The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXVIII.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "My anxious thoughts were partly eased when in the early afternoon, Armitage and Jacob arrived with a young lady, Elaine Hamilton. "They had rescued her from the clutches of a vampire and six of his human confederates. "The clock ticked and my fear increased for Chief Inspector James and Mr. Griffin. "Armitage, Adena and I sat around the kitchen table, discussing the situation. Captain Albion took a ride on his horse whilst Jacob saw to the other animals. Anne was upstairs with Miss Hamilton, providing her with clothing since the young lady had fled London without any belongings. At the hotel in York, Lucy had retired to her coffin and we did not expect her to appear until after sunset — if then. Despite her weariness, she had scribbled in her diary until nearly dawn. "Miss Hamilton had provided us with an important clue that she had picked up from the vampire, Lord Ruthven. "The vampire had promised to turn the six gentlemen into fiends such as himself. From what Armitage told me, they already were devils in human guise. One of the men was the lady’s older brother. She was to have been given to the vampire in return for Ruthven making them into the Un-Dead. "But Armitage said he and Jacob had arrived in time to save her life and honor. Armitage told us of how Jacob strode into the midst of their surprised foes and, armed only with his dagger and tomahawk, slain six of them. "Armitage spoke with awe. ‘He is a madman in battle!’ "‘Thank God he is our madman,’ I said. "Miss Hamilton had overheard Lord Ruthven tell her brother he had to decide soon, that ‘by the end of the month it would be too late.’ "At the time, Miss Hamilton had not known that she was part of her brother’s decision. They came from a wealthy family that had been active in political circles. Her brother had long practiced debauchery, drinking excessively and visiting houses of ill repute while speaking at the House of Lords on the decline of Britain’s morals and the need for stricter laws against vice. Yet she had not realized the depths he had fallen until she found herself at Lord Ruthven’s mercy. "When she told us of Lord Ruthven’s deadline, a chill ran through me. I had feared our time was running out. We attempted to read the papers stolen from Lilith, but we could not. "Armitage volunteered to take them to a linguist he knew in Cambridge. "Adena and I told him of our confrontation with Lilith. "He listened solemnly, his bearded chin sinking low on his chest. After we concluded, he pressed his fingers together. "‘So let me get this straight,’ Armitage said. ‘If Lilith wins, mankind lives again in the Garden of Eden. If we win, humanity suffers, evil continues to exist, and we more than likely go to prison to await execution for our crimes, which include numerous counts of murder, burglary and arson.’ "‘Yes,’ Adena said. ‘That about sums it up, I believe is how you Americans say.’ "Armitage looked up. ‘Lilith could have been lying.’ "I shifted in my chair. ‘She had no reason to lie,’ I said. ‘She knows we will fight her to the end.’ "‘Will we?’ Armitage asked. "‘Yes,’ I said. "‘Should we?’ he asked. "‘Yes,’ I said. "‘By fighting her, are we not defending evil?’ he asked. ‘She may be eager to undo the damage she caused in the Garden of Eden. There is an old legend that claims Lilith encouraged Eve to listen to the Serpent and to take the apple from the Tree of Knowledge. That could help explain why she is doing this to get right with God before her time passes here on Earth. What if she is doing God’s will?’ "I leaned forward and said, ‘Adena understands the metaphysical implications much better than I do, but I know this: Lilith had Adena’s father, Inspector Johnstone and several others murdered, her fiends have slain countless others and some invisible horror tried to kill Lucy and me. I will fight Lilith to the end whether she intends to open the gates of hell or Paradise.’ "There was a pause as Armitage and I stared at each other. He appeared deep in thought then said, ‘My ancestors fought for liberty at Bunker Hill and Gettysburg. I do not want a demon from the desert to take free will away from us. I will be with you.’ "Adena stood up and paced around the table. ‘I do not believe Lilith is serving God’s will,’ she said. ‘I believe you were right that she is taking action now because she sees her time as nearly passed. She is desperate and arrogant and she sees this as a last opportunity to restore herself to the Creator’s good graces. But if God had not wanted the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, he would not have put the Serpent there. And we do not fight to defend evil; we fight to defend the right to choose goodness. There is a difference, Henry.’ "‘My dear friend, you are right,’ Armitage said. ‘But we are fortunate Lilith has not worked openly. I fear most people would support her. They would cast aside freedom and knowledge in exchange for peace and an end to suffering.’ "‘In many ways, Lilith is as much a creature of habits as any person,’ I said. ‘She has always lived in the shadows so that is what she does now. If Dracula had not disobeyed her, we might never have learned of her scheme.’ "‘I may have found something to stop her,’ Armitage said. ‘I found reference to a Babylonian ritual, but we need the ceremonial bowl, which is in New York.’ "Adena and I looked at each other. ‘Lilith told us you were looking into that,’ Adena said. ‘She knows about the ceremony and said it does not work.’ "Armitage bowed his head. ‘She must have spoken the truth,’ he said. ‘If my knowledge posed any threat, she would have had me killed.’ "‘Even if it did work, I doubt if we could get the bowl here in time,’ I said. ‘A trans-Atlantic crossing takes at least a week.’ "‘We will think of something else,’ he said. "The three of us spent the rest of the afternoon poring over Armitage’s notes trying to develop a plan without much success.’ "Anne and Miss Hamilton came downstairs and prepared supper. Miss Hamilton was understandably quiet, surrounded as she was by strangers. "‘What did you learn of the Hillingham Horror?’ I asked Armitage. "‘There is legend that God cursed Cain to wander the Earth forever after Cain killed his brother. We know Lilith has ties to the Garden of Eden. Is it not possible that Cain’s ghost would be with her? That would explain the power of the apparition.’ "‘By Jove! If so, his anger and desire to kill have not lessened over time,’ I said. "Though we had been away from Osmotherley for days, we quickly returned to our former patterns of setting watch and sharing chores. I ate supper hastily for it was my turn as sentry outside. "As the sun set on our valley, I exchanged a nod to Captain Albion, who led his horse into the stable. "I walked over the fields, my thoughts heavy with worry for our missing companions. I passed the stone wall that ran alongside the old drovers’ road. I listened to the gentle buzz of the insects and turned to look upon the farmhouse. Golden light shone through the windows. The lamp was lit in the room Lucy shared with the other ladies. "An owl hooted in the woods and another answered from a short distance away. Rain had fallen earlier and the ground was wet, but not too muddy. The overcast sky had broken up and wind blew away the veil of clouds to reveal the stars behind. "The owls hooted back and forth when suddenly a dog howled close by, interrupting them. It seemed a forlorn sound and for a moment my heart went out to the animal, possibly lost and hungry. Then, to my right, I heard a strange snarling growl. It was too close to have come from the same dog. I straightened and listened tensely to the trotting of the large dog over the fallen, wet leaves not far away. "A startled bird took flight and I jumped at the movement. "The wind shook the skeletal branches of the tree above me. The branches creaked with low moans as they scraped together in their swaying. I felt terribly alone in the woods. "Perhaps a minute passed when I heard another howl — closer than before — answered this time, to my horror, by a chorus of howls. It was a pack of wolves! "I drew my revolver and fired in the direction of the nearest howl with faint hope of hitting my target, but with the more important intention of sending a warning to my companions of our danger. "The wolves snarled in response to let me know they did not fear me. The intelligence behind their growls made me happy I had loaded my revolver with silver bullets for I realized it was werewolves that had surrounded me! "Werewolves! In some tales, werewolves and vampires hunt together; in others, they fought as rivals. "Then I recalled another folklore — an even more frightful possibility. Werewolves were devoted servants of witches. "I could hear the werewolves pacing alongside me under the trees on the other side of the stone wall beside the sunken lane. "I thought of making a mad dash for the farmhouse, but knew the pack would be on me long before I reached safety. When I came to the corner of the stone wall, I paused, my breath and heart beat loud in my ears. I inhaled sharply and braced myself. I listened and took a quick glance around the corner. Perhaps just a foot away a werewolf’s yellow eyes glared balefully at me! "The werewolf sprung at me with bared fangs and I instinctively snapped off a shot. The werewolf landed on me, knocking me flat on my back on the wet heather, his foul tongue lolling through his open jaws. My shot had struck a mortal blow and I rolled the dead fiend off me. "The other werewolves, however, had used my momentary incapacitation to close in upon me. I fired my remaining four shots, perhaps hitting one of the monsters though in the panic and darkness I could not be certain. "I drew my dagger and stood with my back against the wall for I knew I had no time to reload my revolver. "I had little hope of slaying the werewolves, but I loved life dearly and wanted to hold on to it and fight for it as long as I could draw breath. "So when I heard Captain Albion roar, ‘Run, Carnacki! Run!’ I turned and sprinted down the open slope to the farmhouse, hoping he had a plan to save me, willing to grasp any desperate chance that was offered. "My legs pumped over the thick heather, my leather soles slick on the wet grass. I feared I would stumble. I knew I would never get up if I did. Between their terrifyingly loud howls, I could hear the beasts panting directly behind me. It would be only moments before the werewolves would strike at my legs and roll me up, then tear me apart with their sharp teeth and claws. I inhaled deeply with the thought that it would be my last, conscious breath. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 25, 11 p.m. Onboard a train. — I have never known so much sadness and grief. Jacob and I arrived with Miss Hamilton at Osmotherley shortly after noon. I told my companions I wanted to keep our encounter with the stranger at Victoria Station a secret for the moment. I worried that Captain Albion or Carnacki, suspicious of an ambush, would dissuade me from keeping the appointment in Cambridge. But I believe the meeting may provide us with crucial knowledge. I was glad to see the others welcomed Miss Hamilton into our fold for I felt responsible for her safety and happiness. Carnacki, Adena and I shared the information we had gathered during our trip to London. They had met with Lilith and learned she intends to wake the old gods to slay the Serpent of the Garden of Eden and take away the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as a way to appease God. If Lilith succeeds, she will restore Paradise. If we win — at this point that outcome seems so in doubt there is no reason for me to speculate on it. Miss Hamilton helped Anne in the kitchen. But despite the hearty dinner they prepared for us, we ate with little appetite for our anxiety grew over the Chief Inspector and Mr. Griffin’s failure to return. During the meal, Captain Albion seemed a different man, much sadder and distracted, than before our departure from Whitby. I do not know if it is because his return to Osmotherley carries so many reminders of Sergeant Walekar or if something happened to him in London. The others have spoken little of what occurred there. To assist the Captain, Jacob and I carefully boxed up a few of Sergeant Walekar’s personal effects — a comb and towel, a box with his medals and a metal tin with mustache wax — that he had left behind at the farmhouse and placed them in the suitcase under his bed. We had just finished when we heard a gunshot outside from the lane. Jacob reacted swiftly, grabbed two of the Winchester rifles from the corner and sprinted down the narrow stairs. He tossed one rifle to Captain Albion as we stepped outside. "Spread out," Albion ordered. "Dr. Armitage, don’t stand silhouetted in the light. Anne turn the lamps down." We listened. A pack of wolves began a tremendous howling near where we had heard the gunshot. "Can anyone see anything?" Albion asked. "Lucy?" "There!" she said. "Thomas has just —" A revolver shot interrupted her. "Good Lord!" "What is it?" I shouted. "A werewolf has slain him," she exclaimed. "Wait! He is up!" We heard four more shots ring out only to be answered by deep, guttural growls. Albion cupped his hands together and shouted: "Run, Carnacki! Run!" "They are right behind him!" Lucy shrieked. Albion leveled the rifle, sighting, but shaking his head. "Jacob! Do you have a shot?" "No, sir." Jacob tossed Lucy his Winchester and dashed off for the barn. "I can’t risk it," Lucy said. "You must or he is dead," Albion said. He calmed his voice. "You can do it. Just like Sergeant Walekar taught you." Lucy took aim, but her eyes were filled with fear. "I saw this in a nightmare," she said. "I can’t do it." "You can," Albion said softly. "Focus on one target. Aim. Now squeeze the trigger." She fired and levered the action of the Winchester. With his steady reassurance guiding her, she fired again and again and again. Between shots, I heard the drumming of hoof beats as Jacob dashed off on horseback to Carnacki. "Dr. Armitage, Adena, guard the rear of the house," Albion said. "There will be others. Anne, Miss Hamilton, take the upstairs." We heard a shot fired from the front gate of the stone wall. A bullet smacked into the stone block above our heads. "They’re shooting at us!" I cried in alarm. "There are men with rifles at the stone wall," Lucy said. Albion sighted his rifle and returned fire at the spark-like flare of a muzzle blast. "Doctor, if you please, the rear of the house," he said. "Keep steady." Another shot and I heard a hornet’s buzz followed instantly by a bullet gouging the door inches from my head. Adena tugged on my arm and we ran to the kitchen, grabbing our rifles on the way. We took our