The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter VIII.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "I met Mr. Morris at the old tavern, the Spaniard. I spotted him sitting alone at a table in the corner with a drink in front of him. "‘I want to tell you a story,’ Mr. Morris said to me as I pulled up a chair next to him. "He told me America’s Western frontier could be a lawless, violent place. In 1888, a man living on a remote ranch in the Arizona territory befriended several Indians and gave them jobs rounding up stray cattle. One day, a gang of ruffians known as the Ku Klux Klan rode out to the man’s ranch with the intention of frightening the rancher into sending the Indians back to the reservation. However, the confrontation turned into a violent rampage. The gang killed the rancher, his wife and daughter, and three Apaches. "The family’s only survivor was the rancher’s 15-year-old son, who had been away searching for stray cattle. "When the boy returned, smoke still rose from the burned-out homestead. The son found his father hanging from a tree with the three Apaches dangling next to him. His mother and 13-year-old sister had been raped and shot to death. "The boy buried the dead in a shallow trench, choked out a quick prayer over the bodies and jumped on his horse. "The Klansmen had not bothered to hide their tracks and the boy followed easily. He caught up to the men the next day and ambushed them, firing his rifle into the outlaws’ camp from a cliff above. The boy killed three within moments and wounded a fourth while the fifth raced away on horseback. "The wounded outlaw returned fire and it took the boy a time to flank the killer’s position. When he did, he discovered the man had bled to death from the earlier gunshot wound. The outlaw had delayed him, though, and gave the last killer, Earl Newell, time to getaway. "The boy pursued, riding trails through desert and mountain country few but bandits had ever seen until he crossed the Texas border. "Newell must have believed he had lost the boy. But the boy found Newell walking out of a saloon. In broad daylight, in front of witnesses, the rancher’s son shot Newell in the abdomen. Newell screamed in agony, but he did not immediately die. "Mr. Morris paused in his tale at this point, and took a long drink. ‘I was one of the witnesses,’ Morris continued, his voice so low I had to lean forward to hear him. ‘I had ridden into town to order supplies for my father’s ranch. The boy held his gun on those of us nearby while he walked up to the wounded man. As Newell begged for life, he screamed out that the attack had not been his idea, that he had not wanted to kill anyone. With a cold look and as quick as a rattlesnake’s strike, the rancher’s son holstered his revolver, drew his knife, grabbed Newell’s hair, and cut off the man’s scalp. The scream was the worst sound imaginable. The boy then slit Newell’s throat. The blood pouring down Newell’s gullet choked off the dying screams. The ferocity shocked even men hardened to violence.’ "Mr. Morris motioned to the barmaid for another drink. ‘The boy turned to leave, but the others and me had drawn our guns on him. We did not know of the boy’s feud with the slain man. The Sheriff arrived and took the boy into custody. Before the trial, people arrived from Arizona, saying they wanted to testify on behalf of the boy. The story came out about the massacre at the ranch and the boy’s vengeance for his family. "‘But the last killing had not been self-defense,’ Mr. Morris said with a sigh. ‘Even frontier justice has its limits. Newell had not reached for his gun when he was shot in cold-blood. The boy was held for trial. Despite the evidence, the jurors — either out of sympathy or because of my father’s bribes — found the boy not guilty and the Sheriff released him. "‘My father is a very wealthy man or else he might have had trouble,’ Morris said. ‘Many of the folks could sympathize with the boy for killing the murderers of his family. But the way he had done the last, well, that was something that shocked even me, and I’ve knocked about the world a bit. "‘Why are you telling me this?’ I asked, unable to keep from giving voice to my abhorrence. "‘Because I have sent for him,’ Mr. Morris replied. ‘His name is Jacob Wetzel. During the trial, my father sort of adopted Jacob. We are as close as if we had shared the same parents. When I realized we were in a desperate fight to save Miss Lucy, a woman I dearly loved, it was Jacob I wanted guarding her. Too late did I realize the danger Miss Lucy faced — for we thought she had an illness at first — or I would have sent for him sooner. I do not know if he will arrive before we depart for the Continent or not, but I will leave word for him to help you hold down the fort here. Jacob is a good man. He is loyal and brave and comes from fighting stock. His ancestors have a bloody history dating back to when America still belonged to you fellows.’ "I leaned back in silent thought. The idea of such a lawless, merciless killer serving along side the Inspector and myself troubled me. My silence may have told Morris more than my words could have conveyed. "‘I thought it best you should know his story,’ Morris said. ‘Jacob means the world to me. He sometimes can be withdrawn and shy around people. He can go days without speaking to anyone. Not from spite, but because of the way he is. I thought if I told you about Jacob’s past, it would help you understand him and take him under your wing.’ "I looked closely at Mr. Morris. In his eyes was a deep understanding of what he asked of me. Although he had spoke of the kinship he felt to the boy, he had not hidden the horror he had felt as he recounted Jacob Wetzel’s brutal killing of another man. Yet I certainly could understand why Mr. Morris had sent for such a man when he and the others had sought to guard Miss Westenra’s life from Count Dracula. Now I had an entire city to protect from diabolical fiends. "‘I will be most happy to have him by my side,’ I told Mr. Morris. "‘You won’t regret it,’ Mr. Morris said, a relieved look appearing on his face. "We clinked glasses and then Mr. Morris added, ‘There was one other thing I wanted to discuss with you. It is about Miss Lucy.’ "‘What is it?’ "‘What will become of her?’ he asked. "‘I do not know,’ I answered honestly. "‘You may not know this, but Arthur, Jack and I all proposed to her on the same day,’ he said, blushing. ‘She chose Art. To Art, she is dead. He wants revenge and I mean to help him get it. To Jack, her being a vampire strikes him as so unnatural that it troubles him to his core. But to me, she is Lucy. After this is over, what is her future?’ "‘I do not think it shall ever be over for her,’ I replied. ‘I do not believe there is a cure for her condition.’ "‘No, I did not reckon there would be,’ Mr. Morris said. ‘But is she a monster?’ "‘Truly I do not know,’ said I, speaking with less than full candor for I worried my reply might reach Van Helsing’s ears. ‘I do know she is pulled between her lust for human blood and her fear of hell. There is no question her existence on Earth will be a difficult one. I do not see how she will ever resume her place in society.’ "‘That’s what I feared," Morris said. ‘But one of the great things about my country is people can reinvent themselves there. Folks immigrate from all over the world and in America they get a clean slate to write the story of their lives. Maybe Lucy can move with me to America.’ "‘Are you saying you still wish to marry her?’ I asked incredulously. "‘No,’ Morris answered quickly. ‘She picked Art over me and I’ve got my pride, too. But I still care for her. She could live in a nice cabin on our ranch.’ "‘Do you want me to suggest this to her?’ I asked. "‘I’ll do it when we get back from putting this Count Dracula down for good,’ he said. ‘I wanted to see what you thought of my idea and give you time to mull it over.’ "‘At first glance, your plan has merit,’ I said. ‘You are a truly noble man.’ "He smiled and told me he would send his brother to me as soon as Jacob arrived. "Morris paid our bill, we shook hands again and parted. "Of course, I did not know it then, but it was the last time I was to see Quincey P. Morris of Texas alive. On the 6th of November, moments after plunging his Bowie knife into Dracula’s heart, Mr. Morris died from wounds he received in the battle. "When I returned to Hillingham, I asked Armitage how their evening had been, he told me they had passed it playing cards. "I escorted him to the door. ‘Inspector Johnstone stopped by,’ Armitage said as he stepped outside. ‘He left a note for you and spoke to Miss Westenra.’ "I bid him goodnight and then went inside. I greeted Miss Westenra and sat down at my chair. She was at her desk, writing away in her diary. "‘You have become quite a scribbler, Miss Westenra,’ I said. "‘It helps pass the time,’ she said. ‘I picked up the habit from Mina. How is she?’ "‘Mr. Morris told me she is as well as can be expected. I have not met her or her husband.’ "‘You would like her,’ Miss Westenra said. ‘She is the most thoughtful friend.’ "I nodded and picked up the note Inspector Johnstone had written. ‘Meeting with the Chief Inspector did not go well,’ he wrote. ‘I’m lucky he did not commit me to Dr. Seward’s madhouse. Meet me at my place in the morning. We’ve got work to do.’ "After I read it, I glanced over the two notes Mr. Morris had delivered to me regarding Miss MacKenzie, the woman chosen to serve as Miss Westenra’s companion. Letter, Dr. Seward to Mr. Carnacki. 5 October Dear Mr. Carnacki, Final arrangements have been made for Lucy’s secretary to join you. The young lady’s name is Anne MacKenzie. There are some things I should tell you of her. She is no longer my patient, and, God forgive me, she should never have been. Arthur’s aunt, a sweet woman, has taken her under her wing. Although Miss MacKenzie and I did not part on good terms, I have nothing but kind feelings and best wishes for her. Although I cannot disclose the nature of my talks with her since she was my patient, I can say I always found her intelligent and often delightful company. I hope things are well at Hillingham. Please let me know if there is any assistance that I can render you. Humbly your servant, Dr. John Seward Letter, Miss MacKenzie to Mr. Carnacki. 6 October Dear Mr. Carnacki, I am writing this by way of introduction since we shall be spending time together in a most unusual manner. Dr. S. told me he informed you of the circumstances of my meeting him. He said you are an investigator of ghosts. I have been visited by a spirit, which inadvertently led to my confinement at his lunatic asylum. I shall join you soon, but Dr. S. and Lord G. believe it best if I rest for a few days before doing so. They may be correct. Until now, I had not realized the importance of silence, no doors slammed, no cages rattled, no howls or patients’ gibberish, no screams or wails or incessant talk. As I sit here in Lord G.’s home writing this letter, I am surrounded by quietness. For months, I lived amongst constant noise. I do not know which I cherish more: My freedom? Or silence? Dr. S. had tried to "cure" me, to convince me that I had imagined seeing a ghost, that I was wrong to frighten others with my tales. He made me doubt my own memories, doubt my own sanity. For that, I cannot forgive him despite his kindness throughout my time in his asylum. His cure nearly drove me insane. And yet, I had begun to look forward to his visits for his gentle manner and his sincere, open desire to see me become well. But, even though I was not overtly mistreated under his care, I was surrounded by lunatics. The nurses were not much better with their vile resentment whenever I tried to assert my independence. I can still feel the sting of their scrub brushes as they bathed me and the strong grip of their fingers pinch me as they strapped the restraining jacket on me. Dr. S. has experienced his own horror lately. It is obvious on his worn face. When Dr. S. told me how he had been wrong not to believe me and I would be released, he must have expected gratitude from me. Instead I slapped him. The rebuke stung both of us and he begged for my forgiveness. Once I regained control of my emotions, he explained what had occurred that had convinced him of the supernatural. He told me of the post of secretary-confidante to a vampire and that the lady’s former fiancé, Lord G., would pay well. As he sat at his desk telling me this, I wanted to hurl his words of before back at him. But I had to look at my situation pragmatically. Because of my ward, I have no funds and after months of confinement in the asylum I have no prospects of either a decent marriage or of decent employment. Dr. S. proposed my going to Lord G.’s for a few days of quiet before assuming my new duties. Yet I also am eager to meet her and you. After so many months of being told the unearthly does not exist, it will be a pleasure to be with those who know the reality of the supernatural world. Sincerely, Miss Anne MacKenzie


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