The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Monday, January 03, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter II.)

Mr. Carnacki's story - continued. "Were you frightened?" Jessop asked Carnacki. "At first, but as I began to work a professional detachment took hold. It’s like that some times. I imagine that is how soldiers are able to behave bravely when under attack or a fireman can rush into a burning house to save a child. Once you can get the mind focused on the task at hand, you subvert the animal instinct that tells you to flee from danger. "I asked Van Helsing how long she had been dead. When he told me she had died on the morning of the 20th of September, nine days earlier, I bent over her and sniffed. There was no scent of decomposition on her. I raised her top lip and sniffed her mouth. Whilst there was a slight smell of old blood, there was not the strong odor that some legends speak. Her teeth were a bright white with the canines sharply pointed. "I motioned to Van Helsing and we closed the coffin lid. "‘How did this happen?’ I asked. "Van Helsing told me a tale that if I did not have the evidence in front of me would have made me question his sanity. In May, a solicitor named Jonathan Harker visited a client in Transylvania on legal matters involving the purchase of several properties in London. Harker discovered too late that his client, Count Dracula, was a vampire lord. Dracula kept Harker a prisoner at his castle and departed for England. In August, Dracula’s ship, with all the crew slain by him, crashed on the shore of Whitby. By a cruel chance of fate, Miss Lucy Westenra had been staying on holiday with Miss Mina Murray, her closest companion and Mr. Harker’s fiancé. Dracula had preyed on Miss Westenra in Whitby and continued after she returned to Hillingham. The girl’s apparent illness alarmed Dr. Seward and he summoned the Professor. The girl had appeared on the road to recovery, Van Helsing thought, when her mother unintentionally thwarted his defenses by removing the garlic flowers he had placed around Miss Westenra and her room. When a wolf sent by Count Dracula crashed through the window, Mrs. Westenra collapsed dead. Count Dracula drank from the living Miss Westenra a last time and soon after she too died. "I gathered that Van Helsing and the others planned to hunt Count Dracula until they destroyed him. They were going to meet with Mr. Harker, who had escaped from Dracula’s castle and would have information to assist them. "When I suggested I help in pursuing Dracula, Van Helsing shook his head. By studying Miss Westenra, I could better assist them understand the powers they faced and how to counter them. The problem, Van Helsing and I agreed, was separating vampire myth from reality. "Van Helsing stepped outside to bring in Lord Godalming and the others to bid farewell to Miss Westenra. I followed them outside and offered Lord Godalming my condolences. It seemed strange to say knowing that he had spoken to her and that I would converse with her soon. But his stalwart demeanor could not mask his grief. "Then Lord Godalming looked up with a cruel spark in his eyes and asked Mr. Morris, ‘Will you send for Jacob?’ "‘Already did,’ the American replied. "‘Who is this Jacob?’ Dr. Van Helsing asked. "‘He is my friend and also my brother. My father adopted him after Jacob’s parents died. There’s no one I’d rather have with me in a fight, except maybe Arthur,’ Morris said. ‘It’ll take Jacob a while to get here, but yes, I sent for him.’ "‘When?’ Lord Godalming asked. "‘On the 19th. I was hoping he’d get here in time to help guard her,’ Mr. Morris choked up slightly. ‘I didn’t know how little time she had left. I reckon he’ll help us avenge her. It is hard to say when he’ll get the word. He could be anywhere. But he’ll come running.’ "‘We must be careful speaking of vampires to others,’ Van Helsing said. ‘What did you say in the telegraph?’ "‘Trouble,’ Morris answered. "‘That is all? One word?’ Van Helsing raised a brow. "‘That’s all I needed to say,’ Morris said. ‘If I say there’s trouble he knows he’s needed and will come right quick. He knows I’m staying at Art’s so he’ll come there." "‘You Americans amaze me,’ the Professor said. "‘Mr. Carnacki will need help from people we trust,’ Lord Godalming said. ‘I also will send for someone. I have an old friend who is on his way home from India on leave from the army. I believe he will help.’ "Lord Godalming turned to me. ‘Mr. Carnacki, if there is anyone you would like to assist you, please feel free to hire them. I would pour out my entire fortune like water to cleanse the world of the foul beast that did this to Lucy and her mother.’ "‘Inspector Johnstone may be engaged privately when he is off duty,’ I said. ‘And I know others who may be of service. One is a religious man, a rabbi, actually, who taught me much of what I know of arcane lore. The other is a librarian from America who is here on a book-buying trip for his university. Neither are what you would call fighters, but in this matter knowledge and faith may be powerful weapons against the darkness. I will write to them.’ "Lord Godalming clearly approved. ‘Lucy also should have a female companion,’ he added. ‘It is not proper for her to stay alone at Hillingham without a companion.’ "‘Who could you get on short notice?’ I asked. ‘It sounds like Mrs. Harker would suit perfectly, but Professor Van Helsing has said you want to keep Miss Westenra’s existence a secret from her old companion. How could you find someone willing to accept that Miss Westenra is, well, Un-Dead? Someone who believes in the supernatural?’ "Suddenly Dr. Seward’s face turned a beastly white. ‘Oh dear God!’ he exclaimed. "I thought he would faint. Then Mr. Morris took Dr. Seward’s arm by the elbow to support him. "‘What is it, man?’ Lord Godalming asked. "‘I thought of someone," Dr. Seward gasped. ‘A woman — she believes in ghosts.’ "‘Yes, go on,’ Lord Godalming said in a soothing way. "‘I have kept her in my asylum for the past six months,’ Dr. Seward said, his voice unsteady. ‘Her ward committed her because she ranted about seeing a ghost. I had thought her insane. What have I done?’ "‘Go to her,’ Lord Godalming said. ‘Free her and see if she is stable enough and willing to take on this task. I will recompense her well for her time at the asylum and for her service here if she accepts the position. Make her any offer you wish.’ "‘Miss MacKenzie may need a few days to recover,’ Dr. Seward said. "‘She may stay at my home during that time and my cousin and I will care for her,’ Lord Godalming said. ‘Mr. Carnacki appears an experienced campaigner. I can have his meals delivered to him by my manservant and Lucy...’ Lord Godalming’s voice trailed off. "Van Helsing interrupted. ‘Miss Lucy may not need to feed for some time.’ "Soon after, the men departed, first to the asylum to free the unfortunate woman and then to Van Helsing’s hotel, the Berkeley, to further plan their pursuit of Dracula. "Left alone, I thought of the unspeakable horror Miss MacKenzie must have endured confined and surrounded by lunatics. "I put the thought aside for I had work to do. I went into Miss Westenra’s room and opened the curtains to allow in as much light as possible. From my valise, I pulled out the cabalistic book The Zohar and opened it to the correct page. Consulting the ancient tome, I began to draw a protective circle against ghosts on the floor with chalk. "I looked down at the intricate runes and symbols. I had never used the ‘Defensive Circle’ against a vampire before, but my theory, taken from my interpretation of a passage in the book, is that a vampire shares many of the same characteristics of a corporeal form of a ghost. "Two hours later, I finished and took a nap on the sofa until a knock on the door woke me. It was late afternoon. Lord Godalming’s trusted manservant handed me a wicker basket containing sandwiches, a tall flask with coffee, a shuttered lantern and Lucy Westenra’s diary. As he departed, he told me that in the future he would leave the basket in the kitchen. I sat down and opened her diary. I read as I ate roast beef on rye and waited for the coming night. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. (29 September — continued.) This evening, I rose from my coffin where my canopied bed should have been. My room. My home. I glanced about me, feeling nearly as disoriented as the first time I woke inside my coffin. For a moment I told myself I had awoken from a nightmare caused by my long illness. The coffin, of course, gave lie to the fantasy, but I let myself indulge in it. My silver hairbrush lay on top of my dresser. The old clock chimed the quarter hour in the hall just as it had my entire life. A heart beat nearby. I quickly turned, startled to see a man sitting in a chair at the door way to my bedroom. "Good evening," said the stranger, closing the book he had been reading by candlelight and slipping a red ribbon between the pages. The man intrigued me. He could sit in the twilight with a vampire close by and still remember to mark his page. He stood. His heart pounded in my ears. I hungered for him in a way I had not thought possible. I wanted to rush across the room and sink my teeth into his throat. My desire must have appeared on my face because his open, welcoming countenance turned somber. Perhaps Arthur and the Professor have not done me a favor