The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXII.)

Dr. Armitage's Journal. Oct. 23. Onboard a train. - Back to London. Shelley knew of what he wrote: "Hell is a city much like London - a populous and a smoky city." This morning, we sat around the breakfast table in Whitby. I expect that somewhere deep inside the dark recesses of our minds, we knew the headlines were inevitable. Chief Inspector Clive James read a newspaper and his face turned scarlet. "Damn him!" he said. "Who, Chief Inspector?" I asked. James read aloud, his voice rising in anger: "Five mutilated bodies were discovered this morning in a vicious outbreak of violence the likes of which have not been seen in five years since Jack the Ripper terrorized the city. Police Commissioner George Sheppard asked for the public to not panic. ‘We know who is responsible and the culprits will soon be in custody,’ he told reporters." The Chief Inspector’s expression darkened. At that moment he looked as dangerous and murderous as Lucy. "I am certain he knows who is responsible since he is working for them," he growled. "He always was a corrupt bastard and he lies as easily as we breathe. Truth means nothing to him. He carries on about duty and responsibility, yet there has always been an elitist attitude in him that gave lie to his words of public service." "He may not be acting under his own will," I suggested. "He was your friend." "I was wrong," James said. "He is evil. His capacity to betray the very people he swore to protect has always been there. I blinded myself to it because I did not want to see the truth." I handed the London newspaper to Carnacki when he joined us at the breakfast table. The color vanished from his face, making the stitches across his forehead stand out more vividly. "We must decide what to do and act immediately," he said. "I will go wake Lucy." He went upstairs. Albion, Adena and I looked at each other. Anne joined us and James showed her the newspaper. "She went to his room this morning," Albion told us. "He had another nightmare." "Has he told you what is disturbing his sleep?" Anne asked. "No. He won’t speak of it." "I’ll follow," said Adena rising. Jacob frowned. "Where’s she going?" I leaned forward to speak low. "We are worried Lucy is becoming more vampiric each day." "She’s in love with the fellow," Jacob said. "Yes, but that may be deadly for him," I said. Jacob shrugged. "It ain’t living unless it’s dangerous living," he said. I stared in amazement at him. Yet I could not give it too much thought for while we had to worry about the vampire in our midst, we needed her to face the vampires in London. Lucy entered the breakfast room, a black veil over her face and dark glasses hiding her eyes. Carnacki gave us our marching orders. Much as I hate the thought of him being alone with Lucy as the rest of us went in different directions, he was right. We had no other choice. I hope he is safe with her. I distributed the copies of the addresses we had obtained from the law firm. While the others raid the vampire lairs, I will be buried in books. I am to go to the British Library with Jacob to watch over me. With luck, Jacob and I will find information in a manuscript of forgotten lore that will help us defeat Lilith. Later. London. — Walking through the train station gave me the feeling of entering a tomb. We had entered a giant crypt filled with the living though I suspect the dead are here too. Watching. Watching and waiting. Jacob and I joined the flow of humanity out the station and took the Underground to a stop near the British Museum. I made a list of books I wanted and gave it to an acquaintance on the staff. He raised an eyebrow, but brought the books to my table. Jacob sat near me. Though he appeared to read a book in front of him, I could tell he watched the other readers as if he expected them to ambush us at any moment. I lost track of time as I read passages of the Alphabet of Ben Sira. The original, written in the 7th century, claimed Lilith had been Adam’s first wife. She refused to submit to his authority and they quarreled. She fled and gave birth to demons. There was much more about Lilith, but it was not information we needed. I needed to know how to slay her. I searched other books. I glanced up at Jacob. I had worried he would become bored with his inactivity. Instead, he sat with the quiet patience of a hunter, his eyes wary, absorbing all. Carnacki had been right to send Jacob to watch over me. His presence did give me a great feeling of security and I could work without having to keep a nervous eye on the door. I cross-referenced and filled three notebooks and began a fourth. I pored over an English version of a Sanskrit translation from the original Vedic language, Atharva-Veda. I sweated over Nameless Cults, a translation of Friedrich Wilhem Von Junzt’s Unausprechelichen Kulten. I had hopes for Ludvig Prinn’s De Vermis Mysteriis, but I needed more time. And though the books offered tantalizing hints of a world beyond reality, I did not find what I wanted. At last, Jacob interrupted me: "We should be going." I leaned back, my shoulders cramped from hours bent over the books. We made our way to a small hotel near Victoria Station that Carnacki had prepared during our earlier visit, drawing his protective circles under the beds in the rented rooms. The clerk handed us the key and we went up. Jacob sat at a small