The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter X.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "I sprinted through the cemetery to the street and jumped into a cab with a shout to take me to the British Museum and not spare the horses. The long ride gave me time to think, but most of my thoughts were bleak. I had one slim thread of hope. Lilith’s note had referred to a friend’s death. If Armitage lived, it was because the horror she had sent to Hillingham had spent more time there than expected. "Outside the British Museum, I jumped out before the carriage came to a stop, shouted for the Cabman to wait and raced to the entrance. Inside the Reading Room, I found Armitage sitting at a table, carefully turning the pages of a thick tome with gloved hands. He looked up as I approached. He began to say ‘Good morning,’ but seeing the expression on my face made him say, ‘Good Lord, what is wrong?’ "I leaned over close to his ear and whispered, ‘Inspector Johnstone is dead. We must flee the city. Someone may be watching us now.’ "Armitage gave a slight nod and closed the book. We walked out, stopping only for him to pick up his stick and overcoat from the cloakroom. We climbed into the cab and set off for Hillingham. I waited a moment and then looked behind us. "I could not see any one trailing us or looking our direction, but the fear of being watched followed me all the way to Hillingham. "‘How did it happen?’ Armitage asked. "I told him what occurred at Hillingham and at the Inspector’s. ‘I believe the horror might have intended to visit you, but was delayed at Hillingham,’ I said. "‘It would not have found me at my hotel,’ he said. ‘By chance, I fell in with a fellow scholar of Elizabethan writers and we spoke until nearly dawn. He had an interesting theory that some of the plays were written to the specific strengths of actors of the time. I take the position that one has to understand the period’s politics and influences of secret societies to fully appreciate their plays.’ "‘So you were not at your place last night?’ "‘No,’ he said, exhaling loudly. ‘My love of Shakespeare’s words may have saved my life.’ "I glanced behind us again. I went from not knowing that we were being followed to suddenly imagining spies everywhere. "‘What are we going to do?’ he asked with despair. ‘Poor Inspector Johnstone.’ "‘I would understand if you wish me to drop you off at your hotel or anywhere else,’ I told Armitage. ‘You have done your part admirably. The situation is more than we bargained for when I promised you a book in exchange for your research skills. You should not stay in London, however.’ "To his eternal credit, Armitage, without hesitation, answered that he would see the matter through to the end. "I thanked him, gratified beyond what words could express, so we sat in silence. We went to his place where he quickly packed a bag then the coach returned us to Hillingham. "Captain Albion and the others must have been watching out the window for us for they stepped outside as soon as we arrived. "I introduced them to Armitage and told them of the Inspector’s death. I made the same suggestion to the three of them, that for their own safety they should reconsider their involvement. All three answered that they would stay. I particularly urged Miss MacKenzie to withdraw for her own safety, but she remained adamant about staying. "As we spoke, another carriage rolled up the drive. A woman dressed in black stepped out of the carriage and I recognized Rabbi Metzner’s daughter at once. "‘Adena, what are you doing here?’ I asked. "‘I came in response to your telegram,’ she said. "‘I wired for your father,’ I said. "‘Thomas, he is dead. He died 11 days ago.’ "I closed my eyes. ‘How?’ "‘The police said he killed himself,’ she said, her eyes shiny with tears. ‘I sent word for you.’ "‘I have been here for nearly two weeks,’ I told her. "‘I did not know until this morning when the telegram arrived,’ she replied. "I bowed my head. The others stood quietly behind me. Minutes passed with no one speaking. "I turned to Albion. ‘Do you know of a place where we can hide? Away from the city, far away?’ "‘Yes,’ Albion said. ‘I know just the place. I will handle the logistics if you care to pack your bags.’ "I went inside to gather my papers, notes, investigative tools, clothes and camera equipment. "When I finished, I heard soft thumps in Miss Westenra’s room. I stuck my head inside the door. Miss MacKenzie was opening drawer after drawer efficiently packing a dark blue dress and other clothing from Miss Westenra’s dresser and wardrobe into a trunk. "‘That is very thoughtful of you, but not necessary,’ I told her. ‘Miss Westenra only wears her funeral shroud.’ "Miss MacKenzie cocked her head as she replied, ‘It is no trouble.’ "I shrugged and carried my bags to the back of the carriage. Then I unbuttoned my overcoat and pulled out my watch. It was after 1 o’clock. "Captain Albion and Adena walked up to me. "‘We have been watched and may be watched now by an enemy with extremely keen eyesight and hearing,’ I whispered to them. "They listened. Though Albion was dressed in civilian clothes, he exuded the air of a military man, from the ramrod way he stood to the composed expression on his face. "‘Here is what we learned and what I surmise,’ I told them. ‘Lilith summoned Dracula and other vampires to London to carry out some sort of diabolical plot. The Inspector and I learned from Dracula that she ordered him away. We believe she sent him away because he drew attention to himself with his attack on Miss Westenra and others — putting her own scheme at risk of exposure. "‘Though she sent Dracula away, Lilith also, I suspect, set spies to watch his movements and to watch those who hunted him,’ I said. "‘Using him to flush out her potential adversaries,’ Albion said. ‘Go on.’ "‘What does that tell you about our enemy?’ I asked. "‘That she knows how to take advantage of opportunities,’ he said. ‘She can make adjustments when necessary.’ "‘Right. Her spies also would have seen the Inspector and me meet with Lord Godalming and Van Helsing so we became of interest to them,’ I continued. ‘Now that Lord Godalming, Van Helsing and their comrades have departed, Lilith must have decided to kill those of us who remained, as quietly as possible. Miss Westenra and I were visited by a horrific entity last night, one nearly powerful enough to overcome a Defense that held off Dracula with ease. The Inspector, at his home, did not have a similar Defense. Now he is dead.’ "‘How did he die?’ Adena asked. "‘Lilith, or whatever servant she sent, made it look like he shot himself,’ I said. "‘Sorry,’ Albion said. "‘The Inspector was a good man,’ I said. ‘He had sent away his wife and two children because he had feared for their safety.’ "‘Lilith also may have murdered Father for I do not believe he committed suicide,’ Adena said. ‘Father’s is not the only suspicious death. There have been several death notices in the papers of names that Father knew: a metaphysician, an archaeologist and a professor of theology. What if Lilith determined whom the most learned men of the occult were and killed those she believed would pose a threat?’ "‘Inspector Johnstone said the police had been extremely busy with investigations,’ I said. ‘I have been caught up in my work here and have not even looked at a newspaper in days. How did your father die?’ "‘The police say he hung himself,’ she said. "We exchanged a glance. ‘I am so sorry, Adena.’ "‘He loved you like a son,’ she said. ‘He would have been here if he could no matter the risk. He had just returned from Amsterdam that night.’ "‘Have you a plan?’ Albion asked. "‘We must lose our watchers so that we can stay alive long enough to figure out what Lilith is plotting and how to stop her,’ I said. "‘The place I have in mind is isolated,’ Captain Albion said. "‘But we have to lose our spies,’ I said. "‘I have a trick in mind that should work,’ he said. ‘However, we will not arrive before nightfall. Is that a problem?’ "I caught his meaning at once. ‘I have thought of Miss Westenra. There are two courses of action. One is nearly unthinkable. The other may be madness.’ "‘What are they?’ Adena said. "‘I’d rather not say at the moment,’ I answered, towering over her. Adena stood nearly six inches shorter than I did, but I still could not believe how much she had grown in the years since I had last seen her. After her father had sent her away to school, we had kept in touch through our letters. She had recently celebrated her 21st birthday, but it was hard to not think of her as a younger girl. "‘Adena,’ I said firmly, ‘I want you to go away to some place safe.’ "‘I want to help destroy those responsible for Father’s death,’ she said. "‘No,’ I said. "‘You need me. I know the rituals and defenses as well as you,’ she said. "‘But it is not safe!’ I exclaimed. ‘I underestimated the danger and now the Inspector is dead and it is my fault. I treated this like some adventure. It is not. It is deadly serious. And we’re alone. The police will not help. Neither the Inspector nor I could convince them. It’s a handful of us against the forces of darkness. They outnumber us and so far they have outsmarted us — all of us. Van Helsing, the Inspector, Dr. Seward, myself. I expected to learn as much as I could about vampires from Miss Westenra whilst Lilith and the others waited for me to gain enough knowledge to destroy them. But Lilith has her own plans and she has wisdom gained over eons. "‘By Jove! I was a fool! I looked at how easily Van Helsing drove Dracula out of his hiding places and away from England and I thought Lilith would be the same. Don’t you see? I don’t want you in danger. I’m not capable of protecting you and I wouldn’t blame any of you if you leave.’ "‘And go where?’ Captain Albion asked. ‘If Lilith succeeds, where would a safe location be for Miss Metzner or for any of us?’ "‘You are arrogant for thinking I need you to protect me,’ Adena countered. ‘I am quite capable of protecting myself. You are not the only one Father taught.’ "I inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. ‘Right. Sorry,’ I said, more for my outburst than for my words. "Adena punched her fist hard against my shoulder like when we were children. I knew by her gesture that she forgave me. "‘Think nothing of it,’ Albion said. ‘You have had a trying day.’ "Walekar arrived with a wagon and we lugged out Miss Westenra’s coffin in the shipping crate. We screwed the top down tight to prevent the curious or a thief from making a startling discovery of the contents. "As we rode off, I shut the gates behind me and hopped back into the carriage. A short distance down the street, I glanced back at Hillingham. A cab had stopped and a passenger carrying a suitcase and a long leather bag stepped out. "I told our driver to stop and ran back to the man. I looked at him doubtfully. He was young, of average height, about 5 feet, 7 inches with a thin, wiry build. But he was dressed like an American. "‘Mr. Wetzel?’ I asked. "Yes,’ he said, looking up at me with bright blue eyes "He was not what I had expected. From Morris’s tale, I had expected a fierce-looking fighter. "‘I am Mr. Carnacki.’ "He gave a slight nod. "‘We are in flight,’ I said. ‘Our enemy has slain two of my friends and we must leave the city at once.’ "‘Okay,’ he said. "I held out my hand and he shook it with a grip that felt like worn leather. ‘No one will hold it against you if you want to withdraw,’ I said. ‘The danger may be more severe than you were told.’ "Then Wetzel did a curious thing: he smiled. ‘That’s good,’ he said. "As we passed the wagon with the shipping crate, he stared at it. ‘Her?’ "I told him it was. I introduced him to the others in the second carriage: Miss MacKenzie and Adena. The ladies greeted him solemnly. With the wagon carrying the coffin and the somber air, we were like a funeral possession on the way to a graveyard. "We arrived at Euston Station and I introduced Wetzel to the others in our group. Albion bought tickets to Liverpool. "So began what became a productive relationship: I oversaw the investigation of the supernatural; Albion handled the logistics and tactical details. "He had not told me of our destination, and I had not asked. I noticed Armitage and the others looking suspiciously at the people around them. "Porters loaded the crate onto a luggage car and then we climbed on board to take our seats. "‘Pay attention to faces,’ I told Armitage. ‘But do not be too obvious.’ "As the train rolled away from the platform, I glanced at my watch: 2:36 p.m. "My mind filled with dark thoughts as we fled London in fear and sadness. England had been invaded and the people slept whilst nightmares prowled their streets. "The sky had become overcast throughout the day and a steady rain fell. I stared out the window. "We sat in an uncomfortable silence, strangers thrown together by chance. Van Helsing would have said God had brought us together. But at that moment, God seemed a careless and detached participant. The outlying villages of London rolled away. "The others spoke in quiet tones, filling in the blanks to the story they had entered in the middle. I sat lost in my own thoughts. "The Chief Inspector had been right. Johnstone’s death was my fault. I pictured Mrs. Johnstone receiving the news. And I thought of his children. How could I ever face his family knowing that I had not prevented his death? The Inspector had come to me for help, putting his faith in my ability at supernatural investigations. I had failed him. "As I stared out the window, I wondered how many with me would die before it was over. The miles sped us away from London, but I could not flee from myself." Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 13. Onboard a train in England. — The dual loss of Inspector Johnstone and Rabbi Metzner has cast a heavy shroud of grief over Carnacki. He stared out the window, not moving, not even shifting in his seat, and barely acknowledging those around him. None of us knew what to say to him. Captain Albion and I provided details of the past few days to the newest member of our alliance, Jacob Wetzel. He is a young man from the West like his friend, Quincey Morris. Wetzel is a quiet man, but whether it is his nature or because of our present extraordinary circumstances I cannot tell. Carnacki’s old friend Adena Metzner slid next to him in our compartment. "You’re not in this alone," she said at last. "I know," Carnacki answered. I thought of adding an encouraging word, but none came to mind. Then Carnacki turned toward us. "We face an ancient and clever foe," he said. "We are in a desperate spot that calls for reckless measures. I hope to rejoin you soon. If not, good luck." With that, he stepped out of the compartment. "Where the devil is he going?" Captain Albion asked. "I think I know," Miss Metzner said. Her brow furrowed with concern. "Wetzel and Albion looked at her with curiosity. "It will be dark soon," I said. "Ah," they said in unison. Albion stood. "Let us hope he knows what he is doing. It’s time for us to do our part," he said. "Sergeant Walekar, stay here with the ladies. I’ll head toward the rear of the train and you two Americans work your way forward. Look for anyone or anything suspicious." Albion looked at his watch. "We should arrive in Liverpool in one hour. Return here in 30 minutes." We headed up the narrow passage, glancing about us. A man in a gray business suit napped. Two women of olive complexion chatted. A young father and mother tried to persuade two young boys from climbing to the top of their seats. We passed rows of similar bored passengers. No signs of sinister figures clad in black, peering over newspapers like in popular fiction. We worked our way through the other cars and back to our compartment. "Anything?" Albion asked. Wetzel shook his head. "Can’t rightly tell." "That’s alright," Albion said. "It was more for their benefit than ours." "I don’t understand," I said. "You’ll see soon enough," he said mysteriously. We sat. Carnacki remained missing as the uniformed railway conductor, known as a ‘guard’ in Britain, announced "Liverpool, 10 minutes." "What if Mr. Carnacki has not rejoined us?" Miss MacKenzie asked. "We continue on," Captain Albion said. "We have no other choice." "What is your plan?" she asked. He held a finger to his lips, which curled up slightly at the corners. Captain Albion’s cryptically replied, "Mr. Carnacki thought it better not to ask so perhaps it is better if I do not say." "I insist on knowing where I am going," Miss MacKenzie said. "We are going to a hotel in Liverpool," the Captain said. The train has pulled into the station. No more time to write.


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