Kind readers please take a moment of silence for
on February 14, 1989 I entered the Professors office at the GDI building
in sunny San Diego and found nothing unusual. Now Graves, Mercedes, Vince
and Sledgehammer were there but since they have become a normality to me
it was normal. There were no arguments involving weapons, no Frankensteinesque
contraptions built to inflict agony and discord, just the members of the
Carbon Fourteens going over a lengthy document.
"What's going on Aarron?"
"I am going over a document, quite lengthy isn't it? It is time to play figure out the fine print Mister Benson, are you ready?"
Okay readers, the moment of normalcy is over you can resume your skepticism of the Professors sanity. I myself was optimistic over Graves' challenge. "Gee Aarron is it a pact with Satan signed in the blood of thirteen slain goats? No let me guess, a major recording contract that will finally get your band off the smoky bar scene and on Casey Casems countdown."
"Fairly close Mister Benson I believe you're starting to fit in here at GDI."
I was uneasy over his last few words. First was the judgement of my guess. In my heart I hoped that it was a recording contract but my luck would make it a pact with the devil signed in my blood. The second disturbing statement involved fitting in at GDI. It disturbs me greatly to think that he would even associate the words "fit in" with GDI. The only thing that fits in with Graves' corporation is radical psychotherapy that includes heavy doses of drugs and electroshock.
"Benson! Don't blow simple statements out of proportion. It is a contract to do a U.S. tour with a more known band. We only have to sign our names in blood."
"See that is why you shouldn't jump to conclusions. Just a little bit of humor to jar your ulcer, a ballpoint is all that is required. We are going to be the opening act for the Deadly Ginsus."
"No, not the Who, the Deadly Ginsus Benson. They're a metal band in the top twenty album charts. Come on Benson their song "It'll cut a tin can" has been number five for the last five weeks. Of course a lot of their tracks are weak but they got enough teenagers excited to go gold. They are hoping a tour will get them to number one."
"Sorry Aarron, with the exception of the Fourteens I only listen to classic rock. That ska, head banging, speed metal, punk, rap, country stuff only gives me a total migraine."
"Don't live in the past Benson, music is always evolving. It's people thinking like you that caused the stagnation and evil of the seventies."
Hozler jumped out of the lounge chair nearly scaring me and onto the topic before I could end a possible and painful debate. In an effort to keep myself out of trouble I went to the phone and ordered some Domino's Pizza.
"Evil! What about Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Steve Miller or the Eagles? If you call them evil then why don't you just pump Muzak into the building and hire out a polka band for the next company picnic!"
"Wipe the foam from your mouth Vince. You pointed out a few exceptions in a decade of doom. What do you call the Bee Gees, ABBA, anything by the separated Beatles or dare I invoke their unholy name, the Village People. Thank humanity for ending the cruelty. It was a scourge that swept the planet calling itself music."
"I think you're exaggerating the whole thing Aarron," interjected Mercedes. "Disco only ran for about five years and there were no survivors after MTV came onto the scene."
Graves slapped the contract and grabbed the Spin from the desk. Waving it in the air with religious fervor. "Who do you call Kiss, Rod Stewart or Michael Jackson. I'm telling you all of the musical assassinations of 82' and 83' didn't kill the disease in the vinyl. What do you call dance and house music . . . disco with its name changed."
While I was waiting for my food I had been listening to the debate. True there were only three truly good things about the seventies.  Extremely good sci-fi and horror flicks  it only lasted ten years and  it ended one second after midnight December 31st 1979. But even with all of that I found it hard to equate disco with the Spanish Inquisition.
"They're on the way out Aarron," said mercedes. "Nobody backs them any more and once a group loses that they're gone. Marketing is everything to a band. T-Shirts, music videos, scandals in the National Enquirer, that's the key."
"We got a video, we've got T-Shirts and we've certainly got plenty of scandals just look at Sledgehammer. Yet with all of this we are still an opening act at bars. We released the Dimensional Jam single and nobody bought it. In fact that band that played there is selling better than us."
La de da . . . what band.
Graves returned to his chair. "Negative vibes Hozehead, everyone has to start somewhere. At least with this deal we're going to make enough cash to pay for all of the beer we drink."
"Like money has ever been a factor with us we're all loaded, even Sledgehammer. This is why we enjoy playing because we're not frustrated by the starving artist factor."
"Exactly so why don't we take a look at this contract," concluded Graves.
The pizza dude had arrived and I was preparing to partake in my Italian feast . . . at least they can do one thing of worth. Of course when around Graves ones desires are never attained.
"Benson do you think that Tulsa, Oklahoma is a good venue for our type of music? Do you think that Oral Roberts and his Anal Retentive Legion will have a problem with it?"
"I'm not sure Aarron it all depends on whether or not you play that "Hanging out on a Cross" song of yours. Televangilists get pretty disturbed when you trash their religious icons."
