The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XVII.)

Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 19. Onboard a train in England. — I just wanted to buy books. I never meant to become a wanted criminal on the run from the law. When Carnacki told us of his plan to kidnap the Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, I seized on it. Carnacki’s idea was to introduce the police official to Lucy and persuade him of the existence of vampires. After that, the threat to London, to civilization, could be turned over to the police. Where did the plan go wrong? Was it the horrific events the clinic? Or the awful discovery we learned later? What happened at the clinic is a good place to begin. Daylight incapacitated Lucy more than she or we knew it would. We left her guarded by Anne and then raided the clinic for the list of vampire addresses to turn over to Scotland Yard. Adena and I watched the back to prevent anyone from escaping that way. Carnacki, Albion, Walekar and Jacob entered the front. Adena held her post as bravely as any soldier ever did. The back door opened and both of us tensed for a confrontation. We breathed a sigh of relief as Prem held open the door. He told us to come inside to help search. We walked quietly down the hall and Albion signaled for the three of us to go upstairs. I cringed at the inevitable creak of a loose board. We searched slowly, covering each other as Prem had taught us. However, a gunshot from deep inside the building stopped our room-by-room search. We raced down the stairs to assist our friends in the cellar. Sergeant Walekar led the way down the hall. As he ran past the open doorway to the Doctor’s examination room, he stopped so suddenly that I nearly collided into the back of him. Walekar grunted in agony, dropped his revolver and slid to the floor in front of me. Surprised, I rolled him from his side to his back. A dagger hilt protruded from his chest. The Sergeant gasped for breath. From where I knelt above him, Walekar looked past my shoulder, his eyes wide with something I had never seen there: fear. I followed his gaze up. From the doorway, a tall, lean man in a black coat and top hat stepped into the hall, his coal black eyes sparkling, a malicious grin splitting his pointed beard. I recognized him as the coachman who had picked up the blood bottles. As I raised my revolver, the coachman slapped it out of my hand with incredible speed, sending the gun spinning down the hall. I stumbled back, unfortunately knocking down Adena behind me. The coachman reached down to Walekar and pulled the dagger out of Walekar’s chest. The blade dripped red. As the coachman watched us with a nonchalant air, his long red tongue licked the knife clean. He stepped over the Sergeant. Adena and I scrambled backwards. I stopped and reached a trembling, desperate hand into my coat’s inner pocket and drew out a manila envelope. The vampire’s bloodstained lips curled with a depraved leer, his long fangs glistening as he laughed at our fear. Suddenly, however, his smile disappeared. With a valiant effort, the Sergeant had crawled behind the vampire and stabbed the monster behind his right knee. With a curse of pain, the vampire turned to the Sergeant. I tore open the packet and cast the powdered mixture at the vampire’s face. When the crushed wolfsbane, garlic and wild roses struck the vampire, the coachman screamed and dropped to his knees, his hands clutching his face. He immediately pulled his hands away as if he had touched a hot stove. His smoldering face held an expression as if the gates of hell had opened under him. Walekar drew back his kukri dagger and swung with a mighty slash, severing through the vampire’s neck muscles and tendons. The fiend’s head landed with a wet thud. The vampire thrashed in spasms, black ichor spraying from the gaping wound. The Sergeant clutched his hand to his chest. His face was gray behind his thick black beard. The dagger dropped to the floor with a clang and then Walekar collapsed. I pulled a wooden stake from an inner coat pocket and, with a berserker rage, drove it deep into the vampire’s chest, pinning the corpse to the floor. Adena rushed to Walekar’s side, tearing open his coat and shirt with a single movement. The wound above his heart appeared such a small thing to fell such a large man. Yet he coughed and bloody saliva fell on his bearded chin. A horrid, sucking sound like a boot being pulled from mud came from his chest. "What do we do?" Adena asked, her face white. "Hold his hand," I said as I pulled my kerchief from my pocket and held it over his wound. "I will get the Doctor." I jumped up and dashed to the office where I had seen the Doctor tied to a chair. I had taken a brief glance at Carnacki standing over the Doctor. He would assist the Sergeant or I would shoot him. I was braced to prevent the Doctor from escaping if he had been freed by the vampire before the ambush of the Sergeant so I was not prepared for what I did see. The Doctor’s head tilted forward at an unnatural angle and blood oozed from a wide gash at his throat. The front of his lab coat looked as if a bucket of red paint had been poured on him. I turned away. Adena looked up at me with