Short Story

Vamp Until Ready

Special thanks to my daughter, Soleil, for convincing me to write this, and to my friend Brad Linaweaver for pointing out I needed a new ending. (Sorry, Brad, I couldn’t figure out where to put in your “Don’t take any silver nickels” line) — JNS

Vamp Until Ready

A short story by J. Neil Schulman

“Whadda we got?”

It was difficult for the detective to be out during the day, but a combination of a classic Burberry trench coat, wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, gloves, and 10,000 SPF sunblock made it at least possible, if not comfortable.

“Just what you’d expect in this neighborhood,” the uniform, a lycanthrope, said. “Human on human. Body parts all over the street. You taking over, Detective … ?”

“Vladimir,” said the detective, flashing his gold shield. “Yah. Secure the alley and start a canvas for witnesses.”

The wolfman snorted. “These cannibals never talk to us.”

Detective Drac Vladimir grinned, exposing his fangs. “They always talk to me, once they look me in the eyes.”


After filing the witness reports back at the precinct, Vladimir and his partner, Detective Bela Sipos, sat down at their usual cop bar, Blue Bloods.

A cute vamp sauntered up to their booth in the back. “The usual, Vira,” said Vladimir.

“Two Bloody Mary’s,” Vira wrote down, and headed to the bar, swaying her behind for attention.

Illustration by artant

“You ever going to ask her out?” Vladimir said to his partner.

“Too young for me,” Bela said. “Not even two hundred. We’d have nothing to talk about.”

“Anything about today seem strange to you?” Vladimir asked.

“We’re off the clock and you want to discuss the case?”

Drac cocked his head to the side.

“Okay. What did you see I missed?”

“It’s not what I saw, “Vladimir said. “It’s what I didn’t see. Human body parts all over the alley but not a drop of blood.”

Vira arrived with the drinks. Bela took an appreciative sip but waited until the vamp was out of earshot before he spoke. “You think it was one of us.”

“Maybe. I’ve asked the M.E. for an expedited report.”

“On a humacide?” Sipos shook his head. “Drac, this is Daytown. These creatures never grow old enough to learn not to eat each other.”

“Precisely,” Detective Vladimir said. “They’re babies. So if one of us is a pedo, I take a special interest.”

“Okay,” Bela said. “When have I ever not played second fiddle to you on a case? Speaking of that, you playing this weekend? I’m bringing a new string quartet by Mala Deutscher.”

“Absolutely,” Detective Dracula Vladimir said. “Amazing child prodigy. The vamp’s only forty and she’s already composed a violin concerto, an organ cantata, and a grand opera.”

Both detectives sipped their Bloody Mary’s in concert.


“Vladimir! Sipos! My office. Now!” Captain Stoker’s voice bellowed through the squad room.

“Pay me,” Drac said to his partner as they got up from facing desks.

“How do you always know the exact time?” Detective Sipos asked, tossing a gold coin in a perfect arc.

Vladimir swiped the coin mid-arc and dropped it into his vest pocket. “When you can answer that, boychick, you can be lead detective.”

The two detectives went into their captain’s office and sat down opposite the ornate mahogany desk. Constantin Dimitrescu’s “Peasant Dance” was playing softly out of the Captain’s desktop computer.

Captain Stoker used his desktop guillotine to cut the tip off a Havana cigar and struck a wooden match, waiting for the flare to die by half before lighting it.

He blew a perfect smoke ring which expanded over his detectives.

“Why is it always you two?” the Captain asked.

Sipos opened his mouth but before he could get out a word, Stoker shook his head.

“That was a rhetorical question,” Stoker said.

“Captain,” Vladimir started.

Stoker interrupted. “I have IA asking me why two of my detectives are walking on their turf.”

“I walk where the forensics lead,” Detective Vladimir said. “The M.E.’s report says the heart didn’t have a drop of blood left in it. We’ve got a pedo.”

“Or a zombie,” the Captain said.

Detective Vladimir shook his head. “Zombie wouldn’t drain the heart and leave the valves perfectly intact. Would’ve eaten the whole thing. No, Cap, it has to be one of us.”

Sipos added, “And someone who knows enough about police work to make it look human-on-human if you don’t care enough to look carefully – which Drac always does.”

Stoker puffed the Cohiba again. “If it’s someone on the job you bring it to me.”

“Yes, Captain,” Vladimir said. Detective Sipos nodded.

“If I get even a hint of what you two did on the Van Helsing case,” Captain Stoker warned somberly, “I’ll have your shields.”


The two Detectives genuflected before the altar at Saint Alastor Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, drank the blood and ate the wafer, then took seats in a rear pew with a clear view of the entire congregation, just as Black Mass began.

The Bishop read from the Book of Medici, the choir sang from Carmina Burana, and the Detectives focused almost all their attention on a figure cloaked in black, two rows ahead of them.

