then he looked around the room before replying to the tall, thin man, “Good a place as any.”

The man’s poor-fitting, rumpled grey suit invented a new wrinkle with every movement, this time a lift of his trilby hat, followed by an absent-minded placement of the hat that nearly knocked Charly’s beer off the tall, round, wooden table.

It wasn’t like they were strangers. The tall man, an old Italian everyone called Ro, knew Charly from a jam session they both did on Halsted. Ro was surprised to see Charly in Calumet City, and said so.

“Not a lot of cats with your appearance is what I’m trying to say in a gentle sorta way, is all. Not down here,” said Ro. Calumet City had more Italians per capita than most towns in Italy.

“Everyone leaves me alone,” said Charly. “Got no problems here.”

“Helps that you’re the size of a Sears warehouse.”

Charly nodded. “Maybe so. But everyone comes here to conduct business. Not look for a brawl they’ll lose.”

“What’s your business?”

“That’s just it. I ain’t got none here. So it’s perfect. Nobody here to do business with, nobody knows me, they leave me alone, I drink while everyone does their business. Simple as shit.”

Ro nodded. Most of his wrinkled suit spread new patterns as he hoisted his beer to his lips. He wore his suit like a broomstick would. His wasn’t an elegant form of tall. His kind of tall was gangly and gnarled, like the twisted husk of a tall thin tree that had lost its foliage a long time ago.

“Let me ask you,” said Charly. “That little fella over there you was talking to. He got a price on his fat little head, don’t he?”

“How’d you know?” asked Ro, skipping the denial part.

“I hear shit,” said Charly. Ro didn’t know Charly was a vampire, so of course Charly didn’t tell Ro that vampires could hear things humans couldn’t. Charly heard most of the conversations in the room, could even filter them through the din of the clinks and crashes of beer bottles, the clattering pool balls, the laughter, the jukebox, the other conversations.

“Can’t say no more,” said Ro.

Charly smiled again, mouth closed. “Too late. I wanna hunt with you.”

“Huh? What the fuck you talkin’ on?” Ro’s thick, Italian accent seemed heavier.

“You know about what I’m talkin’, man. You gonna cap this cat, but I’m gonna do some business with him first. Then you finish yours.”

“Huh-uh, man. No witnesses.”

The kind of hitmen in Lou’s place were not high-end professionals like you’d find in the Chicago Outfit’s ranks. These were sloppy ruffians with one foot already in the slammer, just waiting for the jailers to push the rest of the body in.

“I’ll make it worth your time.” Charly pulled a roll of cash from the front pocket of the tight black leather pants that bore almost the same shine and color as his perpetually sweaty bald head.

“Fuck man put that away. You’ll get us both killed.”

“Nobody’s killin’ nobody. Whaddya say? I’ll get you into a meet with Ben Webster, too. You love them sax players dontchya?”

“Yeah sure but not that much.” Ro looked around nervously like someone was going to fly by with a battle axe.

“Opportunity don’t come around often,” Charly persisted. “Ben ain’t a Chicago boy. Likely you see him this once or you see him never.”

“I’d love to hear him up at Moe’s. That where he’ll be?”

Charly nodded. “He’ll be at Moe’s. Tunin’ up for a big show in New York.” He paused a beat. “I hear with the Duke.”

“No shit,” said Ro, visibly impressed.

“Tell me you wouldn’t wanna Krupa them drums for him.” Gene Krupa was the talk of jazz musicians in every jazz and blues joint in the city, and probably every other city, for showing everyone that the drums could headline a tune. He was already a verb after just one Benny Goodman song.

Ro smiled. “Better than the money to be honest. But you got a deal if the money still in it, too.”

“The money’s still in it,” said Charly.

“What business you gonna do with the man?” asked Ro.

“Not your worry. It’ll be fast. Two minutes, maybe, then he’s all yours. What I do, you keep quiet about, and I keep quiet about your business, too.”