hopeful eyes, but I shook my head sadly. I knelt on the other side of Walekar from Adena. Walekar’s eyes rolled to the side as he whispered, "I am dying." "Rest easy," I said, not knowing what to say. He coughed again. His eyes took on a haunted look. "I do not want to die." I squeezed his right hand tightly to me, overwhelmed with grief and hopelessness and the momentousness of his life fading away. I choked back a sob. I did not want him to die either. He had become a friend. I thought of his leading us through our drills on the grassy field in North Yorkshire. I had felt comforted to know such a rock-steady soldier would be there to see us through our ordeal. Adena took his other hand. The sound of furniture toppling and glass breaking came from the basement. Though fearful of what was happening to the others below, I could not abandon the Sergeant as he passed into the great unknown. Adena leaned over and kissed his brow. A tear streamed down Walekar’s cheek. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want," he said so softly I had to lean forward to hear. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." Adena and I joined him. "He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." His grip tightened and his frightened eyes looked on some distant land. Then Prem’s hand let go. He was gone. My tears rained down on him. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies," I said alone. Adena sobbed against his shoulder. "Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shallow follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." The sounds of battle below us had stopped. I picked up my revolver and went to the basement door. Jacob looked up from the bottom of the stairs. Blood streamed down a gash on his right cheek. "Is that all of them?" Albion asked him, standing a few feet away. "I think so," Jacob said. "Albion," I called down. He glanced up. Something in my tone or expression caused a deep anxiety to appear on his face. "Walekar?" Albion asked. I shook my head. The Captain ran up the stairs taking four at a time and passed me. I waited on the landing to give him privacy. Adena whispered words of comfort softly to him. Albion nodded and rose. "We must leave," he said. "Someone may have reported the gunshots to the police and they might arrive at any moment. Dr. Armitage, please bring the carriage to the back entrance. Carnacki, grab our prisoner and escort him out." "Our prisoner is dead," I said. "What?" Albion shouted. "Where is Carnacki?" Adena asked. "He’s down here," Jacob shouted from the cellar. "He’s hurt bad." We rushed down the stairs and as Jacob shined his lantern on Carnacki, Adena screamed. Carnacki lay in a spreading pool of blood that oozed from his forehead and small cuts across his body. He appeared lifeless, but he had a steady pulse and breathed. Jacob and I picked him up and carried him upstairs. We took Carnacki into the examination room and lay him on a metal table. Adena wrapped his head in gauze. Jacob had shut the door to the lobby so that the bodies in the hall could not be seen from the front windows. But at any moment we expected police constables to arrive. Adena finished bandaging Carnacki’s head, but he still was covered in blood. Carrying him out would be the same as holding up signs proclaiming our involvement in the murderous deeds inside the building. Jacob and I walked out the front door together to bring the carriages around to the back. Jacob went upstairs to escort the two ladies down. I guided the rig through the streets to the back of the blood clinic. As I stepped off, Jacob pulled his carriage up beside mine. Anne and I helped Lucy, still weak from the sunlight, out of the carriage. "Where is he?" Lucy asked. I opened the back door for her and followed them. As we walked down the hallway, Albion, with Dr. Chamberlain’s body hoisted over his shoulder, stepped into the basement entrance. "Here, let me help you carry that," I said. "I have him," Albion said. Albion had already moved the headless vampire from the hall and draped a white sheet over Walekar. Anne stared at the sheet. A red spot had formed where the sheet lay over Walekar’s wound. We stepped into the clinic office. Lucy’s hand covered her mouth to stifle a gasp. Carnacki, his face a crimson mask of blood, sat on a stool as Adena stood over him with a suture needle and thread. "Hold still," Adena told him. Adena rushed to Lucy and put a hand on the vampire’s shoulder. "Thomas is hurt, but I do not think it is as bad as it appears," she said with a reassurance I knew she did not feel. She returned to Carnacki, who had taken the opportunity of her stepping away to wipe the blood from his eyes. Albion returned from his grisly task. "Do you know what you are doing?" he asked Adena. "Not really," she said. "I cannot sew." Albion answered impatiently. "We need to get him out without attracting attention. He’s a bloody mess." "He needs medical treatment," she said. "He has cuts all over and he probably has a concussion." Albion scribbled on a sheet of paper. "Here are directions to a doctor I know near Paddington Station. A good man. He treated me years ago in Afghanistan. Take Carnacki there." The Captain handed Jacob