Welcome to Part
Three of "Cagney and Lacey: Restitution--- Dark Shadows in the Land of
Lorraine A. Balint
Gleaming Eagle Productions
PART TEN--- Tuesday, April 18, 2000 (A)
Hours of desperate surgery. Hours of consoling Hepsey Woodard, who'd brought all four of her children to await the possible end. Hours of questioning poor Willie, who swore up and down that he couldn't see the face of the woman--- Christine was POSITIVE it was a woman--- who had stabbed Job so hastily, yet had torn such a hole in his gut.
Jeremy Collins even showed up eventually, ostensibly to visit his fiancee, who had been properly bandaged and had her shot, and now sat with her mother and Willie, also waiting with dread. Meanwhile, Mary Beth rallied the entire police force and back-up from Ellsworth and Chartville; they were beating around the bushes at Collinwood. In spite of having been a friend and attorney to the Collinses, prior to Tony Peterson, Judge Garner had issued search warrants for the Great House as well--- such a large building had a plethora of half-forgotten doors and windows leading into the largely-deserted East Wing, possibly accessible to an intruder, in spite of the myriad of alarms. Christine would be joining her partner shortly. "Are you staying until--- until--" she whispered to Barnabas, who seemed distant and even rather angry.
"Until the end? No, I don't think so. I am weary, especially after our little visit." Barnabas's expression softened when he saw Christine blush. "In any case, there's nothing I can do. Neither of us saw the assailant clearly, I don't have Job's blood type to donate, and I don't know his family except by sight. YOU plan on going out with the Sheriff. I'm sure Jeremy will call with the latest news." He kissed her forehead--- his lips were once again cold.
Finally, the surgeon--- NOT Dr. Heard--- came out, stripped of the outer layer of his surgical greens, which had gotten soaked with blood. There were spots of it on the slip-covers over his shoes. He walked right up to Hepsey and announced, a little too dramatically for Christine's taste, "Deputy Woodard.... SURVIVED the surgery, and I BELIEVE he WILL recover." Hepsey, red-eyed and still sniffling, jumped up and threw herself upon the doctor, weeping with relief. "However, Mrs. Woodard.... He IS in a semi-comatose state. He WILL snap out of it, if he recovers, but for NOW, any thoughts of questioning him are moot. Allow the man to rest, Miss Cagney," he said unctuously. "He has almost 100 sutures in him."
"I wish it wasn't this Dr. Lang," Willie commented to Maggie and Vicki. "He's WAY too much like his late Uncle. I wish it WAS Dr. Heard. He's got a better bedside and everything-else manner. But I guess old Doc was tired." He glared at Jeremy, who looked ill, but had perked up somewhat after his Father had left the hospital. The younger man was holding his fiancee's hand in a fearful, tentative manner, as though she might slap it away. But the would-be-vampire's would-be-victim held it steadily. Vicki didn't look too happy, but she WAS devoted and loyal to a fault.
"So, Jeremy, how was your father when you went to take care of him?" Maggie asked, suspicion in her voice. "He must have recovered very fast to have a visit from Miss Cagney."
Jeremy looked confused. He almost told Maggie that he'd spent all night in the cave where his father's coffin was kept, crying his eyes out over what he'd been made to do. Instead, with a warning glance from Willie, he muttered about the medication taking effect, which was good because Christine had, earlier, arrived on a pre-arranged visit that it was too late to cancel.
Christine herself had nothing to add to his story. She watched Hepsey Woodard call the High School to request a leave of absence to care for her recuperating husband. Hepsey hung up, a puzzled look on her red-splotched face. "Funny, AMY called in sick this morning," she said. "She really hasn't been herself for about a week, and now, THIS.All the work's going to be on the shoulders of the Vice-Principal and one of the teacher's aides who used to be a secretary."
"What do you mean by Amy's not 'being herself', Mrs. Woodard?"
"I don't know, it started with problems with the Sheriff's daughter, begging your pardon, Ma'am, I know Mrs. Lacey is your friend. Then Amy came in late one morning, and she made a joke about how she was going to turn over a new leaf, you know, being nicer to the kids, giving up some bad habits--- she even tried to swear on a Bible I keep for my own use, for guidance when I'm stressed out. But she got a burning rash from touching the gold-leaf Cross on the cover. I didn't know you could get an allergy to gold! She said it was like some rash she had on her neck. Now, I wonder if it isn't that flesh-eating disease!" Hepsey shuddered.
"I doubt it--- those victims usually get sick enough to die in a day or so. In Amy's case, it may just be one of her eccentricities."
"If that's what you want to call them."
Then, Christine went up to Alice's room to check on her, Harvey, and the compact-but-sturdy, dark-haired, dark-eyed young man sitting with him--- Michael Lacey, newly arrived from New York City. Of the two boys, he most resembled Harvey as a young man, in size and general appearance, but with his mother's dark coloring.
Harvey was sleeping in the recliner, and holding his sleeping daughter's hand. Michael, however, was skimming through the book about the Fallen Angels. He looked up, and mouthed the words "How is Job?"
Christine whispered, "It's a fairly good bet, he's going to live."
Michael smiled, a
guilelessly sincere expression also like his father's. It was a reflection of
his open, honest
character. Christine hated to play favorites with the Lacey brood, but after Alice, Michael was her favorite, hands down. Harvey Jr., on the other hand, while taller, handsomer, and brilliant compared to his earnestly grubbing brother, was almost too complex, too moody, to be the son of such open-hearted people. There was something wrong, Christine reflected, when one son eagerly came to be at his family's side, and the other didn't make the effort, even if his blood wasn't the required type. Could be that cold-fish wife of his, that Krystal--- even her NAME sounded cold. She'd heard that the couple was having trouble making a baby, but she wondered if those two even WANTED one. She had gotten that impression at their wedding, a formal affair run by Krystal's parents, unlike Michael's and Iris's cheerful come-as-you-are block party reception last summer. Perhaps, it had to do with an incident years ago when Harvey Jr. was in the Marines, but he seldom talked about those days. In any case, he was reacting in extreme fashion against his upbringing by parents fanatical about the importance of family above all else.
Still, his absence had allowed his younger
brother to shine. After years of drifting from job to job, Michael
parlayed an early interest in drawing into taking drafting and design courses, both manual and computerized, and after he'd finished, he took the job at a new designing firm. Much as he still loved to build and assemble things (one of his favorite hobbies was to build fanciful structures out of Alice's cast-off cache of Lego blocks, much to his bride's amusement), he wanted his future family to have more than his parents' paycheck-to-paycheck existence while putting tiny amounts by to fulfill dreams as well as necessities. On the weekends, if he wanted to flex his wiry muscles, there was always a Habitat project going on somewhere.
And he had always been closer to his baby sister, anyway--- Harvey Jr. was 3 years Michael's senior, and went into the Marines at 18, so the younger boy spent more time with Alice as the two grew up. After her father, her middle brother was Alice's knight in shining armor as well, always on hand to play with her, read to her, run after her tricycle, rock and comfort her when their parents were unavailable. And he proved a worthy son, once his older brother wasn't around to incite him to rebellion. Michael's history paved the way for his parents' acceptance of the equally virtuous Iris. Iris, who had been sick for a couple of weeks, but told him to go help his family anyway.
He rose now, with the book still in his hands, and stepped outside with his mother's friend. "Interesting literature they lend you in this hospital. My God, ALICE isn't reading this, is she?"
"Oh, no, I got that from a friend. I thought it would help with some of the darker aspects of the recent incidents around here," Christine explained. "We've been hearing every crazy explanation from werewolves to vampires to monsters, Chupacabras---"
Michael's eyebrows shot up. "Now THAT'S interesting. Iris has a grandmother who believes in THOSE."
"Well, she'll have to come up and consult with the Collinses' nanny, Marisol Cortez, who sees them around every corner. Your mother and I, however, believe that the perpetrator or PERPETRATORS, are of a more conventional variety. I'm on my way to the Collins estate right now. Any messages for your Mom before I go? Alice doing okay, and your Dad?"
"Well, yes and no," Michael said with a chuckle. "Alice felt just fine when I told her that I was thinking of giving her my Harley when she turns 18. My DAD, however--- well, you can imagine the rest. But don't tell Mom THAT, just yet."
After a hasty "see you later," Christine was Collinwood-bound within minutes. It was foggy on Weeping Meadow Road, and she could appreciate the dangers of the hairpin turns on the narrow road, which, at one point, ran near a steep gully. Finally, she located the correct entrance to Collinwood's driveway, and soon saw a gaggle of gold-and-turquoise police cars huddled near the Great House, and immediately saw Mary Beth in the thick of things, giving orders with a bullhorn.
"So, I take it you didn't catch the assailant?" Christine asked.
"No, but some of the guys are still in the empty wing. I wish them luck. Bad enough we had to plow through umpteen closets and wardrobes and under beds in the home area. I must say, searching Barnabas's place was a SNAP compared to this. When you were at the old house, I take it you saw and heard nothing specific? Or, maybe, you just were in a situation where you could do NEITHER?" There was disapproval in Mary Beth's tone.
Christine blushed--- she couldn't help it. Since she'd met Barnabas, she blushed more than she ever had since her FIRST experience. And last night, until the intruder walked in.... She wanted to be away, to lie in her bed and re-live some of those sensations in a daydream. Then, she shook herself out of her fantasy. She'd had sexual relations with someone who was still a suspect, and had been threatened by a new suspect in the process, NOT a good reflection on her judgment. She knew it, too, but protested that she was a victim of circumstances. "The batteries died in the lantern in Josette's room, and we couldn't see or get out in a hurry without tripping on that fancy furniture. They would have broken like twigs. And DON'T give me, 'screw the furniture, look what happened to poor Job!' I had NO idea he was following Barnabas, and I don't know why, anyway. Okay, so the two of us were making love. Is THAT what Your Prudishness wants to hear me say? Did you send Big Daddy Job out to rescue me, or to protect my honor, which you seem to feel reflects on YOURS?"
Mary Beth looked stricken, like she was going to cry. A tear DID escape down her furrowed cheek. "We've been down this road a few times, Christine. I can't help criticizing your love life, since it ALWAYS seems to lead to a disaster. I can't deny 20 years of evidence in your case, and I can't deny 30 years of evidence in Barnabas's. That description in the old book, the fact that Jerusha Cane claims that it was a MAN in that 'fuzzy' cloak."
"But, Mary Beth, don't you see? Maybe we, Barnabas and I, were attacked by the REAL stalker, someone who might be trying to set him up because of an old grudge, someone who could pretend to be a man in a cloak like Barnabas's. It had to be SOMEONE who knew the Old House well enough to not trip Barnabas's alarm system, and the newer house as well.. But I can't imagine who, right now--- everyone at Collinwood seems to admire and trust him greatly with so many family secrets. So why would THEY want to hurt him?"
"Still waters run deep, Christine. That family didn't automatically trust him off the bat. And resentments ALSO run deep. Barnabas COULD have been getting even, and then deflecting the blame around so much that it eventually boomeranged back at him. There may be someone helping him that we don't know about--- if it's a woman as you say, maybe she had a good look at what you two were doing, and got crazy-mad-jealous."
"But he hasn't had a woman since his wife died," Christine asserted. "I know MOST men just say that to make the current lady feel special, but there's something about Barnabas--- you just KNOW he's telling the truth. He wouldn't have taken anyone BUT a special someone to Josette's room."
"TO? Not IN? It's just a couple of small words, but it makes a huge difference. Willie took ME TO the room. Barnabas took you IN the room. Hey, I'm no Ed and Lorraine Warren, but THEY would probably say that the spirit of Josette reached out to some unstable person, and made her want to KILL the man who looked like her old boyfriend from 200 years ago."
"Well, I only know one person who's given some signs of instability, though in HER case, it has to do with drink, the death of her brothers, and denied access to David Collins."
"Amy Jennings," Mary Beth said, "with her distaste for anyone connected to the Sheriff's office, which may include YOU. It makes a twisted kind of sense that she could get away with committing SOME crimes--- as a Collins and a respected Principal of the High school, she can fall back on her family ties and professional reputation as a shield. But to attack Candy, whom, I doubt she even knows? And what about the beast who chewed my Alice?"
"Part of what we might find out if we
can catch her. Hepsey said she's called in sick for
the day. We can check if her car is still here. I hope we find her before
someone else who's hurt her gets in the way."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Well, someone who had hurt AMY had gotten to HER first. After leaving the hospital, Barnabas had zeroed in on Amy's location. She was huddled in the East Wing, after having broken in through a small window behind a bush that she'd discovered years ago, when she and David used to play hide-and-seek. The vampire flew through that window, materialized before her, and pulled her roughly to her feet.
"Oh, Amy," Barnabas sighed, feigning genteel exasperation, "you should know that when you cross ME, there's NOWHERE to RUN, and NOWHERE to HIDE!" He slapped her hard across the face. "How DARE you threaten mine and Christine's lives?"
Amy was sobbing, her knees were buckling, but
Barnabas forced her to stand. She cried, "You said it was OVER with
Christine Cagney! That I would be first in your life, first in your bed....
Then what happens when I come into your house, but I hear MOANING and GRUNTING
and how nobody else can
satisfy you as a MAN.... And then, I go up to Josette's room, and I see YOU all over HER, like a nature show on the Discovery Channel, on the bed I'd hoped WE would share. What would YOU have done in my place?"
Barnabas slapped her again. "You presumptuous WHORE. Christine satisfies me as a man, NOT a vampire. I am going to re-write the rules for my kind, retaining Christine for when I feel human urges for union, and retaining YOU as my lover in my night-life."
"It will NEVER work--- neither of us will accept part-time love and attention from YOU. She'll BETRAY you, Barnabas! She's just like the Sheriff, maybe WORSE!"
"And YOU are better? An idiot like YOU, who stabbed Deputy Woodard and brought suspicion upon yourself which MAY reflect upon me!"
"But I thought you wanted to do
something bad to Job. If I did the job right, and he dies without regaining
consciousness, that would absolve YOU of responsibility."
"If I had done it, I would have orchestrated it so that blame ISN'T on me. Like what I and Julia did to his father!"
"Still, Barnabas.... I'm the only one who knows where the portrait of Quentin is, and as his descendant, I can get rid of both HIM and HIS curse in one fell swoop. Then, you will OWE me what I desire."
"So YOU want to be my bride," he laughed contemptuously. "Well, we can get one very important preliminary out of the way. I'm sorry if this isn't exactly ROMANTIC---"
He slammed Amy against the wall. Then, he
tore at her collar and sank his fangs in as far as they could go.
She collapsed against him, knocked her into the wall every time she wobbled, clawed at him in agony, or sobbed. When he was finished, Barnabas said with a sneer, "Now, you ARE truly mine, and you WON'T give a damn whether I have relationships with one or one hundred other mortals OR vampire brides. Now, go finish what you were SUPPOSED to do--- and THEN, you will get the OTHER part of your reward. I still have strength left over from LOVING--- we shall see how it works when used for HATING."
"You mean," Amy croaked, "I am what YOU are? Right NOW?"
"You'll have to find that out for yourself, dearest 'bride'! I must go now, to prepare your, er, marriage bed." The bat hovered where Barnabas had been standing, and darted away.
Amy snuck back to her room for a few minutes
to change her blouse and to rinse Job's blood from her knife. It was a curious
piece from Quentin's own collection--- a peculiarly sinuous, curved affair of of Spanish steel.
He had told Amy that it was a legendary knife called the "Dancing Lady", and that a single stab could cause grave damage. "The Inquisitors' henchmen would take the blade of a new knife, red-hot from the forge, and cool it by plunging it into the body of a hapless prisoner! If he happened to survive, the knife was destroyed, and the poor prisoner was taken out to be burned in an auto-da-fe!" For some reason, Quentin had kept it oiled and well-sharpened. "I don't know WHY I kept this, but it was just lying around when its previous owner was killed, and it WAS beautiful, in spite of its true purpose."
She dried the knife carefully, to prevent rust. She needed to hurry up, before she was discovered, and with the knife still in her possession. Quentin might already be at home. He didn't check his collection all that often, hence the ease with which Amy had swiped the Dancing Lady. She now cursed herself for running over to the Old House, as though she still needed a pep talk and a kiss on her throat for luck before putting an end to her great-grandfather. And killing Job wasn't a good move. She wondered what Hepsey would say if she knew who'd done it.
She ran through the hallways, which seemed to
be deserted, to the East Wing, and then, to the isolated closet with the big
lock. She yanked out the key, always kept at the ready on a chain around her
neck. The chain and key had needed to be cleaned, too. Fortunately, the key was
stainless steel, unlike the Dancing Lady.
Amy opened the closet, uncovered the portrait.... Took a moment to examine what she was about to kill.
The image, once that of a handsome young Victorian gentleman with jet-black hair and sky-blue eyes, looked like that same gentleman had passed through several major disasters, including boiling in lava and drying up in a desert. Half the flesh hung from the skull and long armbones like molten clocks in a Dali painting. The rest had dessicated from his face. And his once-fine clothes had rotted from his body. Amy never understood this decay. There WERE, after all, a few people who HAD lived to age 130, but they were normal, just very, very wrinkled, thin-skinned and frail. It occurred to Amy that, perhaps, Quentin had ruined the image by testing the limits, maybe even in hopes of ending his long and often pointless existence. Perhaps he HAD jumped into a volcano, and emerged unscathed, but the faithful portrait had borne it all.
"Let's just consider this a mercy killing, then, shall we?" Amy said aloud to the painting as she held the Dancing Lady over the heart area. She was about to plunge it in, when her hand was caught in mid-air--- she turned her head, and saw the shocked face of David Collins!
"AMY!! My God, what the HELL are you doing, and what the HELL are you doing it TO?" He gasped as he studied the horrific portrait. "Sweet Christ, who IS this poor wretch!"
"What are YOU doing here?" Amy demanded. "Only Quentin and I know of this place!"
"You KNOW I know almost every inch of
this house! I saw you darting around the hallways. I didn't know if you had
heard about poor Job Woodard. He was STABBED, and--- and---" Suddenly
realization set in. David cried, "YOU did it! They said his guts were torn
up, and that's JUST the knife to do it! You STOLE that from Quentin! Why, Amy,
WHY--- QUENTIN didn't put you up to any of this, I just KNOW it!" He tried
to wrestle the knife from her, but she cut his hand. "Amy, please DON'T
kill me! You don't NEED to.
Job came through his surgery, and he WILL recover! Listen, the Sheriff's outside, and her men are combing through this wing. Surrender, and you'll probably be sent to WindCliff for a couple of years---"
"I have other plans for the next couple of years, never mind, HUNDREDS of years," Amy said, eyeing David's bloody hand. A strong pang of hunger assailed her now. Could it be? "David, you have to help me to get away, in memory of old times, you know...." She wound her arms around his neck, pressed her lips to his throat. He didn't push her away, perhaps hoping to subdue her in this position. "David, you know I still care for you, always will---" Opened her lips and touched her teeth to a throbbing vein. "If only we could do 'it' right now---" And pierced his flesh with new fangs.
David made a gagging sound, but didn't cry out. He pulled Amy CLOSER, feeling her body up and down as she drank. She made herself stop, as Barnabas did when he first bit HER. There WAS still a little love left for David--- how confusing! She released him, and said, "You must keep the police away from me for just a while longer. Do you know where Quentin is right now?"
"He was in his apartment, packing, just before I came after you," David whispered. "He's going to the Inn tonight, after he stops at GenScan to take some kind of blood test, and will be flying to Germany before the week is out. You don't want HIS blood, do you?" He sounded very jealous.
