Hello, My name is Lorraine A. Balint, submitting for the approval of TWO fandoms, a unique vision of incredible creativity, unbridled passion, and staggering genius--- well, okay, it's just a fan-fiction crossover uniting the gritty world of "Cagney and Lacey" with the sometimes-otherworldly ambience of "Dark Shadows". I was inspired to this act, some would say of desecration of BOTH shows, by the simple coincidence that John Karlen happened to play "Willie Loomis" and "Carl Collins" (among other characters) on DS, and later, went on to play "Harvey Lacey" on CandL.
Well, maybe not so simple a coincidence, when you stop to think about it. For starters, he was NOT the first choice for either the role of "Willie" OR "Harvey". Both roles had been "created" by other, different types of actors, who were seldom seen thereafter, though THEIR stints as these characters are occasionally re-broadcast. For whatever reason, the venues of both characters underwent revision, the former actors were either unavailable or unsatisfactory, and the rest, as they say, is hysteria.
John Karlen became heavily involved in two of the most unique, cutting-edge (for their times) television programs of the entire TV era, which have often been imitated, but never duplicated (even DS, which cloned itself for a brief period in 1991, without ANY of the original cast.) He played characters that had never been seen, nor, in the case of off-the-wall, sexually-ambiguous "Willie" and "Carl", had even DARED to exist, and whose exact orientations are still a subject for hot debate in DS Internet discussion groups, to this day. Not just your average "Renfield" type, especially "Willie", whom he was called upon to play in TWO versions: an unattractive, uneducated drifter; and an intellectual, but alcoholic writer unhappily married into a rich family, both victims of the same vampire, Barnabas Collins (who really got around) and both full of pathos in their own ways.
John Karlen won an Emmy (and was nominated 5 times more) for portraying a character he derided, later in life, as a "fop househusband". But most people who still are faithful followers of CandL will agree, there was more to "Harvey" than a great recipe for spaghetti sauce and lust for Wife. Virtually nobody can depict the extremes of joy and frustration better, or, for the most part, in better context. Any fault with the context itself was, to be blunt, mainly the fault of just about everybody else--- whoever was writing, directing, and producing that season, or that WEEK. (The same can be said--- and has been said umpteen times--- about the production values and continuity contradictions on DS.) Granted, there were times when his depiction of "Harvey" carried some baggage from some of his previous roles--- I can pick out the "Willie" moments--- but in his own words in his hyper-ecstatic interview after receiving that Emmy, "It finally worked!" DAMN straight!
(If you haven't yet read my review of his
performance in "Daughters of Darkness", check out
"My DS essays and Filks" section.)
My favorite saying regarding this splendid
twist of fate, is that "Harvey" is just the sort of person
"Willie" would haved aspired to be like if he ever "grew
up." This story is my chance to explore this contention, expand on it,
thus rendering my own tribute to someone whom, even though we are but mildly
acquainted, is one of my favorite human beings in the known universe and an
honorary member of my extended DS "family." And also, to pay tribute
to the common threads, sometimes hard to locate, but they're there--- running
through two programs about people trying to cope with forces bigger than
themselves, and who tried to bring morality,
or at least order, to disorderly and immoral / amoral surroundings.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
NOTES FOR THE STICKLERS:
Most "Cagney and Lacey" afficionados won't be able to help but notice that I have chosen to go with the very basic triumvirate of Mary Beth, Christine, and Harvey, featuring Alice and Michael, and a couple of fitting guest shots. It owes as much to my relative inexpertise in dealing with all the ensemble from the original show, as it does to the demands of the actual story I am telling. Sure, it would have been nice to have Isbiecki and Petrie ditch the families for a week to come up to Maine for some trout fishing, or have a visit from Samuels (since he's my fave male character after Harvey, maybe I'll get him up to Maine some day.) Scrounging around for one of Chris's old beaux to hound her latest romance would have been neat, but I had a two-week time frame (in what passes for real time) with which to work. People in their 50's don't generally act like that, anyway. I wanted to compare and contrast realism and fantasy, not re-write the rulebook for humanity.
I based everything mainly on the last movie, so the leads are basically 5 years older, but for my purposes, haven't changed all that much (the Sheriff's job in Collinsport shouldn't provide a big physical challenge for a lady in Mary Beth's stage of life), except for Alice. For the purpose of the story, I have promoted her to age 16 rather than reflect her "official" age of 14, because I don't think a 14-year-old should be out riding with boys in cars, nor should they be bitten by lustful vampires. "Dracula meets Lolita?" Not on MY watch, buddy! I believe I SHOULD be allowed to get away with it, since the pregnancy that produced this character dragged through TWO seasons, beginning with Tyne Daly's real-life pregnancy which was only gradually worked into the plotline. "Sixteen candles make a lovely light", and marginally less "statutory" than 14!
The vast majority of the work reflects my primary expertise with "Dark Shadows" past and present, including what some may regard as uncomfortably close matches with the present-day conditions of the stars. While yes, physically, there has to be a resemblance, and yes, it reflects their varying ages, this should NOT be construed as editorial comment on their real-life personalities! If one watches the old DS, and then goes to our conventions, or Festivals, one soon discovers that, while of course, the performers put the stamp of their own personalities on their characters to a certain extent, the details of their personal lives took a widely divergent path from those of their characters. The same can be said of most CandL personnel.
So relax, kick back, and enjoy the ride,
people. And don't be afraid to communicate your opinions, suggestions,
criticisms (CONSTRUCTIVE, that is.)
Lorraine A. Balint
Gleaming Eagle Productions
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
LEGAL DEPARTMENT: All "DARK SHADOWS" characters, places, and basic story themes are Copyright of DAN CURTIS PRODUCTIONS, and are based mainly upon the original 1966-1971 serial.
All "CAGNEY AND LACEY" characters, places, and story themes are Copyright of MACE NEUFIELD PRODUCTIONS and BARNEY ROSENSWEIG PRODUCTIONS, and are based on some of the original program from 1982-1988, and the last CandL film, "True Convictions", 1995. (Characters created by Terry Louise Fisher.)
This is a NOT-FOR-PROFIT work. It was conceived and written WITHOUT intention of financial gain. The reader is free to download it and even print it (though I would appreciate being informed of THIS, mainly for statistical purposes.) However, I ask that readers DO respect the rights of the above.
Many thanks to "Dark Childe" who owns the biggest and most comprehensive Cagney and Lacey website (see my "LINKS" page") and to the wonderful folks on the CandL mailing list, for helping me with some of the details about this program, to which fandom I am but a novice. "Thou art the coral of goodness, and the ruby of brightness."
And, of course, to all my buds in DS fandom, both face-time and virtual, especially the DS newsgroup, who persevere in spite of trolls and Internet screw-ups, to bring forth consistently informative and entertaining references, debate and trivia. "We go together, like bang-shanga-loo-bang, a long bang boom!" Uh.... just kidding, guys. Guys?....
And, of course, for the man who inspired this
"....Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds...."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
CAGNEY AND LACEY: RESTITUTION:
Dark Shadows in the Land of Dreams
love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And here we are as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Matthew Arnold (1822-88)
I remembered winter
I remembered ice like sparkling jewels on a tree
I remembered the snow that blew across
my window in the wind
And I thought, if it just keeps blowing,
where will it ever fall?
The summer sun bounced off a car window
And burned my eyes.
The world was so hot
I was afraid to touch anything,
Then I thought, how frightening it was,
the way things can change.
Joan Fox (1952-69)
He found himself in a large, empty hall full of a confused pattern of colors in undefinable shapes. He could just make out the shadowed figure of another man at the opposite corner of this hall. He wondered if the other man was as bewildered by being present in this hall as he certainly was. Then suddenly, there was the reverberating sound of a whinnying laugh--- full of hysterical satisfaction, if there WAS such a condition. He turned around wildly, searching for the source of the sound, and he noticed the other man, also, whirling about in confusion. Then the laughter stopped, and the voice that had produced it now spoke. There was something familiar about this voice, though he couldn't quite identify it in the distracting swirl of echoes and colors that now seemed to press him gently but insistently, like a massage. Still, he forced himself to listen to the voice, believing that it would tell him why he and the other man were here.
"They said it could not be done," the voice said with a wild cackle of laughter. "But it NEEDED doing. They always said I COULDN'T do it, but see? I have you both here now---" Then a near-deafening racket drowned out the rest of what the voice was saying.... The colors, and the other man, vanished in a flash---
* * * * * * * * * * * *
PART ONE--- MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2000
3:30 AM!!! The alarm screamed once-and-a-half, and the LED numbers blinked on-off just twice, before the man who had set the alarm in the first place slammed his heavy hand on the "OFF" button. He sat up, his mind addled from some peculiar dream he barely remembered (except that it WAS peculiar), his body refusing to believe that it was going to be forced into action at such an early hour for some purpose other than work. "Don't know why it hurts more to get up early for something fun, than it EVER did for something that HAD to be done," he thought, as he gazed over to the (mercifully!) still-sleeping form of his wife in the bed beside him. Bad enough SHE still had to rise for her own job in another two hours, but her work these days wasn't nearly as demanding as it had been where they used to live. Still, she would have grouched at him for disturbing her rest, and scolded him for risking his health---
"You've had two bypasses already! The doctors TOLD you to take it easy, they're afraid to do another! Don't just go jumping out of bed like that, even that could kill you! And for WHAT, the fishing? And alone, when it's still dark out there in the woods? I mean, can't you WAIT till sun-up? The fish aren't going to disappear!"
That's why you WANTED us to move here, isn't it, he answered her imagined
nagging. For my health! The fishing, the great outdoors! We haven't been here
long enough for me to make any fishing buddies yet. Maybe I'll run into
somebody out there. And, dammit, I'm taking my pills with me, and the cell
phone with "911" in its memory, all charged and ready to go!
He was satisfied with this line of reasoning, though for some reason, he felt a little guilty about thinking that way, as though he'd actually spoken aloud. That's what being married forever will do to you, he thought, as he touched his wife's hair. She turned over, facing him, and he sat for another minute, fearful that she would wake. Though she gave a little sigh, she slept on.
In a burst of determination, he heaved himself up and out, to the spare bedroom, where he'd laid out his clothing and gear the night before. His first fishing expedition since moving to Maine! he thought, triumphantly, as he pulled on the new boots and fitted the hat, which was stuck through with the requisite hooks and lures. The very first thing on the very first day of the season--- there WERE perks to being the new Sheriff's husband, including getting the first fishing license of the year.
He made coffee, and filled a large thermos. He then took up his fishing poles and his tackle-box, and was almost safely out the door, when his teen-aged daughter came out of her room, yawning and scratching, on her way to the bathroom. She stopped in her tracks when she saw him, and glared at him in disapproval, but not for sneaking out of the house like that.
"Going out to massacre some of our piscine brothers and sisters this day, are we?" she hissed.
He often made a joke of her current tendency to use big words, though he was secretly envious of her ability to use them. Now, he was just irritated, and eager to be gone. "No, Alice, I'm just going to pierce their lips so they'll look like YOURS." He pointed at her lower lip, which was indeed, festooned with three tiny gold rings. They matched her nostrils, which were similarly pierced, and her ears, each of which sported four or five gold rings and studs apiece--- he couldn't count them in the dim hall light. How could she sleep like that? he wondered. "PLEASE do me a favor, sweetheart," he wheedled. "Take at least SOME of those off before you go to your first day of school later. This is Maine, not New York."
"Oh, PLEASE, father of mine," she sniffed, "I met some of the kids already, and some of them have more sharp little shiney things stuck on them than I do." She crossed her arms, and stared at him again. "Does Mom know you're running away from home to slay the wicked trout?"
"Yeah, but I didn't tell her I was leaving this early. Don't tattle on me until I'm long gone, and MAYBE I won't make you eat one of your so-called brothers and sisters later."
"Naw, I'll just wait until one of my REAL brothers shows up. Mike especially. I covet his motorcycle."
"Right, DON'T eat a fish, but DO eat your big brother for his suicide machine. Makes sense to me. Now, I HAVE to get going, honey." He kissed her cheek, far away from the lip-rings. "Be good."
"I'm ALWAYS good, Daddy. A regular geek, even with all the holes in my head."
"That's my girl. See you later---" Too late!
"Just where do you think YOU'RE going at this hour, Harvey Lacey?"
Mary Beth Lacey, his formerly-sleeping spouse, wearing a heavy robe ("I feel so COLD since we got to Maine, and it's April already!"), her greying hair tumbling over her stalwart shoulders, stood in the hallway. "There's a regular party going on here, and nobody invited ME, but the racket was enough to wake the dead! And, God knows, I hear enough of THOSE stories these days. Now, are BOTH of you ditching the new Sheriff of Collinsport? I mean, Alice, you haven't even had your first day of school yet, so you can't possibly hate it enough to run away, back to the city. And as for YOU, Harv, didn't I warn you about getting up in the middle of the night, the big dark woods---
Harvey cut her off at the pass. "First day of fish season--- everyone and their brother will be out there. I got my pills, I got the phone. Great outdoors, here I come!" He gave Mary Beth a quick kiss to forestall any further protests, and hurried out the front door.
Alice, left alone with her formidable mother, cringed a little. "I didn't do anything!" she wailed. "I just got up to go to the john! I tried to talk Daddy out of going! It's all HIS fault!"
"Alice, just hurry up, then go back to bed. But FIRST take some of that metal out of your face! I'll let you sleep a little bit later, and drive you to school. I'll just stay up myself here, it's four-thirty already, and I won't be able to rest knowing your Dad is out in the woods alone. God, I worry more than I ever did in New York, and it's only been a couple of weeks. I just don't get it! I mean, NOTHING's happened since I took over from the last sheriff. But I have this feeling...."
"Well, maybe when Aunt Christine comes to visit, she'll understand," Alice said consolingly. "She ALWAYS does." Now SHE kissed Mary Beth, and trotted off to her long-deferred appointment in the bathroom.
Why, oh why did we ever come here? Mary Beth thought, as she made her own coffee. The job offer had come from nowhere, like the jackpot of a lottery she didn't remember entering. When the circumstances were explained to her, that a town seeking to update its image had accumulated a list of urban law enforcement personnel at similar levels of experience and circumstances from which to choose, and that she was one of the finalists, she decided, for once, not to question her good fortune. This was the opportunity of a lifetime for someone who wanted some peace and quiet before settling down to complete retirement. The pay and pension plans were surprisingly good for such a small town, nearly as much as she'd made back in New York, but, as she learned, the bulk of the town's wealth emanated from the Collins family canneries and other business enterprises. "They can afford the best, and, apparently, you're the best, if they chose YOU," the first selectman, Braithewaite by name, had told Mary Beth during a preliminary interview, just two months earlier.
"They-- they don't OWN me, they won't tell me how to do my job, will they? I mean, if I have to arrest one of their kids for drunk driving, I'll do it," Mary Beth had declared.
Braithewaite, she learned immediately, was a stereotypical small-town gossip. "I don't think THAT will be a problem", he assured her. "David and Hallie Collins, the current proprietors of the estate and the cannery, are tee-totallers, if you can believe it. I can't, especially since David's father, Roger, was involved in a fatal, alcohol-related accident over forty years ago. He wasn't the driver, a friend was, but everyone in the car was drunk. The man who got hit WASN'T. And Roger continued as quite the tippler for some years beyond that."
"No designated drivers back then," Mary Beth sighed. "Well, it seems this David learned from his Dad's example. I hope the lesson was contagious to HIS kids, as well."
"I guess so.... Of course, HIS oldest boy is going on seventeen, who knows what the future holds? But getting back to your original point, Mrs. Lacey, I think you'll find the Collinses quite "hands off." The town will be your official employer. You will come up for re-appointment every four years, but if your work is satisfactory, I think I can guarantee your job security. It's been a quiet area for a number of years, now, so I don't see how your performance could be any LESS than satisfactory."
"There WAS trouble, then---"
"Yes, but that's going back over a quarter-century. It's all in the files--- the old-fashioned, hand-scribbled kind. We only just got a computer a few years ago, and most of the stuff hasn't been copied yet."
Mary Beth, who hated using computers for anything, even though, with her determined nature, she wasn't surprised to have become adept at it, was enchanted with the idea of leisurely perusing the interesting case histories of yesteryear. "Sounds like my kind of job already! If I can convince my husband and daughter to move, then I'm here YESTERDAY!"
The move was easier than Mary Beth could have hoped for. The spacious ranch house, almost twice the size of her former home, and skirting a state forest, was reasonably-priced, with an assumable mortgage at a good rate. The accredited high school was only two miles away, near a new supermarket, the Eagle Superstore, and all the town's professionals, including some Board-certified physicians, were conveniently on Main Street (including a well-known cardiologist for Harvey, whose heart condition had deteriorated in the last couple of years.) There were rivers stocked with fish, and the ocean breeze tickled the olfactory from all over town. There wasn't much crime to speak of. She didn't even mind having to wear a uniform and badge again, after long years as a plain-clothes detective, and then an investigator for the D.A's office. She had forgotten how nice it was to not have to waste time scrambling for some suitable outfit late at night or first thing in the morning--- and the cleaning bills! The uniform was wash'n'wear, and Harvey made a point of assuring her that she looked fine in shades of tan.
It was perfect, TOO perfect, or so it seemed, until Sheriff Mary Beth Lacey, a week into her new position, and already bored, started reading those old files, preparatory to entering them on the computer.
For this chore, she had the assistance of her deputy sheriff, Job Woodard. Mary Beth would think, what a one-horse town Collinsport is, with just herself, a couple of deputies to help cover the three shifts, and police force of 20, at least in off-season. For the summer, she would be responsible for re-hiring a few retired police to act as auxiliaries, but that was it, unless a crime wave hit, in which case she would have to call in surrounding towns' police. She was disgruntled that she wouldn't even have the clerical help necessary to help transcribe what turned out to be large boxes of dusty files--- one secretary was out on maternity leave, and the other sneezed so much at the dust, Mary Beth took pity, and sent her home until she could air out the boxes.
And her deputy.... JOB? There was scarcely a Jewish family in town, but this town was so old-fashioned, a substantial number of its citizens, even some of the children, were named for Biblical characters other than the usual Sarahs, Elizabeths, Matthews, and Jonathans. Job, aged about forty-five, had a wife named Hepsey, short for Hepzibah, and children named Saul, Abe, and the twins, Dorcas and Tabitha.
Job himself was the only son of a David, who, in his lifetime, had been the only doctor in Collinsport proper, thirty years earlier. When Mary Beth started to pull out a box of files, marked "1966-1968", Job, usually laconic, became talkative about that time. "Poor Pop died while in the middle of investigating some strange goings-on," Job said. "The coroner said it was heart failure, but Mom didn't believe it, nor did Dad's brothers. And neither did the sheriff at the time, George Patterson, and this rich fellow named Burke Devlin, who was trying to help a family friend whose daughter had been kidnapped, then escaped in such a sickly state, they let people think she was dead until they could catch the kidnappers."
"And did they catch them?" Mary Beth asked, a little anxiously. Unsolved cases were a dime a dozen back in New York; with the sheer volume, it couldn't be helped. But out here, in a town that, outside of tourist season, probably boasted no more than 8,000 citizens at any given time?
"We-e-ell, I'm not sure if you could say this case was closed," Job drawled. "I mean, yeah, they caught at least ONE person who was involved, and somehow it got around to where there seemed to be proof he was the only one, but this is--- well, WAS a strange situation, Ma'am, I mean Sheriff."
"How's THAT?" Mary Beth nudged. "What was so strange, and whatever happened to the perpetrator?"
Job pulled out a sheaf of folders and handed them over. "It was strange because of the circumstances of the abduction. See, here's the name and picture of the victim. One Miss Margaret Evans, waitress. This came after a series of wierd attacks, bitemarks and some blood-lettin', on some of our young ladies and at least one man, the one who was later accused of kidnapping her. A newcomer to town, a drifter you might say, name of Willie Loomis." Job picked through the files. "Day-yam," he said, "I thought there was a picture somewheres of him, God knows he had a Helluva record, even back in your New York. I can't understand it. But what the heck, you'll likely be seeing him one of these days yourself."
"EXCUSE ME?" Mary Beth shouted. "What, this CREEP is LOOSE?
Paroled, I mean?
Why did he come back HERE?"
"Ma'am, Loomis was never paroled, because he never went to prison. Never was even TRIED, as a matter of fact.... He and Miss Evans, Maggie we called her, still do---"
"SHE'S still here, with the kidnapper hanging around?"
"Listen, Sheriff, Ma'am, there's just some things you hafta understand about things run in Collinsport.... My dad told me, before he died, how Willie was shot up when he tried to go to Maggie's place after she came back home, then he went crazy, couldn't remember a thing. Maggie had kinda the same problem, too, never was clear on just who took her, or what happened.... All we know is that she lost a lot of blood in the process, but she was still as pure as the driven snow. Maybe this WAS a sexual thing, but it never came to rape, anyway. So Willie went to the state mental place for a while. When he didn't recover there, a shrink-doctor lady who was taking care of Maggie, had him sent to her own hospital where Maggie had been hiding out. When Willie was a little better, Maggie was so unclear about him being the one, she had the charges dropped, and he came back to work for his former boss, a member of the Collins Family who'd come from England. Barnabas, HE's called. Anyway, after a couple of fits and starts, I guess Willie and Maggie patched it up somehow, and HE hasn't been a problem in YEARS. Still works for Mr. Collins on the estate, too, and the lady doctor, name of Julia Hoffman, at least until she died a few years back. She was married to Barnabas Collins, after the trouble died down."
Mary Beth had been perusing the files while listening to the tale. Now her head was spinning. "Sounds TOO cozy for words," she commented. "Okay, so we have this kidnapping codger and his boss on this estate, presumably too old to cause further mischief. Where is this Margaret Evans in town, and what's she up to now?" She gazed upon the old picture of the pretty auburn-haired waitress, then in her early twenties.
"Barnabas and Willie aren't alone, Ma'am," Job said. "Barnabas and Julia had one son, pretty late in life for the both of 'em, young Jeremy. He's about, let's see, twenty-seven. Willie, of course, never married at all, no decent woman around here would give him the time o' day, save for the Collins ladies and Maggie. Maggie, now, she has an art gallery here in town, kinda quiet now in off-season, but a big hit with the tourists. Her dad, Sam Evans, was a painter, and she's got the knack from him, so she got some other local artists together to help sell all their stuff. But she's not Evans any more, she was married for a while to some psychic fellah named Sebastian Shaw. He wasn't much of a psychic though, he didn't predict how his car would get run off the road by a crazy teenage driver, and wrapped around a tree."
"You sound pretty callous about that, Job," Mary Beth frowned.
"Well, he lost HIS knack early on, and poor Maggie had to support him. Only thing Shaw did for her was give her a really nice daughter, Victoria Samantha. She's almost twenty-five, and a new teacher at the high school."
"Maybe my daughter will have her for one of her classes. Alice is a junior this year."
"I'm not sure, I'd have to ask the wife. She's the school's head secretary."
"What's she look like, this Maggie? She must be close to my age."
"Well, Sheriff Ma'am, I don't know what you're going to think about this, but our Maggie hasn't aged a whole lot. Hepsey and I, we joke around that she has a portrait hidden in that gallery that does the agin' for her, like that Dorian Gray fellah in the story. And she keeps her hair dark enough, with just wings of snow, Hepsey calls 'em. But you'll see for yourself."
"An ageless kidnapping victim. Hmmm.... Any other unusual cases you'd like to warn me about, before I go plowing through these files?"
"Oh, scads and scads, Sheriff Lacey, until about 1971 or thereabouts. For some reason, all the bad stuff seemed to come to an end. Sometimes it just works out that way. Sheriff Patterson, George, he passed on a few years back, used to say trouble in Collinsport had a history of coming in cycles, but I think we were just damned lucky. Now have yourself a good read, and when you're ready, I'll boot up the Compaq."
Well, at least there was no rush to get this stuff on floppy disks. Mary Beth read and read, and became more anxious. Maggie's ordeal had, at least, come to a kind of closure, but there were other abductions of other girls by other perverts, including the disappearance of a Collins heiress at the hands of a huge, deformed man, who later paralyzed a deputy and killed Maggie's father. There were stories of a hairy man who behaved like a rabid animal, who killed several women and his own brother-in-law before getting shot by the Sheriff, and a really mysterious killer who dripped a peculiar ooze at his crime scenes--- he, she or IT had killed a Sheriff who'd taken over from the previous holder of the title, one George Patterson, who'd then returned to the position until his death in 1987. There was a lab report full of confoundment over the inability to analyze samples of the slimy stuff. There were more confinements for insanity, folllowed by miracle cures. There was even a spate of grave-robbing! Then, as Job said, all came to a screeching halt by early 1971. Afterward, there were just the standard DWI's, assaults, a couple of very explicable homicides.
Crazy stories, Mary Beth tried to reassure herself, crazy stories to chase small-town boredom for an inbred population that refused to look beyond its borders. Two things she noticed, though; one was that the reports were written with extreme efforts at precise detail, as if the previous sheriffs feared that a future reader wouldn't believe the stories. The second, and probably most important thing was that ALL the stories had, at their center, the involvement of the Collins family. It went back beyond Roger Collins's accident, all the way back to when his sister's husband had left town in 1949, or so she said, and she sacked all but one of her servants, who later went off his head and committed murder. Turned out this sister, Elizabeth, thought she had KILLED her husband, until an extoritionist tried to marry her, and the truth finally came tumbling out. Years later, the wastrel husband had returned, only to perish at the hands (?) of the ooze killer!
Mary Beth made up her mind, then and there, she would have to find some pretext upon which to visit this family around which so much controversy swirled. "Lucky me, I could be in Hyannisport with the Kennedys!" she thought. Now THAT would be the life, she thought; stepping out with Harvey to a trendy restaurant for Cape Cod Cranberry coolers (just half-a-one for him, though--- didn't want to mess with his medications), shopping for what her late mother used to call "dust collectors" in a dozen cute giftshops; walking a peaceful beach without crashing, thrashing waves like the ocean nearby, and picking up shells with Christine when she came to visit, like a couple of little girls.... Alice could date a lifeguard, heck, even become one herself, she was that good a swimmer, and pretty level-headed generally, except for whatever madness made her get all those piercings. And all for the price of giving traffic tickets those dreadful Kennedy drivers, and clueless tourists, and dealing with gift-shop break-ins.
No "Old Cape Cod", no careless Kennedys, no cranberry drinks, just
a mansion chock-full of possibly murderous yet tee-totalling eccentrics named
Collins, Mary Beth thought now, as she sat in her kitchen, still dark save for
a small light over the stove. She glanced at the clock: almost 5:15. "Wonder
how Harv's doing now?" she fretted.
* * * * * * * * *
Harvey was beginning to feel a little anxious himself. At first, he had reveled in the rather noisy early-morning "peace" of the forest, chirping birds, chattering squirrels, trees rustling as though elephants were coming through. Yet, he had been told there were no predators more dangerous than foxes. "Not THESE days, anyway," the youthful clerk at the Bait 'n' Tackle Shop had said with a wink, the previous afternoon.
"What is THAT supposed to mean?" Harvey had demanded.
"Oh, so you haven't heard about our 'haunted woods"? Must be a newcomer to these parts," the clerk said.
Real rocket scientist they have working here, Harvey thought, doesn't he notice the different accent? Wonder how closely HIS parents are related! "Go on, I bet you're just dying to scare another tourist," he taunted.
