The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XIV.)

Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 15. Onboard a train in North Yorkshire. — We spent the day in York on research. From newspaper articles and obituaries, Carnacki and I compiled a lengthy list of a dozen suicide and accident victims, among them the most respected men in occult and archaeological studies. We suspect Lilith played a role in their deaths. As the list of the dead grew so did my fear until all I could think upon was my own mortality. "By Jove! Look at this," said Carnacki, pointing to a small classified advertisement. "Cash paid for those willing to provide a small amount of their blood for scientific research." The advertisement included an address in the East End. They feed on blood of course just as Lucy fed on my blood last night. My pulse began to race. We would be returning to London where so many of the bloodthirsty fiends waited, where Inspector Johnstone and so many others had already died in this secret war. I expressed my fears to Carnacki, but I should not have done so. The poor man has enough to worry over. Later in the day I went off with Adena Metzner, a delightful young woman. Though she is only 21, she has wisdom under that curly mop of brown hair. The librarian at York Minster, a wizened-faced old man, lit up when we told him we came from Carnacki. In reading through medieval scrolls, brittle with age, a seed of an idea was planted in my mind. I told my thoughts to Miss Metzner and she listened, asking intelligent questions that helped flesh out my idea. We decided to tell Carnacki and the others on the return train ride. "We have a theory," Adena told them as we sat in our first-class compartment. "It’s really Henry’s idea." I leaned forward. For a moment I felt like I was teaching a small class of students eager to hear my lecture. I miss Miskatonic. "We did not find any documents relating directly to Lilith," I said. "But I came up on an old scroll written in the 13th century." I began to give them the arcane details of the document storage at York Minster when Captain Albion gave a polite cough and Miss Metzner suggested politely that I should "get on with the main topic." The scroll was a report of a "faerie" that had been caught in a trap and taken to the priest. He died without recovering from his injuries and the villagers buried him. The document recorded village elders as saying the ‘Little People’ had been common in the past, but they had been dying off and this was the last that was seen in the area. "Throughout history," I explained to the others, "there have been mythical creatures: satyrs, nymphs, giants and dragons. But what if they were real? What if, like the dinosaurs whose fossilized bones are found in rocks, these mythical creatures existed, but their end came and they died out?" "I wonder if all have passed away," Captain Albion said. "There is a persistent legend of a creature like a dinosaur in the jungles of Africa. In India, natives tell of seeing strange, giant footprints of a creature in the Himalayas. The Sherpas say tall, hairy men make them. I thought they were just stories, but until recently that is how I thought of vampires." "Several years ago, well-respected antiquarians I know dug up an Indian burial mound in Pennsylvania," I said. "They found two human skeletons — except they were seven feet tall with horned skulls." "When I traveled the lands of ancient Greece and Rome, numerous tour guides showed me where gods were buried: Zeus’s grave in Crete, Apollo’s at Delphi and Aphrodite’s in Cyprus," Adena added. "Naturalists will tell you of birds and animals that have gone extinct," I continued. "What if the same happened to the gods and creatures of legend? Scripture even refers to ghosts and other gods. Maybe Lilith is acting now because she knows this is the twilight of creatures of the night. Maybe she senses the time of ghosts, demons and witches is nearly over. She has seen gods die, fairy folk and faun fade away. Lilith does not want to follow them from the earthly realm to the mythical." Carnacki put his hand to his chin and stared out the window in thought. His gaze was intense. Then he slowly nodded. "Yes," he said with a smile. "That would explain a lot. But why would she be in England?" "‘What if it is because of the Lord of the Dead?" I asked him. Carnacki’s smile disappeared. "The old legend," he said. "Samhain?" Adena asked. "No," he said. "Samhain is a minor figure accorded greater status by an early scholar who had erred. As you know, little is known of early Druidic practices. But there was a dark god of Death they worshipped. There is an old tale that one day the Lord of the Dead shall be waken and the dead shall rise with him." "Even dead gods," I said. "The Druids who worshipped the Lord of the Dead believed his power was strongest on the night of Halloween and they believed ghosts and witches were most dangerous then," Carnacki said. Captain Albion laughed good-naturedly. "You both had me convinced until that point," he said. "What difference would it make to ghosts and goblins whether it is Halloween or not. Surely they do not look at calendars? Do they go by the Gregorian or Julian system?" "Certain dates hold mystical significance," Carnacki said solemnly. "We do not understand the natural order of the universe, but the order is there behind the chaos." As the others continued the discussion, I lit my pipe and recorded our thoughts in my journal. