The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXVII.)

Lucy Westenra’s Diary. (24 October — continued). From the look on his face when the door opened, I knew Thomas expected it to be one of Lilith’s men or worse. Last night in the train’s salon car, we had discussed the risk of capture by Lilith’s minions. It was not just a question of being tortured for information. With the hypnotic powers of vampires, a simple gaze into the eyes might provide them with answers. From the hall, Albion spoke up. "It is us," he said warily. "Step inside," Thomas answered, his hand still gripping the revolver in his coat pocket. Albion did, followed by the others. The tormented look on Thomas was replaced by one of relief. He shook Albion’s hand and Anne’s and then faced Adena. They looked at each other then she rushed into Thomas’s arms and began crying, her body shaking with sobs. Thomas squeezed her tightly. Anne had a haunted look and stared off into the distance. Albion held out a chair for her and she sat down mechanically. I stepped over to her and put an arm around her and she rested her head against my shoulder. I looked up at the Captain. "They have had a rather trying day," he told me. Albion separated Thomas and Adena and guided her to a chair. The Captain pulled out a silver flask and passed it around. The tears had stopped by the time the waiter came to take our orders. Albion and Thomas stepped out together, leaving the three of us alone. "Are you alright?" I asked. "No," Adena said. "Killing is an awful thing. Even when it is kill or be killed, it is horrible." "We did what we had to be done," Anne said. "They left us no choice. You must be strong. The Captain needs us." "I suppose you are right," Adena said. My curiosity grew. "What happened?" Adena shook her head. "I do not want to speak of it. Not today. Not ever." "We have important information we must act upon soon," Anne said. "But please forgive me. How are you?" "We had a busy morning," I said. "We killed seven vampires, one wolf, one witch and burned down a house." "Four vampires," Anne said. "And six men." Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. Carnacki’s maid entered the room with a fresh pot of coffee. His story had taken much longer than usual yet none of us wanted to leave. He thanked her as she left and he poured us cups of the black brew and passed the steaming mugs around. I sat back with my coffee. I had not realized I had been on the edge of my seat. "I have not meant to talk so late," Carnacki apologized. "Should I finish another night?" "No, please continue," I said. Arkright and the others nodded their concurrence. Thunder rumbled from the storm. "Very well," he said. Carnacki took a drink and set his cup down. He sighed. "I remember it all too well, as if it happened yesterday. I wish I could forget what occurred. But I cannot. "The others made it to the rendezvous much to my relief. I had hidden my worry from Lucy, but I confess I had become anxious that harm had befallen them. I followed Albion into the washroom to hear what delayed them. "‘The ladies were wonderfully brave,’ the Captain said, splashing water onto his face. ‘Sergeant Walekar’s training paid off today. They fought as bravely as any soldiers I ever commanded.’ "‘I wish they did not have to do so,’ I said, handing him a towel. "‘I do too,’ the Captain said. He wiped his face. ‘I do too,’ he repeated more softly. ‘But I would not be alive if not for them.’ "‘What happened?’ I asked. "Albion shook his head. ‘We do not have time today. We had a bit of luck. We know where Lilith is. At least, we know where she will be. A messenger arrived at one of the vampire’s residences, summoning him to meet her this evening.’ "‘Delivered by one of her people?’ "‘No, telegram,’ he answered. "We discussed the possibility of a trap, but Albion was confident in the information. The note had arrived early in the morning — before the vampires and Lilith knew we had returned. "‘They would not have tried so hard to kill us if they planned to lead us into an ambush later,’ Albion said. "‘But she might realize that the vampire she sent the message to has been dispatched,’ I told him. ‘If so, she will be ready for us.’ "‘It is a risk we must take,’ he said. "We returned to the private room. We had much to consider. Lilith might have changed her plans after news of our raids reached her. "‘If I am not mistaken, most of her vampires and their human confederates will be busy relocating their coffins,’ I said. ‘We will not have much success with the remaining addresses on our list.’ "‘Should we send messages to the others to join us to go after Lilith?’ Lucy asked. "‘I do not think so,’ Albion said. ‘If we are wiped out, at least the four of them will survive to carry on our cause.’ "I reflected on what the Captain said. ‘You and I should be enough for this,’ I said. ‘If her defenses are too strong then we shall fall back without pressing our attack. Three more or even seven won’t make a difference.’ "He looked at me and nodded. ‘Right. The ladies should stay behind as a reserve force,’ he said. "‘We will go with you,’ Adena said. ‘We have earned that right.’ "‘You have done enough for today,’ I said. "‘We stay together,’ Anne said. "I sighed, knowing I could not convince them otherwise. ‘So where is Lilith?’ I asked. "‘You will not believe it,’ Albion said. "‘Yes, I will,’ I said. "‘The Tower of London,’ he said. "‘I don’t believe it,’ I exclaimed. "We climbed into one carriage for the ride over. With the streets tightly packed, we did not arrive at the castle grounds until shortly after 4 o’clock. The Beefeaters in their colorful uniforms stood watch, their halberds at the ready. "The others looked about them, expecting at any moment to at last face our enemy. "But I lagged behind, lost in thought. My mind explored possibilities: the White Tower; the Beefeaters’ apartments; the dungeons. It all seemed wrong for her to use such a public place as her lair or as a meeting place. She was a demon of the desert, long accustomed to isolation and the shadows, to hiding, to loneliness. "‘Captain, she is not here,’ I said. "‘How can you say that? The telegram said Tower of London. We have not yet begun to search,’ Albion said. "‘Follow me,’ I said and hurried to a nearby street where I led them to a set of stairs going down. At the bottom was a chained, iron gate. The sign above had already begun to rust: ‘Tower of London Station.’ "‘This is more to her liking,’ I said, opening my valise and pulling out the pry bar. ‘It is an Underground station abandoned in 1884." "‘Allow me,’ Albion said. He studied the padlock a moment then pulled out a small lock pick and unlocked the gate. ‘Had a soldier in my outfit once who had lived a rather nefarious life before taking the Queen’s shilling,’ Albion explained. ‘He taught me some of his secrets.’ "We pulled the gates behind us, but did not lock them. We followed the stairs down. Even treading lightly, our steps echoed in the tunnel. "The station — part of the Metropolitan Line — had opened in 1882 and closed just two years later, one of many so-called ‘ghost stations’ vacated because of population shifts or poor planning. "‘I was consulted the previous year by a railroad official interested in reopening the station. There had been rumors it was haunted. I did not find any evidence of the supernatural, but it was decided competition from the nearby station on the District line made this one unnecessary and economically unfeasible to maintain. "From a rucksack, we pulled out lanterns. Albion and I drew our revolvers. Adena, Anne and Lucy walked behind us. Out-of-date advertising posters and show bills plastered the tiled walls. We tiptoed down another flight of stairs and climbed over the turnstiles to the empty platform. "We heard a train long before we saw its front light. We ducked behind a corner. The rumble and smoke turned the deserted station into an alcove of the inferno. The engine and cars quickly passed. "I led the others down a narrow hall, past a series of offices still furnished with utilitarian desks and wood chairs until I came to a heavy door. "I opened it. If the station and platform were like walking into a time capsule, the door to this tunnel opened to a place even more ancient. In my earlier investigation, I had learned that in the digging of the tunnel and station, the workers had stumbled on a temple site going back at least to the Romans. Antiquarians had studied the site and came away with different theories about the sect. "I held myself ready and walked down the short tunnel of nearly 2,000-year-old stonework to a square chamber. Candles set in tall stands burned. Persian carpets covered the stone floor. "My pulse raced and I slipped Inspector Johnstone’s knuckle-duster on my left hand. I could see flickering torchlight coming from a second chamber. "I stepped quietly through the archway into the chamber alert for any sound and movement. "‘Good afternoon,’ called a woman’s melodious voice. "At first, I could not see anyone behind the desk despite the oil lamp burning on it. "Then the darker than night shadow took a more solid appearance and I beheld Lilith, or at least I saw as much of her as I could comprehend. "When my eyes, or mind, grew accustomed to her, I could only describe her as beautiful as an angel made by the hand of God. Not an angel from the paintings in museums, but an angel, whose beauty is so magnificent, so glorious, that it dazzles the eyes to look upon. "Still, I held my revolver pointed at her. The others continued forward until we had formed a skirmish line in front of her, each of us covering her with various weapons. "‘Welcome,’ Lilith said with a gentle smile. ‘I had hoped to speak to you before my children killed you. I would allow you to live, but my children are not so forgiving. You have angered them. They intend to have your blood and to slay your other companions as well. "‘Yes, I know about them. My spies are everywhere. Your librarian friend thinks the answer to my defeat lies in a Babylonian ritual. If it worked, do you think I would be here now?’ "Lilith spoke to us for some time. And when she finished, we had a better understanding of what she intended to do, but we still did not know how to stop her. Some of us even wondered if we should. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. (24 October — continued). Anne, Adena and Captain Albion had discovered a clue to Lilith’s location. Thomas, however, figured out what the clue meant and guided us to her in the Tower of London Station, an abandoned Underground railway station. He led us straight to Lilith, who sat as if we had made an appointment to speak with her. "I had hoped to speak with you before my children killed you," she said. She stood up and walked over to us. She was dressed in a flowing, light brown garment such as desert women wear. It was open in back for her wide leathery wings. Her skin was alabaster, her wings blacker than a moonless night. She was the most beautiful being I have ever seen. Lilith smiled at me. "You do not belong with them. You are one of my children, a creature of the night. And I shall love you as my own daughter." "I fight on the side of God," I said, trying to sound confidant. "Really?" she asked, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "So you have entered a church lately? You have taken communion? Placed a sacramental wafer on your tongue? Dipped your fingers in holy water? Kissed your crucifix? Understand, Lucy, God does not care for you. Why else would he have allowed you to suffer and die? He does not care for any of you. He did love humanity once, but no more." Lilith put a hand on my shoulder. "I may not be human, but I too love my Creator," she said. "I will make things right for God so that he will be happy and walk on the Earth with us again. "You and your friends are causing needless suffering. I had arranged to feed my children so no humans would be harmed. For that very reason, I sent Count Dracula away when he disobeyed me. But when you destroyed my good doctor and his clinic, you made it impossible for me to control my children. People are dead because of you. You should not be fighting against me. "If you persist, you will be hurt, even killed, so others might live in peace and love. I will not let you stop me. My goal is too important." Lilith stepped back. "Listen," she said gently. "Do you want to know what I am going to do? I shall do what God should have done. I will kill the Serpent of the Garden of Eden. I will take away the Apple of Knowledge. It is clear God made a mistake when he created them and placed them in the garden. "Look what humanity has done with free will. They allow his children to starve as others feast on plenty. They desecrate the Earth instead of serving as faithful stewards. They celebrate war. From their temples and mosques and churches they preach hatred of his children instead of celebrating his love. "I have stood outside their sanctuaries and heard their sermons. Last week I listened to a bishop describe how God has walked away from England because of the evil done by man. "Yet even in the beginning when God walked with man, there was evil. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Cain slew his own brother. "Humans have been such a disappointment to their Creator. God does not deserve such unhappiness. "Do you know what it was like to have the Creator walk beside you? It is the most blessed, glorious experience. He made the Universe. Can you imagine such infinite power?" She paused. "You cannot because your intellect cannot grasp it. He knows every star and every grain of sand. Yet when you walk beside God, you know, you know, that you are his most joyous creation. In those beginning days, he often walked on the Earth with us. "But no longer. And I miss that. And it is humanity’s fault. God looked at the wickedness and failings of Adam and Eve and their descendants and God repented what he had made. God no longer cares for you or for any of us. But I have discovered a way to repair the rift between God and us. And you cannot stop me. Even if you could, you shouldn’t." Lilith pointed to Captain Albion. "This man is a good example of why I must win. There is so much pain in him." She turned to him. "Is your wife’s death not proof that God is gone from the world and no longer cares for you?" She looked back to me. "Has he ever told you how his wife died?" Albion turned and for the first time I saw fear in his eyes. "Please," the Captain pleaded to her, his voice not even sounding like his own. "Please don’t." "I’m sorry Captain," Lilith said. "It is too important for you and the others to understand why I must not be stopped." Lilith looked with pity at the Captain as he bowed his head. "He and his lovely wife, Catherine, were living in India. Their first child was close to being delivered and the expectation prompted more happiness than they had ever dreamt. But the heat! With her swollen hands and feet and heavy abdomen, she found it unbearable. And so they took their doctor, a kindly experienced physician, and rode their cart to a cabin in the highlands. Then do you know what happened? The doctor, only 47, died of heart failure, such terrible timing. The shock of it sent Catherine into labor, with only her husband to help her. She could not travel and he could not abandon her to seek help. "Oh how she suffered. And the Captain, always so skilled at taking life, could not save the lives of his wife and his child. She begged him to cut the baby from her to save the child’s life. But his nerve failed him. He had slid metal into so many to kill, but he could not do it to save. And so the beautiful, dark-haired, dark-eyed Catherine and their beautiful, dark-haired daughter died. "Is that not so, Captain?" Tears poured down Albion’s face. "A daughter?" he said. "I did not know." Lilith looked at him with genuine compassion. "I am sorry to brin g you pain, but with the help of the old gods, I will make things right so no one will ever have to suffer again. The Serpent will be killed, the Apple taken away. Humans will know only love and obedience to God. Then God will return to walk amongst us again." Lilith spoke with such sincerity that I found myself wanting to join her cause. Albion, always so strong before, appeared devastated by his grief. Thomas had lowered his weapons. Anne clutched my arm and buried her face against my shoulder. Adena looked deeply sorrowful as if the core of her faith had been shaken. We had at last met our enemy and Lilith had defeated us with only her words. Then Adena looked up and her eyes met Lilith’s. "I am so sad for you," Adena