"Oh well let the crucifixes fall where they may. I have never been one to worry about the criminals of the cloth. How can you eat that thirty minutes or less pizza when there are perfectly tasty microwave pizzas in the refrigerator?"
"Jesus Aarron do you know what kind of chemicals are in those abominations of cuisine. You practically need a P.h.D in chemistry to read the ingredients. I would have figured that a person like you would demand only the most natural meat by-products. Besides it tastes good and the crust doesn't have that faint metallic flavor to it."
"Why let natural ingredients that you know are bad for you slowly clog your arteries and kill you for certain. With the food I eat the 2.2.4 Trimethylpentane may kill me or it may make me immune to snake venom. Nobody knows for certain what it will do except to laboratory rats. Humans are not rats so the results are unknown. That is why I keep a log of everything I consume. If I die after coughing up an iridescent and cancerous phlegm ball modern medicine will have valuable data for their studies. No Mister Benson the cornucopia of chemicals that flow in my body are there for the benefit of society."
"Hey Benson do you want the rest of that pizza?"
Sledgehammer had regained consciousness at the same moment I had mysteriously lost my appetite. "Sure Ken when we're 80 years old and visiting Aarron's grave we'll have the last laugh."
"Not at the rate you smoke Benson," snapped Graves.
"So when does the tour start." I asked this in an attempt to both change the subject and ease the agitation in my stomach.
"Early tomorrow morning by bus. The first gig is in the Long Beach Auditorium. Iron Maiden played there last year and it rocked. Here is the summary of the spots we will be playing in."
Graves passed a piece of neatly typed paper to me. I wasn't very impressed by the cities listed but the color pieces made my eyebrows raise.
Home of the Seahawks, and Mariners. Quite a nautical type of town with a lot of Canadians in it. Funny that they don't have a Hockey team.
A scar on the map that shouldn't actually be there. There is a good bar there however.
Grand Junction Colorado
Pretty big shale mining community but fails miserably in its attempt to pull itself out of its status as a dirt town.
Should be erased from the planet. Capital of Americas screwed up interpretation of the Bible. More badly matched suits than on the rest of the planet.
Butner, North Carolina
Once an Army training camp during the Second World War and now has a fine prison. Law and order reign in this town as long as you are from North Carolina.
Bay City, Michigan
Though denied by literary types it is believed to be the locale mentioned in the Hardy Boys novels. Lots of good waterfront restaurants and bars.
Quality made, poor tasting American beer by damn and no German can match that so there Benson.
The highlight city of the state. Plenty of sandy beaches and sandy-haired babes. The beer flows like water and a good bar called Chans makes the best.
I finished reading and had to ask. "Please tell me
some of these locations are a joke. Hell I got caught speeding in Bozeman
and I have never been able to enjoy the song "Rawhide" since then. What
is the name of this tour Aarron, "The Death of the Fourteens" tour?"
"No joke Mister Benson this is not just a concert tour it's a message, an experiment in human nature. We didn't create the Carbon Fourteens for publicity or money we created the group to make change. The groups of the seventies were preaching utopia where there was a discotheque on every corner and everyone was friends. The sixties stood for change to the people and required both violence and teamwork. We woke up from a social lethargy that had been induced to the masses by World War II and the post war 50's. Politics, sexuality, thinking and technology expanded in the likes of which hadn't been seen since the 1920's. But the mass of humanity fell into lethargy again. We were lulled into sleep by this and believed we as a humanity could sit back and enjoy the spoils of our advancement. We of course were mistaken."
The Professor went to a cabinet and opened a door. He pulled out a lead box with a sturdy lock on it. "This my associates I have kept sealed since the final hours of the seventies. It symbolizes Americas bastardization of science into wasted ornamentation."
Pulling a key out of his desk drawer he unlocked the box and opened it. There was distinct tension in the air and in a distant corner of my mind I heard that fight scene music from the old Star Trek series.
"Face front true believers," said Graves as he pulled the object out of the box. I was pretty excited at what it could be. A digital watch that played music, a walkman, an Atari were all things that I thought represented technology used for leisure purposes. It could have been a . . . a . . .
"A lava lamp!"
Graves acted as if I had slapped him in the face with my reaction. "Yes a lava lamp Mister Benson. As astounding as it may seem to one so out of touch with unique thinking it is important. It combined thermodynamics with pseudoplasma but was it used for a higher purpose? No. People put it on the mantle of their fireplace in their split-level condos while the smell of a Duraflame pressed log did little to override the scent of the marijuana they were smoking. The only thing this piece of science gone bad did was cause a lot of people to say "man this is good stuff." No it embodies everything that those wicked days stood for."
"And the point of the lava lamp is what?"