Detective Vladimir nodded to his partner, and Dracula and Bela slowly and softly began moving apart … when the Figure Cloaked in Black turned around and looked Detective Drac Vladimir directly in the eye. “Not here in this Unholy space,” she said.

It was Vira, the vamp cocktail waitress from Blue Bloods.

Vira metamorphosed into a bat and flew high into the belfry, smashing into a bell before crashing through a stained glass window into the freedom of the night, the bell ringing and ringing, underscoring her melodramatic escape.

“Call it in, I’m after her,” Drac said to Bela, just before metamorphosing into a bat, himself. Then Detective Vladimir tossed the gold coin he’d won from his partner back to him. “For the collection box.”

The End

February 15, 2017

Copyright © 2017 by The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

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When Freemen Shall Stand

When I voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election I calculated that the Republican Party under John McCain would continue the state socialism/fascism represented by his support for the TARP bail-outs, and if we were going to have a socialist in the White House I’d prefer it be the Democrats. My theory was that the Republicans, out of power, would reform themselves into an anti-socialist opposition party, and it would be marginally useful to have at least one of the two major parties oppose socialism.

My vote for Obama was premised on the idea that the United States of America was a hard ocean liner to turn around on a dime, and that it would be beyond the Democratic Party’s unilateral control of both the White House and both houses of Congress to destroy what remained of the Republic before the 2010 off-year elections, and the 2012 presidential election.

Well, the Republicans in the United States Senate did what I wanted them to do. They unanimously rejected the fascist health-care reform bill, showing a party discipline I hadn’t seen in years. Not bad for people pretty much without any loyalty to actual Republican principles.

But I may have miscalculated how quickly the Democrats can destroy the Republic.

It’s not just health care.

It’s also an executive order signed by President Obama on Thursday, December 17, 2009.

This executive order removes restrictions previously placed on foreign police agents belonging to INTERPOL, and grants INTERPOL agents the same diplomatic immunity given to embassy and consular officials of a foreign government.

Foreign embassies and consulates are granted diplomatic immunity so they can conduct diplomacy. Giving such diplomatic immunity to foreign police agents means that they are immune from the restrictions we place on our own police officials to be answerable for the use of deadly force and to abide by Constitutional restrictions on police powers — such as:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Giving a foreign police officer diplomatic immunity from such limitations makes them into the Gestapo or the KGB. Such an officer could grab and kidnap you with no requirement to Mirandize you, advising you of your Constitutional rights upon being arrested and before questioning.

At the stroke of the President’s pen — with no Congressional oversight or judicial review — it legalizes a class of Secret Police in the United States — and foreign Secret Police, to boot — who can kidnap American citizens on American soil and secret them out of the country with no challenge possible by our own lawyers or even judges.

If that doesn’t make you cry “Holy shit!” you’re just not paying attention.

I anticipated such all-powerful InterFeds in a short story I wrote in 1996.

I wrote it as a warning.

Welcome to my nightmare.

I first performed “When Freemen Shall Stand” in a dramatic reading before the NRA Members Council of Los Angeles on October 10, 1996. It was first published in the April, 1999 issue of Liberty Magazine, and reprinted in my 1999 book, Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories.

When Freemen Shall Stand
by J. Neil Schulman

It was the third Wednesday in October, just two weeks before the election of our sheriff, and, as chairman of the political action committee, I was supposed to be moderating the candidate’s debate for our monthly Southwestern Freehold Militia council meeting. Only, when the candidates are from the Independence Party, the Constitutional Rights Party, and the Founders Party, nobody wants much moderation and you’re not going to get it anyway.

Our council meetings are supposed to start promptly at seven p.m. on the third Wednesday each month, but stragglers are always still drifting in to the American Legion Hall for the next hour. Our council president, Audie St. Cloud, my oldest friend, principal of the junior high, and our Justice of the Peace, is a stickler for time, but he’s learned to bend a little bit for us grownups. He always gavels us to order at seven-fifteen and doesn’t schedule anything important until after the eight o’clock doughnut, coffee, and I’ll – show – you – my – gun – if – you – show – me – yours break. Not that anyone was likely to have anything to show that most everyone didn’t already have, or hadn’t already seen during first Wednesday drills, anyway. I picked up a copy of the canary yellow agenda from my seat. The candidate’s debate was scheduled as first item after the break.

I could always tell that Tony Bonaduce was in attendance, even if he was way in the back near the doughnut table, grabbing an early one, because right after the “With liberty and justice for all” of the stars-and-stripes salute that starts each meeting, Tony always loudly proclaimed, “Amen!” That’s why I was surprised by the dead silence after the Pledge of Allegiance. Tony, and his son, now sixteen, hadn’t missed the Pledge in six years. So I knew as early as 7:15 that if Tony and Rick couldn’t make the meeting, something was wrong. I caught Audie St. Cloud’s eye and could tell by his expression that he had the same gut feeling.

