The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XI.)

Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 14 October, 4 a.m. Osmotherley. — I am close to where my nightmare began. Whitby lies about 30 miles to the east. There is where I spent my last, wonderful holiday with Mother and Mina before the ghost ship carrying Count Dracula arrived. In life, and now in death, I have traveled such a strange journey. I write this by the light of a sputtering lamp at a small table in an old farmhouse. Mr. Wetzel and Captain Albion also are awake and on watch outside. Albion’s Indian servant, Premkumar Walekar, sits close by ostensibly to wait upon my needs though he acts more like a sentry. It does not matter for I am free! But as Mina often told me, I am getting ahead of myself. The horror of last night seems an age ago. Mr. Carnacki and I were on the verge of a quarrel - though I cannot remember why - when a terrifying ghost arrived. I trembled with fear when, to my amazement, Mr. Carnacki stepped across the chalk-drawn barrier to stand between the horror and me. For hours, fear gripped me until the break of day drove away the ghost. I tried to — no, I shall not even write here where I keep my private thoughts what I tried to do. But I saw the dawn! A glorious sunrise! Afterwards, as I entered my coffin, uncertain as to my fate, my last waking thoughts were joyful — at least I had seen the rosy clouds and golden light of one last sunrise. When I woke, the swaying motions and rolling rattle of steel wheels on tracks told me I rode a train. I stayed in my coffin and listened. I heard one heart beat close by and recognized it. "Good evening, Mr. Carnacki." I materialized beside him. I had never been inside a baggage car and the strangeness of my surroundings fascinated me like the time I wandered into the servants’ quarters as a young girl playing Jungle Explorer. Crates, trunks, luggage and bags were piled around me. The wood floorboards looked dusty. Mr. Carnacki sat on my crate. "Good evening, Miss Westenra," he said, rising to his feet. I took a seat on my crate and motioned for him to sit beside me. I glanced again at his face. He appeared haggard. "Miss Westenra," he said, then hesitated. I interrupted. "Mr. Carnacki, after the ordeal we shared together last night, would you please call me Lucy? And may I call you Thomas?" "Miss —," Thomas began, then correcting himself, "Lucy, I have decided to free you. As you may have noticed, there is no pentacle around you, no wild rose or garlic on your coffin to trap you." "Where are we?" I asked. "Other than onboard a train, I have not the slightest," he answered. "We have fled London to escape from Lilith’s spies, who may be following us even now." "But I may leave?" "You’re free to do whatever you want," he said. "Listen, I believe the entity that entered your home last night was after me and not you. I suspect it was one of Lilith’s horrors sent to destroy me. You are free. Free to join me in a desperate cause and do battle with Lilith or slay me and unite with her. The choice is yours." As the train rolled down the tracks, my path had come to a fork. Staying with him meant facing horrors such as I experienced last night. He was being hunted by a dangerous, secret foe. If I left him, I would be the hunter. I could prey upon the living and drink of their blood as I had so often dreamt. With the Count departed, giving in to the desire would no longer be surrendering to his wishes; it would be embracing my destiny. Thomas Carnacki was close to me. He could be my first victim. I often had thought of feasting up on him. I could sense that part of him yearned for the death I could give him though at the time I did not know why he did. There also would be other passengers upon the train to slay. From there, I could travel to lonely villages where I could do as I wished with no inhibitions, filling my nights with red slaughter. The core of my vampiric nature trembled with desire at the mere thought! Yet Thomas had placed himself between the ghostly entity and me to shield me with his own body. Last night, he had the chance to flee, but he had not — even though he knows to fear me. We had both assumed the entity had come for me yet he had not abandoned me. He had been willing to sacrifice his life for me. "Lucy?" he asked, interrupting my thoughts. His steady gaze met mine. I realized how close we sat to each other. Being with him made me want to hold on to the remnants of the goodness that remained in the recesses of my being as long as I could. "I will stand by you," I said. He appeared markedly relieved as if I had lifted a burden from his shoulders. "I am glad. I hoped, I somehow knew…." I held up a hand to stop him. I owed him the truth. I had not killed the children in Hampstead Heath when I bit them, but that was when I was newly risen as a vampire. I do not know if I’d have the same reluctance now. "You do know I am changing?" I asked him. He nodded solemnly. "I have noticed." "I may not be able to control myself," I said, my voice dropping to a whisper. "Yes," he said, again looking into my eyes. "I considered that." I shook my head. "Then why are you freeing me? Do not think me ungrateful. But why?" Thomas bowed his head and I waited quietly, surprised by his long pause and uncertain what to do. A tear flowed along the curve of his cheek until it suddenly dropped with a splash onto the crate. "Lucy," he said. "Inspector Johnstone is dead." I gasped. An image of the Inspector’s friendly face appeared in my mind’s eye. "A lot