"I haven't seen too many yet--- only been on the job for a week or so. Not that I'd go out of my way to scare 'em, or anything, it's bad for business," the young clerk smirked. "There WAS a lot of hoo-doo goin' on back around 1970, before my time, but it's nothing now. I think what we had around was a buncha them hippies hidin' up there, doin' sick-crazy things to stupid girls who went parkin' with their boyfriends, or somethin'. Anyway, that was all over years ago---"
"They ever catch those creeps?"
"Maybe. I think they got one. But it's pretty safe there now, you know, even hippies get OLD. Still, some folks say, late at night, there's spirits, make a lot of racket. Or maybe UFO's. Haven't had to call in Mulder and Scully from the 'X-Files' yet, though." The clerk grinned at his own joke.
Harvey countered, "Well, I DON'T think the town has to go to all that trouble. The new Sheriff won't miss a trick, believe me. Even the UFO's will think twice."
"Who, that LADY, was a cop in New York, I hear?" The young man sounded incredulous. "Shoot, if Sheriff Patterson couldn't stop anything, and he was pretty smart---"
"My WIFE is one of the two smartest women I know. Three, if you count when my daughter turns 21." Harvey could FEEL his face form a smirk. And it felt really good.
"Your-your WIFE is the new Sheriff? Oh, man--- I'm sorry, Mr.--- Lacey, that's it---"
"No problem, I can see where someone in a REALLY small town like YOURS might have some OLD-fashioned ideas." Harvey paid for his new fishing equipment and, as he turned to leave, said, "Thanks for calling my wife a 'lady', anyway. And I'll remember about all those ghosts--- though with that attitude about female cops, if we have to call the X-Files, Mulder better leave Scully home, eh?" The shop door shut behind Harvey before he could hear whether the clerk made a reply.
Harvey was no longer as sure of himself, now that he was smack in the middle of the "great outdoors". The crush of eager fishermen he had anticipated did not materialize. Maybe they were all spooked by the "haunted woods" story, he thought. Then he remembered, it was Monday, a lot of them had to work, but there were always those who would play "hooky", and surely, some retired men like himself--- they were probably waiting until there was more light in the sky.
So he busied himself with tying on lures and other bait, and made a cast into what he had been told was a well-stocked stream. He sat quietly enough for about a half-hour, but when he hadn't gotten a nibble by then, he got restless. Fishing was BORING as Hell when one was alone and couldn't even crack open a beer, he realized. Taking his heart pills just didn't cut it.
Another half-hour had gone by, and he was just about to give it up, when he thought he heard rustling in the brush, besides the ever-present breeze in the tree-tops. Probably a fox, Harvey thought, then got nervous--- those things could be carrying rabies!
He picked up his fishing kit, and was backing away from the bushes, when something big and dark swooped at him from the nearest one, and knocked him over! A bat? his dazed mind asked--- how could that BE, bats around here were only the size of birds like pigeons; this appeared to be bigger than a raven, yet he KNEW it wasn't a raven....
Harvey didn't know how long he had been lying on the ground, when he felt
someone helping him to sit up. "Thanks, I'll be okay--" he began,
when he looked up at his rescuer --- and felt his heart begin to lurch, squirm,
and churn. My God, he thought, I'm going to die, I HAVE to be dying---
"You're--you're ME!" Harvey gasped at the mirror image of himself
that gazed down
with a terrified expression. "You're a FETCH!"
"What's a 'fetch'? Is that a name for a thief?" the other man wailed in what Harvey knew was HIS voice. "I was tryin' to HELP you---"
Even in his discomfort, Harvey began to realize that this double of his was just as upset by the resemblance as he was. "Listen, just dig me out the vial of nitro from my tackle box, and I'll tell you," he whispered. The other man did exactly as he was told. At least he wasn't a sadist, who would ignore Harvey's request--- or an illiterate. He found the correct medication among the several vials Harvey had brought.
As soon as Harvey took the pill and knew that his heart was settling down, he explained. "When I was a kid, we went out on Halloween with this kid who spent half the night telling us these really awful stories about banshees and fetches. A 'fetch' is supposed to be your OWN spirit, and when you or someone sees it, it means you're going to die within the next year. Funny, even though I never believed in that stuff, and forgot about it for fifty years, it popped right back into my head when I saw YOU!"
"I'm not a ghost," the other man, now calmer, replied. "Though sometimes I feel invisible like one, then, when people notice me, about as welcome as one."
"Look, don't take what I just said personally," Harvey pleaded. "I have this bad ticker, and after that bat or whatever knocked me for a loop, everything seemed to be crashing to a stop---"
"I know what you mean. I almost died a couple of times, myself. I was even shot, years ago."
"That's terrible!" Harvey said sympathetically. "I hope they got whoever who did it!"
The other man shook his head. "It was the Sheriff's deputies, shot me."
Harvey almost needed another pill, hearing THAT news. This must be one of those "old hippies" the clerk was talking about. "Well, um, thanks for your help, but I have to be going, now," he said as he rose to his feet. The other man also rose, and followed him. "Listen, buddy," Harvey said, fear filling his voice, "I think you should know, in case you're planning something, my wife is the new sheriff around here. And she was a cop--- a detective---a GOOD one--- back in New York City."
"New York? Oh--" the "fetch" faltered. "Please,
don't tell her about me. I did a stretch back in
New York, a long time ago. I was just following to make sure you were all right! I don't want trouble with anyone." He sounded like he was about to CRY! "I've been pretty good for 30 years, just ask around town! Nobody likes me much, but they can't complain, either."
Harvey now found himself in a peculiar position, having to reassure an ex-con that nothing bad would happen to him! "Sorry, sorry, I won't tell her. There's nothing to tell--- I doubt I'll tell her about needing the nitro, she'll just get mad at me for coming out this early and getting myself sick again." He smiled. "Besides, I don't even know your name!"
"Willie. Willie Loomis. Formerly of Nowheresville, Missouri--- then, for a long time before I ended up in Collinsport, from Everywhere you can think of, including the 'seven seas'."
"Navy? Merchant Marine?" Harvey asked.
"No, just shipping companies and---and stuff. But since I came here, I've been working for the big family in town, the Collinses, but mostly for Barnabas Collins."
"Well, I'm Harvey Lacey. Formerly of New York, formerly in the contruction business, and now a gentleman of leisure--- well, when my wife--- Mary Beth--- doesn't need stuff done at home while SHE's at work. Since all our kids are grown and a couple are on their own, that leaves me plenty of time for fishing--- or at least, TRYING to fish. The darn things just don't seem to be biting this morning. You married, Willie?"
Willie's head drooped visibly as he replied, "No, but I guess you can see why. There WAS someone I WOULD have--- but this is a small town, and, well, memories go a long way around here."
"Do you mind if I ask, why you stayed on here, after all this trouble that got you shot?"
"You know what, Harvey? It's been such a long time since I thought about it, even I'm not sure why. But it's not too bad most of the time. And I got the day off to fish--- nobody at the Cannery did! Even though I had to do a little errand first."
"At five in the morning, your Boss makes you do errands, Willie?"
"Not TOO often. But he's been kind of upset lately. I can't talk about it."
Harvey said, amiably, "Well, we could stay and fish together, if you want. Boy, won't it fake everyone out, seeing the two of US together! I mean, you're a little thinner, your hair's got a bit more color left in it, and you have that sad look on your mug, but otherwise, we could pass for twins! Yet I KNOW I don't have a twin ANYTHING. My late mother was never out of New York State in her life, and I don't think my late father ever went to Missouri."
"That's just Collinsport for you," Willie replied, brightening. "A lot of people here have been mistaken for---for someone else. I think it's something in the water."
"Maybe I should throw back any fish I manage to catch, then. I know at
least ONE person who would be happy about THAT."
* * * * * * * * * *
6:45 AM back at the Lacey homestead--- Mary Beth was having her final argument with her daughter before she took her to Collinsport Regional High School. (The school, largely financed by Collins interests, served several, equally-small, nearby communities.) The exasperated mother wondered whatever happened to the slight, tractable child who used to hide from controversy--- in her place was a sometimes-feisty rebel upon whom years of living with two loud, opinionated older parents were finally showing their influence.
"Alice, I told you, take off the lip-rings and nose-rings! The earrings you can leave, even though five in one ear and four in the other looks ridiculous as it is. There's NO excuse--- I know I wasn't paying attention for the month before we got up here, but my God, girl, if you keep those things, there WILL be permanent holes in your face LONG after you grow out of this phase! As God is my witness, NOBODY will hire you, even with a trunk full of degrees!"
Alice was playing it sullen--- though she sounded weary of the act. "Maybe I don't WANT a job that needs all those degrees! Maybe I WANT to be a truckstop waitress, or a line worker in the cannery, or catch lobsters, or whatever they do around here. Maybe I'll be a lumberjack!"
"Oh, PLEASE, Alice, they just don't need that many lumberjacks anymore. I WANTED you to get a little job at the Super Store place for a little pocket money, but even THEY have a dress code, which I guess that school DOESN'T have. Or do you even know?"
Alice was about to make her final smart-assed comeback, when the door-bell rang. "Oh, great, just as we're out the door!" Mary Beth complained.
Alice peeked out a small window from which she could see the front porch. "Jehovah's Witnesses, Mom. Please don't trade me in for a subscription to 'The Watchtower'!"
"I haven't time for this---" Mary Beth yanked open the door with a decisive motion. "Now look here, you--- CHRISTINE!"
"Now look here you WHAT!" Christine Cagney barked back, then embraced her friend. Mary Beth suddenly clung to the blonde woman fiercely. "Jesus, Mary Beth, is that your weapon or are you just happy to see me?" Christine said with a wink.
Mary Beth withdrew, and stood back, resplendant, more or less, in her Sheriff's uniform, sharp six-pointed star badge and holster, and complete with matching leather bombers' jacket. "Welcome to the Wild, Wild West," she joked falteringly, "the wild southwest coast of Maine, anyway. My God, Christine, I wasn't expecting you TODAY--- I thought you couldn't make it till the weekend. And a MONDAY, no less. You didn't lose your job, did you?"
"No, no, I'm entitled to four weeks, and He Who Must Be Obeyed, aka the new D.A.whom you ditched me with, insists that I use them at off-season times. I'm sorry I came without calling, but I was just going to stop in on my way to Quebec, then circle back down on schedule. I see I came at a bad time---" Christine glanced, then began to to GLARE at Alice "---Young woman, WHAT do you have growing out of your nose and lips? And what is THAT, a Christmas display in your ears? Take it down already, it's just past Easter!"
"Hello to you too, Aunt Christine," Alice said meekly, as she began to pluck the rings and studs from her face. "I'm just going to leave two earrings each in the ears, okay?"
"HOW did you manage THAT miracle?" Mary Beth asked incredulously. "I've been doing everything short of ripping them off with my bare hands!"
"It's all in the delivery. Counteracts that pouty 'Harvey' look she's learned to throw you at the last minute," Christine smirked. "I love your husband almost as much as my brother, Mary Beth, but I find myself more resistant to male pouting, even Harvey's, as the years go on."
"YOU, resistant to male ANYTHING--- that's almost like news I've been waiting to hear forever, but is it GOOD news?" Mary Beth suddenly glanced at the clock. "It's after seven, already! Oh, my God, we'll be late for Alice's first day of school--- a FINE example for the new sheriff to set--- Christine, are you in a big hurry for Quebec? Please say you'll ride with us, then we can catch up."
"Sure, give me the grand tour. I don't exactly have reservations up there, I was just going to drop in and HOPE there's a vacancy."
"Now THAT sounds like the spontaneous Christine we all know and
love," Mary Beth said as she herded her chastened daughter and
newly-arrived friend to her Sheriff's car.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Harvey and Willie had a very satisfactory morning of angling. Willie, with his years of experience, knew the best places to fish. Soon he had three trout, and Harvey had four. "That's enough, thanks," Harvey said finally. "It's just me and my wife who'll eat them. Our daughter is going through a vegetarian phase right now."
"I cook for Barn-- Mr. Collins, and his son Jeremy, so this is exactly right," Willie replied. "Though I might save Mr. Collins's fish in the freezer--- he's not feeling too well right now."
"You seem very concerned," Harvey observed. "It must be serious. Has he been sick long?"
"Yes, it's serious, and yes, he's been sick for a while, all right. His late wife was a doctor, and she used to care for him, but he doesn't trust other doctors."
"Well, I hope he gets better soon, for your sake, so you won't have to go on those five AM errands." Harvey was packed up, and Willie accompanied him to his car.
Willie stopped suddenly. "Hey, Harvey, can I ask you something, before you go?"
"I guess, if it means setting up another date to fish. This was more fun than I expected, more fun than I've had since I left my other friends back in New York." Harvey was taken aback by his new friend's query.
"What does it feel like to have kids? I mean, not HAVING them, but having them growing up where you see them every day and talk to them as a Dad and so on?"
"Boy, what that a bolt out of the blue, Willie. I thought you said that kind of thing wasn't in the cards for you. Besides, don't you remember what it was like when you were a kid with YOUR father?"
Willie's face darkened. "I don't like to talk about that. My Dad was pure Hell before he left us, and my Mom was so poor she had to put us in these foster homes. I got out of there when I was sixteen."
"Jesus, that sounds a little like what happened in my wife's family--- her old man flew the coop, then came back and got sick, but he died before he became a real burden. I never thought I would think such a thing, but thank God he passed away when he did." Harvey had to take some deep breaths, while reliving THESE memories. "As for your other question, well, it's easy and hard to be a father. The good days, and we DID have more good days than bad, it was kind of fun. My older boys grew up without a lot of fancy stuff, like we did. We couldn't afford much, till they were older. I did more stuff WITH them than the average dad, because I couldn't work for some time, then there were times there was no work, and I did maintenance right in our own apartment building. We fought over this and that, but they turned out okay, and they'll be dropping in, up here, soon. Now, my DAUGHTER is on her SECOND computer, and even though she's a good girl, she's more trouble than the boys put together, a real weasel. I tell her off, but she makes pouty little 'Mary Beth' faces at me, then I cave in."
Willie looked wistful during this recitation. "Well, the closest I ever came to raising any kid was helping with Jeremy--- Mr. Collins and Dr. Collins, that was Julia, his wife, were older when he was born, and they were such serious people, so I would play with him, catch and stuff, built him a swing set, and I took him to see his godmother and HER daughter and watched out for them. Especially when the little girl's Dad and Jeremy's mother died a year apart. But I would NEVER give them any advice, even if I had some."
" 'Advice is the gift that keeps giving, because almost nobody takes it', that's what MY Mom always used to say," Harvey answered. "You probably did just what I would have done in your place, if that makes you feel any better." He got in his car. "You'll have to visit us some time. I doubt Mary Beth would bite the head off a genuine, sincere, rehabilitiated ex-con. And it would be fun to give her a jolt when she sees the two of us together."
"Maybe sometime soon, if Barnabas gets better," Willie said.
"But when we go fishing again, let's wait till the sun's fully up."
* * * * * * * * * *
Alice had to ask directions to the office, which was NOT conveniently located at the entrance of this extremely large school, to report the reason for her tardiness. She tapped the shoulder of a tall, strawberry-blond boy at his locker, whose back was turned to her. He replied, without looking at her at first. Alice thought he had the most pleasant, most even tone of voice she had ever heard from a boy of her age. She wanted to prolong the contact, and wanted to see if his face matched the voice. She tapped again, and this time he glanced back.
His eyes were soft puppy-dog brown. His face was finely chiseled, and marred by just a few discreet little pimples. But he seemed annoyed. "What do you want NOW?" he demanded, his hands still digging for something in the disorderly locker. Still, he had that fine voice.
"Sorry, I just wanted to thank you. And introduce myself--- I'm Alice C. Lacey, today's my first day of school."
"Well, Alice C. Lacey, I'm Elliot J. Collins. Today marks my first WEEK here, but don't go asking me for more directions. I still get lost too--- this place is an absolute MAZE."
"What, you're one of THE Collinses of Collinsport?"
"One the the ever-increasing number, I'm afraid--- my mother is out to replenish our family tree, I believe. I have five younger siblings, one older, and one more due any minute."
Alice was enchanted--- This Elliot could just have said "sisters and brothers." But now she was curious. "If you're RICH, why are you HERE?" she asked, then hung back. What business was it of hers, anyway?
"Have no fear, I wasn't thrown out of some exclusive prep school. My parents--- my mother--- TOOK me out. She said that I really had to learn something about you plebians." He smiled mischievously at that instant, and Alice knew she had found the love of her life. "Seriously," Elliot continued, "I'll be expected to take over the family business someday, or at least play some part in it, so it will probably pay to get to know some of those who might end up working for me in the future."
"That's awesome--- wait till I tell Mom. She's been curious--- well, interested in your folks since they lobbied to get her chosen as Sheriff."
"Lacey--- I KNEW that name was familiar. Well, I'll have to get Mother and Father to invite your family for dinner, before Mother is laid-in again. But first, you and I will have to get to know each other better."
"Just like THAT?" Alice said, bewildered. Oh be still, my heart, she thought.
"It IS what YOU want, isn't it?" Elliot asked, sounding blase.
"Why, you--- that's PRESUMPTUOUS!. What, are you so popular already, you EXPECT every girl who talks to you, to want a date with you?"
"Not every girl. Just persistent ones like you, who don't just settle for directions to the office", the boy replied evenly. "Even if they wear one-too-many pairs of earrings," he added. "I saw a girl busted for multiple studs on my first day. A word to the wise should be sufficient. Miss Jennings, the Principal, is a stickler for that kind of thing. And I observe holes in your lip and nose. I hope you haven't done what I THINK you did, but most of the regular guys HATE to kiss a girl with 'fish-hooked-lips'." He extracted the book he'd been seeking, and said, "Hurry on now to the office. Miss Jennings might get hard on you for tardiness. She has a reputation for pickiness. I WILL be seeing you at lunch? And DO skip the bus--- I brought my car. It's a nice grown-up type car, so your worthy mother won't be scandalized."
"What---what?" Alice sputtered at this utterly self-confident, self-contained individual. All of a sudden, she had a friend and a date and a ride all rolled into one, and she had said very little of substance herself!
"Oh, relax, Alice C. Lacey. Look at how much work I've just saved you. A nice girl like yourself would have to go through the motions of proving yourself to everyone before you even HAD a date, and that date would probably be with a 'hands-on' jock type, who wouldn't understand half the words you use. You, in your struggle to hang on to him, would sink to HIS level--- he wouldn't rise to YOURS. Under different circumstances, it would take MONTHS to attract the sort of guy I believe you'd REALLY enjoy spending time with, namely, without boasting, myself. And by then, I would have been tied up, probably with an ambitious cheerleader who pretended to understand ME. The fact that we found each other so quickly is serendipitous, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I guess dreams really DO come true," Alice said with a touch of sarcasm. Everything he said was true, but he was rubbing her nose in it--- or was he? He didn't seem mean, didn't seem like he was trying to coerce her, didn't appear crazy-obsessed, or any of the negatives she had been taught by her parents, but mostly by her mother's experienced friend, to avoid like the plague in a male. Oh, well, she thought, we'll give it a try for today--- nothing ventured, nothing gained, and it WAS a lucky break. "Okay, I'll see you at lunch then, if I ever find the cafeteria in this place."
Alice trotted briskly to the office, removing one more pair of earrings as she went. The secretary was taking down her name and excuse, when a petite woman of about forty slid in quietly and looked over her shoulder. "Lacey, the Sheriff's daughter?" the woman asked in an interestingly husky voice. To Alice, she sounded like that movie actress, Kathleen Turner.
"Yes, Ma'am," Alice replied. "Are you Miss Jennings?"
"I'm afraid so, Lacey. I see this is your first day, and you're pretty late. How did the Sheriff let this happen?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Jennings, but while we were getting ready to leave, my mother's former partner from New York dropped in, but we got out as soon as we could."
"There IS a school bus, Lacey. You know how to use them."
"I'm sorry, Miss Jennings, my mother wanted to drive me in just this once, for the first day---"
"You're twenty minutes late. I'm sorry, but you're now on probation for detention. One more tardy, and it's a VERY dry hour in a basement room, instead of cafeteria or study hall, and a blot on your permanent record. And let me see.... Are those extra holes in your ears? I hope I notice them closing after a few weeks. And as for the baggy pants--- lose 'em. I don't need any lawsuits from parents whose darlings trip down our stairs in those things. Not even the Sheriff. Why does she let you wear them, anyway?"
"I--I'm not sure, Miss Jennings. But she's very big on letting me face the consequences of my actions."
"Right. So, I have to be incovenienced, putting you to rights. My God, it's a good thing we don't have a lot of crime in this town. No doubt that's her laissez-faire policy on criminal activity?"
"NO, MA'AM!" Alice shouted. "My mother was one of the BEST
cops in New York, and she'll
do a FABULOUS job as the Sheriff of this dinky, one-horse---"
"You've just bought yourself a lunchtime detention, Lacey. You eat in the basement, then sit quietly, no talking, nothing, for the rest of the half-hour."
Alice felt tears stinging in their struggle to burst forth, but kept them in. "I'm sorry, Miss Jennings, I just didn't think you were being fair to my mother. And now, SHE's going to kill me. Detention on my first day!"
"Look, Lacey, I don't have TIME to consider everyone's precious little needs. I have a school with 600 students to run here. So, I try to run things in a way the military might admire. But it's not a military school, and once you know the rules, then everything is easier for everybody. I figure, go hard the first or second time, then we have VERY little recidivism after. You'll get used to it after a while. Appreciate it, even."
NOT, Alice answered mentally. Even her mother had mellowed out with age, though she sometimes still felt it needful to put up a fight, like this morning. But the girl bit her tongue, forced herself to say good morning, and went to homeroom, all the while planning her strategy. "I'll have to talk to Dad when I get home, FIRST thing," she thought.
Meanwhile, Miss Jennings snatched up some papers from her "Incoming" basket, but before she stalked back to her office, the secretary said bluntly, "Amy, you were TOO hard on that girl. First day for her--- it'll be enough of an adjustment for her after New York. And this WON'T sit well with the Sheriff. Job tells me she's tough as YOU, but she IS fair. We could have a to-do between yourself, the Sheriff, and the Collinses."
"Hepsey, MUST I keep reminding you? The Collinses are MY relatives, not the Laceys'."
"After all this time, it's still hard to believe, Amy, but you milked
it pretty well. You got to go to that fancy Smith College on their wallets,
after just being another townie urchin like the rest of us.
I remember those brothers of yours, and where are they now?" Hepsey Woodard asked rhetorically.
Amy's round face crumpled. "Tom--- dead from whatever crazy blood-sickness was being spread around thirty years ago. And Chris---" This time, she choked on the name. Christopher, caught out during a full moon, shot properly with silver bullets by Sheriff Patterson, who had finally learned his werewolf secret. And who died the next morning, with his shattered wife Sabrina and teenaged sister by his side. It was only the influence of the Collinses that kept the awful truth from reaching the media. While Patterson, satisfied at the removal of the threat to the community, was willing to go along with the cover-up, still, Amy bore an animus toward the whole institution of the Sheriff's office. Sabrina had tried to reason with her, but Amy slapped George Patterson when he dared to attend Chris's funeral. Then she turned around, and slapped the deputy who tried to restrain her.
Twenty-seven years gone, and the pain, not to mention the sense of outrage at ANY sheriff, still burned in Amy's gut. But she forced herself to calm, and said, "Maybe you're right, Hepsey. I DO get carried away. It's the stress. I keep asking the Board of Education for more vice principals, to divide this school into a house system, and they're a bunch of stubborn old fools. I wonder why they keep getting re-elected."
"Why don't you ask your relatives, the Collinses? They giveth, yet they taketh away."
"I should ask them to replace YOU, Hepsey, but I need the reality check
once in a while. I WILL re-think my actions against Alice Lacey, though. Carry
on." Back in her office, Amy unlocked a big drawer, and took out a bottle
of vodka. She poured some into a paper cup from her water-cooler dispenser,
added some water, and sipped it as she perused the stack of papers.
* * * * * * * * * * *
"Well, Mary Beth, I have to congratulate you," Christine said, as she surveyed the Sheriff's office, which was bathed in light from a large, but barred window. "You finally got an office with a view, even if it's just Main Street."
"It's kind of pretty for a police station, I think," Mary Beth replied. "This part of the building is almost two hundred years old, and was last redecorated in 1900! They just keep re-painting."
"Just as long as the PAINT wasn't around in 1900, the lead and all that. So, what do you do for excitement, after all the adventures back in New York? Hold checkpoints for drunk drivers on Saturday nights? Bust up fights at that cheesy old Blue Whale place? God, remember how much we hated that petty crap when we were in uniform? And now, you're back in one!"
"Well, at least HERE, it gets some kind of respect, Christine. And I was so tired of 'adventures'. Plus, HERE I'm pretty much my own boss, 'SHE who must be obeyed'. For once, I have real authority as well as responsibility. And you'd probably flip if I showed you my paycheck--- this town is richer than it looks. Though I'll have to show you some of the fascinating records from thirty years back, and even further, the turn of the century, some ancient scribbles I copied at the library. Boring as this backwater is NOW, there was some hair-raising stuff going on years ago." Mary Beth began describing some of the incredible events she'd read about.
"Vampires and werewolves and ghosts, oh, my!" Christine dead-panned in response. "It's pretty hard to believe---"
"Yeah, it is for me, too, but the late Sheriff Patterson, who, it seems, was Sheriff for Life until he died 13 years ago, and my immediate predecessor, who was HIS deputy and went on to some cushy job in Augusta, kept meticulous records. They just don't strike me as having been inbred crazies who made up stories. My deputy, Job Woodard, had a father who DIED while investigating this stuff. He said that Patterson's theory was that trouble in Collinsport runs in cycles, roughly one bad patch every twenty to thirty years. For some reason, this makes me nervous.... It's like I got here just as the warranty was running out."
"But NOTHING's happened yet, if it's meant to happen at all, has it?" Christine asked sensibly. "I think the problem here is that you gave up a job full of challenges, tiring as they were, in what you saw as a dire need for a rest. And now, you're restored, but you can't go back to where you were, so you're borrowing trouble, with interest."
"Christine," Mary Beth asked quietly, "how many times have my intuitions been wrong, about the job, anyway?"
"Well, to be honest--- I could count them on the fingers of one hand. But that's big-city stuff. You need to adjust to small-town rhythms."
"Job keeps telling me the same thing--- I have to learn how they do things in Collinsport. Why should my standards be different for Collinsport? Everybody used to pick on me for being as self-righteous as a small-town schoolmarm, don't deny it, I KNOW they did. Yet here I AM in a small town, and I don't fit in!"
Christine was just about to reply, when Job Woodard came in from the back of the building, where the holding cells were. "Morning, Sheriff, Ma'am," he said.
" 'Sheriff Ma'am'," Christine repeated. "Has a nice ring to it. Better than some of the names they called US back home."
Job gazed at the blonde woman with frank curiosity. "Excuse me?"
he said. Mary Beth quickly introduced them. "My, are there a LOT of women
police and detectives and such in New York?"
Christine laughed, "Not when WE first came in, Job. In our former precinct, we were almost the only female cops, and then, we were the only female detectives for some years, before we became bureaucratic functionaries with guns. Usually had the ladies' room all to ourselves, anyway."
Job looked at Mary Beth and cleared his throat. "Well, if that was the case, I'm sure they had the BEST. Now, Sheriff, Ma'am, we just brought in a peeper. He's in the back. I think you'll want to see THIS one, special." He turned back toward the entrance to the holding area, and beckoned.
As he disappeared from view, Christine teased in a whisper, "Job acts like he's got a crush on you, Mary Beth."