the directions. The young man cocked an eyebrow. "You should be looked at, too," Albion told him. "Armitage and I will take the vampire list to the Chief Inspector. He needs it now to have time to act before dark. We will join you at Dr. Watson’s after the police raids." I pulled my watch from my vest pocket. Only 20 minutes had passed since we entered the building. I had thought it had been hours ago. "What about Sergeant Walekar?" "I will not leave him in this slaughterhouse," Albion said. "Roll him up in this rug and we will put him in our carriage." "You can put him in my coffin, Captain" Lucy offered. "Thank you," Albion said. "Captain, I am sorry there was not more we could do to save him," I told Albion. "The attack happened too fast. We had no idea anyone had entered." Albion put his hand on my shoulder. "Sergeant Walekar knew the risks." We folded Walekar’s arms and gently rolled his corpse into the rug. Jacob grabbed one end of the carpet and Captain Albion the other. Albion asked me to pick up a chair. "May I ask why do you want to take that?" I asked. "Because two men carrying a rug are men removing a body, but two men carrying a rug and another carrying a chair are men moving furniture," he answered. "You’ve done something like this before, haven’t you?" I asked. The Captain did not reply. Instead, he made a motion with his head for us to start out the back door. No one spoke as our procession moved outside. There were no witnesses so we opened Lucy’s crate and slid Walekar into the coffin, bending the rug so he fit. Anne and Jacob helped Carnacki into the other carriage while Adena walked with Lucy. Albion climbed to the driver’s bench with me and we raced off through the crowded streets to the Metropolitan Police Headquarters. We told a desk sergeant we had to see Chief Inspector James immediately, that we had a message from Carnacki. The Sergeant sent a constable, then returned to his paperwork. Chief Inspector James appeared. "Where is Mr. Carnacki?" he said. "Sir, Mr. Carnacki has been seriously injured," the Captain said. "We have the list." "Come with me. I have the men awaiting orders." We walked down a long hallway. The interior of government buildings, whether police stations or university offices, develop the same uniform dullness of paint and cleanliness. James opened a door into a large room filled with constables and plain-clothed detectives. Relief washed over me. Here was the sort of help we needed to fight Lilith. "I have the addresses," the Chief Inspector addressed his men. "Here are your assignments. Winston, take your squad to Highgate —" The door slammed into the wall, pushed open by a scowling man. "What is going on here?" the newcomer demanded. "Commissioner Sheppard, I am in the middle of briefing the men to raid a series of hideouts used by an anarchist gang," Chief Inspector James said. "Why was I not informed of this ‘gang?’" Commissioner Sheppard said. "Where are your search warrants? Where are your investigative reports? What are you up to James?" The Chief Inspector’s expression did not change. "Sir, if I may have a moment with you in your office I will gladly explain." The Commissioner grabbed the sheet of paper from the Chief Inspector’s hand. "Bloody hell," Sheppard roared as he read the addresses. The color disappeared from his face. The Commissioner addressed the police officers: "You men, back to your duty. Now! Chief Inspector, I order you to wait here." The Commissioner spun on his heel out of the room. Albion started forward. "He’s in league with Lilith!" the Captain snapped with a dark and dangerous look. "He recognized the list at once!" I held out my arms to stop him. "Think man! There is nothing we can do about it here," I whispered. The police constables filed out quickly, looking disconcerted. I mopped my brow. Despite the coolness of the room, my forehead had suddenly become damp with sweat. "We had better move," I said. "Once he has overcome his surprise, he will think to order us held. And it will be dark soon." Albion nodded slowly. His eyes had a cold, hard stare. "Come with us if you want to live," I told the Chief Inspector. "The Commissioner will come back to arrest you or commit you to a lunatic asylum. Either way, you will be defenseless and killed." "I have read how to defend myself against vampires," James said. "There are worse things than vampires working with Lilith," I said. We walked out quickly with Albion and I on either side of the Chief Inspector to hurry him along. I entered the carriage with the Chief Inspector and Albion climbed up to take the reins. "I cannot believe this is happening," James said. "Lilith prepared well," I said. "She must have recognized the threat the police could be and she subverted the department at the top." "But how?" he asked. "Maybe through witchcraft or demonic possession," I said. "Or she might have offered him eternal life as a vampire. She might have seduced him. According to some legends, Lilith is the mother of all succubae." The Chief Inspector looked at me as if I spoke a foreign language. Albion called down from his perch. "Once they investigate the clinic — and the Commissioner recognized the list, he will know from where we obtained