The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Friday, January 14, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXVI.)

Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 24, near midnight. Onboard a train. — Jacob and I still live. Despite everything that happened tonight, we will continue the struggle though we do not know if the others live. I worried for our friends throughout the day because of their frightful mission. Yet I had my own task to perform. I pored through fragmented grimoires, Collin de Plancy’s Dictionnaire Infernale and other books, making notes and examining fragile texts, researching arcane references until my eyes grew red and my fingers numb from writing. Jacob sat looking like a suspicious dog guarding a soup bone. My work fully consumed me until Jacob tapped me on the shoulder. "The day is growing late, Dr. Armitage," he said. Some part of my consciousness registered his statement. "Almost finished," I said. I continued, digging through words the way a miner goes through rock, searching for a vein to follow. At times, I thought I found a lead only to have it peter out. A text on Babylon myths described a ceremony to trap Lilith in a specially created bowl. I spent two precious hours in the morning researching the artifact only to learn the required bowl is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. If only it had been in the British Museum. Jacob shook my shoulder. "Doctor, the library is closing." I stood up and stretched. My shoulders and neck were dull with pain from being hunched over. The side of my right middle finger was scarlet and deeply indented from my long grip on the pen. I collected my papers, surprised by how much I had written. "We must leave," Jacob said. We put on our coats and stepped into the night. I pulled up my collar for the air had a brisk chill to it. No cabs waited at the stand or on the street and we walked to find one. I wished for a warmer hat like the one I had back home in New England, hanging on a pegboard. I began to daydream of home. "Duck hunting," I said. "What, Doctor?" Jacob asked. "That’s what I probably would be doing now if I were home." "What?" he asked. "Duck hunting," I said again. We followed New Oxford Street to Charing Cross Road and walked several more blocks. I felt disoriented, hungry, tired and mentally fatigued. "Where are we?" I asked at last. Jacob shook his head. "You mean you don’t know?" My mind drew a blank. I could not even think of the name of our hotel. "No. I’ve been following you." "Ah. I thought I was following you," Jacob said. "It all looks different at night." "Have you ever been in a city before?" I asked. "Plenty," he said. "Really?" "New Orleans once and now London," he said. "We’re lost," I said. "I reckon we are," he said. "Do you remember the name of our hotel?" I asked. Jacob began to answer, closed his mouth, opened it again and then shut it. "No. Don’t you?" "It’s been a long day," I said. "Let us walk. It will come to us." "It was near a train station," he said. I rolled my eyes. How many railway stations are there in London? A dozen? I decided that if we could not remember our hotel I would take us to my old hotel where I had mail piling up. Carnacki had been afraid it would be watched. It also did not have a protective circle drawn. But at the moment I was beyond caring about either precaution. "I’m hungry," Jacob said. I pointed down Shaftesbury Avenue, toward lights and people. "I know where we are now," I said, relieved. "Picadilly Circus." "Do you know where our hotel is from here?" "Let us find some place to eat," I said, hoping food would revive my mental faculties. "You still don’t know where our hotel is, do you?" he said with resignation. "Haven’t a clue," I admitted. My stomach growled as I smelled fish being fried. My mouth watered. I had not eaten since breakfast. But suddenly I stiffened like a hunting dog that has alerted to game. My appetite vanished as I recognized a man from the blood clinic line sitting on top of a coach. He stepped down and held the carriage door open for a group of well-dressed men. I could see they had surrounded a frightened, teary-eyed woman. All stepped into the large carriage and the driver closed the door, which had a coat of arms painted on the side. Jacob followed my gaze. "Dr. Armitage, what is it?" "Don’t stare, but do you see the coach?" "Yes." "We must follow it," I said. "The man driving was at the blood clinic." It was not difficult to keep pace for the traffic was heavy. We followed through Picadilly Circus to Sackville Street. The passengers departed and the carriage rolled on. The men half carried the woman, nearly faint with fear, through an arched walkway into a courtyard. I held up a small pocket mirror. There was a gap where the image of one of the seven men was not reflected. "Which do we follow?" Jacob asked. "Let us stay with the group," I said. "The last man is a vampire." They opened a door, laughing drunkenly, and stumbled inside a fashionable row house. Briefly, we could see the group through a window. Then one of the men drew the curtains closed. "Dr. Armitage, I’m going in there to rescue the lady," Jacob said. "I’d like you to stay at the door to make sure none get past me." "We will be killed," I said. "Would you want to