The first half of the meeting was just the usual housekeeping stuff, committee reports, my report on the blood donation drive, plans for our float in the Waco Memorial Day parade next April 19th. And, of course, every sort of fund- raising — dues reminder, passing the hat, raffle tickets, ticket sales for our annual Shoot Out and Barbecue. I figure on spending around twenty bucks at each meeting, not counting tickets for our events. Whatever Marcia Alvarez hasn’t already gotten out of me at the donated-book table by the end of the meeting, I just spend on raffle tickets. This year, so far, I’ve won two bags of reloads for my M-16 assault rifle, a bound edition of the Encyclopedia of Thomas Jefferson, a collection of John Wayne movies, and a “Danger: Politically Active” tee- shirt — in XL, as a partial consequence of the bear claws and fritters that Jamal Johnson contributes as refreshments from J.J.’s Doughnuts each month.

I was trying to get myself back down to an ordinary shirt size on my camo, so I only had a plain cake doughnut this meeting and had my coffee black. Besides, I planned to join Audie, Jamal, and some of the other guys for supper after the meeting anyway at the Thirsty Cactus. Wednesday was all-you-can-eat fried chicken night. When it comes to Bessie’s fried chicken, I just have no self control. But if I don’t get the extra pounds off by June 15th, I’ll pay for it with extra laps and push-ups during summer training, I know. My cardiovascular fitness is fine, and even though I’m over the age for mandatory participation, I’m not about to quit.

The candidate’s debate was going to be a decisive factor in the election, since our current Sheriff, Fred Wu, was term- limited out and it was an open field. Fred wasn’t endorsing a replacement and the Freehold Clarion’s latest website poll showed it pretty much a three-way dead heat between sheriff’s deputies Aaron Goldstein, Ralph Springer, and Deborah Butler, which meant a run-off election two weeks later. But whomever was going to be in the runoff, this was their last shot at speaking to us, since our November council meeting would be the day after a runoff, and no politicking is allowed at our first Wednesday drills.

The main issue in the sheriff’s election this year was the same as it always was: what the sheriff was going to do about the raiding parties of drunken Peacekeepers from Ft. Barbie.

Every few months, a bunch of Brown Berets right out of Peacekeeper boot camp storm onto the freehold under pretense of buying marijuana, which their regs don’t allow them to buy on base, and start looking for trouble. The Edmonton Accord doesn’t allow us to deny them entry, or disarm them prior to arrest, and no matter how many petitions we’ve sent to Playa del Rey, we’ve gotten absolutely no cooperation from the interfeds in controlling them. The base commander of Ft. Barbie keeps assuring us that when our posse arrests one of his men within freehold limits, the soldier will be court-martialed; but all of our follow-up inquiries after turning over their detained personnel have been bureaucratically stonewalled. Also, every request for the M.P. captain to at least warn our sheriff when Brown Berets are off-duty and might be headed our way have been denied on the grounds of “international security.” And worst, every arrest of a Brown Beret on the freehold has been followed by an even nastier incident a few days later. The Brown Berets protect their own.

They say nobody ever raped a .38, but that isn’t true with the stuff the Peacekeepers are equipped with. The Brown Berets carry everything from C.D.F. sweepers, which will instantly turn a perfectly good bullet into a dud from a thousand feet away, to heartbeat detectors, which makes hiding perfectly useless, to prohypnol tranquilizer canisters.

I probably have a better idea how many of the freehold’s women have been raped than anyone else, because even though most women won’t talk about getting raped to the sheriff’s deputies, sometimes they’re torn up so badly that they need a surgeon.

But our freehold has had more than our share of babies born who don’t look anything like their daddies, and even though abortion is illegal here, nobody has ever asked me if I’ve been supplying RU 486 to women following the raids. I’m not about to tell you, either; that’s strictly between my patients and their doctor. Medical privacy is guaranteed under Article 4, Section 6 of our freehold’s Declaration of Rights … until someone decides to file a complaint against me.

I took my place at the right side of the head table with the candidates to my left, and after I did the formal introductions, they proceeded to put forward their different schemes for dealing with the raids, if elected sheriff.

Aaron Goldstein, the Independence candidate, has served on the posse for eight years — the last two of them as a deputy. He promised that if elected he’d hold onto the next Brown Berets arrested on the freehold and make the interfeds petition for extradition. That got a lot of applause, but I wasn’t particularly anxious to find out how the interfeds would respond.

The Constitutional Rights candidate, Deborah Butler, was all for equipping the posse with arms equal in power to what the Peacekeepers were carrying, and citing Article 51 of the UN charter as the legal basis for doing so when the interfeds came to arrest her. This was also a popular idea, but one which seems impractical to me. Even assuming we could find an outfreehold source willing to sell us the hardware, how are we supposed to allocate funds from the treasury’s bank accounts without the interfeds knowing about it immediately? And with as little money as we have to work with, how can we justify spending tens of thousands of our budget on arms which are just going to get confiscated, likely even before they’re delivered?

