Dead on My Feetby Wm. Mark Simmons
The living dead were making his life a living hell-the hilarious sequel to One Foot in the Grave. First time in paperback.
A year ago, Chris Csejthe (pronounced "Say-thee") was completely human-then a blood transfusion with the Lord of the Undead changed everything. Now he is a hunted man, sought by human and vampire alike for the secrets he knows and the/i>
The living dead were making his life a living hell-the hilarious sequel to One Foot in the Grave. First time in paperback.
A year ago, Chris Csejthe (pronounced "Say-thee") was completely human-then a blood transfusion with the Lord of the Undead changed everything. Now he is a hunted man, sought by human and vampire alike for the secrets he knows and the powers that his mutated blood may bestow. So far he's dodged undead assassins, werewolves, a 6,000-year-old Egyptian necromancer, and Vlad Dracula himself. But now he's really got problems. The dead are turning up on his doorstep after dark to ask for justice and the police want to know where all those corpses are coming from. Undead terrorists are testing a doomsday virus on his new hometown and he's caught in the crossfire between a white supremacist militia and the resurrected Civil War dead. His werewolf lover, jealous of his dead wife's ghost, has left him. And the centuries-old and still very beautiful (and very deadly) Countess Bathory is determined to have his uniquely transformed blood for her own dark purposes. Now, more than ever, life sucks!
Read an Excerpt
Dead on My Feet
By William Mark Simmons
Baen BooksISBN: 0-7434-3610-5
Chapter OneThe beaded curtains clicked and rattled like finger bones as I brushed them aside. Hesitating on the threshold, I waited for my eyes to adjust to the dimness beyond. The first impulse is always to slip into the infrared band but augmented perception of heat sources rarely comes in handy unless you're hunting prey. I was here hunting information.
Candles provided most of the illumination, although a lava lamp glimmered in one corner and the crystal ball at the center of the table seemed to shed a soft luminescence all its own. Tiny red eyes of burning incense glared through the dimness. Oriental rugs and tapestries vied with hand-woven god's-eyes for supremacy in the general decor. A couple of human skulls counterbalanced the effect of plaster saints and dangling rosary beads.
I stepped across the threshold. Technically, I didn't require an invitation, yet, but the appointment set by telephone would have served at any rate. I looked around, my eyes still working in the range of normal, human vision. Now that I was inside, the rest was less impressive: a step below a Jaycee's tour-the-haunted- mansion-and-your-donation-will-help-charity shtick.
"Nice," I said. "I'll bet the rubes just eat this stuff up."
"Atmosphere," said Mama Samm, "is very important in opening de gates of belief. Please," she indicated a chair, "sit down."
I sat. The chair was surprisingly comfortable. I sank down into its cushiony depths and discovered, belatedly, that it might be difficult to extricate myself in a hurry. Not that I should have to worry about busting out of a faux fortuneteller's parlor but if I had learned one thing during the past year or so of my "afterlife," it was the value of charting all potential escape routes when walking into unfamiliar territory.
And my on-the-job motto was: "Never relax."
"Relax," Mama Samm said.
She was immense. Her caftaned body seemed to fill a third of the room like a giant, glimmering white mushroom and her white turban floated above her dark features like a disembodied ghost.
"You have questions," she said. She wasn't asking.
I nodded. Opened my mouth.
"You are here on behalf of anot'er," she continued.
"A client. Someone wishes to know if I am legitimate. De real ting." She still wasn't asking.
"You've checked me out," I said, deciding to drop sixty per cent of the bluff.
She smiled. Her teeth were all white and even so that ruled out one ever-present concern. "You made your appointment under de name of Jon Harker. Your driver's license, social security card, in fact all of de right pieces of paper, plastic, and computer files say your name is Samuel Haim."
"Yes," I answered, interjecting just the right tone of "you've found me out."
"Even though 'Samhaim' is de ancient Celtic festival of de dead, its proper pronunciation is 'Sow-en.' So you see, Mister..." she paused, arching an eyebrow, "... Haim... it is not a very good pun for all de trouble dat you or someone else has gone to in leaving de proper paper trail."
