The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XX.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "We disposed of the vampire bodies and reburied the others. Albion and I discussed alerting the authorities to their location. "Though it was cold-hearted, we decided against it. "If we could have, we would have spared their families any more grief than they already had suffered. "However we dared not risk exposure. It would have been impossible to explain our actions to a local police constable. And he would certainly notify his superiors, who in turn would telegraph Scotland Yard. "We believed wholeheartedly that our failure would mean suffering and grief far beyond Whitby. "In the end, Albion and I shoveled dirt over the remains and said a prayer over the bodies. "If we survived, we would notify the police so that the families could put the remains to rest properly. "We rejoined the others and returned to the hotel. "Dawn rose in bright blue sky. The town had a freshly washed sparkle from the previous day’s downpour. We ate breakfast, walked around the town, shopped for a new watch and clothes, lunched, napped back at the hotel, walked some more. All the mundane acts of our day helped us recover from the horrors of the past month. "That night we drank to the memory of Sergeant Walekar and Mr. Griffin’s dead friends. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 21, 8 p.m. Whitby. — Today was how I hoped England would be. This morning at the breakfast table, Carnacki suggested we should plan our next raid into London. Though we did not expect the vampires to still inhabit their lairs on the blood clinic list, they did not know we had the more complete list of properties from the Mitchell, Sons & Candy office. "We still do not know yet Lilith’s scheme and when it is to occur," he said. "A sad lot we will be if we return to London to find out she has already turned it into Hell on Earth." We looked down at our plates and no one spoke. There was an uncomfortable silence. Finally, Captain Albion spoke up. "You may be right. But we are in no shape to risk a return yet. Look, we broke and ran yesterday. We lost the battle. Fletcher would have hunted us down one by one if Lucy had not come to our rescue. I have seen this happen to soldiers. Even the bravest reach a point where they cannot go on. We passed that point yesterday. We need a respite to recover our courage." Albion’s words surprised me. He always seemed the very ideal of bravery to me. "Carnacki, it is not just the danger," he continued. "But enemy soldiers with guns are still human. These fiends, these vampires, they are, they are…." His words trailed off. "Unnatural," the Chief Inspector said. "And ghastly. And I am covered with rat bites." "And we will need all our strength when we face the Hillingham Horror," Adena said. "We do not know what it was that haunted Hillingham. From what you have described it was a most terrible apparition. I have never heard of a ghost with such power. We know what the Hillingham Horror did to my father and to Inspector Johnstone and the others. We need to prepare better. And to prepare properly, we need restful minds." At her mention of the Hillingham Horror, Carnacki’s face paled. He looked around the table at us: Sean Griffin, Jacob Wetzel, Anne MacKenzie, Adena Metzner, Captain Albion, Chief Inspector James and myself. "What do you suggest?" Carnacki asked. "Two or three days and nights without thinking of Lilith or the monsters that await us," Albion said. "Is that wise?" "We could continue on, but with our nerves strung out as they are now we will run away if a vampire says, ‘Boo,’" Albion said. "It is ghosts that say, ‘Boo,’ Adena said. "Although I have never actually heard one say that." "And after two or three days?" Carnacki said. "I will follow you, back to London or to the gates of Hell," Albion said. Carnacki sighed. "Let us hope they do not become the same thing whilst we holiday." After that, we spoke no more of frightful things. We toured the village’s narrow streets and open piers. Adena linked arms with me and I pretended I did not have a care in the world. The thought crossed my mind of my mail stacking up at my hotel in London. There would be letters from the university and from Eleanor. I had missed a book sale at Christie, Manson and Wodds Fine Art Auctioneers I had been anticipating for months. I shoved the thoughts to the side and stood arm in arm with Adena at the end of the pier. Her curly brown hair hinted of a sandalwood perfume. Sunlight sparkled on the water. Colorful lobster traps dried on docks. Anne MacKenzie approached us. "Captain Albion is taking me shopping. Would you like to come?" Adena smiled, but shook her head. "We shall join you later." The others wandered off to different paths. The lapping of the water against the pillars, the nautical smells, the breeze lulled my mind. After a time, we walked the sandy strip of beach. The day did not make me forget the recent horrors. But it reminded me that there was a time before they began. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 20 October, 11 p.m. Whitby. — I nearly kissed Thomas tonight. I think he wanted it as much as I wanted him. In the past, I was accused of an inconstant behavior regarding my men. But it was not my fault that three friends proposed marriage to me on the same day. Jack, Quincey and Arthur were so sweet and handsome, what woman would not want to marry all three of them? I heard the whispers: that I was fickle, that I had behaved with impropriety, that I had been too flirtatious. Perhaps. But no one commented about the behavior of my three gentlemen. No matter how chaste I behaved with them, I was the subject of idle gossip. Now I wish to behave as wantonly as the small-minded speculated I did when I was virginal. Yet I remain chaste. I refrain even though the tension builds until I ache from the pent up passion. Killing Fletcher helped me control my other urges. Sergeant Walekar would have been proud of my beheading stroke. I held my wrist straight just as he taught. The vampire did not even have time to scream before my sword struck him. I wanted to laugh at the look of terror that appeared in the vampire’s eyes! I never imagined how exciting it would be to kill. I want to satisfy all of my lusts! But how long can I strain against the self-imposed chains I have wrapped around my desire? 21 October. 11 p.m. Whitby. — When I woke this evening I was unhappy to find Thomas was not there for me. Instead, Anne and Adena were waiting for me. I hid my disappointment, as they were eager to tell of their day. Their description of the sights they had seen and the walks they had taken reminded me of many of my own memories of Whitby with Mina. I made the appropriate sounds during their pauses. They were so eager to share their news they did not notice that at first I listened with only partial attention. Yet as they spoke, their buoyancy lifted me out of my own thoughts and I began to pay closer attention. "Do you like this dress?" asked Anne twirling. "Captain Albion bought it for me." "It is lovely," I said. "We walked together all day," Anne said. "The Captain told me the Sergeant paid me the greatest compliment when he called me a ‘good soldier.’" "You were a quick study," Adena said. For a moment we sat remembering Walekar. "Edgar misses Prem terribly though he won’t admit it," Anne said. "The poor Captain has had so much sadness in his life." Anne twisted the kerchief she held in her hands. "Do you think it terribly forward of me to have spent so much time alone with the Captain?" she asked. "It’s just that I’ve never been out walking with a man before. There were certainly none like him at the asylum." For some time, I had suspected that Anne is deeply in love with Captain Albion. Her tone of voice confirmed it though whether she knows she loves him, I cannot say. "I went out walking with Henry," Adena added. "That is not the same," Anne said. "Henry is bespoken for and is like a Dutch uncle. The Captain is none of those things." "No," I told her. "I do not think it wrong that you spent the day with him." At half past 6 o’clock, we met the others in the lobby to drink our toasts to Sergeant Walekar. The others credit me with saving their lives yesterday. I do not know about that. But if I did, it is because Sergeant Walekar taught me how to wield a sword. Albion raised his cup to his comrade’s memory. "In his native tongue, Prem means ‘love’ and Kumar is ‘prince,’" Albion said. "In the Bible, a man shows the greatest love when he gives his life for another. Sergeant Premkumar Walekar died rushing to the aid of others. He was a true prince of love." We drained our cups. I do not know what seized me. But when our cups refilled, I stood and held mine aloft. "God save the Queen." The others stood. "God save the Queen." We spoke at length about Walekar. Albion told us tales from their days in India — riveting stories about a good life. I looked at my friends around the table. I have not known them long. How good they all are to me. I quite love them all. I cannot help but wonder who will die next. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "We spoke long into the night. The next morning, I woke at 3 o’clock from a frightful nightmare that caused me to bolt upright in bed. It made me sympathize with Lucy, who often had bad dreams since before and after her death. "I dressed and walked outside. In the dead of night, the town had a deserted air. Hoping to clear the dreadful memory of the nightmare, I walked to the beach. "The sky seemed filled with stars. As one shot across the sky, I made a wish. "Lucy appeared beside me. ‘I heard you wake. I would have followed you sooner, but I had to dress. Is something wrong?’ "‘Just a nightmare,’ I told her. "Quietly we stood together on the sand. Lucy seemed preoccupied with her thoughts, but I was grateful for the silence and her company. The brisk breeze blew off the channel. The stars began to fade as the sky lightened in the east. Fishermen walked down the pier and sailed off on their boats. "‘Come,’ I told her, ‘we need to get you back to your coffin so you can rest.’ "We walked up the hill to the hotel and I saw her to her room. "I went back downstairs. Huxley also had woken early. With a sleepy yawn, he asked if I wanted coffee then brought a mug to me in the lobby where I sat in a wing chair, deep in thought. "I kept my thoughts to myself as the others made their way down. Jacob was first and we moved to the dining hall. The others, except for Lucy, followed. Griffin arrived late, but joined in with a hearty appetite. "After breakfast, we decided to spend at least two more days in Whitby. I wanted to explore Fletcher’s office to go through his files. I did not expect to find any useful information, but I preferred not to lose any opportunity to examine potential leads to Lilith. "Adena asked to me to delay the investigation for a time. "‘Spend the day with me,’ she said. ‘I have a surprise for you.’ "The others excused themselves and slipped away with knowing smiles. "Uncertain what to expect, I held my arm out as she placed her arm around mine and led me outside. The sun was bright and the autumnal weather comfortably warm. I recognized the look of mischief on her face. ‘What are you up to, Adena?’ I asked. "‘You shall see,’ she smirked. "We had only walked a short distance when Adena guided me inside a Turkish bath house. She had paid the proprietor to close the establishment to other customers for the day. Except for Lucy, who slept in her coffin, the others were already there. Though the facility normally only served men, Adena had paid enough money that the owner decided to temporarily change the policy. "‘Adena, you cannot afford this,’ I said. "‘But Lord Godalming can and he is paying for it, though he does not know it yet,’ said she smiling. "Albion nodded in agreement. ‘Do not worry. Arthur did advance us money to use as needed.’ "‘Besides it did not cost as much as you might think,’ Adena said. ‘It is the off-season and business has suffered with the loss of holiday travelers frightened away by the disappearances.’ "I surrendered and joined the others in getting undressed. The gentlemen and ladies were separated by a row of lockers. We put on robes and entered the steam bath to soak in the heat. "I do not know what thoughts occupied the others, but I decided to simply enjoy the peacefulness. I pushed aside all thoughts of Lilith and hoped the others did, too. "Though I did not say it, when I considered the odds facing us, I made a promise to myself to enjoy the days and nights I had left. Albion had been right. We needed the rest before we rejoined the battle. "The steam heat loosened aching muscles that had been tense for so long I had not realized how tightly knotted they had become. "I leaned back, resting my head on a towel I had rolled into a pillow against the tile. Adena sat beside me. Her robe had slipped, exposing her milk-white shoulder. Though shocked by the sight, I decided to say nothing of it for her eyes were closed and she had fallen asleep. I closed my lids and soon drifted off myself. "Eventually, one by one, the staff came for us to take us to massage tables where with well-oiled hands the masseuse prodded and rubbed away our bodies’ remaining tension. "I do not know what the proprietor or his staff thought of us — this diverse lot, speaking only the most inane of comments. I hesitated to talk about serious matters, mostly so as to not to spoil the moment, and, of course, because of the chance of being overheard. "We were a battered lot. I had black stitches in several places and Jacob had a thick row of stitches across the right side of his face. Red spots dotted the white bandages wrapped around the rat bites on several of us, particularly the limbs of Albion and James. "Our time in the Turkish bath passed too quickly. At noon, we rinsed one last time, dressed and departed. "We ate a pleasant meal with good wines. We strolled on the beach and upon the cliff top. "Lucy joined us in the evening and we cracked open fresh lobsters at a lovely restaurant, the Magpie Cafe. She had taken care in her dress and hair; she looked bewitching. "There was laughter again. For two nights we lived well. Bonded by terror and grief, our friendship had been made all the stronger. "Adena and I had spoken before about the harmony among our group. But what I later came to realize is that when you are close to death, you love your life and your friends more deeply. If we all could live always as if it were our last days, there would be fewer quarrels, far less pettiness, more courtesy and generosity, more leisurely meals and wine, and more peaceful hours at Turkish baths. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 22 October. 