live with yourself if we didn’t try to save her?" I breathed deeply before I answered. "No, my friend. I am with you." "It’s gonna get ugly," Jacob said. We crossed the courtyard at a trot and Jacob pulled out a dagger and a long-handled hatchet from sheaths hidden under his coat. "Don’t shoot unless absolutely necessary," he told me. "Use your knife. Otherwise we’ll have the law on us and I don’t like jail cells." I pulled out the dagger Carnacki had made me carry though it embarrassed me. Librarians did not wear sheathed daggers. The blade’s weight felt awkward in my right hand. We walked up the stone stairs, past the pillars and opened the door. We could hear muffled shrieks from the girl and we followed the sound. The entrance hall had been made to look like a ceremonial lodge of an ancient sect, creating an unworldly atmosphere, with burning torches set in sconces on the walls. Down the hall we quickly padded until we came to an opening into a larger chamber. Four of the men held the girl by her arms and legs as she lay stripped naked on a table. Two others watched from close by. The vampire stood between the girl’s legs. He wore formal black evening attire except for his pants, which were down at his ankles. He still wore top hat as if the rape and slaughter of the girl was not worth doffing it. I took my position at the doorway of the room while Jacob walked in with a cavalier manner. I felt proud that I would soon die alongside such a brave man. The men and vampire stopped smiling and looked at him agape. "Who are you?" asked the dandy holding a thin knife to the lady’s throat. "Get out now! This is a private affair." They were accustomed to being obeyed and to bullying those who did not. Their privileged existence of wealthy debauchery had not prepared them for the next few moments. After the initial outburst, Jacob’s audacity silenced them as he kept walking closer. The details of the horror that followed remain terribly vivid in my memory. With a weird war cry, Jacob shattered the stillness. He hurled the tomahawk in his right hand, the weapon a blurring circle until the curved blade struck with a sound not unlike an axe striking a log the forehead of the knife-wielding man. The man’s eyes crossed momentarily as he looked at the wooden handle in front of his face then he dropped the dagger from the lady’s throat and toppled back. The woman’s face was spotted with red drops of the man’s blood. The high pitch of her scream faded as she appeared to faint. But Jacob had not stopped. As soon as the tomahawk had flown from his right hand, he had slashed with his left, the dagger slicing the neck of the man closest to him. Blood sprayed from between the man’s fingers clutched to his throat. He dropped to his knees and terror drained his face of all color. Jacob reversed his grip, bound forward and stabbed into the throat of a third man, never stopping his constant movement through them. His progress had taken him to where his tomahawk protruded from the split skull of the corpse near the woman. With a smooth grace, he rocked the tomahawk out of the skull, gore dripping from the blade. Two of the men appeared too frightened to even move; they could not believe the whirlwind of death that had entered their midst. The other drew a slender foil from his cane and lunged at Jacob, who parried the strike with a careless ease. He stepped into the man’s reach, and thrust his dagger into the man’s throat. The man’s eyes registered ultimate surprise, as if it was impossible for his previously charmed existence to suddenly come to an end. The other two began to back away with trembling steps. They dropped their walking sticks and held their hands with their palms in front of them. With nearly incoherent words they sputtered for mercy. With a sideways swing, Jacob’s tomahawk struck the man’s forehead, knocking pieces of skull and skin and gray matter through the air. With Jacob’s return stroke, the tomahawk chopped off the fingers of a hand hastily thrown up in defense then sank into the thin section of skull at the optical orb, into the sinus cavity, and popping out the left eyeball before stopping at the ridge of the man’s nose. Jacob gave the tomahawk’s handle a twist as the man sunk to the ground. I heard a crack as the cheekbone broke inside. With the fluid grace of a leopard, Jacob rose from his crouched position above his prone victims. Blood and gore dripped from his blades. Slow claps echoed off the high ceiling of the vaulted room as the vampire applauded and drew our attention to him. "Bravo!" he said with an arrogant smile on his lips. He had simply pulled up his pants and watched Jacob slaughter his companions. I walked up to Jacob’s side, carefully stepping over the bodies and the pools of blood spreading on the floor. One of Jacob’s victims, slow in dying from the ghastly wound to his neck, groaned and cried pitifully for his mother. I reached my hand into my pocket for a packet of wild rose and garlic dust. Warily watching the vampire, I slipped my arms out of my coat and placed the coat over the naked-form of the girl on the table. The vampire hissed, baring his frightful fangs. "You may be good at killing mortal men, but you have no idea what you are dealing with!" Jacob sneered. "Yeah, we do you blood-sucking