Hotel Lavear

By Indri

SUMMARY: South America, 1998, the chaos demon's POV.
Spoilers for "Fool for Love". Written July-December 2002. PG13. 7600 words. 44K.
With thanks to my diligent and gifted betas, Coquette and Lara Dean-Brierley.

I think that I am the only person he ever told the story to. Maybe he told it to a golfing buddy during one of his trips to Miami, but I doubt it. He was a private kind of man for the most part, and even after a few years in our town there weren't many who'd call him a friend. It wasn't because he was unamiable or impolite, because he was amiable and he was polite. It was his manner, I guess, the calm dignity with which he wore those pale suits. And there was the question of money as well. We all knew that he was very rich, that he'd gotten out of Argentina just before the whole country went bust. Which was why we never really understood why he chose to live in some backwater town in Florida, where he whiled away his days fishing and reading and learning how to paint.

My mother worked for him. This was after my father had died, and it was good money and she had no qualms about working for a demon if it was at triple the rate she could make helping out at school. She cooked and cleaned for him, and did certain amounts of shopping, although there were quite a number of goods he had to get shipped in special: books, mostly, and crates of cognac. At first she didn't want any of us kids to meet him---she didn't know how to treat a demon who actually owned property as if that was a normal thing for a demon to do---but his gentlemanly ways put her at ease. By the time summer vacation arrived, it seemed quite regular for me to cycle by the house, say hi to mom, and then settle into a hammock to read for a while in the afternoons. Sometimes Mr C.D. would be out on the verandah with me, his oils out, trying to paint the view of the lake. He never seemed to get it just right.

"The trees don't really look like that," I noted one time.

"I know," he said. "I think I'm trying to paint the trees of Buenos Aires."

"That where you're from?"

He nodded, his great antlers swaying as he did so.

"Then how come you don't have much of an accent?"

"Because I'm very good at speaking English."

"That makes sense," I said, after thinking about it. "Did you like it there?"


"Buenos Aires."

"It is," he said, solemnly, "the most beautiful and gracious city on Earth."

"Then why are you here?"

He put his paintbrush down and looked over at me. He did one of those smiles where the lips move but the eyes don't. "I quarrelled with my family."

"Oh," I said. "That's no good. How come?"

"Over a woman," he said, mixing a little of his paint. "A vampire, in fact."

"There really are vampires?"

"Just as there really are chaos demons."

"Didn't they like her?"

He considered this for a moment, and turned his head to speak, but just then my mom came out of the house. "I'm going off to the store for a while," she said, "and then to pick up the dry cleaning. Is there anything else I should add to the list?"

"Those liqueur chocolates," suggested Mr C.D.

"I'll have a look." She gave me a sharp glance. "You'll keep out of Mr C.D.'s way, won't you." And then she disappeared back into the house. A couple of minutes later we heard the sound of her car leaving the front drive.

I was having a hard time concentrating on my book. I was leaving little sweat marks over all the pages and the lake frogs were making too much of a noise anyhow.

"Was she pretty?"

"Yes," he said, steadily, putting small dabs of paint on the canvas. "She had long dark hair, a complexion like moonlight and little cherry lips."

"She sounds like Snow White."

"She was, in point of fact, almost entirely unlike Snow White."

"No dwarves?"

"No dwarves. Also, Snow White is very girlish. You may someday learn that girlishness is not precisely what one wants from a woman. It can be becoming, but only if there is sufficient strength of character underneath. I dated many demure and girlish women as a young and even middle-aged man. None had what I sought."

"What was that?"

"Passion," he said simply. "They lacked passion."

He cursed then as a drop of slime hit the canvas: he reached for a cloth and dabbed at the painting before thoroughly wiping down his antlers.

"But this vampire had it?" I asked. " 'Passion'?" even though just saying the word felt strange to me.

"You're not going to drop the subject, are you?"

"Nope," I said. I don't know why I was pestering him like this, except that it was too humid to think and I had never heard him say so many sentences altogether before and I liked the sound of his voice.

"Then if perhaps we could come to an agreement?"

I looked at him dubiously from the hammock.

"I tell you the story and then you never mention it again. Will that satisfy your curiosity?"

I pretended to think about it. "Sure."

"Fetch us some lemonade then and I'll put away my paints and I'll tell you the story of the Hotel Lavear. Of Carlos (that is I) and Drusilla (that is she) and of the insidious gangster. Oh, and also my cousin Emilio, I suppose."