positions. I pushed the window open, strangely mindful not to break the glass. My mouth was dry and tasted as if I had a copper penny on my tongue. More shots banged at the front of the house and from farther off. I struggled to breathe normally. Adena gave me a frightened glance, the whites of her eyes wide. She swallowed hard. I wanted to offer comfort to her, but I dared not trust myself to speak confidently so I gave her a bright smile and a friendly wink. Her lips curled up for the briefest instant and she winked back then we returned our attention to outside. I heard returning hooves and then saw the horse with Jacob and Carnacki. Carnacki jumped off and ran inside. "Lucy, take an upstairs window," Captain Albion called from the front. "But I want —" "The window," he ordered. Jacob rode the horse directly into the stable and sprinted across the yard. Adena tossed him a rifle. He caught it with one hand. "Don’t shoot me," he said lightheartedly and dashed off like a child awarded a special treat. He stopped at the side of the barn, crept along it, and slid down the slope to the line of trees, vanishing from our view. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Suddenly I heard a rifle shot from the house followed by a whine of pain directly behind me. I kept running. More shots. They seemed to whiz right by me. Then Jacob galloped up on his horse, riding so close I thought I would be run over. He reached down, pulled me up by my outstretched arm, then with a sharp "Yah!" he spurred the horse away. Gunshots erupted from the road. Our attackers returned the gunfire from the house. The werewolves had come with armed men. "Lucy, I learned later, had fired the shots that had saved my life. "We made it to the relative safety of the house. Jacob rode the horse into the barn whilst I dashed in the back door. "Armitage and Adena had taken position at the rear of the house whilst Albion held the front with Lucy and the others upstairs. "The howls continued for some time. Lucy shot occasionally, but the rest of us could see little. She must have been successful, however, for the gunfire from the stone wall dropped considerably. "Albion peered outside and told me to join Armitage in the kitchen. ‘She’s made a frontal assault too hot for them,’ he said. ‘They’ll try to flank us next and attack the rear.’ "I did as directed. Since Armitage and Adena had the windows covered, I took the door, opening it enough to see and to fire. "I lay prone propped up on my elbows. "Captain Albion ran back to the kitchen. ‘You three remain here,’ the Captain said. ‘Hold them as long as you are able. Keep their attention. Lucy has the front covered. I’ll go around and Jacob and I will ambush them. And let us hope they do not have any experienced fighting men among them.’ "He ran into the darkness and disappeared. Perhaps 10 minutes passed and then I saw a man about 30 yards away, walking slowly, a rifle in his hands. He looked around, moved forward a few feet to the next tree and then stopped and looked around more. "Another man appeared not far behind him, also walking cautiously. They were heading for the barn. "I fired and the man dropped, though I could not tell if I had struck him or he simply dove for cover. "Bullets smacked into the door frame near me. I leaned on my side, levered another round into the Winchester, rolled onto my elbows and fired in the general direction of the shooting. "More shots hit the door frame, but they were aiming too high. I glanced over at Adena and Armitage as I chambered my next round. They too were returning fire. Wood splinters flew from the door. I fired again at a darker shape in a dark field. "Despite the chill of the October night, sweat beaded into my eyes, stinging them. I grew incredibly thirsty and craved water. I feared someone was moving to my left to flank us and I shot again. Suddenly more shots tore into our attackers from the side. We fired as Albion and Jacob blasted volley after volley into them. Our foes continued to target us, apparently not realizing they were caught in crossfire. "A woman screamed upstairs. I jumped to my feet and raced up the stairway. As I entered the bedroom, Lucy transformed into a bat and flew out the window. Anne looked at me with tears in her eyes and then returned to shooting. On the floor, motionless, lay Miss Hamilton, her eyes staring vacantly as a red stain spread on the front of her dress. "Furious, I ran down the stairs and charged out the door. I heard growls and shouts and shots in the distance. I cursed the darkness and chaos. I heard Armitage tell Adena to stay and guard the house and then he followed me. "I feared to fire, uncertain where Albion and Jacob were. My left sleeve was sticky from blood rolling down my arm from a gashed finger that had been struck by a splinter. My tongue was like cotton and I breathed shallowly as I advanced with the rifle at my shoulder as Sergeant Walekar had taught. "We came to the first