Vampire Cabbie Page 0,1

a furtive glance at the paper, taking care not to appear to be reading in the darkness though the words would certainly be quite visible to my eyes in little or no light. Besides, my associates were due to arrive any moment.

Rapid footsteps pounded against the flagstone, then fingers tapped none too lightly against my shoulder.

"Monsieur Farkus! Thank God I found you." It was Jacques LeMeux, my European commodity dealer, the commodities generally being art, rare coins and various antiquities of a rather eccentric nature. The normally reserved Frenchman was out of breath and sweating profusely.

"Please have a seat, monsieur," I said, snapping my fingers. A waiter instantly appeared, a rather tall and willowy fellow with long chestnut hair, who I was certain, if he had been another animal in a previous life, had surely been an Afghan hound. "Pernod, s'il vous plait."

"Merci," LeMeux said. He sat back, leaned forward, laid a hand on the table, which he covered with the other before leaning back, arms crossed tightly against his chest.

"Is something wrong, Monsieur LeMeux?" I asked gently. Onewould think that after a thousand years, one would be able to read distress in another's bearing.

LeMeux leaned forward again. "Monsieur Johnson will be here shortly. He will provide a full explanation." The waiter returned and placed the Pernod in front of LeMeux. My French agent promptly drank half the contents in one gulp.

Somethingwas amiss; LeMeux was normally quite the gregarious fellow and certainly would normally exhibit more composure than this twitchy fellow sitting before me. "Monsieur LeMeux, I am asking you, is something amiss? Did something happen during my absence?"

LeMeux downed the rest of his Pernod. His heart beat rapidly, and beads of perspiration dotted his forehead. "Please, Monsieur Farkus. Monsieur Johnson will be here shortly. He will provide a full explanation."

Very well then. Something had happened, and Bob Johnson, my aide-de-camp, would arrive shortly to explain. Disaster? Over the centuries, if I have learned nothing else, I have learned that disaster is a relative term. How many "disasters" had I endured? How wrong could wrong be?

Quite wrong perhaps. Johnson had always tried to get me to carry a beeper or a portable phone on my long "vacations." But where was the practicality or purpose in that? Surely, my affairs could stand a certain degree of my absence, and my confidence in Johnson's administrative abilities could not possibly have been higher. Let him worry; that was why he was paid the princely sum he was paid.

Johnson finally arrived, indeed looking worried, in fact looking grim. "Ah, Robert, good to see you," I said. "Please have a seat. Would you care for a beer?"

"Please," he said blandly. The florid, big-boned American took a seat, fidgeting nervously.

I snapped my fingers, and the waiter reappeared. "A bottle of Beck's and another Pernod, s'il vous plait." The waiter nodded, a frown most prominent. I smiled at his reaction to my order of aGerman beer, knowing full well that it might be more palatable to drink from the penis of a rutting goat than from a bottle of French beer. Germans brew beer; the French create wine.

"What is it you Americans say, Robert?" I said. "Back in the saddle? Apparently, I have been too long absent. Prepare my Learjet. Notify the staff at theNew York office that I will be there very shortly. Surely, there is much to be done."

"You don't have a Learjet anymore," Bob replied sharply. "If you're flying toNew York , you're going to have to fly commercial."

LeMeux nodded in agreement. "We searched everywhere for you. Like Monsieur Johnson has told you many times, you should wear a beeper when going on holiday."

"Look," Bob said, "you know I'm not one to mince words."

"Yes," I replied, "you have been in my employ for a long time and, as you Americans say, I do know you are not one to mince words. So, what is it that has happened?"

"While you were away, the American stock market crashed. I mean, a major crash, and ... and ... you're ruined."

I laughed in disbelief. "Ruined? What do you mean, ruined? What were my assets most recently valued at? One hundred million dollars American? One hundred million dollars does not simply disappear."

Bob stared down at the marble table top. This was perhaps the one time I remembered him not looking me in the eye. He always looked me in the eye. He was one the few employees who could do so and not flinch.

The waiter returned and loudly slammed