The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Friday, January 14, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXV.)

Lucy Westenra’s Diary. (24 October — continued). After the doctor finished sewing Thomas’s wound, we renewed our effort against the vampires. Thomas attempted a weak quip, but he could not hide the dread in his eyes. In the cab, he took another drink from his flask. "See, this is why I needed my valise so desperately," he said. "Thomas, I fear the witch hit your head too hard," I said. I cannot recall ever having been in so many houses. I began to feel like some sort of deliveryman. In the past, I suppose I had ridden by many of these same vacant houses. But then it was so easy to look and immediately put aside any thought of their existence. Now I do not know if I will ever forget them. And the interiors of the vampires’ properties! Will I become like this, uncaring if I live amongst ugliness and dust? In Mina’s typewritten notes of Jonathan’s journal I read that Dracula lived in a decrepit castle. The Count had wanted me to go with him. Even if I had been his willing lover, how could he think that I would give up Hillingham for a drafty, vermin-infested, stone ruin in the mountains in the middle of nowhere? Perhaps he knew that eventually I would not care about such things. After all, how long did I stay in my burial shroud before Anne suggested I change clothes? I have digressed, but since it is my diary I am allowed. As we prepared to leave yet another empty house, Thomas stopped me and we looked out the window at three men. Thomas suggested we leave through the back and pulled me along. A man followed us down the alley. We had suspected that some, if not most, of the vampires would have human confederates. Certainly Dracula did in Transylvania and I do here. We were fortunate not to have been surprised by them earlier. But they were after us now. Perhaps they had discovered our earlier handiwork and had set a watch on the other properties of their dark masters. We had become the fox to their hounds. "We should go to the police," I told Thomas. "And tell them what? ‘Pardon me, Constable. These men are interrupting our burglary, arson and vampire killing spree. Would you mind locking them up until we are finished?’" "Please don’t be sarcastic," I said. "Forgive me," he said. "But we’re in a rather tight spot." "We’ll think of something," I said. "I know. I’ll kill them." Thomas winced. "It may come to that," he said. "But let’s wait." "Think of some clever trick," I said helpfully. "Clever tricks work much better in stories than they do in real life," Thomas said bitterly. Then he brightened. "By Jove! You’ve given me an idea." Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "We walked for a time with a man following us from a distance. I caught occasional glimpses of others drawing nearer. I pulled her by the hand until we were running. The men trailing us gave chase. Lucy and I gained briefly, but I knew we would outdistance our pursuers only for a short time. "‘Think of some clever trick,’ Lucy told me, with the tone she must have used on her servants at Hillingham. "‘Clever tricks work much better in stories than they do in real life,’ I explained patiently. She had pinned her hopes on me and I could not think of a way to get us out of the situation. "But as my mind raced, something Lucy said reminded me of her vampiric nature and inspired an idea. ‘This way,’ I told her, leading her into a blind alley, a narrow canyon of walls with no fire escapes. "‘We’ll be trapped,’ she whispered. "‘Hide behind here,’ I said, pulling her down behind refuse-filled barrels. "We heard footsteps hurrying along, echoing off the walls of our alley then fading away. "‘They’ll be back,’ she said. "‘We won’t be here,’ I said. ‘We’re going up. Lucy, climb the wall to the roof.’ "She looked irked at me. ‘I can’t do that.’ "‘Dracula could,’ I goaded. "Her dead eyes stared coldly at me. ‘Hold on,’ she said. "She took off her shoes. I held them with one hand with my arms wrapped around her neck. She gripped a small gap between the bricks and like a spider ascended the wall. I clung to her, fearing I would lose my grip and fall to my death 20 feet, then 30 feet, then 40 feet below. In less than a moment, we reached the top and dropped behind the edge onto the flat roof. With a four-foot-high wall surrounding the rooftop, we did not have to worry about being seen. We lay next to each other — me breathless from my anxiety and she busied putting on her shoes. "‘Knew you could do it,’ I told her. "‘Yes,’ she answered drolly, ‘but I ruined these stockings.’ "Our eyes met and then we smiled at each other. ‘Come on,’ I said. ‘Keep low. We’re not out of the woods yet.’ "We walked across several roofs, keeping toward the middle to avoid being seen from the streets and alleys below. "At last we came to the end of the block of buildings. We sneaked a glance over the edge of the cornice. We saw two men, including a roughly dressed fellow that I recognized from the queue at the blood clinic, and the other in a top hat and business suit. "We ducked down, fearful that our stares would somehow draw their attention to us. We dared another quick glance. They were walking away with their shoulders stooped in disappointment. "We found a rooftop door, pulled it open and hurried down the stairs of the building. We glanced around before stepping into the street, then hailed the first cab. We breathed a sigh of relief at our narrow escape. "I gave the address, but asked the Cabbie to stop half a block away. "We spotted two men lounging in front of 430 Marylebone Road. I had the Cabman take us to the rear alley to drop us off and paid him to wait. "We sneaked through the back of the property and looked in the windows. Seeing no one, I slid a wire between the window frames and undid the latch. I pushed up the window slowly, silently and entered, inviting Lucy in behind me. We crept through the building, as fearful of the men outside as we were of anything inside. "We found a door under the stairs. After a quick glance to make sure that the sentries outside were still at their post, we tiptoed into the dark of the basement. I cast open the shutter of my dark lantern and in the narrow beam I spotted two coffins. Lucy and I looked at each other and nodded. Simultaneously, we lifted the lids and struck, she with her sword and I with my heavy dagger. We drove stakes through their hearts. To my surprise, both occupants were male vampires. Seeing the two coffins side by side, I had assumed that indicated a vampire couple. "We crept up the stairs warily. Taking another quick glance outside, I noticed the lookouts still in conversation. However, one of them suddenly motioned to the other and they headed to the front door. "I had to decide quickly. If we dashed out, they would see us running away. If we stayed, they might take a quick look inside to allay their suspicions and then continue their watch outside. On the other hand, they also might find us inside and then we would have to fight the living instead of the dead. "When I heard the front door open, I shuttered my light and Lucy and I waited on the dark stairs. We heard footsteps cross the floor. "I breathed as softly as I could, my hand on the revolver in my pocket. The steps stopped, the men listening for some moments. Then one man said in a thick, rough accent: ‘I told you there’d be no one in here. Let’s get out before we wake those nasty buggers.’ "‘Right, mate,’ said the other. ‘Just a look downstairs.’ "‘You might wake em and they hain’t behaving like they’re supposed to,’ said the first. ‘Me, I’m getting out of ‘ere. We’re supposed to guard ‘em, not feed ‘em.’ "That seemed to settle the disagreement and the two left, closing the door softly behind them. Lucy and I began to sneak out, but as we crept down the hall I heard a shout. "‘Bloody ‘ell!’ a voice yelled and the front door banged open. "My heart jumped a beat and Lucy and I raced out, hoping the cab driver had obeyed my instructions. He had and we jumped in. "Angry shouts followed our departure, but when we turned to look, we had lost our pursuers. "‘By Jove! that was close,’ I exclaimed to Lucy. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. (24 October — continued). The thrill of our many narrow escapes raised my spirits and aroused such a delight in me that I wanted to kiss Thomas again. Such agonizing ecstasy! At one point, I had to take off my shoes to scale a sheer wall to escape our pursuers. I made a show of putting my shoes back on. I noticed he stole a glimpse of my ankles then quickly looked away. Perhaps I am not the only one filled with torment. Yet as we went to rendezvous with the others at the Strand, Thomas was quiet in the cab as he worried for the others. He asked the maitre d’ if any one had asked for a Mr. Thomas King. When the man replied rather formally that no one had, we went up to a private dining room that Albion had reserved by telegram. Thomas asked the maitre d’ to direct any of our party there when they arrived. When we sat down, I realized why the maitre d’ had turned his nose up at us with such disdain. Thomas was hatless, his curly brown hair was a wild mass. We both smelled of smoke and our clothes were smudged with cinders from our rooftop escape. Thomas glanced to the door and cocked his head as if listening. When he began to tap his fingers against the table, I took his hand. "They will be here," I said. His nervousness was contagious. Anne and Adena had become more than friends to me. We had shared so much. I pictured my last images of them on the train, looking brave, yet frightened as Captain Albion gave them final instructions. I wanted them safely by my side. Hours seemed to pass then we heard the quarter-hour chime. I stared at the clock. Thomas stood and paced back and forth in the small room. I glared at him from the corner of my eyes until he noticed. "Sorry," he said, sitting. The room closed in. I listened to the pounding of his heart. The half-hour chimed and we nearly jumped. "We’ve had nice weather today," he said at last. "Yes," I said absently. We resumed our silence. "I mean despite the fog and chill and all," he said as if there had not been an interminable pause in the conversation. "Um, yes," I replied. The clock ticked. I stood and watched the street from the window. People. Lots of people. None I recognized. The quarter hour chimed. "We need to depart," he said, his voice tight and unnatural. "That was what Albion and I had agreed upon. To not wait if the others were late. Anything could have happened. We have to assume the worst and leave whilst we can." I nodded and reached for the cloth-wrapped scabbard. I glanced up and motioned to Thomas. Footsteps sounded down the hall. Thomas stuck his hand in jacket pocket and I heard the cock of the revolver’s hammer drawn back. He stood sideways against the wall near the door. I moved to the other side.


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1/14/2005 05:20:00 PM  

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