The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Mystery of the Haunted Vampire (Chapter XXIX.)

Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "We buried Miss Hamilton in an overgrown garden not far from the house. We were all saddened at her demise, Jacob and Armitage especially so. The other bodies were thrown into a long disused root cellar far away from the house. We thought of burning them, but Captain Albion, much more experienced at these matters, said it takes considerable wood and time to burn one body, let alone nearly a dozen corpses. "The witch, the same that Lucy and I had fought in London, had led them to Osmotherley, seeking revenge for our attack upon her. "Lucy had caught the witch on top of a hill. The witch had nearly defeated Lucy during the daytime in London. But the hag proved no match to the powers of a vampire at night. Shortly before dying, the witch had revealed that vampires had slain Chief Inspector James and Sean Griffin at the orders of the Commissioner. "Chief Inspector James had tried to hold off the vampires long enough for Griffin to escape. But they captured the Chief Inspector and the vampires tried to hypnotize him to reveal our location. The Chief Inspector’s will resisted them and when that failed they tortured him. The brave man died without telling them. The witch, however, used foul necromancy to obtain the information from his corpse. The Chief Inspector had never been to the farmhouse in Osmotherley, but we had given him directions to our refuge to meet us there. The vampires that pursued Mr. Griffin told the witch they had killed him. "Terribly saddened by the deaths of three of our companions, we packed, loaded the wagon and set off in silence to Osmotherley to catch a train. "‘Where will we go?’ Adena asked after we arrived at the railroad platform. "Armitage spoke up with authority. ‘Cambridge,’ he said. ‘I can do further research at the university.’ "For the next three days we combed through books, searching for a ritual to aid us against Lilith. "We were exhausted, but we knew the end, for better or worse, was near. From what Miss Hamilton had told us and what Lucy had learned from the dying witch, we knew it would be over after the 31st of October. "We decided to make the most of the time we had remaining. Jacob and I went out one night to a pub and for an evening the two of us drowned our cares in our cups. "The following day, feeling the effects of my overindulgence, I slept until late into the morning. "When I awoke, Lucy was sitting in a chair waiting for me as I had done for her many times by her coffin. "Due to reasons I will not go into, I had not spoken to Lucy since the battle at Osmotherley. "She bid me to dress and she turned around as I did. When I had my clothes on she led me by the hand, carrying a picnic basket in the other, to the Cam where we punted to an inviting site on the river’s bank. The day was sunny, but cool. We conversed for some time of different matters. Lucy Westenra’s Diary. 27 October. Cambridge. — It has been two days since we departed Osmotherley and I finally decided to question Thomas about the reticence of my friends toward me. I suspected the cause, but I wanted to hear it from him. His coolness in recent days has been maddening to me A funereal pall has hung over all of us. We all mourn Chief Inspector James and Mr. Griffin, of course, but there is more. Lilith’s speaking of Mrs. Albion’s death opened an old wound in Captain Albion’s heart. Armitage and Jacob blame themselves for Miss Hamilton’s death for bringing her into danger. They ignore the fact that she would have died a more horrific death earlier if not for their timely rescue. Adena and Anne are haunted by the lives they took in London. And Thomas, though he has not said as much, feels a certain responsibility for all as our leader. I waited in his room, watching him sleep with his lips slightly parted and perfect. He and Jacob had deeply imbibed the night before apparently patching a rift that had developed between them. Neither the others nor I had been invited to join them. Their drunken revelry at a pub must have been successful, for they returned in a cart pushed by a rowdy group of students singing a wretched tune. Even with immortality, I shall never understand men. Whenever I convince myself it is possible to make sense of them, they surprise me with their words or deeds. It is not just Jacob and Thomas, either. Whilst Albion and Anne carried Jacob to his room, Adena and Henry took care of the sleeping Thomas. I listened from my room down the hall as they undressed him. A dresser drawer opened and Adena insisted lightheartedly to Henry that it was his job to the pajama bottoms on Thomas since she had taken the trousers off him. I had just begun to imagine Thomas unclad in his bed when I heard Henry — stolid, stalwart Henry — burst into tears. I listened to Adena try to comfort him, though I could tell she did not understand his sudden tears any more than I did. At last they finished their task and left Thomas asleep in his bed. I heard the others settled back down for the night. I bit my lip and resisted temptation, but I schemed. Since the others have not particularly wanted my company of late, I sat in my room and read. I forced myself to stay awake at dawn. The sun crept up the painted sky like a gold ball rolled slowly across a blanket of rose and tulip petals. I smelled