The truth was, Charly was tired of these hustles for a good feed. His peers in most vampire houses weren’t picky. But Charly liked to feed on people who didn’t have a lot to offer society. Usually, once he found a good morsel, he kept on it for a few months, but sometimes he wanted a good long feed. Needed a good long feed. Without worrying about draining all the blood. Without worrying about a kill.

The two men shook hands. Ro’s was shaking.

Pink Lady

Calumet City at night in the 1940s looked like someone poured the contents of Chicago onto the street and fished out its drunkest, wildest people to wander and party and fight. Neon signs battled for attention with loud music and slow-moving, honking cars as people flowed in and out of two hundred and eighty or so nightclubs, strip joints, gambling halls, and flop houses.

The bar scene late at night
Image by Midjourney v6.0

It was a four-block menagerie of drunken lust filled with enough people to cover the land of a small country with its human carpet, the crowd crammed so tightly that the police ignored it, hoping only a few corpses would be expelled from the thick crawl of human backwash each morning.

Hammond, Indiana was on the other side of State Line Road. Charly thought that the flaming smokestacks of the steelworks in Hammond looked like burning candles as they cast their orange glow across Hammond’s hide in the predawn gloaming.

The doors of the nightclubs remained open to let out the music, and stayed that way until five in the morning, when the hardiest of the denizens began to attempt their journey home or wherever else would have them.

Charly and Ro, maybe the only sober people in the district, navigated to Bonetti’s Go-Go Club, a small strip joint on the corner of State Street and State Line.

The steelworks from Hammond leave an orange glow
Base Image by Midjourney v6.0; a bit of colorization by author. I’m probably violating every rule of art by adding the color in this way, but I don’t care!

A bouncer gave them a look as they walked up, but he was too drunk to say much, and one look at Charly stifled whatever other urges he had to prevent them from entering the establishment, even though it was five a.m., closing time.

The place had cleared out.

A man shaped like a bean bag was sitting alone in the corner of the dark room at a table next to a tired-looking man, who, abandoned by his bandmates, was blowing softly on a cornet while perched on a lone barstool. A woman dressed in small white shorts and nothing on top besides two tassels was yelling at him about something.

“Don’t these dudes ever quit?” asked Charly about the man blowing the cornet.

“You know how it is. The girls gotta dance.”

“Ain’t no girls but the one now,” answered Charly. “And she don’t look none too happy with your boy. And she ain’t dancin’.”

“Maybe he don’t like hearin’ them argue,” said Ro.

“Let’s go break up the party,” Charly said as they approached. “He looks like a ball of clay,” he sneered, noticing the man’s tinsel-colored combover.

The woman was gesticulating wildly. The little man seemed to be dismissing whatever concerns the dancer had. He was wearing a loosened tie over a white shirt. A suit coat was draped over another chair.

Suddenly the man jumped up and ripped the tassel off one of the dancer’s breasts. “I pay you when I say I pay you, bitch.” Charly guessed that Ro’s target must be Bonetti, the proprietor.

The dancer looked at Charly as if she knew or understood something about him. He could sense it. He sniffed. She wasn’t human. Her jaws opened wide, exposing a set of canines the size of which Charly hadn’t seen outside of the Longtooth clan.

They weren’t so big that she hadn’t been able to conceal the truth of her existence, though. Of that, there was no doubt. Until now.

Extending herself like she was made out of rubber, she lunged at the beanbag man with the daggers of her upper jaw. The man crumpled onto the boozy floor, his throat unable to scream a cry of agony aside from a wheezing gurgle.

Ro grabbed Charly’s arm. “What the fuck?” he said.

The woman and her one remaining tassel hovered over the man’s neck, which poured its bloody contents onto the floor like it was a busted pipe. In every sense of the word, that’s exactly what it was.

Charly just watched, mesmerized. The woman was pale, but it was a sweet, almost pink pale that he felt drawn to in a way he wasn’t used to during these modern times, which, he decided long ago, had vanquished the magic and subtleties of romance through the noisy furor of a hyperactive civilization.