"Why would I want the blood of THAT
disgusting creature?" Amy sneered, pointing at the portrait. "It's
HIM, you know. Quentin. 130 years old and young. My
great-grandfather." David looked faintly surprised, but then, he
had a hard time feeling anything but what SHE wanted him to feel, right now.
"Never mind," she said, "I'll explain it to you when we have more time. But do me this extra favor--- send Quentin to me AT ONCE." Now, Amy simply kissed David on the lips. "And, love? Don't mention this to Hallie!"
"Like I would!" he muttered in reply. He snaked his way from the area, and went down to where the police were. "I heard a noise coming from the attic!" he announced. "Maybe the attacker is up there, already!" As soon as he showed them an old servant's shortcut stairway, he came back to the main house, and hied over to the West Wing. Quentin was sorting out some ties and socks for placement in his huge old valise that looked as though it had survived the Titanic sinking, the Hindenburg explosion, and a couple of aircraft crashes. In fact, it HAD, and only now, David was coming to realize this.
"Quentin, if you're not too busy, Amy asked me to bring you to see something.... it's a parting gift of sorts."
"Well, I WOULD like to talk to Amy, and I WILL in a while, but the police interrupted me with all their questions and searching. Tell her, in a half-hour, David." Now Quentin picked up a bundle of shirts, and dropped them into the valise.
"Really, Quentin, she INSISTED.... She's pretty upset over you leaving. I know you two have had some problems, but she wants to, you know, 'bury the hatchet'. Five minutes, tops, and you can pack till the sun comes up."
"Well...." Quentin sighed. "I guess I should mend fences with Amy right away. You never know---" He followed David down the long hallway. He thought they were going to stop at Amy's door, but David kept moving, beckoning to his cousin behind him. At first Quentin was pleasantly curious, but when the came to the door of the East Wing, a sickening suspicion came over him, and he rushed past David, who smiled blankly at him.
He hurried to the secret closet, obviously a secret no longer to David, at any rate. Amy stood before Quentin's portrait, a twisted smile on her small, girlish face. In her hands was the Dancing Lady, and as he approached, she took a vicious swipe at the portrait, cutting across the chest!
He felt a tremendous, stinging pain in his ribs, his lungs. She'd missed the heart, but would no doubt realize her mistake. Or WAS it a mistake? He gasped, "Amy.... Amy, sweetheart.... Why are you doing this? What have I done to you? Please, Amy, put the knife away, and I think I can repair the picture.... Damn it, I TRUSTED you!" He sank to his knees.
"I trusted YOU, and I KNOW you let me down!" Amy wailed. "You---you told me not to have children, and you knocked up Pauline.... You frightened me as a little girl, I thought you were evil, I can't really remember why.... You set Chris up, by calling us back from Nebraska, and you told on him to Sheriff Patterson.... The Sheriff killed HIM with the silver bullets, when he should have killed YOU! YOU! It's YOUR fault eveything happened! The curse, Chris killing those poor girls and Uncle Ned.... You murdered YOUR wife, MY great-grandmother, and WE all had to pay! YOU deserve this!" She slashed at his shoulder in the portrait. "I'm not going to finish you off till you hear everything else, like how I sent Pauline out to Widow's Hill, and---"
"No, YOU listen, Amy.... I didn't tell on Chris.... YOU did!"
"You're LYING! I did NO such thing! I LOVED my brother, no matter WHAT he was. You LURED him into a trap!"
"Amy, Amy.... I know you're going to do what you're going to do, and maybe you're right.... But you MUST hear me out! YES, I called your family back. I missed you, and Julia said that some new medication was just developed in France to control Chris's condition, if he would only come wait it out in WindCliff. But there was a delay in the shipment, and Chris broke out one night.... You know he killed Ned Stuart. Sabrina's own BROTHER! Still, Barnabas, Julia and I were willing to cover for him. In spite of her terrible grief, Sabrina wavered, because she STILL loved Chris.... Out of the FIVE of us, only YOU had the courage to make the only rational choice, you who were only 15 years old, and had already lost one brother as well as your parents.... YOU loved Sabrina enough to make the decision SHE could not, made the only choice that would bring your poor brother peace, and believe me, Amy, even while I had this portrait to swallow my sins, I NEVER had a moment's peace...."
"This is a BULL story!" But Amy was weeping, strange, bloody tears, Quentin noticed.
"NO bull, you poor kid.... You snuck out to George Patterson's house, and convinced him you were telling the truth. You told him, 'try the silver bullets, what have you got to lose?' Of course, we didn't know about any of this, until he actually KILLED Chris, and you nearly killed yourself from the guilt. Julia and I found you lying beneath my portrait, a picture of Chris and yourself clutched in your hands, unconscious from an overdose of sleeping pills. When we got you awake enough to throw them up, and you confessed, we made a decision, just Julia and I. She HYPNOTIZED you to MAKE you forget what YOU had done. It was the only way you could live with what you--- what you HAD to do. And while I and Julia certainly forgave you, THIS way, we never had to worry about Sabrina's and Barnabas's reactions. At the time it seemed like the right thing to do--- Sabrina stayed on to raise you, Barnabas treated you like a younger sister, and you made all of us proud of your accomplishments. The only thing Julia couldn't erase was your resentment of Sheriffs, which, I think, puzzled old George to the end of his days. You know, I'm sure HE felt guilty too, since he'd known your family all his life."
Amy cried like she had when Chris had first
died, before she got hold of some sedatives from Julia's medical bag.... She
remembered EVERYTHING now, the furtive trip to the Sheriff's house, his efforts
to assure her that he wouldn't let Chris suffer, but, unfortunately, suffer he
DID, and it wasn't REALLY Patterson's fault.
She remembered Julia and Quentin, who loved her so much, that they promised to wipe away her terrible betrayal "like chalk from a blackboard." And all her years of futile resentments, the blighted romance with David, her capitulation to Barnabas, and NOW look at what she was! It didn't matter, these revelations.... It all led to the same thing, and Quentin would HAVE to pay! She raised the Dancing Lady to the canvas.
With a massive effort, Quentin hurled himself at Amy, and yanked at her ankles. She fell, and the Dancing Lady flew from her hand and skittered away under some old furniture. Quentin climbed onto his great-grand-daughter, pinning her, though she struggled. As he pulled on her shoulder, the collar of her fresh blouse pulled away enough to reveal fang marks!
"Amy, baby," he whispered. Now HE began to weep. "Amy, when DID Barnabas do this? I KNOW all about him. Amy, please.... Maybe we can BOTH be saved...."
"I was the FIRST," she sighed. "It was Wednesday, the night of the dinner. He didn't MEAN it. But he said he would love me.... I sent Pauline out so he could get her, but it didn't work out the way HE wanted it, just ME. Then I screwed up." The bloody tears made ruddy tracks down her cheeks. "I caught him with Christine Cagney, and I was gonna kill them BOTH.... But I got Job instead. It's too late. Too late."
"But Amy, Job ISN'T dead."
"But I AM!" Now, Amy pushed Quentin aside, and leapt to her feet. "Barnabas wanted me to be his first vampire bride. I died an hour ago! And I have my first victim! David belongs to ME now!" She danced around. "Maybe I'll turn into a bat if I wish hard enough." She grimaced in concentration, but nothing happened. "Oh, well, maybe you can't do that the first night." She was back at the portrait. She raised her fist--- surely the aged canvas would give way when she smashed through the holes she'd already made. She was right.
Now, Quentin shrieked in agony. He was sure the police would come down, but it would be too late. After a few minutes, the pain went away, but he knew he was dying. It was getting darker and darker. All he could hear was Amy prattling about becoming a bat, about getting a new coffin with a full satin mattress.... Why weren't the police down here yet? He was going down a long, long tunnel. He knew this tunnel, he'd been down it before, when his wife stabbed him, before he was brought back to life.... There was someone at the end of the tunnel, standing in a nimbus of mist and strange colored lights. A slightly-built man, with honey-colored hair and blue eyes, in a rust-colored velvet suit.... Quentin knew him, and was REALLY afraid. "Carl.... You've come back to watch me die. How ironic that Barnabas should be the true author of YOUR revenge!"
Carl shook his head. There wasn't a trace of his anxious, jokey manner at this moment. "No, Quentin, I don't want to see you die. I HATED you for setting me up, and I HATED Barnabas for killing ME, who thought of HIM as a friend. I blamed him for what happened to Pansy, but since then, I've learned a few things. And one of them is, if you want to get out of the ether, you HAVE to start forgiving those who trespassed against you. I used to love you when we were children, though you probably don't remember it that way, and I know you were angry when some of my tricks frightened Jamison, but I loved him too.... So I can't, and I WON'T let you die."
"Try telling THAT to Batgirl over there."
"I don't have to tell her anything. In a minute, she's going to get a real Carl Collins-style surprise. I just raided Miss Cortez's room." NOW Carl giggled, but it was conspiratorial--- Quentin smiled in return, though not in understanding.
Amy really seemed to have lost her mind--- she climbed on chairs, wondered aloud why she wasn't transforming or becoming invisible. Then, she got up on an old end table in front of an old bedframe with a small pot balanced precariously on top. She was spreading her "wings", when the pot fell on her. She cried in pain, though the pot seemed to only contain water!
"It's HOLY Water!" Carl squealed in delight. He clapped his hands inanely. "Vampires can't stand water anyway, but Holy Water is triple-threat!"
Quentin grabbed his brother's arm, saying , angrily, "Stop it, Carl! She's HURTING.... She's my great-grand-daughter, and YOUR great-grand-niece, and I WON'T have her injured, no matter WHAT she's become!"
Carl calmed down, and said, "Like your great-grandson Christopher, Quentin? Like you wanted poor little Pauline to abort your child before she lost it anyway? But you're right, I shouldn't hurt Amy. It's not her fault who her IN-cestors are." Amy suddenly laid down as if exhausted, and fell asleep, or into a death-like state, Quentin couldn't tell. Carl continued, "If I save YOU this time, brother, it comes with a price. Your heart and your mind. They're still there, though Amy seems to have made a rather large hole in this picture. Terrible likeness, by the way, even when you were young. When Charles Tate arrived in the ether 30 years ago, I used to tell him that, until he was ready to smack me, but Amanda always stopped him."
"You've seen AMANDA? SHE'S in the ether, too?" Suddenly, Quentin DIDN'T want to be saved.
Carl sighed. "Yes, she WAS, brother, but you have to realize, we ARE aware of the passage of time in the ether, and old attachments die, new ones are forged, and some of us are sent out to seek new lives and paths to fulfillment.... Their love was kind of old-new, since he DID create her. But then, she got sent out when a new life was created the old-fashioned way. Charles was angry for a while, but now he's escorting both Charity Trask AND my Pansy. He couldn't help it--- after Charity passed away and Pansy's soul separated from hers, their spirits became close as twins. I used to get tired of Charity tagging along, everywhere I went with Pansy, but it was sometimes fun. We laughed a lot, something poor Charity NEVER go to do until Pansy was with her. So when they both left, I was angry, too, but I have eternity to get over it. Maybe I'll find someone else here, maybe I'll get reincarnated and meet someone. As for YOU, Quentin, maybe you'll find Amanda. Maybe you already have."
"Carl.... One more thing.... Daisy Violet Meadow. You have to tell me.... So I can tell Willie and Harvey."
"Oh yes, Daisy, Daisy. She was supposed to give me her answer true.... Grandmother Edith sort of liked her, thought her dancing was a hoot. But Judith and Edward tried to buy her off. I was mad, and I ran away with her, but I wasn't any good to her without money, and I didn't want to obtrude on her womanly privacy. But when she said it was all over between us, I wanted her to stay SO badly, I hugged her and kissed and touched her on her bed like I never did with ANYONE before. I was like a real Don Juan Casanova Romeo, Quentin, you would have been proud! But after, she laughed at me, and she got mad because I didn't use what she called 'French Letters'. I TOLD her I knew how to speak French, Grandma Edith taught me, but she said that wasn't what she meant, stupid dumkopf---that was ME--- but not to worry, she'd take care of it herself, no harm done. She threw me out, auf wiedersehn!. I didn't know about baby Edith until I was DEAD, isn't that strange? It WAS sweet of Daisy to name her after Grandmother, don't you think? Daisy tried to contact Judith, but by then I was dead, and Judith couldn't believe Daisy had MY baby. So poor Daisy had to keep Edith in an orphanage until she got married.
"And as for me, I was kept busy watching over ALL my family, until SOMEONE in the ether started making trouble for the Collinses, and I was told that MY family could help, even though they didn't know they WERE my family. Willie was already here, THAT was NOT my doing, but Harvey--- he's more like ME than his brother Carl--- now isn't THAT name a coincidence, Edith never even TOLD Muriel about me! Harvey wouldn't have come up if I hadn't sent Hallie some dreams about picking Mary Beth for the Sheriff's position, even though David wasn't that enthusiastic. Now, I'd better hurry and fix your picture, you're getting more and more solid in the ether. I can't stay here too long anyway."
Carl gently ran his fingers up and down the portrait. The ragged rents in the canvas sealed, and the ugly image was once more intact, but with a difference--- Now the ancient man seemed to be a little bit YOUNGER.
"HOW did you do that?" Quentin said, amazed.
"I have a lady friend who helps me from behind the scenes, you might say. From now on, that picture's going to get younger and younger. You will age, gradually, in time with the picture, and die like anyone else. Don't worry, it's going to take years and years, but you have to use the time well. Mend your fences. Heal wounds. Or the portrait will pick up where it left off. That MIGHT be embarrassing, and not even FUNNY!"
"Carl!" Quentin called. His brother seemed to be fading. "The NAME of the ghost in the ether who caused all this trouble!
Carl said, "The last time I tried to tell anyone HIS name, I was sent 'below' to tend the Infernal sewers. Ask Willie about what happened to the old cabbage-rose carpet from the Old House. That's all I can say." He vanished.
Quentin sat up, all his aches and pains gone. He went over to check on Amy, as the police FINALLY showed up. He, the Sheriff and Christine checked Amy for vital signs---- the latter two were puzzled. She didn't seem quite dead, nor quite alive, either. Mary Beth called for an ambulance. "And keep her under guard at all times. As of now, Amy's considered the chief suspect in SEVERAL crimes, if she LIVES, that is."
Quentin looked at his watch and realized the dawn must have come some time ago. He told the ambulance workers to keep the patient in a dark environment, curtains closed. "Part of her illness seems to involve an intolerance to bright lights," he explained.
Then Christine noticed the portrait, which Quentin hadn't any chance to hide. She frowned. "I hope you don't mind my saying, but this painting of the Crypt-Keeper is the UGLIEST thing I've ever seen. And I should know, back in Paris, over 30 years ago, I used to paint the same kinds of pictures as an art student."
"Well, I'll stick it back in this closet," Quentin said amiably. "Say, what took you folks so long to get in here?"
"What are you talking about?" Christine asked, "You were screaming your lungs out just 5 minutes ago! We though you were getting cut into pieces!"
Mary Beth personally questioned Quentin. "What WERE you doing here, sir?"
"I heard a noise coming from area near the door to the East Wing. I admit I was rather heedless of the danger, running in to see who was here, but I heard Amy sobbing."
"If she ran into that painting in this gloomy place, I can see why that might be so," Christine offered.
Mary Beth looked angry. "Christine, PLEASE!" She might as well have been admonishing Alice.
Quentin, nonplussed, continued. "I knew this wing from when Amy and David were children, and I often had to look for them in here, so I had no trouble finding her. I knew at once, she had done something terrible. She had the knife in her hand, it was from MY collection, and---"
A deputy wearing a rubber glove managed to
fish the Dancing Lady out from under the furniture. He gently placed the
very-clean looking blade into a plastic bag. "Awfully clean and
shiny," Mary Beth said. "She must have rinsed it before she came
here--- thank God she didn't run into anybody, one of the kids, HALLIE---
Still, there must be SOME traces of blood on it. We'll have to test it, Mr. Collins. I promise it won't be lost or damaged."
"Take your time, it's considered a cursed weapon, and its uses tonight prove it. I doubt it will harm YOUR people, though. Anyway, Amy came at me, but I threw her off. Then I tripped and fell, and she was on me, holding that knife over my NOSE, when, luckily, she collapsed. THAT'S why I shrieked like a ghoul." He turned from the partners and proceeded to lock up the painting again.
"This time, put a BIG padlock on
it," Christine advised. "No telling what such a demonic-looking
picture can do!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The unfamiliar doctor, Lang, examined Quentin, though the latter insisted he was none the worse off for his ordeal, and pronounced him "in SPLENDID condition! I am amazed, sir--- for a man of 60 you have the physique of a man of 30! Have you ever thought of creating a fitness plan? Plenty of money still to be made there, and YOU would probably become a tycoon in your own right, after Jack LaLanne goes to that big Gym in the sky."
"You sound like you're obsessed with the subject, Doctor." Quentin studied the thin 40-ish physician, and wondered if he was related to the Dr. Lang who had created Adam.
"Those in my family who went into the
medical profession felt that perfection was an attainable goal. My late uncle,
Eric Lang, who worked here until shortly before his death, did much pioneering
work in the transplant area, not hearts and livers, but limb and other organ
transplants. He was in the midst of such a project when he had a fatal heart
attack. It combined electro-chemical and magnetic impulses to bring a semblence of sentient life and independent movement to
transplanted limbs. An advance on the Galvanic method, an improvement on the
practice of trying to tie together as many nerve endings and blood vessels as
all without the threat of rejection. At least, that's what the notes he left said."
This WAS enlightening. "Ever wish you could have continued those experiments, Doctor---"
"Call me Conrad. Of course, it used to be my dream, but I didn't want to re-live my uncle's life. He was an obsessed workaholic who never married, probably never even had a woman, period, to hear my late father tell of it. I myself married, quite happily, though my dear wife passed away a year ago, and we had a fine son and daughter who also intend to become doctors. I named them Eric and Erica in tribute. When they're done with Med School, our goal is to open a family practice, and then, when it's up and running, I'm going to retire and, perhaps, pick up where my uncle left off."
"Well, this is a subject that interests ME as well. Perhaps we can get together some time soon, and hash it out over a few drinks." Quentin KNEW the idea that was growing in his mind was, probably, not only impossible, but insane! Still, he meant to run over the ideas he had, with Jeremy. There had to be an answer somewhere in this mess--- it all ran together, somehow, the old Dr. Lang's attempt to re-animate and unify dead body parts, whose purpose was to absorb and dissipate the curse on another being and which experiments culminated in the creation of Timothy Adam Samwell, and the strange blood factor that ran through Carl's family line, at least. Quentin looked at his watch, and realized he had to leave for his appointment at GenScan.
Dr. Lang also had other business to attend to. He joined Dr. Heard when the older man examined Amy Jennings in Intensive care. Dr. Lang glanced at the pouch of blood which was being transfused into the pale woman, who was hooked up to a respirator, but who, save for the forced heaving of her chest, was otherwise quite still, as though in a state of suspended animation, than in a coma, where the patient might unconsciously make a noise or move an appendage. He studied her heart monitor, which, in spite of the oxygen pumping in, showed a feeble beat twice a minute. He looked at her brain scan; a flatline was punctuated with a wave at the same interval. "Amazing!" he exclaimed. "She's cold and rigid as death, but there's still some activity."
"I expect that brain scan to flatline permanently at any minute," Dr. Heard said bluntly, but quietly. No telling WHAT a patient could hear in his or her last hours. "I don't know WHY Mr. Collins insists on life support AND a transfusion, though it seems her blood vessels haven't completely collapsed yet. But, as far as legalities are concerned, he's her next of kin, and if he wants to pay for it, he's a Collins, he can afford it. Still, if the brain waves go, I WILL be having him in to make a very difficult decision."