"As I was saying, people ceased asking questions. They stopped forming ideas or individual opinions. They didn't trust the government after Watergate. Vietnam caused the populace to no longer regard the military as effective. The police, judiciary, and medical professions were not trusted to be fair or competent. What is the result . . . lethargy. The dependence syndrome develops and the populace relies on the press and others for guidance. But don't you see the flow to this lady and gentlemen? Everyone is dependent on each other but nobody coughs up the deed or word."
"Okay I'm following you." I was actually lying but to ask for clarification would have forced us into a tangent involving bell bottoms and economic stability.
"The worst part of this is that the few people like me that come up with any idea are laughed at because they rock the utopian boat. Look at the examples; nuclear power, fuel economy, government control or drug abuse. They didn't fit into the all-perfect world ideal because these topics involved progress, work and some measure of personal sacrifice. Now is the continuation of this social insomnia. People realized that there was no guidance so they have decided to do everything for themselves and damn humanity. Self-centered idealism is finishing off the job that discotheques and the Grand Funk Railroad started."
"That's why I formed the Carbon Fourteens. If we get booed off of the stage at least we will have tried. If one or two of the concert-goers thinks about why he or she booes then we will have succeeded. If a hundred teenagers leave the concert and vandalize a church or police station we have done an amazing thing. If a thousand people leave and start a citywide riot with damage estimates in the millions then we are a phenomenal enigma."
"So there is a higher purpose to your work. Everything you do is geared towards this goal?"
"No Mister Benson, the Carbon Fourteens was created for this goal. Other deeds and actions have other goals in mind. No stagnation Benson."
So the next morning, signed contract in hand, we were on a chartered bus heading for sunny Long Beach with the company of an unusual group of people that composed the Deadly Ginsus. For a metal band they looked, well . . . nerdy.
First off was Elliot the lead singer dressed in a badly matched suit which Mercedes cringed at. I had to admit that his tie with Albert Einstein playing a neon pink guitar on it kicked butt. His hair was parted in a way that made him look like Moe with a phillips screw for a head.
The bass player Eunice wore a heavy winter coat and cats eye glasses. Nerdy or not I found her disturbingly attractive and tried to strike a conversation with her. This was to no avail because the only person she would talk to was herself.
Myron who was the lead guitar player spent his time playing Atari Pong against himself. I will note that he was very good at this antiquated game.
On drums was Harrold. At first glance I thought that he was the closest thing to a headbanger in the group because of his long scraggly hair, his threadworn clothes and his distinct odor. Of course this opinion was disproved when Elliot told me that all of the signs were due to poor personal hygiene.
Finally there was Clarise their keyboard/singer/spokesperson. She could talk forever and by the time we reached Long Beach she was deep into Greenpeace and the death squads trained by them to enforce humane views on us. She also said off-hand that she was a vegetarian but that eating cats was acceptable because they tasted like chicken.
Needless to say the Carbon Fourteens were opening for the right band.
Shortly before the Fourteens went on stage Graves entered the bands lounge. By the look on his face he had something to tell us. I was worried for many reasons but I'll break down and give you the top two.
The first was that the crowd was amped for the Fourteens to come out and play. They were screaming "Carbon" and tiny chips of concrete and plaster were fluttering from the ceiling due to the patterned stomping. Now if you aren't aware of this you can only stoke a heavy metal crowd so far. After that you are jeopardizing yours and others lives.
Second was the simple fact that Graves' revelations most often cause distress, fear, justified paranoia and often pain. You have some chance of escaping unharmed from an angry heavy metal mob but with Graves the chances were slim.
"You people would not believe the things I have seen tonight in this auditorium."
"Graves is on drugs" was what was going through my brain. Of course I knew that I was overreacting; Graves didn't need drugs to get disturbed, there wasn't a strong enough hallucinogen designed that could top the Professors delusions.
"In the course of fifteen minutes I've spotted ten polyester shirts, 24 zodiac medallions, a dozen peace symbol emblazoned shirts and yes one complete lime green leisure suit. It's a disturbing trend my associates. These were not just old people trying to be nostalgic they were teenagers, shapable youth."
"So come to the point Aarron we go on in two minutes," pressed Mercedes.
"Miss Chance, the point is that something evil is afoot and it has only started."
The Professor ended with that statement and led the band out on stage. It turned out to be a good crowd and the music of the Carbon Fourteens pleased them. Of course since they were only an opening act they received no encore requests or no lighter tributes. The plus side was that there weren't any boos and security thumped the crap out of the stage divers.
At the Seattle concert even I noticed the strange appearance of seventies paraphanalia. Also while sneaking a peek at the incoming crowds I could swear that I saw a familiar face but I was unable to place who it was. I was beginning to get worried because Graves was being very quiet over the whole situation.