Charly was nearly ten thousand years old. This was, by far, his least favorite era.

But there she was, the Pink Lady, standing now in front of him, her mouth dripping blood down her chin, smiling at him like she had known him all his life.

“Who are you?” she smiled, looking at Charly with eyes that reminded him of his own — tiger-like, with bright yellow sclera and narrow, diamond-shaped black irises that could have come from any of his clan.

She walked up to Ro, snatched the squared-off end of his grey tie, and wiped her mouth with it. Ro was unable to speak.

Then she turned her attention to Charly again. “Huh?”

Charly was having difficulty finding words, too. If you were to package the Pink Lady, you could have stuffed about five inside Charly’s massive body. She put a palm on his chest and stroked it with two fingers. “Oh, my god,” she said. “I couldn’t squeeze those pecs if had a vice.”

She put a finger in her mouth and extended its bloody tip onto Charly’s upper lip.

Whatever part of Charly’s brain ushered forth words was broken. The Pink Lady had smashed it to bits.

Again, she switched her attention to Ro. “Your human friend’s gotta go. You know that, right?” she said, turning again to Charly.

Ro finally found a way to fumble a few words through his stricken lips. “I-I-I’m a goin’. I’m outta here.”

But she snatched his tie and said, “That’s not what I meant.”

Charly smiled. “Save half for me.”

“He’s all yours,” she replied.

Ro was too paralyzed with fear to run. He looked at Charly. “Who are you people?”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Charly. As far as Charly was concerned, Ro was a two-bit hitman. His blood needed to be drained and forgotten.

Charly next noticed that the man with the cornet was watching the festivities with his horn at his side, staring, awestruck, like he was watching elephants swing dance.

When vampires feed, if they don’t kill you, your memory gets wiped of all that happened ten minutes or so before the vampire strikes. You never know you’ve been bitten. And you don’t get turned into a vampire. That’s just a silly story (mostly).

Charly looked at the Pink Lady and said, “This one lives,” then walked up to the man, who moved not an inch, and bit him on the neck, which sent the man to his knees before he collapsed face down in front of Charly.

“Well ain’t that sweet,” said the Pink Lady sarcastically. Charly displayed his fangs to her and hissed, but it was a love hiss if there ever was one.

That’s when Ro tried to run. But when he reached the door, the Pink Lady was waiting for him with a smile that would have terrified the harshest assassin. Ro spun around, but Charly was there. He wasn’t getting around Charly. The best Ro could come up with to verbalize his situation was, “Shit.”

The Disappearance

The Pink Lady brushed a wad of frenzied red hair off her forehead as she pushed the door open and said to the bouncer, who had nodded off while sitting on his stool outside, “Boss is dead. Here’s his wallet and keys. Might as well make this place yours.”

Charly said to him, “Give me your jacket.”

“Fuck you give me your jacket,” the bouncer answered. “Go on you two, git.” But he held out his palm for the keys and wallet anyway.

“Seriously?” said Charly, icing the man down with an unholy stare as the Pink Lady filled the man’s palm.

The bouncer knew better than to escalate, and he knew the only way to avoid escalation was to give Charly his old, thin, single-breasted tweed jacket and consider it a win by saying, “asshole” as he did so.

Charly draped it over the Pink Lady’s shoulders and helped her arms through it, then faced her to slowly button its front, treating each button like a fine jewel.

“You never said who you are,” she breathed heavily as Charly’s fingers reached the top of the jacket. Charly and the Pink Lady were nearly the same height. Looking into her eyes he simply said, “Charly.”

She was intoxicating, from the wild nests of red hair to the freckles on her face that told Charly she probably hailed from the MacAlpin House, a Gaelic vampire house founded by Áed mac Echdach in the 700s. He wondered how many times she had shed her naturally dark blue skin to achieve that look.

The Pink Lady slipped her arm through the crook of his elbow and pulled him with her as she said, “Come on, big fella, let’s walk.”

The street was still a patchwork of activity, but it felt broken and overused, vestiges of the earlier hours of frenetic activity. A police car was slowly cruising away from them. Looking for remains, Charly thought. He should probably turn around.