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Armitage and Adena had developed a theory that Lilith had witnessed the extinction of many creatures of legend and had decided to act before she shared their fate. Our trip to York gave us a clue to investigate, a theory to explore and equipment to forge weapons for battle. I thought the day had been productive. "We spoke at length on the train until we reached Osmotherley. Captain Albion went inside the public house to have a word with the owner and his wife. Two stable boys saddled our horses and hitched the wagon. "When we arrived at the farmhouse, Lucy, Walekar and Jacob joined us outside. We set the bullet molds in a corner of the barn near the forge for the shoeing of horses. Jacob and Captain Albion planned to start work immediately in the morning manufacturing silver bullets. "We crossed the grassy yard between the stables and the house. Lucy smiled as she walked with us. The fresh night air of the country and a change of scenery from Hillingham, which contained so many sad memories for her, helped improve her spirit. Her pale complexion glowed like the moon. She walked alongside Armitage and put a hand around his arm companionably as if to make amends for the previous night when he had provided blood for her. "Armitage told Lucy of the clue we had discovered. He also told her of his theory regarding Lilith. She thought it clever and told him so. By the time we entered the house, she had won him back over with her sincere, open admiration. "We settled in front of the fire. Captain Albion whispered to Walekar, who stepped into the kitchen, and returned with a serving tray and several glasses of brandy. "Captain Albion stood before the blaze, straight as a ramrod. ‘We are at war in the shadows against the dark in a fight to save civilization. We have had our losses: Mrs. Westenra, Inspector Johnstone and Rabbi Metzner. Let us drink to them and may their memory inspire us in the days ahead.’ "We drained our glasses. I glanced at the ladies. They had recognized the deep ritual behind the Captain’s words. "‘Thank you, Captain,’ said Adena, her eyes sparkling with unwept tears. "He nodded to her and sat down as the bottle made its way around. "‘I would like to make the next toast,’ said Walekar, surprising us. "‘I did not think people of your religion drank alcohol,’ Adena said. "‘He is Methodist,’ said Albion, who then muttered: ‘Damned missionaries nearly ruined a good soldier.’ "‘Ah,’ Adena said. "The old Sergeant’s black eyes flashed momentarily at his Captain. ‘As I was saying, I would like to propose the next toast: To her Royal Highness, Queen Victoria. God save the Queen.’ "‘God save the Queen,’ we answered and sat back down. "Jacob departed to take his sentry post outside. Soon Captain Albion went outside to join him. "At one point, I was alone in the kitchen with Lucy. "I asked her if she were drinking the brandy for she seemed aglow. ‘No,’ she replied, ‘but I feel intoxicated nevertheless.’ "I did not quite understand her answer, but she was jubilant. By that point, we all were. Adena and I had shared several anecdotes of her father and I added another about Inspector Johnstone. Lucy also told one of her first meeting the Inspector. Yet our stories were not sad; they were happy ones. "The memory of departed friends and relatives dispelled our fears for the night. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 15 October, 6 p.m. Osmotherley. — Thomas and the others are still away in York, leaving me alone with Jacob and Prem. Last night, Jacob apparently used his quota of words for the month although he has agreed to play cards with me once he finishes his work outside. I have decided I shall work hard to make amends with Henry when they return. 16 October, 4 a.m. Osmotherley. — Hah! I had to put Adena and Anne to bed, drunk as sailors on shore leave. Now I shall have to chide them for their wickedness! Such a night! Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "I awoke late in the morning with a throbbing headache. Captain Albion, Sergeant Walekar and Jacob had already begun making the silver bullets. They showed me what to do, but in the end the skilled work was left to them whilst Armitage and I were kept busy pumping the billows and adding coal to the blaze. "Using the molds and reloader equipment, they melted two silver cups and made nearly 30 rounds of silver ammunition for the rifles and revolvers as well as a dozen shells for the shotguns. "Albion wiped his sweaty brow on his sleeve and asked, ‘When should we leave to investigate the blood doctor on Raven Row?’ "I gave it considerable thought before answering him. We did not know when Lilith would spring her plan into action. Little good our efforts would do us if she succeeded with her scheme whilst we dallied in North Yorkshire. ‘Tonight,’ I replied. ‘Armitage, you and me.’ "The Captain nodded then said, ‘I think Sergeant Walekar and Jacob should begin training the ladies in how to fire the rifles and sidearms. If they are to face the dangers with us, they should know how to defend themselves.’ "Before I could protest, Jacob interrupted me and said, ‘Where I come from, women take up guns when the Indians attack wagon trains and ranches. I reckon English ladies can learn to shoot as well as American women.’ "I was about to argue again for sending the women — at least Miss MacKenzie and Adena — from harm’s way when I recalled Captain Albion’s words of before. If we failed no place would be safe for them. ‘Train them well,’ I said reluctantly. "I looked to Armitage. ‘Have you ever fired a weapon?’ "‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘I have hunted many a time. Mostly duck in Maine, but deer, elk and moose as well.’ "After we finished our labor, we approached Adena and Anne about the firearms training. As Jacob made targets and set them up against a slope of the hillside, Sergeant Walekar and Captain Albion patiently went over the workings of a rifle with them. They showed Anne and Adena how to aim and fire. "The two ladies looked wide-eyed and rather wan as they watched their instructors. They knew what the implications of the firearms training meant. Our respite had taken on a deadly earnestness again. "They listened well to the instructions and watched the men closely. When it came time for them to shoot, they handled the weapons effectively. There was no playfulness in their manner. "Having done very little rifle firing in the past, I joined them in shooting. Jacob also had made a dozen silver rounds of the caliber to fit my heavy revolver. I carefully placed them in a leather pouch and stuck it into my jacket. In addition to the silver bullets, they had made hollow points of the other lead rounds and they packed the tips with crushed garlic cloves. "‘Do you think garlic bullets will kill vampires?’ Armitage asked me. "‘I would bet my life that it will at least injure them,’ I replied. "‘That is exactly what will be at stake,’ he said. "The graying skies turned to rain and we raced to the house. "Those of us going to London took turns bathing in an old copper tub to prepare for the trip. "As I lathered in the steamy, soapy water, my mind seized on the macabre notion of a corpse washing himself for his funeral preparation. "The rain had turned into a raging gale. ‘Should we call off the trip?’ Albion asked me. "‘I fear what might happen if we delay too long,’ I replied. "‘I quite agree,’ he said, picking up his hat. ‘Let’s away. We want to give ourselves plenty of time to catch the train.’ "I nodded. He left to pass the word to Armitage and to saddle the horses for our ride to the station. "We packed only a change of clothes and our revolvers and daggers because the trip was intended as a scouting mission. We needed information desperately to figure out Lilith’s moves and to counter them. "I sat down in Miss Westenra’s room. I had a strong urge to see her before we departed. With the sky so dark from the storm, I could not be certain of the sunset, but from my watch I knew it would be shortly. "She appeared, as beautiful and mysterious as ever. I told her Albion, Armitage and I were leaving for London. "‘You must not," she said to me. "I had a terrible dream about your going." "I inhaled sharply. I asked if she had she seen any specific threat. She had not, only the three of us in danger. It certainly gave me pause because I had not mentioned or decided the night before which of us would go. I made a note to examine her precognitive ability at a later date if I lived that long. "She insisted, with a tone accustomed to giving orders and being obeyed by servants, upon going with us. "I told her farewell and left. "As I bid Adena goodbye, Lucy followed and again expressed her disappointment in not going. Adena said she would speak to her and I stepped into the storm. "In a gloomy mood we rode to the public house where we left the horses at the stable. We stood in silence, soggy from our ride in the cold rain (despite our slickers and hats). We waited under the small platform roof for the train to arrive. "The Captain had planned a circuitous route to make it difficult for anyone to retrace our steps if anything should happen to us. He timed it so we would arrive in London shortly after dawn. "At Middlesbrough, we boarded an overnight sleeper train to Portsmouth and managed to get out of our wet clothes and under the warm blankets. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 16 October. Osmotherley. — Thomas, Henry and Captain Albion have left for London. I fear for their safety, but Thomas insisted the trip is necessary. His departure reminded me that part of me is still — human. Nightmares visited me in my coffin during the day as I slept. I woke to the sound of a raging storm. As lightning flashed outside the window, I materialized. As a child, I hid from such storms. Now the sight sent an electrifying joy coursing through me. Another lightning flash illuminated Thomas sitting in a wooden chair, one leg crossed over his knee. He was dressed in a gray raincoat and he held his hat on his lap. "I was hoping to see you before we departed," he said, standing. "You must not go," I insisted. "I dreamt you were in London and in mortal danger." "Did your dream portend anything specific?" he asked. "No, but I know Captain Albion, Dr. Armitage and you were in terrible danger," I said. "If you must go, at least take me with you." "Soon," Thomas said. "But not yet. You are our secret weapon." He bowed and told me goodbye. Then he walked out the door without a backward glance. I watched him go. A feeling that I would never see him again entered my mind. I ran out of the room and down the hall. Halfway down the stairs I saw him stopped at the door, locked in an embrace with Adena. A tear ran down her cheek. A pang of jealousy shot through me. "So this is why you do not want me with you," I said. They looked up at me with an awkward embarrassment. "No," he said as they let go of each other. "Come on, Carnacki," Captain Albion shouted from outside over the crash of the storm. "We have a train to catch and the muddy road will slow us." "Go, I’ll speak to her," Adena told Thomas. With a last, forlorn look up at me, Thomas stepped into the rain and closed the door. I ran into my room. A moment later, Adena entered. "Go away," I demanded. "We must talk," she said. Human emotions overwhelmed my vampiric instinct. That probably saved Adena’s life. I was too embarrassed and angry and hurt to think of my blood thirst. "Leave me," I said. "Not until we speak," Adena said. I escaped like moonbeams through the window. The rain made my movement sluggish. I thought of transforming into a bat, but knew that I could not fly in such weather. I lowered myself to the ground and ran to the barn to flee the storm. The cold rain soaked me to the skin and I opened the barn’s side door. A lantern hooked to a post cast a golden circle of light. The rain drummed on the roof and rushed like a waterfall down the gutters. The barn was alive with the sounds of mice scurrying and the heartbeats of the horses. The barn smelled of the fresh straw and hay that had been delivered and stored during the day. The door creaked and Adena entered, looking nearly drowned. Her wet hair stuck to her face and her damp clothes clung to her. "Stay away from me!" I shouted, angry with myself that I had befriended people I should treat as prey. "It is not what you think," she said, her wide eyes pleading with me. "It does not matter," I said. "Yes, it does," Adena said. "There is nothing between Carnacki and me. He is like a brother to me." "You are just trying to placate me," I said. "You want me to stay to be his ‘secret weapon.’" "I am telling you the truth," she said. "You are lying," I said. "I thought you were my friend." "I am. Trust me on this," Adena said. "Why?" A guilty look crossed her face. "Because I ask." "You are frightened," I said with delighted malice. "Your heart is beating faster." "I am frightened," she said as her eyes began tearing, "because if I tell you the truth things won’t be the same between us. You won’t be my friend. You’ll treat me differently." I had begun to step towards her, but her words stopped me as completely as if she had held a crucifix. I recognized the sincerity in her voice and the depth of feeling she expressed. Her words echoed my own thoughts from when I met her at the Liverpool hotel. Yet I had to know her feelings toward Thomas even if my own are uncertain. I reached down, pulled her chin up until her eyes met my gaze and asked: "Tell me, are you and Thomas lovers?" I had learned the hypnotic powers of a vampire only too well from Count Dracula. She could not resist my will. A sob came from her. With her voice barely above a whisper, she answered, "Not Thomas nor any man." Her answer was — not what I had expected. "What are you saying?" I asked in confusion. My vampiric domination had burst a mental dam of pent up emotions and her words flowed in a torrid like her tears. "I have known since I was 13 that I only wanted to be with women," she said. "I told Thomas