said. "You are right. We are human and we fail. We do not live as God intends and we do not have the relationship with him that he wants. Too often we are weak and frightened and selfish and hurtful. Too often we sin and go against God’s will." Adena’s voice grew firmer. "Lilith, you must miss God terribly. But you are wrong to think Adam’s children are to blame. Do you not see? God has never left you. He never leaves. He never turns his back and walks away. It is the other way around — we stray from him. He always holds his arms open for us. You have spent countless eons not even realizing he is there waiting for you. Lilith, give up your arrogance and return to him." I expected Lilith to answer Adena with a murderous fury. Instead, Lilith smiled serenely and said, "We shall see." Then her wings spread wide and folded over her and she vanished. I would have preferred her rage. Anger might have meant doubt; she had none in the path she has chosen. I wish I could say the same of myself. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Lilith had surprised us. We had expected a horrific demon. Instead she wore a beautiful guise and spoke with a persuasive manner. "There are legends of creatures invulnerable to mortal weapons unless the weapons have been marked with sacred symbols or blessed under certain rites. I believe the symbols are more to allow the wielder of the weapons to use them for with Lilith we could not bring ourselves to attack her. Whether from enchantment on her part or weakness on ours, we posed no threat to her. "Adena understood the theology behind Lilith’s plan better than I. From what I gathered, Lilith intended to take away independent thought and action from mankind. She planned to kill the Serpent and take away the Apple of Knowledge to restore the Garden of Eden. I did not know if such a thing were possible. But Lilith, who had the wisdom of centuries behind her, believed it could be done. She would end all suffering and fear. She saw it as a way of bringing back God. "Immediately after speaking to us, she disappeared. I took the opportunity to grab papers, maps, and scrolls off her desk and stuff them into my valise. "But Adena tugged at my left sleeve, eager to flee before Lilith or her servants returned. ‘There’s no time!’ Adena shouted. "As we dashed up the stairs, we heard footsteps descending. "‘This way,’ I shouted, leading them to the platform. Albion covered our retreat. A train passed, spraying smoke and cinders from the engine. ‘Follow me,’ I said as soon as it passed. We ran through the darkness, footsteps behind us. "We fled. If we had stood and fought, we might have slain some, but we would have died. Our earlier success against vampires owed more to surprise than to martial prowess. "We heard the rumble of an oncoming train and squeezed into a niche. But we lost precious time. "The footsteps gained as we stumbled and tripped through the darkness until we saw the lights of the next station. Anne tripped with a shout of pain and Lucy quickly helped her up and ran with her. "We climbed up past a surprised crowd of people waiting on the platform. We heard frightened screams and shouts behind us as whatever pursued us followed onto the platform. "We sped on into daylight, into the street and did not stop. I could not gather my bearings, but headed west, now at a full sprint, pulling Adena by the hand. We turned a corner, crossing a street crowded with horses and vehicles, my leather soles flying over the pavement. Turning into a narrow alley, we skidded on the wet pavement and dashed through a courtyard onto a broader thoroughfare. I saw a four-wheeler and ran in front, waving to stop him. "I told the Cabbie to take us to the British Museum. I had to warn Armitage. "We gasped, out of breath from our mad dash through the Underground and the busy streets, and slouched low beneath the windows. "For half a block, we rode and then the carriage stopped because none of the vehicles moved. London’s traffic has always been notorious, but now even it seemed to conspire against us. "I asked Albion the time: half past 4 o’clock. A cart filled with barrels sat in front of us. I noticed a floral shop, a bakery, a newsstand, and, half a block down the street, a messenger service. I told the others I would return and ran into the office. I scribbled hasty notes to send to Chief Inspector James’s hotel, Dr. Armitage’s hotel and to Dr. Armitage at the British Library, warning my friends to flee London at once. "When I returned, the carriage had not made any progress down the street. ‘Can you tell what the delay is, Cabbie?’ I asked the Driver, who sat up on his perch. ‘It looks like the police are searching for someone or something,’ he replied. "I hid my reaction and tossed the Cabbie another coin, telling him we did not have time to wait and that we would walk. He looked at the coin and nodded. The others stepped out of the cab and we set off. Anne had twisted her ankle running in the darkness of the tunnel, but she walked bravely despite the pain, leaning on Lucy’s arm. "‘What do we do?’ Adena asked. "I shook my head with uncertainty. Our encounter with Lilith had demoralized me. I felt as hopeless as when I had first fled Hillingham. "We made it to our Kensington hotel, where we immediately ordered a cart to take our baggage to King’s Cross. We took an evening train to York. We spent the night there and in the morning arrived at Osmotherley. "None of the others had arrived and I feared for their lives.


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