And so, ten minutes later, he was settled in the wicker chair with a glass of lemonade in his hand. He began.

"I met her first in the bar of the Hotel Lavear. You must understand that this hotel is the finest of many fine hotels in Buenos Aires. Princes and presidents have stayed there, as have the greatest actresses and singers. The walls are lined with rare woods and rich draperies and the air is always scented with coffee and fresh flowers.

"Now, for some years, the bar of the Hotel Lavear had felt more like home to me than my apartment did, for what place can call itself a home if it is empty? So on many an evening, after a long day running my businesses, I would retire to the Lavear to sip an armagnac and to listen to the voices of the people around me. And it was on such a night, that I first saw her.

"Imagine if you can, the sound of laughter echoing from chandeliers and a mix of voices---Argentine, Spanish, American and German. It is well after midnight on a spring night in October (we are south of the equator, you remember) and the other people in the room are in their evening wear. They sip cocktails. The women who glance at you have unseasonal tans, fashionable gowns and pretty, understated jewelry of pearl and gold. You have dated a hundred women like them, at the insistence of your cousin, Emilio, but none has ever truly appealed. You are beginning to despair, sitting there in the corner, of ever finding love. You are getting later and later on in years and you must marry soon if you ever hope to spawn an heir. You are starting to think that you should marry someone, anyone, that perhaps marriage comes first and love later. But you know in your heart that this is not true.

"And then the crowds part for a moment and you see her at the door, pale and sorrowful, her lips parted. She is wearing a dress of the simplest cut and her long hair floats down past her shoulders. She looks out-of-place, ethereal, like a vision from another time. She gazes out across the room and for a moment your eyes meet; but then someone walks in front of you and by the time you reach the other side of the room, she is gone.

"You can barely sleep that night, for thinking of her, what her name might be, and her nationality. You wonder at her sorrowful look and try to guess at its cause. All the following day you cannot concentrate on anything but her. So, as dusk falls, you return to the hotel.

"But what can you do? You cannot ask the receptionist for her name. You can barely describe her without sounding like a fool. You know nothing of her, except that last night she stood in the doorway of the bar. Perhaps she was a tourist, just passing through. Perhaps she is not staying at the Lavear. For all you know, she is already on a plane to anywhere in the world but Buenos Aires and you will never, ever see her again.

"This is all true, but you do what you can anyway. You wait in the bar of the Hotel Lavear, hoping against hope that she will return."

He stopped then and took a long sip of lemonade, his head turned towards the lake.

"And did she?" I asked, because he seemed so lost in thought.

"Oh yes," he said, smiling, "yes, she did. Not to the bar, but I saw her in the foyer, some hours after sunset. She was standing there, running her hand over the edge of a large vase and humming softly. She remembered me from the previous night; she even knew my name. And she told me hers, which was Drusilla.

"And so, with that much introduction, we went for a stroll along the boulevards. The streets were crowded, bustling as they always were at that time of night, the sidewalk cafés thronged, the air thick with conversation and loud music. 'Drusilla,' I said, savoring the syllables, 'may I ask if you are staying at the Hotel Lavear?'

"She nodded. 'It's for my treat,' she told me, 'the best hotel in Buenos Aires.' And although the meaning seemed pleasant, a shadow passed over her face.

"'I hope you stay longer,' I said. 'This is a fine and gracious city.'

"'It's so busy,' she said. 'Everyone up and about at night.'

"'We are famous for it.'

"'A lovely city for vampires.'

"'Is that what you are?' I asked her. 'I wasn't quite sure. I myself, am...'

"'A chaos demon,' she said. 'I know all about you.'

"'Do you indeed?' I said, laughing.

"'You feel all alone, even when you should be happy.'

"I looked at her in some surprise. Could she know me so well at a glance? 'And how do you know that?' I asked in wonderment.

"She leaned towards me. 'It's in your eyes.'

"'Am I so transparent?'

"'Oh, everyone's like windowglass to me,' she said. And then she leaned in further and I leaned in further and we kissed, softly and sweetly amid the crowd. I was amazed.

"But then she pulled back sharply, looked over her shoulder, and seized my hand. 'We should go this way,' she said, pulling me down one of the darker streets. She noticed my hesitation. 'So we can see the sky,' she said.