"Don't be ridiculous," Mary Beth whispered back irritably. "He's married--- to someone named Hepzibah, secretary at the High School."
"I can just imagine what a small-town 'Hepzibah' must be like."
"Very nice, in fact, he has a picture of the wife--- calls her 'Hepsey'--- and their little Bible belt of children on his desk. She's very pretty. Plus, he knows I'm married, obviously."
"NOBODY is more obviously married than YOU, Mary Beth. You all but have it tatooed to your forehead." Christine patted her friend's shoulder. "Can I have a look at this 'special' perp, Sheriff Ma'am?"
"It's a voyeur, so maybe it's someone YOU know," Mary Beth teased back. "Sure, come on, your expertise will impress the Hell out of Job."
The holding cell they sought was close to the back wall of the building. This wing of the police station was of fairly recent, mid-1970's vintage. While it boasted all the modern amenities, it lacked the character of the office area, most fitting for its function.
The prisoner, a heavyset older man, sat with his face to the wall. He was sighing heavily, maybe even weeping--- all Job, Mary Beth, and Christine could see was his plaid-shirted back. Job told him to turn around.
As they glimpsed his profile in the gloomy light, Mary Beth gasped. Christine remarked, "You were right, it sure IS someone that I know, and you, too, rather WELL."
Job said, "What are you ladies talking about?"
Mary Beth, her face white, forced out the words: "You--you arrested--- Harvey? My HUSBAND? For PEEPING? He was supposed to be out FISHING!" She felt ill--- once, years ago, Harvey and their friends at the 14th precinct had played a similar joke on her, and she didn't think it was funny THEN. She didn't know WHAT to think now!
"Your HUSBAND, Ma'am?" Job asked in amazement. "This is that fellow I was telling you about, Willie Loomis."
"He's- he's a dead-ringer for my husband! I keep forgetting to put his
picture on my desk, so you could
see--- my God, Harvey CAN'T have a twin brother, and we NEVER knew it!"
Job told Loomis to stand up in the light. Christine studied him carefully, and said, "Take it easy, Mary Beth, he isn't EXACTLY like Harvey. Willie's hair's got some traces of blond in it, he appears to weigh less, and is more outdoorsy-looking. Their eye colors are even somewhat different--- Harvey's are pretty dark, slate-blue, while this one's sky-blue. Plus, Harvey looks happier on his worst days."
Mary Beth had regained a semblence of professional calm. "I'm sorry, Job, Christine, really. I'm even sorry for YOU, Loomis---but not VERY. What are the particulars here, Job?"
"Well, it seems that one Mark Wilkins, on his way to work at the Cannery, saw Loomis, here, in the yard of Maggie Shaw's home around 4:30 AM, trying to look through a window, presumably at her daughter, Vicki, who, we later discovered, got up that early to finish grading some papers. Well, anyway, Wilkins called it in on his cell phone, and Officer Hallett searched for several hours before he picked Loomis up just a half-hour ago. He also had his partner check on Vicki, who was alone due to her mother's being in Ellsworth overnight. The girl couldn't believe her mother's friend would do such a fool thing. Loomis came up with some cockeyed story that he was worried about her---"
"I'm ALWAYS worried about Maggie and Vicki," Willie protested. "They know me. I just didn't want to get THEM worried, so I just gave a look-see---"
"Right, Willie," Job said, shaking his head. "Just like you did thirty years back. It got you shot and nearly killed THEN. You're lucky Hallett didn't shoot you today!"
"I'm sorry, I was just going to look, then go---"
"That's what they ALL say!" Mary Beth snapped. "Then they keep coming back, and wanting more, and what happens sometimes, they don't just stop at LOOKING.... I'd hate to have to send an old man to prison, especially for something like THIS--- they'd eat you alive. But, considering your record, you're in serious trouble here, sir."
"You DON'T understand. Ask your husband, he might---"
"HARVEY! What does HE have to do with YOU?"
Willie shook as he spoke. "I met him this morning at the trout stream, after---"
Mary Beth shook with anger. "He'd BETTER be okay---"
Christine shushed Mary Beth. Today, it seemed, it was HER turn to play "Good cop". "Look--- Willie? Just tell us everything, from A to Z. You were already apprised of your rights?"
"Yes, Ma'am, and even if they hadn't done it, I remember them well enough. I was in the woods. My Boss, that's Mr. Barnabas Collins, gave me the day off to go fishing, and I wanted to get there early, after I checked on Vicki. When I was there, a bat flew into Mr. Lacey's face, and he fell over. I helped him get up, and when he saw that we looked alike, he kind of got scared and his heart bothered him. So he asked me to get his medicine, and when he felt better, we talked and fished. He left at about quarter-to-eight, I guess to home."
Mary Beth immediately pulled her cell phone from her belt, and punched in the number with nervous fingers. The relief in her voice when she was able to say "Hi, Harv," echoed in the holding area. To everyone's surprise, she didn't announce the real reason for her call. "I'm not really busy now, and I was wondering if you'd caught anything.... Almost caught a bat? THAT'S funny.... FOUR trout? Well, that will be GREAT, because it seems we have a houseguest, a few days early.... That's right, she's with me now.... So, did you meet anyone out there?" When Mary Beth was finished, she announced to the others, "Well, Harvey corroborated your story up to that point. He even said you had a little talk about fatherhood, of all things! He said you DID seem worried, but about your employer."
"Yes, Sheriff, Ma'am, Barnabas isn't well right now, but he let me have the day.... Anyway, something made me go to check up on Maggie and Vicki. Maggie knows I'm her friend, and Vicki's."
Job said, "I wonder how they'll feel about that after today. Willie, just WHAT made you worry about a perfectly healthy, safe mother and daughter, that you had to sneak up and look in a window? It just doesn't make sense!"
"I can't explain--- it was just a FEELING---"
Mary Beth said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Loomis, but you'll have to do a LOT better than that if you expect to beat this charge. You haven't said anything to convince me that you had any business there. You're not RELATED to these women, and if you were such a great friend, you could have gone to their door and confronted them, AFTER calling, FIRST!"
Willie sputtered, "There's reasons---"
"Whatever they are, maybe you'd better save them for your attorney. He or she will know what to make of them. Have you contacted one yet?"
"No, but---" There was a knock at the entrance to the holding cells. Job went to answer it. He returned, followed by an attractive, well-dressed woman in her early fifties. Mary Beth noticed at once, the "wings of snow" at the temples of the woman's otherwise auburn coiffure. And something else--- "Dorian Gray," she thought. "Where can Harv and I get magic portraits like that, and how much of Alice's college fund would we need to spend?"
"Maggie--- Mrs. Shaw," Job began. "Why are you here? We have Willie well in hand. He won't be bothering you and Vicki for a while."
"My daughter called and told me all about the incident, Job. I believe there's been a mistake made here. I called my lawyer, Mr. Anthony Peterson, and we contacted Judge Garner. A simple fine will cover Willie's 'offense', which I assure you, was NOT what it appears to have been. I've already paid the fine, and Judge Garner was good enough to fax some documents to this office."
"Now, wait a minute," Mary Beth protested. "I'M the Sheriff here. This matter can't just be resolved by some phone calls between friends! Aren't you WORRIED about your daughter, Ma'am? Can you BELIEVE that he was trying to 'look out' for you two? I've been in law enforcement for more years than I like to think about, Ma'am, and of all the stories I've heard to excuse some kind of miscreant activity, Mr. Loomis's has to be one of the LAMEST."
"Perhaps, not to YOU, Sheriff--- Lacey, yes, I read about you in the Collinsport Star. But there are different relationships between people here. What may seem inexplicable to an outsider is no mystery to us. I believe Willie. At one time, of course, I was as mistrustful as you are now, and with good reason, but he has since proved his worth in many ways. He would no more hurt my daughter, or myself, than a Hindu would eat a cow."
Mary Beth grumbled to herself as she duly went out to the office, checked
the fax machine, and discovered the documents, all quite legal in appearance.
She walked right to the holding cell, unlocked it personally, and waved Willie
out. He scurried past her like a terrified mouse.
"Well, Mr. Loomis," the confounded Sheriff said, "you're off the hook THIS time, but you WON'T get a second chance if you try this nonsense again. Now, get out of here."
After all that had just gone down, Mary Beth half-expected Loomis and Mrs.
Shaw to exit, arm-in-arm! Instead, they seemed anxious to avoid each other,
Willie darting out well ahead of Maggie, who instead stopped to chat with Job,
and introduced herself to Christine, who said, later, "I can see what you
mean. This is a rude hamlet, all right. I expect you'll be meeting 'Larry and
his brothers Darryl and Darryl' before you're through. This HAS changed my
vacation plans, though. Forget Quebec, all the action's here! I can't WAIT to
discover what the next two weeks will bring!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Elliot Collins waited at the bus exit for Alice. When she came out, tottering a little as if in shock, he said, "I can see it right now. Miss Jennings gave you Hell. I knew something was wrong when you didn't come to lunch."
"It was SO unfair," Alice mourned. "I didn't do ANYTHING---"
Elliot said "If it was any other girl, I would say you were, ahem, glossing over the facts, but you seem sincerely distressed. I believe you. Maybe I can do something for you.... I hadn't told you yet, but Miss Jennings is my second cousin, twice-removed. I could ask my father to speak to her--- they used to be close friends at one time, and to be blunt, HIS influence got her the job."
"Oh, WOULD you, COULD you--- on second thought, maybe you shouldn't. My parents, Mom especially, will be upset enough without my trying to cop a favor from your family. Mom is almost TOO honest and upright, I think."
"Sounds like she and MY Mother would get on splendidly," Elliot laughed. "In fact, it was my mother's say-so that decided the choice of possible candidates for Sheriff. Your mother's reputation preceeded her." He lead the way to his car, a new, jet-black Saturn. "Well, are you going to let me drive you home for your date with destiny?"
"Maybe I shouldn't--- but the only boys who ever asked me to ride with them had cars that would shame a junkyard dog! This is too good to miss! The only thing neater than this would be if you had a Harley--- but then my folks would go ballistic if they caught me riding pillion on a motorcycle with a stranger. They didn't like it when my brother gave me rides, with a helmet and everything."
Alice sat quietly while Elliot, apparently not a speed demon like most boys his age, skillfully glided the Saturn around hairpin turns on some of Collinsport's older streets. He parked, briefly, in a pull-over spot near some bushes.
"My house is still two streets down," Alice said, a little nervously. Maybe Elliot WAS going to be trouble after all. Well, she'd been practicing some self-defense lessons her parents and Aunt Christine had insisted on---
"I just wanted to say good-bye the way we'd BOTH like to, without scrutiny," Elliot said, laying an arm over her shoulders and drawing her close. Alice didn't squirm away. And when he kissed her, she surprised herself by responding eagerly. "Let me guess," he teased. "Sweet sixteen and never been kissed? EVER?"
"No, not really. The other boys are just so disgusting and sloppy, and they always got P.O.'ed when I tried to tell them what I like. I didn't have to tell YOU anything," she purred happily. "I hope my parents let us go out, once they're done being mad at my detention."
When they got to the Lacey house, Alice jumped out of the car, and ran to the door, to avoid any confrontation over her riding alone with a boy they didn't know. Fortunately, she found her father deeply engrossed in cleaning and filleting his morning's catch. "They look very nice," the daughter said, "but they must have looked better alive."
Harvey didn't "rise to the bait." He simply asked, "How was your first day in that school?"
Alice knew this was the moment to trot out her notorious pout, tailored to suit whichever parent interrogated her. So she told the perfect truth, with sad sighs thrown in for good measure. Harvey, as she'd intended, was outraged. "That woman punished you for defending your MOM?"
"Oh, Dad," the girl fluttered, "don't let your blood pressure go up on MY account."
Mary Beth and Christine arrived home at 5:30, to the "fragrance" of baking fish. After Christine gave Harvey a squeeze ("What do I look like, a package of toilet paper?" he laughed), he began to explain, rather breathlessly, Alice's misfortune.
"Oh, God, Harv, she's taken you in again," his wife said, rolling her eyes. "She must have done SOMETHING---
Alice protested, "I was LATE, that's all. Plus, I had to take a minute to ask a boy for directions to the office. It's smack in the middle of the school! He was nice enough to warn me to take off a couple of earrings, too. Miss Jennings was going to let me off with a warning, then she brought up all this stuff about 'the Sheriff this' and 'the Sheriff that', like we did this on purpose! I just HAD to stick up for you, Mom." This time, she flashed the pout that made her resemble her father.
"That's a wild story, Alice," Christine commented, "but hey, truth sometimes IS stranger than fiction. Jennings.... Jennings--- Mary Beth, wasn't that a name in the files, a murder suspect who was shot by the Sheriff years back? Maybe this principal is related--- probably IS, in such a small town."
"I know who she IS related to," Alice announced triumphantly. "The boy I was talking to, his name is Elliot Collins, yep, one of THOSE Collinses, said she's his second or third cousin. His DAD got her the job. And she was complaining about having too much work. If she wasn't so MEAN about it, I would have felt sorry for her."
"Well, I can sympathize with THAT," Mary Beth declared. "Especially dealing with crazy teen-agers all day. Maybe I should have a talk with this Miss Jennings." Just then the phone rang. She answered.
A man with a smooth baritone, who spoke with cultured accents, said, upon confirming her identity, "Ah Sheriff Lacey, this is David Collins. Perhaps you've heard of me?"
"Er-- yes, Mr. Collins," Mary Beth answered nervously. "It's a privilege to be working for y--- for this town. Anything I can do for you, sir? Any trouble at--- at the Estate?"
"No, no trouble. We have a good security system, with connections to your office if the need arises. I just wanted to address any problem you may have with Miss Amy Jennings, the principal of the High School. My son, Elliot, befriended your daughter, and discovered that Amy, who is a distant cousin of mine, had unjustly punished young Alice."
"We only have the word of two kids that it was unjust, Mr. Collins. Alice may have been insolent, when she thought Miss Jennings was insulting me, and when I was young, sir, that was grounds for a reprimand."
"A reprimand, NOT being forced to eat lunch in a dingy basement room, Sheriff Lacey!. Anyway, I DID have a little talk with my cousin, and I assure you she will deal with Alice, and, in fact any such minor disturbance with the students, more temperately."
"Really, sir, that's undermining the principal. According to what I hear, though, she seems to be overwhelmed in that big place. You should help her with HER problem, if you don't mind my saying, and I'll take care of my daughter's." Mary Beth calmed down and back-pedaled to keep the peace. This was, after all, the man who'd brought her here, who was paying her salary. "Still, Mr. Collins, I DO thank you for your concern. I hope you don't think I'm not appreciative---"
"Of course not, Sheriff. That's the sort of attitude Mrs. Collins--- Hallie--- would approve of. And we would also like you to know, we approve of our son's friendship with your daughter. I'm sure she's a fine girl. In fact, your family is invited to dinner at Collinwood--- Is Wednesday at eight too soon?"
"Well, I don't know, see, we have a guest from out of town--- my former partner from back in New York, in fact---"
"Amy mentioned something about that. Naturally, we'd welcome your guest as our own. Bring him along--"
"HER, sir. Her name is Christine Cagney."
"We'll look forward to seeing all of you, then."
Mary Beth hung up, crestfallen. Harvey said, "You look like you got steamrolled, honey."
"I NEVER heard you kiss up like THAT before, Mary Beth," Christine harrumphed.
"What can I do?" the beleagured Sheriff asked. "He practically OWNS this town. HE picked me for this job, not the Board of Selectmen. But there's advantages. He got our daughter out of Dutch with the principal. And he invited all of us to dinner at the manor, Wednesday night! I wonder if he, or his relative Barnabas Collins, will do something about that Willie Loomis!"
"Willie!" Harvey exclaimed. "What's wrong with HIM? I told you I went fishing with him this morning. If not for him, we'd be having hamburgers right now. Mary Beth, just WHAT was the real reason for you calling me this morning?"
"He was arrested for voyeurism--- peeping--- just after you left him. I'm sorry I didn't tell you then, but I didn't want to get your heart out of whack, sweetheart, until I could explain everything in person."
"It would only be the THIRD time today!" Harvey replied irritably. "Listen Mary Beth, he told me about being an ex-con, and he claimed he hasn't been in trouble for 30 years!"
"Well, he was already in trouble just before you met. He was peeping at a young teacher named Victoria Shaw---"
"Miss Shaw?" Alice exclaimed. "She's my English teacher!"
Christine interjected, "Well, maybe what we call 'peeping' is accepted in some circles around here, because this teacher of yours called HER Mom, who bailed Mr. Loomis out of jail before YOUR poor Mom had a chance to charge him! When we get to that Collinwood place, Alice, you'd better look twice, because this Mr. Loomis works there, and he could pass as your Dad, with a few minor changes."
"I was hoping to bring him over and give Mary Beth a little
surprise," Harvey admitted. "I must be slipping--- I really bought it
when he told me how he helped raise that girl, and his Boss's son.
He said he knew he'd never get married or have any of his own, but that was almost enough. I REALLY liked him, jailbird or former hippie or whatever. I guess you won't let me go fishing with him again, Mary Beth. It's almost too bad, because I'd really like to hear what he has to say about this. I FELT for the guy.... It was like looking in a mirror and seeing how I might have turned out.... The road not taken, and all that."
"I can't picture YOU peeping, except at ME," Mary Beth joked lamely. "I don't know what to tell you. He seems to like YOU as well.... If this is as far as he goes, and he says hello to you on the street, maybe you could be a good influence on him.... I just don't want him around HERE, with OUR daughter, and I don't want my office tainted with this association."
"I'll think about it, honey, but there's a connection.... It CAN'T just
be a coincidence." At that moment, the oven's timer went off, and Harvey
disappeared into the kitchen. He called, "Alice, I hope you like Tofu
* * * * * * * * * * * *
"So, Willie, how did the day go after you convinced me to go home?" Barnabas Collins asked, as he came up from the basement of the Old House. "Oh, and I almost forgot--- I apologize for bumping into you and knocking you over this morning. I'm no longer as agile in the dark. It seems my condition has changed with age--- just as I have difficulty going up and down all these stairs." Indeed, he moved slowly now toward his favorite chair, and gripped his faithful cane with hands a little swollen with arthritis. He was still a handsome man, though, for all that he had gained weight, and his still-abundant hair was a smooth "distinguished silver".
"Barnabas," Willie replied, "I have to warn you. AGAIN. You didn't fl--RUN into ME. There's somebody in town who looks a LOT like me. The new Sheriff's HUSBAND! He was out fishing, first day of the season, remember? I had all my stuff with me, because I was gonna do it anyway, before you--you got 'sick'. I had to help him up, then HE started having heart trouble, so I kind of stayed with him, and we caught a few trout together. I thought I had him eating from my hand, so to speak, but it was no use. Somebody had seen me outside the Shaw house AFTER you took off, and when I got back into town, I ended up getting busted for what YOU almost did! But thank God, Vicki didn't see it the Sheriff's way. She called her Mom, and Maggie bailed me out."
"My God, we'll have to keep an eye on this new Sheriff AND her spouse!" Barnabas said, anxiously. "This Mary Beth Lacey's from New York City--- I'm SURE she's not one to be put off as easily as the late Sheriff Patterson and his successor, Beardsley."
"You got THAT right. Plus, she had a friend visiting--- a former lady cop that was her partner for years. She's sharp as a tack, too, though at least SHE didn't go bonkers over the resemblance. I'll bet having those two harpies elbowing him aside, made Job Woodard mad as Hell, though," Willie grinned. "I kinda feel sorry for the guy--- even though he's Doc Woodard's son, he's nowhere near as smart, and I KNOW he had his eye on the Sheriff's desk."
"Yes, having Job in the catbird seat WOULD have simplified our lives," the older man sighed. "If only I knew WHY my 'syndrome' has returned after all these years!" he said sadly. "At this point, I still TRULY regret the harm I am tempted to do. My God, if only Julia were still alive!" He gazed at his beloved late wife's portrait, painted just a year before her death, depicting her with their then-12-year-old son. "Jeremy is becoming as fine a doctor as his mother, but we've never told him about my former life. How can he help me, will he even WANT to help me? And then, there is the possibility--- I shudder to think--- this may affect HIS health as well."
"Damn, and just when he's about to propose to Vicki Shaw," Willie sighed.
"You KNOW I would have preferred my son to marry Carolyn and Tony's daughter Pauline," Barnabas admonished. "A marriage to Maggie's daughter might bring old but troubling matters to the surface--- well, they ARE re-surfacing at that. I guess whoever my son chooses is a moot point right now--- he will HAVE to be told, and soon, though I don't know how."
Willie picked up the evening paper, and handed it to Barnabas, now comfortably esconced in his chair. The new cordless phone rang, and Willie brought it to his employer. It was David Collins, inviting Barnabas, Jeremy, and Willie to dinner on Wednesday, to meet the new Sheriff and her family. Barnabas gazed up at Willie, and asked David to wait a minute. Even though he pressed the HOLD button, Barnabas still felt compelled to cover the mouthpiece, as he whispered "I take it he hasn't heard yet of your--- OUR little escapade?"
"I'd guess not, " the houseman whispered back. "I was free before the Sheriff even took fingerprints or mug shots. She probably wrote it off. Still, I don't think I want to see her again for a while, let alone eat with her family. I kinda feel bad about Harvey, though, the husband. He was nice once he got over being scared of me."
Barnabas resumed the call. "Yes, David, I just checked in on Willie, and it seems he caught a chill while out fishing this morning. You know how easily he picks up colds--- it may be full-blown by Wednesday. Even if Jeremy gives him medicine, it would be best to avoid spreading it around. As for my son, he has to be at the Hospital, that night. But you can count on me. This Lacey family sounds fascinating. And another female police officer--- that will be memorable, indeed." He hung up, and perused the paper. Like many another in his age bracket, he glanced at the front page, then hurried on to the obituary section. There was a long item with a headline--- some famous person, no doubt.... It was then, Barnabas started in his chair, and called, "Willie! Look at this obituary!"
Willie scrambled from the kitchen, slapped on his reading glasses, and bent to see what the urgency was about. "Mysterious Multi-Millionaire Dies in Germany", he read aloud. "It has been announced that Timothy A. Samwell, believed to be about 60 years old, an eccentric, reclusive tycoon in the tradition of the late Howard Hughes, died two weeks ago as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile crash on the Autobahn. The delay was occasioned by strict secrecy surrounding his autopsy.
"Even now, the pathologists involved will say little except that Mr. Samwell was unimpaired by alchohol or any drugs, prescribed or otherwise, and that he had been robust and healthy in spite of his age. Rumours have abounded, though, especially on the Internet, that Mr. Samwell's body was covered with strange scars only partially alleviated with plastic surgery, and that DNA tests were ordered when it appeared that hair on different parts of his body did not seem to match. The tests are said to have been inconclusive.
"DNA or not, Mr. Samwell does not appear, at this time, to have had any living relatives, though it is believed, due to correspondence found in his exclusive penthouse apartment in Cologne, that he may have come from Maine, an apparent orphan, but sponsored by a well-known professor, now deceased. Mr. Samwell first became known to Wall Street because of sound investments in common stocks bought for small amounts of money, which he later parlayed into controlling shares in various companies. E-trading led to his latest venture, buying a considerable chunk of the German branch of Collins Enterprises, which has its home offices in Maine. Mr. Samwell lived much like a gypsy during his peak years, moving to wherever his current interests were, staying behind closed doors, and leaving when he started anew elsewhere.
"Due to his lack of family, the big question of WHO will inherit his estate will become of vital interest in weeks to come, but in the meantime, funeral arrangements for Mr. Samwell are also in limbo, though, given his Maine connections, it is possible his remains will be flown back to the USA."
"ADAM! Of Course!" Barnabas shouted. "Timothy--- for Timothy Elliot Stokes. A., for Adam, and Samwell--- probably for Sam Evans. I can certainly understand why he wouldn't name himself after ME."
"Or ME, either," Willie said, with regret. He still remembered the last fight he had with Adam, before Barnabas drove the latter away. Cain and Abel, he thought, that was us. And I was Cain, though Adam was the one who had to leave.
"Well, that explains why I am feeling 'that way' again," Barnabas concluded. "Adams's existence must still have been connected to my old curse, even though I had been cursed by others in the meantime, and Angelique finally removed it.... I've felt like this for two weeks. I even recall the first night--- terrible pain in every joint, every muscle--- that must have been the instant of the crash," he shuddered. "Poor Adam, alas.... He made a mark on the world, but it seems he died alone. No family, not even mention of a companion of any sort. In that regard, I have been most unworthily blessed." He glanced at the portrait again, and then, at Willie. "Now, it is more urgent than ever to find a cure.... I don't wish to re-live 30 years ago, any more than YOU do, my friend." Barnabas reached up, and put his hand on Willie's arm.
Willie patted it reassuringly. "How are you holding up tonight? I have fresh meat, just got it at the Eagle.... Would the blood in that help?"
"Perhaps for a while.... I hope it does, until my son can help me."
Later that night, after Barnabas appeared to doze off in his chair, Willie sat to watch him until Jeremy came home from the hospital. But he'd had such a long, tiring day, he soon slept, himself. Willie dreamed he was in the hall of colors again, and the voice, which he suddenly realized was like his own and that Harvey's, repeated the phrase, "I have you together now!" But when he woke up, he remembered so little of the dream, he couldn't discuss it with Barnabas, who had enough problems of his own, anyway .... BARNABAS! He wasn't in HIS chair!
Willie turned to look for the older man, and caught him putting on his cape to go out. "NO, Barnabas, you CAN'T go out, no matter how awful you feel!"
"I MUST. The hunger is getting worse!" was the despairing reply. Barnabas pushed Willie roughly aside.
At that instant, Jeremy came in from his shift at the hospital. Then, Barnabas, suddenly remorseful, asked his son for some kind of sedative. Jeremy glanced into Willie's eyes, saw tears forming, and, without a word, opened his personal medical bag, extracted a vial, and shook out two pills, which Barnabas gulped down on the spot. He was still human enough to feel the effects, and within minutes, the other two men had to half-carry him to a small room off the kitchen, which had been, when the house was first built, a sickroom for family members.
Willie made coffee, and forced himself to sit next to the cot. Jeremy, who had disappeared for a few minutes, came back, sat next to him, and handed him something cold and metallic. "Lay this over Father's heart, and he will sleep through the night," the young doctor said.
Willie had to stop himself from shouting. "A silver Crucifix---!" Then he glanced into the hazel-brown eyes of the red-haired younger man, who so resembled his mother. "You--- You KNOW!" Willie whispered.
"Yes, ever since I was 21, and Tony Peterson was able to release to me, sealed information my mother had entrusted to him before her death. As you remember, I left home and school for six months--- it was BECAUSE of that. It took that long for me to get over the anger and terror. Though it seemed impossible to believe, I think I had always known it. And now, as Mother always feared, it's coming back. We have our work cut out for us--- and we HAVE to try to keep him out of trouble."
"Take it from ME, there WILL be trouble, and sooner than you think. You KNOW what he needs---"
"I can't promise to get him human blood. Aside from the fact that there's too much surveillance in the hospital these days, I firmly believe THAT would turn the tide of his humanity. But animal blood is still acceptable in its place, though where to get enough of THAT will be a challenge."
"Hopeless, hopeless, and a tough new Sheriff in town, to boot,"
Willie sighed wearily.