Also of key note was the fact that the band received a good number of boos from the crowd. Admittedly since we had left Long Beach two days ago the press had blistered the Fourteens after the looting and burning that had followed the concerts end. The Christian Science Monitor (a heinous oxymoron) took their shots at the protest in L.A. the day after the band left. The protestors sported signs like "French Fourteen Fans for Freedom" or "God is dead, the carbon tests true."
What was disconcerting about the apparent true vision of the band was that Graves wasn't gloating over his victory as he so often does. The Seattle gig was marred by a post concert where seven people were trampled and a cute puppy was sacrificed in an unexplained ritual.
We left for Bozeman, Montana under a cloud. Well actually we left in a thunderstorm but the difference of point was meaningless. The mood on the bus was unique even by my standards. Sledgehammer was engaged in a stimulating conversation with Eunice. Only six words were spoken during the whole trip and to the two of them it was a great deal. If I wasn't such a rational man I would have said that wedding bells were ringing.
Hozler and Myron were engaged in a twisted form of dueling guitars. One chord was played out of tune by one of the guitarists then the other would try to match it in one try. Hozler's hair was crackling due to static and Myrons was bubbling due to the oil reacting to the static discharge.
Mercedes was trying to convince Harrold that bathing and fashionable clothes were the quickest way to get babes. I did overhear her say something to the effect of "look at Aarron, where do you think he would be if not for Armani." I wasn't going to say a word.
I was talking to Elliot about Led Zeppelin whom he said he had never heard of. Kids today.
Graves and Clarise were talking business and that would normally bore me but I kept hearing words like "doom", "evil" and "inbreeding." Because of this I would let the lead singer ramble about groups like the Surf Punks, the Radio Pirates or the Sonic Disruptors while I listened to the Professors talk with the leader of the Ginsu's.
"When you say evil forces are mustering to battle us do you mean literally or metaphorically like in Paradise Lost?"
"Of course Miss Clarise this is not about music, it never was. What we have been doing is put the final nails in a coffin that should have been sealed in 1980. These attacks are presently verbal but will eventually turn physical. You've seen the protests on the news depicting those who have heard our message and it is scaring those few whose machinations depend on the animal remaining asleep."
"We just play music Graves. We may have a message in it but I doubt there is a conspiracy."
The Professor pulled a surprise move and ceased arguing. Instead he sat in the rear of the bus and counted something on his fingers. I was disturbed and when we pulled into Bozeman I was bothered, which is a level up from disturbed.
There were about 300 people lined up at the fairgrounds where the bands were going to play. All of these protestors were culturally lost. A sea of leisure suits parted as the bus pulled into the grounds. These misfits waved signs that said "Make music not noise" or "Ginsus/Carbon are Killing Baby Seals." It was going to be a rowdy concert.
I was right.
The people of Montana really knew how to party. The fair-grounds packed in 15,002 beer drinking, boot wearing people into the place. What was bothersome to me was that the venue was split into two groups. About 14,202 of the crowd were people who came to hear the music. The remaining 800 were protesters were there to stir up trouble. These people tried to boo the Fourteens off of the stage but were shut up by a shower of beer bottles.
Of course this didn't stop them from committing more malicious deeds. During the guitar riff on "Bermuda Lust Triangle" someone yanked the amp cord on Vince's axe. Vince wasn't happy with that and clocked the instigator with his weapon of musical doom. Then there was the moment of the last set where Graves stopped mid-song and locked onto a spectator. There was a semi-confused look on his face. Then he finished the song letting the Ginsus take on the crowd.
Grand Junction was similar to Montana except the crowd was about 20 percent anti-Fourteens. Graves had moved from finger calculations to working on the laptop computer. He kept mumbling about Rome and someone named Vlad.
There were some rumblings among the Ginsus about the fans views on the Fourteens. Graves and Clarise talked in length and surprisingly the Professor agreed to drop "Hanging out on the Cross" from the sets. In fact the only highlight was the Sledgehammer/Eunice thing. She had shed her heavy coat and their conversations were approaching complete sentences.
The scene in Tulsa wasn't pretty. Oral and his Anal gang had brought out the big guns (though I don't know what weapons had to do with it). When the bands got to the hotel we were met by throngs of protestors with the obvious intent of harassing us. This of course was annoying but only the beginning. When we got into the hotel we were told that there were no rooms available. This was where the whole thing got icky.
"Wait a moment," said Graves with some level of irritation in his voice, "The reservations for these rooms were confirmed more than a week ago. If you are trying to yank my cable be advised I am not a man to be played with."
The desk dude didn't look impressed by Graves' threat. "I'm sorry Mister Graves but a party with a higher priority than a rock and roll band came in. I'm sorry but there are no available rooms. You and your party will have to go elsewhere."
Graves smiled at the desk cog. It was his stand by for pain and suffering look that I had come to know all too well. For once in my association with the Professor I was happy to see that look. We then left the hotel after Graves flipped through the phone book. As the buses got moving the Professor spoke to us.
