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Fred Saberhagen

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A Matter Of Taste

 Copyright (c) 1990 by Fred Saberhagen

Cover Art : Harry O. Morris adapted from a photo by wiki user PaulVIF path2k6 and from a painting by A.Melone entitled : Gentleman, aka Cesare Borgia.

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

Please purchase only authorized electronic editions.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Tor paper edition: ISBN: 0-812-52575-2

Electronic edition

JSS Literary Productions

ISBN: 978-1-937422-06-6

Saberhagen’s Dracula Series

In the order they were written

Each novel is independent


may be read out-of-order

1. The Dracula Tape

2 The Holmes-Dracula File

3 An Old Friend Of The Family

4 Thorn

5 Dominion

6 A Matter Of Taste

7 A Question Of Time

8 Séance For A Vampire

9 A Sharpness On The Neck

10 A Coldness In The Blood

Chapter One

      Angie Hoban found Valentine Kaiser waiting for her just where he had said he would be, occupying the end booth in a busy street-level coffee shop just off Michigan Avenue , a little south of the Water Tower. From outside she could see through the window that he was watching the entrance, and as soon as she came in through the revolving door he got to his feet, smiling. Tall, youthful, and actually one of the handsomest men she had ever seen. He was pulling a business card out of his vest pocket now, and as soon as she came within reach he handed it to her. A flashy printing job, she noticed, red on yellow. The message was simple enough:

Valentine Kaiser

Celebrity Publicist

      At the bottom were two phone numbers with different area codes, both of them somewhere in California, if Angie could trust her memory on such matters; she’d visited the West Coast a couple of times. There wasn’t any address on the card; the implication seemed to be that Valentine Kaiser moved fast, so did his business, and if you had to mail him a message or travel to his office, you weren’t going to reach him in time anyway.

            She dropped the card into her purse, thinking that she could always throw it away later.

      ‘‘And you’re Angelina Hoban. Even prettier than you sounded on the phone.” He spoke in a low voice, as if musing to himself, and didn’t wait for her reaction; any way she wanted to take it was quite all right with him.

      In another moment she was sitting opposite him in the booth, and ordering coffee. In front of her companion stood another cup, almost untouched, or perhaps it had been diligently refilled by the hurrying waitress. Outside the plate-glass windows, faintly steamy with October chill, Chicagoans were hurrying past as Chicagoans generally did. Inside the coffee shop things were comparatively slack, the weekday lunch-hour rush having abated hours ago.

      ‘‘So, what’s this all about, Mr. Kaiser? You said something about a talk being to our mutual advantage?”

      ‘‘Call me Val,” the man across the table said, smiling. Then he paused, as if he were trying to plan his answer carefully. His behavior in the flesh reinforced an impression she’d formed during their brief phone conversation. Certainly this was not a man who’d try to drown her in a gush of salesman’s or press agent’s babble. The sincere type. Angie suspected that he was some kind of salesman, though, and that he could be very convincing if he did lie. The scar of some old injury, or blemish, spread over a large part of his right cheek, but too faintly to destroy his looks. Dark, Mediterranean type, though not tanned—she’d heard somewhere that tan had been out for a couple of years now among Hollywood people, among celebrities in general, she supposed. And what exactly did a Celebrity Publicist do?

      Sizable shoulders, and a lean waist under the vest of his three-piece, blue-gray suit. Most likely a college athlete somewhere, only a few years ago, and still in very good condition. Red tie, white shirt, all in all a sharp dresser, though a little more conservative than she would have expected from California, which she sometimes tended to identify with Hollywood.

      “I understand,” said Kaiser, evidently having completed his mental preparations, “that you’re going to have the pleasure of paying a visit to Mr. Matthew Maule this evening.”

      “Who told you about that?”

      “And, you may well ask, what business is it of mine? You’re quite right, I can’t argue.” Valentine Kaiser smiled engagingly, displaying excellent teeth, probably not capped. “I’d love to tell you who told me, but the fact is I promised I wouldn’t, and I keep my promises. I do happen to know you’re engaged to John Southerland—right? And the Southerland family, as you know, has a connection with Mr. Maule. And—let me just put it this way—certain members of the family would like to see that Mr. Maule finally gets credit for a lot of the great things he’s done over the years.”

      “Gets credit?”

      The self-proclaimed publicist spread his hands. “There’s the hospital for bum victims he endowed in California—I could show you pictures. There’s the Retired Stage and Screen Actors’ Fund; there’s—well, I could go on all day. The thing is, I’d like to be able to get in to interview him.” Having revealed that much, Valentine Kaiser shut up suddenly, as if reminding himself not to babble like a salesman.

      As if, thought Angie, he were trying to mold himself into a brash extrovert, but it didn’t come naturally to him. She felt a growing sympathy. “So you want to—write an article about him?”

      “That’s about it. Yes.” Kaiser looked relieved.

      Still an element of suspicion persisted. “If you want to interview this man, have you tried just asking?”

      “Angelina—what do your friends call you? Angie? Angie, if it was only that easy.” The man sitting across from her shook his head. “A lot of people have tried just asking Mr. Matthew Maule, over

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