"The nerve of that woman!"

Keith looked up from his assigned task of laying the table. His wife Doreen had just entered the dining room, flustered with rage and with hands planted firmly on hips, in the same way that the safety catch of a colt .357 plants itself firmly on the mechanism.

"She knew full well we were having a dinner party this evening!" she said, waving a finger at Keith as if he was in some way responsible for the unfortunate turn of events.

"Who are we talking about?" he asked warily.

"That Mrs. Bickerstaff next door. She's only decided to have her annual mass orgy on this very evening!"

Keith raised a bushy black eyebrow, and continued placing fancy pink candles in the decorative holders. "I wish you'd stop worrying, Doreen," he said in what he hoped was a reassuring tone. "I'm sure everything will go fine tonight."

"We haven't hosted a dinner party like this for years, Keith. I've got every right to worry."

The guests for the evening started arriving at about the same time the sound of zippers in leather began drifting over from the Bickerstaff's. Doreen stood in the kitchen and sighed loudly over and over again until Keith noticed and reassured her a bit more.

By the time the doorbell rang for the fifth time, the living room was almost full of men in sensible black suits and women in fashionable dresses. With each addition to the room Doreen's nerves became increasingly frayed, and she was constantly checking every single detail to ensure that everything was perfect. Keith had long since given up, and went to answer the door just as the Major was boring everyone dreadfully with his oft-exaggerated tales from the Boer War.

At the door stood Roger Bowers, an old friend of the Christie's, who had declined the invitation for the event and were currently enjoying a variety of party games next door. He was an old-fashioned public schoolboy and had arrived dressed in a black tuxedo identical to the ones worn by all the other male guests, and for some reason, Mrs. Pikelet.

"Roger!" greeted Keith. "Good of you to make it."

"Well, the isolation tank's still being repaired and you've got to fill your evenings somehow," he quipped. "This is my new roommate, Chris."

From out of the shadows near the front door emerged a gentleman whose style of dress differed greatly from his companion. Standing at a good six feet four inches tall he wore a black leather trenchcoat which hung down to his ankles and swished impressively in the evening breeze. A grizzled but handsome face stood atop the upraised collar, and he seemed to be wearing a sawn-off shotgun in a home-made leather holster that went down his back.

"Keith Leopold, Chris Van Helsing, Chris Van Helsing, Keith Leopold," said Roger jovially.

As the two men stepped through into the well-lit hall, the apparent Mr. Quinn dwarfing his somewhat shorter roommate, Keith took a better look at the gentleman. His black shirt went open-necked and was stained here and there with a mysterious substance, his tatty jeans also, to a lesser degree. A pair of big black leather boots clumped even on the soft carpet. He was definitely wearing a gunbelt, from which a handgun, some decorative knives and what looked like tiny flasks of water dangled. A bandolier bisected his torso diagonally, into which shotgun shells were inserted.

"Nice to meet you, Keith," said Van Helsing in an intimidating and gravelly but educated voice, removing black leather gloves to reveal calloused hands, burnt in places - the hands of a hard-working man. "Roger's told me all about you."

"Can I take your coat, Mr Van Helsing?"

The suggestion seemed to take the man aback, and he declined the offer. "I prefer to keep it on, if it's all the same to you."

Keith, who was still forming an opinion on the mysterious man, chose not to argue, and led the new guests into the living room, where the Major was slowly slipping into a self-induced coma. Keith made the introductions, and the man in the trenchcoat shook hands with the somewhat shocked guests.

Doreen peered out from the kitchen to take in the guests, and gave Chris a quizzical look, before retreating rapidly into the room. Keith noticed this and followed her, leaving the guests to enjoy each others' company. He found his wife fussing over the pheasant, and he gazed at her over the spuds. "I don't like the look of that man," said Doreen stubbornly. "Who is he?"

"A friend of Roger's," replied Keith. "Doreen, is something the matter?"

A wide but somehow empty smile crossed Doreen's face. "Nothing's the matter!" she said, a somewhat manic edge entering her voice. "Why should anything be the matter?"

"Are you sure you want to go through with this?"

She seemed to visibly pull herself together. "Yes, yes, I'm sure. They can sit round the table now, I'll serve the starter."