* * * * * * * * * * *
PART TWO-(A)---TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2000
The next day, Christine didn't want to disrupt Mary Beth's workday, or irritate Job Woodard, whom she now suspected was, more than likely, secretly envious of her friend's position. TWO females usurping, even temporarily, what he likely thought was HIS rightful place was too much for one man to bear. So, Christine amused herself by driving up and down the coast, stopping in Rockport for a new pair of loafers, in Ellsworth for a highly advertised lunch buffet overlooking a beautiful lake, and ending up back in Collinsport as the day waned. Maybe I'll look for L.L.Bean's H.Q. tomorrow, she thought, as she alighted from her car at a public ocean beach. She noticed there was a walkway along the coastline, which ran under a rather high cliff about a mile away, from which summit she could make out a couple of fanciful towers. Must be that Collinwood place, she thought, and began to stroll in that direction.
She soon realized that walking directly under a cliff was no way to see what was above it, but she enjoyed the walk anyway. It was still beautiful outside, the sunny day having given way to a spectacular sunset, and the sky turning a deep azure hue. Christine loved the crashing of the surf on the many boulders at high tide, much wilder than at the easternmost tip of Long Island. You can sail your troubles on those waves, she thought, and they would be pounded and tumbled until they were as smooth and clean as ocean pebbles and driftwood. I could put all those broken relationships there, and the marriage that didn't work out, and the kids I never had, and the drinking, and the setbacks and aggravations from work, and something white and shiny would come back, to put it in my pocket and display on a mantel at home. Or to just drop in a drawer, never again to see the light of day....
She stooped from the walkway to pick up a purplish clam shell, when she heard a rustle in the beach-berry bushes nearby. Years of experience had made her instinctively reach under her jacket for her gun--- she thanked God she had a license to carry one over state lines. She whirled around, and noticed a half-hidden cave nearby. "Come out with your hands up!" she barked, as if this was an alley behind some New York slums, 20 years ago.
"Please, gentle Madam, I meant no harm," a rich, warm voice intoned, as its source, a dignified-looking elderly man wearing a flounced wool cape, came from behind the bushes, with his hands obediently raised over his head. A silver-headed cane lay on the ground at his feet, and Christine hadn't even TOLD him to drop it.
Christine, now feeling rather embarrassed, told the man to relax, and replaced her gun in the ever-present shoulder holster. "I'm TERRIBLY sorry," she began, "but I was alone in this unfamiliar place, 'roamin' in the gloamin', and while it's been years since I patrolled a beat, I AM still in law enforcement---" She felt herself getting as tongue-tied as a teenager, under the gentleman's steady, and, it was becoming obvious, ADMIRING gaze.
"No, I am the one who should apologize," the man insisted. "I
should have greeted you openly as you came up the path, but there's a bench
behind the bushes, and I was SO comfortable and lazy,
I thought I would just watch you pass by. Then, my cane slid from my grip--- rheumatism is the culprit. It was my scrambling to retrieve it that startled you, no doubt."
"Still, I over-reacted, but that's what years in the police business, in New York City, will do to one," Christine said.
"Ah, so YOU are the new Sheriff, then?" The man began to study her more intensely. "My name is Barnabas Collins. My houseman, Willie Loomis, told me about his unfortunate encounter with you this morning---"
"No, no, that's my former partner and, as it happens, my best friend, Mary Beth Lacey. My name is Christine Cagney."
"Oh, yes, the 'sharp partner from New York', as Willie put it. You BOTH outdid Job Woodard, who's known Willie most of his life."
"Yes, well, at the time, we--- I mean, Mary Beth--- I just happened to be there--- really had no other options. She isn't familiar with whatever the customs are up here, and frankly, I'm puzzled as well, though it really isn't my business. Still, I have excellent reason to believe she will be an asset to your community. And all's well that ends well, since Mrs. Shaw rescued Willie anyway."
"Yes, Maggie and Willie have a special bond," Barnabas said in a faraway voice. "Years ago, they were both put in a terrible situation for which neither was responsible, and she forgave him his trespasses, which were mainly intended to help her."
"You sound as if you know a lot about that incident, Mr. Collins," Christine asked, suspicion creeping into her voice.
"Only what they both have been able to tell me, I assure you," Barnabas replied without hesitation. "They both had periods of memory loss, caused by one who must have been a mastermind of brainwashing. Victims of kidnappings often come to sympathize with at least one of their captors, or so my late wife used to say. She was a psychiatrist."
"Stockholm Syndrome, it's called," Christine, calming once more, said. "The more time victims and their kidnappers spend together, the more the barriers tend to break down between them, but this Maggie and Willie have taken it to an extreme. Are you sure her daughter will be all right?"
"I have NO doubt, as far as Willie is concerned, anyway. He has always been an avuncular, if not fatherly, figure to young Vicki, and to my own son, as well. Whatever he does, you can depend upon it being in their best interests." Barnabas turned to the bushes. "I grow tired when I stand too long," he said. "Would you mind sitting with me a while, and enjoying the passing of this evening, Miss Cagney? Or must you leave now--- I would imagine the Laceys are waiting dinner for you. How inconsiderate of me to forget that."
"No, not really. I had a big lunch in Ellsworth, so I'm not all that hungry. I can call on my cell phone, anyway. They're all quite used to my impulsiveness. I came up here a week early on impulse!" Christine laughed.
"And glad I am of it, Willie's travails to the contrary," Barnabas said, smiling. He took her hand, and raised it to his lips.
Though they were rather cold lips, Christine always enjoyed this old-fashioned gesture. The chilly sensation made her feel a little weird, but it was the nicest species of weird. In the past, such extravagant, continental tributes had usually been delivered by gentlemen old enough to be her father, men who also, for whatever reason, turned out to be unavailable, though not necessarily due to marriage. Now, she suddenly realized, though THIS man was about the same age as her father when the latter had passed away, there was no longer a great gap between her age and Barnabas's, and, furthermore, he WAS available.
Barnabas still held her hand as he led her to the bench, at the mouth of the cave. "Interesting location for a public walkway," she commented as they sat down.
"This portion was contributed by my family. Collinwood, and my own home, an older mansion which was the original family homestead, are almost directly above us. This ledge above us is the highest point of the cliff, known as Widow's Hill."
"I noticed the towers. Well, as of tomorrow night, I'll be seeing them up close and then some, since we're all coming to dinner with David and Hallie Collins."
"And, so am I," Barnabas said eagerly. "This meeting must be kismet, indeed. Serendipitous. I am delighted to become acquainted with you in advance of the more formal occasion." He leaned toward Christine.
She subtly pulled away, not quite sure where she wanted this business to go. Something nagged at her mind, but she dismissed her worst suspicions as holdovers from her own troubled past. This old man, at least 15 years her senior, wasn't likely to overpower her in any case. Instead, she prattled on about the area. "There's a cave back there.... Is there a passage from above running through it? Is that how you got down here?"
Her companion laughed. "Would that I was still fit and sturdy enough, but alas, no, I took a rather long flight of stairs down from the estate. There ARE legends about the cave, true enough, that a tunnel runs from above, and was an escape route from Indian attacks and then, a stop on the Underground Railroad. But any such earthworks have been blocked, or caved in, or, more likely, simply never existed to begin with. If you entered it, you would see, it's very shallow, and probably occupied by a few bats."
"And Widow's Hill. Does that mean what I think it means?" Christine asked. "DID widows go up there to end it all? How terrible that they couldn't go on with their lives without their husbands."
"Not ALL the widows hereabout killed themselves!" Barnabas admonished. "Most wives who stood up there saw their husbands' ships come safely into the harbor. An unfortunate few who were overwhelmed by their losses DID leap, alas. One poor lady lost not only her husband, but all six of her sons over the years. But most of the widows either remarried, or did without, as most others in their situation. There WERE other suicides and accidents, but there's a sturdy guardrail up there now, and you'll soon see it's no less safe than any other scenic overlook."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Collins---"
"Barnabas. And may I call you Christine?"
Disarming gesture Number Two, Christine thought. "Well, sure, Barnabas. That's a Biblical name, like so many around here. Though I also drove by a Saint Barnabas Catholic Church on my way up to Maine."
"As an early evangelist, he is also a Saint in the Anglican High Church tradition, and some other denominations, back in England, whence I hail," the modern Barnabas replied easily.
"Yes, you came here like your pioneer ancestors," Christine mused. "I was just going to say, I was a little upset by the Widow's Hill business. Lifelong feminist habit, I guess. I admit I don't know from that kind of devotion, anyway. Mary Beth and her husband Harvey, now, I think I'd keep either of them away from this place if one loses the other...."
"So YOU'VE never been married? I find that hard to believe."
"Well, yes, for several years. It ended badly, SO badly I dropped his name as soon as I could. But I don't have anything against people who are, or were, happily married, or I couldn't spend time with the Laceys! You and the late Mrs. Collins were, I presume, happy?--- Oh, sorry AGAIN, it's none of my business!" Christine could feel herself blush darkly.
Barnabas sounded miles away again, as he replied, "Perhaps it IS your
business, dear Christine.
Or will soon be. Yes, I WAS happily married to my late Julia, but all too briefly--- barely 14 years. It was a hard-won happiness--- I had known her for some years before that, and she fell in love with me LONG before I came to feel the same way about her, which makes my regret all the harder to bear now. She was, as I just told you, a professional woman, like yourself, something I was unused to at the time, and we were often in conflict. I was ALSO married previously, which had been a difficult relationship, probably akin to your own situation, and I came to Julia equipped with what they now call 'baggage'. She forgave and forgave and forgave. I daresay that is 99 per cent of marriage for a woman, alas, forgiving. But we had been through much together, and it worked out well, until she had her final illness." He hung his head, but still held Christine's hand.
This made her believe he couldn't be THAT inconsolable a widower. "I'm truly sorry for your loss. That kind of love will always surpass my understanding. Years of disillusionment have made me a thorough-going cynic, I guess." She withdrew her hand, and stared bleakly out to sea. The moon had appeared in the ever-darkening violet-blue sky, and its reflection rippled over the waves.
"I don't believe for a moment that you are solidly cynical," Barnabas protested. "You say you have often been disillusioned.... You cannot be dis-illusioned without having first HAD an illusion, a dream, rather--- I know this from my own experiences. True cynics have NO illusions, no dreams. Yet it appears that you fear you are having one right now!"
"Now, THAT'S a take on the subject I never considered before," Christine said with wonder.
"I assure you, my dear, what is starting right now is NO illusion." Barnabas pulled at her hand again, and kissed it once more. Cold lips.... Must have to do with his age, and whatever illness Willie said he had, Christine thought, hoping that whatever it was, it wasn't contagious, especially when he dropped her hand, and kissed her on her own lips, instead! In spite of the coldness, she reached for him and they continued in this embrace for a few minutes.
She whispered, "Now THIS is impulsive."
"I don't believe so," he said softly. "You are unlike Julia in appearance, but in this short time I have discerned many of her qualities in you. And at this stage in our lives, it's best not to wait too long to act upon positive feelings, don't you think?"
"Maybe not.... I want to stay here, or go wherever you want.... but I have to call.... Mary---" Barnabas cut Christine off with another kiss. Then, his lips, no longer noticeably cold, worked their way to her throat. She felt the touch of his teeth. "Hey, no hickeys," she murmurred. "The Laceys will be on you like they're MY parents...."
Another noise from the bushes, loud and intended to be intrusive. Barnabas and Christine sprung from each other, and the latter was reaching for her gun, when the interloper came into view. It was Willie Loomis, who aimed a flashlight right in their eyes.
"Barnabas!" he began, anxiously. "Thank God I found you. Jeremy--- Doctor Jeremy--- he said it's time for your medication." Then, forcing himself to be calm, Willie addressed Christine. "Hullo, Miss Cagney. Long time, no see, huh?"
"Yes, it seems we just keep running into each other, Willie. Been behaving?"
"Yes, Ma'am. My regards to Mr. and Sheriff Lacey. I won't be around tomorrow evening at the dinner. I'm feeling kind of run-down, but after Barnabas here gets HIS medicine, Doc Jeremy will be giving ME that 'achy-head-and-stuffy-nose-so-I-can-sleep-medicine'. Like on TV, only stronger, so I won't be out looking in girls' windows."
"WILLIE---" Barnabas's tone suddenly became menacing, and his servant backed off. "I apologize for Willie, Christine. He DOES mean well, but he is obviously still resentful. And he IS genuinely concerned about my health. I must go take my medicine, and I suppose this will be the last we see of each other until tomorrow evening. Allow me to walk you back to your vehicle, it is quite dark already. Thank Heaven Willie brought a torch. That's what we call them in England, you know." He gave her his arm, and Willie meekly handed over the flashlight. He followed the couple at a discreet distance, praying that what he had just interrupted wouldn't resume, at least in his presence.
After their modest, hand-shaking farewell, Willie silently led Barnabas back to the entrance of the cave, opening a small, dark-painted door behind a boulder along the innermost wall, and through the labyrinth of alleys and stairs within, to the cellar of the Old House. "God, Barnabas, that was close," Willie breathed as soon as they were safely in a chamber with a casket and lit by candelabrum. "I don't even want to THINK what would have happened if you'd bitten the Sheriff's best friend! What the Hell were you THINKING about?"
"Until your opportune arrival, Willie, slaking my thirst. Perhaps I should relieve it with YOU?"
"NO!" Jeremy Collins stood in the doorway, Crucifix held high. "Father, don't. You are not FULLY a vampire yet, and we want to keep you that way. Until you taste human blood, there's a chance we can reverse this!"
"Oh, GOD! My son DOES know! Did YOU tell him, Willie?" Barnabas grabbed the hapless servant as in days of old. Willie was an old man now, it wouldn't take much to shake him to death, let alone beat him---
Jeremy snapped, "NO, Father, Mother wanted me to know, so she left me documentation, lab notes, even Dr. Lang's 'Adam' journals. I was a crazy young kid and didn't WANT to believe it, until I went to Arizona and spent time with a Native American tribe. Without my having to tell them much, they helped me understand what is and isn't your fault, and how not to hate you, even if the curse emerged again."
"And HOW, pray tell, did they achieve THAT miracle?" Barnabas sneered.
"They trained me to undergo a 'vision quest.' That's a custom in some tribes--- they give you special herbs, and you go into a trance, seek a spirit animal guide.... Mine was NOT a bat, as you might think, but a white egret, like the ones you took me to watch in the marsh when I was a boy. Remember, Father?"
"Yes, yes I do, my son. I am sorry.... Do tell me more. And don't think I am shocked by this--- if you only knew some of the means I, and your mother, used to discover arcane secrets...."
"Well, the egret let me get on his back, and we flew to a volcano! I didn't get it at first, but then I saw a shining city beneath it, and I realized, this must be Mt. Pelee on Martinique, before it blew up in 1902 and destroyed the city, Ste. Pierre.... There was a blonde woman standing on the summit, looking into its mouth at the churning lava within.... She was beautiful, with crystal-blue eyes, and had a laugh like a waterfall...."
"Angelique! She came from Martinique, and put the curse on me, then took it away in the last days of her life.... Yet now it's back!"
"Yes, well.... She showed me scenes from your life with her, and how she tried to become good in the end. She must have known something like this would happen, because she tried to tell me something that would help you in the future. She said, 'If Barnabas should again be afflicted, it all depends on one who least deserved to die at his hands. This one must bring those together that had been separated. Or the curse will carry on for another generation.' Then I was flown back, and the next thing I knew, I was looking up at the shaman who had helped me. I felt like I had been born again. I even cried! But the shaman warned me not to divulge what I had learned until the appointed time, if ever. I had hoped it would never come, but I guess THIS is it."
Barnabas began to weep--- tears tinged with purplish blood stained his cheeks. "Oh, my son, it is worse than I imagined. So many have died 'at my hands', so to speak, over the centuries.... Pinning down a specific victim would take a long time, and figuring out those parties who must come together.... And by then, there will be MORE victims."
There was something about the "bringing together" part that nipped
at Willie's memory. Where had he heard that expression lately? He couldn't put
a finger on it. Be he DID have a suggestion.
"What if we made a list of all the victims you can remember, and ran them on Jeremy's computer? Maybe we could compare them and figure out who had anybody to bring together? You know, descendants, friends, whatever?"
"After 33 years, Willie still has a flash or two of inspiration," Barnabas admitted. "Such a solution would never have occurred to me. Could this be done without anyone finding out, Son?"
"I don't see why not. I can keep the names, dates, and circumstances in
a separate file, encrypted, with a password known only to myself, and only use
the Internet to track down geneaology databases. We can get the Collins family
history, and some stuff from the library....
It will be difficult, but not impossible. In the meantime, you MUST accept injections of the medications Mother formulated to keep the vampire syndrome in check. I just made some. And eat as much animal blood as possible. I know you will not permit me to confine you, Father, but stay close to home."
"And tell him to stay away from the Sheriff's friend Christine!" Willie shouted. "I caught them smooching up, and Barnabas was going in for the big bite. I don't want anything to happen to Barnabas and I don't want anything to happen to HER. She was the only one who treated me fair and square when I was in jail yesterday. In fact, stay away from the whole Lacey crowd. Stay home from the dinner, Barnabas," he pleaded.
"I don't know if I can, Willie. I certainly won't be alone with the lady then, and we have to maintain some appearance of normalcy if we are to keep the new Sheriff off our scent. The medication will do for the time being, I am sure. I hope, permanently. Because in spite of my sharp words to you a while ago, Willie, I really DO like that Cagney woman, and until she blushed, which made the blood seem so tempting, I thought, perhaps.... Julia has been gone almost 15 years.... Jeremy, you DO understand, don't you? I loved your mother dearly, but I HAVE been lonely.... And I haven't met anyone else since, who made as strong an impression in such a short time."
"Yes, Father, I understand," Jeremy whispered sadly. He thought
about Vicki Shaw, and the possible threat to HER. This crisis HAD to have a
solution. It just HAD to....
* * * * * * * * * * *
PART TWO-(B)---WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2000
The afternoon before the dinner at Collinwood, Harvey had to go out gift-shopping. Mary Beth and Christine had discussed what kind of hostess gift was suitable, and he had agreed to shuttle the latter around as she combed several "Shoppes" with a list of possibilities. Finally, Christine hit paydirt, when she found a set of antique candy dishes decorated with chromo-tint pictures of an old-fashioned police station much like Collinsport's. "Check out the horse-drawn paddy- wagon," she laughed as she showed them to Harvey. "And the best part is, they weren't too expensive, so we can give one to Hallie Collins, keep one for YOUR house, and I can have the last one."
Harvey shook his head. "You don't think that will be too kitschy for those people, do you? I mean, they must have a whole mansion full of fancy dust-collectors by now."
"No woman EVER has enough of what you call 'dust-collectors', Harvey," Christine replied. "Dusting them keeps us off the streets."
"Dusting ours keeps ME from fishing," he complained, "and makes me sneeze!"
"Well, this can be propped up on one of those little easels, so maybe it won't get TOO dusty. Hey, that reminds me.... The shop where I bought these didn't have any of those easels. Maybe you can look around, after you go to the package store for the wine, which the Collinses probably ALSO have too much of. You know I'm banned from doing THAT errand."
"Yeah, I understand." Harvey patted Christine's shoulder. "Why don't you poke around in another store, just for fun this time? There's no hurry." He shuffled off to the trendy new package store down the street. In almost no time, with the aid of the resident "Wine Consultant", he had the "appropriate" vintage discreetly tucked beneath his arm. Then, he noticed, the Evans Gallery was just kitty-corner to the package store. Harvey trotted across the intersection, as much from practical need as from curiosity. After all, he reasoned, it IS an art place; they must have easels, maybe even the tiny kind Christine was seeking.
The gallery was almost deserted, it being the middle of the week, and off-tourist-season. The doorbell reververated in the stillness. A female voice, pleasantly modulated, called, "I'll be there in a minute!" from behind some racked frames behind the counter. Harvey called back, "I'm just looking!" and started to examine the many paintings and sculptures, with an eye for the easels. He wondered how this Maggie Evans Shaw could trust anyone alone out here, then noticed that all the stuff had those electronic tags to trip an alarm. Maybe Mrs. Shaw even had a gun back there to protect herself when alone, he thought; if I'd been through what Mary Beth said had happened to her, I'd be paranoid as Hell. Certainly wouldn't bail out my daughter's "peeping Tom", er, "Willie".
He DID find some tiny "curio easels", as the sign proclaimed them, in a far corner of the store, under a display of family photographs, a kind of shrine to Maggie's late father Sam Evans and her dead husband, Sebastian Shaw. Now THAT was a mouthful of a name. One picture: Sam Evans, young-looking, burly, fair-haired and bearded, with a pretty dark-haired woman and a thin, dark-haired girl, presumably his wife and young daughter.... A much later picture of paunchy-but-jaunty-looking Sam, pipe clenched in his teeth, at work on a canvas.... A wedding picture of a very handsome man with curly blonde hair and very deep brown eyes, with a slimmer version of the young mother in the earlier picture .... A school portrait of a thin, honey-blonde girl with big blue eyes and a heart-shaped face.... A picture obviously taken at a college graduation of this same girl, who stood with her mother, whom she resembled in most ways except for the coloring and the distinctive shape of her face, which also did not resemble her late father's. There WAS something familiar about the young woman, though....
"Dear God, I THOUGHT I heard YOUR voice!" Mrs. Shaw said from behind Harvey. Before he could say anything, she rattled on, "You HAVE to stay away from us, please, Willie, I KNOW she's your daughter too, and you care for her, but nobody--- especially not Vicki, must EVER know. Nor must she know why you think she needs protection."
Christ Almighty, what IS this, Collinsport or Peyton Place? Harvey thought. NOW what the Hell do I do? Keep my back turned and hope she leaves me alone until I can get out, or embarrass the crap out of the poor woman? His heart provided the answer, literally.
"Sweet Jesus, Ma'am, My heart is acting up. I got pills, please get me water!" he gasped urgently, and turned to face her.
"You're--you're NOT Willie? But you LOOK like, SOUND like---" Maggie broke off, and responded to the emergency at hand. She disappeared, then returned with a glass of water.
In five minutes, the churning in Harvey's chest subsided. Nobody else had
come into the store, and now he faced the woman he had inadvertantly fooled. He
explained who he was, and told her about his knowledge of the resemblance to
Willie. "But, listen, Maggie, believe me when I say, I DIDN'T do this on purpose
to throw you or trick you, or because Willie asked me to....
I just came in here to buy those little easel things, as God is my witness! I PROMISE, I VOW, I SWEAR I won't EVER tell a soul, not even my WIFE, what you just told me. It's NONE of my business, even though I remember Willie made all kinds of hints. I guess this is what he meant, but again--"
Maggie kept herself under control as she explained. "It's NOT what you think.... I can't go into details, but Willie and I did NOT have an affair. This was a medical procedure, pure and simple, nothing more. My husband and I were unable to have a child together, and he agreed to it.... but HE never knew who the donor was. I wasn't supposed to, either, and neither was Willie, but---- well, that's part of what I will NOT discuss with you. Suffice it to say, Willie found out, but at least he didn't tell me until after Sebastian's death.... And so, I've had to accommodate his interest in Vicki, to keep him from telling the world. She ADORED Sebastian, but she DOES love Willie as an uncle. So, I am trapped. Now THREE living people know--- the doctor who arranged it is dead. PLEASE, Mr. Lacey, under NONE but the DIREST circumstances.... I would prefer that you don't even tell Willie that you know. I am SO sorry to put this burden on a sick man .... But people would give my daughter a hard time, as you might imagine. Your wife and her friend aren't the only ones who can't comprehend our relationship with Willie."
"I understand, I have a daughter too. Until further notice, we won't mention it again, and the knowledge will die with me. Hopefully, not TOO soon, though," Harvey joked uneasily.
Maggie made a great show of giving Harvey all the display easels he required, then offered him his choice of whatever he wanted as a gift for his wife. "No can do", he said, "I'm keeping your secret because it seems like the right thing to do. You don't have to buy me off, and if Mary Beth finds out, she'll just make me bring it back anyway. Ethics and all that."
"Well, if you change your mind.... There's a small picture my father painted that I believe would really suit you. I have an instinct for such things." Maggie ran back into her storage area, and emerged with a vivid painting of a craggy-faced fisherman with a large sea bass dangling from his line.
Harvey's eyes lit up. "Sea Bass! Now, wouldn't I love to go deep-sea fishing, but with my ticker problems, even I wouldn't dare...."
"It's yours. Look, I'll even write up a token bill of sale. I really want you to have it--- and maybe you and the Sheriff WILL come in some time and BUY something, for real."
Harvey was not one to resist this appeal, and when he picked up Christine, she was full of curiosity over the brown-paper-wrapped package. "A little something I got cheap from the gallery," he boasted.
"Mary Beth will have your head if you blew the mortgage money on something frivolous, even if the Collinses are paying her well," his friend warned.
"With our bare walls, she'll appreciate a little filler. It'll be a while before they get filled with pictures of grandkids, at least that how it seems," Harvey concluded, a little forlornly. He and Mary Beth were eager for their now-married sons to reproduce, but Harvey Jr.'s wife had some difficulties in that area (he hoped she wouldn't go for the solution Maggie had tried!) and Michael and HIS new bride were busy exploring the USA on their matching Harleys in their free time. And as for Alice, well, Harvey was barely able to accept that his daughter had started to date, let alone that she would someday marry and get in the family way ("and in THAT order!" he thought, anxiously.) Still, he hoped the full compliment of grandchildren would arrive, and that he could enjoy them, while he was still in a condition to do so.
Mary Beth had summoned the night deputy to come in early, so she would have time to prepare for the dinner and, more importantly, to badger her family into doing so. She arrived home at four. First thing she did was hassle Alice about finishing her homework early and "finding a decent skirt to wear that doesn't show your rear end, a top that doesn't show your bra straps, and REAL shoes, not high-tops!"
Then she began with Harvey. "NO pre-dinner snacks," she ordered. "Bad enough I don't know what kind of high-cholesterol fancy gourmet stuff we'll be eating later. And did you get your good suit cleaned since Michael's wedding? I couldn't have, I was too busy getting us moved up here."
"Yes, honey. Calm down, it's a dinner with the Collinses, not a reception for Saddam Hussein. Look, I have a surprise for you." Harvey showed Mary Beth the painting of the fisherman, which he'd already hung over the mantel. She had been so distracted and nervous, she had run right by it without noticing.
"Where DID you get that, and HOW MUCH did it cost?" she asked.
"You don't like it?"
"Well, yes, of course I LIKE it, but I can see the words 'Sam Evans 1966'. That's practically a brand name around here, and I KNOW you got it from Maggie Shaw's gallery. What were you doing THERE? Asking around about your buddy Willie?"
"NO!" Harvey's face turned a hot beet-red, and when he saw how much THAT frightened his wife, forced himself to calm down. "I had to get some what-ya-call-it--- 'curio easels'--- for the hostess gifts Christine bought. The gift shop didn't have any, but the gallery DID. I met Mrs. Shaw, and after she, uh, got over the resemblance, we did business like normal, no hard feelings or anything. I HAVE the receipt for the painting, but she threw in the easels for free. Promotional offer. Obviously she wants us to come in and buy a huge mural for over the living-room sofa."
Mary Beth was coming around to accepting the explanation, but she mused, "Still.... her DAD painted this. It seems a little strange that she would sell it to a stranger, just like that."
"She said it was just right for ME. I guess that's the secret of her success. So, you DO like the picture?"
"Yeah, I guess so.... The fisherman DOES look like you, a little, if you had one of those oil slicker coats and hip-boots. And it's fitting, since we're living in a town that was famous for its fishing industry. Thanks, Harv, it'll do until the pictures of the grandchildren start going up." She sighed wistfully, and hugged her husband. He ran his arms up and down her back, then pressed her tighter, when Christine emerged from the guest room. Mary Beth caught a glimpse, and said, "WOW, Christine, you look like YOU'RE going to some swanky affair! I thought this was just going to be a nice family dinner."