“I’m Aisling,” the Pink Lady said after some moments of silence as they navigated the morning drek. Charly found himself stepping over paper cups, beer bottles, crumpled bags, a small cereal box prone sideways, pouring out some of its contents into what looked like a small pool of vomit, all in the time he carefully sounded out her name: “Ash-ling.”

She nodded. “From a small house in Ireland. In the ancient days, constantly under attack by humans, mostly the Picts, but the Norse, too. But my father was Amlaíb Conung, a Viking king. He was killed in Dublin by Máel Sechnaill. And Sechnail, he was the overking of the Southern Uí Néill. Basically the ruler of Ireland at the time.”

“A vampire?” asked Charly as he kicked a beer bottle down the sidewalk.

“Uh-huh. A Longtooth. I still consider myself at war with the Longtooth House.”

“Then so am I,” Charly said, surprising himself.

Aisling giggled. “You barely know me, sweet thicks.”

But Charly, and surely Aisling, had heard of this kind of thing happening before. Annals from dozens of vampire houses were full of such things: stories of instant bonds between vampires that lasted centuries. There were also stories full of instant enmity. Romances or generations of warfare could be triggered by a simple stare.

Charly considered that, and said, “We’re like dogs that way.”

Aisling stopped walking. She released her arm from Charly and pushed him away with both hands before quickly returning the toes of her feet to his. “Arf,” she said, then her lips covered his with enough lust for him to want to explore every inch of her while rolling with her along the sidewalk for eternity.

“And you,” said Aisling after slowly pulling her lips from his. “Not to be presumptuous, but you hail from an African house?”

“The House of Sasabonsam. Very nearly my original skin color,” he said, swiping his forehead with a palm. “I’ve only shed my skin a few times. To eliminate the blue hue, which sends humans into a hunting frenzy.”

“I still see blue,” she smiled. She kissed his cheek. “I love it. Come with me.”

“Where?” asked Charly as if it mattered, which it didn’t.

Aisling shook her head. “Do you care?”

“Not really,” said Charly. “But I have an idea.”

She smiled gleefully. “What’s that?” she asked eagerly.

“Let’s go kill some Longtooth,” he replied, his heart pounding.

She nodded excitedly as she slipped both her arms under his because there was no way she could embrace as much of him as she wanted any other way. She held his body so close that Charly could feel her breasts flatten against his chest.

The sunrise was turning the glow from the nearby steelworks into a soft orange tint baking the low smoggy fog hanging above. A teenage boy sweeping the front steps of a bar watched as two figures, one larger than any human he’d ever seen, the other almost nothing more than a painted, thin silhouette against his massive chest, disappeared from the sidewalk, the only trace a wisp, like a trail of steam feeding the growing canopy of fog filling the space above the streets around him.



This story was written for the Dominium Tenebrarum — The Underworld contest on Medium, which was sort of a prompt for a supernatural romance tale with a happy ending.


When I first considered the contest, my obvious go-to was the main protagonist of Psalm of Vampires, Jade Mourning. But the contest stated that the romance should be between two supernaturals. His main crush is a human.

Then Charly tapped my shoulder.


The original, real-life Sin City was not the Sin City of Frank Miller’s fame. It was Calumet City, just south of Chicago. A place of mobsters, gun-runners, Sicilian racketeers, and vampires. Maybe Miller drew his inspiration from Calumet City. I’ll ask him someday.


The Chicago Outfit was a name the press gave the big shots in the Chicago mafia. In Chicago’s south suburbs, like Calumet City and Chicago Heights, the mafia types tended to be lower-level crooks — the kind who burned down their bar for insurance money, peddled cigarettes for cigarette machines, did a little vice on the side, did some enforcement, maybe did a hit for cheap. Then ended up in the hoosegow.

Thanks for reading! This story is based on characters in my new novel, Psalm of Vampires (written under my real name, not my pen name), currently still at an intro price:

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