"Well it seems that my enemies in this situation have finally played a face card. Have no fear fellow musicians the problem will be solved shortly. You see I may have figured out who is behind all of this and may have discovered a way to end this scourge as well."
The Professor picked up a car phone and called someplace. He asked for the manager of the Hotel Oklahoman. After a few seconds of chatter with the supervisor guy he asked him who the owner was. Soon Graves had hung up and was dialing another number. This was the owner and Graves' end of the conversation went as follows:
Hello Mister Nichols I'm Professor Aarron Graves of Grave- Diggers International . . . why yes I am the leader . . . No I'm not going to ask you for a room, I am sure that your hotel suddenly became booked up and tomorrow you will have a lot of no-shows to deal with . . . what I want is to make a business proposition . . . yes you are right . . . oh let's say $700,000 with another 50 thousand in renovation . . . on the contrary you will retain a position as CEO . . . no I am not one of those type of people, all employees will remain there . . . It's business and I do not mix financial business with personal business . . . I'll see you then when the paperwork is ready . . . good day Mister Nichols.
Graves hung up and smiled his gloating arrogance smile. "We now have suites for the stay at the hotel that's been in financial jeopardy because of our friends from earlier. That was business."
He dialed another number and put it on the speaker. "And this is pleasure."
The phone rang and picked up. "Tulsa Hilton, Robert speaking how may I be of service."
"I would like to speak to the manager," asked the Professor?
"One moment please."
The line was silent for a moment and Graves brushed some invisible dirt off of his jacket while he waited for the line to come to life again.
"This is Anthony Carslyle how may I be of service?"
"This is Professor Aarron Graves P.h.D lead singer of the Carbon Fourteens, one of the bands that you refused service to. I am calling to let you know that I have found a place to stay here in Tulsa. I am also calling to let you know that your employment is in danger. Enjoy working while you can because I have finalized a deal with a rival hotel and am going to put your establishment under. Consider this a lesson in the theory of Grave digging. There are those who dig the graves and those with the guns . . . start digging."
Before the manager could rebut, Graves hung up and leaned back in his chair.
The concert in Tulsa once again resembled the previous two but over 40 percent of the crowd was against Graves' band. On the down side the boos started carrying over to the Ginsus half of the show and I felt kind of guilty.
While they were playing, Graves talked to us in a hushed voice. He had that conspiracy tone in his voice and I had the creepy tingle in my hair because of it. "I'm afraid that the Ginsus may release us from the tour either in Butner or Bay City because of the flack. They are not like us in many ways. We are musical antagonists and as such our tunes are designed to anger as many people into action as we can. The Ginsus make music for entertainment and if a song happens to be controversial so be it but they don't endevour to make it so."
Everyone seemed disappointed at the prospect of an early tour retirement. I myself was tired of the whole rock and roll thing. I was sick of riding on a bus and tired of getting clobbered by beer bottles. Of course the whole tour thing may seem like a writers cheap attempt to fill up page space and highlight a few of his favorite towns. Well you're wrong. These cities were picked at random by being blindfolded and throwing darts at an atlas. There is a story I swear.
When the Ginsus finished they came backstage looking maudlin. Clarise summed up their bands feeling. "This is starting to suck Graves."
"The polyester is causing a lot of negative sentiment. Chemically produced clothing has a tendency of doing that."
Sure Aarron, cheer them up.
By the time we got to Butner the pot was coming to boil (though I don't understand what high temperature and cooking utensils had to do with it). Gold chain clad protesters were throwing rocks and small animals at the bus. Graves finally seemed to be hatching diabolical plans in the back of the bus. He was paging through his photographic memory and allowed a smile to creep onto his face.
"My musical associates, this is where the cycle of evil comes to an end. I have formulated a plan that will draw out the leader of these malcontent uprisings."
"Or get us all killed," added Vince.
"Don't exaggerate Hozehead, I have seen this leader in every concert after Long Beach but only yesterday have I been able to place for certain who it was. Butner as few of you know is the true eastern focal point of what is known as the Research Triangle Park region. To conventional thinkers this area involves the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Winston-Salem. Of course that triangle deals with socio-economics. Actually North Carolina is a focal point of witchcraft, satanism and revenant activity in America and has been since 1695. This is due to the fact that the majority of such types of beings left the New England states in response to the Massachusetts witch hunts. The Carolinas were the ideal location to settle down."
Graves paused to pour himself a large shot of tequila which was most uncanny for the Professor since only Vince, Ken and myself drank the drink of the gods. "What began was the Western Hemisphere Pentagram of Cabalism. It consisted of five core cities; Minneapolis, Bay City, Tulsa, Pensacola, and Butner which formed a geometric pentagon. When a full satanic pentagram is formed the points represent the support locales of Fort Severn Ontario from where many revenantal elements infiltrated the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1943, Brigham City Utah where a full coven of 13 witches helped found the mormon town there, Halifax Nova Scotia, Ciudad Mante in Tamulipas Mexico where dozens of spooky incidents have occurred throughout history, and Rum Cay Bahamas where unbeknownst to most historians, the dead pirates of history past gather each year to tell sea stories. But to get a full impression of what is going on we must go back 525 years to a dinky little province called Wallachia which is now part of what we know as Romania."