"Oh, THIS old thing?" Christine laughed uneasily, as she glanced down at her midnight-blue silk dress. "I'm just dressing to impress your employers. Wouldn't want them to think your ex-police-lady friend from Nee-Yew Yawk had no class, did you?"
"Still, it sure makes ME feel like I won't be able to keep up. Something tells me you have it in mind to impress SOMEONE, all right. Now, who could it be? David Collins is taken, but I hear his old father is still alive and 'with it', even though Job told me that he has to rest and stay in a wheelchair a lot lately---"
"Good heavens, Mary Beth, I'm not after a sick old man, one whom I haven't even met yet! But there IS a mature Collins gentleman that I DID meet, yesterday---" Christine blushed.
"I KNEW your resistance to men was too good to last!" her friend squawked. "There's only ONE other eligible Collins male that I know of.... Our 'friend' Willie's boss, Barnabas Collins!"
"Yes, the one and only," Christine smiled. "He was very kind and courtly, if a little worn-out from whatever illness Willie claimed he had. A nice-looking widower, whose wife was a psychiatrist, and devoted to his only son, who's also a doctor. He knows a lot of local history, though he's from England. He's invited to the dinner tonight, and frankly, I can't wait to see him again. And in case you were wondering, Mary Beth, he DOESN'T pout!"
Alice's steps could be heard coming down the hall. "And now, the surprise from behind Door Number Two!" Harvey announced. He, as well as his wife, were astonished to see their usually carelessly-clad vegetarian nihilist with a well-scrubbed face, long hair neatly combed AND tied back, in the red dress she'd worn to her brother's recent wedding, which she'd vowed never to wear again because she said it made her look "dorky"! And wearing just ONE pair of tiny gold earrings!
"Now, what's THIS?" Mary Beth demanded in confoundment. "Oh, wait, don't tell me--- This is to impress that Elliot Collins boy, isn't it?"
"Oh, Mom, you know I would never do anything to DELIBERATELY impress a guy," Alice countered. "As it is, he seems pretty impressed with me the way I usually am." With this, she smiled archly and stood at Christine's side.
"What's he like?" the older woman asked. "I'll bet YOUR Collins couldn't beat MY Collins," she teased.
"Oh, he's GORGEOUS!" Alice enthused. "Gold hair, tall, athletic, and with an I.Q. of about 300, just like mine. But he's not ALL perfect---"
"I'm relieved to hear THAT," Mary Beth said sarcastically.
"Oh, Mom, I mean he keeps a sloppy locker, typical guy stuff. But he's really nice, AND he's a great driver."
"YOU were in a CAR with a BOY you only just met?" Harvey chimed in. "I just thought the bus was extra fast around here. If it wasn't too late to cancel out, I'd say let's stay home, and ground you, though you haven't anything to get grounded FROM."
"DADDY!" Alice exercised her pout. "He owns a SATURN! He
drives the SPEED LIMIT!
I mean, he's as BORING a driver as you!"
"Sounds like a compliment to ME, Harvey," Christine laughed. "Oh, come on, Alice has been out with some boys before, and I'll bet they all had rolling wrecks, just like the ones OUR old boyfriends used to zoom around in, Mary Beth. I remember you telling me about the gem HARVEY was driving around the time he met you, and HE was no teenager."
"Still, Alice didn't have permission to ride with Elliot, and THAT'S what bothers me," her friend replied. "And he's rich and he's the Boss's son, so to speak, and there's a recipe for trouble if I ever heard one. Even if Mr. Collins is enthusiastic about the situation."
"Aw, Moth-err, once you get to know Elliot, you'll see he isn't some Alec D'urberville out to break my innocent little heart," Alice pleaded.
"Who's 'Alec D'urberville', another boyfriend we didn't know about?" Harvey asked in sincere curiosity.
"A rich scoundrel who seduces a noble-but-naive country girl in a classic novel by Thomas Hardy," Christine explained. "Though it doesn't sound like this Elliot and your Alice fit the descriptions."
"Okay, okay, we're going to find out tonight, won't we?" Mary Beth concluded. "I'm wasting time here, when I should be picking out my own outfit. Though I can't rule out the intimidation value of THIS one," she joked, pointing to the tan uniform.
At seven o'clock, the suitably primped Laceys and guest were heading up the long and winding Weeping Meadow Road, to the short Cliff Boulevard, which led to Collinwood. "Why do they call this a 'weeping meadow', I wonder?" Alice asked.
"Terrible fog area, that's what Job said," her mother replied from the front seat.
"Good thing it's clear tonight, I hate driving in the kind of pea-soup fogs they get up here," Harvey added.
A long, curved driveway led to the grand entrance of the mansion, which had a small parking lot nearby. As the group emerged from the car and studied the huge, rambling, L-shaped building with its towers, chimneys, and balconies, and its profusion of windows of all sizes, Christine cracked, "This place must have been designed by that famous Maine-iac architect, Frankenstein Lloyd Wright."
"Actually, dear Christine, a large portion was built in the late 1700's, LONG before Mr. Wright was ever born. Though it's quite modern compared to MY abode." All heads turned at the sound of the warm, cultured voice.
"Barnabas!" Christine called joyfully, and trotted over to where he stood gazing at the group from the canopied front step. He was leaning heavily upon his silver-headed cane, which glinted in the moonlight, but reached for her outstretched hand and kissed it. "You feel a little warmer tonight," Christine whispered. "I admit, I was as worried about you as Willie."
"Knowing that I was to see you again, so soon, speeded my recovery," Barnabas smiled.
Mary Beth nudged Harvey and whispered, "Whoa, fast worker there!" As always when her best friend began a new relationship, she began to mentally tick off all the negatives. Man in his 70's, needs a cane already, would probably do better hiring a nurse, than romancing a candidate for second wife. His houseman is a pervert. This was only supposed to be a short vacation for Christine--- what about the career she enjoyed so much and which paid so well? It's a bad influence on Alice. It's scaring ME, and I just KNOW Christine's going to get hurt for the umpteenth time. Maybe there IS such a thing as a time to quit searching for true love....
Barnabas continued, "And THIS must be the new Sheriff, and Harvey, of whom Willie spoke. And what a lovely Young Miss you have. You must be very proud."
"We're proud of ALL our children," Mary Beth replied. "We have two 'Young Misters' who are both married. The oldest is out West, the other's still in New York. I hear your boy is a Doctor. My eldest is what you would call a computer doctor. Works for Bill Gates or Steve Jobs--- I forget which. I'm ALWAYS getting those names mixed up." She hoped her smile was ingratiating. No use letting Barnabas--- or Christine--- see her lack of trust.
"I'm hoping Alice will be a doctor," Harvey said, "as your
late wife was.... And your son. Doctors have to study and put in long hours for
years before they get that sheepskin, don't they?
Not much time for social life and so forth?" he asked hopefully.
"Jeremy always said so, though, bless his heart, he seldom complained.
Dedicated as his mother,"
Barnabas said fondly. "And now, he reaps the rewards--- AND the social life, though he may be settling down soon." He now took Mary Beth's hand in much the same way as he did Christine's, though he didn't kiss it. "It's such a different world than when I was young, to have a female Sheriff. I recall when the concept of a female doctor took a lot of getting used to. I would imagine that to excel in your profession, you and Christine had to work so much harder than the men--- I know Julia often said that about HER career."
"Yes, I guess you COULD say we had to take three steps for every one the guys took," Mary Beth admitted. "But it made us tough AND fast."
"Not TOO tough, if Christine is any indication." Barnabas smiled, his yellowish teeth gleaming in the moonlight.
"Oh, you should have seen me back then," Christine laughed. "I still AM tough, but in the current phase of my career, I really don't encounter street action anymore. Now, Mary Beth, here, is still in a hands-on position. No doubt she'll have an opportunity to show what she's still made of before long."
"I sincerely HOPE not," Barnabas said fervently. "I, for one, pray that our little town can continue in its peaceful course, and that this fine new Sheriff can just coast along, adorning the office." NOW he kissed Mary Beth's hand.
Mary Beth glanced at her husband, but Harvey was walking around, gazing up at the myriad of towers and chimneys, the expanse of slate-tiled roof, probably making estimates on the cost of building such a place in 2000 A.D. She was becoming impressed with Barnabas's Victorian mannerisms, but not very moved--- she was too used to her husband's exuberant and sometimes extreme displays of affection and any other emotion. She could see why Christine appreciated this treatment, though--- few enough of her lovers had handled her like an precious exotic flower. Ironically enough, this was the manner to which Christine HAD been born, on her wealthy, long-deceased mother's side at least. And, every now and then, there were hints of a buried attraction to that privileged life she had once spurned, including accepting the attentions of genteel older men as unlike her beloved late father as could be imagined.
At any rate, this was, likely, Christine's last chance at a serious commitment. This guy probably didn't even believe in sex before marriage, ASSUMING he would have no trouble after. Wonder how Christine would feel about THAT, Mary Beth thought with a peculiar satisfaction (since Harvey's heart had been getting worse, they had to set limits on their own activities), which warmed her to the courtly old gentleman.
"It's getting a bit cold," Barnabas said, offering his arm to Christine. "Now, let us get inside, where it's warm and light, and I can see your dear face."
Harvey returned, and joined his wife and daughter on the path to the immense, carved oaken doors. Barnabas, ever formal, rang the bell, though he was frequently in and out of the family mansion as a rule.
A tall, thin, swarthy man with thinning grey hair pulled open the doors, and admitted them into an immense foyer, with a grand staircase, and great Tiffany stained-glass windows which depicted medieval lords and ladies, whose panes glinted from the great chandelier suspended from a high ceiling. The walls were painted to look like heavy stone, but the floor was granite flagstone, where it wasn't broken up with tiles patterned to resemble Persian carpets.
"Tony? YOU are acting as host tonight?" Barnabas asked in dismay. "What, did David have to take Hallie to the hospital already?"
"No, No," Tony Peterson replied. "I just arrived here with
some documents brought by a courier this evening. I happened to be closest to
the door." He examined the group he had just admitted.
"Jeremy's at the hospital tonight, I take it? Pauline AND her mother will be disappointed."
"That's a young doctor's life for you. Ah, well, this is our new Sheriff and her family, and a very special friend---"
"Yes! Hold on a minute!" A voice that sounded to Alice, much like Elliot's, only deeper, belonged to a middle-aged man with fading golden hair and similar brown eyes. He slowly led a VERY pregnant, blonde, middle-aged woman into the foyer. "I am David Collins, and this is my wife Hannah Louise."
"But you can call me Hallie," the pregnant woman said warmly. "I've been called that since childhood. And now, I have a little daughter named for me, and we always call HER Hannah Louise, so we don't get mixed up. It makes strangers wonder who's the adult, and who's the child!"
Everyone smiled politely at this story. Hallie, sensible of movement within, clutched at her middle a little convulsively. Mary Beth instinctively spoke up. "You look awfully uncomfortable, Mrs. Col--Hallie, would you be needing a quick ride to the hospital? I brought the spare blinker for our car, in case of emergency."
"No, thanks Sheriff, Ma'am--"
"Mary Beth. What, are those just the false contractions?"
"Yes. After seven pregnancies, I think of them as 'practice runs'. I SHOULD get back to my chair. The children will be down directly, including Elliot. I know young Alice will be happy to see HIM." She did accept the gift proffered by Mary Beth, and, upon unwrapping it (slowly and carefully, and folding the shiny paper), cooed, "My, how CLEVER! I'm sure I've NEVER seen anything like this--- it really DOES resemble the old police station. I'll have to set it up in the study, near our computer."
Mary Beth thought, THAT must be where she puts every tacky gift she doesn't want to display out here. But Hallie DID compliment Mary Beth on her attire. Sort of. "I have a pretty rust-colored dress with a jacket, just like yours, but I had to stop wearing it by my sixth month." Hallie then turned to Barnabas. "You haven't shown them the amazing portrait of the first Barnabas Collins yet!" She pointed to a wall behind the Laceys, who turned to look at the portrait of an arrogant-looking young gentleman in 18th-century clothing, clutching a silver-wolf-headed cane like the present-day Barnabas, and wore a surprising lot of jewelry, including various medals--- and a distinctive black onyx ring, which his descendant had obviously inherited.
Harvey said, "Everybody gets fired up about how much I look like Willie, but we don't resemble each other HALF as much as you resemble YOUR ancestor from 200 years ago, Barnabas."
"It's a result of marrying into the 'cousinage' for so many generations," the older man replied. "I was surprised that my son took so strongly after his own mother, but that's what bringing in new blood will do."
"But what were the medals for?" Christine asked. "They don't even look like military awards, more like ceremonial badges for European nobles."
Barnabas replied, "They were handed down from some Collins ancestors who WERE of the nobility. He wore them to impress his first fiancee, whose father and aunt were children of a French count. Later on, they disappeared--- sold, probably, to finance his ventures in England."
Ranged around the drawing room nearby, the Laceys and Christine took in the surroundings. All of the furniture was an eclectic mixture of antiques, which, though well-preserved, were not very elaborate. And the dark paneling around the room, decorated with portraits of unsmiling, bearded men in period attire, made this "best room in the house" seem more somber than a funeral home. Still, there was a large set of French doors leading to what looked like a large patio outside, with a working fountain. Maybe this room was pleasant in the daylight, with the sun shining in through those doors.
A stream of blond, pale children began to trickle into the drawing room, accompanied by a young nanny with very dark hair and eyes. Mary Beth didn't know if the scene reminded her more of the March of the Siamese children in "The King and I", or the sinister band of blond alien brats in "Village of the Damned."
"Bethany, Hannah Louise, Joshua, and the twins Nora and Daniel," Hallie rattled off like a drill instructor. "Emily is at Smith College, and here is Elliot Jamison." Her son walked in, wearing a very dark but-expensive-looking outfit that might have come from the pages of Esquire magazine, preferably modeled by Tom Cruise.
Elliot obviously didn't mind dressing for dinner, or he simply wanted to impress Alice. He walked straight to her, and complimented her briefly but concisely. "Red is the best color for you. Makes your complexion all golden."
Alice turned to her parents. "See? He ALWAYS knows the right thing to say. He's a genius!"
Mary Beth said in confoundment, "But sweetie, that's the same thing I said when we first bought the dress!"
Christine teased, "But you're just the Mom!"
Elliot, nonplussed, said, "Boasting about me to your parents isn't quite the right tack, Alice. I'm sorry, Mr. and Sheriff--- er, Mrs. Lacey."
Harvey said, "Well, Elliot, you may be a genius with the right thing to say on the tip of your tongue, but I don't recall you asking for permission to drive my daughter around after school."
The boy replied, "I WAS meaning to mention that, sir. I DO apologize for driving Alice around without your leave. But the first day, she was very upset over what the principal, my cousin, had done, and couldn't face the bus crowd. These last two days were purely gratuitous, though I assure you, I took all precautions--- driving-wise, that is. And I haven't taken advantage of the situation. However, I WOULD like your permission to take her out on a more formal basis."
In his headlong recital, the Laceys and Christine were speechless. "My God, where DID you go to school?" Christine asked. "Does Harvard have 'K throught 12' classes?"
"He takes after My late uncle Elliot, for whom he was named," Hallie explained calmly. "In fact Uncle Elliot doted on him, and spent much time tutoring him. When my Uncle passed, Elliot was just 12, but it was as if the spirit flew right into him. Still, we TRY to keep him down to earth. It was MY idea to let him mingle in the public high school. We're glad he managed to make a friend so quickly."
"He's quite a mystery to ME," David admitted. "That boy is the most logical thing in this house. He seldom fumbles. Not like MYSELF as a kid, I can tell you--- I was a bundle of nerves."
"A bundle of trouble, you mean!" A frail elderly man in an electric wheelchair buzzed into the drawing room. He said the words with a sharp affection. He zipped right past the Lacey group, and patted Hallie's stomach without a trace of self-consciousness. "This bundle of trouble WILL be 'Roger' this time, WON'T it, daughter-in-law?" he demanded in mock sternness.
"Yes, of course, IF it's a boy," Hallie smiled. "You KNOW I don't believe in all those tests."
"Well, there must be a girl's name for 'Roger'! I hear girls being called by LAST names all the time--- 'Blair', 'Madison', 'Brooke'--- even 'Tiffany' is a surname. Maybe you can call it 'Roger', whatever the gender. Maybe you'd BETTER. I can't imagine this baby parade can go on much longer. YOU, daughter-in-law, need a REST, and we're running out of usable bedrooms!" Roger Collins chuckled benignly.
"I agree, Father," David said. Evidently, he was used to his father's spontanaeity, and expected his guests to accept it as well. "God forbid we should start opening up the closed wings. No telling what might pop out at one!" He looked at the Laceys. "You know, ghosts and such. Used to be a lot of them about when we were younger."
"Where did they all go?" Alice asked seriously.
"Banished by maturity and common sense, I suppose. As are most wondrous things in life, eventually," David sighed.
"Not EVERYTHING, David," Barnabas reminded him. "There's still love, I suppose." He clutched at Christine's hand, and led her to a couch. This was a signal to the others, who slipped into every available seat.
The Collinses took up, anew, the subject of Harvey's resemblance to Willie. "Dear Lord," Roger said, "It's Loomis through the looking-glass! Are you CERTAIN, Barnabas, that Willie doesn't have living relatives?"
"Willie was left in a foster home outside of St. Louis at age 5 in 1942 by his dying mother. His older brothers and sisters dispersed, or died. My son did a little research, and discovered that the father died five years later, of a heart attack."
"I was born in 1941, right in New York City, and I knew perfectly well who MY parents were, until they both passed away," Harvey said. "It's just a flukey thing. Everyone has a double, or so they say. I'm just one of the few who met mine."
"I hope it means good fortune for both of you," Hallie said. "Poor Willie's had little enough, that I know of."
Mary Beth was astonished--- obviously the story of Willie's arrest hadn't been told here, even though she was certain that the Tony Peterson hovering around was the same lawyer who helped get Loomis out. Well, she thought, they probably don't want to bother Hallie about it right now.
"So, what business were YOU in, Mr. Lacey? " Roger asked politely.
"Construction, both as a worker and a contractor, but that was a few years ago already. I kind of miss it. My younger son works in a big building I helped put up. He works for an architect firm, designing those mini-mansions they're building in the suburbs these days, and makes more money in a month than I made in the SIX months I worked on that place."
"Wo-o-o-ow." One of the little blonde boys was gazing up at Harvey with admiration. "You built a skyscraper?"
"When I was young, yeah, once or twice. Not all by myself, though. A couple of guys helped me." Harvey winked at the boy, who winked back.
"Don't bother the adults, Joshua," David scolded.
"No, that's okay. Little boys get a kick out of hearing about that stuff. Maybe you did too, at one time, but forgot about it." Harvey ruffled Joshua's tow-colored hair.
"He's right about that!" Roger declared. "You had your little fleet of trucks and so forth, David. Drove your aunt wild, the first time you tracked mud in the house."
"Anyway," Harvey continued, "Thanks to my heart condition, I can only do little repair jobs around the house. What I WISH I could do, is to be like that guy on the education channel, the one who helps fix up the old houses. Nothing big and strenuous, but re-finishing cabinets and stuff would be okay."
Barnabas said, amiably, "Well, some day I MUST show you my home, and you can give me your opinion on any work that might need to be done. I haven't had anything new since my wife died, but change is in the wind."
A diminutive blonde woman in her early 50's emerged from a hall passage. "Good evening all, sorry I'm late, but I had a LONG phone call from overseas. Our cook, Mrs. Melwyn"---this identification was for the benefit of the guests--- " just told me that dinner is ready. My daughter will be down soon. Though I don't see Jeremy around tonight. Hospital or the Shaws', Barnabas?" Carolyn Stoddard Peterson demanded.
"Hospital, Carolyn. But my son IS busy with other things."
The doorbell rang again, and Carolyn answered. "Amy! What a surprise! I didn't know David invited you tonight!"
"Actually he didn't, but I had to see--- Is that Alice Lacey I see? And the new Sheriff?"
"The Sheriff's whole family is here. I KNOW you aren't fond of sheriffs, Amy, but---"
"No, Carolyn, I'm fine with it. I SHOULD meet my students' families."
Amy Jennings came right into the drawing room, and smiled as sincerely as possible at the Laceys. Alice, however, huddled close to Elliot. She couldn't escape the principal, though. Amy bore down upon them, and said, "Now see how much nicer it is to be dressed up, Alice? You look great without all the earrings."
Mary Beth whispered to Harvey, "Now what the Hell kind of left-handed
compliment is that? Nobody
bugs--- I mean, corrects, our daughter like that--- except ME. I guess Alice WAS telling the truth!"
Harvey whispered back, "Go get her, Tiger."
"Miss Jennings," Mary Beth began, "I just want to say, you, ma'am, are the bravest high school principal I ever met. I'm in awe that one person could rule 600 kids with an iron fist. You should go to Harlem or Bedford-Stuyvesant and see if they need a hand whipping the youth into shape." She added, quietly and poisonously, "Bullhorns are optional."
Amy glanced back, but for an instant, her smile vanished and a look of loathing took its place. "I'm just interested in discipline, Sheriff Lacey, as YOU are, or so my cousins have troubled to inform me. Alice is a promising girl. I have no doubt we'll become friendly after a while." Amy reached for an ashtray across an end-table, and nearly fell of her seat, which made the younger children giggle. She blushed. "Maybe I should have my smoke outside," she said. But instead, she followed the group into the dining room.
Harvey whispered, "I think our esteemed principal tanked up a bit before coming up here. Pity."
His spouse replied, "Yeah, she reminds me of Christine in some respects. That kind of thing is inevitable for SOME of the Collinses, anyway."
The last member of the company arrived just as the first course was being
served. Pauline Peterson, aged 23, a petite girl with her mother's face and her
father's dark coloring, sat with the dark-haired nanny, who had saved her a
seat, and they chattered incessantly during the meal in Spanish, almost
oblivious to the others, except that Pauline kept glancing toward the entrance,
as though expecting, and possibly willing, someone to appear there.
Amy was between David and Hallie. Every now and then, she shot the Master of the house an enigmatic look, which he would return, then spurn in favor of his wife, over whom he hovered solicitously. Though the couple had been advertised as abstainers, they DID open the bottle of wine the Laceys had brought, as well as a very dusty item, presumably, from the Collinwood cellars. However, they were nowhere near generous with the libations, though only Amy seemed interested in seconds. Then, she noticed that Alice kept refusing the meat dishes offered. "Are you well, Alice? You aren't eating much, and it's excellent, especially this prime rib," she said, pointedly.
"I'm a vegetarian, Ma'am," the girl replied mildly, forestalling an attack.
Mary Beth said, "We're concerned about it, but she eats vegetables even WE can't stand, and takes lots of vitamins and so forth. It's no problem for us."
"Amy, let's try to have some peace," David Collins said to the uninvited guest.
Then, suddenly, one of the tiny holes in Alice's lip, left vacant to let it heal, began to leak a little blood. Though Alice immediately dabbed at it with a tissue, Amy, who now forced herself to keep quiet, felt ill at the sight. Then she noticed Barnabas's platter, which contained a rather bloody slab of rare prime rib. That was enough! She grabbed her purse, and headed out to the patio to smoke and clear her mind.
"Poor Amy, she's been acting strange lately," Hallie said sympathetically. "Maybe David should see how she is---" Her husband looked reluctant to go.
Barnabas suddenly volunteered. "I've been able to deal with Amy since she was a child. I will see to her." He openly kissed Christine on a throbbing vein visible at her temple, which gesture made her turn pink.
Out on the patio, away from the windows, Amy defiantly smoked one cigarette after another, stubbing the butts into the granite flagstones. Damn, she thought, why don't those two have any liquor in the house, stronger than wine?
"Amy, just WHAT is wrong with you tonight?" Barnabas asked immediately, though with true concern in his manner. Thus it had ever been, since she was a bewildered orphan who reminded him of his long-dead sister, Sarah.
"I'm tired from a long day of keeping a school from being torn apart by hundreds of Maine-iacs. And I just can't STAND that whole Lacey family--- that snippy Sheriff, that oaf husband of hers, and their daughter, Little Miss Future Mrs. Elliot Collins. And the Baby Factory who might give birth on the diner table at any minute---"
"THAT'S what this is about, what it's ALWAYS about," Barnabas said. "Hallie and David--- well, more specifically, David. I recall when it seemed that you two were about to elope---"
"That's when you, Julia, Quentin, and my sister-in-law had to sit me down and give me the big lecture on werewolf genetics. The strain couldn't be allowed to pass to yet another generation, especially to the Collins heirs. And now, I have to deal with other women's children all day, then come home and watch Blondie punching out one brat after another till she's 50, with the man I--I love. Will ALWAYS love." Tears sprang to Amy's eyes. "And I have to socialize with one of those uniformed murderers!"
"To my knowledge, Mrs. Lacey has never 'murdered' anyone. If she, or Christine, ever shot anyone, it was surely in the line of duty, with valid excuse. Heavens, Christine pulled a gun on ME, because she feared an attack while walking alone, and I understood. Nor did Sheriff Patterson 'murder' Christopher. Chris had just killed his own brother-in-law--- I will grant you he wasn't morally responsible in his lupine state, but he HAD broken out of confinement, and was doomed to keep repeating his crimes as long as he lived. It is terrible to say this about someone we both cared for, but it was probably for the best."
"I often wonder, Barnabas, who sold Chris out and told George the secret. Did YOU, or Julia, buy those silver bullets? Or maybe Quentin. When he comes home from Germany, I know what will fix my problem. I read it in a Gypsy book of spells, and I DO have the bloodline, from the wife HE killed.... The Gypsies say, if the original werewolf and his talisman, in this case, that painting, are destroyed by a descendant, the curse will terminate on the spot. I'll still be young enough to get a man and my own children, even if they're not David's!"
"Don't talk like a crazed woman, dear. NONE of us 'sold' your brother out. Come inside with me, they will be pouring coffee. Amy, you are intoxicated, and not making sense, but I'm sure people will just blame it on the stress of your--- AMY!"
Amy was beating Barnabas about the head with her heavy purse. "I WILL kill Quentin, I will--- Barnabas, wha-what are you doing?" Terror snapped her out of her state, as she stared at her cousin's open mouth, and two--- fangs? Barnabas forced her to turn around so he could stifle her cries with one hand, as he sank the fangs into her throat.
Amy's writhing and struggling slowed to a halt as her blood was drained. When Barnabas detached himself (which involved an effort of willpower), he became apologetic and solicitous almost instantly. "Dear God, Amy, I'm so-SO sorry, dear child, I'll try not to hurt you again, but I couldn't HELP it--- The medication must have worn off. I have crossed my personal Rubicon...."
The angry woman had turned mild as a lamb. "That's o-okay, Barnabas. You didn't-didn't hurt me. I was saying crazy things, and now I don't feel like that anymore. I'll- I'll be good."
"You ARE good, Amy. I, however, am bad. And now, I must try to hide what has been done. We must clean up this mess." He daubed at her wound with a handkerchief. Fortunately, she was wearing a blouse with a high collar, but she needed something to absorb the bleeding. He snuck her indoors and narrowly avoided detection by taking back stairways. After a quick trip to the bathroom to rinse the blood from Amy's neck and his face, he bandaged her wounds himself. They would fade in the daylight, unless he continued to feed on her, which would eventually kill her, God forbid. He had to get home and lay low until Jeremy got back! And Christine--- Oh God, THAT was over before it was begun!