"It took us quite some time to find a street where we could make out the night sky. There was a café nearby with a quiet courtyard, and as my feet were a little sore (for I had spent much of the day pacing), I suggested we find ourselves somewhere to sit. The café was not the most salubrious of places, but it had a certain quaint charm, built as it was next to an old church. And there was a wooden bench, nestled under some jacarandas, where we might sit. After glancing at the wine list, I ordered myself a beer, but my companion said that she required nothing.

"How then can I describe the enchantment of that evening, with its mild weather, clear sky and caressing breeze? There was the deep low sound of distant traffic and snatches of laughter upon the wind. Above us rustled the jacaranda's feathery leaves and the courtyard was strewn with their full, purple flowers. But what delighted me most was the sound of her voice, its lilting cadence and accent. Spanish was surely not her native language, and she often made quite inexplicable mistakes in usage, yet she was eloquent even with her simplicity of vocabulary and expression.

"At last we let our lips meet and it seemed the most natural thing in the world, to embrace her. Our kisses grew deep and soon we became enflamed with passion. We threw caution to the wind and cared not if someone else should step out from the café.

"But we were interrupted. A pair of hands seized my Drusilla roughly by the shoulders and off our seat. A stranger had entered the courtyard. He had badly-dyed hair and was dressed like a gangster."

"What was his name?" I asked.

Mr C.D. squinted at me. "Spike," he said, "a suitably ridiculous name for a suitably ridiculous person. But I did not learn his name for some time, so I will refer to him as 'the gangster'. There are no other gangsters in this story so you will not get confused."

I nodded.

"So this man, this 'Spike' said, with a voice as quiet and deadly as ice, 'Drusilla.' And then he began a sort of angry tirade, conducted at length in extremely colloquial English. I did not take much of it in, as I was, ah, rearranging my clothing. But I heard enough to make me think that he and Drusilla were somehow attached.

"Naturally, I was astonished. In great confusion, I exchanged a handful of words with the gangster and then fled to the café proper, to sit dejected and forlorn in an alcove. I ordered a whisky, one rough enough to bring tears to my eyes. Why would someone as lovely as Drusilla associate herself with such a man?

"At length, I found the courage to return to the courtyard and demand a further explanation. But when I stepped out, I found that the man had gone. My darling was all alone, sitting on our bench, sobbing as though her heart were shattered. All my questions evaporated at the sight of her in such distress.

"So I offered her my help. I told her that I would take care of her as long as she wished, that I would protect her from this gangster if need be, that she could stay elsewhere if she did not wish to return to the Lavear. And she said, yes, she would go with me, but that first we needed to collect her things."

"Weren't you scared?" I asked him.


"Weren't you scared of her? She's a vampire."

"So?" And it's true, he was like six foot tall and six foot broad and he had those mean-looking antlers.

"She might drink your blood."

"No," said Mr C.D., patiently. "Vampires do not drink demon blood."

"Do they drink human blood?"

His glance skittered away from me. "Yes. But they don't, they don't have to kill people when they do so. And they can drink the blood of other mammals."

"But not yours."

"I'm not a mammal," he pointed out. "May I continue or must we further discuss physiology?"

"Go ahead."

"And so we returned to the Hotel Lavear.

"Their room in the hotel, well, if you are ever seeking to take your love on a honeymoon, you could do no better than the Lavear. The room was filled with antique furniture and objets d'art. But by the time I saw it, pieces of chair and shards of mirror were scattered across the floor, and the place smelt rankly of cigarette smoke and too much perfume. Through the doorway to the bathroom I could see that a dozen long-stemmed roses had been thrust head first into the toilet.

"I stood amid this devastation as my charge pulled a battered black valise from a wardrobe. Her belongings were pitifully few: she had only a handful of dresses, a hairbrush and a doll."

Mr C.D. put down his glass then and leaned forward. "And if you wonder what passion looks like in a woman, well, I saw the first signs of it then. Before we left the room, she seized a lighter and a bottle of very inferior bourbon from a bedside table and poured the liquor all over the dark clothing remaining in the closet. Then she set it alight."

"Gosh," I said.

"Passionate, you see? But I had to wonder what this gangster had done to make her so angry."

I snorted. "I bet he was pissed about his clothes."

Mr C.D. frowned. "I don't think you're supposed to know that sort of language."

"I bet he was mightily annoyed," I amended.

"He was," Mr C.D. said. "He arrived just as we were leaving. We heard him shouting even as we fled down the fire escape." His brow furrowed. "Actually, he did sound extremely distressed."