has happened," he said. "Do you remember my mentioning my mentor, Rabbi Metzner?" he asked. I nodded. Thomas had written him to help study me. I knew he had been eager for the Rabbi’s arrival. "This morning, I sent the Rabbi a telegram, telling him how desperate was my plight was after last night’s haunting," Thomas said. "This afternoon, his daughter, Adena, arrived at Hillingham and informed me that he too is dead. He had studied and lectured on the supernatural over many years and was well known in the occult field." "I am so sorry," I said and I took his right hand in mine. "I know the Inspector thought the world of you," he said. "Rabbi Metzner would have felt the same as well." He paused then held my gaze with his dark, penetrating eyes. "I wish they were here," Thomas said quietly. "I am going to need them." I leaned closer. "Thomas, they will be with you. I have learned this from Mother’s death. They will be here," I touched his forehead with my left hand, "and here," and placed my hand over his heart. We listened for awhile to the clack of the wheels beneath us. Then Thomas turned to me and said, "I made a discovery in the notes left me by Van Helsing. Dracula moved about during the day at times. My theory this morning about vampires and sunlight was wrong." I considered the implications of his words. He had sounded so hopeful this morning when he had suggested that only "evil" vampires might be denied sunlight. "Do you want to discuss the reason for your wishful thinking?" I asked him. "No," he said. "Not yet." Though we did not speak further, we sat together in the dark in a comfortable silence like old friends. Being with him, I no longer felt as conflicted. I felt nearly of a whole mind. The desire to taste his blood did not entirely go away. I knew I could kill him and I doubted if I would truly feel guilt over the deed. But I also knew I wanted his companionship more than ever. I had chosen my path to follow. I am not an animal incapable of control of my impulses and hunger. Dracula had not forced the decision upon me. Not even my mortal life had guided me. I as a vampire had made my own choice. The train slowed. Thomas told me Armitage and others would be awaiting us. He let go of my hand and suggested I return to my coffin in case someone watched. I agreed and entered. I heard the long squeal of the brakes as the train came slowly to a stop. The luggage car doors slid open. Baggage handlers carried off my crate, groaning from the unexpected weight. They loaded me onto a wagon. The others stepped into carriages. Unfamiliar voices, male and female, spoke to Thomas and Henry Armitage. Down brick streets I bounced in my coffin and then the porters slid my crate off the wagon. A clerk asked for their names. The voices of my companions faded and I heard the metal doors of a lift open. The grunting workmen stood the crate on end to fit it inside the lift. Unfortunately for me, they stood me on my head. I turned immaterial and shifted my position. The lift arrived and the porters carried me down a hall and into a room. I heard Dr. Armitage asking them to set the crate down gently and they did. I heard a door open and close with the departure of the porters. A hand knocked on the crate. "You may come out, Miss Westenra," Thomas said. I did and saw quite a crowd gathered around me: Thomas and Henry I recognized, of course, but there were so many new faces. "May I please introduce you?" Thomas said. "This is Miss Anne MacKenzie, Miss Adena Metzner, Captain Edgar Albion, his batman, Sergeant Premkumar Walekar, and Mr. Jacob Wetzel. This is Miss Lucy Westenra." "Captain, I have heard of you from Arthur, and Mr. Wetzel, you must be Quincey’s friend," I said. "Call me Jacob, ma’am," he said. Impulsively, I cast aside societal standing. I was dead. I now belonged to a universal social class. I told them all to call me Lucy. Captain Albion pulled out his watch from his vest pocket. "We have only a few minutes before we must leave," he said. "Leave?" I asked. "We just arrived." "We’ll be going out the back," Captain Albion said in a commanding manner. "Prem, would you bring the wagon to the delivery entrance? Thank you." "Gentlemen, please excuse us," Anne said, pulling down the window shades before she herded them out. She smiled at me and opened a trunk. "It is typical of men that they did not take care of you properly," Anne said. "Off with your shroud." I looked down at my burial shroud. The once-white garment was marred by dirt around the bottom from my walks in the cemetery. The right sleeve had been torn at some point. Copperish stains spotted the front. "I had not thought to change," I said dumbfounded. "Of course not," Anne said. "You have had too much else to concern you. And the idea probably never even crossed their minds." Nor had it entered mine. Somehow, remaining in my burial garments had seemed proper. She held up two traveling outfits. "The black or the green?" Anne asked. "Black," I said. "Good choice," Adena said, smiling. "The outfit will look stunning with your fair complexion." "Do you really think so?" I asked, delighted to be talking of clothes with girls again. I had not realized how much I had missed female companionship. I washed up quickly in the basin. Someone rapped on the door. "Step lively," Albion said. "We must leave in five minutes." "Thank you, Captain," Anne answered. I dressed quickly. I could not remember the last time I had brushed my hair. The last time it had been brushed, I had been in the undertaker’s hands. Anne held up my burial