He hustled Amy back into the dining room, and poured her some coffee from the caraffe set upon the table. She simply gazed at everyone with a dazed, but benign expression, and said, "I'm so sorry for the way I've been behaving tonight. Especially towards the Laceys. I guess I'm under a lot of stress from my job."
Mary Beth, mollified, said, "I can certainly sympathize with THAT, and Christine here, too. We put in many a long day and night in our former positions. Jobs that deal with people problems ARE the hardest. Maybe we all just got started on the wrong foot. Truce?" She put out her hand.
Amy took it, and Mary Beth was surprised to feel how cold it was. "Are YOU alright, Miss Jennings? Now that I think about it, you're kind of pale, and your hand IS chilly."
Barnabas quickly said, "She claimed to feel queasy when we were outside. Perhaps she's coming down with the same 'bug' that afflicted myself."
When Amy refused to go to the hospital, Hallie offered her a room for the night. Carolyn and Christine walked her upstairs, trailed by Mary Beth. When they had settled Amy on the bed, Christine, who had suspected, as did her friends, the true cause of her initial odd behavior, started to give a little pep talk about how she coped with her own drinking problems. "I'm SURE you could find a program around here, or in the next town, if you're afraid of losing your job over the scandal. I've found that most of the people involved ARE discreet, since many have had to lick the same problem themselves."
"I'll--I'll think about it. It's too hard to 'splain anyway. My brother--- an'-- an'---David.... An' Barnabas.... You like Barnabas, don'chu?"
Christine was taken aback. "Is it that obvious?" She tried to smile. "Anyway, what's he got to do with this? I thought he tried to help you."
"He DID, but--- I can' 'splain. Maybe another time. You be careful now, I gotta sleep. Sleep heals all, thass what Julia useta say when she gave me a pill...." Within minutes, Amy fell into a sleep so deep, the older women could barely make out the movement of her breathing. Carolyn loosened Amy's collar, and all noticed the bandage, some blood visible under the plastic tape.
"Wonder where THAT came from?" she whispered. "I don't think she had that on when she first arrived. But then, I wasn't looking."
"Maybe she stumbled against something when she was outside, and Barnabas didn't want to embarrass her in front of the others," Christine said. "Poor girl, she CERTAINLY had her share of trouble--- that crazy job, the brother killed---
"TWO brothers," Carolyn corrected. "Their parents had just died in a boating accident, then Tom died of some terrible anemia, and a few years later---- but then, the Sheriff has probably already heard about what happened to Chris. Such a nice young man, it was hard to believe.... His wife was a jewel who raised Amy, before she even LOOKED at another man. Amy hasn't been the same since Sabrina remarried and moved to Oklahoma 15 years ago." She sighed. "I'll have to talk to David about getting the Board of Selectmen to pay for some extra help for Amy at the high school."
As Christine and Mary Beth descended the grand staircase, the blonde woman asked, "I wonder what Amy meant about David?"
"An old flame of hers, no doubt. I could see daggers in her eyes when she looked at the happy breeders. The same ones she kept turning on ME."
"And Barnabas-- that was cryptic. I wonder why she told me to be careful--- careful about WHAT?"
"THAT one, you got ME. She's drunk and sick, she's lucky she made ANY sense." Mary Beth shrugged. "I'm still wondering why she didn't want to go to the hospital."
When they were down in the foyer, Christine was dismayed to see that Barnabas was at the door, ready to leave. He looked away when she approached. "We didn't spend any time alone, and I was hoping we could take a little stroll in the moonlight," she said wistfully.
"I'm afraid of a boomerang effect from Amy's illness. I only recently got over my own. I hope you understand, Christine."
"Can I step outside with you for a moment and say good-night, anyway?"
"Perhaps--- perhaps tomorrow night. I'm sure this feeling will pass. Barnabas kissed her hand. His lips had become cold again. "I will call you, I give you my word."
When he had closed the door and walked halfway down the well-lit pathway to
his own home, Barnabas felt the hunger once more. NO, he told himself firmly, I
MUST hold out until Jeremy gives me another shot. Think of Christine, he told
himself. SHE is worth forgoing that sour sweetness, that rush of a glorious
omnipotence I feel when I hold another life in my hands.... This is different
than Julia's siege to capture my heart, between my serial obsession with fresh
young faces and soft young necks. I LEARNED to love HER, but I FELT love
beginning right away THIS time.... At least, let it keep me away from AMY! his
* * * * * * * * * * * *
PART THREE--- THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 2000
Amy rose surprisingly early the next morning, and, even though it was late for HER, resolved to go home, shower and change, and head for her school office as usual. She still felt a little air-headed, and some unknown, early insect had stung or bitten her neck a couple of times last night, which wounds had shrunk, but still hurt. She attributed her discomfort mainly to a hangover, though she DID remember that Barnabas had helped her patch up those wounds. A surprising wave of warmth flooded her being when she thought about him, almost like a girlish crush. RIDICULOUS, she told herself, he had been more like a godfatherly figure to her for over 30 years--- nary a shred of sexual tension had arisen between them, it was almost sacreligious! Yet, for a moment, she remembered how he held Christine Cagney's hand last night, and felt improbably jealous!
This too shall pass, she resolved. Just the natural consequence of eschewing even highly-protected physical contact (years of forlorn and futile hope had kept her from being sterilized outright.) Maybe in a few years, Amy reasoned, when I get the Change, I'll still be able to find someone--- Sabrina, already in her mid-40's, managed to find a widower with grown children, but also grandchildren, all of whom, she adored.
Rather than be pampered with breakfast in her room, Amy chose to join the family in the morning room off the kitchen. Carolyn was already there, helping Marisol, the Mexican nanny, to mind the pre-school Collinses. "Feeling better, Amy?" her cousin asked solitcitously.
"Yes, and I'm going to work, too. THAT will straighten me out like nobody's business," was the stout-hearted reply. "Miss Cagney WAS right, I really should get to the bottom of what's bothering me, rather than get to the bottom of a bottle."
"We don't hold it against you, dear," Carolyn insisted. "We--- and I include myself, in my salad days--- have all felt we had reasons to indulge, as it were. Considering all that you've been through, by MY standards, YOUR intake is relatively modest!"
"Still, it behooves me as the Principal--- can't tell the little delinquents to 'Just say No', then keep saying 'Yes!' m'self. I mean, look what can happen--- one can attract MOSQUITOS in APRIL!" Amy laughed, but rubbed the irritated lumps.
"Those don't look like 'skeeter' bites," the older woman said. "They remind me of something---something I had a long time ago, and some others--- like a rash but I don't rem--- Marisol!" she said sharply. The nanny, who had been staring at Amy's neck, crossed, and whispered to herself, then abruptly picked up little Daniel, which made him cry.
"Sorry, Senora," the girl said. "I--- I felt, how do you say, that a big black bird was walking on my grave."
"A crow. How interesting. Have YOU a theory about those marks?"
"Oh, oh, no. I am not a doctor. What I think is too silly to say. But
when a girl had such marks, my abuela
--- grandma--- would talk of the Chupacabra, and rub Holy Water on the marks. It would sting, but the marks would vanish. Alas, I have no holy water, I will have to wait until Sunday Mass, to get it blessed by the Padre."
"Why wait?" Amy asked. "They have Masses every morning, last I noticed."
"No, Sunday is still best, Senorita Jennings. That is when it becomes REALLY Holy. If your marks are Chupa, and you still have them, I will heal them."
"Thanks for the offer, Marisol, but maybe Neosporin will do the trick."
Carolyn said, "Still, Amy, you DID seem quite weak yesterday, and NOT from whatever you drank, either before or after you got up here. A little taste of our wine wouldn't have knocked you out. Why don't you pack up your stuff and move back up here, at least for a while? We DO miss you, you know. And think of being able to work on David--- er, to get him to make the Board of Ed set up the High School so it's easier to run." As co-heiress and co-owner of Collinwood, Carolyn was authorized to make such offers and suggestions.
"You know, that all doesn't sound like a bad idea," Amy said.
"I'll bring everything after work.
It'll be fun, kind of, being close to the kids, and Roger, and your family, and Barnabas...."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Still, Amy felt uncharacteristically mellow when she entered the main office later that morning. Hepsey Woodard sat bolt upright, when her Boss came in, and Amy sheepishly endured the secretary's wisecracks about the Principal being later to school than the Sheriff's daughter. "I'm going to tell Mrs. Sheriff Lacey on you, Ameee-lia," Hepsey drawled, calling Amy by her seldom-used christened first name.
"You know, Hep-Zee-Bah, I COULD make a remark about your attitude, and our esteemed Sheriff's, but since last night, I feel like apologizing to everyone who's felt the crack of my whip, however deservedly," Amy replied.
"If I announce THAT on the P.A. system, the cheers will blow the roof off this jerry-built school. Maybe we'd better keep that a secret, as well as the empty fifths of vodka I had to clear out of your desk drawers yesterday."
"It will be the LAST time you have to do that, Hepsey," Amy declared. I'm turning over a new leaf, as of today. Get me that Bible you hide in YOUR desk, and I'll swear on it right now."
Bemused, Hepsey did so. Amy raised her right hand, and placed her left on the gold-stamped Cross on the leatherette cover of the Bible. She was about to make up some solemn vow, but said "Ouch!" instead. Her left hand flew off the Bible as though it was a red-hot stove. When Amy examined her palm, there was a tiny welt forming where it had touched the Cross.
"I'm--I'm sorry , Hepsey, I guess I'm developing some kind of wierd allergy. Matches the rash on my neck. My vow will just have to be an understanding in absence of the seal of the Church."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alice met Elliot on their way to English Class. This had quickly become Alice's favorite, though it was late in the school year and she had to do catch-up work to make up for the distraction of moving. She really liked Miss Shaw, who, Elliot told her, was practically engaged to that nice old Barnabas's only son Jeremy. "Is he like that portrait that looked like his Dad as a young man?" she asked.
"Very little, save for the cheekbones. And, sometimes, Jeremy SOUNDS like his father. But mostly, he's like his mother, or at least pictures I've seen of her. She died when I was about two. She had dark red hair, to which I think she might have added some henna, at least that's what Cousin Carolyn used to say. Julia, that was her name, had big dark eyes, and really white skin. Jeremy has skin like that now, but I remember he used to have some freckles. He's kind of good-looking, though, I suppose. Both Vicki Shaw and my cousin Pauline have been after him since they could both walk."
"Lucky guy, just like YOU. I see the other girls watching US together, pea-green with envy!"
The couple entered the class. Miss Shaw was the prettiest teacher Alice had
ever seen, with her naturally waving golden-brown hair, her delicate
golden-pink skin, her large eyes of a pure cerulean blue. To this, was added
her sense of style, perhaps because her mother and grandfather were artists.
Vicki dressed very tastefully. Careless Alice actually wished she could emulate
Shaw, at least for special occasions. Today, the slim young teacher wore a red dress quite similar to the one Alice owned. Elliot, who sat at some distance, glanced at Miss Shaw, then at Alice, then at Miss Shaw again. Alice thought this odd, but the teacher began to speak in her soft, even voice, and everyone soon looked up at her.
Miss Shaw had an armload of paperbacks, which she was distributing to each
row of desks. The
students passed them back, 30 books in all. When Alice received hers, she was somewhat relieved, as this particular classic was one that she'd already read a couple of times.
The teacher spoke. "I had a choice of several books to read during this final semester of the year, but I always make it a point to use this one at least once with my juniors or seniors. I love Henry James and Edith Wharton--- for some ineffable reason, the period they were writing in, the latter years of the 19th century, and the early years of the 20th, seems to resonate with me. I chose this work, because it also has PERSONAL meaning to me as well. I hope it comes to have meaning to you as well. 'The Turn of the Screw and other novellas', by Henry James. Perhaps some of you are familiar with the filmed versions of the title story, about a young, anxious governess who goes to work in an isolated mansion that may, or may not be haunted, with a couple of orphans, who may, or may not be traumatized and haunted by their now-deceased former caretakers. I said this work holds special meaning for me, because my own mother was once in such a position, and to hear HER tell it, it was more than a job, it WAS an adventure."
"And my FATHER provided the adventures!" Elliot announced. Everyone laughed, including Miss Shaw.
"Yes, well, thank you, Elliot Collins, that information was invaluable to appreciating my mother's story, as well as that of the un-named narrator of 'Turn of the Screw.' But there are OTHER fine stories in there, that I'd like you all to review. Don't worry, though, you WON'T be quizzed on them." The teacher smiled, a naughty, closed-lip grin, with an eyebrow that arched up over the other, that reminded Alice of someone, but she couldn't figure out who, at first. "Mr James wrote of people who clung to illusions of love or loyalty or, in this case, the notion of rescue from an obscure evil that might very well only exist in the mind of the would-be rescuer.
"In one story, a man keeps waiting for something wonderful to happen to
him, then, years go by without HIMSELF ever initiating an action that will
bring him satisfaction and happiness in his present. This includes hope of a
great love. In true Jamesian fashion, he loses all these wonderful
potentialities, because he didn't realize they were there all the time, looking
him right in the eye, so to speak. In the title story, the governess loses
contact with the outside world to such an extent, it's no longer certain
whether the ghosts are real, or whether their stories are just preying on her
imagination, driving her to impose her obsession on her very young charges. In
the end, she might just destroy what she sought to save. The challenge before
YOU, my friends, is to analyze the action and give YOUR interpretation of the
After class was over, Elliot walked Alice to the cafeteria, where they were to part--- his lunchtime on this day was the next 20-minute shift. As they walked, the boy said, "Something's been on my mind since you started school here, Alice, and today I figured it out. Maybe it's because she wore the same kind of dress you did, but, in any case, even though your overall coloring is different, you resemble Vicki Shaw a great deal. Are you aware of this?"
"I'm not sure, but she DID remind ME of someone, and no, it wasn't YOU," Alice giggled. "When she smiles, and doesn't show her teeth--- it's wierd, but it's kind of like the way my DAD smiles at my Mom, when he's pulling the wool over her eyes, having a sly joke with her, the kind I'm not supposed to understand. I mean, her eyebrow even flies up, like she's going to wink really hard."
"I've seen her smile with ALL her teeth, and it's kind of strange, but she looks like Willie, of all people! And I must say, Alice, there IS a big resemblence between your Pater and Cousin Barnabas's foremost servant." Elliot shook his head. "Though to tell you the truth, I've only seen pictures of Vicki's father, Sebastian, who died the year before Jeremy's mother. He WAS blond, curly-haired, and seemed to have a golden cast to his skin, like she does. But he had dark brown yes--- oh well, he and Maggie probably had blue-eyed ancestors. He might even have had that grin and animated eyebrow, but there's no photographic record."
Alice sighed, "Well, I've only seen pictures of my folks when they were young, so that's the only way I can tell who I look like. My Mom was very dark, and my Dad was fair, at least, compared to her. They were getting old when I was born. Daddy was like 44, and Mom was almost 39--- Ooops, I'm sorry, Elliot. I forgot, your Mom is still having babies."
"And she just had her 47th birthday. Father, believe it or not, is almost 2 years her junior. But I DID know them when they were somewhat younger, and they haven't changed very much. It's living in that museum we call home. The air is so still in some places, it's the perfect preservative. Of which I'm a prime example. I'm really pushing 30, you know. I just stayed back a lot in school from all that inbreeding."
Elliot flashed his own mischievous grin, and Alice slapped him on the head with the paperback Henry James book, calling him the name of the little boy in the ghost story, in a Cockney accent. "Bad, naughty 'Miles'!"
"Oh, PLEASE, DO beat me, 'Miss Jessell'!!" Elliot squealed the
ghostly governess's name in "boyish" falsetto. "It's EVER so
much wicked fun!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After a long, long day of feverishly visiting yet another "Vacationland" tourist trap (this time, in Bar Harbor), Christine began what she called her "6 o'clock mantra", which consisted of heavily concentrating on the phone, and willing it to ring, while thinking the name of the current favorite. She silently helped Harvey prepare the family's dinner, when he asked her why she was so quiet. "Just WHAT are you thinking, right this minute?" he asked.
She replied, "Why, I'm chanting. Mentally. Good for the soul."
"Really? Tell me. Maybe it will help MY soul. Or this filet of sole."
"I don't think you want to chant THIS, Harvey. I'm thinking, 'Aum manay padmay Barnabas phone aummm'...."
"Well, I could TRY it, with my OWN words. 'Aumm manay Mary Beth, home,
At that moment, Harvey's spouse walked in the door. "Damn, it really works!" he exclaimed.
"Works better for YOU, evidently, my friend," Christine said, then the phone DID ring. "Spoke too soon, I guess," she said, though Alice pounced on the receiver first. When the girl discovered that it was not the Collins SHE was interested in, she handed it to Christine, who took the receiver into her own room.
"Barnabas, are you all right?" she panted anxiously. "You--- and Amy--- did look unwell. Though Alice told us that she DID make it into work, quite late."
"Yes, my dear, I am fully restored. My son has given me a dose of my prescription, and I assure you, I am NOT contagious. It was just a coincidence that Amy...." His voice trailed off. "I've always been concerned about her, from her girlhood. Such a tragic background. Much can be forgiven on twice as many grounds. She's really a GOOD person." He sounded as though he was trying to reassure himself on this point. "At any rate, Christine, I WOULD like to take you out on this fine evening. Who knows how many we may yet share?"
NO woman could resist this kind of invitation. However, Christine had one request: "At least, let me pick YOU up and drive to the Inn. I know you say you feel well, but I want to take care of you a little bit, also. Plus, I've been wondering what your home looks like."
"Well, it's a bit at sixes and sevens tonight. Willie was moving things around, dusting. We've been sneezing a lot. It should all settle by morning. But if you come up my driveway, I will meet you halfway." He gave directions.
Chrstine went to announce her plans to the Laceys, then, was on her way up Weeping Meadow Road within less than an hour. She took the first right, an old gateway, which led onto what she thought was a romantically winding gravel drive, shrouded by trees whose branched intertwined overhead. They should post a sign for the "Overhead Clearance Limit", she thought, in case a truck ever comes this way. She took a curve, and there, saw Barnabas, caped and with cane in hand, sitting on a wrought-iron bench, obviously placed there as a halfway-point resting spot. He got into her car without a word, then leaned over and kissed her on the lips. His own were somewhat warm.
"Thank you for being so understanding about all this, Christine. And I am glad I didn't have to ask Willie to transport me. After all, we hardly need a chaperone." They chuckled about this. Then Christine turned the car around, and they headed for the Inn.
Barnabas was again silent, but he reached out and touched his companion's shoulder from time to time. His thoughts were stormy. Amy had wandered over to the Old House just as soon as he had arisen from a trance-like state in his heavily-shaded bedroom. "I've come back to live at Collinwood for a while," she said, smiling.
He had not summoned her, but Amy was driven by a need she didn't understand. She wound her arms around him, pressed herself against him, things she would NEVER have done with him, before. In fact, the only way to escape the natural physical arousal WAS to twist it and pervert it into an excuse for a taste....
He kissed her throat briefly, but the medication his son had given him was taking hold, and he was sickened, again, by what he'd just done. GAGGING, in fact. He barely made it into the kitchen, to spew the blood into the sink, rinsed with cold water, to keep it from staining anything. "Now, PLEASE go," he begged. "This ISN'T right, Amy. I am NOT right for you. I don't want to hurt you any more."
Amy started to cry. "You want to be with Chris--Christine. I knew it. You're going to kiss HER the way you kiss ME, aren't you?" He barely trusted his power to hypnotize her, but his lifelong influence over her character helped again. He managed to evict her from the house before even Willie guessed at her presence.
Then, fighting to hold onto one of the two emotions that still made him feel normal (the other being his fondness for his son), Barnabas had called Christine, and the instant he recongnized her in her vehicle, it worked. This, he thought, WAS magic. He understood anew, the reason supernatural creatures such as he and even Angelique had been willing to give up their great powers to hold on to the sensation of human love. He sometimes wondered how SHE would have reacted to the coming of age and infirmity for the both of them.
Here, he was old, and with an ordinary but pleasant-looking woman who would be considered quite past her prime, but he felt sheltered and safe, the way he used to when he and Julia would be sitting by the fire at home, she reading some medical journal; himself, working at his secretary, or playing chess with Jeremy. Not that there wasn't passion mixed up in it, but it was like a bank account one withdrew from when one wanted a really special treat, cherries jubilee on vanilla ice cream, a diamond pendant to slide onto a plain-but-polished gold chain. The ice cream and gold chain were good, of and by themselves, but it was nice to know one COULD have the extras.
Even though Christine chaffeured, Barnabas took the lead in all the other aspects of the date. Even without reservations, he had long been a favored customer at the Collinsport Inn, and a table was miraculously found for the couple. He told Christine to order the most ridiculously expensive item on the menu, not that there were many, in truth--- the Inn, which had existed in some form for 300 years, had built its reputation on affordablity and quantity, once demanded by weary sailors and coach travelers who rested there.
"But what are YOU going to eat?" Christine asked. She was concerned again--- Barnabas looked peaked, except when he smiled at her.
"I will have something light. I hope you don't mind the sight of someone eating liver. It's not the prettiest of meals, but my late wife and now my son recommend it for the nutritional aspects."
"By all means, Barnabas. I want you good and healthy, for LATER." She winked, and kissed his cheek. "I'm just kidding. I DO care about you. What is it that you have, and have you thought of seeking other opinions?"
"It's complex, though not, as I've said, contagious." Selectively contagious, though, he thought. "It's a genetic weakness, which passed my son by." I HOPE. "It's only really flared up suddenly, after a remission of many years, but it's been known to pass equally quickly." I WISH. "And it's not, dare I say it so soon in our friendship---" his voice dropped to a husky whisper "---NOT venereal in nature." Unless you're a frustrated virgin named Amy....
"That--that is, er, good to hear. It will give me something.... to look forward to." Christine wondered how long she would be looking forward. For once, maybe it would be a good idea to postpone, at least until she knew more about his health than he had divulged so far.... What if HE had a heart attack, or stroke, DURING--- this had NEVER occurred to her before! She speculated on what the Laceys had been able to do in the last few years, since Harvey seemed to develop chest pain at the drop of a hat. What have I gotten into here? She wondered wildly. And we haven't even ORDERED yet!
His hand reached for hers, and there was something so calming about his deep, hazel-brown eyes. It was like he could see through her, could even read her mind--- ridiculous! Still, in a moment, the panic subsided. Barnabas pushed his chair closer to Christine's, and she leaned her head on his shoulder, in public. From this vantage point, she dreamily ordered something that sounded like Cock Alvin and costed 27 dollars. The waiter shook his head indulgently--- he'd been waiting for a moment like this since Mr. Collins last came here with his poor wife, already dying by the look of her, 15 years ago. Mrs. Collins had perished a scant few months later, and Mr. Collins had always come in alone since then, save for celebrating his son's series of school graduations, the last being his graduation from medical school the year before.
THIS one looked like she would last a good long while, though, doubtless,
SHE would eventually
dine here, alone. But that was the cycle of life, and in the meantime, there would be weddings and christenings of grandchildren, and the like. There were certain places where time held still and let people enjoy it, and the 300-year-old inn was one of those places.
"I had no intention of being so bold, so soon, but would you WANT to stay in a room here, with ME?" Barnabas asked. "I don't want to scandalize my son or even Willie--- as you recall, he DOES have a unique way of trying to keep me out of trouble." He smiled warmly. Christine was turning that enticing shade of velvet red again, but he was SURE he didn't have a sinister urge in HER regard. He'd never bitten his late wife, even though, before they were married, she had once asked him to, and he was often angry with her. There was respect for her abilities and her humanity, even under the anger, and it won out in the end.
"It's up to you," Christine whispered back. "I think my hosts can deal with my absence for one night. I'll surely get the lecture of my life when I return, but after 20 years, one gets used to that."
Barnabas paid the bill, and was about to ask about vacancies upstairs in the Inn, when Amy walked into the restaurant. She just missed seeing him, and Christine didn't see HER, either, but he decided on the spot that it would be wise to leave. "We'll have to make it another time, Christine," he said regretfully, "I just remembered, I left certain of my medications at home. But we can sit in the car for a while, like young people do, I suppose."
Thinking that, perhaps, Barnabas was having a crisis of confidence, his companion replied, "Sure, there's absolutely no hurry at all for something like that. We're together, we'll stay together, no matter what, eh?"
She drove him back to the spot in his drive where she'd picked him up earlier. The car was warmer than sitting out on the bench, so they just stayed in it. Christine rested in Barnabas's arms, her head again on his shoulder, feeling his kisses rain down on her hair and her forehead. Then she turned to him and they embraced, locking lips, though it was rather cramped. But she was tired after the long day of driving around, and soon dozed off.
It was then that the hunger hit Barnabas, fierce and painful, like an ulcer imploding his very being. He had to get his beloved away from him, or he would destroy her. Even Amy was too far away to help. His only hope was to get home and take more of the prescription. He shook Christine awake, as gently as he could, and advised her that it would be best to get down Weeping Meadow Road before the unpredictable fog rolled in. "Even in frost, even when there's snow, it comes at night. I want you safe, my love," he whispered.
"That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," she
murmurred, before she kissed his once-more chilled lips. "You get inside
and get warm, yourself. I'll drive you to your front door...."
"Don't fret about me, I've walked this drive in darkness for more years than I'd like to remember. Au revoir, dearest."
When Christine's car was safely out of sight, Barnabas TRIED to get to his
front door. But the hunger gnawed and would not give him rest. "Jeremy, Willie,
please, HELP ME!" But his pleas were reduced to whispers. Those shots are
worthless now, an inner voice told him, go ahead and please yourself! Barnabas
didn't even feel the change come over him. A minute later, a large bat circled
over the now-empty pathway, then headed for Collinsport's wharf.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
A red-haired young woman called Candy sat on a bench overlooking the placid, moonlit waters that lapped at the dock pilings on the wharf. She was extremely upset--- her fiance hadn't met her at the Blue Whale at the agreed-on time. Then, after she had gossiped with a couple of girls who worked her shift at the Cannery, and after a couple of drinks, she'd begun to dance, not a close one, with a male friend, also from her place of employment. At that moment, her fiance had come in, and started an argument which ended in her throwing her engagement ring in his face, and storming out. Now, she was just sitting here, working up the nerve to go home and face her mother, who would start whining about the non-refundable down-payment on the catering hall, the non-refundable deposit on the wedding gown and the bridesmaid's gowns, the non-refundable deposit on the flowers and the honeymoon flight, and just HOW did Candy expect to explain things to the minister at First Congregational?
She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. "Nat?" she said, and
turned around, expecting to see her spurned fiance, come to mend fences with
her. It wasn't Nat, but she DID sort of recognize the man who kept his hand on
her shoulder with an icy grip. "You're one of the--the--" Candy never
finished the sentence, as the man transferred the icy hand to her mouth,
overwhelmed her where she sat, and put his cold mouth to her throat. She passed
out after a minute, slumped along the bench, and so remained. It grew colder
overnight, and frost formed on the blood oozing from her wound. She was nearly
frozen to death when she was found just before dawn.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
PART four---FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2000
"This is terrible. So terrible. Now I'm expected to fix things, and I don't know how--- I only just got you two here," the hysterical voice in the hall of colors mourned. A silhouette of a third man was now visible, but he ducked the lights nimbly, as he trotted back and forth anxiously, wringing his hands. "I need directions, but nobody tells me anything!" The other two men tried to see him, and each other, more distinctly, but the interplay of light and shadow made each dizzy and headachy. The air got hot and stuffy--- one of the men ran down a corridor, toward a light. In the light was a painting of an old fisherman on the wharf, with a young woman hanging from his hook by the neck, bleeding ....