I didn’t get to find out what the Founders candidate, Ralph Springer, had to say, because just after I introduced him, young Rick Bonaduce burst into the American Legion Hall and ran right over to me at the head table. “Dr. Lester,” he whispered to me, “come quick! Dad’s barricaded himself in the bedroom with a gun, he’s been drinking heavy, and I think he’s tryin’ to kill himself!”

Audie St. Cloud took the microphone from me. I followed Rick out the door as fast as my legs would carry me, climbing onto the back of Rick’s motor scooter, and held on for dear life during the bouncy three-mile ride down Eagle’s Nest Highway to the Bonaduce’s trailer.

“Is your mom at home?” I asked Rick softly, as soon as he cut the engine.

Rick shook his head, causing straight blond hair to bounce against an almost-invisible mustache he was trying to grow. “She’s over at Mrs. St. Cloud’s tonight.”

“Anybody else in there?” I asked. He shook his head again. “You have any idea what this is about?”

“He got some email earlier today is all I know for sure,” Rick started. “Broke out the Jack Daniels right after Mom left. First I knew something was wrong was when I told him it was time for the meeting and he said he wasn’t going. Then he started watching some old movie — you know, the one where David Koresh survives Waco and masterminds the Oklahoma City bombing? I always thought it was pretty funny but Dad never liked it. Anyway, I guessed he’d just fall asleep in front of the screen like he always does when he’s had a few but this time he went to the gun safe and grabbed his old Colt sidearm and a box of .45 ammo. Then he went into the bedroom and locked the door. Dr. Lester, you know my dad. He’d never touch a gun after he’s been drinking. Breaks every safety rule he’s pounded into me since he taught me Eddie Eagle when I was four. I thought about calling the Sheriff’s station but thought you’d be able to figure out what was eating him faster.”

I put my hand on Rick’s shoulder to steady him a little. He looked around twelve at the moment, really scared. “You ride on over to Ethel St. Cloud’s and get your mother,” I said. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Rick rode off on his motor scooter and I went into the trailer.

I could see a light on from under the bedroom door, so I knocked right away. “Tony, it’s Jess Lester. You scared the hell out of Rick already. You want to let me in?”

“It’s not locked,” came Tony’s voice through the door.

I opened the door. Tony was sitting on the foot of the bed in a cut-out undershirt and boxer shorts, with the Government Model pistol in his right hand, cradled on his lap, safety off, index finger inside the trigger guard.

There was a wicker chair against the one wall of the bedroom where there wasn’t either a door or a dressing table. I picked up freshly-washed pink towels from the chair and tossed them onto pillows wrapped in flower-print pillowcases, then made a production about sitting down casually. Even from across the room, I could smell the liquor on his breath. His eyes were bloodshot and his hair was laying the wrong way across his bald spot.

“It’s Bessie’s fried chicken night,” I said. “If you put on a pair of pants and comb your hair, there’s still plenty of time to meet Jamal and Audie over at the Cactus.”

“Did you know I wanted to be a composer?” he said after a few moments. “Not just songs or movie scores. I wanted to write symphonies, choral works, piano concertos.”

“You should talk to Sam Katz over at the high school,” I said. “He could turn whatever score you give him into parts using their MIDI software, have the school orchestra work it up.”

Tony acted as if I hadn’t said anything.

“You want to hear a joke I made up?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“What’s the difference between a zoo and a freehold?” he said.

I thought carefully about several flippant answers, then decided not to risk them. “I don’t know, Tony,” I said. “What’s the difference?”

“Exactly,” Tony said, and before my lunge could propel me all the way to his right arm, he had already swallowed the barrel of the pistol and blown his medulla oblongata and an impressive portion of his cerebellum onto the wallpaper.


If you’re curious about the email that young Rick said his dad had received earlier, that might have set him off, you can stop wondering.

After Deborah Butler got Rick and his mother, Claudia, back over to Audie and Ethel St. Cloud’s place to stay the night, and Fred Wu and I had done what we needed to do with Tony’s body and the medical examiner’s report, I logged onto our electronic village using Tony’s account and his password, which Rick had given me.

Tony had received no personal messages for two days. There was nothing attached to his email queue except the usual public notices, not even in his deleted message queue. Later, as part of the medical examiner’s inquiry, I asked Aaron Goldstein to norton the email cache memory of Tony’s phone just to see if Tony had trashed anything. But there were no trashed personal messages in the box.

So I can state with some authority that all Tony had been reading before he ate his gun was the weekly edition of the Interfederal Register, the same that we all get.

But there was plenty of probable cause for Tony’s suicide to be found in that publication.