of the bodies, men and werewolves transforming back into men. You could tell which had been the werewolves because their corpses were unclothed. "We searched for other foes to slay. I stumbled over a corpse in the darkness and kicked it bitterly. Armitage and I became separated in the darkness, but I found Captain Albion binding a shallow wound he had received from a bullet grazing his right forearm. I informed the Captain of our loss of Miss Hamilton. "Armitage found us and leaned against the tree. He wiped his brow with his kerchief, returned it to his pocket and then proceeded to reload his rifle. "‘I shall never complain of a student speaking loud in the library again,’ he said. "‘Good man,’ Albion said. "A distant gunshot in the dark led us to resume our search for Lucy and Jacob. Elsewhere the battle had renewed. We followed the sounds of fighting until we reached the bottom of the hill. We found Jacob and later Lucy rejoined us. There were no survivors among those that attacked us. "After the battle, emotions ran high. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. (October 25 — continued). We fought a lengthy gunfight with our human and supernatural foes. Lucy’s remarkable sharpshooting and a well-timed ambush by Jacob and Captain Albion turned the tables on our attackers. Jacob and Lucy pursued our fleeing foes up the hill near where we had setup the firing range. As Carnacki, Albion and I started up, Jacob came running down. He stopped when we called out to him. A drawn-out, quivering scream came from the top of the ridge. Carnacki began to run up the hill, but Jacob grabbed Carnacki’s arm as he passed. "Sir, don’t go up there," Jacob told him. "You don’t want to see her the way she is right now." "Lucy needs our help," Carnacki said. "No," said Jacob. "No, she doesn’t." The wail rose and fell and rose again. The wind blew the scattered clouds and even in the dim starlight I could see Jacob’s face was ashen. That scared me even further. "What happened?" I asked, afraid of his answer. "Her eyes are glowing red," Jacob said with a tremor in his voice. "I followed a trail of bodies. Most ain’t got their heads or limbs." "Oh dear God," I moaned. "That ain’t the worst," Jacob said. "When I reached the top, Lucy stopped and turned and looked at me and she had this look of such pure evil and then she started again. And when I saw what she was doing, I turned tail." Another frightful shriek from the hilltop made us stand and stare silently up the hill. "What is she doing?" I asked in a hushed whisper. Jacob swallowed hard. "You don’t want to know." Carnacki pulled his arm free from Jacob’s hand on his sleeve and began up the hill. I heard the cock of a revolver. "Sir," said Jacob as he pointed the gun, "I’ll shoot you in the leg to keep you from going up there and if you knew what I’m sparing you from you’d thank me." The screams from the hilltop echoed through the low valley creating a nearly unbearable, continuous noise. Tears streamed down Carnacki’s face. "Damn you! We’ve got to save her from herself!" "Mr. Carnacki, it is too late," Jacob said. The young man wept, too, and he wiped his sleeve across his eyes. But he held the revolver steady. "She is what she is." Carnacki, his fists clenched in rage, threw himself at Jacob. I stepped in front of Carnacki and blocked him. It took all my size and strength to hold him. Albion grabbed Carnacki’s right arm to help me. In the struggle, the three of us slipped on the wet ground and the Captain and I landed on top of Carnacki. "Jacob, go inside the house and help Adena," Albion ordered. "But —" Jacob protested. "You did the right thing," the Captain said. "But Adena and Anne need you in there." Jacob nodded and left us. The screams on top of the hill continued for a long time. At the peak of each shriek, Carnacki struggled to break free until the last painful cries died away like a whisper in the wind. After a while, exhausted from the struggle, Carnacki calmed down and we helped him to his feet. He walked away with his head bowed without speaking to us. Albion asked me to oversee the burying of the dead. "Work quickly. We need to leave here. There may be more coming and we may not be as fortunate next time. We only lost one person." "We lost someone?" I asked with trepidation. "I am sorry to tell you this, Henry," the Captain said. "Miss Hamilton was shot. She is dead." His words were like a sword piercing my heart. I worked mechanically, fearing that if I stopped I would not be able to go on. We buried her, said a prayer and retreated from Osmotherley. Though I had known her only a short time, I grieve as though I lost a friend. I should not have brought her into such a dangerous situation. She would be alive if I had not. I write again in my journal onboard a train. I live to fight another day, but a part of me — a growing part of me — hopes Lilith wins and ends the suffering.


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