"YAOW!" For the first time since he'd been having the dreams, Harvey cried out, loud enough to wake not only his wife, but Alice and Christine, who ran into the room. Alice turned on the overhead light, to the sight of her father clawing at his head and neck, and her mother gasping, "The pills! Do you need your pills, Harv?"
"NO! It ISN'T my heart--- Sweet Christ, what a HORRIBLE dream!" Harvey was panting as though he'd run a mile, but the expected chest pain never materialized. He forced himself to take deep breaths, and soon was calm enough to feel contrite. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I woke everyone up.... It was just too awful. But it WAS only a dream." He laid back on his pillows.
"Maybe you need MORE pillows, sweetheart," Mary Beth said. "You're getting that sleep apnea thing more and more these days---"
He grabbed at her hand. "It WASN'T just a sleep problem. It was so REAL. Just like the other times, only THIS time, I remember...." He shuddered so hard, he shook the bed.
"Can you tell us about the dream?" a bleary-eyed Christine asked. She was still exhausted from her date earlier. "If you can do that, maybe it won't come back."
"It's coming back to me about the other times.... It started just about the time Mary Beth got the job offer, and went for the interview. It was mostly confusing at first--- there's this place that looks like a disco, with bright lights bouncing off the walls, but empty, and I can't see where the light is even coming from. The first time, I was alone. Someone was whispering 'I found you, I found you.' Then, when we were settling in up here, I would see the shadow of another guy, and the voice got louder. It said 'I brought you together'. When I met Willie, I realized it was like HIS voice, which was like like MINE--- You don't know how you really sound until you hear it on tape, and I recognized it from some cassettes I recorded for Alice after I had my last attack, in case I didn't live to see her grow up. Anyway, this last dream--- it was a DOOZY. The voice became a man, and he was running back and forth, like the rabbit in those "Alice in Wonderland" books we used to read to the kids. This crazy guy was plenty worried about SOMETHING. Then, I felt sick and started running for fresh air, and I ran to where I could see my new painting. But instead of a nice sea bass, there was a WOMAN stuck on that big mean hook! She looked like a side of beef in a meat locker...." Harvey turned over, and hid his face in the pillows. "It was like a horrible warning."
"I don't believe in prediction dreams," Mary Beth said firmly, "but maybe the move up here was harder on your health than we thought it would be. You might even be getting a reaction from the medication--- we'll call the doctor in the morning. Until then, I'll make you some hot milk to help you sleep." Alice handed her mother the heavy robe as she got out of the bed. When Mary Beth was up, the girl sat down next to her father and put her head against his big shoulders. This time, he took HER hand, and she spoke to him in a soothing voice.
"Well, at least Alice can be depended on to look after her Dad," Christine observed, as she followed her friend out to the kitchen.
"Yeah, she's a better girl than I give her credit for sometimes. Geez-zuss, what a night THIS has been." Mary Beth filled a up with milk and put it in the microwave at low heat. "Hope this is the end of it already," she said as she removed the milk and headed back to the bedroom. Just then, the phone rang. "Oh, NO!" she said in dismay. She handed the cup to Christine, who hurried in to Harvey, then ran back to watch Mary Beth talking on the phone. "You found her WHERE? Okay, calm down, I'll be there ASAP." She snapped the phone off, and ran to get dressed. As she passed Christine, she explained breathlessly, "Someone found a girl half-dead on the wharf. What did I tell you about the warranty about to expire?"
"Mary Beth, it's just a coincidence. Probably intoxicated like our friend Amy, only without a warm room to flop in."
"It's not that simple, Christine. Remember what I just told Harvey about not believing in dreams? Well, after I leave, don't tell him, but this girl was cut or stabbed in the neck!"
"So you don't want me along for this one?"
"Well, if Harv's heart DOES give him trouble and he needs the hospital,
Alice hasn't had time to practice her driving, and she doesn't have a Maine
permit yet. She might panic. But when the dust settles, I'll let you know when
to come." Mary Beth flung herself into the bathroom, emerged less than 10
minutes later, dressed in regular clothes, but badged and wearing her sidearm,
and ran out the door.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Mary Beth saw half the town's compliment of gold-and-turquoise squad cars (those were the town colors), top lights blinking blindingly, parked near the tiny, raucous bar decorated with the mural of a blue whale, near the end of a Collinsport wharf. She rushed out to the dock behind, where Job and another deputy were already taking statements and photographs of the crime scene. There wasn't much "crime scene" to speak of; just a splintery old bench near a pile of lobster cages. There was some blood on the bench, and a pair of high-heeled shoes, likely kicked off in the victim's struggle and agony, lying nearby on the dock itself.
"So what's the story so far, Job?" the Sheriff began. "I assume the young lady has already been taken to Seamen's Memorial Hospital? Was she out completely?"
He replied, "Yes. she WAS unconscious. She had a body temperature of 86 degrees, the paramedics said--- partly from being out in the frost, and partly from what appeared to be a great loss of blood, though you'd never know it from looking at this bench."
"Well, I'll be hitting the hospital after I check things out here. God, I HOPE she comes to, and can give us some kind of statement. And I hope she recovers completely--- I'm sure she has a mother somewhere, no matter what she was doing on the docks---"
"Oh, NO, Sheriff Lacey, this wasn't one of THOSE kinds of girls. Truth is, the hooker trade has gone to seed since the big ships stopped docking here years ago. No, this was a nice girl, engaged in fact, who lived with her Ma and worked at the cannery. Name of Jerusha Kane, but her friends called her "Candy" as a joke, though I can see where it might give one the wrong idea."
"Then what was this nice girl doing on a lonely wharf at night?"
"Story goes---I mean, we got statements from the barkeep and some of her friends, that Miss Kane's fiance showed up late for their date here, and she got bored and started dancing around with one of her male friends. When Nathan Hinckley, that's the fiance, showed up, he cussed her out, then she cussed HIM out, she threw her diamond at him, and came out here, I guess to sulk, but maybe she hoped he'd make it up. I mean, the wedding's only two weeks off, they probably got jitters and lost control. Anyway, that was about 10:30 PM, and the next thing anyone saw her was when the seafood supplier came to make a delivery at around 4:00 AM. He saw that the blood had turned to ice, so he couldn't tell how bad she was cut at first, but she WAS barely breathing. And nobody had heard or seen a thing up till then."
"Anybody go to question the fiance? He's the most logical suspect."
"We're on top of that, Sheriff, Ma'am, in fact I just sent Twombly to pick him up. You'll be meeting Nat later."
Mary Beth decided all was in order, and was about to leave, when she said,
"Be sure to get a lot
of scrapings off that bench."
"Well, okay, Ma'am, but won't the doctors get enough blood samples from Candy at the hospital?"
"Definitely, but I'm looking at the possibility that the assailant might have shed some blood in the struggle. While they'll be checking her clothes, any other blood COULD have mingled with hers. I'm hoping for a virgin sample. And make double-sure about any dirt that could have come from the attacker's shoes. It can be tested, too. We'll need all the help we can get, if it turns out the boyfriend DIDN'T do it."
"You know best, Sheriff ma'am."
"I'll do my best, Job. And if that doesn't work, I'll do my darnedest. Carry on." Mary Beth got in her car again, and headed for the hospital. Seamen's Memorial wasn't a big hospital, but it HAD obviously undergone a lot of renovation recently--- there was an old brick building, part of the original structure, attached to a modern-looking section. She drove into the Emergency area--- she noticed a plaque that read, "E. Collins Stoddard Memorial Clinic." Those Collinses have a hand in EVERYTHING around here, she thought.
Inside, she looked for an attending physician. "We have two on duty tonight, Doctor Heard and Doctor Collins," the receptionist said. "Doctor Heard is in with Miss Kane right now, but Dr. Collins will be joining him when he's finished with another case."
Mary Beth caught sight of a young man in white with wine-red hair. She ran up to him. "Dr. Heard---" she said.
"No, I'm Doctor Jeremy Collins. I'll be joining Dr. Heard shortly."
"Oh, so YOU'RE Barnabas Collins's son. Sorry we have to meet under these circumstances, sir."
"So am I. Candy Kane was a school friend of my girlfriend, Vicki Shaw."
"A terrible thing to happen--- my deputies only had scanty details about the injury inflicted on Miss Kane. I won't keep you from your duty, though you know I'm here to question her if it's at all possible."
"Well, that depends on Dr. Heard." They walked together to a curtained cubicle in a corner. Jeremy stuck his head in for a moment, then said, "We can go in together, Sheriff Lacey, it appears that Candy IS awake, though how much she'll be able to tell you is anyone's guess."
They went in through the drawn white drapes. Candy, who looked very white and tiny, was bunched up in the fetal position. There was a big pouch of blood on a stand, with a line that fed into her folded arm. Dr. Heard, thin and white-haired, said, "She was down to 82 degrees, but warmed up miraculously as soon as we were able to get some whole blood into her. I would estimate that she lost at least five pints."
Jeremy suddenly looked stricken. "What kind of wound are we talking about here, Jim?"
"You won't believe it, but she was drained through these tiny punctures." He gently moved a bandage on the girl's neck. Two small holes, about an inch-and-a-half apart, were festering beneath. "They're tiny, but they're deep, all right," the older doctor commented. "Why, if I believed in such things, I'd almost say they were like a vampire bite!"
Neither the old doctor nor the new Sheriff could miss Jeremy's reaction to this news. He took a deep, sobbing breath, and turned away. "Dr. Collins," Mary Beth asked quietly but insistently, "have you EVER seen such marks before? Would YOU know who-- or WHAT--- would do such a thing? Is there a Gothic cult in this community that would practice this mutilation?"
"I--I'm not sure," he whispered. "It's similar to something I saw when I was young, in an Indian village in Arizona, years ago. But as to local cults, I haven't been in touch with the townspeople much until recently, because of all my schooling. I'm terribly sorry I'm failing in professional detachment here."
"You're young yet, Jeremy," Jim Heard said. "There's going to be a LOT of firsts for you, and some of them will upset you even when you're a codger like myself. But you have to buck up. Your mother was pretty tough, and the late Dr. Woodard, who was our friend and colleague, never gave in to despair when faced with similar cases 30 and more years ago. He fought till the end to discover the cause. Then it all went away. It looks like the disease is back, the one Maggie Shaw,Willie Loomis, and Tom Jennings suffered, amongst others, in outbreaks going back 200 years."
"Well, we HAVE a suspect, sir," Mary Beth said, "the girl's fiance, the only known person with a motive. Maybe he just WANTED this to look like those old crimes."
"I can hardly believe it of Nat Hinckley," Dr. Heard replied, shaking his head. "Those two were childhood sweethearts. If he did anything, it WOULD probably be simpler and more conventional. This looks like it took some expertise. Well, when I get the tests back, we'll know more."
"I'd like to TRY to question Miss Kane, Doctor."
"Go ahead, but she might not respond sensibly. She was crying and blubbering gibberish before. Again, like the victims years ago."
Mary Beth gently approached the victim. She had learned, long ago, that one didn't rush up on someone in this condition, but gingerly edged up, talking softly all the while, like Alice to Harvey after his bad dream. Because that's what this incident would eventually become in the victim's mind--- she had to extract as much of the truth as possible before that necessary component of healing began to take place. "How are you feeling, Miss Kane? May I call you Jerusha--- or do you like 'Candy' better?"
"Candy, I like candy," the girl muttered. "If I'm good for the doctor, will I get candy? Mama?"
"Your Mama will be here soon, Candy," Dr. Heard said, his voice husky. "This nice lady is Sheriff Lacey. She wants to know how your neck got hurt, and if you can remember who did it."
"My neck hurts," Candy mourned. "I want my Mama. The bad man did this, I KNOW he did."
"Candy, sweetheart," Mary Beth crooned, "who was the bad man?
Did you know the bad man?
Did he hurt your neck with pins?"
"Candy knows," the girl suddenly smiled. "Bad man kissed Candy, candy's neck is sweet. Sweet heart candy. Candy hates pins and needles." She made a move to take the transfusion needle out of her arm. The doctor called for a nurse, and together they restrained the girl as Mary Beth looked on in frustration. When Candy was strapped down, she gave it one more try.
"Candy, I don't want to scare you, sweetheart, I have a little girl like you at home, and I don't want the bad man to hurt her. Just TRY to remember who the bad man was, so we can stop him from hurting other sweet girls, okay?" Candy nodded, though her eyes were filling with tears at her imprisonment. "Candy, was the bad man named Nathan Hinckley?"
Candy wailed, "Nat! Nat! Nat LOVES Candy! Where's Nat? MAMA!" Dr. Heard stepped up and gave her a shot which calmed her within a minute.
Mary Beth backed out of the cubicle in embarrassment. Should have let JOB handle this one, she thought, he knows how to talk to these people. Jeremy Collins followed her. She discerned a deep relief on his face, and wondered anew why his reactions to this case were so strong. Then, she had a thought--- if it wasn't Nat (though she WAS going to check him out), then, could it possibly have been WILLIE, who also had some connection to the events of 30 years ago? He wasn't a doctor, but serial killers often taught themselves everything they needed to know, and one didn't have to be a specialist with a wall-full of degrees to siphon blood. Jeremy was probably upset because the faithful family retainer was likely to come under suspicion. Mary Beth went into a corner, and called Job, who dispatched another officer to bring Willie in for questioning, if he could be found.
When she arrived at the police station, both Nat AND Willie were in custody. Nat had an alibi--- he had gone to the 24-hour convenience store to pick up some Tylenol for the headache caused by the fight with Candy, with whom, moreover, he'd intended to reconcile in the morning. "But now it IS morning, and she almost DIED!" he shouted. "Please, Sheriff, ma'am, I want to see her, I NEED to see her---"
"Are there any witnesses to your presence in the convenience store?" Mary Beth asked.
"Yes! I TOLD Deputy Twombly, but he wanted to wait for you.... Jawaharlal, the counterman at the E-Z Mart, I've known him for some time, even though his English isn't the best. I was the only customer in there for almost a half-hour. He even served me an Icy Freeze. I wasn't out of there until quarter-to-twelve, then went straight home, as I assumed Candy did. But when I called, her Mom said she wasn't home yet."
"Well, we haven't established the exact time of the attack, but if this Indian fellow can vouch for you, and Candy's Mom is certain of the time of your call---"
"Tell the officer at the desk to check my wallet. The receipt is in there, dated and timed. And I wouldn't have had time to backtrack to the Blue Whale, then home to make the call."
"Phone records WILL be checked, you can count on that." Mary Beth moved on to Willie, who was in the cell he'd occupied previously, away from Nat's. "So, we meet AGAIN, Willie. I WARNED you about something like this. You HAVE been advised of your rights, but would you like me to repeat them?"
"Please DON'T. I didn't do ANYTHING!" Willie wailed. "I never even heard of that girl."
"She was a friend of Vicki Shaw's, did you know THAT?"
"As God is my witness, I swear I didn't!"
"So, Willie, how DID you spend the night, and did anyone reliable see you, and I DON'T mean your boss or his son, who acted MIGHTY peculiar at the hospital with Candy Kane?"
"I--I can't say anyone did. I was home, and so was Barnabas. He--he came home after his date with Miss Cagney---"
"At what time, Willie? I know what time Christine came in, but you tell ME---"
Willie became silent, obviously knowing that Mary Beth was trying to spring a very old and unoriginal trap on him. He answered, "I was sleeping. I was getting over a cold, and I took some cold pills Dr. Jeremy gave me."
"Then how would you know whether he came home or not?"
" 'Cause I woke up at three to use the john, and saw his cape and his cane on the usual hooks. I don't go into his bedroom when he's in there!"
"Would Mr. Collins mind if I talked to him?"
"He probably wouldn't, but he's not home today. He had to rise at 5:00 AM to go on a business trip to Augusta, I'm not sure where out there, though. He'll be back this evening."
This sounded not quite right to Mary Beth--- in her brief, and probably censored, account of her date, Christine didn't mention that Barnabas had any such plans, and she'd left him at his place pretty late for an elderly person who had to rise before dawn. Well, there was nothing she could do about him until nightfall.
Loomis had a ready answer for everything except for his pathetic insistence that he was at home in his bed, happily doped up on extra-strength Nyquil or whatever. However he DID say something that gave Mary Beth pause.
"I WAS sleeping, at least until I had this horrible dream. I dreamed I was in this strange hall, with a bunch of blinking lights, hearing a voice that was like mine.... And when I ran out, there was a girl bleeding in the snow. From the neck. That's what really made me get up."
Mary Beth obtained decent Polaroids of both men (there being no mug shots of either), and had Job take them to show poor Candy. She denied it was either one, though her judgment was hardly unclouded. Then, Heard called to tell the Sheriff that preliminary tests on the blood samples matched neither Nat's nor Willie's blood types. There WAS extra blood there, but from an unknown source, perhaps from an animal, or someone already dead. There hadn't been any recent murders or raids on morgues or funeral homes that would have yielded blood from a cadaver, though she felt if she had to pick one suspect who'd do such a thing, she'd choose Willie. "Now I'm getting Collinsport Crazy," she thought, allowing her unreasoning prejudice against Loomis over-rule her good judgment. There HAD to be a bunch of Goth or Satanist fanatics around this town with its long history of similar incidents.
In the absence of a solid connection, Mary Beth had little choice but to
release both men. Within an hour, she got a call from Job, who was at the
hospital. Nat had arrived simultaneously with Candy's mother. Under hers and
Job's supervision, the young couple were reunited, quite happily--- the young
woman's mind seemed to be clearing, though she could not call forth any more
details about the attack.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Willie rushed in throught the Old House doors, with speed that belied his age. He pulled them shut behind him, and ran down the cellar steps, to a small room tucked in a corner of the immense space, the room where the casket and candelabrum were kept. In the flickering light of the tiny flames on the candles, he saw that Jeremy had gotten there first; from the look of the younger man, he had been staring down at Barnabas's coffin for hours. Now, the young doctor turned his desparing gaze toward Willie. "I don't know that I can help him now," he said. "This, more than the brief bat transformations, means his soul is morphing into an amoral beast. And, given the Sheriff's attitude, I don't think we'll be able to put her off if she gets a search warrant."
"We can move Barnabas's coffin into the cave passage," Willie offered. "Nobody ever figured out how Maggie wound up on the beach after she escaped 30 years ago."
"And THEN what? I have only a preliminary list of Father's many victims, and few of the least deserving had ANY traceable descendants. For example, if those dock doxies had children, there were no official records, not even baptismal, for obvious reasons. If they didn't smother them themselves, they might have sold them to the highest bidders for adoption. But then, they'd have new names. Now, Father had an Aunt Abigail whose only crime was that she was so zealous to rid Collinwood of the witch, that it blinded her to the truth of how the trouble started. Father scared HER to death when he flaunted his fangs in her face. But the point is, as far as can be traced, she was exactly as she presented herself, an upright virgin and lifelong spinster."
"We have to keep pumping him for names, but there's only one way to keep him under wraps, and that's to do up his coffin the way it was when I found him---- keep that silver Crucifix on his chest, and chain it up if he gets antsy."
"But won't he starve?" Jeremy asked.
"He didn't starve to, uh, 'death' during the hundred-seventy years before I sprung him," Willie replied. "After a while, vampires go into some kind of waking-dream state, you know, just enough to keep 'em quiet, but not enough to stop them if they sense that a snack is in the area. Then you have to watch out, because HE sent signals--- heartbeats that only I could hear at the time--- to reel me in, like a big feather lure for trout. In my case, the lure was the jewelry in his painting."
"Yes, that was in a letter that Mother left for me. You ended up taking the blame for his deeds then, Willie...."
"And Sheriff Lacey was ready to blame me for them today. Jeremy, I got to say--- I can't do it AGAIN.... I don't have a lot of time left on this earth, but if I have to go to prison, I won't last a week! I was in for an 18-month stretch before I came to this town, and everyday was a fight to keep the other prisoners off my case and off my--- well, you must have heard what they do. Someone who also did sex type crimes was in BIG trouble. The guys would corner them and beat them and do--- what they do." Willie's face had turned marroon. "Plus, I have a family here, kind of, and I don't want to leave you and---and Vicki."
Jeremy declared, "I won't let them hurt you, Willie. If necessary, I'll take the rap. My future with Vicki is in shreds as of now, anyway. How could I explain this to her? And what would her mother think--- who was my father's victim years ago?"
"I was in your shoes once. I had a nice girl who would have married me, but I had to stay here and help Barnabas and Julia, and she left when I wouldn't tell her why. It hurt something terrible. I wonder why I never had it in mind to KILL him, once he didn't have the power over me anymore. But he changed--- became more like an uncle. Then when you and then Vicki were born, I felt like I had a duty to stay."
"I don't understand WHY you should have stayed for two children who weren't your own, but I'm glad you did, Willie. Neither Father nor Mother, much as I loved and enjoyed being with them, understood much about children,." Jeremy sighed, and drummed his fingers on the casket. "Thank God it's Daylight Savings Time, and we still have a few hours to get some chains."
By sundown, all was ready--- the two men got the heavy casket onto a couple of handcarts, and wheeled it slowly into the long cave passage. Then, they affixed the chains. Willie said, "We'll tell people he's on a trip to Augusta. That's what I already told the Sheriff."
They heard Barnabas stirring inside. "PLEASE! Let me OUT!" he cried in anguish. Tears sprang from Jeremy's eyes.
"We CAN'T!" Willie shouted back. "But if you can think of some more of your victims' names, we'll be that much closer to fixing you. It's for your own good!"
"Very well," Barnabas muttered from within the casket. "In the 1840 period, when I went back to that time, there was ANOTHER Trask, son of the minister I walled up--- I shot him when he shot and mortally wounded Angelique. Well, my bullet had the same effect on him, but he vanished into that Parallel Time dimension I told you about. And it was because I had made Trask's fiancee, a girl named Roxanne Drew into a vampire, then had to help her own brother destroy her! Then, there was a time that I had business in 1897. Dear God, I made a mess of everything there. If people weren't actually dying at my hands, they died as a direct result of some of my actions. A similar situation occurred in modern Parallel Time--- I botched my own plans to defeat the Angelique of that time, who had NO trace of good in her, like the one I knew."
"Names, names, names, Father," Jeremy insisted. "From 1897, anyway, since I don't know how to access this Parallel Time with my computer. The afterlife there may even have a wall about it, to keep the universes in balance."
His father replied, "In 1897, I personally killed Dirk Wilkins, the estate caretaker, who was maddened by my defeating his lover Laura Collins's plan for burning her children to make them into phoenixes. I foolishly made the mistake of BITING him, which led to his becoming a vampire and to his murder of a young governess via his orders to another slave.... The girl was named Rachel--- I forget the surname. She's buried in the family cemetery, her stone has a carving of a dove. He also killed the fiancee of a family member, who had threatened me with her psychic abilities--- Pansy Faye, I DO remember her. Rather than figuring out a better plan, I buried her myself, and her lover---at least he fancied himself so--- got suspicious of me, and threatened to reveal all to ANOTHER Trask. So, with the aid and connivance of this cousin's brother, I finally strangled him, more from rage than a need to kill. I COULD have enslaved the fool, he was as weak-minded as Willie, but his grief gave him strength---"
"The name, Father, please---"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Mary Beth returned home at noon to find that Alice had, under Christine's supervision, gotten to the schoolbus on time, and that Harvey was still sleeping. She left him alone, and called his doctor, who insisted that the medications did NOT have hideous, recurring nightmares as a side effect. If THAT was the case, I'd swear Willie was on the stuff as well, Mary Beth thought, IF his story of a similar bad dream was to be believed. And why NOT believe it? HARVEY had the dream, yet HE didn't hurt the girl. Maybe Willie's dream was a warning for HIM, only colored by HIS different experiences. Though a warning of WHAT, if he didn't even know Jerusha Kane, or who had injured her?
These thoughts made Mary Beth dizzy with exhaustion. Rather than bother her husband, she took off and stored her weapons, then fell on the couch. Later, she was aware of a blanket being put over her, and the aroma of spaghetti sauce. This woke her up, and she stumbled to the kitchen, where Christine and Alice were stirring up pots of sauce and pasta. Harvey was up, making the salad, but he stopped for a minute to embrace his wife. "I just covered you up, and now you're awake!" he said.
"I couldn't sleep another minute--- I have to call Job and find out how this case is progressing so far. You KNOW what happened, Harv?"
He sighed sadly. "Yeah, Christine told me, then I watched the news. Why can't GOOD dreams come true?"
"Maybe it's only because we're in Collinsport, which is starting to look less like the Garden of Eden, and more like Transylvania," his wife replied wearily. "Something tells me this won't be the ONLY such attack. Alice, until we solve this thing, you have to come home and stay home every night."
"Oh, MOM--- Can't I go out, like to the mall in the afternoon, or to a matinee with Elliot? Can't I at least visit him at home?"
"NO!" Mary Beth barked. "Just because this creep did one crime at night doesn't mean he can't do it in the daytime, no matter what kind of crazy stories about vampires will be floating around. And if he really wants you as a victim, I don't see why he couldn't eliminate your date--- this kind of thing happened in New York often enough, and this town isn't big enough that you don't really have to worry about it affecting YOU. I don't even want you on that estate without our presence, because one of the suspects is Willie Loomis. This is too much like what happened years ago, and he WAS involved, somehow. Though, naturally, he denied everything today."
Christine spoke up. "OF COURSE he denied it, Mary Beth, though maybe, because, surprise! he MAY actually BE innocent. Why would he want to re-live a situation that, according to Barnabas, brought him as much suffering as it did to Maggie Evans Shaw? And why, if that WAS true, should he revert NOW, when he's old and not nearly as strong as he may have been back then? You, yourself, said that he would get 'eaten alive' if sent back to prison."
"I--I admit I DON'T know why he bothers me so. Maybe because he SEEMS so much like Harvey, but in all the wrong ways. But DON'T think I have a CRUSH on him or something perverted like that!"
"Oh, Heaven FORBID you should do ANYTHING 'perverted', my friend," Christine huffed.
"Stop picking on my wife," Harvey interjected.
"I'm NOT picking. It's just that, I wish Mary Beth wouldn't talk like she's sure to die in the midst of doing or even THINKING a 'perverted' thing, which may not even BE perverted. It's only natural that she should be curious about just what you and Willie might have in common beyond looks. Instead, she's packing for a needless guilt trip, and this time, Alice has to go along for the ride."
Mary Beth shot back, "What I decide about my daughter is my--- I mean, Harvey's AND my problem."
"Honey, listen," Harvey said sensibly. "Why can't Elliot come and visit Alice here? I mean, with all these people to watch out for them, what harm could THAT do? And we wouldn't have to worry about what they might do alone together."
"I WOULD have gotten around to that, if the Love Doctor here didn't keep pulling that radio-shrink analysis like she's some kind of left-wing 'Dr. Laura'," Mary Beth said with resentment that started to fade as she spoke these words.
Christine wasn't one to stay angry at her friend, either. "Sorry, I shouldn't project my 'perverted' ideas on you, and certainly not in the presence of an impressionable child," she joked.
"WHAT child? Where?" Alice laughed, with some relief, since she now knew she WOULD be spending time with Elliot after all, even under these less-than-desirable conditions. BOTH her parents would probably freak if they saw her kiss Elliot on the CHEEK, let alone the brief-but-interesting expressions of affection they had experimented with on the way home from school. Planning their way out of omnipresent parental supervision would, definitely, demand creativity.
