My wife and I went to Asheboro, North Carolina to visit the fabulous zoo just outside the city. We had a great day at the zoo visiting the Africa section.
Gwen had gone to sleep by 10:00pm, tired from the walking we had done. I was in the mood for a couple of mugs of a good microbrew. Asheboro was dry, no alcohol, until July of this year, and doesn't have well-established pubs. I was talking with the hotel manager about this when he told me about some private clubs in the area. He recommended one and gave me a card to get me admitted.
For obvious reasons I can't mention the name of the club. However, I was impressed when I went inside. A long old fashioned bar with well-appointed tables and a jazz trio playing old favorites greeted me.
The bartender had just brought my second mug of a North Carolina lager when I heard someone approach. I turned to see a slender, dark-haired man of middle height. He was wearing a Carolina Panthers sweatshirt, and tan khaki pants. What caught my attention, was his pale white skin. Oh no, not another vampire, I thought.
"I'm glad to see that you recovered from the attack by the female vampire," he said in a local drawl.
"So am I," I replied. "How did you learn to about my attack?"
"I have been following your articles with some interest. Your approach is evenhanded, and you do not condemn us as many mortals do."
"Who might you be?" The vampire' s manner seemed friendly, I was nervous about his intentions.
"John Valerius," he replied, extending his hand.
It was cold when I shook it. I swallowed hard, hoping I wasn't facing another hostile encounter with a vampire.
"I'm glad that our mutual friend in Bucharest was able to help you." He smiled, showing an even row of teeth, without any display of fangs.
"And how do you know our mutual friend in Romania?" I asked.
He chuckled. "I have been in North Carolina for over a hundred years. But I was born in Hungary… some time ago. During my travels I visited Bucharest on several occasions and had the privilege of spending time with our mutual acquaintance."
"You sure have adapted well to the local scene," I said.
"Blending in is a survival mechanism. Modern society makes it easier to do so." He looked at my mug of beer for a moment, then turned his attention back to me. "Please excuse me. While we have been chatting your beer has gotten warm."
John made a motion with his hand and the bartender moved quickly to him. "Please give Neil another mug on the house, and give me a glass of my usual."
"Your usual?" I asked.
He smiled. "I'd be a poor host to allow you to drink alone."
"You own this club?"
"I'm a businessman. In a dry county, I saw an opportunity to make money meeting people's needs. Prohibition was a farce, and men and women will always find places to drink."
A few minutes later, the bartender returned with another mug of beer for me. He put large wine glass, half filled with a red fluid, in front of John.
"Is that what I think it is?" I asked.
"Yes. I always have a supply of blood in the refrigerator. The bartenders warm it up for me so I can drink with the customers." He lifted his glass and touched mine. "To new friends."
"To new friends," I replied. Also, to new experiences. This was the first time I had ever drunk with a vampire.