son of a bitch and I ain’t done killing yet." Suddenly doubt and fear appeared in the vampire’s eyes. He glanced down at the bodies and at us advancing toward him. He snarled and with a snap of his cape transformed into an immaterial, swirling-smoke-like form to escape us. "Henry!" Jacob roared. I tore open the envelope and hurled the powdered dust of wild roses, garlic and wolfsbane at where the vampire had stood. The dust spread in a small cloud in the air where the vampire hovered. We heard a howl of such agony that Jacob and I looked at each other in shocked horror. The vampire re-materialized on the ground, rolling in pain, his fingernails ripping into his own skin in an apparent effort to get the wild rose and garlic dust off of him. Jacob knelt over him and shouted: "Where is Lilith?" He yelled louder to be heard over the vampire’s screams: "Damn you, answer me and I will end your pain! Where is Lilith?" Quicker than the eye could follow, the vampire lashed out with a backhanded blow that sent Jacob tumbling head over heels like a man thrown from a horse. Jacob landed on a dead man with blood oozing into muttonchop whiskers. The vampire began to stand and I tackled him to the ground. The vampire struck me on the top of the head and I saw stars. I held on though and Jacob rushed to my aid. The vampire twisted and thrashed his arms to cast me aside. The vampire continued shrieking in pain as if on fire from the inside. When the powder struck him in the form of motes of dust, it must have shocked him into resuming his human shape. But the transition also had resulted in his resuming his solid form with the bane of his existence inside of him. As we struggled on the floor, I feared he would tear us apart in his death agony. In the struggle, the buttons of my collar and shirt popped off and my crucifix dangled free. I tore off the necklace and pressed it against the vampire’s forehead. His agonized howls increased and we rolled in a desperate struggle. Veins popped out in Jacob’s temple and neck as he screamed at the vampire, "Where is Lilith?" The vampire, his face pocked and smoking, snarled and snapped his fangs at him. We shouted the question at the dying vampire over and over. The vampire shook his head wildly. Jacob grabbed the vampire by the hair and punctuated each syllable by pounding the vampire’s head against the marble floor: "I! AM! THE! MON! STER!" White spittle flew from the young man’s lips. His face was scarlet with rage. I backed away from my friend, more frightened by his fury than of the vampire. "Answer the damn question!" The vampire broke his hands free and dug his talons into his own face, pulling off his skin from his flesh. Jacob rocked back on his heels as the vampire clutched and ripped and screamed. With the skin off, the vampire’s fingers tore the exposed muscle and flesh until his wet skull glistened through. The vampire’s agony shocked even Jacob. The vampire began to pluck at other skin and flesh where the powder had seared it. Jacob, his back to me, inhaled deeply. He stood, looked around at the destruction he had wrought and turned to me. He breathed deeply again and shrugged his head to the right and then the left, his neck muscles as taut as corded ropes. With the flesh over his jaws gone, the vampire’s howls had softened to gasping whimpers. "We should go," I said. Jacob nodded. I handed him a handkerchief. He wiped the blood from his face and motioned to the unconscious girl. "What do we do with her?" "Take her home," I said. "Gotta get her dressed first." The vampire continued to pull away pieces of his own flesh, but he moved slower. Strands of skin, torn muscle and gristle hung from him like a ghastly fringe. His teeth made loud clicks when they snapped together. I held up the remnants of the girl’s garments. They had been cut off her. We heard a loud crack from the vampire and glanced at him. The vampire’s hands gripped his glistening, slippery ribs and he appeared to be resting from a great exertion. He had split open his own rib cage at the sternum, an astonishing feat even considering he had already ripped the flesh from his chest. "You wouldn’t have clothes pins with you?" I asked Jacob. "I reckon not," he said. "Sorry." "I wish they hadn’t cut her clothes off her," I said. "They weren’t very considerate," he said. Jacob bent down to the groaning man, who looked up gratefully at him. "Take me to a doctor," the man said. "Please. I will give you anything you want." Jacob took off the man’s shoes, unbuckled the man’s pants and pulled them off the man’s legs. "These will fit her and he didn’t soil himself like some of the others did," Jacob said to me. "What are you doing?" the man asked. "Taking your pants," Jacob answered. "The lady needs them. If you tell us where Lilith is hiding, I’ll take you to a doctor." "Who is Lilith?" "Wrong answer," Jacob said, his knife moving to slit the man’s throat. I stopped him. "No, Jacob," I cried. "We should get the man to a hospital." Jacob nodded slowly. "OK. But first things first." "Agreed," I said, breathing a sigh of relief. Jacob tossed the pants and I caught them. "Why are you giving them to me?" "I took them off him; you put them on her. It’s only fair. I did my part." A strange, suction noise from the vampire caused us to turn and