After dinner, Mary Beth noticed the sunset, outside the dining room window. The clock read 6:30. "Christine, I'm afraid I have to head up to the Old House, to question your friend. Willie claimed he'd be back from a long business trip by now."
"Business trip? Barnabas never mentioned it last night," Christine replied.
"According to all those reports filed by the late Sheriff Patterson,
long business trips seemed to absolutely fill his days, back when the earlier
attacks were going on," her friend said. "You'd think such an
old-fashioned guy would have spent the time with his relatives, in an attempt
to protect the womenfolk, especially that Carolyn, and what was that
governess's name again?
Oh, yeah, Victoria Winters."
"He was a newcomer back then, probably not very attached to his family yet, and maybe he thought the protection from the Collinsport P.D. was adequate," Christine argued defensively, though she began to feel apprehensive. This certainly wasn't the first time Mary Beth had ever been suspicious of her latest love interest, and not without reason, either. If we live to be 100, she'll probably want to question the geezers in our retirement complex, Christine thought. "Besides, when I left him last night, he said he was feeling unwell again. Probably didn't want to tell me he'd made a mistake about when he was supposed to take this trip. I DON'T think he was up to cruising around town at midnight!"
"Well, given the fact that he WAS under some suspicion years ago, and that whoever was in charge of Maggie's kidnapping was never caught or even identified, I think it might be worthwhile to get his insight, anyway."
"Only if you question Roger Collins as well," Christine said, half-seriously.
"You know, THAT'S not a bad idea, either," Mary Beth said. "He's so completely tactless, he might provide a detail that tips the balance." She got up from the table, and went to shower and don her uniform, the better to impress Barnabas Collins with her utterly professional, non-decorative attitude. "You understand, I can't ask you to come along for THIS ride, either, Christine. I need spontaneous intimidation, and all that good stuff. But if Barnabas passes muster, MAYBE I'll let you two double-date with Alice and Elliot, until the problem blows over."
At 7:30, Mary Beth picked up Job Woodard, who gave her directions to the Old House, which was about half-a-mile away from the Great House, but at the end of a meandering, forested driveway. Still, the house at the end of this driveway WAS impressive. Though just half as large as its neighbor, the white, stuccoed Greek Revival building with the wraparound veranda and surrounding colonnade was luminous in the moonlight, perhaps due to a recent paint job. The large Palladian windows in the front were shaded by drapes that glowed red from the light within. As the sheriff and the deputy got out of the car, they noticed very well-manicured azalea bushes near the front steps, just coming into bud, though Mary Beth couldn't make out the colors.
"Red, Sheriff, ma'am, Mr. Collins always has red azaleas," Job said, answering her unasked question. "Quite a show when they're in bloom."
"Ms. Cagney was out with Mr. Collins last night, but apparently they didn't come here. She'd have been impressed. She goes for red flowers, especially roses."
"The late Dr. Collins had a nice red rose garden out back," Job said. "I haven't seen it in a while, but Willie always took care of it anyway. I suppose he still does."
Red flowers, red blood, Mary Beth reflected gloomily. Dear God, I HOPE I'm wrong. She stepped up smartly to the imposing double doors, and rang the bell.
Willie Loomis answered the door. He cringed visibly when he saw both her AND Job, but managed to say, shakily, "Good-good Evening, Sheriff Lacey. Job-- I mean Deputy Woodard."
"Is Mr. Collins at home, Mr. Loomis?" Mary Beth asked politely. "I seem to recall that you said he'd be home this evening. Since this is just an informal questioning, I thought I'd give him a chance to settle in before imposing.'"
"Then why is Job---the deputy here?"
Job replied calmly, "Just as a witness, nothing more, Willie. Years of working in New York have taught Sheriff Lacey not to approach even an innocent-looking situation alone. Besides, YOU know that I know a lot about what happened years ago. Now, be good enough to let us in, Willie?" His soft, insinuating tone accomplished what his superior's sharpness did not. Willie allowed them inside.
When the two officers stood in the surprisingly-small front hall, which shared space with a large stairway decorated by a carved oak bannister, the older man declared, "Barnabas isn't here."
"How do we know that for sure, Mr. Loomis?" Mary Beth asked. "You seemed quite definite that he would be home long before NOW. It's nearly 8:00."
"Well, he called from Augusta, and said he was too tired to take the train back. In fact, he was put on to several prospects he wanted to check out, and might be gone for a few more days."
Mary Beth was exasperated with what she saw as evasion. "Did he tell you where he was staying, and with whom he would be meeting? What if something happened to his SON? Something like what happened to Jerusha Kane, God forbid?"
"He gave me a beeper thing, like Dr. Jeremy uses. I can get him to call ME, but he wouldn't talk about such goings-on over the phone," Willie said. He fished the tiny console out of his pocket.
"I'm getting a little tired of this," the Sheriff announced. "Job, I think this calls for getting a search warrant." She pulled out her cell-phone, and dialed the local judge's number. "Judge Garner, this is Sheriff Lacey. Yes, it's about the Kane case. I believe we have grounds to issue a search warrant for---"
Just at that moment, the doors opened behind them. To their amazement, Willie's faded blue eyes grew wide with shock. Mary Beth turned and glanced. Barnabas Collins, in his cape, and clutching both his cane and a small valise, stood in the crowded doorway.
"Mr. Collins! We were just told that you would be out of town for at least the next few days!" To the Judge waiting at the other end of the line, the Sheriff said, "I'm sorry to have bothered you, Your Honor, but I WILL get back to you on this."
"Ye-yes, B-barnabas, that's what you-you told ME--- wasn't it? When you called from Aug-Augusta?" Willie looked, if possible, even more frightened than before.
Barnabas stepped into his role immediately. "Well, YES, Willie, but the situation turned out to be, well, CONFINING, to say the least. At the first sign of RELEASE, I decided that I didn't want to be so NEAR, yet so FAR from home at this time. Sheriff Lacey, this IS about the unfortunate incident on the dock last night? I read the papers on the train coming home."
"Yes, sir, I'm afraid so. The attack resembled those that took place 33 years ago, and both youAND Mr. Loomis were questioned then. Though there are indications that Mr. Loomis--Willie--- was not the chief culprit, he WAS pretty firmly implicated, by YOURSELF, as it happens. Now, I'm not saying that HE was involved in what happened last night, or that YOU were---"
"Hardly," Barnabas said. "I was about done in when I parted from Christine, embarrassed as well, since I HAD forgotten my plans to take the trip. The vagaries of age, I'm afraid--- one WANTS to forget that there are still tasks that necessitate rising at 5 A.M. I now regret disappointing your friend, since my business turned out to be unproductive anyway. As for Willie here, I could hear him snoring when I came in. He's loud enough to be heard throughout the house when he has a cold."
"He seems fine now. If I ever get a cold, I'd like a prescription for whatever HE took," Mary Beth said skeptically. "At any rate, if you two could tell me what you both could remember about what happened years ago, it might shed some light on motives, methods, and the pattern of possible future attacks. Because, in my experience, such criminals seldom stop at one victim--- it becomes like an addiction, and even a contest, where the criminal obsessively tries to top HIMSELF, or herself, as the case might be. Though in most cases, it's 'Himself'."
"An addiction, that's what they call it these days, eh?" Barnabas said pleasantly. "Well, let us repair to the parlor to discuss the matter. Willie, if you have no coffee or tea made, please do so now. Our guests must be parched. I know I am."
Willie scurried to the kitchen like an escaping cockroach. If he's not guilty of SOMETHING, then what's HIS problem? Mary Beth thought. So he made a mistake about the Boss coming home, coming home to a blood-sucking pervert servant, that is.... And where's the SON, come to think of it?
"Mr. Collins, have you had contact with your son anytime today?" she asked with concern. "Since it seems, he and his girlfriend knew Miss Kane, and he examined her at the hospital---"
"As it happens, I haven't spoken to Jeremy since this morning. I suppose he's at the hospital right now, he WAS on the schedule."
"That could certainly be confirmed with a quick phone call," she replied amiably, and called right then and there. Yes, the hospital spokesman said, Dr. Collins was indeed on duty, still covering in Emergency.
Willie brought out a silver tray laden with a silver coffee service, and Havilland china cups. He managed to serve without spilling anything, though he was still visibly nervous. Barnabas made room for him on the couch. The Sheriff surveyed the ornate room while sipping her coffee, which was far too strong. She noticed that Willie ladled at least four scoops of sugar into his, which made her wonder why he'd screwed it up in the first place. Job forced his down, while their host took only a sip or two.
Mary Beth commented, "Well, after a lifetime of seldom having seen the insides of homes of the rich and famous, this makes it my SECOND visit to a mansion in a week. I have to admit, Mr. Collins, I kind of prefer this to Collinwood. Much more cozy, and everything seems to match." She smiled in the hope of keeping him at his ease.
He replied, "This house wasn't as heavily used over the centuries as was Collinwood, after the departure of the original inhabitants. This central room was built in the late 1600's, and a major renovation took place in the 1760's. My ancestor and namesake, the first Barnabas Collins, grew up here. After the family moved into the Great House around 1800, this was only occasionally used as a guest home, coincidentally, on several occasions, by visiting ancestors of mine from England. Their stories passed on to me, so when I arrived, I asked for this house specifically. Alas, it had gone quite to seed over the years, but most of the original furnishings, which HAD been in sets, were intact. Willie did a lot of the repair work, though we made do without electricity and heating, and with rudimentary plumbing, until my marriage made an upgrade imperative."
"Why did such a cultured gentleman as yourself put up with these conditions?"
"Because, in spite of its shabbiness, this house was so lovely, I couldn't bear to tear down the walls to have wiring installed. In fact, some of the restored rooms upstairs have been left intact. I sometimes use them during the day. There's one from which you can see Widows' Hill and the ocean in the distance. Perhaps you, and your friend Christine can visit someday, when the present difficulty is resolved. I regret to see she is not here tonight."
Mary Beth sighed, "Well, this IS a professional call. And to be blunt, sir, I didn't want a distraction from the business at hand, though this house IS pretty distracting, though I mean that in a nice way. I DO notice the late Mrs. Collins's portrait up there, I recognize your son with her. What was HER role in the events of 33 years ago? I know she was Maggie Shaw's doctor."
"Julia came, posing as a historian interested in the Collins family, but actually to help the police, at Job's father's request. I don't believe she learned much of substance, but she had knowledge to deal with a peculiar hereditary condition I suffered. When I was cured, and some years had gone by, we married."
Job spoke up. "My father believed that she DID learn something, but he was separated from my Mother, and I was too young to be told much. He did say he thought you two were already involved. But he ended up dying just a short time later. He had a heart attack, but he'd never had a history of heart trouble. I believe he knew something, though, because he was supposed to come see us that night, but called Mother abruptly to change his plans. He was found dead in his office by Sheriff Patterson, whom he'd decided to meet instead. My mother was extra upset, because she had hopes of their reconciling. You see, he'd dated Dr. Collins, that was Dr. Hoffman, in Med school, before he met my mother, and she suspected that he called on her services, at least in part, because he hoped they'd get back together, now that there was a chance he'd be single again. Then Dr. Hoffman---Julia--- told him she was in love with YOU, so Mom got her hopes up. Sorry, Mr. Collins, but those are the facts. Whatever my Dad knew died with him. Bad enough his files on Maggie and Willie's bloodwork had already been stolen!"
After 30 years, there was intense resentment in Job's tone. Mary Beth hoped he'd cool off, so as not to alienate Barnabas. The latter, however, seemed nonplussed. "I had a hard time keeping up with the ins and outs of the case, Job. I was trying to establish myself in America, and was absent a great deal of the time on business. And as for MY implicating Willie here, all I did was find a ring belonging to Maggie in his room. It was a specially-made ring, quite distinctive, with an inscription inside from her father who had given it to her. She always wore it, but of course it disappeared with her, and she didn't have it when they found her. Willie had a penchant in those days for jewelry, the more glittery the better, but he could just as easily have found it innocently, and hid it for fear of being blamed for the abduction. It was an unfortunate coincidence that I happened to be the one to find it, and he was in no condition to explain. While he has since admitted to being involved in the incident, he no longer bears the onus of responsibility. And I assure you, he would NEVER become involved in such a hideous scheme again!"
"I had bad wounds in my arms, just like poor Maggie and Candy had in their necks," Willie said plaintively. "They didn't look like much, but Doc Woodard said I lost so much blood, and then again, when I was shot, I should have died long ago. As Maggie almost did. He couldn't believe how fast I did get better when I had the transfusions. He said something like I was 'strong as an ox'--- I was really out of it, but they say hearing is the last sense to go. I think I was just lucky, since the last thing I was like back then was an ox." This remark made him grin in a way that uncomfortably reminded Mary Beth of her husband.
She tried to avoid looking at him. "Okay, well, do either of you have any idea WHY someone would attack anyone like that? All this Goth and Satanist crap wasn't out there like it is today, just a mouse-click away on a teenager's computer, or rated PG-13 at the Multiplex, or on HBO. Though I don't doubt there's always been an interest. I mean, 'Rosemary's Baby' came out in 1967, I think.... I remember seeing that with a boyfriend then, not Harvey. I got so scared, not to mention embarrassed, that before I knew it, my feet were up in his lap, and I was hiding my face in his shoulder. He kept saying, 'Gee-zuss, it's just a movie!' But there WERE reports of copycat rituals and so forth. Maybe somebody saw it in the local movie theater back then, and decided it was hip to serve Satan?"
"As you must have apprehended by now, this town has a considerable history of dark doings, going back to the late 1600's," Barnabas reminded her. "In most places, and most cases, like Salem, the witchcraft existed largely in the hysterical imaginations of those bringing the accusations. However, up here, I suppose you COULD say there's been cultish activity, old earth worship gone awry, fueled by the relative isolation of Collinsport until it became established as a major seaport. Many people hereabouts, including myself, are the result of marriage amongst cousins, and many, UNLIKE myself, have seldom ventured out of town, even in modern times. So the old legends made a stronger impression than they would have in a larger, more diverse city."
"Including, I suppose, vampire-like behavior---"
"Goes with the territory, regrettably," Barnabas replied dolefully. "Julia and I once had a great friend, Hallie's uncle Elliott, who could have told you much more. But he DID write some scholarly tomes on the subject. If you enquire at the University at Orono, I'm sure they'd be happy to lend you the volumes. That is, if you think they'd help---"
"Unless they name names, I'm not sure. But thanks for the tip." Mary Beth was ready to rise, when she remembered what she'd come here to ask. "I think we're about finished here, Mr. Collins, but I WOULD like the names of the person or persons you met with today, where and when--- While you ARE within your rights not to answer, It WOULD look so much better for my records. And might save us another trip out here in the future."
Willie resumed his look of surprise when Barnabas said, "But of course. I have the names and numbers listed in my personal directory. All the activity took place at the Holiday Inn Restaurant in Augusta...." He went on to mention names, with the caveat that some of the men had departed the city as well. The Sheriff and the deputy scribbled furiously in their note pads.
Mary Beth said, "Well, that should help. We'll check these out ASAP. And, just to fill out the record, what disease DID you have that your wife treated so successfully? And aren't you afraid your son will get it?"
"It was a rare type of cancer," Barnabas replied evenly. "It tends to skip generations. Jeremy monitors the both of us, just in case." As he walked the sheriff and the deputy to the door in the small hallway--- "Alas, that's how they built in the 1600's. Those who renovated later just dressed up the stairs with a new bannister." He concluded, "Well, it's been an interesting visit. You and your family are welcome to do so in the future, and of course, Christine. Tell her I shall be calling on her soon."
"If we get this case settled before she has to return to New York in about a week-and-a-half," Mary Beth said pointedly.
After she and Job were settled in her car, she asked him, "How much of that B.S. did YOU believe?"
"Not a hell of a lot, but you haven't anything substantial to charge EITHER of them with. You'll be lucky to get the green light on a search warrant, at this rate," Job said bluntly.
"Not if his alibis about this so-called 'trip to Augusta' don't pan out," Mary Beth said. "If Barnabas thinks I'm going to wait till tomorrow, after he's had a chance to call all his buddies to put them wise, he's in for a big surprise. Let's head on to the station, and start buzzing away. I can't do any more on the cell-phone, it needs a charge."
To hers, and Job's own, quite dismayed surprise, those who answered their queries were quite forthcoming that Barnabas had, indeed, arrived with the dawn, so to speak, to attend functions in Augusta--- his name was on their lists, and the business contacts swore they'd spoken to him. The waiter at the Holiday Inn restaurant went so far as to say that he couldn't forget a customer who left such a large tip.
"I don't know HOW he did it, but I think we've been shot out of the
water," the Sheriff said, shaking her head. Nothing to do now but head
home, and hope Christine wouldn't still be awake. It's too late at night to put
up with HER gloating, Mary Beth thought miserably. Whatever Barnabas was up to
now, she knew HE probably was.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Willie, formerly shaking with anxiety at the sheriff's visit, and then with terror at Barnabas's opportune appearance, NOW shook with relief at their narrow escape. However, he WAS still fearful of his employer, due to his part in the events of the day. "Barnabas, how--HOW did you get out of that coffin? This wasn't a Houdini trick chain, it was the same one YOU were chained up with when I found you. Not a spot of rust on it, either. I always wondered what kind of crazy metal it was made of."
"THAT is a secret my father took to his grave. I am angry enough at
YOU, right now, that I MIGHT just help you join him. Or, rather, your old
friend Jason. Remember where HE'S been for 33 years!" Barnabas, as in days
of old, swung the cane menacingly over Willie's greying head.
"How DARE you suggest to my poor son that he CHAIN ME UP! Though I'm in a fine mood to punish HIM as well, for HIS betrayal!"
"We--we only wanted to help. I don't want you to hurt any more people. I DON'T want you out there, looking for a new 'Bride'! You should have seen how sad Jeremy was, when he came home from treating that Candy girl. YOU broke HIS heart. YOU betrayed HIM! Christ, Barnabas, is this how it all ends, like it was in the beginning?--- With YOU as mean as a junkyard dog, not giving a rap about who you're gonna hurt? Just WHO did you hurt, to get yourself OUT of that casket? It couldn't have been CANDY, or Sheriff Lacey would have said she was missing!"
"No, of COURSE not. I'm finished with Candy anyway. She simply fulfilled a nutritional requirement, though she'll NEVER be able to tell the Sheriff who did the deed."
"What about the blood tests?" Willie taunted.
"Unless the Sheriff can demonstrate probable cause to force me to give a blood sample, I think I'll be quite safe. And even then, I can simply 'fly off into the sunset'. I'll be a fugitive, I suppose, but it's a big world out there, even with air travel and this wondrous Internet business."
"So, WHO did you get to help you?"
"Why, she's still here," Barnabas replied, a note of triumph in his voice. "You may come out of the cellar now, my dear."
Amy Jennings, her pert face bland and blanched, her pupils dilated, drifted out from behind the cellar door like a petite wraith in light grey sweats, and was soon at Barnabas's side. Her head fell on his shoulder, revealing the neat, round, swollen fang marks, each dripping a little, staining her misty-colored sweatshirt.
"Oh, GOD!" Willie cried, "Oh, GOD--- Barnabas, this HAS to be one of the WORST things you've ever done since I've known you, short of you murdering Jason and Doc Woodard! Amy--- she was like SARAH to you! Or have you forgotten THAT! You watched her grow up, you kicked in for her education, and LOOK at her now!!! Poor Chris is probably rolling in his grave. I know QUENTIN'S gonna be pissed off, and it'll break Sabrina's heart if she ever finds out---" He sank to the floor, weeping openly. "MY heart is almost broken NOW. So when did you do it, Barnabas, before or after Candy? Does JEREMY know yet?"
"He doesn't, and you are NOT to tell him! Say that I was able to force you to release me, based on our prior relationship." There was a little regret still in Barnabas's voice, as he explained about Amy. "SHE was the first! It was almost like an accident! She was drinking at the dinner, and was verbally abusing the sheriff's daughter. I followed her outdoors, hoping to reason with her. I was NOT planning to bite ANYONE, I SWEAR! But she became belligerent, and hit me. I--I lost control, and subdued her as my instinct demanded. Afterward, she became docile, and even apologized to the sheriff's family."
"Yeah, I remember how you made ME apologize to the Collinses. Screw you and your damned apologies! Have a look in the mirror and see who's demanding them! If you can see yourself at all. You'd better hope your precious Christine doesn't have a mirror out when you visit her!"
"DON'T mention HER!"
"Not right now, but we'll have to deal with her sooner than later. So, how and when did you summon Amy back here?"
"It wasn't easy--- my ability to summon thralls has also abated. Luckily, Amy wasn't far away. She's moved back into Collinwood for a while. However, according to her, nobody suspected any connection between her own, and Candy's attacks."
"I heard his heart beating," Amy said dreamily. "It was wonderful. I never heard a man's heartbeat so close before, yet he was a half-mile away. I hear it beating now. I could listen to it forever."
"Keep coming here, and you WILL," Willie said sadly.
"When I got here, Barnabas told me how to get into the cave. He told me where you kept the keys. When I let him out, he gave me a nice kiss on the throat. Could you do it again, Barnabas?" Amy put her arms around her cousin, rubbed against him.
"Not in front of Willie, dear," he replied gently. To Willie, Barnabas said, "The rest was easy. Amy made some calls for me, and hacked into some databases from Jeremy's computer. I had to bribe a few people, but I believe our alibis will hold up quite nicely."
"Just for spite, I should have told the Sheriff you went to Bangor instead of Augusta!"
"I DON'T think you should be making any such threats, Willie. I'm not about to subject you anew to the treatment I've given to Amy and Candy, but you ARE in as much danger from the Sheriff as I am. And so is Jeremy. Oh, and shall I mention it? My ability to read YOUR mind is coming back in fits and starts. It adds new meaning to the phrase, 'Don't even THINK of doing such-and-such.' That IS a favorite saying of YOURS, as I recall."
The first thought that came to Willie's mind was "Vicki!" but he shut it tight beyond that. This WAS going to be hard. VERY hard.
"What were you just thinking about Maggie's daughter, Willie?"
"Nothing. Just stay away from the Shaws. You'll hurt Maggie worse than you did before, if you hurt her daughter. You'll also hurt your son, as if you still care. He LOVES Vicki."
"What if I gave YOU the choice, Willie? Vicki Shaw, or, say, Pauline, or, perhaps, the daughter of your good friend Harvey?"
"DON'T go there, Barnabas. My name AIN'T 'Sophie', and I AIN'T making YOUR damn choice! But I WILL try to stop you, long as I have breath in my body."
"Your breath WILL run out, trying to keep up with ME, my friend."
"Don't EVER call me that again!" Willie growled. "I guess this also means an end to Jeremy's research?"
"Oh, no, let him keep it up. Though I doubt it will do any good now. I
hadn't realized how much I missed having all this power--- if there's a cure, I
might not even WANT it."
* * * * * * * * * * *
The dream came back, more vivid than ever. The voice cried out, "Your daughter! He wants your daughter!"
"Who is HE? Why does he want my daughter? He can't have her! He'll hurt her neck--- make her bleed...."
"Then you have to leave--- take her away! Maybe he will choose another. I'm sorry about that, but I have to find the one who can put everything in my hands again. Until then, take your daughter away! It's the only way!"
Harvey woke in a cold sweat. Telling about the other dreams DIDN'T make them stop, after all. He knew it was a warning, but where could he take Alice, where would she be safe? How could he convince his wife that it was necessary?
He glanced at the clock. Big, red, square numbers that read 4:00. A.M., that is. It was still dark outside. Mary Beth snored lightly beside him. She'd had a rough couple of days on the Kane case, but there had been no new attacks since then. No leads either, but every day without a fresh incident was a blessing. Maybe this WAS just an isolated incident, and the perpetrator had moved on.
Suddenly, the phone rang. Harvey grabbed it on the first ring. His wife stirred, but she was so exhausted, she mumbled, "If not 'mergency, it c'n wait till t'morrow."
Harvey actually expected a prank or obscene call of some sort, but he knew the voice at once, and got out of bed, huddling in an easy chair in the corner of the large room. "Willie," he whispered, "what the hell are you doing, calling here at this hour? This isn't for my wife, is it?"
"No, no, I can't--- I just need to know, did YOU just have a bad dream?"
"It's night-time, I have lots of dreams, like everyone else who's supposed to be sleeping at this hour!"
Willie insisted, "You sound pretty awake to me. I'll bet you just woke up from the dream, same as I did!"
"What dream are we talking about?"
Willie's voice had a faraway sound to it, as he described EVERYTHING--- the hall of lights, the voice, the warnings. "I can't talk, or even think too much about this, but I'm afraid he meant Vicki, or your daughter. Vicki is kind of like a daughter to me."
"Okay, I admit I get dreams like that," Harvey said. "But how did you know to call me?"
"Because, this time, I DID see your face. Maybe you missed mine, but I'm in there, alright."
"I'll have to look harder, then," Harvey chuckled uneasily. "Why is this happening? What are we going to do to save the girls? Assuming, of course, this is a REAL warning, and not something that happened just because we're worried anyway?"
"I'm between a rock and a hard place. I'm not even supposed to be calling, but--- how CAN I take Vicki anywhere? She's not a little kid anymore. And now I'm afraid that the guy who got Candy is going to get HER. YOU have to help me."
Harvey said, "The only way would be to get Vicki and Alice off somewhere together, but they're not exactly in the same age group, and they're not even supposed to pal around, being teacher and pupil. And it can't be forever!"
"I'm taking it one day at a time," Willie said. "Today, we HAVE to think of something. What does Alice like to do?"
"Besides drive her parents crazy? Well, she likes her computer, of course, and though she hasn't practiced in a while, she WAS good at playing the piano."
"Vicki likes music too. There's some kind of concert in Orono tonight. Maybe we can get the girls to go."
"What am I going to tell my wife? She doesn't want Alice to go anywhere besides school right now."
"If it's Vicki, she might change her mind. A few hours, maybe that will be enough."
"Enough for WHAT, Willie?"
"I SWEAR I don't know, Harvey, but the dream came true the other night, and poor Candy Kane got hurt. This voice, whoever he is, knows his stuff."
"I never used to believe in these things, but I'm inclined to agree, Willie. If you'd only have seen the girl on the fish-hook---"
"I saw her frozen in the snow. But I think that's because I hate the cold so much."
"Okay, okay. First thing in the A.M., we both get to work on the womenfolk. Now, for God's sake, try to get some rest, and let ME do the same!"
As Harvey got back into bed, Mary Beth flipped over and looked him in the eye. "I heard some of that," she said. "Why did WILLIE call you, and at this hour?"
"He saw me in his dream. Apparently, he has the same dreams that I do, only from his point of view."
"Yeah, he told me some such story the other day. He's a real mensch, warning you in the middle of the night like this! You'd better not be getting buddy-buddy again. He and his Boss are under suspicion."
"If you'd heard what he had to say, maybe you'd change your mind on that, Mary Beth. He's a born worrier about everyone's troubles, it seems."
"He's STRANGE, is what he IS. Unless he chooses to come clean about what he knows, don't trust a word he says."
"Aw, honey, he's just a babbler. We'll talk about it tomorrow--- I mean in a couple of hours. I have an idea for a safe activity for Alice tomorrow night, guaranteed to NOT provoke fireworks."
"This wasn't something Willie thought up, is it?"
Harvey felt a pinch of guilt, but Willie's and Maggie's secrets WERE their
own. "God, no. I mean, what does HE know about having kids?"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
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