"Interesting," Dr. Lang muttered. "I vaguely recall some notes my late uncle made, about a patient in similar condition, years ago.... I'll have to get up into my attic, and root around for them. Maybe they won't SAVE this patient, but at least we'll have a better idea about what she has. It might help someone in the future."
"I DO know it's related to the cases of Jerusha Cane and Alice Lacey. You can see, the marks are right there, low on her throat." Dr. Heard pointed. Then for some reason, he began to rub his OWN neck in almost the same spot. "And the lab work is showing a LARGE number of the same necrotic cells, from such terribly small blood samples! If your late uncle had ANY extra information, of course we'd appreciate it. I remember Eric, from over 30 years ago. He was an eccentric fellow, if you don't mind my saying, but he WAS, without question, BRILLIANT when it came to these obscure, exotic ailments."
"He thought he had an answer for
EVERYTHING, even cancer," the other man sighed. "I often think, what
if he had lived to treat Julia Collins, and even my Beatrice.... Not to mention
a host of others! This ISN'T cancer, but from what you're telling me, there MAY
be similarities.... Cancer IS, apparently a communicable disease in a few
instances, for example, cervical cancer, and the cancers that spring up as a
result of AIDS....
If we can fix THIS, who knows the scope of application to OTHER such illnesses! Now I'm EAGER to get into that attic!" Dr. Lang's eyes held a gleam familiar to Dr. Heard--- it was the same look the late Eric Lang wore when obsessed.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Quentin met Willie, Harvey, Vicki, and Jeremy
at GenScan's surprisingly modest headquarters in Chartville.
Still, in spite of the lack of glamour about the facility itself, there was heavy security, as though the bland,
innocuous1960's-style factory-like building was Fort Knox, some CIA think-tank, or a development facility for high-tech defense devices. "We have to do this," the guard explained, as he examined driver's licences and ran the names through computer databanks, and made them all walk through the same kind of metal detectors and scanners airports used. "Our work is quite valuable to the government and law-enforcement, and if you watched the O.J. trial, you KNOW how easily such samples can become tainted. There's a lot of motivation for hostile and criminal elements to do just that."
He even took pictures of the insides of their eyes, in addition to the more conventional fingerprints. Thanks to 100 years of experience in covering his tracks, Quentin's credentials passed muster, and Harvey's as well--- the guard was a veteran from the same generation and branch of service, and caught himself before the amiable Harvey had him join in reminiscing about their military experiences. However, the guard WAS skeptical about allowing ex-con, ex-mental patient Willie in, but after talking to Jeremy and Vicki, decided he was unlikely to be able to penetrate the "inner sanctum".
Willie held Vicki's hand for both his tests, and hers. Jeremy waited outside the room--- perhaps to be away from the tempting sight of blood. Willie concerned for both of the young people--- he'd sat up with Jeremy when the latter fell into bed, after their return from the hospital, so he knew the young man had made no further attempts to bother his fiancee. Jeremy still looked terrible--- he had dark circles under his eyes, which stood out on his fair skin. And Vicki's eyes were full of sadness; her father knew she was seriously considering breaking off from her lover. If only the pair could hold out until something was done about Barnabas! Willie wished he could tell her that. Maybe there was some hint he could pass to Maggie, who had a vague memory of her own ordeals, where it didn't concern Barnabas, specifically.
After the round of tests, the quintet were told they had Priority status, which meant they would get a preliminary set of results within 72 hours, followed by a more detailed report in a couple of weeks. "But the preliminaries SHOULD be enough for our purposes, at present," Jeremy assured his companions. He walked Vicki to her car (loaned by the auto-body shop while hers was being repaired), ahead of the others. Before she got in, he whispered, "I'm sorry. I don't expect you to forgive me, nor can I explain what I did."
"You CAN'T explain, or you just don't WANT to?"
"There are reasons for both, but it doesn't matter.... Still, I mean it---I AM sorry. I love you too much to take a chance of hurting you again, so this is good-bye. Forever." Jeremy turned from Vicki abruptly, and marched back to his car, where Willie was chatting quietly with Harvey and Quentin.
"YOU had a vision about Carl Collins?" Harvey asked Quentin incredulously. "So he was your grandfather's brother. but he never came to YOU before, did he?"
"Well, you could say I've always been AWARE of him," Quentin replied evasively. "Carl--- Great-Uncle Carl---and my grandfather parted on less-than-amicable terms. Carl Collins was murdered soon afterward, and my grandfather carried a LOT of guilt over the unresolved estrangement, almost as much as if HE had been the killer himself! So, when I had this near-death hysterical trauma caused by my poor cousin Amy, I guess Great-Uncle Carl's restless spirit saw fit to give ME a chance to make up for what Grandfather did--- in SPADES, since Grandfather had been quite an irresponsible rake in his youth, and, I admit, so have I, and without the excuse of youth."
Quentin shot Willie a meaningful glance, and Willie nodded, a wordless exchange inscrutable to Harvey, though the latter HAD heard the scuttlebutt about Quentin's affair with his young cousin. Mary Beth and Christine had been absolutely lyrical about the subject. Collinsport WAS starting to resemble the "X-Files" / "Sightings" version of Peyton Place!
"I wonder why he told YOU about our Grandmother Edith, instead of US, in that case?" Willie asked.
"Well, I WAS in a desperate situation. He made me promise to put right things that had gone wrong. It seems Carl WAS going to tell at least ONE of you more dirty details, about your grandmother, his lover who had been HER mother, and, most importantly, the evil spirit who set some of these events in motion. But on the Other Side--- assuming you believe in it--- there are, apparently, strict rules about how much a ghost is allowed to rat on other ghosts, especially the bad ones. Maybe it's because humans have to have an opportunity to work out their own destinies, even when it means colliding with evil influences. We all have to prove our mettle, it seems....
�In other words, Carl's spilling about the truth of his being your ancestor cost nothing at that point, since we've pretty much figured out the details on our own. I consider his revelation as merely a formality, for which these blood tests are a confirmation. However, he can only throw a hint about other details, or else he gets tapped immediately for some degrading Underworldly chore, for who knows HOW long. In short, gentlemen, the onus of the brain work is still on US."
Harvey spoke up. "So, who was the hint intended for? And what is it?"
Quentin said, "Actually, he mentioned
Willie, but the reference was so obscure, it doesn't seem to matter.
Willie, what do you know about an old carpet with a cabbage-rose pattern?"
Willie thought for a moment, then, to his companions' dismay, turned absolutely white. He clutched his chest, he clapped a hand to his forehead. Harvey thought, for a minute, that his cousin was about to have a heart attack or a stroke. Why should this be so upsetting?
Quentin, with his own guilty past to look back on, was much wiser. Should have saved this until I was alone with Willie, he thought. Now, Harvey will be FULL of questions! "Willie, whatever it is, think long and hard about how you would like to answer."
Willie recovered rapidly, but he bit his lip as he considered. Then, he said, quietly and carefully, "Jason McGuire," he finally said.
"That's the man you worked with when he first came to Collinwood," Quentin said. He explained to Harvey, "Roger told me that this Jason was out to extort blackmail money from Elizabeth Stoddard, trying to make her believe that she'd killed her husband, when all she'd done was give the louse a well-deserved clout in the head. McGuire dragged the 'body' out of sight, pretended to bury it, but in reality, he sent Paul Stoddard packing the instant he came to, without even Paul's share of the fortune they'd been attempting to embezzle.
Well, Jason came back 20 years later, and
even tried to marry poor Liz, who dreaded exposing her shame,
and almost gave in to save herself and Carolyn, not to mention the Collins fortune. But on the day of the wedding, Liz worked up the courage to tell the truth, and, to spare her further embarassment, Sheriff Patterson told Jason to take a long hike out of town before sundown. Nobody's seen or heard from him since that day. Since he was already around 50 when that happened, it's certainly possible he's dead now. But why should a rose carpet remind you of him, Willie?"
"Oh.... well, he resented it a lot when I decided to work for Barnabas. We were like a father and son sometimes, sometimes we were like brothers, and sometimes.... Well, we had a lot of water under the bridge, and that included working together on some of his bigger capers. We were always a step ahead of the law, and I had already done hard time in New York, so we both had a lot to worry about. So when I ditched him like that, he would come to the Old House when Barnabas wasn't around, and harass me about it. That old carpet was where he always stood, and once he even started beating on me there.
�On the last day, he--- he asked me to steal jewelry from Barnabas, so he'd have a stake to work with after he left town. All I could get him was a small ruby and diamond brooch. It was probably WORTH a thousand or so, that was a lot of money back then, but for Jason, it wasn't enough. He broke into the Old House to try to steal more, but I�I stopped him. The last I saw of him, before he was gone for good, he was on that carpet. I don't know WHY I remember THAT, but you know how you notice really dumb things when you're-- you're scared."
"And you've never heard from Jason since then?" Harvey asked.
Willie shook a little. "No, he was really through with the lot of us. When Paul Stoddard showed up a couple of years later, he told Carolyn he hadn't heard from Jason since he'd left Collinwood in 1949. No telling where he is, and Mr. Stoddard died just after he got back, so unless Jason got in trouble with the law later, nobody knows. Or cares--- we were all relieved when he--he went away."
"And, just out of curiosity, Willie," Quentin inquired, "what ever became of that carpet?"
"It--It was really a really ratty old thing, probably there for 50 years before Barnabas showed up. He got rid of it before he held a fancy costume party there, a couple of months later."
Harvey seemed satisfied with the explanation--- it was full of all those armchair psychological angles he loved to read about. Mary Beth and Christine might both be interested, he thought. However, Quentin was NOT satisfied--- he knew WILLIE couldn't have driven out the domineering Jason, especially when he was already weakened by his "association" with the 1967 vampire Barnabas. No, Barnabas HAD to have been the one who got rid of Jason, probably the same way he'd gotten rid of Carl, and Quentin could very well imagine the use that conveniently ratty old carpet had been put to. The question WAS, where were the late, unlamented Jason McGuire AND that carpet?
Harvey got in his car and drove away, following Vicki's vehicle. But Quentin, Willie, and Jeremy stood in the parking lot a few minutes more. Quentin asked, "Okay, Willie, where IS Jason MacGuire?"
"He's buried under the tiles in
Barnabas's old room in the Mausoleum, tied up in that rose rug. Barnabas killed
him, because Jason had discovered his secret. I TRIED to warn Jason, but I
couldn't stop HIM, any more than I could stop Barnabas. I had to tie up his
body in that carpet. I had to close his eyes. They were popping out from the
pressure of Barnabas strangling him. And I did most of the work of burying
him." Willie shuddered. "It doesn't surprise me that his ghost would
finally want to get even with both me and Barnabas. What's surprising is that
it took SO LONG!"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Harvey had dinner ready at home when his wife and Christine returned from the Hospital and the Sheriff's office. Michael was still sitting with Alice, and would come home as soon as she was done with her dinner and her parents were done with theirs; then the faithful brother would return home for his own supper, and a well-deserved rest.
"You know," Mary Beth said, "In all my years as a cop, and even in all the case histories I've ever read, I don't think I've ever HEARD of a SERIOUS criminal named 'Amy'. That's the kind of name attached to 12-year-olds busted for SHOPLIFTING!"
"Even fewer named 'Amelia'--- that's the name she was christened with," Christine said. "Well, now there IS one. How interesting, and IRONIC--- that your nemesis has fallen into your clutches. Assuming she recovers, of course."
"You think I LIKE the way things turned out, Christine? Look, you know we weren't getting along with Miss Jennings, but I never wished her ill--- certainly not THIS! There's nothing in HER history that would indicate a turn to THIS kind of sick behavior. It's not even like what her brother had--- he'd go off, half-cocked during a full moon, and literally TORE his victims apart! You SAW that picture of his brother-in-law, for God's sake, Chris--- I've seen some disgusting sights back in New York, but THAT one takes the cake! And how about those silver bullets we found in that envelope this afternoon!"
"SILVER bullets?" Harvey exclaimed. "Like the kind they used to kill werewolves in all those old movies?"
"As God is our witness," Christine said. "We stopped at the Police station to review files on the cases from years ago, and Mary Beth here, found this tiny coin envelope shoved in back of a file cabinet. We asked the secretary, Miss Twomey, if she'd ever noticed them, and she said no.... They were tarnished, you know, the way pure silver turns if it isn't polished. It seems Sheriff Patterson didn't believe he could bring down Chris Jennings the old-fashioned way, so he had a dozen silver bullets made, of which he used 5, since there were 7 in the envelope. I have them in my purse." She ran to retrieve the old yellow envelope from her shoulder-bag, and shook out the contents into Harvey's hand.
"I read they can be used to kill vampires, too," he said, as he fingered the tiny, 38-caliber bullets. "Silver's like penicillin against dark creatures, it seems. Maybe this is what they mean by the 'magic bullet'." He put them carefully back into the envelope, handing it back to Christine. "Hang onto these," he said, "you never know when you might need them, around HERE, anyway."
"So, how did the testing go this morning?" Mary Beth asked her husband. "Did it HURT?"
"After all the tests I've had since this heart problem started, it was like nothing," Harvey said. "I think they got eight samples from one shot. The lab guy said the results would be out within 3 days."
"Well, it's nice, but I HOPE you don't
intend to put in a claim on the Collins billions!" his spouse sputtered.
"It hasn't done THOSE people a whole lot of good. Not that we don't have our OWN problems, but ours are more garden-variety. We can afford to take care of them."
"Aw, Mary Beth, wouldn't YOU like our Alice to go to Smith someday? Or Yale? Or Harvard? ANY of those big-name Ivy-League places?" Harvey teased.
"Barnard?" Christine offered.
Mary Beth harrumphed, "I like the idea of Alice going to that University in Orono. It's only 30 miles away, and she can come home on weekends. And WE can run up there, if she needs anything!"
"Like her folks running interference on her dates, assuming that worthy young man Elliot Collins doesn't go there, also," Christine said. "He'll probably be a Harvard Man, if I know anything about it."
"So, did anything else happen while you were there, Harv?" Mary Beth persisted.
"Well, Quentin and Willie had an interesting chat, but it was about ghosts, I doubt you'd be interested."
"Listen, honey, I'm at my wit's end about what's been going on. I don't believe in that stuff, but you and Willie DID have those dreams. Seems more and more like, there IS something to them. Guess I'll have to call in those Warrens after all," Mary Beth joked uneasily.
"Well, it seems that Quentin had some kind of hallucination, vision, whatever, when Amy was about to stab him." Harvey explained. "Maybe it's a case of wishful thinking on Quentin's part, though WHY he would wish to be related to Willie and myself is a mystery. But it was the part about the bad ghost who seems to have a grudge against our families that gives ME the chills. I don't know how far back you went when reading those old files, Mary Beth, but did Patterson mention an extortionist named Jason McGuire?"
Now, CHRISTINE got excited. "Did you say the name I THINK you just said, Harvey? JASON McGUIRE was here in Collinsport?"
The Laceys looked at her in amazement. "Since when do YOU know about Jason McGuire?" Mary Beth demanded. "He WAS in these parts, just over 30 years ago. Isn't that a bit before your time on the Force?"
"Yes, it was, but not before my FATHER'S time!" Christine shouted. "Charlie worked on a big case involving Mr. McGuire about 35 years ago, with INTERPOL!. And he was 'slippery as an eel', as Pop put it. Oh, Jason McGuire had a finger in EVERY corrupt pie--- extortion, smuggling contraband everything, even what used to be politely referred to as the 'white slave trade'; actually, he WAS responsible for smuggling young, foolish ladies across state lines for immoral purposes, for which he was paid generously. Not to mention young girls from, say, the Philippines and other Third-World countries, whom he brought here under the pretext of finding them jobs as maids, or even mail-order brides. Most of them ended up in brothels, and more than a few of them went on drugs and even killed themselves in their despair. It was said he, himself, had committed a murder or two or three, but nobody could pin them on him.
"The last time my Pop dealt with McGuire, Jason, who certainly knew how to get fake passports and other false ID's, simply signed on as a hand on a ship headed for South America. He had with him, at the time, a newly-released felon who, depending on the rumors one heard, was either his enforcer, or his lover, or BOTH. The ship sailed in the middle of the night, and that was the last Charlie and the squad ever heard of McGuire. Even Interpol lost track of him."
Harvey said, slowly, "Well, he ended up
HERE. Seems he had a score to settle with the late Mrs. Elizabeth Collins
Stoddard, relating to the disappearance of her husband. And as for his
so-called 'friend', it was Willie Loomis--- apparently Jason WAS mad as Hell
when Willie defected to work for Barnabas." He held his head in his hands.
"I KNEW he'd been a criminal, but this business with McGuire--- How could
Willie--- you know how he is, he's scared of his own shadows these days!--- How COULD he have been so low as to hook up with someone like that!"
"I confess, I READ Willie's record, and some of Jason's," Mary Beth said, "but I never thought it would ever come up again. I guess Christine here didn't get to it. But McGuire came and went 33 years ago. Why, if he IS dead, and he IS a ghost, would he come back here to bother the Collinses and US? Why not bother the other people with whom he had a beef? Heck, why not bother Christine's father, when Charlie was alive--- or CHRISTINE!"
"Thank you, Mary Beth!" her friend barked. "But it's true. My father never stopped looking for some trace of what became of McGuire, even after he was retired, and the statute of limitations was up on most of his crimes. He'd go down to the library every month or so to check the international newspapers and magazines. He needed closure, I guess. He always believed that McGuire thought too highly of his many skills to just drop out of the picture, just like that. A 'swaggering, silky, smarmy version of Blackbeard', that's how Charlie described him. If McGuire had a bone to pick after death, I guess my Pop would have been high on his hit list. And myself, as the natural successor. That's how curses work, isn't it?"
"Did you ever stop to think, Christine,
that your being here may just be a PART of his revenge after all?" Harvey
said. "Because, for some reason I can't explain, something tells me Jason
McGuire NEVER left Collinsport."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
PART ELEVEN--- Tuesday, April 18, 2000 (B)
Quentin headed back to the hospital. He DID intended to check on poor Amy, but he WAS hoping to sneak in a visit to Pauline. He didn't know what he would say to her. "You are the reincarnation of the one woman I always loved, and I DO also love you for yourself, but we have to part because it would upset the balance of karmic justice, not to mention I'm your uncle 4 times removed!" Obviously the truth, but obviously, NOT what one could say aloud. He would have to be more subtle, though Pauline had never really gotten the hang of subtlety--- the first night she had "seduced" him, she simply strutted into his apartment clad only in a lacy satin teddy, and jumped into his lap. Never mind that it turned out to be the sweetest night he'd enjoyed in years....
Quentin enquired at the front desk for a visitor's pass to Amy's room. The receptionist on duty said, since the police were guarding the room, she would have to check. When she explained to the officer on duty who it was, the pass was granted. When Quentin arrived, the officer, Hallett, checked the pass, and his driver's license, even though he knew all the Collinses slightly. Today's my day to be a security risk, Quentin thought, thinking of the precautions at GenScan. I'll be getting FRISKED, next.
The solemn Hallett handed back the license. He said, "You can go in, Mr. Collins, but I have to tell you, she hasn't moved an inch, opened an eye, or breathed a word since she was brought in here this morning. Dr. Collins is in there with her now." Hallett looked at the floor, and muttered, "I'm sorry sir, but if it were up to me, I'd just leave my post right now, for what Amy did to poor Job."
Quentin would have made a sharp reply, but he had heard about how tight cops became when one of their own was injured or, God forbid, killed. A threat to one was a threat to all, even if the threat was a petite woman in the midst of a breakdown caused by guilt and a vampire, whose only weapon had been an old knife, and who was now in a coma, likely a preliminary to death anyway. "Well, if it's any consolation, Danny," Quentin said, "Job WILL probably recover. I doubt that Amy will."
