The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XVIII.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. Carnacki stood silent for a moment then walked over to the wood box. The wind whistled a long, lonely note and the rain drummed a steady beat against the windows. The fire had burned low and Carnacki threw three logs on the embers. "When I came to my senses," he said, "I learned the horrific news that Sergeant Walekar had been killed by a vampire that had arrived after us. He slew the vampire, but the vampire had mortally wounded him. "In the chaos of the fighting, Albion and Jacob had not realized the Sergeant had been killed and I had been knocked unconscious. "I remember little of the events that occurred immediately after I regained my senses. The blows had affected my memory and I remained somewhat dazed for an hour or so. "I learned later Lucy and Adena had led me out to a carriage and taken me to a doctor that Albion knew from his military service. A nurse bathed the blood off and the then the Doctor stitched and bandaged me. "As the Doctor sewed up a gash on Jacob’s right cheek. Albion entered and said a few words to his former war companion and told me that we had an unfortunate change of plans. "When I stepped outside, Armitage was there with Chief Inspector James. Jacob took the reins of the carriage and the rest of us climbed inside to dash off to a train station. "It turned out Lilith had prepared even better than I had suspected. She had taken steps to minimize the risk of discovery by having her vampires fed through volunteer donors who provided blood at the clinic. "She also had made the Police Commissioner her thrall. "When the Chief Inspector had agreed to my idea to raid the vampire lairs, I thought it a golden opportunity to strike a blow against Lilith, to distract her and possibly discover her overall plan. "Instead, once again, we fled London, fearful for our lives, and with little to show for our effort. We merely had taken out their blood supply. But they could find other ways to feed. "We boarded a train at King’s Cross for Whitby. Albion rejoined us at the last moment. I had become frightened that he, too, had met with peril. He did not speak of what occurred or where he had left Walekar’s body, only that he would tell us at another time. "The Chief Inspector appeared even more despondent than the rest of our depressed group. The Commissioner had canceled the raids moments after Albion and Armitage arrived with the addresses. Armitage told me afterwards that he had feared the Commissioner was going to order the Chief Inspector, Albion and himself detained. "If they had waited, that is probably what would have happened. Instead, Armitage and Albion had led the Chief Inspector away before the Commissioner had the presence of mind to order their arrests. The Commissioner must have experienced quite a shock when he saw the list of addresses and recognized what it represented. "I told the Chief Inspector that we would find him a toothbrush and a change of clothes at the first opportunity. "Having faithfully guarded London for 30 years, he was the first to speak that night of what would happen to the city’s populace once the hungry vampires discovered their blood had not been delivered to their doors. "We had thought of it before in our earlier planning, but had discarded the concern thinking the police would eliminate the threat once they had the addresses. "We contemplated what the Chief Inspector said. Armitage glanced up from writing in his journal. ‘I do not mean to sound cold-hearted, but this could work to our advantage,’ he said. "‘How do you mean?’ the Chief Inspector asked. "‘Lilith has managed to keep the vampires from drawing attention to their presence,’ he said. ‘But if the vampires begin to feed upon the public, even the Commissioner will be unable to cover up their activities. Murders or disappearances will force action by the authorities.’ "‘You are right,’ said the Chief Inspector darkly. ‘That does sound cold-hearted.’ "Armitage accepted the criticism without comment. ‘The other possibility that might occur is she may force the vampires to delay their feeding until she can find another doctor to obtain the blood for them. This will drive a wedge between Lilith and her minions and that also may disrupt her plan.’ "‘What if she simply unleashes them on the city?’ James asked. "‘She does not dare or she already would have,’ Armitage said. "Armitage then told the Chief Inspector all that had occurred from the beginning and also what we surmised. I excused myself and left to check on the others. "Lucy sat with Adena and Anne in their compartment where I joined them. We spoke for some time about Walekar. They also were understandably frightened, though they tried to hide it. Any or all of us could soon be killed — or in Lucy’s case her existence ended — by our enemies. "Lucy had recovered as soon as the sun had set. She asked about my injuries and I shuddered at the memory of the foul creature close to my neck. I declined to speak of it because the horror was too fresh. "Then she asked about the differences in the vampires. Though the Coachman, like her, appeared human, the vampires downstairs had been foul, corpse-like creatures. "‘I suspect there are differences in vampires, just as there are differences in primates, though they share many key similarities,’ I told her. ‘It would account for the variances in the legends about vampires. In some legends a person drained of blood and killed by a vampire will rise from the grave. Those legends describe a vampire as a loathsome creature with foul breath. That probably accounts for those in the basement. There are also legends about vampires who appear human such as you. Perhaps because Dracula made you a vampire through an exchange of blood.’ "I continued on with the topic, telling them of what I had learned over the years and from Armitage’s research. I told them of how vampires in some stories are mindless, like zombies whilst others have great cunning.’ "Lucy turned to me. ‘From what Adena told me, the Coachman moved with great speed and strength,’ Lucy said. ‘Yet I felt weak and helpless until the sun set.’ "‘He may have been a very old vampire and built up more of a resistance to the sun,’ I replied. ‘I suspect your weakness is temporary. It is a question of your getting acclimated to the daylight. But I wonder why the Coachman killed Dr. Chamberlain?’ "‘Probably the vampire resented being fed instead of killing for the blood,’ Lucy said. ‘Probably he hated being Lilith’s deliveryman yet he did not want to risk disobeying her. So when he arrived to pick up the blood, he took the opportunity to kill Dr. Chamberlain with the intention of blaming us.’ "‘By Jove! I believe you have solved it,’ I told her. ‘You have the makings of a detective.’ "‘I know vampires,’ she said. "Anne took Lucy’s hand and asked, ‘Does it trouble you that you are fed?’ "At first, I feared that Lucy would be insulted by the question, but she was not. I had not realized how close the three women had grown. ‘Sometimes,’ Lucy said. ‘I dream of hunting and….’ She left the sentence unfinished then said, ‘But I do not resent the offered blood.’ "‘There is so little we truly know about vampires,’ Adena said. ‘I had thought vampires burned if exposed to sunlight.’ "‘That is what I thought at one time,’ Lucy said. ‘If Thomas is right and different species of vampires exist, maybe some do burst into flame in sunlight.’ "Adena turned to me. ‘What about the ghostly voices that you and Albion heard in the clinic?’ "‘Often I have investigated cases where natural occurrences were mistaken for the supernatural,’ I told her. ‘This time, we heard the supernatural but it was still because of a natural occurrence. The building’s pipes conducted the sound up the walls of the two vampires in the basement, discussing what to do.’ "The others continued speaking, but soon after, I nodded off to sleep, leaning against the corner of the compartment. I stirred slightly when Lucy put a blanket on me, but I drifted back to sleep until the train pulled into Whitby at 10 o’clock. "Adena woke me and I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I needed coffee, a bath, food and more sleep. I did not feel particular about the order. "The lamp posts shined into the black inkwell darkness of night. Albion and Jacob joined us on the platform. They had spent most of the five-hour train trip in the club car. "‘Why did we get off the train here?’ I asked. "‘We can catch a train to Middlesbrough easily from here tomorrow,’ Albion said. ‘Let us find an inn and call it a night.’ "I wanted to halt, too. However, I also had concerns, partly related to our security, but mainly due to the connection the village held for Lucy. You may recall I had read her diary until she had forbidden me. It was in Whitby where Dracula had first met her in the old graveyard on the East Cliff. ‘What if we have been followed?’ I asked as a way to dissuade the Captain. "‘We have not been,’ Albion said. ‘There were very few passengers on the train and we are the only ones to have gotten off at this station.’ "He pulled me aside. ‘Besides, look at them,’ Albion whispered. "I could see what he meant. Our companions were exhausted, but worse, they looked defeated. The day had started with such promise. Then Walekar’s death followed by the discovery of the Commissioner’s treachery had dashed our hopes. "We hailed the lone cab outside the station and he and the porters loaded our luggage and the crate. "We went to the Queensland Hotel overlooking the harbor and Whitby’s old town. "The night was clear. By the light of the stars, I saw the ruins of the old abbey silhouetted against the sky. "We checked into the hotel. Despite the lateness of the hour, the Manager at the reception desk agreed to prepare us a late supper. We took our bags and the crate up to our rooms and went downstairs to the dining room that was dark except for our lonely corner. "The manager brought us out plates of eggs and toast and we tore into our food like ravenous wolves. "All except Lucy, who did not eat. She sat between Adena and Anne, not speaking to anyone. I suspected that Whitby had stirred a lot of memories of her mother, Mina Harker and Count Dracula. "When we finished our simple repast, Adena and I took the precaution of drawing ‘Defensive Circles’ in each room. Chief Inspector James looked at his curiously, but the others had grown accustomed to the circles from our time in Osmotherley. "By the time we finished, it was well past midnight. We bid each other a good night and, thankfully, the night passed peacefully. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 20 October, 3 a.m. Whitby. — Now that I have returned to where so much started, I do not know how to begin. Sergeant Walekar died yesterday. His loss has devastated us. He was such a strong, courageous, and professional a soldier. And though it seems terribly selfish to admit, his death has caused us to focus on our own mortality. It drove home the fact that any of us can be killed at any moment. He should not have died. Nor should I have. And now I have returned to Whitby where my dying began though I did not know it at the time. Captain Albion did not know of my connection to Whitby. Only Carnacki knows some of it. Though Adena, Anne and I have shared many secrets, I have not spoken of this with them. Mother, Mina and I had so much enjoyment here on our holiday in July and August. We spent hours discussing Mina’s wedding plans. Mina had been so disappointed when Jonathan set off for Transylvania at the request of an important, but eccentric client, Count Dracula. And then Dracula arrived here. He killed the entire crew of a ship and landed here. Why? Dear God, I do not understand. Lord, you must have had a hand in this to bring the Count here. Jonathan didn’t even know we were here to have told him. So you must have led Dracula here. But why did you? Tonight, Adena, Anne and I prayed together in our hotel room. I do not know if my soul is cursed to damnation already for being a vampire, but I prayed as fervently as I ever did in the church at Kingstead beside Mother. We prayed for God to protect us and to protect our country. We asked for God to hold Premkumar Walekar in the Lord’s loving embrace. Comforted, Anne and Adena went to sleep quickly. When they did, I put on my coat and hat, pulled down the veil and slipped out of the hotel. The salty sea breeze blew against me. I walked to the churchyard. Near the shadow of the abbey ruins, I sat on the bench that had been mine and Mina’s favorite where we had spent many an afternoon in conversation with each other. It also was where Dracula first took me on the 11th of August. Tonight I looked over the East Cliff to the lights of the town below and I wanted to scream to heaven: "God? What does it mean?" Dracula tormented Jonathan in Transylvania and then landed here a continent away and tormented those who love Jonathan most. Dracula could not possibly have known of our connection to Jonathan. Yet Dracula sought me out and made me his lover and his victim. I looked at the tombstones, many worn nameless from the constant wind and rain here on the cliff. But under each lies the mortal remains of those who lived and so they too had suffered. I thought to the Bible. Did Jesus not shout from the cross, "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?" A rage grew inside me until I wanted to lash out violently. I picked up a rock and hurled it in anger at God in heaven. Long, long seconds later I heard a splash far off in the harbor. "That one is for Mother!" I threw another rock. "That is for Father!" I picked up another. "That one is for Inspector Johnstone!" Again: "That one is for Prem!" No more rocks lay before me. With a growl, I turned to smash the bench — and saw Carnacki standing behind me, leaning on a cane with one hand whilst his other held out a fist-sized rock for me. I took the rock and threw it far up into the sky. "That one is for ME!" My chest heaved as the anger flowed out of me. I listened. The rock did not splash in the harbor for a long time. I slowly turned. Thomas held out another stone. Instead, I pulled him tightly to me in an embrace, burying my face against the coarse material of his coat. He held his arms uncertainly for a moment and then put them around me. "I thought I would find you here," he said. I wept. Black tears of ichor though they