To begin with, we were being consolidated again.

The Tucson Freehold was being stripped of 35,000 acres of its territory, because a type of short-tailed rodent listed as extinct had been found there by an eight-year-old girl. She’d just thought it was some sort of field mouse and had naively taken her new pet to school for show-and-tell on a day when some eager-beaver intern from the Department of Freehold Affairs was observing. The land had been declared an endangered-species habitat, and 1871 Tucsonites were being relocated to our freehold by the end of the year. The Tucsonites were not going to be particularly welcome neighbors. A lot of people around here who lost family members in ’08 still haven’t forgiven their council for signing the Declaration of Interdependence.

To “pay” us for the costs of consolidation, we were being thrown a bone by the IAA. The Arts Administration had authorized a $450,000 location fee to be paid to our treasury by “Dynamic Entry Entertainment,” for a remake of Last of the Extremists, starring Rolf Glock and Donelly O’Brien. An additional hundred bucks a day was available to any locals chosen by the company for extra work. I knew that left non-whites like Jamal and me out. These productions never wanted anyone with other than a Nordic complexion to play the freemen.

Tony Bonaduce had always been a favorite of the production companies for extra work, whenever they shot on the freehold. He’d even been given small speaking parts on occasion. He was pale and blue-eyed, with a round face and a strong chin, and after they’d shaved his head for a part, he always looked the perfect freeman skinhead, rather than the fringe-topped, beer- bellied poultry inspector that he was the rest of the time.

Because Tony’s death was a suicide, Claudia Bonaduce had been unable to get a Roman Catholic priest to perform a funeral mass or allow Tony to be buried at San Miguel’s. So, appropriately, Tony’s funeral was held the following Monday at the same American Legion Hall where most of his close friends had been meeting the night he died, with Pastor Audlin performing the service. Rick Bonaduce had cut some Yucca flowers from his father’s garden and placed them on Tony’s flag-draped closed casket; they were the only flowers he’d planted that were in full bloom this October.

Then Tony was buried with a full U.S. Army honor guard at Veterans Memorial Park. Tony was laid to rest with a rifle salute, taps played off key, and the American flag from his coffin carefully folded and presented to his widow, as befitted a Silver Star veteran of Operation High Five, a medal he’d won by walking for three days up 11,000 feet in front of a school bus on a heavily mined mountain road, leading thirty-eight children and their teacher to safety.

After the burial, there was a wake of sorts at the Thirsty Cactus, with the bar closed off to the public for the afternoon. Ethel St. Cloud was up front at a table with Claudia and Rick. Fred Wu and several of his deputies were in the back room playing pool with Bessie, she of the magnificent fried chicken, and the owner. Audie, Jamal, and me sat around a table near the casino entrance, about halfway back, and proceeded to try figuring out why Tony did it, what we could do to help Claudia and Rick out, and to try getting stinking drunk.

We didn’t get very far in either analysis, but we were about half way to drunk when three Brown Berets walked in.

The Brown Berets stood for a moment, looking around, and seemed to focus their gaze on Claudia Bonaduce. I don’t blame them. Claudia has that classic model look and she’s kept her figure. Now that she was wearing black, her wavy blond hair was set off even more. Then the Peacekeepers took a table near the door and all three sat down with their backs to the wall. One of them tried waving over the bartender.

I noticed Rick looking toward the Peacekeepers apprehensively. He looked as if he was about to go over to them and say something. I caught Rick’s eye and shook my head. Instead, I went over. “Gentlemen,” I said, “the sign on the door said that this is a private party tonight.”

The middle of three Brown Berets, a beefy Russian or maybe Ukrainian, gave me a look as if I was dogshit. The other two, one who looked like he’d be at home in Ku Klux Klan robes, one Mediterranean-looking I think, just stared. These were no fresh recruits out of camp for the first time, looking for casino action or a fling with one of Bessie’s back-room girls. Their ranks were equivalent to what in the old system would have been master sergeants.

I don’t have it in for most cops. The average street cop’s job involves meeting the worst kind of people, and even the best kind of people when they’re at their worst. A city cop’s job isn’t all that different from being the bouncer at a dockside bar. Even our posse have to have training that makes them able to control a situation, no matter what happens.

But the Peacekeepers are missionaries with guns. It’s not that they’re inclined to be bullies. They’re trained to be bullies. It’s part of the job description. They’re always right, you’re always wrong; they can be trusted with the keys to the city and you’re trouble waiting to happen.

“Move aside,” the Russian said to me. “You’re blocking my view.”

I didn’t move. Somehow, my head was perfectly clear. Perhaps if I’d been more sober I would have been more afraid, though.

“My name is Jesse Jackson Lester,” I said. “Doctor Jesse Lester. I serve on the posse, I’m the freehold’s medical examiner, and I’m a captain in our militia. If you’re here on official business,” I told him, “I’ll step aside, or even assist you, if you need it. Otherwise, as I said, this is private. We just buried a friend today. That’s his widow and son over there.” I gestured toward Claudia and Rick’s table.