"Hard to believe," Hallett whispered sorrowfully. "I went to school with Amy before--- before she found out she was a Collins. She was a nervous little thing, but gentle as a lamb. No offense, sir, but I think her luck changed for the worse the day Chris found out they were your cousins, even with all the benefits."
"You know what, Danny? I'm inclined to agree.... The Collins legacy CAN be a burden. I just want you to know, SOME of us are working to make sure it doesn't become MORE of a burden." He went into the room, and was unhappily impressed by all the machinery hooked up to his great-grandaughter. He stood by Jeremy, who still looked like he hadn't slept for a week, but who was earnestly recording Amy's current vital signs, such as they were. Quentin whispered, without rancor, "You KNOW why she's like this---"
"Yes," Jeremy sighed. "I've mixed up a batch of the cure I was giving to Father, and I just gave Amy a dose. It didn't help him much, but HE'S always had the syndrome lying dormant in his system. Amy is a brand-new vampire, it might work on her. But it's true, I need to advance on the basic recipe, refine it.... I don't know where to begin, and Father has been so--- er, demanding and unco-operative lately."
"Well, I have an idea that MIGHT
help," Quentin said. "I had a fascinating chat with Dr. Lang today.
seems he's the nephew of Eric Lang, who built Adam."
"I KNEW that, but I doubt he knows about Adam, and just as well. I don't want an outsider mixed up in this."
"Well, according to him, he's interested in some of the processes that obsessed his uncle, and he's promised to look through some notes his uncle left behind."
The young doctor shook his head. "My parents got ALL the relevant notes about the Adam project and the original cure to temporarily stave off vampirism. And even if this Lang HAS some information, what are we going to do? Go to the Cryogenics Society, thaw out Adam's poor mangled corpse, and revive him during the next big electrical storm?"
"No, no, but there was SOME reason Adam wanted to be frozen like that. Have you ever wondered just WHAT there was about Adam that dissipated your father's old curse, besides the fact that a transfer of life force had taken place?"
"The life force was transfered
right BACK," Jeremy said. "To read mother's notes, it was like what
happens when blood is put through a dialysis machine--- the patient's blood is
literally pumped OUT of him, and flows back as it's purified. Only, in this
case, it was a SPIRITUAL transfer, a MENTAL one---"
"Which possibly means that there was something about Adam's BRAIN that was the filter!" Quentin exclaimed. "Maybe we can get the brain, and dissect it!"
"Please don't indulge in fantasies, Quentin," Jeremy said sadly. "In the eyes of the Cryonics Society, Adam is, for all intents and purposes, a living, sentient being. Maybe Tony knows of a codicil of the will that deals with the ultimate dispostion of the body if it isn't revived by a certain time. I'll get on it as soon as I can."
Left alone, Quentin sat for a while with his
great-grand-daughter. In her sleep, Amy's face took on a striking duality; from
one angle, she resembled her great-aunt Nora, whom Quentin had seen as a child
and then, not again for nearly 50 years, until he snuck back into town for the 1945 funeral of Jamison, his nephew and Nora's brother. Nora didn't age much, and neither would Amy, if she survived. From another angle, with her hair spread all over the pillow, she bore an unnerving resemblance to her great-grandmother, Quentin's sole wife, the insane Gypsy Jenny Rakoszi. Poor Jenny, Quentin thought, driven to psychosis by very justifiable jealousy, and her fate sealed by a severe post-partum depression which made her dangerous. The same blood flowed in Amy, the same jealousies....
And yet, also, a similar pathetic sweetness. Quentin remembered Amy's 11th birthday, the only one they celebrated together at Collinwood, just before Chris took his family to Nebraska. He asked Chris and Sabrina what they thought Amy would like, but none of their answers seemed special enough. So he watched her at play, at her lessons with Maggie. He took Amy to the Library when nobody else was available, though he knew she was still scared of him, from the time before his arrival when she feared him as a ghost. He let Amy loose in the Children's Corner, while he got a book for himself, then went back, again, to watch her. He noticed what books she selected, the lingering way she gazed at the illustrations, the way she read and re-read the text.
The next week, on her birthday, Amy received a full set of the "Little House on the Prairie" books. "You obviously need to brush up on your frontier skills, for when you move," Quentin had joked. Amy's reaction was mixed at first--- of course, she was grateful, she thanked Quentin, but she was still suspicious, perhaps thinking he was trying to buy her affection....
Then, that night, she asked him to read a chapter to her. They sat on the sofa in the Drawing room, and as Quentin read, Amy leaned against him to look at the pictures, and fell asleep, her head on his shoulder. She had never even sat NEXT to him before, let alone, come into personal contact with him. But she let him carry her up to her room, and he covered her with the quilt. He didn't kiss her goodnight, that would have been TOO much too soon, but when he patted her cheek, she didn't turn away. On the day the Jenningses finally left, Amy cried and clung to Quentin. And the day they returned, 4 years later, nobody was happier to see him than his great-grand-daughter.... Until that terrible afternoon after Chris's death....
Now, Quentin started to sniffle.... He knew that he was feeling what Carl had intended him to feel. Not just guilt, a futile emotion unless accompanied by repentance. He felt.... RESPONSIBLE. It was too late for so many others who had passed through his life, but he could build on this new sensation in regards to Amy, Pauline, and others.
Quentin heard the creaking wheels of food wagons, and the panting of the servers pushing them. Dinnertime for the patients already, though obviously, Amy wasn't going to be one of them. He wanted to see Pauline, but the new protective urge made him reluctant to leave Amy.
Christine Cagney poked her nose in the door. Marisol Cortez was at her side. "No change, I see," Christine commented.
"No, but I hate to leave her," Quentin said. He kissed Amy's wan cheek. "What are you doing back here, Ms. Cagney?"
"The Sheriff and her husband came to be with Alice, and I tagged along. We ran into Elliot, and Marisol here. Elliot brought her with him to visit Alice as well."
"I gave Senorita Lacey a blessed silver Cross to protect her from the Chupacabra, and Senorita Pauline, and I wanted to give Senorita Amy a special blessing, to save her soul," Marisol explained. "It still resides in her, I KNOW that."
"How can ANYONE refuse that offer?" Christine said, her voice gone husky with emotion that stabbed when she saw Quentin clutching Amy's flaccid hand.
"Nobody, I guess," Quentin whispered. He watched as Marisol draped a silver Cross (where did she get so many?) on the hook that held the blood pouch which fed into Amy's arm, since she couldn't get it on Amy's neck.
"This will make the blood pure and give
her strength," Marisol said. She took out several tiny bags full of herbs,
and a tiny saint's statue. Quentin shuddered--- it was Saint Sebastian, the
poor fellow shot full of arrows, but who had recovered, only to be martyred in
some more effective way. When in Rome on an informal "Grand Tour",
Quentin was taken to see St. Sebastian's shrine, and his alleged tomb, among
St. Cecelia, her throat brutally slashed; St. Appolonia, her teeth all in her hands; St. Catherine on her wheel, and others.... That, and a visit to the catacombs, and Quentin had such nightmares as he was not to know again, until almost 10 years later---1897.
"San Sebastiano, he removes the arrows of sin that sting the flesh and the soul," Marisol chanted. She recited some prayers in a Spanish/Aztec patois that Quentin couldn't follow. She scattered the herbs aound the bed, and anointed Amy's throat with Holy Water--- the same kind of water that had made her scream with pain before. Amy's body shuddered, but was soon still once more. "I wish I had more," Marisol said, "but someone or someTHING took half of what I had. I can only hope it wasn't the Chupa, or el brujo...."
"Oh, no, I'm SURE whoever took it, meant well," Quentin insisted. "Is everything finished?"
"Si. Senor Quentin, I can tell there is something on your mind. If you wish to leave, I will stay with Senorita Amy---"
"Marisol, didn't Elliot say he was heading back to Collinwood as soon as Alice finished dinner? He has some homework he needs to catch up on, it seems. I'll stay--- Officer Hallett's right out there, I DOUBT there'll be another incident like yesterday's." Christine sat on one of the vinyl chairs. "God, I HATE these things. I KNOW they're easy to clean, but it's hard to get comfortable when they make you feel so clammy. Well, at least I WON'T be sleeping on the job THIS time."
Quentin hurried out into the corridor, down toward the elevators. Pauline was on the Ob-Gyn floor--- when Quentin stepped out of the elevator and passed the nursery full of babies, he thought it tactless of the hospital to lodge Pauline anywhere near here. However, he was relieved to find her room at the end of a long corridor, quite out of earshot of the nursery and the chatter of new mothers--- and the nurse's station.
He saw a sight that made him stop in his tracks. In the doorway of the Women's Lavatory, he saw Tony and a woman--- NOT Carolyn--- and the pair was kissing deeply, apparently believing the recessed doorway gave adequate cover. "Thank you for visiting her, Maggie," Tony was saying quietly, but NOT quietly ENOUGH! "I know it sounds strange, but Carolyn will probably be happy to hear you stopped by---"
"Really, Tony," Quentin growled. "Wonder what the little woman would think of THIS."
Tony and Maggie sprang apart, guilty looks on both their faces. "Quentin, what are YOU doing here?" Tony gasped. "I thought you were going to be taking another red-eye flight to Germany."
"My flight will be postponed, until I take care of some unfinished business," the other replied. "I see YOU two have some unfinished business--- my God, Peterson---MAGGIE!--- HOW indiscreet. What IF Carolyn had happened to come by right now?"
Maggie explained, "She went home to get some sleep. It's been hard for her--- too many noises at night in a hospital, and she didn't want sleeping pills, in case Pauline was up in the middle of the night, needing her mother."
"And what if Pauline needed her FATHER at this moment, eh?" Quentin smirked. Well, at least he didn't have to imagine Maggie and WILLIE in an awkward situation--- THIS was absolutely rich! "And Maggie, shouldn't you be worried about YOUR daughter?"
Tony answered for Maggie. "Vicki was here, too, she's waiting in the car for her mother. We--we were only going to take a minute or so.... Quentin, I hope you WON'T tell Carolyn. I intend to take some action at a future date, but right now, it's not--- it's not--- Wait a minute! Why am I kow-towing to YOU! YOU are persona non grata as far as MY daughter is concerned. I had given orders that you were not to visit Pauline."
"I'd say those orders are a MOOT point
now, wouldn't you, Tony? So, you wanted a minute, eh? Well, you can have a FEW,
while I pay my respects to your daughter. Enjoy yourselves. And,
Tony? When you get back to Collinwood--- and I KNOW you'll be going home
to Wifey with tail 'twixt legs like the dog you
are--- PLEASE do me a favor and check Adam Samwell's will to see if he meant to remain a human Popsicle forever. Or else .... well, I'd sure hate to get MAGGIE here in dutch along with you, but I think we understand each other?"
Maggie gazed deep into Quentin's eyes. He
turned from her hurt look--- a look that said nobody PRESENT
had a right to judge in this instance. And she was right.... He remembered a time, over 30 years earlier, when they had been lovers. It had been a strange, heady, spell-like time, but the bond of empathy they'd shared was so intense, that she HAD saved his life. She somehow knew he had been buried alive, and he was unearthed just as he gasped a last breath he wasn't sure that even his PORTRAIT could restore to him--- not that he'd have wanted to spend Eternity down there, awake and aware, in ANY case. Though they'd parted as soon as Sebastian showed up in town, Quentin DID value THAT memory, and decided, on that basis, to keep his mouth shut after all. (I'm learning, Carl, he thought.) Still, it served his purpose, to keep TONY a LITTLE bit worried. (Sorry, Carl, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will a perfect Quentin.)
Quentin strode boldly into his lover's room. Pauline had just finished her light dinner, and was eating an apple. She put it down, and held out her arms. Quentin gently caught her up, and kissed her lips, sweet with apple juice. "My Paulie, my Paulie," he murmurred. "I missed you more in the last 24 hours, than I did when I was in Germany, I think."
"And soon, you'll be going back. That's what Daddy said." Pauline fell back from his embrace. "It's all right, Quentin. I knew we were doomed. I don't know why, but I just KNOW it. The baby--- a dream that grew wings and flew away. It was going to be a boy, did you know that? A perfect little boy. I know he would have been the eldest, and you were afraid of that, but maybe the eldest son you had years ago with your first wife would have been enough of a sacrifice." She started to cry. "Suddenly I feel so wise, and yet I'm no different than I was yesterday, am I?"
"Maybe what you went through made you more self-aware, more mature," Quentin said. "I've been feeling the same way since--since---" He stopped; he had no idea of how much they'd told Pauline about Amy.
"Since Amy tried to kill you, Job, and even Barnabas and Miss Cagney. Again, Quentin, I couldn't tell you how I know these things. Nobody told me. Amy DID tell me about your other family---"
"How much, besides what you just said?" Quentin demanded.
"Nothing. But she said you were in the marrying mood and you wanted to meet me on Widow's Hill. Where were you, Quentin?"
"Amy made up a story to trick you, Paulie. I had no idea you were there until too late."
"And then, Barnabas showed up---"
"Barnabas was there, before---!"
"Yes, he had a favor to ask me, about my baby. I don't remember, but I think he was going to do something bad. Why would I believe something like that? Then Hannah came around, and Mrs. Johnson, which is strange because she's dead. But somehow, I was up on the safety rail and afraid to come down. Then Barnabas came back with Miss Cagney, and I don't know why he helped me, after. Maybe it was Mrs. Johnson who made him do it." There was a faraway look in Pauline's eyes, and her voice became different--- hers yet NOT hers, softer, but every word spoken with precision, as if every syllable counted. "But I jumped, like I jumped before, in New York---"
"Pauline, you did NO such thing. But somebody I knew DID, and she was saved at the last minute. Maybe HER spirit saved you that night."
Pauline stared at him. "I saved MYSELF, Quentin. I'm sorry about the baby.... I would have wanted your children. But look at me, my love, I'm in the body of your NIECE!"
"Amanda!" Quentin held Pauline once more. "Carl was right.... You DID come back as Pauline, I always knew it!"
"And it was beautiful while it lasted Quentin, but again, it was WRONG.... I will always be here, as long as Pauline lives, but you have to let her go on with her life. There WILL be a time for us in the NEXT life--- When all the wrongs are righted. Your present life will continue for a long time, and you won't lack for company, I'm sure." She smiled understandingly. "But don't leave Collinwood forever, or I'll have to look for you for another 72 years, like the last time." She pulled him close for a hungry, passionate kiss. "When Pauline has her first child--- I'm sorry, it WILL be with another man, but I'll see to it that it's someone you'll approve of--- You can be the Godfather." Another kiss. Her eyes shut tight, and she laid back on the pillows.
When Pauline opened her eyes, she gazed up at Quentin in her gentle, clueless way. "I guess this is it, huh, Quentin? But I did REALLY love you. A part of me always will, I guess." She fell asleep holding his hand.
He lifted her hand, and kissed it. "I'll always love you, baby." He was eager to be gone--- he now had a real score to settle with Barnabas! Tony would soon be back, so Quentin got up to leave.
He walked right into Christine, who, relieved of sitting with Amy, had come to visit Pauline, but stopped just in time to hear what was said about Barnabas. She was in such shock, she barely heard, much less understood, the balance of the conversation.
Quentin glared at her in surprised anger. "How long have you been out here?" he demanded.
Christine snapped out of her reverie instantly. "I only just arrived," she asserted, looking him right in the eye. "I wasn't eavesdropping. I'm certainly interested in Pauline's condition, given that I assisted in the effort to rescue her."
"But you were visiting Amy! You didn't stay all that long."
"And I intend to return. But another Collins arrived, and gave me an excuse to rush up here for a few minutes. I WAS a little surprised to see HIM, though."
Quentin's face got very dark. "It wasn't BARNABAS, was it?" He wouldn't be so bold!
"No, it was DAVID. Must have crossed signals with his son. They all could have come tog--- HEY! Wait a minute!" Christine felt a rush of wind as Quentin dashed past her to the elevator. She followed hard on his heels. When the elevator doors slid open, Tony stepped out, only to stare after the pair in amazement as they jumped in together.
"Now, what's THIS all about, Mr. Collins?" Christine demanded as the doors slid shut. "I know David and Amy had a little history together, but they ARE still friends, and Hallie as well."
"Yes.... Poor dear guileless Hallie," Quentin muttered. "Well, maybe it's nothing, but a crow just landed on MY grave, and that's saying something." He prayed that Amy hadn't actually SUMMONED David. She had such a hard time willing up any kind of vampire powers, maybe this one wasn't fully developed yet, either.
"Yes, it appears that such twinges are to be respected in these parts. But still, Officer Hallett IS right there in case of trouble, though WHAT kind of trouble, at this point, I can't imagine! Good Lord, David is the owner of an international conglomerate. Having a cousin in that that predicament and that condition may be scandalous, but they DID grow up together. He said he and his wife wanted to show their support. It's no more than the Kennedys do, and even after all the crap that went down with so many of them, nobody can TOUCH them!"
"Yes, Collinses and Kennedys--- our families' Pride is made of Teflon, if not our individual bodies. Maybe I'm making too much of this, but I wanted to stop back to see Amy one last time before I left for the night, anyway. I have urgent business elsewhere." Quentin, released from the elevator, ran down the hall to Amy's room, Christine panting in his wake. My God, she thought, he's got the wind of a 20-year-old!
At first, she felt a stab of panic--- Officer Hallett was not in his chair, and she KNEW it wasn't because he'd gone to the Men's Room--- he'd done THAT while she was still sitting with Amy, not 20 minutes earlier. She gave a sigh of relief when she and Quentin entered the room, and saw Hallett chatting quietly with David Collins as they stood by Amy's bed. Amy looked much the same as before, though her round cheeks, formerly wilted and pale, seemed to have regained some color. Her monitors showed a little more action, too.
Quentin smiled faintly, with renewed hope. Maybe Jeremy's cure WAS working on her, or, perhaps, Marisol's prayers, though he shuddered at what lay ahead in the event that Amy recovered--- 4 counts of attempted murder, one definite assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer.... If Pauline spilled about Amy's treachery, one count of conspiracy to--- to what? Murder a fetus? Incite a suicide? No doubt the ever-righteous Sheriff Lacey, spurred on by Pauline's anguished parents, would think of something.
Still, he was thankful for the moment. He
touched his great-grand-daughter's shell-pink cheek--- it was warmer than
before. And David did not appear to have that peculiar expression he'd worn
Collinwood--- the treatment would help HIM, too, indirectly. And Dan Hallett was obviously on top of things. "Well, it appears that everything's looking up here," Quentin said.
"Yes, she seemed to improve even as we were watching her in the last couple of minutes," Hallett said. He almost sounded HAPPY--- that was a bit strange, but Quentin figured that meant he'd be relieved to get Amy out of the hospital and into jail, the sooner the better.
"This will be good news to Hallie," David said. "She wanted so to come, but I promised I wouldn't be too long in getting back home. Ms. Cagney doesn't even have to stay--- a nurse will be coming by to take care of some of Amy's needs and another officer will soon be here to relieve Dan."
"Well, I'll say goodnight, then." Quentin kissed Amy's forehead. He and Christine left the room. Christine longed to be able to question her companion about his talk with Pauline, but decided he might mention it to Barnabas. In those 20 minutes, a painful realization had torn at her, and at the same time, she knew this was the only way to handle it. I can't make Barnabas's relatives suspicious, or go storming back at him like I did when Candy Cane was hurt--- he'll only become defensive and banish me for GOOD, without my getting any answers. But I can't let him talk me back into bed, either. I can't tell Mary Beth anything yet, since I'm not sure what there is to tell--- why would Barnabas have wanted to hurt Pauline and her baby in the first place? Then, almost get himself killed trying to help her, just to impress ME? It's too much. Pop-- Charlie--- if only you were here! Hell, I'd even settle for NEWMAN!