gown. "Should I throw this out?" "No!" I gave an involuntary shout as a sudden, irrational panic gripped me. "Please don’t." I lowered my voice to a near whisper. "I’ll need it." Adena nodded in understanding. "According to some legends, vampires must sleep with their burial shrouds," she told Anne. Anne blushed deeply. I feared the spell had been broken. For a moment, I had not been a vampire, but one of them. I bent down to focus on hooking my boots to hide my disappointment. "Let me help you or we’ll never be ready in time for the Captain," Anne said. "Thank you," I said. A look passed between us and she gave my hand a squeeze. "He seems to think we’re soldiers to order about on the parade ground," Adena said. "Does he think one can hook and button the garments in five minutes?" Anne said. "Obviously he’s never put on a dress." "Thank goodness for that," I said. At first, there was no response. Then Adena stifled her giggles behind her hands and Anne followed her. We looked at each other and burst into laughter until the other two wiped tears from their eyes. A sharp knock sounded at the door. "We must be on our way," Albion called. "Should I send Sergeant Walekar in to help?" "Does he know how to put on a dress?" Adena asked, prompting more laughter from us. I pictured the puzzled look on Albion’s face outside the door and laughed all the more. After our laughter subsided into occasional giggles, Adena pressed her hands to her sides and took a deep breath. "That felt good," Adena said. "I have needed that for days." "Me too," I said. In a louder voice, "We’re ready, Captain Albion." "Right," he said with more than a hint of consternation. His tone almost sparked another fit of laughter, but Anne elbowed Adena, and we opened the door with as much dignity as we could muster. As Thomas and Armitage stepped into the room to carry our baggage, they stopped in their tracks with mouths agape and eyes wide with surprise. "Do you like it?" I asked, whirling around to show off the outfit and pleased with the reaction. Captain Albion stuck his head in the door and said, "We must leave. Now." We walked down the back stairs of the hotel, down a housekeeping hall and out through the kitchen. Dr. Armitage and Thomas rode down the lift with the crate. Jacob sat at the wagon with the Sergeant. When the baggage and my shipping crate were loaded we walked a block away from the hotel, turned, walked three more blocks and arrived back at the train station. Fortunately, different porters unloaded the wagon and we stepped into the first-class carriage, taking two compartments. Albion paid the railway guard for the tickets just before the train pulled away. "I meant to leave at the last moment, but that cut it too close," the Captain said. The train picked up speed. Jacob, who watched the platform, made a slight motion with his head, answered by Albion with a similar nod. I’ve never understood how men can appear to communicate volumes with such small gestures to each other. The ladies took one compartment and the men took another. We switched trains twice with short stops on lonely station platforms, the narrow benches and dim lighting providing little comfort. We arrived at Middlesbrough shortly after midnight and switched trains a final time. We stepped off at a little siding at the village of Osmotherley. Albion went into a drovers inn with a large stable. Despite the lateness of the hour, the sound of noisy revelry spilled out the door as he opened it. A short time later, he came out with an older man. "Bless you sir, it is good to see you again," the man said. "Keep the horses as long as you need them." "Thank you, Bill," Albion said. "Not sure how long we’ll be staying, but I’ll be over to see you in a day or two. Give my best to the Missus." Sergeant Walekar and Jacob hitched a team of horses to a wagon and loaded our luggage onto the back. The innkeeper dashed out with a basket. "You’ll be needing this until you can stock up your larder," he said. "My thanks again, Bill," Albion said. We climbed on to the benches on the sides of the wagon and Prem set off. Jacob and the Captain rode horses to scout ahead and behind as if they expected an ambush. The others looked wearied by the journey and the lateness of the hour, but I found the night thrilling. The stars sparkled like diamonds against the black velvet of the sky. The rain had stopped hours before, leaving the air freshly washed. The night smelled of damp heather and fallen leaves. I reached up toward an especially bright star and in the next moment I flew through the air. "Where did she go?" Thomas cried out and the Sergeant stopped the cart. I looked down at them, 20, 50, then 100 feet below. Over the crest of the slight hill, I spotted Jacob, a rifle in his hand, looking ahead as Albion rode behind. The cart followed the ancient, sunken, drovers’ track through hills and meadows I sped off with flapping wings and circled over them. I wanted to sing with joy! I soared as in my dreams and so did my spirit. I dove and the air rushed against me with an incredible speed. I landed beside the wagon with a flutter of wings and then stood, changing back into my human form. "You turned into a bat!" Dr. Armitage exclaimed. "I did not know you could do that," Thomas said in amazement. "I did not know either," I replied, smiling. "How did you do it?" Armitage asked. I shook my head and shrugged in response. I climbed back on top of my crate. "I have no idea," I said. "I was thinking how beautiful was the sky and how I wanted to reach out and touch the