“The cockroach who killed himself,” said the Mediterranean-looking one, speaking not to me but to his companions. “A failure even among these pathetic losers. He did not deserve to fuck a woman like that.”

All three of them laughed. The Russian leered at Claudia Bonaduce and winked. The expression on her face was enough to break your heart.

There are moments when the provocation is clear and intentional, and designed to create an opportunity for conquest. I noticed that my friends from the back room, including the Sheriff and his deputies, were now only a few yards behind me waiting to see what I would do. I knew the Peacemakers had almost certainly used their C.D.F. sweepers to deactivate any ammunition within the bar before they walked in, so there was no chance of shooting it out with them, if it came to that. They were twenty years younger than I was so there wasn’t even much I could do to start a brawl with them.

So I said, “Gentlemen, I believe you wanted something to drink.”

I walked calmly behind the bar, grabbed a bottle of 120 proof rum from the shelf, and started pouring it onto the bar countertop. The Peacekeepers stared at me in disbelief. I struck a match and dropped it onto the rum, setting the bartop ablaze.

“I don’t like you,” I told the Peacekeepers, as the fire spread. “You are indecent. You have no regard for our legends or our history or our culture. You don’t have a clue what makes us tick. Your movies and books lie about our history and libel our forefathers. You steal our families’ lands. You think trees and rats have more rights than we have. You are the most sanctimonious, self-righteous creatures ever to walk the earth. There is no living with you, and I will burn this entire goddamned country down before you will ever get anything to drink here.”

I heard a hail of cheers and applause from behind me. I glanced over and saw that even Bessie, whose bar I had just torched, was cheering.


It could have turned out differently, I know. The Peacekeepers could have grabbed their weapons and started firing. We might have all been massacred. Instead, they got up and left quickly, watching their backs as they withdrew.

We all chipped in to buy Bessie a new countertop for her bar, which was the only thing singed before I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall.

I didn’t want to be sheriff, but I wasn’t given any choice in the matter. All three of the declared candidates withdrew and Fred Wu organized a last minute write-in campaign for me.

I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time with Rick Bonaduce, but have to admit that at least part of my motivation isn’t altruism but the dinners I’ve been invited to by his mother.

I think my boyhood friend, Audie St. Cloud, summed up my unexpected savagery better than anyone else, when he swore me in as sheriff. “Jesse Lester and I used to play Cowboys and Indians as kids,” Audie told the crowd. “Both of us always wanted to be the cowboy, like every American kid does. What Doc figured out,” said Audie, “is that it’s just our turn to be the Indians.”

October 9, 1996

Author’s Note:

Since it is rarely sung, here is the final verse of the national anthem of the United States of America, “The Star Spangled Banner”:

Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation;

Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!

Copyright © 1996 & 1999 by J. Neil Schulman. All rights reserved.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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The Laughskeller

Warning: ADULT CONTENT ahead including hard-core profanity and hate speech.

The Laughskeller

A short story by J. Neil Schulman

Jerry always looked at the parking lot before each show. He scanned past license plates from New Jersey, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, New York, Florida, California, Vermont, Minnesota, Utah – Nevada, of course – and even some plates from BC and Alberta. There were a lot fewer pick-up trucks than anyone might have expected and a lot more Mercedes, BMW’s, and Hummers. A special parking section just for Harley Davidsons. Always stretch limos with the driver smoking, eating gourmet pizza sent out from the bar, and watching satellite TV. The helipad, which tonight had a Robinson R66 and a Bell 206 BIII JetRanger – in addition to the usual Mercy Air ‘copter.

Jerry had even — swear-to-God — seen an M1A1 tank parked on occasion.

He paid attention to clues like this. Jerry had to know who his audience was. When Gino first offered Jerry this gig Jerry thought he’d be playing to the Blue Collar Comedy Tour crowd, but he was quickly disabused of that notion. This wasn’t your Jeff Foxworthy or Larry the Cable Guy audience. These people were serious as a heart attack. He often wondered why a lot of them even bothered coming to a comedy club much less make it a de rigueur vacation stopover. Some of them looked like their other nights out were spent watching public executions and dog fights, or playing Xtreme Komando – not paintball, but with full-auto AK-47’s and body armor.

Crystal, Nevada was a nowhere town previously a tourist destination for only one reason: it had two legal brothels within a two-hour drive from Las Vegas. Heidi Fleiss had once had the idea to open a third brothel in Crystal with male prostitutes and female clients, but that dumb idea had gone nowhere fast. The closest Heidi had come to her dream establishment was a coin-op launderette in nearby Pahrump with the appropriate name Dirty Laundry.