eggs and bacon cooking and coffee and tea brewing in the kitchen. I listened to people down the hall brushing their teeth and others stirring between their blankets. I missed how our maid, Lizzie, would throw open my curtains to wake me and tell me Mother was waiting to breakfast with me. The breakfast smells made me particularly miss being alive this morning though I should not be moved by the memory of food. After how I dined at Osmotherley, I might not hunger for a month! When the others departed the inn, I entered Thomas’s room and waited. When he finally stirred, I announced my presence. "Good morning," I said cheerfully. He raised an eye and then looked startled and frightened to see me. "Miss Westenra, what are you doing in here?" So he has returned to "Miss Westenra," I thought. "I wanted to speak to you and to invite you on an outing with me," I answered him. "Oh?" He sounded doubtful. "Yes," I said, wondering if I had made a mistake in forcing the issue. "Do you wish to speak first?" he said. "Because you may not want to be near me after we have spoken." His bluntness surprised me. I hesitated then nodded. "Very well," Thomas said. He propped up a pillow and sat up. I noticed his right hand had taken a hold of something under the pillow, something he held by his side hidden under the blanket. "We are concerned about what happened during the fight at Osmotherley." "When I saved your life?" I asked with a wide-eyed innocence. He had a pained expression. "After. On the hill." "What did Jacob tell you?" I asked. "Nothing," Thomas said. "He would not speak of it. He just said it was something we did not want to see." I breathed an inner sigh of relief, but kept my face from showing it. "I told you that I killed the witch on the hill," I said. "Jacob must have seen me fighting the witch and he mistook her for an old woman." I told myself not to throttle him at the first opportunity. Mother would have been so proud at how I have learned to control my impulsive nature. "The poor man. He must have thought I killed an old woman. What I did was terrible, but necessary." Ugh! I still cringe at the disgusting memory. I had to hack the witch into small pieces and eat her to keep her flesh from reforming. She tasted like I imagine a diseased crocodile tastes like. I decided Thomas did not want or need to know the specific details of how I swallowed the witch alive. "Oh! I see," he said. "What did you think occurred?" "I owe you an apology," he said. "From the screams, I thought you were torturing victims needlessly." "For goodness sake, Thomas. I hope you do not truly believe I would do such a thing," I said. I had not "needlessly" tortured them. I had needed to do it. The first time I pulled a man’s arm from his torso was an accident, but the others I needed to do for the sheer pleasure of it. "You didn’t torture the witch to find out about Lilith or the Chief Inspector or Mr. Griffin?" he asked. He sensed I was not being fully honest and it irked me that he didn’t trust me more. He was right not to, but that did not make it any less irritating. "I promise I did no such thing," I said. I had not tortured her for information. I obtained that after eating her brain — just as she had done to the Chief Inspector. With each bite, the witch’s memories had flowed into my mind until she nearly overwhelmed me. The witch had tried to take over my body from within and I struggled to remain in control until I purged her whilst standing on the back of the train onto the speeding tracks below. May her pieces rot for eternity! Thomas was eager to believe my half-truths rather than listen to his own intuition. I may not understand men, but I know how to manipulate them. "Thomas, would you explain to the others what I have told you? I do not want them to think me so horrid as they have imagined. It hurts to see those I love and adore look at me like I am a monstrosity." (Especially Jacob! Why should he turn shy about anything he witnessed me doing to that witch? After all, when Adena asked after the battle if a werewolf had infected anyone, Jacob had said he was not sure. "Where were you bitten?" Adena had asked with concern. "No ma’am," he replied in that slow drawl of his. "I bit him.") "Certainly, Miss Westenra," said Thomas, relief shining on his face. "Thomas, my dearest friend, would you please return to calling me Lucy?" "Lucy, I beg for your forgiveness for the misunderstanding." I kept my thoughts below the surface of my expression. "I understand, Thomas. Would you go on the picnic with me now that you know I am not as evil as you had suspected?" Although, perhaps, I am more of a monster than you want to know. "I would be honored," he said. As we took turns punting the boat on the Cam, we spoke once again as friends. I do love him. I cannot stay mad at him even though he cannot completely accept me for what I am. But I gave him my most wanton smiles and flirtations whilst maintaining an innocent facade. There are many ways to torture someone. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 27, late evening. — I have the unpublished works of Christopher Marlowe in my possession, written after his death in 1593. I am shipping the manuscript home in the morning. If I die, at least it will survive for Miskatonic University’s special collection. Tonight, I met with my previously unknown benefactor and he presented me with his book and information of the location and time where Lilith will perform the ritual to awaken the old gods to help her carry out her plan. After dinner with the others, I motioned to Jacob and he nodded. We slipped away from the group, ostensibly to hoist a few pints at the pub. Instead, I waited for my meeting by the statue while Jacob covered me with his Winchester rifle. If it were a trap, he would make certain our foes paid dearly for taking my life. A shadowy figure appeared beside me. "You are early," he said. I held out my hand to him. The vampire seemed surprised by my gesture, but he shook my hand with a dry, cold grasp. "So when you died in a tavern brawl, it was not a knife wound?" I said. "It was neither a tavern nor a brawl," he said then caught himself. "You of all people should know not to believe everything you read in books," Christopher Marlowe said. "But how did you know who I am?" "Statements you made in our previous conversation made me suspicious when I reconsidered them after our last meeting," I said. "I did research here. You’ve used the same ‘Kit Morley’ alias in the past." He rolled his eyes. "So I did," he said. A melancholy expression appeared. "One tends to forget things after centuries of existence. If we survive Lilith’s scheme, your Miss Westenra may discover this for herself." "How do you know of her?" "Lilith set spies on Dr. Van Helsing and the others hunting Dracula and they led us to her," Marlowe said. "Your Miss Westenra has become quite the subject of conversation among the vampires. Others have tried, like her, to remain on the side of good. But the desire for evil always wins out eventually. Mark my words, one day your vampire will turn on you." "But you are not evil," I said. "There must be hope for her." "I am a killer," Marlowe said, his eyes flaring red. "I simply kill discretely. That is why I am going to help you. Lilith wants to eliminate our ability to commit evil deeds. Besides, she is a foreigner in my land." "So once again you play a dangerous double game for England," I said. "Old habits die harder than vampires?" A shadow of a smile appeared. "Yes. This isn’t the first vampire invasion. Too bad Walsingham isn’t around for this one. He would have enjoyed it." "Are you working for the government?" "I have not worked for the Crown since 1620. You and your friends remain on your own. I fear I have not been able to provide much assistance. Lilith has spies everywhere. When I discovered you were a scholar of my works, I did my best to protect you." "And to use me," I said. Marlowe glanced up at the rooftop where Jacob hid with his rifle. "Which brings me to why I am here. Lilith intends to perform her ritual at Stonehenge on the 31st. She must be stopped." "How?" "I do not know. Since your raid, she has hidden carefully and surrounded herself with her strongest creatures to protect her. But you must stop her." "How do I know you speak the truth?" "You have read my works. Do you think I want to do only God’s will and not my own?" "What is the horror she sent to Hillingham?" I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. "It frightens even the vampires. Which reminds me, I must be going." "I wish you could stay. I want to talk to you about your writing, about your peers, about your thoughts on contemporary literature." He shook his head and pulled out an object from a satchel. "I have brought you a gift. But now I must return before my absence is noticed." Marlowe disappeared. Jacob joined me and I decided to tell the others of the meeting. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Lucy and I had a pleasant outing, but I could not shake the feeling that our time was running out. The next morning Armitage said he had confirmed from a mysterious benefactor that Lilith planned to act on the 31st, when the Un-Dead are at their greatest strength. She planned to perform her ritual at the ancient monument of Stonehenge. "Not all of us trusted the information. Captain Albion warned it easily could be a trap. But Armitage said the same man who had delivered the information also had helped Jacob, Miss Hamilton and himself escape from London on the night of the 24th and probably had saved his life on the night of the 11th when Inspector Johnstone died. "Albion was for returning to London, to scour the city until we found Lilith and killed her. "Others thought his plan suicidal. We had succeeded in killing vampires in the past because we caught them unaware. To face them when they were alert for battle was another matter entirely. "The debate continued throughout the day and into the night. In the end, the decision was made to defend Stonehenge. Adena and I would paint a ‘Defensive Circle’ encompassing the entire structure and we would defend it with rifles. Dr. Armitage’s Journal. October 28. Cambridge. — We decided the fate of humanity by cutting a deck of cards. We argued for hours about our next step, with Carnacki, Adena and myself for Stonehenge and Albion and Anne for London to attempt to draw out Lilith. Ignoring the debate, Jacob and Lucy played poker with the well-thumbed deck. "Let us leave it to chance," Albion said at last. Carnacki looked around the room at us, but we had no more answers to give. He nodded to Albion. Jacob shuffled the deck and handed the cards to Albion. A hush fell over the room as Captain Albion picked his card. He turned it over to show us. The queen of spades. We would go to London