I tried to say "I don't know what you're talking about" but my mouth wouldn't engage. Anyway, she was on a roll: "You come to Louziana six month ago-supposedly to open a blood bank here in Monroe. Ot'er people run it for you. You do not keep office hours and you have money.
"You live on de west bank of de Ouachita River. Big house, tree stories, lots of property, fenced and rigged with expensive security systems. You value your privacy. No record of any family. In fact, no record of any ting prior to your appearance here.
"You suffer from insomnia, rarely go out in de day, and have no personal physician. In fact, you have no life or healt' insurance. You do, however, have an interesting hobby: last mont' you opened a separate office wit' 'After Dark Investigations' stenciled on de door. Now you are here."
I shrugged. "Not much nightlife in Northeast Louisiana."
"So why come here? Nawlins has all de nightlife someone like you could want."
"New Orleans already has blood banks."
"Nawlins also has vampires," she said mildly.
I blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Owner of a blood bank, pale skin, an affectation for sunglasses, nocturnal lifestyle-some people might tink that you were a vampire, yourself."
I blinked again. "I have a medical condition that makes me allergic to sunlight. I'm highly susceptible to skin cancer."
"Of course. If you really were a vampire, you would hardly be able to roam about in de daylight. And you have been seen to roam about in de daylight on several occasions."
It didn't seem necessary to point out that this was one of them. "You have an interesting sense of humor," I said.
She dimpled without actually smiling. "Don' I? It is odd, however, dat with such a medical condition, you have not found a personal physician or done business with any pharmacy since you have moved here."
"You really have checked me out, haven't you?"
She smiled again. "I have clients, too, Mr. Haim. Your presence, here, has raised certain questions."
I felt a chill creeping up my spine. "I came here," I said, trying to keep my voice disarmingly pleasant, "thinking that I was going to be the one asking the questions."
Her smile grew more pronounced and she reached across the table. "You have a client who is wanting to know if I really am a true psychic with prescient abilities. Let me see if I can answer such questions with a personal reading of your own. Give me your hand."
Essentially I had three choices: refuse and still try to get the answers I was hired to get, get up and walk out now, or go along and risk that "Mama Samm" D'Arbonne was everything she was purported to be. The first course of action was unlikely and the second would mean that I might as well give up my newly chosen avocation and take up some less risky nocturnal pursuit.
I put out my hand, the skeptic in me murmuring that a bona fide medium was about as likely as-what? An actual vampire? A real-life werewolf? Too late: Mama Samm clasped my right hand in her left. Engulfed, actually. The index finger of her right hand moved across my palm like a doodlebug on acid. "My, but you have de most interesting lifeline, Mr. Haim."
"I'll bet you say that to all the marks."
She shook her head and the white turban did a ghostly hootchy-cootchy. "No, chère, I not be funnin' wit you. According to dese lines, you already died."
"Really." My mouth loosened into a smile.
"Truly. More dan once, in fact."
"Is that so?"
She sighed. "You are about to tell me dat you have no idea as to what I am talking about. Dat you do not believe in fortune-telling."
My smile grew, showing teeth. "Maybe you really are psychic."
She closed her right hand over her left, trapping mine in-between. She squeezed. I felt a tingle, like a low voltage electric shock, and Mama Samm's head snapped back. The turban wobbled but held.
She moaned and her eyes rolled back in her head. The electric tingle intensified, crawled up my arm.
"What are you doing?" I asked. Her only response was another moan as the tingle crawled across my shoulder and up into my head. I tried to pull my hand back but it was enclosed in a grip of velvet-sheathed iron.
The current slammed home in my brain, knocking me out of the room and down a dark corridor, a tunnel not unlike the one I had traversed when I had nearly died the year before. Memories fragmented and unfolded, waltzing across my eyelids like an acid-edged kaleidoscope.
Vlad Drakul Bassarab...
I cried out at the memory of two mangled bodies on the stainless-steel tables, and wrenched my hand free.
"My apologies, Mr. Cséjthe..."
It felt as though the temperature in the room had dropped a full ten degrees: She not only knew my real name, she had nailed the Hungarian pronunciation, "Chey-tay."