The Major, now apparently dead, coupled with the extremely clear sounds of lusty grunts and groans coming from next door, had caused an air of awkwardness in the living room so thick it could blunt hedge trimmers. It centered around the enigmatic Christopher Van Helsing, who sat in his trenchcoat and personal armoury, surrounded by smartly-dressed people visibly keeping their distance. Keith showed everyone into the dining room, and everyone took a seat. Chris, through no apparent fault of his own, found himself at the head of the table.

The starter was a most delicious melon quarter sprinkled with ginger which went down extremely well as the guests discussed various petty details of their day to day life. Doreen sat quietly directly opposite Van Helsing, looking into her food and occasionally glancing upwards slightly to examine the mysterious guest.

"I don't see what all this fuss is with paedophiles," said Roger suddenly at one point. "I know a lot of paedophiles, they're perfectly ordinary men. I mean, who here can honestly put their hand on their heart and say they have never felt themselves sexually attracted to a ten-year-old boy on his way to school?"

There then followed an extremely lengthy silence, as Roger apparently double-checked his previous words in his mind and sunk into a deep embarrassment.

"So, Mr. Van Helsing," said Mrs. Fermion, trying to alleviate the bad atmosphere. "What do you do for a living?"

"Actually, I'm a demon slayer."

"Oh!" said Doreen, suddenly, covering her mouth. Sensing the funny looks she was attracting, she tried to simmer down and attempted to continue eating. Roger relaxed, all attention having been diverted away from his sick life.

"A demon slayer?" said Mrs. Fermion. "That sounds ... interesting ..."

"It always does," said Van Helsing, a thin smile appearing on his slightly stubbled features. "And it is, I suppose, if battling the forces of darkness and blowing the heads off hellspawn is your idea of interesting."

Glances were exchanged, and a few of the slightly less working class guests concentrated on their meals.

"It must be a rewarding life, though," said Mr. Dodson.

"Well, yes," said Chris, swallowing his current mouthful of melon. "But it's impossible to find life insurance." A smattering of laughter swept across the table, which ended suddenly when Van Helsing gave everyone a rather hurt look.

"So, how did you get into demon slaying?" asked Mrs. Fermion, who seemed to be head of the interrogation.

"The same way you usually get into demon slaying," replied Chris. "I discovered I was the latest of the Van Helsing bloodline, which has been defending mankind from Evil for the last two thousand years."

"Is there much money in it?"

"Just what the demons happen to be hoarding when I come calling," said Van Helsing wistfully. "But there's good job satisfaction. So what do you do, Mr. Dodson?"

"Me? I'm a private detective," said he.

Chris smiled, and gazed into the middle distance. "I always wanted to be a private detective," he said. "Or a doctor, or a ballet dancer or something. When I discovered my sacred birthright there was only one option left, of course."

"I always think it's rather sad when a young man is forced into the same career as his parents," sighed Keith.

As the guests dug into the main course, everything seemed to be going well. To Doreen's apparent relief the conversation strayed away from Van Helsing's vocation and ran through several topics (not listed here). The guests seemed to be ignoring the rather nasty sounds coming from the Bickerstaff's quite well.

But just as everyone had finished their pheasant, Keith saw, out of the corner of his eye, the demon slayer Van Helsing inspecting something he was holding under the tabletop away from view. He would concentrate on it for a few seconds, then shift his gaze to each of the guests in turn, returning it to whatever he was holding between each one. Eventually he seemed to sense that Keith was watching him, and packed whatever it was into his trenchcoat pocket.

"Did anyone else watch Monty Python last night?" inquired Roger innocently. There was a murmur of approval. Can't go wrong with Monty Python.

"All this new comedy the BBC are producing just doesn't make me laugh," said Mrs. Pikelet. "But Monty Python has always been timeless."

Everyone nodded and smiled in memory, except Chris, who was staring at Doreen, and Doreen, whose stoney face seemed to be reddening.

After a few minutes of praise for Monty Python, Doreen exploded. "I can't believe what I'm hearing!! Monty Python just isn't funny! Never has been and never will be!"

Everyone was shocked by the outburst, except Van Helsing, who had taken out the thing from his pocket and was examining it again, occasionally shifting his gaze to Doreen. Keith could now see it was some kind of electronic device, not unlike a TV remote control with twiddly bits.