in allowing me to continue to exist. I thought of my lustful behavior with the Count, of the children I had harmed and of the wanton manner I had acted last night in front of Arthur, Quincey and Jack. What have I done? What have I become? I cleared my thoughts. One must remain the proper hostess. I looked at the stranger, a man in his late 20s with thick curls in his brown hair. "Sir, I do not know your name," I said. "But I see you have already made yourself welcome." "Miss Westenra, my name is Thomas Carnacki," he said. "Lord Godalming hired me at Professor Van Helsing’s request. I am a private detective." "A detective?" "I investigate the supernatural," said Mr. Carnacki, watching me keenly. I knew my effect on men when I was living, but he studied me more like our old physician, Dr. Wilson, (not dear Jack, the look of love was always in Jack’s eyes even when he served as my doctor). "Miss Westenra, would you please walk toward me?" asked Mr. Carnacki. "Come to you?" I was surprised by his request. With his right hand in his jacket pocket, he nodded. I smiled and — I could not help myself — I made it provocative. This curious, handsome man wanted me to come to him. He was not my Arthur, nor the Count, but he was here in my bedroom and I could hear his beating heart. Like the Count had entered my window, unbidden thoughts crept into my mind. Desire replaced shame. I took four steps toward him and found my way blocked as if I had walked into an invisible wall. A hint of relief showed briefly on his face. "Thank you, Miss Westenra." Again I tried to move forward, but I could not. I turned noncorporeal as when I entered my coffin yet my way was still blocked. I spotted a circle of queer symbols and letters drawn with chalk on the floor. I reached down to wipe a section of the drawing, recognizing it as the cause of the barrier, but I could not touch it. Assuming my true form again, I bared my fangs at him in frustration. "Miss Westenra, please do not be angry," he said. "I apologize. I wanted to assure myself that the ‘Defense’ I erected around you worked. The manuscript did not specifically mention vampires." "How dare you!" I hissed. "I dared not otherwise," he said. "Professor Van Helsing has provided me with other protections and there have been wards placed around this room." "So I am a prisoner?" I asked. "Yes," Mr. Carnacki said. "At least — for the moment." "Where is Arthur?" "Professor Van Helsing believes it best that Lord Godalming does not see you at present," Mr. Carnacki replied. I had thought Dr. Van Helsing my friend, but how could he keep my beloved Arthur from me? I have been cast aside, by my lover Dracula and by my fiancé Arthur. I am alone. I responded mechanically to Mr. Carnacki’s request to photograph me as part of a scientific experiment. What did I care? When he asked me to turn immaterial so he could photograph the transformation, I did and then I entered my coffin to be alone with my discomforting thoughts. Several minutes passed then I heard a knock at the door and another man spoke of blood. I listened intently to their conversation. I heard Mr. Carnacki moving furniture in my room. He walked out, closing the bedroom door behind him. Then the front door opened and closed. I heard no one in the house. Curious, I left my coffin. My writing desk and a chair had been placed within the circle. On top of the desk was my old diary and a pen and inkwell. He also left a goblet filled with blood. I drank deeply and began to write. Later, I heard Mr. Carnacki return and stop outside of my door. He did not enter, but stood listening for a full minute. I do not know what he expected to hear. The only sound I made came from the sharp nib of the pen scratching across the paper as I wrote. Did he expect to hear me wailing and gnashing my fangs? If so, I disappointed him for he went back to the foyer. I am no longer the sensitive girl I once was. As the dawn nears, I grow lethargic. My coffin waits. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "As I read the earlier entries in Miss Westenra’s diary, she appeared next to her coffin. "Though it may seem queer, I exchanged pleasantries with her as though with an ordinary woman and not an animated corpse. Whilst I found her appearance captivating — it seemed difficult to look away from her — I noticed she did not cast any shadow in the light, proving one of the many vampire legends handed down through the centuries. "I asked her to attempt to cross the ‘Defensive Circle.’ She could not. There is an order to the universe that the unnatural must even obey. One day a scientist will determine why those curious symbols and glyphs block the Un-Dead. But I was glad the protective circle worked when she asked for her fiancé and I had to inform her that he was not waiting for her. "I had not the courage to tell her that I suspected their relationship had ended with her death. Lord Godalming grieved for her, but the sight of her as a vampire only added to his pain and misery. "At my request, she allowed me to photograph her, but she seemed distracted. She also obeyed my request to transform into her noncorporeal manifestation so that I could see if my experimental camera could take a photo of her in her various states. I had invented a lens that I hoped could photograph ghosts. Her capture presented me with a unique opportunity to try it out. But when I asked her to turn immaterial so that I could snap a photograph of her entering her coffin, she did not come out. "I waited for some time until I determined the effort of transforming had wearied her. "Having grown accustomed to the silence, I was startled by a loud knock at the front door. I patted my jacket pocket to make sure the revolver was there then answered the door. Inspector Johnstone waited, holding a metal bucket with a tight lid. "‘Hello, Mr. Carnacki,’ said he, a wicked smile on his face. ‘I have brought you a present.’ "‘What is it?’ asked I. "‘It is a bucket of blood,’ said he. "His answer caught me off guard and the shocked expression on my face made him grin wider. He had the macabre sense of humor shared almost universally by police officers. "‘Right. A young man slit his wrists this afternoon,’ the Inspector said. ‘He did it whilst sitting in the bathtub to avoid leaving a mess for his mother to clean. Might considerate of him. Luckily for us, his heel had blocked the drain so his corpse lay in a pool of red. I thought of you when I saw all the blood.’ "‘Thank you, I think.’ "‘Don’t mention it,’ he said. ‘The young man won’t be needing it any more and I thought you might. Or rather she, really. How is she, by the way?’ "‘She is in her coffin at present though I imagine she will be out soon,’ I said as he handed me the bucket. I carried it to the kitchen and poured it into a goblet. Johnstone followed me. ‘I have secured her so she cannot escape her bedroom.’ "‘Good,’ Johnstone said. ‘Why don’t you leave her dinner for her and you come out with me for a bite to eat? You look like you are about done in and you can tell me how the case stands and how I can be of assistance. She needs time alone with her memories, to adjust being in her old surroundings.’ "‘That is an excellent suggestion, Inspector,’ I said. It also gave me an idea. On her side of the circle, I placed a chair and a writing desk and on top of that I set a lit candle, a pen and inkwell, and her diary. I hoped she would add to her diary so that I could read her new entry and better understand her. "The Inspector and I took a cab to an old pub with sawdust on the floor and tables worn smooth by generations of elbows resting on them. We sat in a friendly quiet as we waited for our food. I soaked in the crowded atmosphere of living, breathing people. "Once our plates were before us, I brought up something that had been on my mind. ‘Inspector, you seemed readily to accept she is a vampire.’ "He paused, put his knife and fork down on his plate and leaned forward with a thoughtful expression, as if he too had given the matter some consideration. ‘Well I had seen a ghost in the End House so that helped when I saw the young Miss change before my own eyes,’ Johnstone said. ‘It made it easier to accept, if you follow.’ "I nodded and he continued. ‘I am not a man to doubt the evidence I see. You have to accept facts as they are whether it is proof that a kindly old woman has poisoned her husband or that the church deacon has embezzled the orphans’ fund. There are things you do not want to believe, but when the evidence is there you cannot dismiss it. Besides, seeing a vampire delighted me.’ "At that, he had lost me and I told him so. "‘I am not a Bible-pounding Methodie,’ he explained, ‘but I go to church on Sundays with the wife. The Bible mentions witches, demons and ghosts. In this age of rational science, it is good to be reminded of God’s mysteries.’ "‘You surprise me, Inspector,’ I said. ‘I thought you relied on facts.’ "‘There is plenty of evidence of God’s hand if you know to look for it and how to look for it,’ the Inspector said. ‘Faith and science can exist together. I cannot see or measure my wife’s love, but I know it is there. When nearly the entire planet has been explored and science is on the cusp of revolutionary discoveries, it pleases me to see that the world is still a mysterious place. "He returned to eating and I thought for about a minute on his words. "When we finished, the Inspector asked what I learned. "I told him everything that I had gathered from Professor Van Helsing. Johnstone listened attentively, taking occasional notes as he puffed on his cigar jutting between his teeth. "‘What I do not understand is why Count Dracula came to England in the first place,’ the Inspector said. "‘To feed upon a larger population than Transylvania offers?’ I offered. "‘Think about it. There must be more to it than that,’ the Inspector countered. ‘If the Count wanted a larger city to hunt in, why not one on the Continent? Why not Prague or Buda-Pesth or Bucharest or Berlin or Paris, some other city closer to his home territory? Obviously the trip to England meant additional risk and difficulties for him when you consider he hired a solicitor to help prepare his way.’ "‘Then what does it mean?’ I asked. "‘I fear there is a nefarious purpose behind this,’ the Inspector said. ‘Maybe someone summoned him.’ "‘Who would do such a thing?’ I said. ‘Who could?’ "‘I do not know.’ he answered. "Johnstone then asked me what was known of vampires. "I explained to him that I had asked for an American scholar to do further research for me. But I told the Inspector what I knew of vampires: their great physical strength; their ability to assume the shape of a wolf or a bat; their inability to change their form between sun up and sun down; their need to spend the hours of daylight in their coffins; their inability to not enter a home unless bidden or to cross running water unaided; and that they feared garlic, the cross, and in some legends, silver. "‘With my experiments on Miss Westenra, I hope to sort the fact from the fiction,’ I told him. "The Inspector and I shared a cab back to Hillingham, where I bid the Inspector farewell and walked up the winding, dark drive alone. The branches of the trees seemed to lean over with menace. I opened the front door with apprehension. A vampire waited within. "I walked to her bedroom door and listened to the faint scratching of her writing. I looked forward to reading her diary to have a glimpse inside a vampire’s thoughts. "I returned to the sofa to re-read The Zohar, but the day had been a long one in more ways than one and when I found myself reading the same line for a third time, unable to keep my thoughts or my eyes focused, I stretched out to rest. I expected I would be too fearful to sleep, but I fell into a deep slumber. "When I woke, the sun was shining into the foyer. During the night I had kicked off my shoes and after putting them on I decided to explore the residence. "Before the deaths of Mrs. Westenra and Miss Westenra, Hillingham had numerous servants, but due to the recent events not one had wanted to stay. Count Dracula had rendered four servant-women unconscious on the night of Mrs. Westenra’s death. Lord Godalming, who served as executor of Mrs. Westenra’s estate, had mentioned finding the servants suitable employment elsewhere and paying their salaries until they did. With the servants gone, the large house had a quietness to it that seemed almost as unnatural as the stillness of Miss Westenra in her coffin. "I should tell you something of the house. Hillingham is some distance from the road at the top of a gently sloping hill. Upon entering the foyer, there is a grand staircase to the upper floors with hallways to the left and right and the entrance hall continuing on past the stairs. Since the foyer is located slightly lower on the hill than the right wing of the estate, you ascend three steps to the hall leading to the bedrooms of Miss Westenra, Mrs. Westenra and other rooms in the wing. Miss Westenra and Mrs. Westenra’s rooms adjoined. I thought it odd that their bedchambers were located on the ground floor rather than an upper floor. I learned later the boudoirs were placed so because of Mrs. Westenra’s weak heart condition made it difficult for her to climb the grand staircase. "As I walked through the empty rooms, I noticed that in most the furniture had been draped with white drop covers to protect the pieces from dust. But it made it appear as if the house, like its owners, wore funeral shrouds. "I next stepped into Miss Westenra’s bedroom. Whilst I was fairly confident in the barrier, I had an overwhelming urge to look inside to assure myself she was still there. The drawn curtains made the room nearly pitch black. I turned up the gas lamps and lifted the coffin lid. "For sometime, I gazed at her, one hand holding up the lid and the other under my chin. After delving so deeply into her thoughts through the words in her diary, I believed I had come to know what she had been like in life. I felt a tremendous sympathy for her plight. "But once again, I found the abnormal stillness