stars and suddenly I was flying." "It was incredible," Anne said. "One moment you were sitting beside me and the next moment I saw a bat flying up." Thomas began to speak, and I recognized the look on his face. I stopped him. "No experiments on me as a bat," I said. "At least, not yet." He could not hide his disappointment. "Maybe someday," I said to placate him. The road curved around a hillside and out from the trees. To the left, open fields lay behind a crumbling stonewall. In the starlight we saw a stone farmhouse, two barns and several smaller outbuildings. "We are here," Albion said. "Where?" Thomas asked. "This farm belonged to my wife’s family," he said. "She was the last of her line. It is miles away from anywhere. I thought of it when you said we needed a secluded place to hide." Albion opened the door and the others entered as I stood by the doorway. Spiders had hung webs throughout the room and corners. Yellowed canvas covered the furniture. The Sergeant lit a lamp that flickered from long disuse. Thomas looked around and noticed I was not inside with the others. He returned to the front door with Albion by his side. "She must be invited in order to enter," Thomas told him. The Captain looked at me with eyes bright with intelligence. For a moment I thought he might be considering the wisdom of Thomas’s decision to free me, but the Captain said with courtesy, "You are most welcome to enter and join us." I stepped inside and stood with Anne and Adena at the fireplace as the men carried in baggage and then struggled with my crate. "You could lift it by yourself, couldn’t you?" Adena whispered. "It might embarrass them," I whispered back. Thomas appeared less alive than I did. "I’ll prepare Defenses for us in each bedroom," he said, stifling a yawn. "Carnacki, you’ll do no such thing," Adena said. "I’ll take care of it." "When did you last sleep, Thomas?" I asked. He looked befuddled. "I don’t remember." Adena led him off to a bedroom and took the stick of chalk from him. Adena prepared the circles on the floor, but soon after she too crept off to bed. Most of the others immediately followed. Dawn draws near and I could stay awake and watch it, but the lethargy has taken hold. I am going to my coffin, happier than I have been in a long time. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "On the train, Adena sat beside me and helped pull me out of my funk. "I realized beating myself up over our losses would only help Lilith. It would not bring back our dead. "I had a choice: to slay Miss Westenra or see if she would join us. I suspected Van Helsing would have told me to do the former. As a vampire, she posed a great risk to us and we already faced grave danger. "Yet slaying her as she slept, to ‘Cut off her head,’ as Van Helsing would say, seemed beyond reprehensible. She counted on my protection. "As I thought about what I should do, I decided the risk was worth taking for her speed and strength would make her a potent ally. My decision to free her may have been mad, but opposing Lilith was even greater madness. "I told the others I would rejoin them and sneaked into the luggage car. "At sunset, Miss Westenra appeared and I explained the situation to her. She took the news bravely of our losses and our retreat from the city. The determined look on her face erased any doubts I had in my decision. "I felt proud of her. Though she may have become an evil vampire, she remained a true daughter of England, eager to defend the realm against the invader. In the gloom of the luggage car, we sat in a companionable silence. Though I still believed our situation desperate, I felt a better man by having her at my side. "We arrived at Liverpool. I had purposely avoided asking Captain Albion of his plan because I had confidence in him and because I had not wanted to know in case anything unfortunate happened in my meeting with Miss Westenra. "By Jove! Captain Albion deserved every bit of my confidence. We left London strongly suspecting we were followed. He counted on it. Consulting a train timetable, he pulled a trick worthy of the most cunning fox to throw any hunters off our scent. "He took us to Liverpool where we checked into hotel rooms then slipped out the delivery entrance and circled around to the train station, leaving any spies watching vacant hotel rooms. "Even if the pursuers determined we were not in the rooms, he had hoped, he explained to me later, our trip to Liverpool would lead them to believe we had escaped on a ship departing the country. "His plan worked brilliantly. Miss Westenra had taken the opportunity of our brief time at the hotel to change into a dark traveling outfit. I was surprised at seeing her in a dress after so many nights of seeing her in her burial shroud. "We crossed the country by train and at last arrived at a small platform siding on the North Yorkshire Moors. We obtained a wagon and horses and rode to an abandoned farmhouse once owned by the family of the Captain’s late wife near the village of Osmotherley. "On the wagon ride, the most extraordinary thing happened. Miss Westenra suddenly disappeared. I had been close to dozing when I heard a shout. Miss MacKenzie pointed up to the starlit sky where a large bat circled overhead. Miss Westenra transformed back to her human form as she swooped to the ground. "Miss Westenra had surprised herself as much as she had us with her transformation into a bat. It made me realize how little I knew about her true vampiric abilities and nature.

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