The Laughskeller didn’t open its doors until eight PM. There was no point. It was so far off the beaten track few people were going to drive there just to drink and play the slots. But even so, precisely at ten PM, the management cleared out the few locals, the regular dinner patrons from Area 51 recognizable by their no-insignia desert camo, and any stragglers from the nearby brothels.

The team of bouncers and topless girls who took the door for the eleven o’clock first show – and again at one AM for the 2 AM second show — weren’t there just to collect the if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it cover charge. They operated the magnetometers and X-ray units and checked guests’ personal items. The Door Team weren’t checking weapons, but cameras, recorders, phones, handhelds, electronics of any kind – even one guy’s fake eye with a video camera built into it. But when it came to calling heads or tails on who got in, The Giant who commanded the Door Team was God.

There she was again. That cool blonde in the little black dress and string of pearls who looked as if she should be one of the Fox News babes, or the female lead in an old Hitchcock movie.

On her first night Jerry had tagged her in his mind as Superbabe. He would have been a lot less nervous if Superbabe was with some guy in an Armani suit and a Rolex, bait for some guy in an Armani suit and a Rolex, or even sitting with her arm around another spectacularly gorgeous woman. But this was Superbabe’s fifth night here and not only was she once again sitting alone at a back table eating fugu sashimi with chopsticks but she made it clear to anyone who sent over a drink that she wasn’t interested. Superbabe had snoop written all over her. But five nights in a row The Giant had taken Superbabe’s money – for both shows – and passed her in.

When Gino had first offered the gig he’d asked Jerry if he wanted to perform behind bulletproof glass. Jerry had declined, despite the previous two stand-ups ending their Laughskeller runs in the ER of Desert View Medical Center – one with a gunshot wound and the other badly lacerated from a thrown broken beer bottle. Jerry felt it was disrespectful to an audience to treat them as criminals – despite the evidence that some of them were armed-to-the-teeth maniacs. Comedians talked all the time about a joke killing the audience, but this was a metaphor. Aside from anything else, Jerry got a buzz from knowing that at any moment if a joke flopped it could really kill him.

Jerry thought of himself as the Evel Knievel of stand-up. The self-flattery was not unjustified. One of the bartenders had stolen a dry-erasable compliance sign from a construction job he worked at and put it up in Jerry’s dressing room. It now read, “258 Nights Without A Comedian Being Injured On This Job Site.”

Nevertheless, Jerry wore Kevlar, as did the bouncers, bartenders, parking valets, and Gino, himself. The female personnel’s skimpy dress didn’t allow for such body armor, but Gino being “old-school” Nevada he considered women easily replaceable anyway.

Jerry finished off the one Glengoyne 28-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky he allowed himself before each show, and waited just offstage for Gino to make his intro. He took a look at tonight’s first-show crowd. It was, as always, a full house. Some of them wore masks.

Lots of men in tuxedos and jackboots with their elegant women wearing designer dresses and jackpradas. The usual number of leather-and-chains-clad bikers. The skinheads – though they had to meet Gino’s upscale dress code. The Skull & Bones guys. The leatherboy Nazis with their black skull-and-barbwire-embroidered cowhide vests and swastika armbands. Lots of exotic tattoos and body piercings in the house. And, yes, there were the usual SS wannabes with their black uniforms seated well away from the white-hooded KKK wannabes – those two groups just never got along.

Just before Gino walked onstage, the house lights went down and the wallscreens came on with their montages of Nazi rallies, KKK marches, anti-Semitic cartoons, lynchings.

Then the stage lights came up, the medley of “Horst-Wessel-Lied,” and “Nigger Necktie” blended seamlessly into “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” from Cabaret, and Gino walked out to welcome the audience and introduce Jerry.

Jerry didn’t pay attention to what Gino was saying. He was watching Superbabe, who was lighting a Sobranie cigarette. Just what is her deal? he wondered.

Then Jerry heard Gino’s wind-up, “So please put your hands together for America’s most fearless comedian, Jerry Rhymus!”

Jerry walked onstage to thunderous applause.

He took the hand-held mike off the stool where Gino had left it, took a swig from a bottle of Smart Water, and waited for the applause and cheers to die down just enough that the audience could hear him.

Then he started his routine the same way he always did at the Laughskeller.

“Who wants to kill that kike-loving commie nigger motherfucker in the White House?”

The crowd went wild again.


The crowd from the first show was gone and the second show audience was just arriving. Jerry smoked a Monte Cristo cigar and watched a few of them pull into the parking lot. He always paid attention when a vehicle announced itself as green. A Volvo with the flex-fuel logo. A Tesla Roadster. A half-a-million-bucks CNG motor home.

Jerry went back in. The Laughskeller was cleared between the first and second show except for patrons who had paid in advance for both. Tonight that was only one person. Superbabe.

Superbabe saw Jerry walk in and gave him a shy wave. He strolled over.