"There was a nasty man named Prince Vlad Tepes III who is more known by us as Vlad Dracul the Impailer."
We all got a good laugh out of that one. Graves had let all of this bad press get to him. First this idea of the pentagram then Dracula. Sure Brahms Stoker based his novel about the mad tyrant but Tepes was decapitated in 1474.
"I can see the doubt in your eyes but I am going to clear it away. In the six years of his reign he killed about 80,000 people, mostly by impalement. He was an extremely distasteful man to say the least, by far number seven on the list of all time tyrants."
The Professor paused, playing with the ring on his finger. "There is more to this tale however. The man who killed Tepes in 1474 was a Turk named Calisto Aziz Graviz, a direct relative of mine. You see in 1462 shortly before Tepes was deposed and imprisoned Sultan Mehemet journeyed to Tepes' castle in Tirgoviste. He was seeking information on the whereabouts of over 2,000 delegates and troops that had been sent earlier to negotiate peace with the tyrant."
"When they arrived they found all of them and an additional 18,000 citizens impaled on stakes surrounding the castle just for fun. The Sultan left in disgust but Calisto swore a death oath against Tepes. He would later kill the tyrant in battle but it would not be the last that would be heard of Vlad's legacy."
"The Graves family, of the Gravis and the Graviz line has been hounded by Tepes for centuries. This man had apparently sworn a death oath against the Graviz's as well. Over the course of time only one member of each generation lived long enough to carry on the family name. At first it was believed that the impalings that occured were coincidences. Later the killers repeatedly claimed to be or left the marks of Tepes. The family members believed them to be the childeren of Vlad."
"Alexander Graviz was the first to document the family history and himself was attacked by a man calling himself Vlad Tepes. Alexander, believing this man to be a vampire, drove a silver crucifix through the attackers heart. But Tepes was resilient to say the least."
Graves looked out the window watching the crew assemble the lighting platform. "It was in 1739 that Angus Graves captured the man claiming to be Tepes in Scotland. Angus interrogated the man for over a month and documented the testimony given. Tepes was a vampire by most of the established tests; mirrors, sunlight. The odd thing was that on two of the three times that family members killed Tepes the proper drac destruction techniques had been accomplished. Angus himself impaled his prisoner with a silver crucifix blessed by a bishop. He then decapitated him with a blessed silver sword and inserted holy wafers into the severed head. Finally he had the body burned and the ashes disbursed across the land and sea."
"The only thing was that in 1764 Angus' grandson was attacked by the same man. Tepes was again killed in 1821, 1854 and in 1953 by my grandfather. Apparently Vlad changed his tactics on the destruction of the family when he came to me. Admitedly he tried to grease me in Vietnam but my M-16 didn't have silver bullets so he survived. Later he fabricated an elaborate scheme to bankrupt me which culminated in an IRS audit. He lost and I killed him but was unable to do a full destruction due to the arrival of the U.S. Marshalls."
"He resurfaced again when we were in Rome in 84'."
It was then that it dawned on me, "The guy who we ran into at the Vatican, that was Tepes?"
"Yes, not four years after I had killed him. But that would not be the last time. Haynes ran into a man in his helicoptor who was quite scared of me and had a coronary as a result. The description didn't match that of Tepes but the guy I've been seeing in the audience does. That only means one thing."
"You're overreacting in titanic proportions to two things that no normal person would associate together."
"No Benson! Plastic surgery. He knew that I knew what he looked like and because of this was unable to carry out his vengence. He had a face change and might have got away with it but he died and reverted to his original look. He must be stopped I say. A man who is non-dying has plenty of time to put in motion many devious plots against both me and humanity. This anti-Fourteen plot is just the tip of the iceberg. He's tried to kill me, he's tried to bankrupt me, now he's trying to discredit me."
"Get serious Aarron, the public already thinks you're a psycho nut with delusions of omnicience (wait, he is) what more could someone do to make it worse?"
"Don't you get it Benson, you have to think big. We were pretty much an unknown band and this concert would never have bothered anyone and not increased awareness of our music. Our goal is subtlty. People would slowly hear our message allowing objective permiation into societal opinion. But now people are in big time shock. They see riots, killing and looting resulting from our songs. The radicals see the situation as an opportunity to push their platforms. The religious fanatics will mobilize to shove their bibles down peoples throats saying "it's because of not respecting god that people are burning down buildings." Politicrits running for reelection, the NAACP screaming police brutality, the press, big business. They'd be on my doorstep 24 hours a day whining and screaming over petty crap that doesn't concern me."
