"really?" boom boom took another sip of her drink. "what about - the professor?"
it took mack a couple of seconds to realize that boom boom had asked him about the professor.
if boom boom knew about the professor, then who else knew about him?
"you know about the professor?"
"you might be surprised what i know," boom boom replied.
"it's the twenty-first century," ashlee added. "everybody knows everything. well, almost everything."
mack blinked a few times. "but not about the professor. the professor couldn't do what he does if everybody knew about him."
"you mean like - what he did in -"
"don't say it!" mack shouted. the bartender looked over at him.
the customer at the bar kept staring straight ahead.
boom boom laughed. "okay, mack, calm down."
mack took a deep breath. he looked a little embarrassed.
"dad," said ashlee. "everybody knows about the professor."
"they do? how?"
"he's featured prominently in all the books about you."
"books?" but mack looked as if he was starting to remember.
"yeah, the books about your adventures. that used to be best sellers - "
"but," added boom boom, "not so much any more."
"who wrote them?"
"dave wilderberg wrote them," said ashlee. "you remember dave? he used to come over to the apartment in ghirardelli square back in -"
"oh, yeah, yeah. used to drink the imported japanese beer."
"yes, i can remember tripping over the boxes full of empties on my way to school in the morning."
"he sure could drink some imported japanese beer."
"yes he could."
"and these books, they were about - "
"the professor, his time machine or whatever he called it - going back and forth to ancient egypt and mars and all that -"
"jeez - i hope none of it was true -"
"don't worry," said boom boom. "i don't think anybody believed any of it anyway."
"i guess it's okay then." mack rubbed his eyes and then looked around. "i could use another drink. just one more."
boom boom signaled to the bartender. "no problem, mack. one more, two more, three more, whatever it takes."
the bartender came over and boom boom ordered another whiskey for mack. ashlee looked straight ahead and took a sip of her orange juice.
"that's enough about dave wilderberg and ancient history," said boom boom when the whiskey was delivered and the bartender back at his post, "let's get back to serious business. the zombie 5.748 murders. they don't wrong a bell at all?"
"he's already said twenty times they don't," ashlee snapped.
"just checking. i mean he is sobering up. a little."
the lone customer at the bar now got up and left. he headed straight to the door without saying anything to the bartender or looking over at mack, boom boom and ashlee.
boom boom turned and watched him go. when he opened the door they could see that the rain had picked up again, and a little wind and rain blew into the bar.
"that guy look familiar?" boom boom asked.
"not to me," said ashlee.
"what guy?" asked mack.
"excuse me," boom boom called to the bartender.
"yeah?" the bartender came quickly over to the near end of the bar. he pretty obviously enjoyed getting close to boom boom and even more to ashlee.
"you know that guy?" boom boom asked him. "the one that just left?"
the bartender hesitated. "no. i never saw him before."
"not one hundred percent. but i don't think so."
"you got a lot of regular customers in here?"
"not so much. it's not really what you call a neighborhood bar."
boom boom looked around. the place was pretty bleak, didn't exactly have a warm homey vibe.
"huh. so who do you get?"
the bartender shrugged. "i don't know. just people coming and going. sometimes it gets busy at night."
"o k thanks. what's your name by the way?"
"pleased to meet you, carl. i'm bella beauregard, i write a column for the bugle."
"oh yeah, right."
"you read it every day of course."
"um - almost every day."
"i bet you are more of a standard guy."
"well, they -uh -"
"have a better sports page, right?"
"well, they do! but you know, people bring papers in and leave them here so i read them when things are slow. so i see your column."
"that's cool, carl. say, if you read the papers, you must be aware of the vampire 5.748 murders, right?"
"yeah, i read some stuff."
"any thoughts on it?"
"um - not really. he sounds like a pretty bad guy, i guess."
"i could use one more drink," mack interrupted. "just one more."
"sure," boom boom agreed. "bring him another one," she told carl.
carl went to get the drink.
"let's make this the last one for real," ashlee said. she had finished her orange juice. "we'll just be getting him totally drunk all over again. if he can walk, let's find someplace else with no temptation, like a coffee shop."
boom boom shrugged. "we can go up to my place - if he can stand up and you can get him there."
ashlee thought a second. "fine with me."
boom boom changed the subject. "that guy who left - he was in an awful hurry."
"looked like it to me. maybe he heard us talking about the vampire. maybe - he was the vampire."
"you never know, do you?" ashlee agreed. she looked over at carl behind the bar. "maybe he's the vampire. he seems interested in our conversation."
"i think he's interested in you."
"but you never know, right?"
"no," boom boom agreed.
"you never known do you, dad? - fuck!"
mack was face down on the counter of the booth again.