to see him pulling out his own heart. His back arched with the strain. The arteries and veins stretched tight as he lifted, until, with a wet, tearing sound, he broke the heart free from his chest. The vampire collapsed and was still. "Alright," I said. "I’ll put them on her." "Hurry," Jacob said, passing me another man’s jacket. I pulled the pants over the ankles and up the legs of the young lady, an awkward process on a prone body. Jacob went to the smallest man, took off his shoes and put them on her feet. "Why not put on her own shoes?" I said, pulling the pants over her curved hips while trying not to look at her. "Too noticeable. With her hair under a hat and a man’s clothes, she might pass for a boy." "Smart," I said. "We’ll need a cab," Jacob said. "Could you go hail one?" I ran out to the street. I signaled a cab to the curb and promised the driver a shilling to wait. When I ran back inside, Jacob pointed to the pants-less man. "He doesn’t need a doctor anymore." The man’s eyes stared vacantly. His body was tilted to the side. My eyes met Jacob’s and he shrugged. Together we pulled the lady up. As we did she regained consciousness with a wild-eyed fright and she struggled like a rabbit caught in a snare. "Miss, we’re here to help you," I said. The woman trembled and looked at each of us and then around her and then at us again. Jacob and I nodded reassuringly to her in turn. Then she buried her face against my shoulder and sobbed. "We’ll take you home to your family," I said. "You’re safe now. But we must be going." She shook her head. For a moment I feared the horror had addled her wits. "You don’t want to go home?" She shook her head more vehemently and stopped her tears. "No family?" Jacob asked. She glanced down. "No." The woman slid off the table. She stepped over a corpse. She stared at the carnage then spat on the body of the man who had held the knife to her throat. We walked with the lady between us, escorting her to the carriage. "Where to, gents?" the driver asked. "Saint George’s Drive," I replied. Jacob raised a brow. "It suddenly came to me where our hotel is located," I explained. The lady stared straight ahead. Jacob and I looked at her and we both shrugged, uncertain what to do. I thought of dropping her off at a police station, but feared it would raise too many questions and feared the same with a hospital. I sat wishing she would speak for I suddenly hated the silence. The quiet left me to my thoughts. Thinking recalled the horror of the house we had left. Words, any words, would be better than that, I thought. I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Jacob, what you did was the bravest and most horrific thing I have ever witnessed." I cursed myself. I did not want to speak about what had just occurred. Jacob leaned forward and his eyes locked on mine. "Dr. Armitage, I have had a lot of experience at fighting. I have fought Apaches. I have killed outlaws. I went into that fight confident I could best those men. They were soft from easy living off the wealth earned by their ancestors. In my family, the only things passed down are this dagger, this tomahawk and a terrible anger. Those gentlemen got to see all three." "But the odds," I said. "Odds don’t count for much," Jacob said. "Once you kill the first one, the rest are usually too busy worrying about dying to think about killing. The only thing I was uncertain about was the vampire. But I had faith you could best him. Dr. Armitage, I went in there almost certain we’d live. You looked at the odds and you thought we’d be killed. Yet you didn’t hesitate to go. Who is the braver man?" His words surprised me. I blinked away sudden, uncontrollable tears. I could not speak for I was overwrought from the conflicting emotions of horror from the fight and happiness at having survived. He looked away before he continued. "Most people are sheep and I do not mean that in a bad way," he said. "God means for people to be his flock. Some eat grass all day, looking up at the shepherd for guidance. Some people are the sheepdogs — soldiers, lawmen and firemen — that protect the flock from the predators for some people want to slay the sheep, out of hunger or just out of meanness. When the wolves, coyotes and bears attack, the sheepdogs and the shepherd fight to save the sheep. And sometimes you see a tough old ram or ewe join the fray to save the herd. You’re one of those rams." "And you’re a sheepdog," I said. "No, sir, I’m a wolf," he said. "I just happen to like to hunt the other wolves." We listened to the clop of the horses’ hooves and the creak of the axle under us. I suddenly felt exhausted beyond measure. The strain of the previous days and nights, the long hours of research at the library, our wandering lost through London and the desperate fight with the vampire left me more drained than providing Lucy with blood ever did. I tottered on the line between awake and asleep. Sleep was an escape from my nightmarish memories. As my eyes closed and head rested in the corner, I heard the young lady ask Jacob: "Where are you taking me?" "Miss, wherever you want to go," Jacob answered. "Do you have anyone we can take you to in London?" "I lived with my brother," she said. "I thought you said you had no family." "You killed my brother." There