"Sure Aarron we can see your point but so what, you've weathered these kind of things before what's the difference now," asked Vince?
"Change, freedom, creative thought, these are the things that the band stands for. What would my life be worth living for of I knew none of this would occur. The PMRC is working on labeling records for explicit lyrics, who determines what is explicit; Tipper Gore? This kind of press is poison to record companies. We would be so hated we'd never get them to sign us. As much as I despise reporters the press is quite a powerful medium and is capable of influencing millions."
Ha! He finally gives us media types the credit we so justly deserve. "Why don't you buy a newspaper or a TV station?"
"I own many of both as well as a few radio stations but it would be wrong for me to dictate my policy upon them. On the other hand you do lead me to a possible solution that won't involve corruption of ethics. You know Mister Benson you are starting to restore my faith in the American public education system."
The entire preceeding paragraph had me lost but it didn't matter because Graves was already putting things into motion. Of course the band had to go on stage as well so I was left alone on the bus to prepare for my iminant demise.
The concertgoers had me quite worried. Over seventy percent of the mass was anti-Fourteen and the polyester content in the air was nearly at flash point. I noticed as Graves was giving the band a pep talk he had that look in his eyes. Whatever his plan was . . . hey what's that song he's playing, that's not on their list . . . that's . . ."
"Y . . . M . . . C . . . A!"
The crowd was uncanny in their confusion. The metalheads were stunned (or was it stoned) by the total sacralige of playing disco at a headbangers ball. On the other hand the lesiure suit lackeys were stunned by the fact that they had come expecting devil-worshipping tunes to be heard and instead got one of their favorite songs.
A riot ensued.
While all of this was occuring Graves and his band had left the stage. This was not just to avoid the gunfire but to continue with Graves' plan.
"This is it people, I've turned them and when the media gets ahold of it our pro-seventies people and their plans will be over. Of course I took the liberty of calling the networks and depositing a few anonymous bits of evidence to prove that these people are the ones responsible for the trouble. Sometimes it astounds even me how lacking in rational thought that press is. Disco is dead my associates."
"But I am not Mister Graves."
We all turned to face the voice that had come out of nowhere. "Well if it isn't the ever resilient Vlad Tepes, you've aged well. Once again you've failed to destory me . . . blood getting a little thin?"
The plaid leisure suit nearly blinded me but I did agree that he did resemble the tyrant in the encyclopedia. In his hand was a viscious looking speargun. Fortunately it was pointed at Graves instead of me.
"Tonight I end the blood feud I swore when that damned relative of yours took my head. Your family has been able to survive my efforts to end your bloodline. I almost ended it in 1854 but that bastard Alexander beat me."
"Well nobody ever said the Graves family was stupid Tepes. If you were a true vampire you would have been dead centuries ago. Of course this would not have been due to any of my relatives actions but rather your gross incompetance.
"So you've figured it out. I don't wander around at night sucking blood, that's why those idiots couldn't get rid of me. The superstitious fools you call ancestors, as enlightened as they were by the standards of the time, were unable to comprehend me. Alexander, Angus, the other Alexander, Alfred and even that cursed grandfather of yours got close to figuring me out. Funny how the most challenging ones died in accidents not involving me."
"But I have and I know how to stop you."
"Ah, ever the arrogant one. It seems that as the Graves family progresses throughout history so does their arrogance. You are so much like that pompus Admiral grandfather of yours. If it hasn't been apparent to you I can't be killed. As you know all to well, alchemy is real and powerful. Back in Wallachia I did more that impale people . . . that was merely a hobby I was also a high ranking alchemist, a fifth cabal Necromancer."
"The Philosophers Stone kind of people who turn lead into gold and all of that crap. Don't sell yourself so high Tepes, your kind were chemists who were so damn smart that they still had no idea that the flu wasn't a demonic posession. Let me guess, you discovered an immortality potion and delusions of infinate power danced before your eyes."
"Close Graves, it was more of a physical thing in that my DNA became recombenant. If I was killed the chemically enhanced DNA would regenerate the damage. Angus almost got me when he had me cremated but in the course of his torturing me some of my blood was spilled. I started regenerating in his own damn dungeon. I can't be destroyed because there will always be something of me left behind to rebuild. A strand of hair in the sink of a Motel Six, a glob of phlem festering on the sidewalk, that's all it will take."
"I didn't plan on killing you Vlad, I figured out that that wouldn't work long ago. I have other ideas in store for you my old nemisis."
"Ironic that our minds think along the same lines. As you concluded so did I that the methods I had been using against you weren't working as was evident tonight. I am going to regress to the old ways, I am going to kill you."