"... I did not know you were oungan for the Gédé." Her voice sounded strange, distant.
"Tonight you will meet Je Rouge. It will hunt you for the Ogou Bhathalah. The shadow of Ogou is long here...." Her eyes had rolled back in her head, showing a disturbing amount of white. "You must seek the grail, she will be the key. The Witch of Cachtice has helped them open the fifth seal."
"What?" I gripped her two hands with my left as the fine hairs suddenly lifted on my neck and arms. "Who did you say?"
"Unless it is closed," she continued, oblivious to my question, "the sun will turn black and the moon to blood." A shudder went through her. "Stars will fall like rain and the end will come before the Appointed Time!"
"You said the Witch of Cachtice!" I stammered. "Tell me what you mean!"
"Find the Grail before the Ogou sows the wind. Find Marinette Bois-Chèche and unmask the whore of Babylon before she puts her red dress on!" She moaned and her eyes fluttered.
I stared at her, waging an internal war over which was more upsetting: revisiting the deaths of my wife and daughter or a chance reference to a monstrous ancestor nearly four hundred years in her grave. "Save the gibberish for the gullible," I said, my voice harsh with the rawness of fresh memory.
Her eyes snapped open. Refocused. Her brow furrowed. "You are angry, Mr. Haim. What did I say?"
I snorted, feeling some control of the situation pass back to me. "Some fortune teller; you want me to do your divination for you."
She stared at me for a long moment. Then: "Why don' you ask your wife to join us?"
Now I was angry. "My wife is dead."
"She must be tired of waiting in de car."
Like a flash fire, the anger was suddenly gone but a taste of ashes remained in my mouth. "I don't believe in ghosts."
"Or vampires? Or werewolves? Or legitimate psychics?" She smiled, white teeth erupting into a gleaming crescent in her dark face.
"Who are you?" I asked, rising shakily to my feet.
"Mama Samm D'Arbonne. Siddown, chère; I'm not gonna hurt you."
"What do you want?"
"De trut', Mr. Haim. De trut' is always important."
"And what do you do with the truth?"
"Depend on who it help and who it hurt. Keep it secret, mostly."
"We all have our reasons, chère. De Prince of Wallachia had his when he let you live-gave you a set of new identities and de money to lead a new existence down here in Louziana."
"And what are yours?"
"As I told you before, I have certain clients who are curious."
"About you. Who you are. What you are. Why you've come here. What you intend to do."
"And now you can tell them, right?" I moved back so that my chair was added to the furniture between us.
"'Can tell' is not the same as 'will tell.' As I said, I keep secrets, mos'ly."
A cat jumped up on the cushioned arm of her chair unacknowledged as she nodded and repeated: "Mos'ly." The cat should have been a Chocolate-point Siamese except for one thing....
"Your cat has two tails."
Mama Samm turned to consider the Siamese and it jumped into her arms. "Ah, my Taishi is usually too shy to enter dis room while a stranger is on the premises. You must have an unusual affinity for cats, Mr. Haim. It's not every day dat Shötoku Taishi presents himself so boldly." She stroked its head as it regarded me with pale blue eyes that lent intensity to its cool appraisal.
"It's not every day that one sees a cat with two tails," I said, taking another, shaky step backward.
"An interesting mutation," Mama Samm agreed. "It is extremely rare. Did you know dat de ancient legends of Japan held dat deir vampires could assume de form of a cat? De one distinguishing difference between such unnatural felines and normal cats was de Japanese vampires always had two tails."
"No kidding," I said, fumbling for the doorknob behind me.
"Mr. Cséjthe...." There was something in her voice, the way she said my name, that locked my legs on the threshold. "... Your name is hers...."
It wasn't just a chill: an entire army was conducting close order drill on top of my grave.
"... But de Loa say that her blood... is not yours."
"Who?" I could hardly get the question out again. Maybe because I didn't want to ask it in the first place.
"You know who, Mr. Cséjthe. The legacy you bestow is life. Hers is death. Marinette Bois-Chèche will haunt your dreams until you unmask her. Before she devours you."
