The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XIII)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "The next morning, those of us leaving for York woke before sunrise. I passed a word with Miss Westenra before she went into her casket for the day. "She had a sleepy, content look on her face. ‘Thomas, thank you for including me.’ "I did not have long to puzzle over her words for Captain Albion told me to hurry along because we had a train to catch at daybreak. "We rode off, Armitage, Captain Albion, Adena and Miss MacKenzie, leaving Jacob and Sergeant Walekar at the house with Miss Westenra. We caught a train to Middlesbrough and traveled from there to York. When we arrived we split up, Miss MacKenzie and Adena to comb through medical journals at the local library and Armitage and myself to go through newspapers at the local news service. Meanwhile, Captain Albion went to a rifle shop to buy reloading equipment for making silver bullets. He also procured other firearms. The countryside up there offers splendid hunting and the shopkeeper asked no questions. "We were fortunate to have wealthy companions among our allies. Money provides lots of things, not the least of which is a certain amount of respectability, whether deserved or not. "Armitage and I found several stories of interest. We confirmed what Adena had told us earlier. There had been a series of deaths in late September and early October of some of the leading men in certain fields: religion, archaeology, and medieval metaphysics. I recognized several of the names from their lectures on the abnormal. None of the deaths had been attributed to foul play, but we strongly suspected Lilith behind them all. "Flipping through the classified advertisements of the London dailies, we discovered a notice offering to pay for blood for medical experimentation. The advertisement gave a Raven Row address not far from the Royal London Hospital. "We copied down the street number. Armitage and I leaned back in the wooden chairs. He looked at his fingertips stained black with newsprint. "‘When I left America, I imagined myself going on an adventure by visiting a land I had only read about in books,’ he said. ‘I had not expected to find myself in the middle of a gothic mystery.’ "‘I would understand if you leave,’ I told him. ‘Now may be a good opportunity.’ "He nodded. ‘I wish I could,’ he said. ‘I am scared. We have found an important clue and I should feel glad. But I look at that address and I know we are going to follow it to London.’ "‘You do not have to,’ I said. "‘Would you quit?’ he asked. "I gave his question serious consideration. ‘No,’ I said after a pause. ‘Although I confess I am frightened too, I shall see this through until the end.’ "‘It is the unknown,’ Armitage said. ‘When I was at Hillingham and first heard the ghost, it terrified me. If I could have seen it, I feel I could have faced it. But it’s the not knowing that weighs on me. There were times in London when I suddenly imagined eyes upon me from the shadows. I did not realize at the time I was being followed. I attributed the feeling to nervousness because of the strange research I was doing. But I can no longer put my fear down to my imagination because there is danger awaiting us, deadly danger. We bought time by fleeing London, but we will return. It terrifies me for death could strike us there at any moment.’ "I nodded to him in complete sympathy. "‘Why is it up to us?’ Armitage asked. ‘Why do we not warn the authorities and let them deal with Lilith?’ "‘I wish it were that simple,’ I said. ‘I tried and Inspector Johnstone tried. Lilith and the other creatures have existed on the fringe of myth for so long it is nearly impossible for people to believe in their reality.’ "‘Should we not try again to tell the authorities?’ he asked. "‘I have considered that,’ I told him. ‘My fear is that if we warned those in power about London facing a supernatural threat from a demon, ghosts and vampires, they would believe us mad and commit us to a lunatic ward. How can we take the risk of allowing Lilith to act without any opposition? She has little enough now.’ "Armitage sighed. ‘You have thought this through,’ he said. ‘But why us?’ "‘That puzzles me too,’ I said. ‘Dr. Van Helsing told me several times that when needed, God sent him men to help. I have to ask why God did not organize an army instead of our small band. I take encouragement that there must be a reason.’ "‘What if there isn’t?’ Armitage asked. "‘I know this Henry Armitage,’ I answered him, ‘I could pick no better man in the world than you to have by my side whatever lies ahead of us.’ "Armitage looked at his watch. ‘We should be off to join the others,’ he said. "‘So you will stay?’ I asked. "‘Yes,’ he said, smiling penitently, and we shook hands. "We met with Adena and Miss MacKenzie at the Mount Royale Hotel for tea. We were not surprised to hear them say they could find no recent articles describing any research on blood or blood-related diseases. "I thanked them for their efforts. Adena knew me too well and recognized a note of triumph in my voice. ‘You found something, didn’t you?’ she asked. "Armitage and I told her of our discovery. "‘So that is how she is feeding her vampire horde without their killing indiscriminately,’ Adena said after we finished. "I cringed at her remark. ‘I am not certain Lilith has a horde,’ I said. ‘We also cannot be certain this doctor is connected until we investigate further. And it still does not tell us why Lilith is in England.’ "‘I scribbled a note. ‘The librarian at York Minster owes me a favor,’ I told them. ‘I’d like you and Dr. Armitage to do as much research into Lilith as possible.’ "‘What are you going to do?’ Adena asked. "‘Miss MacKenzie and I will follow up on another matter,’ I said. "We separated and Miss MacKenzie and I walked down a narrow street. The medieval dwellings and shop fronts seemed to lean precariously over the street. "‘Where are we going?’ Miss MacKenzie asked after we passed through the crowd into a more open area. "‘I thought we would take a walk around the wall,’ I told her. ‘We have not had a chance to talk alone since you joined. I hope you do not mind. The day is too nice to spend trapped inside going through musty books.’ "She laughed and tucked her hand over my arm. We walked in a friendly silence across the clearing until we climbed the steps leading up to the wall’s walkway. Much of the wall dated back to the original Roman fortification. "‘I have never been to York,’ she said as we gazed upon the ruins of the old abbey below us. Children in bright blue school sweaters ran across the lawn. "‘I have been here many a time,’ I said. ‘It may be the most haunted city in Europe. Fortunately for me.’ "‘Have you investigated many hauntings?’ she asked. "‘Many supposed hauntings,’ I told her. ‘Very few pass the test once thoroughly investigated.’ "We walked along the parapet. I was glad to have traded another afternoon of research for the colorful scene before me. My mood had been gray, but the yellow sun, the blue sky, the green grass and the orange and red leaves on the trees helped brighten it. "‘You received my letter?’ she asked after a time. "I told her yes. "Miss MacKenzie blushed. ‘I regretted sending it immediately after the post left,’ she told me in a demur voice. "‘Why?’ I asked. "‘I was too severe to Dr. Seward,’ she said. ‘After all, he meant well.’ "‘You have nothing to regret,’ I told her. "She turned to me and asked, ‘What do you mean?’ "‘I met Dr. Seward,’ I explained. ‘He seemed like a good man, but he also shares many of the faults of his profession. He places too much emphasis on the scientific and not enough on the spiritual. He believes he has the answers and is shocked when the facts do not fit his preconceived notions. He is young and may learn to care for his patients rather than to see them as specimens to study.’ "‘That sounds rather harsh,’ she said. "‘If it does, it is probably because I have been guilty of the same behavior as him in the very recent past,’ I said. "‘I slapped him,’ she told me. "‘That probably was the best thing for him,’ I said. " ‘What do you mean?’ she asked. "‘Most people when they do wrong feel an innate need for punishment as a way of penance,’ I answered. ‘It is something I have seen time and again in criminal investigations. The guilty often confess because the burden of a heavy conscience is too great to bear alone. That is why confession is such an important part of many religions.’ "She looked at me in surprise. "‘Not all of my investigations are of the supernatural,’ I said. ‘Which brings me back to you.’ "‘It is hard to talk about even now,’ she said. "‘Because of your experience at the asylum?’ "She lowered her head. ‘Dr. Seward made so many rational points arguing against the supernatural that it made me doubt my own sanity. It is one of the reasons I agreed to this position.’ "I nodded to her and said, ‘Being with Lucy helps prove the irrational, the existence of the abnormal.’ "‘Does that make sense?’ she asked. "‘Inspector Johnstone told me something similar one evening at dinner,’ I answered. "‘You miss him,’ she said. "‘Terribly. In the short time we spent together I grew very fond of him." "‘Lucy said the same,’ Miss MacKenzie said. ‘I believe she would have cried if she were capable.’ "‘I had not realized his death grieved her so deeply,’ I said. "‘She wants to be strong for you,’ Miss MacKenzie said. "We walked quietly whilst I pondered her words. ‘You are changing the subject,’ I said. "‘And so are you,’ she said with a smile. I had worried that her experience at Dr. Seward’s asylum might have scarred her, but she clearly possessed a resilient nature. "I asked her if she would mind if I took notes to have a record of her apparition sighting. She agreed. "She looked out over York as she spoke. She told me her mother had died when she was a child. ‘For years, Father and I lived together quietly, just the two of us,’ she said. ‘That began to change when he hired a female typist, Louisa Madicott, for his office and she became his close companion, so close that I suspected they had an understanding.’ "Miss MacKenzie gazed into the distance. ‘I questioned Father about it and we had a terrible row. Even though Mother had been dead for 10 years, I felt he was being disloyal to her memory. He denied any relationship between him and Miss Madicott, but he had a guilty demeanor. He told me he would replace her at the office if it troubled me that much. "‘I told him it did. I was 17 and petulant. I guess part of me thought since I had always had a close relationship with him that I too would be replaced if a new woman entered his life. "‘He told me he would discharge her at the end of the month when a friend could give her another position at his company. Before the month was over, Father had died — of a heart attack, according to the Coroner’s verdict. "‘Whilst still overwhelmed with the shock of his passing, another surprise struck me. According to his will, Father had appointed Miss Madicott my ward and financial trustee until I turned 25. She announced that Father’s business was close to financial ruin and showed the accounting books to prove her statement. "‘I believed none of it. I suspected her of having forged the will and of having kept a second set of financial records. As you can imagine, we did not get along well. "‘Then one night, I slept fitfully, feeling seriously ill. In a feverish dream, I smelled roses, which had been Mother’s perfume. The scent always reminded me of her. I woke and above me stood Mother with a frightened look on her face. "‘I was startled, but her ghostly image held out a hand and led me down the stairs to the kitchen. She did not speak, but pointed to a canister marked ‘Baking Powder.’ "‘Mother’s ghost seemed adamant and so I opened the container and smelled it. The contents had a foul odor, but when I looked to question her, she was gone. Instead, Miss Madicott stood in the kitchen, a furious expression on her face. "‘She demanded to know what I was doing out of bed. I told her Mother’s ghost had led me downstairs. Then a revelation struck me: Mother had come to warn me. The canister contained poison and Miss Madicott intended to kill me as she had Father. "‘I dressed hurriedly and raced down the village streets to the local Police Constable. He listened to my story and went back with me to the house. "‘We entered the kitchen and I showed him the canister. He opened it and smelled it and then put a finger inside and placed a small amount of it on the tip of his tongue. "‘He asked me what made me believe it was poison. I made my second mistake of the evening. I told him Mother’s ghost had warned me. He looked at me blankly and told me the canister contained baking powder. Miss Madicott had switched the contents during my absence. "‘To the Constable, Miss Madicott acted quite concerned about my mental state. I became increasingly angry and agitated as she told the Constable that my sanity had been slipping away for some time. Within 10 minutes, they had bundled me into a carriage and took me to Dr. Seward’s asylum for the insane. "‘She was quite the actress. She fooled the Constable and Dr. Seward just as she fooled Father.’ "Miss MacKenzie began to weep and I put a hand on her shoulder. ‘It was so horrible,’ Miss MacKenzie continued. ‘She was older and had the papers showing she was my legal guardian. For a time I did lose my mind as the events unfolded with a maddening rush.’ "‘What a horrific ordeal,’ I said. "‘I told you something of what the asylum was like in my letter,’ Miss MacKenzie said. ‘But it is impossible to imagine how terrifying the place is. "‘A week after having me committed, Miss Madicott visited and carried on the guise of concern for my well being,’ Miss MacKenzie said as she dried her tears. ‘But once the door to my cell was closed, Miss Madicott dropped the pretense and positively gloated about her success. I had always been hot tempered and I flew into a rage, beating her with my fists until her screams brought Dr. Seward and the attendants rushing in. They pulled me off her and Dr. Seward ordered me confined to a straight jacket as he attended to her. My behavior, as you can imagine, did not help my cause. I soon realized she had deliberately goaded me into violence.’ "‘A truly evil woman,’ I said. "‘She killed Father and tried to kill me. She took my inheritance and for a time my sanity.’ "‘Do you know what you will do?’ I asked. "Miss MacKenzie shrugged. ‘I have imagined all sorts of revenge fantasies. Now I find myself reluctant to act. The law failed to protect me and instead served her fiendish interests. I cannot imagine that changing.’ "I thought of the difficulties Miss MacKenzie would face if she attempted to gain justice through the legal system. It would be impossible. Miss Madicott could present evidence of Mr. MacKenzie’s death certificate listing his death from a natural cause and also the testimony of the Constable as to Miss MacKenzie’s statements. Even the record of Miss MacKenzie’s commitment to the asylum, wrongful as it was, could be used against her. "I recalled Inspector Johnstone’s words warning against acting outside of the law. Yet as I looked down at Miss MacKenzie, my heart went out to her. ‘When this is over,’ I told her. ‘I will try to help you find justice.’ "‘It is strange,’ she said. ‘At times I think I deserved what happened to me.’ "‘What do you mean?’ I asked her. "‘If I had been more understanding about Father’s need for a companion, he might still be alive,’ Miss MacKenzie said. "‘You are not responsible for his death. She is,’ I said. "‘I know,’ Miss MacKenzie said. ‘I see Lucy and I know what she is. I’ve noticed the way she looks at us at times. Lucy frightens me just as she frightens everyone else. Yet I think her a dear because I also see how determined she is to suppress her wickedness. It is not easy for her because of her nature, but she does it. When I compare Lucy to Miss Madicott, I know who the real monster is.’ "Miss MacKenzie and I walked arm-in-arm in silence along the top of the wall to the end and turned and turned to make our way back. The late afternoon sun painted the York Minster gold. "‘This is a lovely city,’ Miss MacKenzie said. ‘I hope I put a ghost to rest here.’ "We strolled to the train station and sat on a bench. ‘Have you seen your mother’s apparition since her warning to you?’ I asked. "She told me she had not. ‘What do you make of that?’ she asked. "‘Apparitions warning of danger are probably more common than many believe,’ I said. ‘I take it a sign of your mother’s love that she would cross the barrier to save you.’ "The others joined us shortly before our train arrived. As we sat in the carriage, Armitage and Adena told us of their startling discovery.


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