Who is Roam Belanger ?
Is he an albino vampire ?
Is he a magician who sleeps in a battered magic cabinet bearing the legend BELANGER THE UNCANNY on it ?
Is he the last son of a long lost race; the sole, surviving, speaker of the True Words ?
Is he a meta-vampire, switching from phases of feeding on blood and feeding on emotions ?
Is he a member of The Sleight of Hand magic club ?
Does something live inside him, an unwelcome companion, driving him on, keeping him "alive" for centuries ?
Can he drink your blood, and taste your memories within its coppery tang ?
If you know the answer to any, or all of these questions, then welcome to Roam's night-time world.
(Illustrations copyright Johnny Milne and Michael Daly)
TASTE THE BLOOD OF SANTA
By Ian Hunter
They gently carried the large man to the laundry basket.
"Lucky this basket was here," Harper said.
"Wasn't it?" agreed Kyla, looking off page, then at Roam. "Why don't you have a drink and get into the part?"
Roam frowned at her. "What?"
"You know," she said, smiling. "Taste the blood of Santa."
"He's not the real Santa, you know?" the albino told her. "He's just a helper. The real Santa is much too busy to do things like this."
Harper and Kyla exchanged glances. "Uh, r-ight," said the ex-cop, raising his eyebrows.
Together, they helped Roam out of his trademark long coat and into his costume, then stood back and surveyed their handiwork.
Kyla nodded. "Yes, scarey, emaciated guy in red and white, works for me."
"Pillow," said Harper, holding out his hand.
"Pillow," said Kyla, passing over a pillow.
"And yet another pillow."
"Yet another pillow."
Harper held out his hands. "How does that work?"
Kyla nodded. "If he could just make his hands less pointy and do something about his red eyes, he would be perfect."
Harper reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of sunglasses.
Roam shook his head. "I only wear shades when I'm impersonating Elvis," he told them, and shrugged into a pose of the King. "You all want me to go with ya?"
Kyla rolled her eyes. "Stick to biting people."
The albino shrugged. "I can do a great Jon-Luc Picard," he said, pointing. "Make it so."
"Jon who ?" said Kyla.
"I think I preferred Elvis," Harper said, passing over the wig and beard. "Time to go."
Roam sighed. "How long?"
"Until we say so," Harper said with a grin. "I owe you for the blood bank."
Roam pulled the hood over his head. "Let's get this over with."
The first kid stared at Roam's red eyes. "You been hitting the bottle, Santa?"
The albino smiled and let his fangs grow.
"Hey, neat trick! What big teeth ya got."
"All the better to sook you with," Roam replied.
"You're a riot, Santa."
"What would you like for Christmas?" Roam said gravely. "If you live that long."
The kid looked up and whispered in Roam's ear.
Suddenly the world flashed with light. He glared at Kyla and Harper with the
"That'll never come out!" he shouted.
Kyla smiled back at him. "But we'll cherish the photo of the beard hanging in mid-air."
Something pulled at his arm.
He looked down at the little girl. She sniffed and dragged her sleeve across her runny nose. Roam looked at the clock and the queue and tried not to think of murder, and atrocities and massacres.
"Ho, ho, ho," he said without conviction as he pulled the little girl on to his knees.
"You got funny eyes," she told him. "Are you the real Santa?"
"No, but I do a good Elvis impersonation."
"Who's Elvis?" the little girl asked.
Roam groaned, trying not to look at the queue, because he couldn't see the end
of it. Maybe, I'll wake up in my magic cabinet, he told himself, and this has all been a
nightmare, but somehow he doubted it.
The little girl pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket.
"I have a list."
"Look into my eyes," Roam told her, in his best Bela Lugosi voice
"What did you say?"
He shrugged. "Nothing, go ahead. Read your list. I'll try not to snore," he said and winced as the flash went off again.