"I mean, it's stupid!" continued Doreen. "Just a bunch of immature men doing silly things! How can anyone find such unsophisticated rubbish entertaining?"

"Well, y-you clearly feel strongly about this, Doreen," stammered Mr. Dodson, then tailed off. Everyone was staring at Van Helsing, who had got to his feet and removed his sawn-off from its holster. He was now pointing the gun into the face of Doreen, and a broad grin bisected his face.

"Stand up, bitch," he said in a menacing tone that loosened the bowels of all present.

"That isn't very polite," whispered Mrs. Fermion to Roger.

"I'll be honest with you people," continued Van Helsing, addressing the guests but staring directly at Doreen. "I received a tip-off that someone at this party was a class 4 succubus wanted for several demonic acts in this area. I insinuated myself into the circle of friends and waited until I was absolutely certain which of you it was.

"Doreen, you concealed yourself so well," he continued smoothly, holding the butt of his sawn-off even tighter. "You could have fooled me, but you made one mistake. Everyone knows succubi hate Monty Python!"

Doreen's face clouded, and the colour drained to a pasty grey. Great bumps and hollows appeared on her face, and her eyes began glowing a demonic red. Bat-like wings burst from out of her back, knocking an ornamental porcelain figure from a shelf, and she readied two talon-like hands for battle.

"Damn you, Van Helssssing!" she hissed. "Damn you to HELL!"

With a mighty swipe she knocked the shotgun out of the demon slayer's hand, sending it spinning into a corner of the room. Chris made to retrieve it but the Doreen demon leapt clear over the dining table and pinned him to the floor.

"So, what're you driving these days?" Roger asked Keith as something valuable flew across the room and shattered against a wall.

"Nissan Micra," he quavered.

"Ladies first, bitch!" yelled the struggling demon slayer, socking the succubus in the jaw with an almighty punch weighed down with the strength of generations of Van Helsings. He planted the soles of his feet on Doreen's chest and pushed hard, sending her flying backwards onto the table. Keith noted with a wince that her demonic posterior landed on the meatballs, which he had been particularly proud of.

"Nice little model," said Roger, ducking a flying King Edward.

"Little tough to handle on the corners," added Mr. Dodson.

Doreen was now on her feet, and she kicked the serving platters aside. Van Helsing leapt onto the table with her and delivered a shattering roundhouse kick to her temple. There was an audible crack, but she seemed unperturbed. Keith saw the bottom of the slayer's trenchcoat trail in the mint sauce, and this troubled him in a way he couldn't explain.

Mrs. Pikelet smiled awkwardly at Mrs. Fermion. "I always feel left-out when men start talking about cars, don't you?"

Mrs. Fermion was about to reply, when the Doreen demon pulled off her head and threw it at Van Helsing. Narrowing his eyes, apparently offended by this needless violence, Chris unhooked one of the tiny flasks from his belt, and hefted it menacingly. Keith noticed the flask had a little white crucifix painted on it.

"No ... no!" screeched Doreen, now off the table and backing against a wall.

Still on the table, his boots covered in splashes of mashed potato and gravy, Chris sent a trail of water towards his prey, yelling "Ashes to ashes, bitch!" triumphantly. Where the droplets struck her scaley skin Doreen sizzled and shrieked so loudly that the few as yet unshattered wine glasses exploded into millions of tiny bits.

"Does this taste alright to everyone?" inquired Roger, chewing on a piece of carrot.

"I think I may have over-boiled them," admitted Keith.

Chris had meanwhile retrieved his sawn-off from the corner of the room, and was in the act of cocking it as the succubus leapt at him again. His gaze not leaving his weapon, Van Helsing smartly delivered an elbow to its face. Dazed, the beast collapsed onto where it had once been sitting, and Chris pointed the barrel of his shotgun right into the face of what had once been Doreen.

"I'd advise you to say your prayers, bitch," he said hoarsely, breathing heavily through gritted teeth. "But I don't know who'd be listening."

And with an almighty bang, both shells were discharged into the skull of the monster, which exploded colourfully. Demonic goo splatted nicely all over what remained of the main course, and Mrs. Pikelet.

Silence fell over the room, punctuated only by the sounds of spent shell cases plinking to the floor. It was Keith who broke the unpleasant lack of conversation.

"So, who's for pudding?"

The end.

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All material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw
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