"But I had to think of Drusilla. I took her home.

"It is a terrible thing to see suffering, suffering of any sort. But when someone you might love is in deep pain, pain of a sort that you barely comprehend, let alone know how to ameliorate---that is worse than terrible, that is the torture of one's spirit. I took Drusilla home, but even in the taxi she was shaking. I had to half-carry her into the elevator and then across the threshold of my home. She collapsed onto a rug in the lounge and would neither be moved nor consoled. She lay there weeping, while I offered her a bath, food, a bed, and my condolences, but she was too wretched to even speak. At length, I gave her no more suggestions, but just sat with her on the floor, my arm around her, offering what little comfort I could.

"And I wondered, again and again, what could have brought her to this pass. I had no doubt that the gangster was the source of her woe, but how, I could not think. What hold did he have over her, that she was reduced to this?

"Sometime late the next morning, my darling's sobs finally stilled. I carried her into the guest room and laid her carefully on the bed. I pulled the shutters tight on the window (for what you have heard about vampires and sunlight is true) and looked through her valise, but I found that in her hurry she had packed neither underwear nor sleepwear. So I merely loosened her clothing a little and pulled off her shoes, so that she would lie more comfortably under the quilt. And then I made a certain number of phone calls.

"Of course, they were already concerned for me at my work---I had two dozen messages waiting on my voice mail. I had to telephone my cousin Emilio, and ask him to oversee my office for a few days. And then I had other things to arrange: heavy curtains on the windows, better security for my apartment, underclothing for Drusilla, regular deliveries of fresh blood. I do not think I got to sleep until the early evening.

"She was quieter that night, but no less upset. She huddled on her bed, clutching at her doll, whispering old nursery rhymes. Or she watched cartoons upon the television, the brightly-coloured animals doing violence upon the screen. I tried to engage her in conversation, but she was still mostly incoherent with grief and I decided not to press her. She took a little warmed blood from a spoon.

"My cousin Emilio came by the following day, to brief me on events at my office and to inquire after the mysterious young woman who was so distracting me from my work. She was sleeping then, albeit fitfully, curled up on a sofa. I remember that my cousin gave her a long look.

"'She is certainly beautiful,' he said, once we had retired to my study. 'What do you know of her?'

"'Only her name and her nationality. She is English.'

"'But her family? Her connections? Her resources?'

"'I do not know what she has,' I told him. 'She may have none at all---I have not asked her. She has been quite mad with grief these past few days and her Spanish does not always make sense when she is upset.'

"Emilio toyed with his cigar. He said, slowly, 'I think that what you are doing is very kind, Carlos, but she clearly needs to be with her people. Find out who they are we will send her back to them.'

"'You don't approve.'

"He shrugged. 'She is a vampire, and vampires are still wild. Our position here is too precarious, Carlos. You should marry into one of the human clans. Now that I know what you like I can find you someone more---waiflike.'

"I bristled. 'Do you not trust my judgment?'

"'Oh, in most things,' he said. 'In business---always. But sometimes I have to remind you that life is not always as it is for us in the finer parts of Buenos Aires. I just don't want to see you marrying some gold-digger.'

"'She has asked me for nothing.'

"'Perhaps so. Perhaps it is all for the best. I wish you luck and---'"

"Mr C.D.," I said then, interrupting, "what does your cousin mean?"

"What do you mean, what does he mean?"

"When he says that vampires are still wild."

Mr C.D. looked grumpy then and bared his teeth. "It was an unkind thing that he said. There are stories---fabrications---that we demons are all unruly, uncivilised brutes, that we---I don't know---slaver across the countryside devouring virgins. And there used to be a grain of truth to these observations, but so long ago, it's ridiculous. It has been many centuries since anyone in my family has worshiped Janus, for example, although that is why we chaos demons are named so, because Janus is a god of chaos. Usually, these sorts of rumours are put about by jealous humans for some political advantage and several times in the history of Argentina, my family has suffered because of this. But Emilio said these things because his true objection to Drusilla was not one he wished to raise, for he knew that, while he valued wealth and breeding above all else, I valued a woman's spirit more.

"And Drusilla was spirited. Her weeping was succeeded by a few days in which I struggled to prevent her from destroying the furniture. My grandmother's quilt was, alas, quite lost. For a time I worried that Drusilla might never recover her senses, that whatever strain she had been under had perhaps truly broken her.

