The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXIII.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "We arrived at the cemetery and paid our fare. The hour was early, too early for mourners to be about, and the thick fog would help hide us. "I carried my bag and we walked together. Lucy kept her eyes on the ground in front of her to avoid seeing the crosses on grave markers. "The tomb entrance was locked. I looked at Lucy and she nodded she was ready. I pulled a short pry bar from my case and forced the door with a loud metal creak. "I dropped the bar and drew my revolver in one hand and dagger in the other. Lucy unsheathed her saber. The slight odor of long rotted corpses met us — a stench as bad as at Fletcher’s cellar, but still disgusting. "I had not expected the vampires to return here. The location was merely on our list to search. But the vampires were audacious. The first coffin we opened, we found the remains of their repast from the previous night. A woman lay freshly killed. She was poorly dressed with holes worn in the soles of her black boots. The vampires had torn out her throat, perhaps only a few hours previous. Strands of muscle, gristle and blood vessels lay exposed. "Lucy and I looked upon the woman’s corpse with pity. A fire sparked in Lucy’s eyes. "We opened the second coffin where a female vampire lay, her arms folded across her chest. We slid the coffin lid shut. I pulled out an envelope from my inner coat pocket and lay it on top of the grave. The envelope contained a wild rose, dry and brittle, but with its power over vampires intact. I had three similar envelopes in the pocket. "I opened the second coffin as Lucy stood poised to strike. Another female vampire rested within. We closed the lid and placed another wild rose envelope on top of it. "The next two coffins held skeletal remains, but the following two contained the men. "With the wild roses sealing the other three in their coffins, I held a stake over the fourth’s chest. "Lucy pulled a large hammer from my case and handed it to me and I drove the stake through the vampire’s chest. The fiend’s scream of agony was halted suddenly as Lucy lopped off his head with a graceful strike. "We could hear the other three lunge in their coffins in response to their companion’s death cry. Their scrambling sent a shiver up my spine because it reminded me of the scratching and scurrying of the rats at Fletcher’s. We killed the women vampires quickly. "I opened the last coffin and the vampire sprung out, lashing at me with his claws, batting at me with cat-like swipes. I jumped back, expecting his attack. As he struck at me, Lucy swung her sword and sent the vampire’s head sailing. I felt a brief elation at our successful start. I picked up my envelopes and slid them back into my coat’s liner pocket. We still had much more to do to cleanse the city of the Un-Dead scourge upon it. "We walked quickly out and shut the crypt doors behind us and walked through the cemetery to the Egyptian Avenue. We entered tombs on either side, tossing open coffins and knocking open the locked doors when necessary. "I expected a constable or a groundskeeper to halt us at any moment, but no one appeared. We moved hastily, determined to search as many as we could in the shortest amount of time even if it meant acting less cautiously than we should have. "A precious two hours passed by the time we finished with the Egyptian Avenue and the Circle of Lebanon. Our luck from earlier was not repeated. "Our next target was slightly more than a mile away, an abandoned house in Hampstead on an out-of-the-way lane among the maze of streets in a residential area. We walked across Hampstead Heath, past the ponds and then into the quiet neighborhood. "A brick wall surrounded the house on Upper Terrace. We approached from the Hampstead Grove side. Glancing around, we saw no one to witness us, and climbed the wall. "Weeds as high as our knees choked the lawn and flowerbeds. We followed a gravel path to the rear of the two-story house. "I tried the back door — locked. I pulled out my hammer and swung it hard into the door above the knob. It popped open with a splintering sound. "We did not see sense in subtlety considering our lack of time and, more importantly, the keen hearing of the vampires. To them, a scratching at the door with locksmith tools could be as loud as the sledgehammer blow. "I knew, however, from experience that vampires also could fall into a deep sleep where noise would not disturb them. "I looked at Lucy and pulled out my dagger. She drew the sword. "The house was still as I entered. Lucy stood blocked from entering until I invited her in. A thin layer of dust covered the counters and floor of the kitchen. We fairly raced through the ground floor, finding only empty room after empty room. We took the stairs up, moving into the dim darkness. I smelled an animal odor, like the smell of Johnstone’s guard dog when wet from the rain. "I pulled out my revolver. "We moved more slowly. The feral odor had caught us by surprise and raised goosebumps. At the first door, I turned the knob and opened it slowly, Lucy standing on the other side of the doorway. "Another empty room. We opened the door on the other side. The door swung wide into another room with nothing sinister inside. "Lucy bent close to my ear and whispered, ‘I hear scratching,’ and pointed to a door further down the hall. "My pulse pounded in my ears like an Indian drum desperately beating a warning of danger. "We stared at the wood-paneled door. Lucy and I exchanged a glance and I motioned for her to kick it open. She nodded and stepped back slightly. "As her kick shattered the door, I caught a blur of brown fur diving