11 p.m. Whitby. — Despite a wonderful dinner party tonight, I sit here writing in my diary feeling deeply frustrated. I had such happy hopes for this evening. Jacob told a most frightful ghost story. He has become such a good friend and reminds me of Quincey in many ways. How does America make such noble men? Many nights, after the others have fallen to sleep, Jacob and I sit quietly playing cards. In Osmotherley, he taught me many variations of the American game of poker such as "black jack" and "five card draw." I seldom win and I owe him a large sum of money. With my luck at cards, he boasts he would soon own Hillingham. Tonight, though, my thoughts were of being alone with another man. I wanted to look especially nice for Thomas, who woke early this morning from a nightmare. I put extra effort in picking out my dress and I pulled Anne away from Captain Albion’s side long enough to help me do my hair. My plan was thwarted, however, and I never seemed to catch Thomas alone after supper. The others always seemed to be in conversation with one or the other of us. It seemed as if fate conspired against me this evening. I hear Jacob’s knock. Perhaps I shall have better luck at cards. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 22. 11 p.m. Whitby. - After the events of two nights ago when Lucy and Thomas nearly kissed, we decided drastic steps were needed to keep the two of them apart. Late last night, Adena knocked on the door to my room. I had just finished writing in my journal and was about to go to bed when she asked me to join her, Anne, Captain Albion and Chief Inspector James at a nearby tavern. We left Jacob and Griffin at the hotel with Lucy and Carnacki. Sitting in a dark corner away from the other patrons, Adena brought up her concern that Lucy’s attachment to Carnacki may have reached a mortally dangerous stage. "It is simple enough for one of us to always be with them," Chief Inspector James said as we huddled around a corner table. "But is it really necessary?" "Yes," several of us said at once. "She does seem rather keen on him," the Chief Inspector said. "Surely she wouldn’t harm him." "You cannot forget what she is," I told him. "She looks human, but she is not. She could turn him into a vampire with an exchange of blood just as Count Dracula cursed her. Carnacki eventually would fade away and die to rise again as one of the Un-Dead." "How do we know she hasn’t already infected Carnacki?" Anne asked. "There’d be a bite mark on him," Adena replied. "I haven’t seen any on his neck, but it could be any where." "We’ll ask him to submit to a search," the Chief Inspector said. "He’d be furious," Adena said. At this, we sat stumped. I ordered another round. We had not thought of a solution by the time that we finished our beers. Then, as we walked down the street back to the hotel, Adena stopped us. "By Jove! I’ve got it," she exclaimed. "By Jove! Lucy is not the only one spending too much time lately with Carnacki," Anne laughed They both burst into girlish giggles. I hope I can always remember their mirthful sounds echoing in the streets that night. It was one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard. Adena pointed up to a sign above us, "Turkish Bath." We soon joined them in laughter. Adena and Albion knocked on the door of the establishment until the proprietor, who lived in an apartment above, answered. They quickly turned his anger into happiness with a show of money. This morning, Adena led Carnacki to the bathhouse where we slyly inspected him for bite marks. A rat or two had bitten him, but Lucy hadn’t. We are confident he has not been infected by vampirism. We mean to keep it so. Carnacki did notice our stares, but quick-witted Albion said there was a bet on who had the most scars. "Scars are the keepsake mementos of the body," the Captain said. However, our chief conspirator, Adena, may have trouble living down the day. Instead of examining Carnacki for bites as we all were to do, she fell asleep next to him. Tonight, we each found reasons to converse with Lucy and Thomas. I found myself discussing the haunted houses of England with Carnacki seemingly for hours while Anne and Adena kept Lucy occupied. After dinner, having run out of topics to speak upon with Carnacki, I called for a ghost story. To our amazement, Jacob motioned with his right hand. "I’ll go," he said. We all turned in surprise. "Excellent," Carnacki said with genuine eagerness. "Mr. Wetzel, the floor is yours." Jacob Wetzel’s Tale (as recorded by Henry Armitage). This is a story about revenge and a ghost that would not stay dead. A man, a boy really, let’s call him Martin, was rounding up stray cattle. When he returned home, he found a terrible crime had been committed while he was gone. His family had been murdered. He tracked the outlaws and shot four of them dead, but one of the fellows escaped. He hunted him for weeks across