"But then, one night I was lying in bed (for we chaos demons are diurnal, unlike the vampire, who are nocturnal, although it has to be said that in Buenos Aires these differences are very slight) when I head a soft tap on the door.

"It was Drusilla, clad only in a black silk robe. She stood silhouetted in the doorway and began to speak, in her soft, soft Spanish. She said, 'He's gone,' and I said, 'Forever', and when she came to stand next to the bed, her eyes were teary with a relief and gratitude that she seemed barely able to comprehend. I stood up and took hold of her, whispering her name. And then she kissed me fiercely and kissed me again, until I overbalanced and fell upon the bed.

"After that, we were more formally lovers. We spent long hours together expressing our needs, with the shutters closed tight so that we knew not whether it was night or day. I ignored my work; I disregarded my telephone messages; I spent my every waking minute ensuring her pleasure and comfort. I think I was of some use in this regard, for she did seem a little better. She slept soundly when she slept, she drank greater quantities of blood when she drank, and she spent all of the intervening moments in tenderness and desire.

"It is true that we spoke little during that time---we did not communicate with words---but it was clear to me that she had no-one, no-one at least in the city of Buenos Aires, and that she was entirely alone. I was glad to be there for her.

"One morning---I think it was morning---I stepped out of my room to fetch some fresh blood and perhaps a sandwich from the kitchen. I found Emilio sitting on a chair, waiting for me. The apartment manager had let him in when he had pointed out that I hadn't been picking up my mail. I probably looked a little disreputable, with my congealed antlers and unshaven chin. Fortunately, I had at least wrapped myself in a dressing gown after getting out of bed.

"'Is this about work?' I asked him as I rooted through the fridge. 'Is there something urgent that requires my attention?'

"'You haven't been returning my calls,' he said. 'I became worried.'

"'Be reassured then, that I am in the very best of health.'

"He smirked. 'So I see. Do you know when you might be able to stagger back to the office? We do need your hands there.'

"'I have no idea,' I said. 'And what does it matter? I haven't had a real holiday for years.'

"'Perhaps that is why your absence has been so conspicuous. I realise that it is an exaggeration to say that the entire economy of Argentina relies upon you, but you are an anchor. Also, you know our share prices will go down should word reach the brokers that you are---,' he gestured with his hands, 'otherwise occupied.'

"I ran a hand over my face. 'Well, I will see if I cannot return sooner rather than later.'

"'And Carlos---I don't suppose you have found out anything more about your new inamorata?'

"'Nothing you'd wish to know.'

"'She cannot have just sprung out of nowhere, Carlos. She must have a history...'

"'Get out,' I said. 'Emilio, this is none of your concern.'

"He stood then, picking up his jacket. He said, 'We will see. But Carlos, my cousin, my friend---be careful of your heart.'

"It was true that I had perhaps been shirking my responsibilities for too long. I thought about this while I showered. Now that Drusilla was a little better, I should try to return to my work a little. I could engage a maid to see to her day-to-day needs and would try to encourage her outside interests. We had, in fact, not ventured out of the building in the weeks since we had fled the Hotel Lavear.

"So that night I took her to the opera, because I knew she enjoyed music, especially song. We had a box overlooking the stage. I remember that she showed interest in the scenery and dances, but that it was perhaps an overlong outing for someone who had been confined indoors for some weeks. Several times during the evening she left our box to stretch her legs. I offered to go with her, but she, attentive to my absorption, bade me remain in my seat.

"She returned to our box shortly before the last act. I was pleased to see a flush upon her cheeks and even her hands seemed warm in mine. She looked happier and more alive than I had ever seen her.

"Afterwards, I took her for a walk down to the tiny clubs and bars into which I had not ventured since my youth: cramped, smoky holes filled with lurid lights and music. She seemed happy; I thought she had never looked more beautiful.

"I still did not know what she truly thought of me, whether she loved me or not, but I knew that she needed me, and that no woman had ever asked so much of me before.

"We settled into a new routine. I spent my day at the office, correcting (it seemed) a thousand and one small decisions that Emilio and my subordinates had made in my absence. In the evenings, after Drusilla had woken, we would perhaps go out to the theatre or simply spend the night together at home. Then, in the early hours, I would retire to bed while Drusilla stayed up. Sometimes she went on moonlit walks without me. I worried a little that she might meet with trouble (for it was during those days that all those poor piqueteros went missing) but I trusted that she would stay close by. Besides, none of the murders had occurred in the good parts of the city.