at her. I snapped off a shot. With lightning reflexes, she threw up her hands and caught the wolf around the neck as it lunged for her throat, yellowed fangs bared with fury. "Lucy tumbled back from the impact of the wolf’s crash. The two struck the closed door on the opposite side of the hall and knocked it off its hinges and tumbled inside. "Lucy and the wolf rolled and bit at each other, the snarls and growls from both were horrific to hear. "They moved too quickly for me to dare a second shot. "I heard a creak of hinges behind me and turned in time to see a coffin lid rising, pushed open by a deathly white hand. "I fairly leaped at the coffin, hurling the lid open. I hesitated momentarily for the vampire appeared to be a young lady, not yet fully awaken from her Un-Dead sleep. Destroying the earlier female vampires had not troubled me for I had seen their victim. This was different and I was filled with repulsion at what had to be done. Yet as she began to rise, she bared her fangs with a vicious hiss and I swung my dagger without mercy. Her face, colorless except for bright red lips, changed from hatred to astonishment as my heavy blade nearly decapitated her. "Black ichor gushed from the ghastly wound and ran down her chest like a spigot. The vampire flopped out of her casket onto the wood floor with a thud, landing on her face. Her head was barely attached to her neck. As she scrambled to her feet, I stuck my foot out and sent her falling back down. "I landed on the fiend’s back. ‘May you find peace,’ I said. I pulled back her long hair, drew back my arm and chopped through the remaining flesh and bone. As I dropped her head, I jumped up and raced to the hall to help Lucy — and she and I collided, knocking me onto my back. "Lucy pulled me up. A sickening sound made me turn. The vampire’s headless body was crawling toward her head. I picked up the featherweight body and dropped her into the coffin. The body squirmed in my arms and I shuddered with disgust. "I pulled out a wooden stake and held it over the vampire’s chest. The arms reached up and the hands touched the stake like a blind woman. Lucy handed me the hammer from my valise and I drove the stake into the vampire’s chest. The woman’s back arched and then she lay still. "A putrid odor escaped from the vampire’s corpse. I felt lightheaded and nearly swooned. I crossed the room, and picked up the vampire’s head by the hair and placed it into the coffin with the body. "‘See the scratch marks?’ Lucy asked, pointing to the grooves on the side of the coffin. ‘The wolf was trying to warn her. Oh Carnacki, are we doing the right thing?’ "‘I sincerely hope so,’ I said. ‘Do you see an alternative?’ "She shook her head. ‘It is only because of you and the others I am not like her.’ "I searched the vampire’s traveling cases. I pulled out her money purse. There was no identification, but a thick wad of paper money, mostly British but a smattering of bills from the Continent as well as gold coins. I took it and put it in my own wallet. I felt no compunction against robbing the dead. I saw it as spoils of war. Money was a necessary weapon to battle the fiends. I closed the coffin lid. "We searched the rest of the house. I was disappointed to find no letters or journals, no indication of where Lilith hid. She had very little in the way of belongings. From the labels of the dresses, I suspected she was German, but could not be certain. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 24 October. Onboard a train. — I find myself feeling sympathy for my killer and his beautiful queen. Had Dracula, my cruel and lonely seducer, stayed away from civilization until summoned by Lilith because he knew he could not control his blood lust? How many of the other vampires destroyed today would have remained safe if they had not obeyed her? Yet now I know just how persuasive she can be. I was frightened this morning until I killed the vampires at Highgate. Their screams of agony stirred something deep and dangerous in me. They had slain a young woman. I had examined her throat. All four of them had been at her viciously before they had ripped her throat apart. I do not know what she had been, but she had been someone’s daughter. She had life and was entitled to all that entails. Thomas saw how much pleasure I took in destroying the vampires and he looked away from me, trying to hide his dislike of my diabolical side. But I did not take the same pleasure in killing from all of the vampires. With one of them I imagined seeing a mirror image of myself. At a house in Hampstead, we came upon a vampire in her coffin, guarded by a wolf companion. When the beast sprung at me, I thought of the wolf crashing through Mother’s bedroom window. When I snapped the wolf’s neck, his snarling teeth inches from my throat, a feeling of exhilaration shot through me like lightning on a hot summer night. I rushed to Thomas, who had slain a woman. I spotted the cause of the scratching I heard earlier. The wolf had scratched at his mistress’s coffin to warn her of our presence. The vampire had inspired loyalty, possibly even love, from the wolf. My happiness from the kill emptied from me like water poured from a decanter. Clearly, Thomas took no pleasure in causing death. He had carried her body with a surprising gentleness to the vampire’s coffin. Thomas drove a stake through the vampire’s chest. The core of Thomas is innately good and noble. After he lowered the coffin lid, I stood close to Thomas and put my hand on his shoulder. Our eyes met. "It is only because of you I am not like her," I told Thomas. I looked down at the closed coffin in pity for the occupant.


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