followed an awkward pause. Jacob shifted in the seat beside me. His elbow bumped into my side. I kept my eyes closed. I may have followed him into battle against six men and a vampire, but he was on his own for this. "Ma’am, I’m sorry," Jacob said. "My brother offered me to Lord Ruthven in exchange for transforming him and his friends into vampires," the woman said. "I’m so sorry," he said, adding emphasis to the elbow he jabbed into my ribs. "Stop apologizing," she said louder. "You saved my life. My brother gave me to Lord Ruthven to rape me and degrade me and kill me in front of their friends." "Ma’am, I am — sure we’re close to our hotel," Jacob said. His heel came down hard on the instep of my left foot. "Did I fall asleep?" I lied, rubbing my eyes and avoiding Jacob’s accusatory glare. "I was just getting ready to tell Miss, uh, the lady here, that she could stay at our hotel in the extra room," Jacob said. "Of course, you are welcome to stay," I said. "You also may be able to provide us with information. As you may have surmised we too have an interest in destroying vampires. In any event, you may count yourself under our protection for as long as you wish." A choking sound came from her. I feared she would cry. Certainly it would have been understandable if she had. But she pulled herself together. "Thank you. Thank you both for — for rescuing me." "You are most welcome," I said. "Miss, I am Dr. Henry Armitage and this is Mr. Jacob Wetzel." "I am Elaine Hamilton," she said. The carriage pulled up to St. George’s Drive. I paid the fare and we walked the short distance to our hotel. I motioned for Jacob to escort Miss Hamilton to our rooms and went to the front desk for the key. The clerk also handed me a sealed envelope. I glanced around, suddenly fearful. No one was in the lobby. No one I could see, I thought. I tore open the message. "Flee at once," I read. I recognized Carnacki’s handwriting. "When did this arrive?" I asked the man at the front desk. "I do not know, sir. I just came on duty." My exhaustion suddenly vanished. I ran the three flights of stairs to our rooms. Jacob and Miss Hamilton stood at the door, leaning against the wall. "We must leave immediately," I said. Jacob raised a brow and I handed him the note. He passed it to Miss Hamilton. "We’ll take you out of London and find some place safe for you," I told her. She nodded. We cautiously entered our rooms. They were empty. We quickly threw our few belongings into our bags. From the doorway, we scanned the area before leaving the hotel. We did not see anyone, but that did not mean they might not be there. London was a haunted house with a fresh horror behind every door. Despite anxious moments, we made it to Victoria Station. An odd trio we must have appeared with a woman clumsily dressed in a man’s clothing and two men looking tensely about them. I paid for the tickets as Jacob watched alertly. Miss Hamilton stood next to me. In the blink of an eye, a rangy young man with a thin mustache and chalky complexion appeared next to us with his arms folded. I had not heard him approach; neither had my companions. All three of us gave a jump. Jacob’s hand went inside his coat, but the stranger held his palm out. I recognized the man, but I could not immediately remember from where. "Good evening," he said. "I mean you no harm." Then I recognized his voice. The two of us had discussed the dramas of Shakespeare and Marlowe until nearly dawn on the night of October 12 — the night Inspector Johnstone had been slain. The night I also probably would have died if I had returned to my hotel. "Who are you?" I asked, forgetting my manners in my bewilderment. "I apologize, but I do not remember your name." "Kit Morley," he said. "And I owe you an apology for startling you. But we do not have much time. I have sent the dogs after a false scent. Listen. Three nights from now meet me near the statue of King Henry VI at King’s College in Cambridge." He walked away and I placed a hand on Jacob’s shoulder to keep him from pouncing on the man. "We must catch our train," I reasoned. "If he meant us harm he could have done so." We boarded our train and now I find myself sitting up too nervous to sleep despite my exhaustion. We are in a day coach opened to take on extra passengers. I do not know where the train is going for I had bought tickets for the next train leaving the station. I do not care our destination as long as we are putting miles between London and us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jacob is DA BOMB!


1/14/2005 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Carnacki said...

The literary character Jacob Wetzel is descended from the true-life Lewis Wetzel and Martin Wetzel, who are described in Allan W. Eckert's history of the Ohio river valley Indian wars "That Dark and Bloody River." They put the dark and bloody in the title.

I really liked how Lucy in the barn scene with Adena recognized the killer within Jacob though no one else, not even Carnacki who knew Jacob's past, could see it.

1/15/2005 12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We knew Jacob would come to life sooner or later, but his weapon of choice was a total surprise. Good job.

1/15/2005 02:56:00 PM  

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