"Drusilla seemed to have largely recovered by then. She was dressing now in the evenings, rather than spending all her waking hours in her nightgowns. She took an interest in her surroundings, drinking her dinner out on the balcony and watching the passersby keenly. Often, my home was filled with the sound of her singing the sweet songs of her English girlhood. But there was still a melancholy air about her and the maid complained that her mistress was sometimes too quick to anger. Also, every time I tried to ask my love about the gangster, her lower lip trembled and I could only desist.

"She had one peculiar habit that I never understood. Every night, after dinner, while I indulged in a drink, she would take a pack of cards to the balcony table. These were not an ordinary set of cards, but were akin to a Tarot set, I think. She would shuffle, deal them out in some pattern and then carefully turn them over, one by one. I tried to tell her that such things were mere superstition, that if they ever worked then the stock exchange at least would cease to exist, but she always disregarded me. Usually, she would just purse her lips and put the cards away, just as carefully.

"But one night in November, she performed her little ritual but did not complete it. She turned over a central card and then sat still. So long did she stare at it that I got up from my chair to look at it from over her shoulder. It was the King of Cups. I could make no sense of this, nor would she explain.

"After that, she never played with the cards again. Instead, she propped the King of Cups card up on her bedside table. She developed an expectant air and, for the first time, she began to ask me for dresses.

"I had already given her several, of course, because she had brought so little from the Lavear, but now it became a mania. Argentina's finest couturiers were brought to our home to outfit her. She also asked for jewelry, shoes, and cosmetics, even new clothing for her doll. She asked me, over and over again, how she looked in various ensembles (for, recollect that vampires cannot see themselves in the mirror). I told her she looked exquisite in everything (and nothing) but she always seemed dissatisfied with such an answer.

"One night we went to an exhibition opening. My Drusilla was dressed to the nines in scarlet velvet and lace. We happened to meet up with one of my younger nephews, who rather fancied himself as a sculptor. You could see his jaw drop as he saw my companion. 'My God!' he said. 'She is stunning! Where did you find such a jewel?'

"'At the Lavear, of course,' I told him.

"'She's too young for you,' he said, rudely. 'You should give her to me.'

"'I do not think so,' I said.

"'You should at least marry her. Then she can be my aunt. I can tell people, I have the most beautiful aunt in the world.'

"I remember examining the backs of my hands. I said, 'The subject has not yet been broached.'

"In actual fact, I had been considering it. I thought I might ask her over Christmas, when I intended to take her away on a surprise holiday. I had been trying to subtly determine whether she would prefer London, Paris or Vienna. I had already chartered the plane.

"'You will keep me informed,' my nephew said. 'Do you think she would sit for me? I could sculpt her.' And after some more desultory conversation, he left the exhibition, no doubt to tell everyone in our family what had transpired.

"Some days after that I noticed that my Drusilla was waiting for something. She spent an inordinate amount of time looking out of north-facing windows, as if willing herself to see beyond the horizon. I would laugh and ask if she were looking for the pole star (which is not in fact visible from the skies of Buenos Aires). I thought that she had guessed I had a surprise trip planned for the pair of us, and that she was eagerly looking forward to Europe.

"In the meantime, I was kept busy at work. The Argentine economy was showing some signs of weakness at that point in time, but I was able to guide the various businesses, conglomerates and banks that we owned safely through those troubled waters. I felt certain that I should be able to leave for a week or two without anything running aground. I was looking forward to escaping the stifling summer heat of Buenos Aires, in the company of my beloved Drusilla.

"Then, one morning, as I was leaving my office to get some lunch, an aide called me to one side. Someone was waiting for me out in the plaza---it was urgent. I was a little annoyed at the delay, but my aide was extremely insistent, so I let myself be guided out onto the street.

"A demon sat in the middle of the plaza, leaning back on a bright metal chair near the fountain. He was wearing a white suit and mirrored sunglasses which dazzled in the noonday sun. A heat haze shimmered over the concrete and the reflections from the cascading fountain were almost blinding. Sunlight glinted off his antlerslime.

"It was Emilio.

"'Carlos,' he said, gesturing to another steel chair, 'take a seat.'

"'I have an appointment,' I said.

"'It has been cancelled. A cousin is going in your stead. Please, please take a seat.' I remained standing. 'No? Very well. Then our discussion will be brief. This is about Drusilla.'