“I doubt you’d remember me,” she said, leaning back against the leather-padded bench.

“Since Chaminade High School is an all-boys parochial school I know you weren’t one of my classmates,” Jerry said, stealing a chair from another table, “and I’m pretty sure you’re not one of my ex wives.”

“May I buy you a drink?” she asked. “I’m told it softens having been excommunicated.”

“My parents faked my baptismal certificate to get me out of public school and it’s an open bar for me,” Jerry said. “What are you having?”

“First of the night,” Superbabe said. “Whatever you’re drinking.”

Jerry made a quick hand gesture to Charlie behind the bar and put up two fingers. “This cigar bother you?”

“Hardly,” she said, taking out a Sobrani. Jerry struck a wooden match from the box on the table and lit it for her.

“So where don’t I remember you from?”

“I used to work for The Tonight Show,” she said. “I booked you for Jay Leno. Three times.”

“Before I started doing my own stand-up,” Jerry said, “I once met Sid Caesar at a huge book fair where both of us had new books out. I was introduced to Sid for about twenty seconds on day one of the convention. On day four of the convention we ran into each other on the floor and he remembered me by name. Sid had to have met hundreds of thousands of people over the course of his lifetime … and he was able to remember me by name after one brief introduction. I envy that memory for names and faces and realize it’s one of the many reasons Sid Caesar became a superstar and I didn’t.”

“You weren’t doing all that badly,” Superbabe said. “Three movies that grossed over a hundred million and co-star on a sitcom that went four seasons. A top-five syndicated radio talk show. Three Grammy Awards for Best Spoken Comedy Album.”

“You’ve done your homework on me,” Jerry said. “I might not have remembered us meeting but I did have you pegged.”

Charlie sent over a girl with their drinks. Jerry tipped her a twenty.

“You an agent now?” Jerry asked. “Is that what this is about?”

Superbabe shook her head. “And even if I were, you’d be too radioactive for me to handle.”

“Yeah.” Jerry took a sip of his scotch. “That’s not exactly breaking news. The guy with the videophone made sure of that. Then Jesse and Al. Then the 24-hour news cycle and the supermarket tabloids. Did you know Michael Richards, Mel Gibson, Don Imus, and Alec Baldwin all phoned to give me advice?”

“They all made public apologies,” Superbabe said. “You didn’t. What did you expect the media would do with that?”

“I didn’t expect anything from them. But I knew what they should have done. Stand up for the First Amendment. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, and Andy Kaufman died for our sins.”

Superbabe asked, “Aren’t you worried that one of these nut jobs is going to take you seriously and shoot at the President?”

“The President and I both wear Kevlar,” Jerry said. “If he listens to his Secret Service detail and stays out of open-top limos he should be just fine. Did you know I campaigned for him? Obama, I mean. People think I’m older than I am. I wasn’t born yet when JFK died.”

“A nice New York Jewish liberal and now you do this?”

Jerry grinned for the first time. “So you did know I wasn’t Catholic.”

“Guilty,” Superbabe said.

“So why didn’t you send me a note? I would have comped you in.”

“The Bell helicopter sitting outside is mine,” Superbabe said. “I married for money. Twice.”

“Well maybe I can marry for money next time,” Jerry said. “Can you wait for me after the show?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Superbabe said.


It was time for the Laughskeller’s second show. Jerry saw in the audience several Che Guevara wannabes, some North Korean Army uniforms, every sort of Arab and Muslim apparel, and more than a few anarchists. The video wall screens were showing their montages of anti-war demonstrations, a burning American flag, U.S. bombing runs in Afghanistan, Christians bombing an abortion clinic, homophobes attacking a Gay Pride march, Israeli tanks knocking over Palestinian homes, Hugo Chavez embracing Fidel Castro to cheering crowds waving red flags.

Then the stage lights came up, the medley of “The Internationale” and “Joe Hill” blended seamlessly into “The Star Spangled Banner” sung in a minor key, and Gino walked out to welcome the audience and introduce Jerry.

Jerry didn’t pay attention to what Gino was saying. He was again watching Superbabe. He hadn’t realized how isolated and lonely he’d become. He made a vow to himself not to screw it up this time and leave his outrage on stage where it belonged.

Then Jerry heard Gino’s wind-up, “So please put your hands together for America’s most fearless comedian, Jerry Rhymus!”

Jerry walked onstage to thunderous applause.

He took the hand-held mike off the stool where Gino had left it, took a swig from a bottle of Smart Water, and waited for the applause and cheers to die down just enough that the audience could hear him.

Then he started his second-show routine the same way he always did at the Laughskeller.

“Who wants to kill that Zionist-loving fascist fake-nigger motherfucker in the White House?”


April 12, 2009. 9:15 PM
Revised April 16, 2009. 10:47 AM

Copyright © 2009 by The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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