were, still they were tears. Great sobs shook my body. Thomas guided me to the bench. We sat, me crying against his chest and him not speaking just holding his arms around me. My sobs subsided to occasional quivers and then faded entirely. He handed me his handkerchief. "My father died when I was young," Thomas said quietly. "He suffered terribly at the end. I would go off to a riverbank where there were lots of rocks and throw them at a tree trunk — sometimes for hours. I became quite accurate. I am still a wicked opponent to face at cricket." I wiped my tears. "I did not know you played." "Never had your arm, I can tell you that," he said. For several minutes we listened to the sigh of the breeze and the tide. "I had not heard you come up behind me," I said at last. "You were distracted," Thomas said. "You have been a good friend to me," I said. "You even stand by me when I throw rocks at God." "Rabbi Metzner once told me that it was all right to get mad at God, that God is big enough to take it and wise enough to understand," Thomas said. "I do not know why God allows the things he does anymore than I comprehend what governs the ‘Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa’ ritual. The mysterious benevolence at work in the universe is beyond the comprehension of mortal minds." He helped me to my feet. In the time we had sat there, clouds had rolled across the sky and a soft, almost misty rain had begun to fall. We walked through the graveyard and back to the hotel where we stood in front of a blaze in the fireplace long enough for our damp clothes to dry. "Thomas, what were you talking about when you said the ‘Unknown Last Line of the Something’ ritual?" "Saaamaaa," he said and spelled it for me. "It is — well, it would take a long and complex explanation and I will tell you only if you have trouble falling asleep and need a soporific." Impulsively, I kissed his cheek. "I do not think it will be necessary. It has been a long day. I shall sleep like the dead in my coffin." A tender smile appeared for a brief moment on his lips. Then he escorted me to my room and wished me a good night. And now that I have finished this diary entry, I shall turn in. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Our group woke late the next morning except for Lucy who remained in her coffin, exhausted, I imagined, from spending the previous day awake. "Since we were in Whitby, I decided to track down a possible lead. "Dracula had used several solicitors, including Jonathan Harker, to buy property in London. The solicitor who had arranged for Dracula to arrive by ship in Whitby had his office in town. The information had been in the notes Van Helsing had provided me. The lawyer could have been an innocent pawn, like Jonathan Harker had been. Or he could have been a willing accomplice, as the firm of Mitchell, Sons & Candy turned out to be." "Albion had arranged for a groomsman from the Chequers Inn to care for our horses at his farm so there was no need to rush back to Osmotherley. "I joined the others for breakfast in the hotel dining room. As we gathered around the table, I noticed we had the room to ourselves. "As he served our food, I asked the Manager about the hotel’s other guests. "‘There are no others, sir,’ he said, pouring my coffee. ‘I’ve had to let go the staff.’ "‘Slow time of the year?’ I asked. "‘It certainly is, but this has been no ordinary year if you follow me,’ the Manager said. "I told him I did not. "He raised his brows. ‘You mean you don’t know? You gave me quite a fright with your knocking so late. We haven’t had guests in at least a month.’ "‘Why not?’ "‘There have been some mysterious disappearances and it has killed what little tourist trade we have this time of year,’ he said. "The Manager, whose name was Mr. Huxley, told us that over the past few months, there had been a series of incidents which had terrified the locals and frightened away the tourists. As I often did, I took notes, that I still have, of what he and the others said that morning. "‘It’s hard to say when the first occurred,’ he told us. ‘There’s so many people who come for just short visits and if they come alone you don’t always have an idea when thdey leave,’ he said. ‘Then you also got your local boys, and sometime the girls, who decide Whitby is too small of a village for them or they do not like how things are at home and so they leave for London and other parts, if you follow me.’ "Huxley leaned forward confidentially. ‘Some say it began after that ghost ship, the Demeter, arrived on the 7th of August with a crew of dead men and the captain’s body lashed to the wheel,’ Huxley said. ‘But by late August, there was really no mistaking it. Strange events were occurring.’ "‘Murders?’ the Chief Inspector asked. "‘Don’t know, sir. No bodies have been found,’ Huxley said. "‘How many disappearances have there been?’ I asked. "The Manager continued to fill the cups around the table. ‘Now that is hard to say. By some accounts, there have been six. But others argue there have been more.’ "He finished serving. ‘I should not even be telling you this. I will be frightening off the only guests I’ve seen this month.’ "The Manager left us and we pondered his words as we ate our eggs, bacon and toast. "Albion wiped the corner of his mouth with his napkin. ‘What do you think?’ "‘This is where Dracula landed,’ I said as I set down my coffee cup. ‘It makes sense that he ‘dined’ whilst here and his progeny have begun to feed. If unchecked, vampirism could spread like a plague. I am surprised such an outbreak has not occurred in London.’ "The others gazed at me with worried expressions. ‘I suspect such a plague is one of the reasons why Lilith required her vampires to drink the blood she provided them from the clinic,’ I said. "‘Why has she not created an army of the Un-Dead to serve her?’ Captain Albion asked. "Armitage and I began to answer at the same time and I yielded to him since he had done more research at the British Library on the history of vampires. ‘One reason is because she has not wanted to draw attention to herself,’ he said. ‘But I suspect a more important reason is because she fears large numbers of vampires would have devastating results for vampires in the long run. Unchecked, a vampiric plague would wipe out mankind and other living creatures and there would be no blood for them. That is probably why they limit the number of vampires they intentionally create, such as Lucy. The lesser vampires, such as those traditionally described in Eastern European tradition and which were in the basement of the clinic, are weaker and have fewer supernatural powers. There are numerous accounts of village peasants slaying vampires in their graves. Those stories probably refer to them.’ "He directed himself to me. ‘When I say a lesser vampire, I do not mean the danger is less. If the disappearances had occurred in a more superstitious region of Europe, the backward villagers probably would have ended the threat after the first disappearance. They would have gone to the cemetery, dug up the most recently deceased, and cut off their heads. Here in modern, civilized England, where the danger is not recognized and the people do not know how to meet it, even a lesser vampire could have devastating results.’ "‘Isn’t Lilith’s goal to destroy mankind?’ Anne asked. "I thought back to what Count Dracula had told the Inspector and me in the hold of the Czarina Catherine. ‘Count Dracula said Lilith intends to hurt God in heaven,’ I answered. ‘He did not say how she intends to do it. We don’t even know if we can trust what he told us. We need more information on what her plan is. We operate in the dark. For example, why did Lilith insist upon her vampires feeding from willing donors when she has the Police Commissioner at her command to cover up any of their murders?’ "Chief Inspector James folded his arms. His brows furrowed with his dark scowl. ‘I will go back to London to investigate there,’ he said. ‘I can organize some of the men without the Commissioner’s knowledge.’ "‘I do not think that is a good idea,’ Adena said. "The Chief Inspector slammed his palm down on the table. The silverware jumped with a clatter. ‘Miss Metzner,’ he said gruffly, ‘I do not need the advice of young ladies to investigate criminal threats to London.’ "‘I reckon you should listen to her,’ Jacob Wetzel said. ‘Seems to me she’s had some good ideas about vampires and you should pay attention to what she’s got to say.’ "The Chief Inspector leaned back and exhaled. He bowed his head then looked up at Adena. ‘I do apologize,’ he said to her. ‘It’s just that —’ He gestured in frustration with his hands. "‘Adena finished for him, ‘Chief Inspector, you are worried for your city. There is no need to apologize. I understand.’ "At that moment I do not know what shocked me more: the Chief Inspector’s sudden contrition, for I had seen his anger before, or Adena’s demur acceptance of his apology. Both left me speechless. "‘Please explain why you think I should not return to London,’ James said. "‘We may need to return to London, but I do not believe we should bring others into our fold,’ Adena said. ‘If they come to us on their own, that is one thing. But we should not seek them out.’ "‘Why not?’ "She shook her head, her brown curls bouncing with the movement. ‘I cannot really explain. It is a feeling I have had since yesterday that this is something for us alone to do. If God leads them to us, that is different. But God has put this burden on us, not on others.’ "‘That is not rational,’ the Chief Inspector said. "‘Neither is the supernatural,’ she said. ‘Carnacki is fond of quoting Van Helsing saying, "When needed, God sends us men." I believe there is something to that.’ "James folded his hands together in front of him and looked at her with earnestness. ‘I do not mean to argue,’ he said, ‘but I find it hard to believe we should not seek help from as many brave men as we can convince.’ "‘It is a question of faith,’ she said. ‘I shall give you practical reasons why you should not pursue your idea. You may judge for yourself if my reasoning is logical. Then I shall tell you of my other reasons, which may sound illogical to you.’ "‘Very well,’ the Chief Inspector said. "‘It would not surprise me if there were a warrant for your arrest awaiting you in London,’ she said. ‘If not an arrest warrant, an order to commit you to a mental asylum. The Commissioner will have tied you to our deeds at the blood clinic and he will want to silence you. Let us say you sneak into London and speak to your colleagues at Scotland Yard, even the trust-worthiest of your friends. When you tell them what you need assistance with, who will they believe? A Commissioner who claims you have gone mad or a Chief Inspector who tells them of an invasion by a demon, a ghost and vampires?’ "The Chief Inspector nodded. ‘What you say does make sense. But we could show them Miss Westenra just as you did me.’ "‘We took quite a risk in doing so,’ Captain Albion said. ‘There had been some concern about whether to trust you, but Carnacki held you in high regard and vouched for you. Until two days ago, did you trust the Commissioner? Who else may be working with Lilith?’ "‘You did mention yourself yesterday that you worried how high up the conspiracy might go,’ Armitage added. "‘It is also not a good idea in the long run to show Miss Westenra to government officials,’ Albion said. ‘They might get dangerous ideas.’ "‘What do you mean?’ Anne asked. "‘Some in the military would look at her and see not a cursed woman, but rather the perfect soldier: incredibly strong, nearly invulnerable to most weapons, lightning quick and eager to kill,’ he said. ‘They would envision an army of the Un-Dead marching across Europe.’ "‘Is that why you have not gone to the military for help?’ Anne asked. "‘That and my superiors already believe me mad,’ Albion said. "‘Why do they,’ Anne began and then stopped herself, saying, ‘No, do not tell me, I do not wish to know.’ "The Chief Inspector addressed Adena. ‘What are your other reasons?’ "As she spoke, I saw her father in her mannerisms, the way she held her head tilted slightly and the way she wagged her hands when she became animated. Adena’s words reminded me of something I had told Lucy the night before during a quiet moment. That did not seem strange considering Adena and I had the same teacher in Rabbi Metzner. "‘If the Creator had not intended for us to act as his servants in this fight, he would not have placed us here,’ Adena said. ‘Yesterday, Henry Armitage and I recited the 23rd Psalm with a dear man as he was dying. It is an oversimplification to believe that Sergeant Walekar’s death is a sign that God is not on our side in this cause. Look at what the Psalm tells us: The Lord is the shepherd, who guides his flock. But it does not say that the Lord will lead us only on the fair and pleasant paths. It tells us we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death. But God will be there with us.’ "‘I do not believe in God,’ the Chief Inspector said. "‘This is a good time to begin,’ she answered. "Armitage crossed one leg over a knee. ‘I asked Carnacki this the other day and I will ask you. Why us? Why not an army or someone else for this fight?’ "Adena shook her head. ‘I have no idea. If it has to be someone, why not us? Look around. Each of us is very different, but we share one thing in common. I believe we all have suffered mightily in our past: Lucy, Thomas, Anne and I all lost parents at a young age. Albion lost his wife. I do not know the Chief Inspector or yourself well enough to know what you have been through. But Father always told me that suffering is God’s way of putting us in the forge to temper the steel within to prepare us for challenges ahead. If God as our shepherd only led us down the green paths, we would fall apart when we walked through the shadows.’ "‘You are mistaken,’ Armitage said. ‘Until now, I have never experienced so much pain and death. I feel guilty that I live while a good man like Sergeant Walekar is dead. But until now, I have not suffered. My parents still live. My dear Eleanor awaits me at home. I have had a good and comfortable and quiet life until (sorry, my friend) Carnacki asked for my help.’ "‘Maybe you are going through the forge now to harden you for an even worse ordeal in the future,’ Adena said. "‘That is not a very comforting thought,’ he said.


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