Jonah was dead and buried, 14 years already,
but she remembered that, young as he had been, he had a talent for weaseling
his way into the confidence of con men, and softening the hard-bitten. Not to
mention, making her nervous--- when dealing with Jonah Newman, almost a dozen
years her junior, Christine sometimes thought she could hear the faint strains
of an old Simon and Garfunkle song; NOT her favorite,
either. "Mrs. Robinson"!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Back in Amy's room, David asked Dan Hallett, "Are they REALLY gone now?"
Dan was standing at the door, gazing toward the elevators. "Yes, the elevator just closed, and the light went off. There's not a nurse in sight, either. I think we're safe for a while." He returned to Amy's bedside.
As the two men watched, she opened her eyes, and sat up in the bed, tubes hanging from her arms. "Well, gentlemen," she whispered huskily, "I've thought of a plan. But first---" She slowly rose from the bed. Her thin hospital gown was nearly invisible in the dim light over the bed. She embraced, first, David, pulling at his collar and taking a brief draught, as he pressed her to him. Then, she turned to Dan Hallett, who loosened his tie. She found the wounds she had made less than a half-hour ago, when she got David to bring the officer into the room for "a little talk." She took a longer swig from Hallett, to ensure his fullest co-operation. He was clumsier in his attentions, though--- he pawed at her, brushed his pelvis against hers.
"That is so RUDE, Danny--- you're just the same as you were in Fourth Grade, when you used to yank girls into the bushes to 'kiss them and make them cry', like Georgie-Porgie in the nursery rhyme. Are YOU going to cry, Danny?"
"No, Amy. I never knew I felt this way about you. I should have pulled YOU into the bushes, we would have had a SWELL time." He flashed a dopey, lustful grin.
"Stop it, Danny! When we get Amy out of here, she's MINE!" David snarled.
"Boys, Boys! PLEASE behave," Amy teased in her sternest Principal's tones. "We'll have PLENTY of time for each other, an ETERNITY, after I bust out of here. David, I'm afraid YOU won't be present. You'll just have to go home to Mrs. Preggers. I'll summon you when I'm settled." She sidled up to Hallet, and blew in his ear. "Now, when the next cop arrives for duty, Danny...."
David departed, resentfully. The next officer, Riggs, arrived 15 minutes later. He greeted Hallett, and asked how Amy was. "Go in and have a look, Kenny," Hallett said. "She's been like the dead since we brought her in."
Amy was waiting behind the huge hospital room door, the metal rack for all her feeding and blood pouches tripped of its contents, in her hands. As Ken Riggs stepped in, he barely got a look at the bed, empty of its occupant but covered with the discarded equipment, before the rack crashed onto his head. He fell heavily, blood forming a pool on the floor. Amy gazed at it longingly, but knew what she had to do next.
Hallett walked in, and, as soon as he glimpsed the scene inside, seemed to snap out of a trance. "Oh my God, Amy," he said fearfully, "You killed Kenny! You BITCH!"
"No, I didn't, darling," Amy cooed. "Can't you see him breathing?" Indeed, Riggs was vibrating a little, his shoulders shook ever so slightly, and then the others heard him moan in pain. "Now, dear, you have to let me make a little bump on your noggin, so the other police don't suspect that you helped me."
Hallett was reluctant--- and contrite. "Amy.... I'm sorry I called you a bad name....You PROMISE you won't kill me, and that we'll have some fun in the bushes when you're safe?"
"Oh, Danny!" Amy kissed him passionately on the lips. "I can't wait!" Hallett moved into position, and she hit him just as hard as she'd clobbered Riggs. The two men groaned and writhed in unison on the now-slippery floor. Amy shook her head at the wasteful flow of blood, but froze as she heard the purposeful footsteps of the nurse who was coming to take care of her and her equipment. But as the nurse rounded the doorway, a wonderful miracle happened!
The nurse, upon seeing the carnage, dropped
the tray she'd been carrying, and ran back down to the nurses'station.
"GET THE SHERIFF!" she screamed, not caring about disturbing the
"SOMEBODY KILLED THE COPS, AND AMY IS MISSING!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Amy had a hard time getting to the Old House from the hospital--- flying as a bat wasn't the same as driving a car, after all. A bat operated more from sonar-like vibrations against hard surfaces than sight, and everything looked different when she soared above the treetops anyway. Soon, however, she made out the large whitish shape of the small mansion, and swooped in through an open window, but knocked over an end table. Willie heard the racket, and rushed into the room he'd been airing out, but Amy found she was better at making herself invisible now. Flying would take more practice!
She hurried past Willie, down the cellar steps, through a series of dark, dank passages, to the hollowed-out space where escaping slaves were sheltered during the period when a Collins named Abijah ran a stop on the Underground Railroad. There was the back door, which led down to the cave on the ocean walk where Christine had first met Barnabas, and through which Willie had led his Master that evening. In the claustrophobically-small space, was the catafalque which bore Barnabas's coffin, and a candelabrum at its head. Barnabas was sitting up in the coffin. He had risen at the same time Amy had, but it was apparent that he had been waiting here for her. Now, he eyed her body, still clad in its ridiculously revealing hospital gown, and said with annoyance, "Amy, PLEASE find something decent to cover yourself with. What if someone sees you?"
"If someone SEES me, they'll be out to KILL me! I DOUBT they'll care what I'm wearing." Amy leaned over Barnabas and kissed his lips, brushing herself against him seductively. "Besides, this should be MORE than enough for our honeymoon night, shouldn't it?"
"There will be NO honeymoon for US," Barnabas replied, shoving her away in disgust. "You have failed in EVERY way. You failed to destroy Quentin, you committed yet ANOTHER atrocity--- yes, Willie heard ALL about what just happened to Hallett and Riggs on this handy little machine he bought as an amusement some years back, and set up again recently to keep track of emergencies. It's called a 'police band scanner'."
"But Barnabas, I had to get out of the hospital! Jeremy was giving me that awful medicine, Marisol was exorcising my 'demons', and YOUR Miss Cagney was ready to sit with me all night! Of COURSE I summoned David to help me out, and I thought my plan with Danny Hallett would be fool-proof, until he called ME a BITCH, and I could see that he would betray me as well. Isn't that what you used to do to Willie, beat him when he disobeyed?"
"No matter HOW much Willie irked me and tried to foil my plans, I NEVER came close to beating him to DEATH!" Barnabas roared. "Now we have THREE policemen near death, Woodard's recovery not being a mathematical certainty just yet. To make matters WORSE, it seems that DAVID was the last person seen leaving your hospital room just prior to the attacks. The Sheriff is on her way to Collinwood to question, and most likely, ARREST him, even as we speak! The ONLY other person I've ever been connected with, who EVER committed so many blunders, was ADAM! However, UNLIKE Adam, Amy, YOU haven't a Nicholas Blair, Professor Stokes, or even CAROLYN to protect you now! You've lost EVERYTHING inside of 24 hours! There is only ONE person who can destroy you RIGHT NOW, and that is the man who made you as you are. MYSELF!"
Amy was quick to dart away, but Barnabas was quicker. He seized her by the throat, and applied enough pressure to render her unconscious. Then he picked up his silver-handled cane, and held it above her head. But he was tackled from behind, and engaged in a mad wrestling match for the cane, for a full minute before he realized who stopped him.
"WILLIE!" Barnabas shouted.
"I TOLD you I'd try to keep you from killing anybody, even if I got MYSELF killed," the former thrall said. Willie fell back, himself gasping, but he knew he'd won this fight. Barnabas lowered the cane.
"Willie, this isn't one of your helpless, stupid little friends. Do you know what Amy IS?"
"I know! But I ALSO know she wouldn't be so messed up if YOU hadn't screwed her over! She's doing the SAME shit YOU did when YOU first became a vampire, what you end up doing EVERY GOD-DAMN TIME you first become a vampire! She needs vampire LESSONS!"
Barnabas shook his head. "For once, my old friend, your compassion is TRULY misplaced. Amy is NOT the kind of vampire MAGGIE would have become. There is a dark strain of madness in her veins, from her Gypsy ancestress. Now that Amy has discovered killing, I'm afraid she LIKES it--- which is bad enough for HER, but may prove dangerous to US!"
"I don't care for myself, anymore," Willie said. "I'm too old and tired for this to go on. If Amy has to be put out of the picture, we could chain her up in a casket like you were, until Jeremy gets a cure going. Since you seem to want to impress Miss Cagney again, I'll try not to worry about YOUR doings as much, but---"
"So you're not worried about ME, and you don't care about YOURSELF, anymore," Barnabas said. "How about your DAUGHTER?"
Willie turned from Barnabas so the latter wouldn't see his face blanch. "I DON'T have any children, or even a WIFE, thanks to YOU!"
"Really? Then Jeremy must have been mistaken.... Well, I guess that means his ex-fiancee IS fair game for ME, especially since SHE has the same kind of blood as Alice---" Willie jumped Barnabas again, but this time, the vampire threw him off. "Your reaction proves the truth of my accusation, " Barnabas said.
"Okay, I ADMIT it," Willie replied. "I suppose you know then, that Harvey is my cousin, and all that great blood comes from US."
"Of course," Barnabas smirked.
"Imagine--- fruit of the loins of CARL COLLINS, of all people! If I had
known back then what a treasure lay in HIS veins,
perhaps I WOULD have settled for making him my thrall.
Perhaps that's why I throve so well, while living solely on YOUR blood!" He bent over Willie, baring his fangs, but changed his mind, and shut his mouth.
"What, you don't WANT my blood anymore?" Willie taunted. "Is it because I'm OLD like YOU, and you're afraid it won't fix all your aches and pains like some young girl's? I know Julia once turned you old with her medicine by accident when I was stuck in WindCliff, and you nearly drained poor Carolyn dry to get the color back in your hair and the spring back in your step! Any young kid should do the trick in that case. But I'd rather you drain ME ahead of someone else. You're not going to get any OLDER, if that's what you're worried about!"
"I'll keep your offer under consideration, BELIEVE me. Perhaps it's not the AGING effects of your blood that I would prefer to avoid. It's the influence it might have on my ability to make SENSIBLE decisions," Barnabas said with a sneer. "Oh, and by the way, I DO want you to know, Jeremy NEVER said a word about your family history--- I read his mind, so DON'T try to avenge yourself on HIM."
"I would NEVER hurt that kid, and you KNOW it. Whatever he might have spilled to you, I already knew it was YOUR fault. But, Barnabas, please.... Don't hurt Vicki, or Alice.... Let Jeremy finish making the cure, for both you and Amy. I KNOW a part of you still cares for us. I know a part of you loves Miss Cagney, same as you loved Julia.... If you lose everything, it won't be MY doing, I WILL promise you that, but I can't promise to stop it, either. But I know that you WILL lose, and lose big, because Sheriff Lacey is one stubborn woman, and she's shrewd, and she already suspects you. She's like this cop Jason ran into years ago, in New York. He arrested some other crook who resembled Jason, and was able to hold him until Jason thought the coast was clear, and slipped up. Then the cop was after him again, with a vengeance, and he called in Interpol, who were also looking for him. Jason got a hold of me, and we made it onto a ship bound for South America, under faked passports, in record time. That was a year before we came up here. If Jason had lived, they'd have caught him, all right."
"Your point, Willie?"
"I'm saying that maybe, Sheriff Lacey might just pull the same tactic. She'll keep David in the slammer until you, or Amy, do something ELSE you shouldn't, and then she'll be here in a heartbeat, every cop armed with a Cross, maybe with stakes and hammers, maybe even guns loaded with silver bullets, like what happened to poor Chris Jennings. Maybe Miss Cagney will still be here. Maybe SHE'LL be the one to plug you. At any rate, NEITHER you OR Amy will stand a chance." Willie looked right into Barnabas's eyes. "Is THAT what you want to happen, Barnabas? Is THAT what you want for AMY, or any other poor girl you drag in here for a Bride? Is that what you want to happen to your OWN SON?"
For a moment, Barnabas felt a stab of--- shame? Humility? Because, even though Willie knew there WAS a real danger of being bitten again, or at least of being hypnotized into doing his former Master's bidding, he STILL dared to gaze into that Master's eyes? A minute passed. Barnabas finally turned his head. "I will make plans to leave Collinwood, that would be the BEST thing. I would hate to miss the opportunity presented by the magical blood of Alice and Vicki, but you are ALWAYS right when it comes to my safety AND my son's, Willie. As for Amy, I shall keep her confined until such time as my son finds the cure, and then I'll have to leave her to her fate. I will trust you to see that no harm comes to her from the Sheriff's zeal, because I won't be able to take you with me. My son will still need you.... to console him, I suppose. And there is your daughter, whether or not she and Jeremy wed."
"And Miss Cagney? What about HER?"
"She will go back to New York, and go on with her life. By her own account, she's weathered romantic disappointments before, and she's certainly no virgin. A strong-minded woman still so capable of passion will not stay alone for long. It will be a wrench for me, but I, too, will turn to other 'resources'." Barnabas lifted Amy, and gently laid her in his casket. "That will be better than lying on the cold floor. Now, let us leave her for a while. I have to talk to my son, and we three have a lot of planning to do." He checked the lock on the back door of the chamber. When he and Willie exited, Barnabas bolted the door.
Amy stirred a few minutes later. She opened her eyes, and soon remembered where she was. Sitting upright in the casket, she was dismayed to find that she was alone. She became angry when she got out of the casket, and tried both of the doors, finding them throughly secured. She willed herself into invisibility, but that, she soon discovered painfully, did NOT mean permeability. In her invisible state, she was just as solid as she was when visible, and just as easily bruised. Perhaps, there was a way to get in and out of enclosed spaces, but, like the flying, she would have to practice. She climbed back into the casket, and huddled with her knees drawn up and clasped in her arms, like a frightened and very cold child. She felt both scared and stupid, and began to cry, those odd, bloody tears.
"I think I can help ye, lass." A calm, confident baritone, with a light Irish brogue.
Amy whirled around in the casket, nearly upsetting it from the catafalque. She knew nobody with such a voice, which, furthermore, seemed to come from Nowhere and Nothing. "It's my imagination," she declared to the empty, musty-smelling air.
"I could say the same, my dear. I've
certainly imagined spending time with such a lovely colleen as yourself,
and one in such a state of undress, for well over 30 years already. But here we are, and YOU are QUITE real." Amy felt a cold stroke down her back, where the hospital gown had fallen open.
"WHO are you? WHERE are you?" she cried. "HOW did you get in here, and can you get ME out?"
"Ah, so many questions, and I thought ye didn't believe in me!" There was a sound of contemptuous laughter. A human form began to materialize next to the casket, in the dim light of the candles. A man, tall and ruggedly handsome, with polished black hair and an engaging grin.... He wore a pea-coat and a boat captain's cap, but also sported expensive-looking trousers and shiny wing-tipped shoes.
He reached out with both hands, and seized Amy by the shoulders. She struggled to get away, but he WAS solid enough to hold her. He pressed her to him, and gave her an icy but intense kiss on the mouth, and kissed her neck and shoulders. She could feel his cold hands working their way under the flimsy gown, and she clung to him, though his dark coat was a scratchy, cheap wool. "Now do ye believe I'm real?" he muttered.
"Yes," she whispered. "Please.... continue.... Or else...." She bared her fangs, but when they touched HIS throat, she jumped back as if her mouth was on fire.
"Heh-heh, lass, you've found out one thing the hard way--- two dead things such as WE, can only do so much to each other. Ye CAN'T take me over, and I can't take YOU over, though we CAN have a bit of fun, but only IF we help each other out." He released her, both still panting with infernal lust.
"Who--who are you?"
"Ah, so you WERE willing to put out first, and ask questions later! You ARE my kind of woman, Amelia--- yes, I DO know that's your real name, and a lovely one it is. I know a great deal about EVERYBODY here, especially about Mr. Barnabas Collins and his longtime companion, Willie. Have ye ever heard mention of the name 'Jason McGuire'? For that fine name is MINE."
"I think they were just talking about you, but I was out like a light. Did they--they KILL you?"
"You ARE clever, my dear. No wonder you were such a great schoolmarm. Well, in point of fact, Barnabas killed me, and Willie was stuck doing the obsequies, such as they were. My mortal remains now repose in the formerly secret room in Joshua Collins's great mausoleum at Eagle Hill Cemetery, wrapped in an old, stinking carpet Barnabas was ready to burn anyway, the BASTARD!" Jason smashed his hand into the side of the casket in his rage. "I bided and bided my time, hoping to get even with the vampire and his catamite."
"I think you have THAT all wrong. Barnabas was happily married for almost 15 years, and I just recently caught him with--with---some fat, overaged HAG, going at it like muskrats in Josette's bed! And he's been biting GIRLS!"
"He bit his own SON as well, don't ye think THAT a wee bit perverse? No, lassie, Barnabas and Willie are a pair. Imagine a man who can't make a girl love him, but lets a doctor take his manly goods to the girl in a cup to knock her up, so her HUSBAND can take the credit! If THAT doesn't show you that Willie's a prize girly-man, I don't know what else will, short of telling ye a few rather graphic stories unfit for such lovely ears as your own!" Jason shook his head.
"Thanks, but NO thanks. I can live without the mental pictures. So now you want to get revenge on the Odd Couple. Why now? Why not years ago?"
"Because, only now, do I have a chance
to get Willie's whole family, and Barnabas's, and even the daughter of that
drunken turncoat-Irish sot of a cop who almost handed me to Interpol on a
platter! Revenge hurts WORSE if ye go after the children of your enemies! But
then ye know that--- I applauded how you sent Pauline into the lion's den, so
to speak, even if Barnabas was the weapon of your vengeance. She began spurting
out her un-natural spawn the minute she hit the ground! What a blow for her
sweet little Carolyn, who tried to kill ME 33 years ago, as well! And that's another reason I want to help ye. We obviously think alike, and quite frankly, my dear, I heard some of Barnabas's and Willie's plans for you.
If the Sheriff doesn't kill you outright, you'll be pumped full of some loathsome dope, not even good honest Guinness or whiskey, and spend the rest of your days in--- what was it called--- WindBreath or
"Same difference, Amelia. You'll be a Cloud Brain for sure, after they get their hooks into ye. So, are ye with me on whatever I have planned?" Jason embraced Amy again, and opened a couple of snaps on her hospital gown.
"YES! Please! Tell me NOW!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mary Beth and Christine had left the hospital, and, with two deputies following them in another car, were now headed to Collinwood. "I don't BELIEVE it!" Christine said. "Who'd have thought DAVID would be involved with this mess?"
"Well, Christine, he WAS pretty angry about my investigating Barnabas and any members of the Collins family in general," the Sheriff replied. "In fact, he was downright INSULTING. I guess I was supposed to be his 'trophy Sheriff', chosen to PRETEND that Collinsport was out of the Victorian Age, but in reality, I was just supposed to confine myself to writing traffic tickets, and all that stuff YOU teased me about when you first came here. Maybe you're both right, if for different reasons."
"That's BULL, Mary Beth. He had the hots for the former Principal, and he made an awful mistake when he got her out of the hospital. That's HIS doing."
"His ALLEGED doing! It makes NO sense--- I mean, there was only ONE cop on duty when he arrived. Why hang around after clobbering the first cop, and then clobber another? David could have gotten Amy out of that room with a lot less work. And WHERE would he take her? She was in a COMA, she NEEDED all those machines and I.V.'s."