for I had to tell someone. Thomas worried he had somehow caused my ‘unnatural urge’ because when we were children he had always made me play boyish games, serving as squire to his knight. Then when I told Father last year, he blamed himself for raising me without a mother and he blamed the school where he sent me. "Father and Thomas thought they were being kind and tolerant, but they treated my feelings toward women as something wrong, something where blame had to be cast. Why couldn’t they accept it as part of me? "Their words hurt me. And now Father is dead and I can never tell him! And that means it will always be there between us." She fell to her knees, her hands covering her face and great sobs shaking her body. Her confession filled me with such moral outrage that I inhaled deeply though, of course, I no longer breathe the air. I was not naïve. I had heard of such unnatural, depraved women. But I had never met any in my life. She had been correct. Things could not be the same between us. But as I looked at her kneeling before me, I thought of how she had accepted me as a friend. Who was I to feel disgust at her? I had drunk the blood of children and had to constantly fight the urge to kill my friends. Adena had accepted me and had shown me kindness. From her studies of the supernatural, she knew my dark nature better than the others save perhaps Thomas. I suddenly felt ashamed of my earlier jealousy and hypocrisy. I knelt beside her on the dusty floor and wrapped my arms around her. She cried inconsolable tears. As she leaned her head against me, I rocked with her, the way a mother soothes a child. "I am so sorry," I said at last as her tears subsided. "I should not have done that. You must hate me for being such a green-eyed monster. Do you forgive me?" Before she could answer, I whirled her around me, putting myself between her and the source of a soft tread on a creaky board. "Who is there?" I ordered. "It’s me, ma’am," Jacob replied, stepping from behind a stall into the lantern’s glow. "Come out," I said. "Didn’t mean to spy," he said, stepping out from behind a stable wall. "Was just feeding the horses." "Oh no," Adena whispered, her face blushing. I looked at him. He had a broken wooden handle in his right hand. "He thought I meant you harm and stayed quiet to protect you if necessary, didn’t you Jacob?" I said to explain to Adena. "I feared — well, it don’t matter," he said. "I’m glad you two ladies are still friends." I pointed to Jacob’s boot prints in the dust to Adena. He had come within four feet of me before he had backed away. And I had not heard him. "You are very good," I said. He met my gaze with an intense, unwavering stare. "Yes, ma’am," he said. Our eyes remained locked on each other. An unspoken conversation took place and, after a moment, I whispered: "I’ll remember." "Good enough," said he, taking off his jacket and draping it over Adena’s shoulders. He took the lantern off the nail and handed it to me. "Thank you," Adena told him softly. "G’night," he said and tipped his hat to us before he stepped outside. "Now everyone will know my secret," she said sadly. "No, they won’t," I said. "He won’t speak of it. He hardly speaks as it is." "What was that look between you two?" Adena asked. "He let me know I was not the only dangerous one here." "Oh! You wouldn’t hurt me," she said. She had more faith in me than I deserved. "Let’s go inside, shall we?" I said. We raced into the house where Jacob and Prem were cutting the deck of cards. Jacob held up a four of spades. Prem grinned and turned up the queen of hearts. "Dang. Lousy night for guard duty," Jacob said. "What if I do it for you tonight?" I said, looking pointedly at the Sergeant. "I will be awake anyway and I am already wet." Sergeant Walekar looked thoughtful. "Right," he said. "But stay inside. With the storm, there’s no point in being out." Jacob departed for bed. The Sergeant, with a somewhat apprehensive glance over his shoulder, also went off to sleep. Anne, who had been reading by a lamp, looked up. "What were you two doing out in this weather?" "Jacob was feeding the horses," I said. "And we were there, too." Anne got up and brought over a blanket. "Sit by the fire and warm up," Anne ordered. She wished us a good night and went to our room. Adena sat up with me and we talked about her father and Thomas. "So you were Thomas’s squire?" I asked her. "Yes," she said. "After he read Ivanhoe, he was determined to become a knight when he was old enough. He was 11. He wore a bucket on his head for a helm and had a sawed-off broom handle for a sword. I had to carry a dustbin lid for his shield." She kept Jacob’s jacket wrapped around her like a blanket, her legs curled up under her. We watched the embers in the fireplace until she fell asleep shortly before midnight, leaving me to write in my diary.


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