"'I have nothing to say about her.'

"'Ah, but we do. We have plenty. We want you to drop her.'

"'This is ridiculous, Emilio. You know I won't.'

"'Only because you do not know what she is.'

"'And you do?'

"He gave a little nod. 'We hired detectives.'

"'To what end?' I cried, angrily. 'What's past is past; it is of no concern---'

"'I am not speaking of the past,' Emilio said, 'but of the present.'

"I stared at him then. He asked, 'Do you know where she goes at night, Carlos? Do you know what she does?'

"'She goes for short walks,' I said, 'when I am sleeping. She is nocturnal, Emilio. She cannot walk abroad during the day.'

"My cousin sat forward in his chair and raised the planes of his sunglasses towards me. 'She goes for long walks, Carlos. She takes her time. And she kills, Carlos, she kills the beggars on the streets and the little lost children. She drinks their blood. She is wild, Carlos, just as I warned you.'

"I said, 'You insult my intelligence and you insult Drusilla. You cannot have proof.'

"He leaned back again and nodded. 'True. We sent people to follow her, but she evaded them. And all but one of them are now dead. She is cunning, your Drusilla, she is---'

"'I cannot believe this!'

"'But you must. We made inquiries overseas. This Drusilla and her paramour are well-known. They are vicious, violent creatures. They have been slaughtering their way across the Americas. In Rio---'

"'You cannot know this!' I said.

"'But we do, Carlos, and it grieves me, it wounds us deeply that you have been so deceived. But every demon in Buenos Aires except you knows this Drusilla to be a killer---'

"'Lies,' I said. 'Slander. It is my nephews who have spread this rumour, they are anxious that I not have an heir.'

"'And you must also know that it is said that she takes as many lovers as she can, three, four a night, anything---human or demon, man or woman, alive or dead---'

"I slapped him then, hitting him hard enough for his head to snap back. When he looked at me again, he was rubbing his jaw. 'And if you stay with this woman, if you persist in your blindness, we will cut you off. We cannot have such a liability associated with our name. Our position here is not secure: you are valuable to us, yes, but such a scandal would destroy all that we have achieved. People would go back to believing that there is no such thing as a respectable demon if this reaches the unsympathetic quarters of the Press. We cannot have that. You must renounce her.'

"'And if I refuse?'

"'Then you will be ostracised. You will be disowned. We will remove you from your positions in the companies we own. We will tie you up in legal disputes until you haven't a peso. We will make it clear that we want nothing, nothing to do with you, that all of decent demonkind is appalled. We will cast you out.'

"I watched him as he stood up. He said, before he left for his waiting car, 'You have twenty-four hours to renounce her.'

"Naturally, I believed nothing that he had said of Drusilla; however, I had to take his threat more seriously. I returned to my office to see what I could do to safeguard Drusilla and myself financially. It was complicated work, with many legal ramifications, but by late in the evening I had already secured a moderate set of holdings purely in my name. I ensured that the assets were all overseas, in case Emilio managed to run some local political interference. The holdings would be enough to keep us in moderate comfort for years, should my clan's animosity not blow over.

"And it never once occurred to me to choose my family over my love.

"When at last I returned to my apartment, I was weary from work and stress. I longed to be held in Drusilla's comforting embrace. I remember leaning against the wall of the elevator as it rose. I thought it smelled of her perfume and of cigarette smoke.

"I saw nothing untoward as I approached my apartment. The carpeted corridor was quiet and scented with pine air freshener. But when I put my hand on the door, I realised it was ever-so-slightly ajar, and my heart started pounding.

"Inside, my apartment was a disaster. The balcony windows were flung open and the curtains moved in the breeze. Clothes of various sorts---mostly female underwear---were strewn about the room. Imported French furniture---all antiques---had been smashed. There was broken glass on the tiles and blood stains on the carpet and I could not tell whether the blood was from the fridge or elsewhere.

"I ran to our room, fearing the worst, but she was not there. Yet her wardrobe had been ransacked and her doll was gone and the bed was broken. Through my panicking mind spun the thought that Emilio was somehow responsible for all this, that while I had been sabotaging his plan in my office, he had sent people to take my Drusilla away. I stepped through the debris, punching his number into my phone. I shouted something incoherent. Emilio responded, sounding confused, which just made me angrier. But then I noticed something upon the grand piano.