"Perhaps she DIDN'T. I'm not saying that she wasn't sick, but it's possible she wasn't as sick as everyone thought, and David discovered this accidentally, and they hatched a plot on the spot."
"Well, it was LOUSY plan. Though I wonder about those marks on Dan Hallett's throat? Just like Amy's, Candy's and Alice's!"
"Maybe a coincidence in this instance. Whoever wanted to kill these guys wanted to do a thorough job of it, not a half-assed attempt to make Hallet bleed to death!"
Mary Beth and her convoy parked right near the front step for easier access for when she and her deputies dragged David Collins out in handcuffs.
She, Christine, and the deputies all stood together on the granite step. Marisol answered Mary Beth's insistent ringing. She seemed to know what was up, and protested, "Senora Sheriff, NO! Nobody in this house helped Senorita Amy! It was CHUPACABRA, I TELL you!"
Christine held up a small plastic Zip-Lock bag which contained Marisol's silver Cross and its broken chain. "Why, Marisol, I thought THIS was supposed to keep the Chupacabra away! If THAT'S the case, only a HUMAN could have broken this, and tossed it into a corner of Amy's room!"
"Marisol, you HAVE to let us in, this ISN'T a choice!" Mary Beth said. "I have a warrant to arrest David Collins. And my people will comb this house again to find where Amy's being kept. I'm sorry for EVERYBODY here, but until this matter has been thoroughly investigated, I'll have to hold Mr. Collins. Now, please tell me where he is, if you can."
"There's no need, Marisol." David himself stood behind the nanny. "What on earth is the meaning of this, Sheriff Lacey?"
"You. sir, are under arrest for the attempted murders of two Collinsport policemen, assault with---"
"Yes, yes, I just heard about the attacks. Why would you think I was involved? Just because I visited Amy? Just because you' like to get EVEN with me, for my unfortunate remarks to you the other day? My GOD, Sheriff Lacey, I am a happily-married husband and father, and I own a huge business,or rather, it owns ME. I had nothing to gain by committing these acts, and if you search this house from top to bottom again, you're not going to find a half-dead woman here. I came home directly from Amy's room, and I've been watching the WBAM Night Time News with my WIFE, who's due to give birth any minute! Think of what this would do to HER!"
"It GRIEVES me to NO end, sir! But you
were the last person seen leaving Ms. Jennings's room. There
were no other visitors, only Hallett and Riggs. The room was not close to the nurse's station, and there IS a service elevator nearby, for people being brought up or talken out on gurneys, so it IS quite possible that Ms. Jennings could have gotten out on her own power, to meet you later.... We're checking security videotapes from the hospital right now, but they don't have cameras EVERYWHERE!"
"Well, I suppose they had one hidden in Amy's room, given that she was an object of police scrutiny. That will show I am NOT a monster!"
"Well, in order to clear your name, sir, we'll have to bring you downtown."
Hallie shuffled into the foyer, only to see her husband being handcuffed and read his rights. "DAVID!" she bleated like a frightened lamb. She threw her heavily-laden body at her husband, nearly upsetting the entire group, like a bowling ball hitting dominoes.
David yanked his arms free, and kept his wife from hitting the ground. In the process, his collar button broke, and exposed his throat. Marisol glanced at it, and cried "CHUPA! I keep TELLING you, Senora Cagney, Senora Sheriff!"
Mary Beth examined the twin fang marks. "My God.... just like Kenny and Amy and Candy and Alice--"
"You do not believe yet," Marisol said. "I tried to show Senorita Cagney when I blessed Amy at the hospital. The Holy water hurt her marks like iodine medicine stings an open wound. Watch Senor David!" Marisol took the silver Cross away from Christine, and laid it across the marks. David yelped with pain.
"David!" Hallie repeated, only in a shocked tone. "It's--It's like what my Uncle Elliot wrote about.... What MY Elliot keeps telling me.... Sheriff Lacey--- Mary Beth--- I changed my mind. I WANT you to take David away--- for his OWN safety!"
"Hallie, don't let them, please. It's just--- just spider bites---" David sat up, rubbing the wounds. "This old house is chock-full of them...."
"Looks more like the Kiss of the Spider WOMAN to me," Christine said. "Mary Beth, I say--- let's do as Mrs. Collins here wants."
Mary Beth looked confused. "Well, of course I'm going to take him in, Christine, but I DON'T understand all this eagerness to get him out of here, all of a sudden."
"Tell the deputies to cuff him and watch him for a few minutes. You and Hallie, please come outside for a minute." On the granite steps, with the great doors shut, Christine said, "You believe in what Marisol says, don't you Hallie?"
"In a way--- YES. I may not hold with the reality of an actual vampire, but there are evil, sick people who DO, and who emulate it. For some reason, poor Amy seems to be seized with this delusion. I wish I knew WHY. I wish I knew WHY NOW! We've gotten along quite well over the years, whether you care to believe it or not, Christine, Mary Beth.... I haven't told you before, but Amy was my Bethany's Godmother. When she was a student teacher, she also acted as part-time tutor to my Emily, and, over the years, to my other children.
�It's only in the last year or so, she's been really unhappy. I don't like to think I've been flaunting all this childbearing in her face when she really shouldn't have any of her own, but David and I were only children, and HE insisted on a big family. This LAST one, though, was REALLY a surprise...." Hallie affectionately rubbed her huge middle, which wasn't even a middle anymore. Mary Beth unconsciously mimicked her gesture. "Anyway, I KNOW that Amy, if she really believes she's a vampire, WILL come looking for David FIRST. I'd rather he be in a holding cell, with so many Crosses around him that HE won't be able to get rid of ALL of them, and MORE than one or two clueless guards. Then you must set up a trap for Amy."
"And then, say we catch her alive," Mary Beth said. "We're not going to STAKE her, even if that what she WANTS--- "
"Whatever the law decides to do with her, I would only ask that she NOT be sent to the State Mental Hospital," Hallie said. "From what I understand, they're no better NOW, than when Willie was sent there initially over 30 years ago. WindCliff now has a section that's just as secure, and they'll TREAT Amy properly, as they did Willie, even if she can't EVER be released--- and it will be at Collinses' expense, NOT the state's."
"And we're to keep it quiet as we can, AFTER the fact," Mary Beth grumbled. "Well, as long as we can make some noise BEFOREHAND--- I wouldn't want some poor soul to run into her out there. Too many fine people have been hurt already. Maybe more, already, than her miserable brother hurt in his whole life."
"Well, at least nobody's DEAD yet. We have to pray THAT remains true. In the meantime, do what you must, Sheriff. If you need Crosses and such, I'm sure Father Rondini at St. Ann's can help you out."
When David was brought out, his wife walked calmly at his side. She hugged him as best she could, between the obstruction of her belly, and his hands having been cuffed behind him. "It will be all right, David. I'm sure this will be settled in a few days."
"But the baby might come in the meantime! I wanted to be there for the last-born Collins's arrival."
"I'll tell him to wait for his Daddy," Hallie replied with a brave smile. She kissed her husband lightly on the lips, and on his wounds. "I want you safe, my love."
When Christine heard that phrase, the same Barnabas had used to her the night of their first date, her eyes prickled and steamed, as she watched the deputies ease David Collins into a turquoise and gold squad car.
As she settled into the Sheriff's car beside Mary Beth, the latter sighed, "You know, Christine, even after all these years, I STILL have moments when I hate this job like poison."
Her friend replied, "Strychnine. Absolute strychnine. Hurts like crazy going down, or so I'm
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PART TWELVE--- WEDNESDAY, April 19, 2000 (A)
It was a long, long time before anyone came back to the secret chamber where Amy was being kept. She felt the pressure of approaching daylight, even though she could not see it. She thought, "It's high time BARNABAS got back here, at least. I hope Willie brings a box, a crate for ME--- Hell, I'd settle for a cardboard carton! Unless Barnabas is chivalrous enough to let me sleep in HIS casket, and HE can take the cardboard box!" This thought made her laugh loudly and insanely. So loudly, she almost didn't hear the door being unlocked, and so insanely, she almost forgot the plans she'd made with Jason! But she snapped out of it the instant the door opened, and there stood--- just Willie.
"Where's Barnabas?" Amy asked. She jumped out of the casket, and approached Willie, but, in a moment, CRINGED--- he was waving a Crucifix in her face, complete with the Body of Christ fastened to it. No doubt, it had been blessed as well. And Willie WAS a believer, even if it killed him, or GOT him killed.
"Barnabas decided you needed your very own room with your very own bed. So, this is YOUR place now. Barnabas had a spare coffin built years ago--- well, I built it, for someone else who never used it--- and he moved into a new bachelor pad with it, you might say." Willie grinned at his own pathetic joke.
"And what's going to happen to ME, now?"
"Why, Amy, it's about 5:00 AM now. You're going to jump back into that casket and get some shut-eye."
"But LATER, Willie--- I'm going to need to, you know, EAT!"
"Don't worry. We'll see that you get what you require."
"I CAN'T stay in here, all alone! I'll go CRAZY!"
"Sounds like you're already there, Amy. But I'll fix this place up nice for you, bring in a rug, a chair and a little table. I'll bring a spare lantern, and you can catch up on your reading, until Jeremy can cure you. I'll bring you your clothes from Collinwood, if I can sneak in there with all the police hanging around looking for YOU. I'll bring you a radio so you can listen to the latest about the search! Then, MAYBE, if you get better with the medicine, and you don't hurt anyone ELSE, Barnabas will help you go far away from here."
Amy began to sniffle, and a bloody tear rolled down her cheek. "Willie, do YOU hate me the way Barnabas hates me?"
"Amy.... Barnabas doesn't hate you, and
I sure don't, or I wouldn't have kept him from killing you earlier. And I
talked him around, so this IS what HE wants to do, because you remind him of
someone he really cared about when he was a kid." Willie said softly,
"I stuck up for you because you remind ME of someone
I used to know, who was hurt bad by Barnabas."
"I remind you of MAGGIE?"
"No," Willie replied. "I mean
someone who, like you, was 'first blood', you might say. The first bite
Barnabas got on anybody when he was released in 1967. You remind me of ME, in a
way. Even if you're going wild right now.... What
Barnabas does makes people act the opposite of the way they were before.
I was mean and crazy, and I straightened out. You were pretty prim and proper, and now.... But maybe you'll behave better, even without Jeremy's shots. I know you have it in you, the same way the good's still inside Barnabas." There was a wistful, longing look in Willie's eyes when he gazed at Amy. "You DO trust me, don't you?"
"I--I GUESS so, Willie. I'll be good,
and I WILL get into the casket again." Amy climbed with one bare
foot on a part of the catafalque for a boost, as her legs were too short to swing up into it. Her foot slid, she grabbed the side of the casket, and it nearly tumbled onto her. Willie instinctively reached out to help Amy, and she knocked the Crucifix from his hand. He realized that he'd been tricked, and scrambled around on the ground to grab the Holy Symbol. Amy jumped hard on his old back; he gasped and struggled. She tore at his plaid shirt, and sank her fangs in, biting the base of his thick neck where it joined his shoulder. In a minute, he relaxed. Amy said, "Oh, Willie, how foolish of you to trust ME. Now you BELONG to me. Turn over and look at me, Willie!"
Amy jumped off so he could roll over. The pupils of Willie's faded sky-blue eyes were now dilated, which made them look full of sorrow. She leaned over him, and he reached up for her, but she was disgusted and skipped back. "Oh, poor Willie, I can see you're like all the rest. Well, nobody's going to get me, ahead of David. But since you TRIED to be nice, if you do me some big favors, I'll let you have the leftovers."
"What do you want me to do, honey?" Willie was grinning at Amy the way she recalled Harvey Lacey grinned at HIS spouse. How AWFUL, Amy thought, what if he IS really in love with me? These thralls could get so jealous of each other. Still, a woman in HER position couldn't depend on just ONE man to supply ALL her needs!
"Well, you have to get up and put a bandage and maybe a turtle-neck sweater over my love-nibble," she said. "You're going to have to face Jeremy and Quentin and the Sheriff and all those people, for hours before you even SEE Barnabas. You'd like to do something to help him, wouldn't you?"
"Well, yeah.... It's nice of YOU to think of that, considering that he--he---" Willie looked embarrassed.
"You mean, considering he made me into a vampire," Amy said. "Well, I'm VERY okay with it now. Maybe if we do him a favor, and you tell him it was MY idea, he'll set me free without Jeremy's stupid cure. And then we can get to what YOU want to do, that much faster!"
"What can we do?" Willie was eager, like a Boy Scout eager to earn a merit badge.
"Well, you know how Barnabas needs blood."
"Nobody knows THAT better than me. But
Jeremy's going to get animal blood for him, and THIS time,
Barnabas is going to STICK with the diet."
"But he enjoyed Alice Lacey's blood, didn't he? And he wanted Vicki Shaw's."
Willie's face darkened. "NO," he said firmly. "Those two are off-limits. Even Barnabas accepts that."
"Willie?" Amy wheedled. She hugged Willie, and he could feel every inch of her body through the cheap muslin hospital gown. Then, she bit him again, on the OTHER side of his neck. This made him clutch her tightly, as though they were engaged in an intimate act. She took advantage of this to ask, "When is Alice going home?"
"Today," Willie said, panting with lust. "The Sheriff said there was too much craziness going on at the hospital, and she wanted Alice back with the family."
"Well, then, let me think of a way she can be brought to--- where is Barnabas NOW, Willie?" Amy kissed him on the mouth with her bloody lips. She scratched out a small cut on her shoulder, and Willie gave her a big, slurping kiss there.
"He's in the secret room at the mausoleum. Nobody goes out there anymore. I doubt anyone would even THINK of looking for him there."
"Well, I think there's someone who SHOULD. Your cousin Harvey's never seen it before, has he?"
Willie withdrew from Amy again. "Amy, please.... DON'T make me hurt people I care for to please you. I had enough of that with Barnabas."
"Willie.... Sweet William, that's what I'm going to call you from now on, like the flower. I would NEVER ask you to hurt anyone. I just thought that, as a former builder, Harvey would be FASCINATED with that room. Why, it's built like the Pyramids or the Catacombs or something like that, isn't it? I remember David telling me when we were kids."
"It's just a very plain room built of
granite blocks inside a hill. The interesting part is the way the door
opens--- until it does, it just looks like part of the wall! But I'm NOT going to bring Harvey there, or Alice, or anyone else, while BARNABAS is there, anyway!"
"Not even when he's sleeping safely in his coffin?"
"Harvey has a bad heart. He'll drop dead if he sees the coffin. Or anything else in there he shouldn't."
"I can't imagine why a grown man would be so shocked to see a coffin in a mausoleum--- after all, that's what they're FOR. And what else could possibly be in there to scare him? Hmmm?"
Willie said stubbornly, "NOTHING. Nothing at all, I guess. But I doubt he'll leave his house once Alice is home."
"Well, if there's NOTHING, then find a
way to pry him from the bosom of his family, and SHOW him the damn secret room.
Conceal the coffin if you feel you must. It's NOT like you have a CHOICE
anymore, Sweet William--- or like you WANT one, either!" Amy snuggled in
Willie's eager arms, and gave him one more bite "for the road."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Quentin's phone rang. At first, Quentin dreaded to pick up the receiver--- he was ready to hear the worst, that Amy had been found and staked. Hallie tried to reassure him that the Sheriff's department would co-operate to bring Amy in alive, but she was crying so much about David, he worried about her condition. Most of the children had been sent to stay with big sister Emily and Hallie's relatives in Massachussetts until the trouble died down, save for Elliot, who wanted to stay near his mother and Alice Lacey, and little Hannah Louise, who vowed to take care of her mother "like Mrs. Johnson would want me to." Roger was an emotionally broken man, in addition to his general physical deterioration. After the younger grandchildren, upon whom he doted in his curmudgeonly way, had left with Marisol and her occasional assistant, the cook's daughter Heather, he spent the balance of the day weeping with his daughter-in-law. Quentin reflected that, for pathos, little could beat the sight of a bereft elderly man's tears.
Mercifully, the voice on the other end of the line was NOT the snapping, crackling one of Sheriff Lacey, but the eager bark of Dr. Conrad Lang. "Mr. Collins! I have GREAT news for you, sir!"
"Please, I could USE some great news right about now," Quentin said glumly. "WAS there something worthwhile in your Uncle Eric's old notes?" How COULD there be, he thought, when Jeremy was so sure his parents possessed the relevant 'Adam' files?
"Indeed I have! I would like to meet with you personally, however, Mr. Collins. Some of this material is of a sensitive nature, and I shouldn't like to read it aloud."
"All right. I'll be at your office in a half-hour," Quentin replied.
When he arrived there, Lang was waiting with a pile of hastily-dusted files and notebooks on his desk. "Mr. Collins---"
"Please, Conrad, call me Quentin. What did you ferret out here?"
"THIS file," Dr. Lang said, "details the here-to-fore unknown functions of the pineal gland, the so-called 'third eye' of legend. In humans, it is little more than a vestigial anatomical artifact, but in some primitive animals, it is still a major sensory organ. The ancients regarded the human pineal gland as the seat of the soul. My uncle apparently found this highly relevant in some of his more ambitious research. His ideas, in a pre-cloning era, involved assembling a composite of human body parts, to provide a temporary bodily respite for souls whose real bodies were plagued by major illness or what the victims believed to be curses, but in reality were serious syndromes of mysterious origin---"
"Would a man who fancied himself a vampire have benefitted from this treatment, assuming it could have been made to work?" Quentin asked.
Lang's eyes took on a faraway look. "Theoretically speaking, assuming there ARE such things as vampires, I would THINK so." Then, he shook his head, as thought to regain his former composure. "Of course, my uncle realized soon that such a project was fantasy, but he DID a lot or research on the pineal gland. Here, read this," Lang said, tapping a paragraph in the file.
Quentin read it: "I have lately discovered," Eric Lang had written, in elegant copperplate script, "that the pineal gland, while not necessarily the seat of the soul, IS its filter and purifier. It responds well to electro-chemical stimulus, and is often the last soft part of the brain to deteriorate after death. The man who can unlock its potential may well be the Savior of the human race, for then, we could run all sorts of physical and mental impurities through this natural sieve, and it would pass the sentient existence back, like blood is returned to the body after dialysis, without lasting effect upon the equipment of the cleansing."
"This---this is INCREDIBLE!" Quentin shouted. So near, yet so far, he thought. So THAT was the missing link that cleared Barnabas's curse! No doubt, Timothy Adam Samwell had come to realize this himself, and had chosen to keep himself intact, until--- until what? Total revival of the body, or just the pineal gland? If the latter was the case, they would only have needed to save his brain--- Quentin knew the Cryogenic Institute accepted some brains, mainly because that was all the clients could AFFORD to preserve. However, an organ separated from the whole tended to deteriorate more quickly than a body preserved in its entirety, no matter how much freezing solution it was preserved in. The cumulative difference, spread out over years, was probably no more than a few months, but when the brain, already damaged, came from a damaged person, the shelf life was BOUND to be lower.
Adam had been on his deathbed for agonizing days before the end, and had taken the time to consider this, before instructing his underlings what to do. He might even have endured the freezing while still barely alive; Quentin had heard of such apochryphal cases, and there WERE European countries that tolerated forms of euthanasia, though he doubted modern Germany favored THAT.
He knew two things for sure: he would have to tell Jeremy, and he would have to ask Tony if he'd checked that will for any clause that would allow Adam's body to be released.
"Mr. Collins, may I ask, WHY is this information of such moment?"
"Because there ARE some sick persons who might benefit from any treament developed from these notes. HOW would these cures be processed?"