it — we will have two forces against us: Lilith’s and the police." My heart caught in my throat. I did not want to die and I did not want to go to prison. I looked out the window. It suddenly seemed as if everyone watched us. "I will go to the Home Office Secretary," the Chief Inspector said suddenly. "He must be informed of the Commissioner’s treachery." "Don’t you think the Commissioner will send a message to the constables guarding the Home Secretary to arrest you should you go near him?" Albion said. "And even if you did make it past the guards, once you told the Home Secretary the threat, do you think he would believe you?" "Five more minutes and the men would have been on their way," the Chief Inspector said. We lurched in our seats as the wheels of the carriage hit a bump. "Should we flee London or try to strike a blow?’ I asked Albion. ‘I copied the list to my notebook. We might get one or two of the vampires." I heard Albion sigh. "Carnacki is injured, we do not know if Lucy will have recovered when the sun goes down and if we do not depart soon, I fear our enemies will have time to organize a watch on the train stations," he replied. "Do you want to know what I fear?" James asked. "Yes, sir," I said. "How high does the conspiracy go?" the Chief Inspector said. Neither of us had an answer. Albion sped the carriage through the street, but the journey took time we did not have. Albion pulled his carriage next to Jacob’s, hopped down and went inside the doctor’s office. He returned in moments. "Dr. Armitage, please wait here. I shall rejoin you and the others as soon as possible," Albion said. "I shall meet you at the train station." "Euston Station?" "No," Albion said. "They," he did not have to explain who they were to us, "might already be watching it since we departed from there last time. Go to King’s Cross." He opened his bag and consulted his Bradshaw. "If I have not joined you go ahead and depart on the 5:05 p.m. train to Whitby." Albion patted the horses. "Here, help me move the rug into this carriage. These horses need a rest." We lifted Prem’s body out of Lucy’s coffin and slid the rug onto the floor of the other carriage. I heard the Chief Inspector ask, "Who is in the rug?" "My friend, Sergeant Premkumar Walekar," Albion said. "One of the best men to walk this Earth. He was killed in obtaining the list." Albion pulled himself up to the driver’s bench and rode off. The Chief Inspector stood next to me. "What will he do with the body?" I did not know so I did not answer. I feared for Albion for I worried that he would try to avenge his friend. I thought I was seeing the last of both of them. Time crawled though the shadows grew as I watched. The others came out at last. Jacob, with a line of black stitches across his right cheek, took the reins of the carriage. Carnacki had on clean clothes. His face was pale, but he no longer appeared glassy eyed. "Where’s Albion?" he asked. I told him I did not know and passed on the Captain’s instructions on meeting him at the train station." "Albion told me something had gone wrong, but we could not talk in front of the Doctor, who was sewing me up at the time," Carnacki said. "We should be going," I said. "The Chief Inspector and I will explain in the carriage." We climbed in, a rather tight fit with six of us in the carriage. The Chief Inspector gave Jacob directions. Then James and I told Carnacki what had happened at Scotland Yard. "The police will be after us to either put us in jail or a mental institution," I said. The news made Carnacki and the ladies gasp. "I do not want to ever be a prisoner again," Anne said. "I will not let them lock me away. I will make them kill me before I allow that to happen." Lucy put an arm around her and they held onto each other. We arrived at the station. Carnacki spoke with a groomsman about returning our horses and carriages to their proper stables and paid him. We placed our luggage and Lucy’s crate on a cart and went inside the main hall. Carnacki bought tickets and distributed them to us. Countless people passed through the station. He pulled out his watch from a vest pocket, flicked open the timepiece and then shook it, holding it to his ear. He tossed it into a bin. I opened my watch and showed him the time. "Let us move to the platform," Carnacki said. Soon after, the train pulled into the station. Porters loaded the crate and we climbed onboard. Carnacki had secured two compartments in first class. Lucy, Adena and Anne sat close together on one bench in their compartment. They held each other’s hands and appeared to be praying. I pulled down the blinds and left them. The conductor signaled for the train’s departure. As Carnacki stood at the coach’s entrance, his anxious look changed to relief. Moments later, Albion swung on board, having sprinted to catch the train. Wordlessly, they greeted each other with a fierce handshake and pats on each other’s arms with their free hands. We entered the compartment and sat down. "We retreat in defeat once more," Carnacki said. "Lilith has laid her plans well." "At least we struck a blow this time," I said. "The price was too high," the Captain responded.


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