then, I thought with anguish. Carnacki reached for the deck, but Adena stopped him. "Let us pray first," she said. We formed a circle taking hands with those next to us. I took Adena’s on one side of me and Lucy’s on the other. With her other hand, Adena took Carnacki’s who grasped Jacob’s hand, who grasped Anne’s who also took Albion’s who also held Lucy’s. Adena prayed softly, "Lord, please give us a sign. We are frightened, our hearts sad and our minds filled with doubt. Lord, guide us to do your bidding. Amen." She nodded to Carnacki. He looked at the cards and then lifted them up, about halfway down the deck. He slowly revealed the face card to us: the king of hearts. "It is decided then," Albion said. "I just hope to kill Lilith. I did not know my wife carried a daughter, but somehow that demon knew. Whether God is with us or not, I do not care." Adena reached out and grasped Albion’s hand. "Captain, you must have faith we are doing the right thing." Albion bowed his head. "I sometimes think Lilith is right. God has forgotten us." The Captain reached to put his card back into the deck and accidentally knocked the cards off the table. As he bent to pick them up, we discussed our plan further. "We have Lucy to help us control the weather so that we will not have to deal with rain whilst we paint the Defensive Circle," Carnacki said. Anne knelt next to Captain Albion, who flipped through the cards with a strange expression on his face. "Captain, what is it?" Captain Albion smiled at her with an almost beatific expression on his face. He squeezed Anne’s hand and then patted Adena on the back. "Adena, you have been a good friend to me and I shall think upon what you said. My wife died trying her best to give birth, to create life. It was the most heroic effort I have ever seen. She died in God’s good graces. She would want me to do the same when my time comes." We heard his tread up the stairs. The room remained quiet for many moments until Jacob broke the silence. "He took the cards." "Don’t worry," Lucy said. "I saw a Chinese checker set in the parlor." "I don’t know how to play," he said. "I will teach you," she promised. Mr. Carnacki’s story — continued. "Once we made the decision, a surprising feeling of relief came over us. We took the train to Bath and stayed for a day, where we enjoyed long peaceful strolls in the countryside and the Parade Grounds, as well as other quiet pursuits. Albion asked Armitage to recommend a good book to read. Lucy, Adena, Jacob and I picnicked under trees just outside of town. As we walked back through town, I pointed out the carving of Jacob’s Ladder, adorning Bath Abbey. "Lucy looked on it with a peculiar expression. The stonework, as you know, shows figures climbing to redemption as well as those dropping into the pit. Perhaps she focused more on those falling from the ladder. She did not speak and I regretted pointing it out to her. We stood for a time and then Adena nudged us to continue our walk. "That night, we toasted our departed companions, Rabbi Metzner, Inspector Johnstone, Sergeant Walekar, Chief Inspector James, Mr. Griffin and Miss Hamilton. "On the morning of the 30th, we decamped to Salisbury. We arrived in the early afternoon and had lunch at the ancient Haunch of Venison pub on Minster Street. "We decided not to stay at an inn as we had planned for we had recognized three men walking down a street. They had been in the queue in front of the blood clinic and so we suspected they were human confederates of the vampires. Lilith’s allies, at least some of them, also had arrived early. "Seeing them proved, to my mind at least, that we had made the right decision by choosing to defend Stonehenge. We rented a wagon and horses to carry our bags and Lucy’s crate. We found an old barn about a quarter of a mile from the ancient stone monument. We entered the barn just as a rain began to fall. "At the rumble of thunder in the distance, I looked at Lucy. ‘I will be able to disperse the clouds tomorrow,’ she said. ‘I do not want to do it too soon and signal that I am here.’ "‘That is wise,’ I said. "The barn had stood abandoned for a considerable time. It had more of a dusty smell than an animal one. We unhitched the wagon and stabled the horses. There was hay and straw in the loft as well as mice. "I listened to the rain falling on the roof and dripping through a hole. I found the sound oddly comforting and thought to myself there could be more woeful places to spend a last night on earth. "But I did not know how Lucy would take to sleeping in a barn for it was far different from the splendor of Hillingham. "As she looked about her, I apologized for the humble accommodations. ‘Thomas,’ she said. ‘I sleep in a coffin packed in soil in a crate. This is fine.’ "Captain Albion spread a horse blanket on the dusty wood floor and by lantern light we cleaned, oiled and loaded our weapons in preparation for the next day’s fight. We were running low on silver bullets with a dozen rounds left, including four silver bullets for my revolver. "We conversed well into the night. Considering that we feared it might be our last, we behaved amazingly light-hearted. At sunrise on the 31st of October, the sky was clear so Lucy retired to her coffin to rest. We left Jacob to watch over her at the barn and then the rest of us walked to Stonehenge to prepare our defenses.


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