table across from me, shuffling a deck of cards. "Did you find any answers in the books?" he asked. "Only more questions," I said as I waited for him to deal. "I wish Adena were here. She’s a polyglot, you know." "Is that what it’s called?" Jacob asked. "I don’t hold it against her. My ma’s cousin Edith was one." "Interesting," I said, happy to see a pair of queens in my hand. I tossed the three low cards into the middle and Jacob dealt three more to me. I picked them up. A pair of fours. I upped the ante a shilling. "Her church kicked her out for it," Jacob said, calling my bet. "But Ma said they made a mistake since Edith was the only one who had the time to cook for the church socials and serve on all the committees." "I don’t understand," I said. "You know, Edith not having kids and all," Jacob said. I shook my head in confusion, unable to understand what her language skills had to do with having children. I showed my cards. He held a pair of aces and a slid the money to me. We played several hands before we cut the cards to see who would take the first watch. I won. Jacob yawned and crawled into his bed. As I sit here writing, I envy him. London has become an enormous haunted house. I jump at shadows and the slightest noises in the hall. I remember too well the haunting of Hillingham and I fear the Horror’s return. Why did the entity spare us then? Was it simply curious? Was it awaiting orders? What is it? Where is it? I wish there were someone more knowledgeable to consult about the supernatural. But according to Adena and Carnacki, the most learned experienced men with occult lore are now dead. Lilith prepared well. If Carnacki had been better known, he too probably would have been on Lilith’s list. We are fighting against an enemy beyond our comprehension. I fear it falls upon my research to provide us with guidance. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Our hiatus in Whitby ended on the morning of the 23rd of October. A London newspaper had reported five people found slain in a manner of such violence that it recalled Jack the Ripper’s murders from five years earlier in 1888. "We had to act. We could not sit back whilst people died. "I decided the best solution was to divide our group into pairs. I feared I was sending my friends to their deaths and I wanted to find the best combinations to give each the greatest chance at survival. "Armitage was to research Lilith and ways to combat the horrific manifestation we had dubbed ‘The Hillingham Horror.’ With him, I sent Jacob. They were to stay at a hotel room we had prepared earlier. It had cost a fortune to hold rooms around London for our use as lairs, but I thought it worth the expense. I had drawn ‘Defensive Circles’ in the rooms and left strict instructions with the managers to stay out. "Chief Inspector James and the reporter, Sean Griffin, were to follow the Police Commissioner. I thought this had the best potential to lead us either to Lilith or at least to her chief lieutenants, particularly if her demon-spawn had acted without her permission with the slayings. Sending James carried increased risk since Commissioner Sheppard knew him. But I needed someone experienced at shadowing a suspect. I sent Griffin with him since there was little chance of his being recognized and it is easier to trail someone if at least two people work together. "That left the rest of us to search 120 addresses for at least 23 vampires. A daunting task as you can imagine. It would be impossible to do in one day and we knew once we began we would be stirring up a monstrous hornets’ nest. "Yet no one in the group hesitated. Not one, I say. I was proud of them. "‘Once more into the breach,’ Armitage said. "We arranged a meeting time and place in London for those of us raiding the vampire lairs to determine the success of our separate efforts and to decide any further courses of action. We arranged to return to Osmotherley after our London raid. Then Armitage, Jacob, the Chief Inspector and Mr. Griffin were sent ahead to London to begin their efforts. "Our farewells were tearful. I wondered who might not make the rendezvous. But we could not wait as people died and Lilith’s scheme came to fruition. "Striking the vampire lairs carried a two-fold purpose. For our initial assaults, we selected the vampire addresses closest to the locations of where the London victims were last seen with the hope that we would slay the vampires responsible for the deaths. "Our other reason for the raids was collecting intelligence on Lilith, her plan and her location. "Now I will tell you chaps something that most of the others did not know. One of our members pulled me aside and suggested that we assassinate Police Commissioner Sheppard. By killing him, the person hoped the Police Commissioner would be replaced with an official who could be persuaded of the danger to London. "At first, the suggestion to assassinate Commissioner Sheppard struck me as abhorrent. But, and I hope you do not hold this against me, I gave the idea considerable thought." Carnacki held up a hand. "No, do not ask. Even at this date I will not say who made the suggestion." "As I was saying, I gave the idea some thought before I responded. ‘At this time, I believe we may be better off with him alive,’ I told the other person. ‘We may learn more from following him than we would gain by killing him.’ "I reminded the person that we had no idea how high up the ranks the conspiracy went. Killing the Commissioner would not benefit us if the Home Secretary also was involved and simply replaced him with another acting on Lilith’s behest. "The person agreed: ‘But at some point we may have no choice.’ "‘Then we will do what needs done,’ I said. "I feared what we had become in our desperation. "I did have one positive sign: Lucy appeared stronger than her earlier venture in the daylight. Our theory that it was a matter of her getting acclimated had been correct. "Whilst she was not at her full strength or comfortable with the sun, Lucy moved about freely though she did not have all of her powers. The legend that vampires cannot change their form — take the shape of a bat or turn noncorporeal — between sunrise and sunset is true. "Those of us in the raiding parties planned to take an overnight sleeper train to London to give us a full day of sunlight for our attacks. By arriving the next day, we also would give Armitage and James time to work before the vampires knew we were back in the city. "Albion sent a letter to his friend in Osmotherley caring for the animals to say that we would be delayed longer than expected. "Adena and I obtained as much holy water as we could from a Whitby church. We stored it in small bottles, but we would need to obtain more in London to sanctify the soil of any coffins we found unoccupied, to render them useless to the vampires. "Adena needed my attention on different matters throughout the day. I believe she was rather more frightened than she let on and wanted the comfort of my presence since I had always been like an older brother. "Albion and Lucy, accompanied by Miss MacKenzie, made a visit to a lonely field surrounded by woods just outside of Whitby where they worked on Lucy’s swordplay. "Though it may seem odd that she had become quite proficient with the weapon in such a short time, it really should not be. "I once witnessed a bout between a skilled collegial pugilist and an untrained, but experienced Navy brawler. The boxer had been a champion at his college, but he proved no match for the sailor. "Technique is important in fencing competition, but true fights rely more on speed and strength and Lucy had both of those in abundance. "Captain Albion did not teach her the finer points of swordplay. He was a veteran soldier and valued brutal aggression over niceties. "Lucy seemed quiet, probably from reflecting on earlier memories of Whitby. When I spoke to her, she murmured, ‘I am fine,’ and decided to enter her coffin to rest before nightfall. "We paid our hotel bill and then boarded the train as the porters loaded Lucy’s crate into the luggage van. "Albion and I had things to discuss and we went ahead to the dining car with the ladies to join us when they could. "Anne arrived and told us Adena was helping Lucy dress for dinner. "‘Let us order without them. They may be some time,’ I said, ravenous with hunger. "He agreed. Our food arrived before Adena and Lucy and we tore into our roast beef. "As I bit into my Yorkshire pudding, a hand smacked the back of my head. ‘Your mother taught you better,’ Adena said. "‘Being famished and kept waiting does not put me in the best disposition,’ I answered haughtily, knowing of course that she was right. "‘Men are walking appetites,’ Lucy said with a pleasant smile. "Albion and I took our seats and resumed eating. "‘They hunger and when not fed their meals on time, they are like lions at the zoo, roaring until their keepers toss in meat,’ Lucy continued. ‘Men have few redeeming qualities when they are well-fed and even fewer when they hunger.’ "‘You sound like Adena,’ I said. For some reason peculiar to women, the two of them found this quite amusing. "After the meal, we found a lonely area in the salon car and spread out a map to further discuss tactics for the next day. We established a rendezvous point for the middle of the day and escape routes if the worst occurred. We tried not to think about what might happen, but the thoughts were inevitably there. "Earlier, Jacob had used a fine-tooth saw to shorten the barrels of two double-barreled shotguns and cut off most of the wood stock. Adena had rigged harnesses for the shotguns for her and Anne to carry them concealed in their parasols. Anne also had Sergeant Walekar’s old service revolver, which she had in her purse. "Lucy had Walekar’s sword, but it was too long to hide inside a parasol. However, she wrapped it in a bolt of fabric to conceal it. "Both Albion and I had our revolvers and daggers. I also carried Inspector Johnstone’s knuckle-duster in a pocket. "In addition, we all had crucifixes — except Lucy, of course — that we wore under our clothing. Even Adena wore one though she said she questioned how blasphemous it made her to wear a cross next to her Star of David. Adena and I also had sticks of chalk, small vials of holy water and other odds and ends in our pockets and valises. "I was surprised we did not clank like knights in armor from carrying so much weaponry and religious paraphernalia. "We turned in to sleep, even Lucy, sent to her coffin — despite her protestations that she was not tired — with the hopes that the rest would help her retain her strength during the day. "I lay in the upper berth. Albion, experienced soldier that he was, fell asleep immediately. I stared at the patterns of shadows on the pressed tin ceiling when the train passed through lighted stations. "I hope I do not sound melodramatic, but I spent the night thinking of the many things I had not yet experienced in life. I thought about what I hoped to accomplish in my profession and the experiments into the supernatural I wanted to conduct. "Still, even with my heavy mind, the motion of the train lulled me to sleep. I was spared the recurring nightmare that had interrupted my sleep the previous two nights and I slept well. "I woke to find Albion shaking my arm. "‘We are here,’ Albion said. ‘What was it Armitage said? Once more into the breach?’ "‘We few, we happy few, although I’ll be happier once I’ve had my coffee,’ I replied. "‘Shakespeare?’ Albion asked. "‘I believe so, old boy,’ I said. "‘I always meant to read more,’ he said to himself. Then he wished me good luck and shook my hand. "I wished him the same and we stepped into the narrow passage. The guard at the other end of the car knocked on doors. "There is something wonderfully peaceful and genteel about a sleeper train sitting in the station with the small noises of people stirring in their compartments and the rumble of other trains idling in the rail yard. "The ladies joined us in the passageway. They wore grim masks on their pale faces. "With a heavy heart, I looked at Adena. I had watched her grow from a child in her frock dress and beribboned curls to a lovely young woman. I thought she should not be here, that none of them should be going into battle. Albion stood next to Adena and Anne, giving them final instructions. They listened, occasionally nodding, their eyes bright with keen intelligence. "Lucy stood beside me, waiting patiently. I wanted to tell them not to go. That Albion and I would be fine on our own. That the danger was too great for them. It was not too late to send them out of London on the next train, anywhere, but away. "Albion turned to me with a questioning look. ‘You should be off. You have much to do.’ "I nodded, the words to send the ladies away still forming. Then Adena and Anne returned my searching gaze with resoluteness. "‘Be careful,’ I said. "‘God be with you, Thomas,’ Adena said. "I turned and walked away, fearing my resolve would break with my heart if I looked back. "We stepped off the train into the chill air of the platform. We sent our baggage by a porter to our hotel in Kensington, and hailed a cab. "‘Where to, Guv’ner?’ the Cabman asked. "‘Highgate Cemetery,’ I answered. "Lucy took my hand on the ride. ‘Is the day troubling you?’ I asked. "‘I am strong enough,’ she replied. "She stared silently out the window from the shadow of the corner of the two-wheeler. There was little for her to see through the thick morning fog. I could not judge her expression behind her veil. I could not see her eyes behind the dark tinted lenses. "I crossed my legs and leaned back, propped my elbow on the leather case beside me and watched her. My life, possibly my soul, depended on her, a woman, a vampire, I had not known a month earlier. ‘Lucy, what are you thinking?’ I asked, as much to determine her mood as to hear the answer. "She spoke in a soft voice without looking towards me. ‘Thomas, what would happen if I should die again? My soul, I mean.’ "‘I do not know, Lucy,’ I said honestly. ‘Armitage and I were not able to find that answer.’ "Lucy turned to me and said, ‘These people walking the streets, going about with their lives, hurrying to work or home or school. They do not know how fortunate they are. If they have made mistakes, if they have regrets, it is not too late for them.’ "I nodded. ‘It may not be too late for you.’ "‘Life is wasted on the living,’ she said. "‘Lucy,’ I said, ‘you do not have to go with me today. You may be risking much more than the others or myself. It is selfish of me to let you risk that.’ "‘Thomas, I want to help. I need to go with you. I must do this.’ "‘What do you mean?’ I asked. "She looked over the top of her glasses at me. Her eyes held a hard, cruel glint. ‘I hope that by fighting on the side of good, I will be considered good,’ she answered. "‘You are good,’ I said. "She shook her head. ‘No, Thomas, I am evil and I am scared. I try not to think about my soul damned to hell, but I do. I imagine my flesh burning and my screams of agony and, yes, devils poking me with sharp pitchforks.’ "Perhaps for five minutes we rode in silence. I wished Rabbi Metzner had been there to talk to her. Maybe he would have answers to her questions. I did not. I could think of no words to comfort her or to set her mind and soul at ease, so I put an arm around her. "‘I do not think about hell all the time,’ she continued. ‘Only when I am frightened.’ "‘Lucy, you were so brave in Whitby coming to our rescue,’ I reminded her. ‘You looked like one of those French paintings of a sword-wielding Liberty storming the Bastille. You dispatched Fletcher with ease, even a certain elan.’ "She perked up. ‘I did,’ she said. ‘And I enjoyed killing him.’ "‘You saved our lives,’ I said. ‘And no matter how dark your nature, you are my friend.’ Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 24, 7 a.m. London. — Jacob and I made it through the night. For us, it is back to the British Museum today. If all has gone as planned, Carnacki and the others should have arrived this morning. Their task is so daunting, I pray they survive it.


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