"If he acquired a healthy pineal gland in excellent condition, my uncle probably would have subjected it to electrical stimulation, then passed some kind of purified liquid through it, either a chemical, or a processed body fluid, like plasma, which has been separated from blood. The choice would depend on the condition one wishes to treat."
"Are you aware of the X-factor in the blood Willie Loomis and several of his relatives? Would separating the blood to get the plasma eliminate the anomaly, do you think?"
"Quite likely, since plasma is just the liquid in which corpuscles, proteins, and the like are suspended. The best thing to do, if one wishes to retain the desired protein, would be to mix it back with the plasma, if enough of it can be isolated and extracted, and then force it through the pineal gland. We could then extract what is sloughed off and 'cook the broth' to produce, hopefully, a medicine and NOT a toxic substance."
"How long would this take?"
"Well, Mr. Collins, we haven't the centrifuge equipment necessary for that volume of plasmapheresis. We also don't have a pineal gland to experiment with. So it's a moot question, really." Lang gazed at Quentin for a few minutes. "Are you thinking this could help those injured by the stalker? You BELIEVE.... don't you?" He leaned forward, an intense, almost EAGER look on his patrician face.
Quentin tried to evade the question.
"It's not a matter of what anyone BELIEVES. It's a matter of, are all
these people manifesting certain symptoms? Yes. Are the indications in every
case similar enough to be caused by the same source? Yes. If this treatment can
help one, will it help the others? QUITE likely!
What else does one NEED to believe?"
Lang said, "If you need help for such a project, I will make myself available. I will be absolutely discreet. Just give me the word...."
An hour later, back at the Old House, Quentin eagerly explained the proposal to Jeremy. "It has the potential for beefing up the cure for both Barnabas and Amy! Think of the trickle-down benefits to Alice Lacey, David, Danny Hallett...."
Jeremy seemed to have no enthusiasm left; in fact, he sat listlessly, almost falling asleep during Quentin's "sales pitch." "I don't know where we could do this, anyway---"
"Get Vicki to call GenScan again! I KNOW you two broke up, but you both have to put the greater good ahead of your feelings. There's enough blood now, Dr. Heard will release it to you if we can get Adam's pineal gland. Let me call Tony right now!" Quentin strode to the phone across the room in two sweeping steps.
Tony wasn't very encouraging. "Yes, there IS a contingency clause, but the contingency is, he is to be given a normal burial if a cure for death doesn't materialize within 50 years!"
"A court order won't cut it, eh?"
"Listen Quentin, we're not EXHUMING his body from a GRAVE--- as far as those Cryogenic nutbars are concerned, you want to 'pull the plug' on someone THEY regard as merely being in a very deep coma, and whom, moreover, they've been paid EXTREMELY well to maintain in that big freezer box."
Quentin was exasperated. Perhaps David was RIGHT--- Adam, the Patchwork man, HAD screwed the Collinses and the town over in the worst possible way. There would be NO peace in Collinsport if the attacks weren't stopped. "Tony, what if we just wanted--- wanted a SAMPLE of his body tissues?"
"NOW, Quentin, you ARE being ridiculous. What on earth are you after, here? The secret of eternal youth? Messing around with my 23-year-old daughter didn't make you feel young ENOUGH?"
Quentin was angry. That low-down, dirty S.O.B.--- "Why NO, Tony, as a matter of fact, I discovered THAT secret QUITE some time ago! I was just asking for a doctor friend, who is interested in Adam's rumored anatomical anomalies. Not to mention that, while he was alive, Adam never developed so much as a SNIFFLE, according to some reports going around on the InterNet. This man may be the Shark Cartilage Cure of the new Millennium! After all, Adam had to have had a more profound reason for preserving his body this way, and in this area, beyond any desire to make the Cryogenics Institute of Maine RICH! And, anyway, how do WE know THEY'RE not experimenting with HIM? They must have some way of testing their cock-eyed theories, even if it's just a put-on so the clients' families will think they're on the up-and-up."
"Whatever they do, THEY'VE been duly authorized by Adam's estate. Even if you have an idea that will cure CANCER, AIDS, and ACNE, YOU haven't been authorized to do ANYTHING."
Quentin hung up the phone in despair. If only
there was SOMEONE--- WAIT! he thought, then dismissed
the idea. The only other living person who MIGHT have a clue about a way to get
around the will was CAROLYN, who, Quentin knew, had spoken to Adam the last
couple of months of his life, and had made the arrangements with the Cryogenics
Institute for the reclusive billionaire. But it was hopeless--- the former
lover of Carolyn's and Tony's daughter was persona
non grata with BOTH parents. "I wish I could explain to PAULINE what was
at stake here," Quentin mused. She still loved him, as both herself
Amanda would certainly understand, could, perhaps, even talk Pauline's MOTHER around, if not her father. And if TONY found out and objected--- there WAS the threat of exposure of his affair with Maggie Shaw. Quentin WOULD save that as a last resort, but action was imperative, and time of the essence. Given that Maggie's own daughter might still be in danger, it was, in Quentin's view, a fair trade-off.
Quentin gave Jeremy one final pep talk about calling Vicki. He left the Old House as soon as the younger man picked up the phone and dialed the Shaws' number, and had made contact with Vicki. Quentin boarded his DeLorean (he'd bought it from a collector, as an inside joke to himself about its use in those "Back to the Future" movies and HIS own long, strange journey through time) and headed to the hospital. Fearful that he would be denied a visitor's pass to Pauline's room, he asked for one to Alice Lacey's room instead. "You're just in time," the receptionist at the front desk said. "She's going to be released at noon!"
Quentin headed for Pauline's floor. He grinned and waved the pass at a security guard there--- the rent-a-cops were out in force since Amy's escape. The guard recognized him, and waved him on without examining the pass. Quentin DID approach the room cautiously, lest Carolyn, at least, was in there. His luck was holding steady--- Pauline was alone, having a mid-morning snack and watching the last moments of "Regis and Kathy Lee" on TV. She nearly dropped the pear she was eating. "Quentin! You're not supposed to BE here! Mummy will be here any minute!"
"I won't be here long, Paulie," Quentin whispered. "There's something I
need for you to ask your mother.
It's extremely important."
"Why would you ask ME about anything important? I thought WE were over." Pauline turned away, and bit her pear. A tear DID trickle down her cheek.
"Pauline--- don't you remember what we talked about the last time I was here?" Quentin demanded. Oh, God, he thought, this really IS hopeless!
"I--I do. I thought you were going away, though."
"I've put off my trip to Germany until this mess with Amy is settled. She's my closest living relative amongst the Collinses, and, as her former co-guardian, I STILL feel some responsibility for her. But what I have to ask hasn't anything to do with that, exactly.... It's about that crazy billionaire Mr. Samwell, who left you all those stocks and bonds."
"Yes, wasn't that something! My Mummy told me--- oh, sorry, it's a secret---"
"You don't have to break any confidences, Pauline. Carolyn told me something about her friendship with Mr. Samwell. He thought a lot of her, and wanted to show it by giving a gift to YOU, her only child."
"She also said he thought someone was trying to get him," Pauline whispered. "Some horrible man who kept getting past his bodyguards and bothered him! Mummy thinks he made poor Mr. Samwell have his accident! If you come really close, I'll tell you the man's name, his FIRST name, anyway!'
"If you think it will help, Paulie--- Paulie?" Quentin gazed into the girl's eyes. Her pupils dilated, and her expression became blank. "Amanda?" he asked hopefully.
"Yes, Quentin," she said quietly. "I can't come back too many times, but I will help you just this once. The man who harassed Adam Samwell was called 'Jason'."
"JASON!" Quentin almost shouted.
"Is this someone YOU know?"
"Well, I've lately heard of a very nasty character named 'Jason', but I understand he passed through these parts over 30 years ago. I have good reason to believe he's dead. It's just a coincidence--- the man who was after Adam was probably using an alias anyway."
"You never know. If he died violently, his spirit is, likely, restless, and, if it's like the stories I heard about the ghost of Garth Blackwood back in our time, may be in search of closure, or vengeance. I'm not very 'up' on these matters, I admit. I was only in the ether for a few years before I was given this new chance at life. I wish I could be of more help."
"If you can get Pauline's--YOUR-- mother to help me gain access to the body of Adam at the Cryogenics Institute, that will be MORE than enough, my love. For I believe HE is the key to relieving Collinsport of the darkness and misery we're currently experiencing."
"I don't want to make Mother more
upset," Pauline-Amanda protested. "I never HAD a mother before,
so I love her dearly, and I know she carried a torch for Mr. Samwell. But if you promise not to do anything to hurt him...."
"It won't come to that. The greatest respect will be shown, I assure you. And it IS for the greater good. Tell her that Jeremy and Dr. Conrad Lang will be present."
"I'll do my best." Pauline-Amanda reached for Quentin, and gave him a light kiss--- on the cheek. Innocent as the gesture was, Carolyn walked in at that moment, and, as Quentin had feared, over-reacted.
"Get the HELL away from my daughter!" Carolyn rushed her daughter's former lover, and yanked on his arm.
"Mummy, I can explain!" Pauline protested. "Quentin had a question for me, and he was just leaving."
""I'll be leaving COLLINWOOD soon, as well," Quentin said. "Carolyn, I WILL be out of the mansion before Pauline comes home."
"Well, that will be TOMORROW, so you'd better be gone by then," the outraged mother said coldly. Quentin beat a hasty retreat.
"Really? I'm coming home tomorrow? That's great. I missed Marisol and the kids," Pauline said.
"Yes, but it's just to pack. I'm sending you to your father's aunt in Bar Harbor," her mother replied.
"Why? Quentin's leaving."
"Because, except for Elliot and Hannah, all the children, and Marisol, are staying elsewhere until Amy Jennings is caught. There hasn't been a rational explanation for what happened to YOU, so it MAY be connected. That means you might STILL be in danger."
"I suppose you COULD be right.... It WAS Amy who talked me into going to Widow's Hill in the first place. I WISH I could remember more, but anyway.... Mummy?"
"This Timothy Adam Samwell, who left us kids all that loot.... Could HE have had something to do with all our problems?"
"Good heavens, no! He was, in spite of
his troubles, basically a GOOD man. If he made a mistake, he tried to right it.
If he knew what was happening now, he would be very sad, and I'm sure he'd want
Carolyn sighed. "But it DOES seem like everything began going wrong here, about the time he had his accident. I know he suffered terribly--- he talked to me, one last time, a week before he fell into his final coma." Now she wept.
"I'm sorry I made you cry, Mother," Pauline said. "It seems that's all I'm good for these days."
"Paulie, you never called me 'Mother' before," Carolyn said. "That sounds so--so MATURE. Maybe there's a bright side to all this. You're finally growing up." She hugged her daughter. "And NO, Pauline, you DON'T always make me cry. The happiest days of my life were spent with you, and--and your dad, of course. If I had made MY mother half as happy as YOU made ME.... But so much of life gets sucked into the past, before we have a chance to make restitution...."
"Mother, I have to ask you a big favor. Maybe it will help with this restitution business. I know you know a lot about the place where Mr. Samwell's body is being kept. Quentin told me that Jeremy and a Dr. Lang from this hospital want to see Mr. Samwell. They just want to SEE him--- please don't get mad---"
Carolyn's face turned hard, then soft, then hard again. But she answered, "There's no reason in the world why anyone CAN'T visit the facility. They allow visits by appointment for family members and even the medical profession. I can't imagine why QUENTIN would be interested, though!"
"Well, when I told him about that Jason
person who might have jimmied Mr. Samwell's car, he
snapped right to attention! I guess he heard about Jason from somebody else,
but thinks he's dead! Maybe it's ANOTHER
"It would almost HAVE to be--- if the
Jason I knew was still alive, he'd be pushing 80 now.... Still, when Adam told
me about him, my heart absolutely LURCHED--- if it wasn't OUR Jason, then it's
someone who is JUST like him, maybe a son or nephew.... But nobody's seen or
heard ANYONE matching his description in our town. Still, I'll have to give
Quentin some points for creative thinking. Tell him and Jeremy to call the
Institute, and to mention YOUR name. Because, since I KNOW you didn't read the
documents you signed, Pauline, YOU are a major shareholder in THAT
business!" Carolyn shook her head in confoundment.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Just in case an awkward question came up
about his possession of a pass to Alice's room, Quentin decided to
pay a quick visit. No doubt, at least one of her parents would be with her, or the brother who was the major source of X-factor blood at the moment.
He was right--- Both the Sheriff, out of uniform for once, and her husband were there, AND a young, swarthy man who, Quentin assumed, given the resemblence to the parents, was the brother--- what had Elliot said his name was? Michael, that was it. Alice was on her feet, wearing a new-looking red dress, and stuffing quantities of hospital notions into some large plastic bags, while her family packed HER few personal effects. "Why, Mom, you NEVER know when you're going to need rubber gloves!" the girl said, "or gauze! I'm still dripping a little, usually first thing at night, but it DOES stop, thank God!"
"Alice, they're going to need SOME of that stuff for the next patient!" Mary Beth said in exasperation. "I mean, a few bottles of lotion here, some tape there, and before you know it, the hospital's raising the rate to $2000 a day, instead of $1000!"
"I think it's ALREADY there, Mary Beth," Harvey said. "They probably dump this stuff and get all fresh new bottles for the new patients, anyway. You know how hospitals are. They'll make a fuss over junk like this, but they'll also toss out perfectly good medicine in blister packs if the patient dies or doesn't need it anymore. They'll be so careful about running a clean room, but won't sanitize the PHONE, one of the biggest sources of germs ANYWHERE. Hell, I've seen nurses with their hair hanging out, changing bandages! Here, Alice," he said, as he rummaged through the supply cabinet. "I always LOVED this yellow mouthwash when I was in the hospital!"
Quentin entered, grinning. "Well, I'm glad to see at least ONE of the patients is going home!"
Alice, who had never seen Quentin before,
stood frozen, as though in a state of instant worship. Her mother was NOT
pleased to see this, and broke the spell. "THIS is Mr. Quentin Collins. I
haven't any idea why he's here, but, maybe, he got lost on the way to Miss
Peterson's room? She's still here, isn't she?"
Quentin turned dark red, and sputtered, "Well, yes she IS, and well, I DID stop in, and thought I'd come by to wish your family well, in spite of everything---"
Mary Beth said, "I appreciate your interest in our daughter's health, sir, but you just plain don't belong here."
"Well, I WAS wondering if there was any news about my cousin Amy. Perhaps you believe it misplaced concern, but I've known her most of her life, and I AM worried about her."
"There's absolutely nothing.... For all we know, she may even have left the state. Aren't you the teeniest bit worried about DAVID?"
"That WOULD have been my next question, Sheriff. Hallie is in a terrible state over him. And poor Elliot and Hannah."
"He's fine. He hasn't told us anything we didn't already know. I might spring him later." But NOT before baiting a trap with the Collins mogul, she thought.
Quentin left. Alice seemed to shake awake.
"He's awesome!" she murmurred. "I
mean, not like
Elliot--- his cousin Quentin's OLD, but he's so--- he's so--"
"So much TROUBLE, is what he IS, Alice Christine!" her mother snapped. "I wouldn't trust him around ANY girl under 30."
"Oh, Mom, it's just like appreciating fine art! You don't stop looking at Rembrandts, just because you already OWN a masterpiece!"
"THAT is your AUNT Christine's voice I hear in yours. Well, this Quentin isn't what I would consider a Rembrandt. Character-wise, he's more of--- what was the name of that guy who threw blobs of paint at the canvas?--- Jackson Pollock! Or---" Mary Beth shuddered---"This really HIDEOUS painting that, for some UnGodly reason, he's storing in a safe at Collinwood!"
"Well, can I at least see MY Rembrandt when I get home, or is Elliot off-limits as well, because you arrested his Dad?"
"If grounds are found for charging David Collins, I would say, NO. But if I release him, he may send me--- and our whole family--- packing anyway. So my answer would STILL be NO."
"Mom, that's not fair---" Tears sprang to the girl's eyes. Her father, knowing better than to get involved at the moment, and thus, possibly turning the disagreement into a free-for-all, moved wordlessly to Alice's side, and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.
"Not a Hell of a lot in life IS, Alice," Mary Beth concluded, though with a little less certainty in her tone. "Let's just finish up here, and get home, and give me TIME to think things over." They continued to pack in strained silence.
The phone rang in the room. Harvey answered.
"Yes, it's ME, Willie--- Who ELSE could it be--- sorry....
Nothing to do with YOU.... Yes, she's just about done packing.... I agree, it's not a minute too soon.... There's something you need to show me? Couldn't it wait till tomorrow? Something's come up.... Well, let me see how the rest of the day goes. Maybe I'll have time around 5:00...."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PART THIRTEEN--- Wednesday, April 19, 2000 (B)
Another fine day, another
trip another "scientific" facility, in search of answers. Conrad Lang chauffeured Quentin and Jeremy Collins in
his roomy Lincoln, to the Cryogenic Institute of Maine, located midway between Collinsport and Bangor, off a winding, heavily-forested
state road. The street one took to the Institute was even worse, all blind
curves and driveways to houses hidden hundreds of feet behind the trees.
Lang almost had a head-on collision at the narrowest, most obscure turn--- he scratched the paint on his shiny new vehicle, running it into bushes to avoid the pick-up truck which came around the bend.
Finally, he located the tiny, lighted sign that proclaimed the location of the Cryogenic Institute, and crawled along the meandering driveway between neat columns of trees. "Wonder why they built this way out here?" Quentin asked. "If they're so proud of what they're doing, why not set up shop next to GenScan, for example?"
"Maybe because the building design
wouldn't fit in," Dr. Lang replied. "Whoever the architect was, he or
she had a real flair for the bizarre, that's for sure!" He pointed to the
complex in the sun-lit gully that appeared
below them as the Lincoln cleared the woods.
It looked like nothing so much as a huge dome made of white Lego blocks! "Buckminster Fuller meets 'Toys 'R' Us'," Jeremy, now roused from his seeming torpor, commented sarcastically. "I'd say the peculiar design fits its peculiar purpose."
Dr. Lang parked in a lot surrounded by gardens already blooming with crocuses and other early bulbs, and filled out with the sprouting leaves of future daffodils and tulips. "Nicely-appointed grounds, anyway," he commented.
"For the money they're getting, this place should have nothing LESS than a great landscaping job!" Quentin snapped.
The Institute's Director, a beautiful, dark-eyed, ash-blonde woman in her early 30's, wearing a spotless white medical coat, stood at the entrance with an extremely competent-looking (and armed) guard. She greeted the guests warmly. "I am Doctor Allarice Bertrand. My late parents founded the Institute 20 years ago, but we only moved into our new headquarters last year."
"Interesting place you have here," Quentin said with an ingratiating smile.
"Yes, it was designed by a young
architect at an up-and-coming New York firm," she said. "I admit, we went to them because they WERE the lowest bidders, but
I, personally, couldn't be happier with the results.
This fits right in with our mission--- hopeful and modern, yet grounded and timeless." She pointed to the cornerstone. Quentin and Jeremy made sounds of surprise.
"The architect was MICHAEL LACEY!" Jeremy exclaimed.
"You know him?" the Director asked.
"Yes, he's the son of our new Sheriff in Collinsport," Quentin explained. "Talk about a small world. He hasn't been up this way to see it, has he?"
"Well, not since the earliest stages of construction, when he had to change a few details, due to the layout of the property."
"He's in town right now, visiting his family. We'll have to tell him to stop up here, when he's not busy. His sister just got out of the hospital. There's been some trouble in Collinsport, I'm sure you've heard."
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Dr. Bertrand sighed. "Well, let's get started." She led them through a tall, glassed-in foyer, and to the security desk, where they got badges and fleecy white lab coats. "It can be a little cold in the reposing areas," she explained.