hot, thirsty deserts, until he finally caught him and took his scalp. The boy was in the right, but he was not within the law. The Sheriff put him in jail to await trial. An Indian boy was in another cell for a different reason. "Black Eagle," asked Martin, who was 15 years old, "are you scared of dying?" "Yes," said Black Eagle. Though an Apache brave he was only 14. "Are you?" "I am," Martin said. (Adena interrupted Jacob’s story. "What crime had Black Eagle committed?" she asked. "Being an Indian," Jacob replied. "Is that against the law?" Adena asked in a shocked tone. "In some places, it is," Jacob answered before resuming.) Martin and Black Eagle waited in despair, the days passing slowly and the nights even slower. They tried not to think of dying at the end of a rope, but they were young and thoughts often entered their minds unbidden. After their third night in jail, Martin tossed and turned on his narrow bunk, his sleep haunted by the red swath of vengeance he had cut across the country. Martin heard a noise loud enough to wake him. Shuffling footsteps came across the floor and he thought an old deputy was coming back to look in on them. Then, he reckoned who approached. The last man he had killed was coming for him. Martin waited as scared as could be while the steps got closer and closer and closer until he could see a dark shadow of a figure outside the cell door. Then, the dead man passed through the barred door. Unable to turn away, Martin saw the face, the horrible dead face. The man’s mouth opened, but he could not speak. A dark gash crossed his neck and the white bone of his skull glistened where his bloody scalp had been lifted. The dead man’s hands reached out and clutched Martin’s throat, squeezing the air out of him. Martin bolted out of the cot. The cell was empty. He shook from the recollection of the nightmare. Black Eagle called over to him. "What is it?" "A bad dream is all," Martin replied. Martin wrapped the thin blanket around him and sat on the edge of his cot, too frightened to go back to sleep. Eventually, he told Black Eagle about his nightmares. Nearly every night the ghost returned. When Black Eagle was released — no rope as he had feared — he kept visiting Martin in the jail. Martin’s trial date arrived and the jury found the boy not guilty. Martin sighed with relief, not just from having escaped a guilty verdict and hanging, but because, he believed he would now be able to escape the ghost as well. A local rancher offered the boys work. Martin and Black Eagle took the jobs since they had no place to call their home. The first night, Martin fell asleep in the bunkhouse confident that the ghost was gone. He woke to find the ghost pulling his hair, clutching it in his bony hands and lifting Martin up by his scalp. The dead man smelled awful and worms crawled out from his slit gullet. Martin tried to wake from the nightmare only this time he could not. The dead man leaned closer to Martin, and his yellowed teeth widened as if to bite Martin’s face. Martin woke in a cold sweat, panting, and his hair damp against his forehead. "Did you see the dead man again?" Black Eagle asked. "Yes," Martin said. "Closer than ever." In the morning, they rode away, telling their boss they would return as soon as they could. They rode hard and that night they huddled around their campfire too scared to sleep. Before the sun had risen over the horizon, they took to their horses again. They arrived at the dwelling of a Navaho shaman. The shaman told them the ghost wanted his scalp back. The prosecutor had kept the scalp as evidence, but they did not know what had become of it. When they rode back to the town, the attorney refused to tell them, believing they wanted to keep it as a trophy. But when they questioned him, he had glanced at a filing cabinet. After the man left his office for lunch, they sneaked inside and found it in an oiled leather bag filled with salt to preserve it. After dusk, they went to the cemetery and dug a hole down to where the ghost’s body had been lain and buried the scalp with the corpse. They returned to the shaman. The boys were near dead from being so tired. He chanted and they slept. The next morning he put Martin in a sweatbox until he cleansed him of the evil spirit. And after that, the ghost haunted Martin no more. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. (October 22 — continued.) Jacob stared at the burning embers in the fireplace as he finished his grisly tale. No one spoke. The fire crackled and threw up sparks. "Thank you for that, uh, most interesting story," Carnacki said at last. "Would you like to analyze it?" Adena asked mischievously. "Oh God no!" Carnacki replied quickly. Captain Albion handed Jacob a drink. "You told your tale well, my friend." "Thank you, Captain," he said. "I’ve not done much story-telling before and it did frighten me."


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