"The piano itself was in very bad shape. At some point, rope had been tied to each of its four legs and somebody had pulled, so that each and every leg had snapped and had been flung across the room. The bulk of the piano now lay beached upon the floor. It was covered in all manner of strange stains and scars, but one in particular caught my attention. It was circular, with a diameter of a couple of inches, and it smelled of cheap alcohol. Touching a drop to my tongue, I instantly recognised it: inferior bourbon.

"I dropped the phone then, leaving Emilio to talk to the floor, and ran out of my apartment and down many flights of emergency stairs. Once outside, I hailed a cab, and asked to be taken to the Hotel Lavear.

"Delicate lights of blue and white hung from the Lavear. Out in the front courtyard, around a large fir tree, laughing patrons milled with champagne glasses in their hands and tinsel in their hair. I pushed past, into the foyer where I had first spoken to my Drusilla. It was full of people out for the Christmas ball, and the foyer was a swirl of silks and satins, a miasma of perfumes and aftershaves and wine. I was tall enough to see over most of the patrons, but I could not see Drusilla. I pressed onwards, using my antlers sparingly, into the bar. This too was crowded to overflowing, the conversation too loud and the press of bodies too warm. I moved through the throng, looking out for my love, drawn from one side of the room to the other by a flash of pale skin or the swirl of a woman's unfettered hair. Alas, Drusilla was nowhere to be found.

"As I retreated to the foyer, a pair of clocks loudly chimed the hour of midnight and all of a sudden the crowd began to roll inexorably towards the ballroom. Caught in the flow, I allowed myself to move forward through the wide double doors and on into the rococo splendor of the main hall. Here tables were laden with food, trays of aperitifs circulated with the waiters, and the air thrummed with music. There were already several dozen pairs of dancers out on the floor, but my eye was caught by only one neat step and only one graceful waist.

"They would have been conspicuous at any such event: she, in her antiquated finery, he in that appalling and foul-smelling old coat. Her ivory complexion and his grisly pallor contrasted with the smooth tanned faces of the others. But it was something else, some aspect of themselves that ran far deeper, that truly divided them so clearly from the others. And, as I realised what it was, I found myself sagging, reaching for support from a marble column. I alone stood still while the crowd swam about me.

"It was in the way that they danced---the fluid anticipation of each other's moves. It was in the way that they looked at each other--- the calm certainty of the gaze. The way they held one another, the way they pressed their bodies together, the way their lips would meet suddenly at the crescendo. This told me what I could not have known before, what I had not allowed myself to realise, what I would never have otherwise understood.

"This gangster, this cheap thug and ne'er-do-well, with his parakeet profile and his scuffed boots and his gutter manners, could offer my sweet Drusilla something that I, with my proud name and prouder heritage, my influence and my resources, my taste and breeding, could never have given her.

"True love.

"It was with horror and a deep wrenching of my heart that I realised this, but it could not be denied. I stumbled out of the room, not caring whom I walked into, out once again through the foyer and into the street. But there was no respite for my pain in the hot night air.

"Somehow---I no longer recall how---I got home to my half-demolished apartment. In the ruins, I gathered myself a suitcase or two of my belongings. I wrote a short note to my cousin, Emilio, and then returned to my office to put a few more things in order. In the morning, I took the first plane out of Buenos Aires, one to Miami. Since then---well, I have been here.

"And I have never again set foot in the Hotel Lavear."

Mr C.D. fell silent then, his large hands resting on his knees. The sun was setting now and his outline was an indistinct blur on the twilit porch. We had long since finished the lemonade. I didn't know what to say, so I said nothing, only slapped at the mosquitoes that had come to bite me but which left him mysteriously enough alone. A quarter-hour later, we heard the rumble of my mom's car coming back up the road from town. Soon a square of yellow light broke out into the night as she switched on the light in the kitchen. She called for me; I went.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is sometimes assumed that Spike and Drusilla split up in Brazil, because of Spike's comment in "Lover's Walk" that Dru was "just different" once they got there. However, the scene shown in "Fool for Love" features a large neon sign reading "cerveza" which is Spanish for beer. The language of Brazil is Portuguese, in which the word for beer is "cerveja". So, unless we assume that the bar is a rare Spanish-theme pub in Rio, it seems that the break-up could have occurred anywhere in South America except Brazil. Thus, I have taken the liberty of choosing Buenos Aires, the Paris of the South, as my tale's setting.

Send feedback to Indri