of her body disturbing. To see something so alive in appearance, but to know it is not made me shiver. "My mind drifted to other tests to conduct, tests with mechanized devices I had invented for the detection of spirits. I also decided to figure out a way to obtain a blood sample from her for microscopic examination. I was deep into my plans when I noticed her eyelids flutter open. I jumped back and the lid crashed down with a bang. "My body froze, my muscles tensed and I half expected the lid to rise and for her to come out and I wondered if I would find the strength of will to escape in time or if I was paralyzed with fright. When the lid stayed down, however, my hands almost of their own will lifted the coffin lid back up enough for me to peer inside. "Her eyes remained open, but she did not move. I watched for a moment then closed the lid softly. I picked up her diary from the desk and crept out of her room." Carnacki tapped his pipe against the side of the fireplace, dumping the ashes into the burning embers. He refilled his glass and moved back to his chair, putting his feet up on the footstool. "She must have been dreaming and I recorded the observation in a journal I had started to keep track of my experiments. I planned to learn much about the supernatural by having a subject to study firsthand. "With eagerness, I read her diary entry from the night before. Although I had read a few medieval texts about the supposed capture and observation of demons and spirits, I had always assumed the accounts had been false, written either by alchemists attempting to demonstrate their worth to their benefactors or by the persecutors of witches to justify their actions. I decided I would have to return to a few of the books and read them in a new light. In any event, even if the texts were true, the writers had not used scientific principles and methods in their examinations. "I made a list of the equipment I would need, from heavy weights to measure her strength to chemical apparatus to study her blood. "Whilst I had been moved by her beauty and by reading her diary, I did not have any expectations of being able to reverse her Un-Death. No where in my deep studies into the occult had I ever read of a successful effort to restore to life a vampire or ghost. Of the few attempts of re-animation that I had read the results had ended in horrific failure. "As I had mentioned, the house was furnished well. I moved my few belongings into a guestroom down the hall from Miss Westenra’s and I made a list of the personal items I wanted to make my stay comfortable. My needs were few: a change of clothing, a toothbrush and a razor. "Action followed thought and I walked out to the street and several blocks before I managed to hail a hansom. At 472 Cheyne Walk, I told the driver to wait for me. I filled a box with trays and chemicals for photographic development and loaded another crate with mechanical equipment. "I folded some clothes into a suitcase. When I finished I looked at the heavy, curved kukri dagger on the mantle. I hesitated, but then put it on top of the clothes and closed the suitcase. Though I had slipped my revolver into my pocket when I had left with the Inspector, I had no weapon to slay Miss Westenra should it become necessary to ‘Cut off her head,’ as Van Helsing had put it. "I scribbled out notes to two of my friends, seeking their help. I asked the librarian to look up the legends and lore of vampires and also any information he could find on Count Dracula. To my mentor, I requested his immediate presence at Hillingham. There was little I could tell him in the letter. It was something he would have to see for himself. I put the mail in the post. "Once I finished, I asked the Cabbie to step in and help me carry my belongings down to the carriage. "At Hillingham, the Cabbie helped unload my gear, leaving it at the front door. After he left, I carried in the equipment and set it up in the library. The room had caught my attention earlier with its floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and broad library table. I turned a large closet into the photographic dark room and positioned other apparatus on the table. "I carried my suitcase into the guest room and was placing my clothes in a chest of drawers when I heard my name called by a woman with an aristocratic voice. "Startled, I looked up. I had lost track of the time and not noticed the sun had set. "I picked up my notebook and her diary. It was time to begin the testing of my captive vampire. "I swallowed, masked my trepidation and entered the boudoir. "She stood beside her coffin. ‘Good evening, Mr. Carnacki,’ she said.


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