At the moment he said that a dozen polyester commandos surrounded us wielding big guns. Mercedes made a move for her purse but Graves waved her not to do anything. I knew that Graves had a devious plan in the works so I really wasn't afraid at that moment. Of course this didn't really comfort me because the odds were good that sooner or later I would get caught in the crossfire.
"You know Tepes, your arrogance almost eclipses mine. Unfortunately when one is arrogant one must be able to produce results. You may not have noticed it but the gun-wielding thugs you brought aren't who they seem to be. I figured out what you would do and made sure that my people were around to take care of them. These aren't lesiure suit vampires Vlad my old friend but rather fellow headbangers. By the way that's Professor Graves."
"What's up Vlad dude, long live Iron Maiden," said one of the weapon holders.
"Well Professor Graves it seems as though you may have thwarted my actions to revive disco. As well you may have taken away much of the pleasure I would have recieved from impaling you and your associates. Either way you will be dead and your cursed family line will be ended."
Without any forewarning Tepes pulled the trigger on the speargun. The quarrel struck Graves in the chest and he fell to the floor bleeding profusely. Mercedes screamed and pulled an exceptionaly large handgun out of her purse. Leveling it at Vlad's head she began to apply pressure on the trigger.
"Die medievil loser," screamed Mercedes!
The strange thing was that as she prepared to blow a giant hole in Tepes, Graves yelled for her to hold her fire. Even though the pain was evident in his eyes he proceeded to resume his lecturing.
The Professor got up off of the ground, wiggling the spear as he did. "Failure Mister Tepes seems to be your hallmark. You've had your one shot now my turn is coming. Please take Mister Tepes to the area that I discussed with you earlier." Graves then struggled to his feet and staggered toward the exit. "I think that it is time that I seek medical attention."
A few days later back in San Diego we were enjoying a strong cup of coffee and halfway civil small talk. The Professor had been lucky in that the harpoon had only nicked his liver. We had left the tour as decided by Graves and as it turned out it was for the best. As soon as the protestors had stopped coming to the concerts the fans started to spread the word that the Deadly Ginsu's weren't to good live.
The press had turned their tune around and bootleg tapes of the Carbon Fourteens opening act began to circulate. The brief return of disco music to the charts ended as soon as the 70's revivalist and the large bank account of donations vanished. The media was mauling the music and sociopathy of that decade as being the cause of the 80's problems.
As always there was only one unanswered question in my mind and it demanded an answer. They have to be answered these types of questions. If they aren't the brain builds up pressure and eventually explodes. It's ugly and painful to think about and I hate pain. "So how are you going to get rid of Tepes?"
Graves let out a twisted little chuckle. "Getting rid of Tepes was never my plan Benson. He has been around for almost six hundred years and most certainly has many stories of the past to tell. To kill a man of his value would be like spray painting a Picasso or burning a library in the name of god. No I'm going to keep my old friend around for some time. If he can't be killed than I'll lock him away forever. He will spend eternity in prison at my whim in fear like he had my family since 1474."
I was shocked by this statement, even coming from Graves, "Aarron What exactly do you mean by fear? What are you going to do, torture him?"
The Professor gave me a spooky grin, "Long and slow Mister Benson, long and slow. Don't you realize that this man has been impaling my family members for a very long time. Three of my direct line descendants were killed by him as were every other male son and a few daughters. His actions caused Phillip and Alexandria Graves to be burned as vampires themselves in 1627. It nearly happened again in 1810 but the Scots weren't as superstitious as those damn frenchmen. He nearly killed my grandfather during the naval battle in the Leyte Gulf."
Graves got up and went to a locked cabinet. He unlocked the door and removed a huge leatherbound book from it. "This book was first opened in 1658 by Alexander Aziz Gravis and it documented the family's history up to that point. From that day on accurate documentation of the family was kept and passed on to each Gravis who bore the Aziz middle name. The Aziz Graves line has been the only to survive through time."
Aarron paused, spinning the ring on his finger. I feel that he does this to totally annoy me. "At age 30 the current holder of the book would designate who would bear it as well as the Aziz name. For some odd reason the Aziz addition became a shield for the line. I am the 15th of the line to bear a first name with an A and the Aziz middle. Being that I am the designated one I have decided that it is time for Tepes to pay."
I was very uneasy over the whole thing and wanted to evacuate the room and get a hot dog (being a Friday my religion mandates it). Admittedly Graves had few if any morals but even I would think that he wouldn't sink to torture. "So where did you put Tepes, in a dungeon filled with thumbscrews and hot brands?"
The Professor changed his spooky grin into a devious smile as he replaced the book in the cabinet. "Yes Mister Benson in Tegal manor the Graves family keep in Scotland." He paused for dramatic effect. "Where the long antiquated impliments of torture will be again put to use. But that fact is now academic, we have other things to deal with. We have to mobilize ourselves because we are going to find out the reason why . . . .
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