"That's not her real name," I said stubbornly. "And if we're talking about who I think we're talking about, she died in 1614."
"You do not know her real name, you only think you do. Do not forget that she is a liar. She has always been a liar. Her true power is in those she deceives. Do not give her your power, as well."
"Your accent is slipping," I said.
"The Loa say one more thing...."
"Chatty folk, these luau."
"They say this is very important. They say you must save the child twice and bury the dead three times!"
What do you say to that?
There was nothing to say to that.
I forced my feet to carry me away from the fearful quality of her voice. I was careful not to slam the door. And I tried to exhibit dignity and decorum as I walked back to my car.
Mostly I tried to not break into a panic-stricken run.
The 1950 Mercury Club Coupé crouched in Mama Samm's rutted driveway like a prehistoric panther. The chopped roofline, narrow tinted windows, and minimal chrome chasing were swallowed up in the darker than black paint job that would render it practically invisible after sunset-a state I wanted to achieve soonest. Sliding behind the wheel, I counted to seven before turning the key in the ignition and pressing the starter button.
"So what did you think?" Jenny asked as the engine growled to life.
"You know what I think," I growled in turn as I backed the car up the long, hedged drive toward the main road. "You were right there inside my head through the whole visit."
She sighed but remained invisible, sitting in the passenger's seat. "Eventually, you're going to have to break down and admit that I am not just a virus-induced hallucination. Look..." The passenger window rolled itself down. "How could I do that if I'm not real?"
I leaned my head against the wheel and reminded myself that I was doing nothing more than conducting an internal conversation... externally. "Some of the by-products of my altered brain chemistry are certain telekinetic abilities," I announced to the empty seat.
Excerpted from Dead on My Feet by William Mark Simmons Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
William Mark Simmons is the author of five novels; his first, In The Net of Dreams, was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award and made the LOCUS "Best" list in 1991. That novel, with its two sequels, When Dreams Collide and The Woman of His Dreams, have recently been published in one hardcover volume by Meisha Merlin Publishing. For Baen he wrote the popular and critically praised One Foot in the Grave, to which Dead on My Feet is a sequel. Simmons has worked as a teacher, actor, director, musician, and entertainer, hosting his own shows on both television and radio while winning awards as a journalist and copywriter. He currently manages a public radio station in Louisiana, hosts a classical music program, and is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Sit back and enjoy a good read. Wm Mark Simmons has done a wonderful job with dry with and great visualization. He takes no prisoners when poking fun at Goths, Marilyn Manson, and StarWars. It offers a laugh and look at the Dark side of the world.
I've been eagerly awaiting the sequel to 'One Foot In The Grave', and Wm. Mark Simmon's 'Dead On My Feet' makes the wait forthwhile. Chris Csejthe is back with all the wit, humor and intelligence that makes him one of the sexiest heroes in fiction. It's face-paced and funny, and watching Simmons turn conventional tropes on ear is a joy.
Over the past year Chris Csejthe has learned hard lessons about life or more precisely death. He realizes that it is all about the blood of who you know, but in his case the sera inside him changed by the transfusion from the Lord of the Undead is valuable to one and all. That very special blood type makes Chris the donor of first choice for most of the otherworldly populace and some of those still mortals. It also keeps the police busy interviewing him about a non-zoned gravedigger side business as corpses seem to grow on his front lawn like weeds in the front of Chez Klausner. Chris just wants to enjoy life with his new squeeze, but fears his former were-woman might cause problems. Besides being the target of jealousy and the mark of every creature around, Chris is caught in the crosshairs of the development of a deadly virus. All in a day¿s survival mode for the tyro bloodsucker except that now the Blood Countess Bathory has her own ideas how to use Chris¿ rarest of blood types. Readers who desire something off beat but humorous in their fantasy-horror literature will want to read DEAD ON MY FEET, an amusing tale that focuses on the misadventures of a vampire in a world that wants to borrow his blood. Chris remains the center of the Simmons universe while the human and inhuman populaces that graze within his spheres make for a fun tale. Though it would be beneficial to fans to read the prequel (see ONE FOOT IN THE GRACE) for a fuller flavoring, this book is fun. Harriet Klausner