She slid her personal ID card through an electronic scanner watched by two more armed guards. "We need these people. You never know what kinds of crazies might want to invade the reposing areas--- we've been targetted by religious fanatics who believe our work sacrilege, celebrity stalkers who want a piece of their favorites after death, environmentalists who think we're polluting the atmosphere with our refrigeration units. We keep telling them, NO CFC'S!" She laughed, a rippling, tinkling chuckle that seemed to disturb Quentin.
"Well, what DO you do with these bod-- er, CLIENTS, besides maintain them in cryogenic preservatives?" Dr. Lang inquired.
"Well, NOTHING at this point," Dr. Bertrand admitted. "We don't yet have equipment for attempts at revival, though the research IS going on.... Somewhere...." She continued, "But our facilities ARE the last word in freezing technology. We have our own, specially designed refridgeration system, utilizing solar power, ironic as that may seem! We have state-of-the-art generators in the event of blackouts---"
"I assume Michael Lacey didn't design THOSE items," Quentin said.
"No, the money we saved on creating this building, we spent on our electrical and refrigeration systems. His design DOES accommodate everything perfectly, though. You'll be barely aware of the 'nuts and bolts', so to speak."
"How many 'clients' do you serve at the present time?" Jeremy asked, as they finally entered "Reposing Area No# 1." There were 10 of what looked like regular meat freezers, in 3 rows evenly spaced in the unit. They had heavy lids with clear pyrex windows, through which each body, mummy-wrapped in a foil-like substance and submerged in steaming liquid coolant, could be seen.
"65 altogether. 50 'entires' as we call them, including my parents, and 15 'minds'--- brains. We already have a reservation list. We're thinking of opening more such facilities across the country, and, toward that end, we began selling stock on the open market. Someone bought the lion's share of the stocks, and, soon became one of our clients, alas."
"Timothy A. Samwell," Quentin said. "He left his shares to Miss Pauline Peterson. That's how come we happen to be here. We'd like to visit HIS 'reposing area', if you don't mind."
"I'm sorry, that particular area is off-limits. It's reserved for some of our other well-heeled clients, I'm sure you understand. And Mother and Father, of course."
"Walt Disney isn't in there, is he?" Quentin asked with a wink.
"Good heavens, NO!" Now the Doctor was angry.
Smart move, Quentin chided himself, silently.
He knew they HAD to gain access to that freezer. A kamikaze mission to break
into the place would never work, with all those trigger-happy guards around.
He HAD to get back into the Doctor's good graces, or all was lost. "I'm terribly sorry for being so flip," he said soothingly. "It's just that there HAVE been rumors about Mr. Samwell, as there were about the late Howard Hughes, AND Mr. Disney. Dr. Lang here has a great interest in some of the particulars of Mr. Samwell's condition. His late uncle was an expert in such matters, and was heavily into research on the pineal gland."
"Oh, yes--- the pineal gland. We ARE interested in ANY work currently being done on that organ," Dr. Bertrand said. "After all, if ANY of these poor souls are to be awakened some day, it will, in all likelhood, involve stimulation of the pineal gland."
"I, like my late uncle, have many theories about how that might be accomplished," Dr. Lang said with a smile. Quentin noticed that he, too, seemed to be taken with the attractive Dr. Bertrand. And when HE spoke to her, SHE smiled in return, and leaned just that much closer to him. Good luck, Conrad, Quentin thought, maybe YOU'RE the answer to our dilemma here.
"Well, now that you mention it, Mr. Samwell, in his initial contacts with us just prior to his untimely end, mentioned the pineal gland SPECIFICALLY," Dr. Bertrand said. "He was so anxious about the continuation of its existence, he wanted to be frozen BEFORE death! Of course, I told him that was HARDLY necessary. The very wealthy can be SO eccentric!" She shook her head.
It was then, Quentin noticed something about her very dark brown eyes, seemingly out of place with her light hair and porcelain complexion. The brown irises seemed to protrude from her eyes, and even bobbled a bit--- she was wearing contacts! Even THIS exquisite woman was dissatisfied with something about herself, he decided. "So, Mr. Samwell WAS dead before they froze him in Europe?" he asked.
"I have no way of knowing. I certainly HOPE so," she said uneasily. "I believe in what I'm doing--- I surely would NOT like to have my mission tainted with the Kervorkian brush! I don't want it tainted with a vivisectionist's brush, either, if it's that pineal gland you're after."
Quentin said, "Dr. Bertrand, there's no point in our beating around the bush here.... The fact IS, we represent the Collinses, who were well-acquainted with Mr. Samwell in his salad days, long before he left Collinsport to become a billionaire man of mystery. Samwell left legacies to the children of several persons connected with those days, including Dr. Collins's fiancee, and Miss Peterson, who is a member of the Collins family. And, so far, these legacies include controlling interests in several enterprises necessary to solve old mysteries and current problems. Samwell had an inexplicable, inexhorable bond with the people he left behind--- including Dr. Collins's father, and, it turns out, Dr. Lang's Uncle as well."
Jeremy chimed in, "The problems in Collinsport date from Mr. Samwell's so-called 'accident.' We believe that a man so magnanimous as to leave each of his heirs pieces of the puzzle, may have intended his own body to be the object of research that might yield a solution to these terrible problems."
Dr. Lang said, "I KNOW we can't convince you to give up Mr. Samwell's remains, but if you TRULY believe that taking people's money to keep them in this environment will be to their ultimate benefit, and to mankind in general, you MUST let us examine HIS pineal gland. What we discover MAY have applications to your clients."
"I don't know--- though it's something I've longed to hear for years," Dr. Bertrand conceded. "Very well, we shall at least VISIT Mr. Samwell's repository." She led them out of the room they were in, down a long corridor, and into an elevator, which took them up into a higher-security area, probably right beneath the dome itself. The guards went in with the quartet as they walked amongst a half-dozen refrigerated sarcophagi. Dr. Bertrand pointed to a pair set apart from the others. "Those are my parents, Alfred and Theodora," she announced solemnly. Then she stopped at the unit set in the farthest corner. "This is the temporary resting place of Timothy A. Samwell."
The trio gathered around eagerly, though the set-up of the containment unit was, at first appearance, no different from its mates anywhere in the Institute. Adam's body was wrapped from head to toe in the same foil-like wrap as the other 'clients.' However, as befitted someone who was, both, larger than life, as well as larger than most of his fellow beings, his chamber WAS at least a foot longer than the others.
"If we COULD examine him, what would be the procedure?" Dr. Lang asked.
"These people are kept so cold, it would burn your hands to touch one," Dr, Bertrand said. "They, themselves, are in danger of freezer burn, hence the insulated Mylar shrouds. Mr. Samwell would have to be thawed to the same degree of coldness as a body in a regular morgue cooler. Any warmer than that, and irreversible deterioration would result. As you can see, this is NOT a casual decision--- I would dread making it for MY parents. Mr. Samwell hoped to be preserved for at least 50 years."
"Maybe he just wanted to make sure his pineal gland lasted that long," Jeremy said.
"Why 50 years then? When he could afford 100?" Dr. Bertrand asked.
"I--I'm not sure," Jeremy replied
evasively, though he KNEW the answer. His father, Barnabas, though he was only
about 30 when he'd first been made a vampire, had, due to the ravages of
vampirism and repeated awakenings in the past, been the physical equivalent of
a 40-year-old by the time he was released in 1967.
Adam, kept informed by Professor Stokes, probably knew that the recovered Barnabas was aging at a normal rate, and, if he was in good health at the presumed age of 70, might still live another 20 to 30 years. Tacking on an extra 20 or so years to the cryogenic contract SHOULD have insured that Barnabas would NOT revert, even if he lived for a few years past the presumed age of 100. So what went wrong? Why was the signal from Adam's pineal gland blocked in spite of the efforts to preserve it? Who ELSE could have discovered the secret of the empathic connection between Adam and Barnabas?
"All I can think of," Jeremy concluded lamely, "is that Mr. Samwell had friends or even relatives somewhere, whom he cared for, and didn't wish to outlive for long. If he was revived more than 50 years from now, he would probably feel very lonely."
"But, according to all accounts, he WAS alone most of the time!" Dr. Bertrand said. "Still, given that he DID select members of the Collins family as heirs, perhaps he hoped to be reunited with them at some point. If they were all dead or infirm, that WOULD be discouraging. In fact, most of our clients DO hope to 'come back' in time to be with at least SOME of their loved ones."
"Then, let us examine Mr. Samwell, and perhaps that day will arrive sooner than you might have dreamed, not only for those who have paid for your services, but for your beloved parents as well," Dr. Lang said, with a coaxing, caressing tone of voice. Quentin was impressed with his style.
He was even MORE impressed when Dr. Bertrand gave her answer. "It's an exception to our usual rules," she said, "but at this point, when we are pressing on to make this option an affordable reality for more people, being able to advertise that valid research IS going on in this field would certainly convince more potential clients to sign up. I just need to know, when, where and how--- and how much this is going to affect Mr. Samwell. He suffered greatly before his death, and I, for one, would NOT like to see him mutilated in his present state of, shall we say, 'dormancy'."
"The 'intervention' shall be minimal, I ASSURE you!" Dr. Lang declared. "After some consideration, I believe a tiny extraction from the pineal gland should be sufficient for now. We shall conduct the bulk of the testing at GenScan--- I presume you've heard of the company? I am hoping to replicate the DNA in the extract, and, eventually, perhaps, synthesizing it to make greater quantities. But our tests are going to be simple at first, and I would ask that they be kept quiet for now. I shouldn't like to raise false hopes. Your clients and their families deserve better!" He almost SANG the last couple of sentences.
"This is WONDERFUL!" Dr. Bertrand trilled in reply. "It's the break I've been HOPING for.... If you'd like to start right away, my staff has the necessary equipment. We can begin thawing Mr. Samwell immediately!"
"Er, let me check back with Miss Shaw, my fiancee," Jeremy said. He was uncomfortable at having to STILL refer to her as his betrothed, even for these purposes. "She was supposed to make the contacts with GenScan, and I was to call back for confrimation. I want everything ready the INSTANT we get there!"
Dr. Bertrand led them to her office, and left them for a few minutes as Jeremy made his call. She retired to a small room designated as a chapel for clients' families, who would come to visit, then would stop in to say a prayer that their loved ones would soon be revived, and often left further donations for the work in a discreet collection box under a stained-glass window. She locked the door, and whispered to the still air, "Everything is going along as we wished."
There was a swirl of colors, and a slight man in a rusty-brown velvet suit appeared before her. "I DON'T understand why all this subterfuge is necessary," Carl Collins snapped. "You STILL have your powers, Angelique, I don't know why you can use them for QUENTIN, and not for BARNABAS! Why are my great-grandsons being dragged into this, and even THEIR children? I NEVER understood how things work in the ether!"
"How many times do I HAVE to explain, Carl?" the "Doctor" said irritably. "Those weren't MY powers you used on Quentin's portrait, those were powers granted to YOU! I merely taught you how to use them! As for BARNABAS and ADAM, the elder Dr. Lang's original experiment dissipated MY original curse on Barnabas, and I could not break the bond between him and Adam, even when I was made into a vampire myself! But this only affected MY curse--- the bond was sundered when Barnabas was cursed by others, or went into the past, centuries before Adam was ever created!
"I removed my own original curse when Barnabas traveled back to 1840, and when he came back to 1971, Julia managed to reverse the effects of a subsequent curse which had been plaguing him BEFORE the 1840 incident. Adam's continued existence ensured that MY curse would NOT be revived, even if I ever came back into contact with Barnabas and was provoked into reinstating it. So, I am truly powerless in this instance. If this is MY old curse, then it requires Adam, or a PART of Adam, to defeat it. If this is NOT my old curse, then it will take more than just poor Adam's pineal gland to cure my former husband, and to keep it from contaminating his SON any more than it has. And that's where YOUR descendants come in. Not to mention another Lang--- he is SO much like his late uncle, but apparently, a man of more reasonable expectations."
Carl said, "Amazing how you don't want anything bad to happen to JULIA'S son, of all people!"
"I finally learned to appreciate Julia, back in 1840," Angelique sighed. "even though I HAD come quite close to being responsible for her death. I had to learn that we WEREN'T that far apart in character or ethics or in our desire to preserve Barnabas at all costs. I even learned a little about unselfishness from Julia, if you can believe THAT! She was, at the time, quite willing to stay in the background as his friend and helper. In the end, she gained so much more of his trust and confidence than I ever did with my tantrums and threats and curses. It was only by doing what SHE would have done, that I finally gained Barnabas's LOVE as well. Even though I was forced by fate to be separated from him for the rest of HIS life, I SWEAR I did NOT begrudge it when Julia won his heart in the end. She had earned it! And, since it's part of my karmic contract not to interfere with Barnabas's current life, while I DO have moments of jealousy, I can't say I really resent his current interest in that Cagney woman--- but I WILL tell you this, there's more to THAT connection than meets the eye!"
"You wouldn't use it against her, would you?" Carl asked fearfully. "She's been good for him. He would have hurt a LOT more people if SHE wasn't around, and probably gotten himself staked by now!"
"That's the Catch-22, as they say," Angelique said. "The irony IS, that while BARNABAS is constrained from doing further harm by Miss Cagney's presence, it is her presence that is provoking AMY, who is poised to negate EVERY good effect, and bring destruction down on both herself AND Barnabas! And she has HELP, from the same tormented, slippery shade who MURDERED Adam, and has allowed the curse to start anew! Well, we've lately recruited some assistance from the ether, and they SHOULD be at work right now. So, I have hopes, and you too.... I wouldn't want YOUR future jeopardized. It's not far off...." she said.
"I sure hope that, when I'M reborn, my new self doesn't do something like THIS for a living!"
"Oh, it's not that bad," Angelique said. "Alfred and Theodora were fine parents, if a bit unusual, and I don't mind continuing in their work, in this identity, for a while.... And if the present Dr. Lang and Jeremy Collins CAN hit on something that will satisfy the unrealistic demands of my clients, all the better. It WOULD be pleasant to be responsible for bringing happiness, instead of further sorrow, to the innocent."
"I'm not sure this is the way to GET happiness, and nobody's THAT innocent! People tend to MAKE themselves forget that they had problems with the dead person, when the person was still alive," Carl observed. "It's all from useless, futile guilt--- as if having avoided arguing over trivial things would have bought the dead person an extra second of life! And yet, when it comes to the MAJOR things, the mind goes mercifully blank. I daresay, if even one of these clients came back to life right now, that would REALLY screw up things up for his or her so-called 'loved ones'!"
"That's why it will probably never happen in a major way, not even for 'my' parents," the "Doctor" observed ruefully. "Fortunately, mortals with the talent and arrogance of the late Eric Lang are few and far between. His nephew is but a poor copy, but sufficient to serve the current need, which falls far short of any attempts to waken the dead."
"You'd better remember THAT when, after this is over, he comes back and asks for your hand in marriage," Carl taunted. "He certainly seems smitten!"
"Well, it certainly WOULDN'T be the FIRST time I ever wed a relative of someone whose death I had caused! But have no fear, he only attracts me insofar as his ministrations may help Barnabas. Some things never seem to change, for ME, anyway." Angelique hung her head, and as she did, one of the brown contact lenses meant to hide her aquamarine eyes popped off. She scrambled wildly to find it, whispering desperately to Carl to help her find it. But he was gone, and she was still on her hands and knees, when there was an urgent knock at the chapel door.
She opened the door a crack, concealing her uncamouflaged iris. Conrad Lang stood on the other side. "Jeremy Collins has confirmed that we can go to GenScan as soon as the pineal extraction is performed. But YOU have to give the instructions to your staff, and sign a small mountain of legal releases."
"Certainly. I shall be out in a moment. I often come here to meditate about my decisions, and, well, the oddest thing just happened. One of my earrings fell off, and I was just trying to find it. It was a gift from my mother, so I thought it was a message from beyond! Silly, isn't it?" She smiled, and batted the brown eye that Lang could see through the opening.
"I hope it's a POSITIVE message, my
dear," he said gallantly. "We can wait a minute more, I
suppose." He stepped away, and Angelique hastily conjured up a fresh
contact. It was a nuisance, not being able to change her real eye color for
every incarnation and identity change, but Diabolos
once explained to her that it was the only way he could make direct contact
with HER third eye, the seat of her formerly damned soul. MANY things never
changed for her--- this was part of her "penance", she supposed. She
hoped the business at hand would conclude soon, because a conjured contact
didn't last all that long, either.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Alice Lacey, avoiding her mother as much as possible, got re-settled in her own room. Harvey set up a TV for her, over his wife's protests.
"After what went down between you two in the hospital, at least let her have ONE treat, Mary Beth. It's not like she did anything WRONG! And she has to stay home for another day, anyway. Might as well let her relax before she has to make up for all that schoolwork she missed!"
"She doesn't need an excuse to HIDE from us. And she got ENOUGH relaxation at the hospital!"
"I certainly wouldn't call her hospital
stay RELAXING. And even if all that bad stuff didn't happen, well,
Mary Beth, it's been years since YOU were a patient, but I certainly have fresh memories--- one NEVER gets enough rest in a hospital!" The TV stayed. And Harvey stayed with Alice to watch it, though they bickered over what to watch, as they had in the hospital.
The doorbell rang around 5:00. When Mary Beth
looked out, she was shocked to see young Elliot Collins there. This was, by
far, the most awkward situation she'd faced with the family of the employer she
But she felt SOME pity for the boy, whose eyes and nose were red-splotched, probably from crying, and opened the door. When he saw her, he cringed, but asked, in a voice of forced calm, if he could see Alice "for just a few minutes. Please...."
"I--I don't know about that, young man. Maybe not until this situation is cleared up with your Dad---"
Michael came up behind his mother, and studied his suffering sister's obviously suffering boyfriend. He pulled his mother inside, and whispered, "Mom, I thought you said the kid took more after his mother than his father. And you LIKE Mrs. Collins, don't you? In spite of everything?"
"Well, yes, but--- Mike, don't get too sentimental. They've only known each other for 2 weeks, they'll get over it. Don't turn this into a Romeo and Juliet story!"
"Romeo and Juliet only knew each other for a grand total of what--- 3 days? But this ISN'T the same thing, and maybe, if you let them work it out for themselves, it WON'T have the same ending. How would YOU like it if YOUR whole world seemed to be crashing around you, and you were denied access to the only person you BELIEVED could comfort you?"
"Elliot has his MOTHER for THAT, and it's still possible that David can be released, if we can only corral Amy Jennings....But that might take a while."
"Elliot's mother is what?--- Days away from giving birth. SHE probably needs some comforting from her SON, but she's NOT going to get it from that grief-stricken adolescent! And HE'S not going to STOP being grief-stricken if he can't see Alice! Mom, temper justice with mercy for once, please?"
Mary Beth never could resist that brand of pleading--- it was too much like her husband's. "Okay, okay, but YOU stay and chaperone. I'll get myself discreetly to the kitchen. I have a feeling that I'm going to have to ask for your FATHER'S mercy before the night is over."
Michael returned to the door. Elliot wasn't there--- he was sitting in his Saturn, apparently believing that he was not welcome, likely debating whether to begin ignition. Michael signalled wildly to him, and Elliot jumped out. He was on the doorstep again in an instant.
Michael went to get Alice. There was a rumble of dissent from Harvey, but HE was irked at his wife's attitude as well, and let his son lead his daughter out by the hand. He trailed behind, and was in time to see his little girl literally throw herself onto Elliot, and the latter enveloping her in his embrace like an octopus. I didn't realize the boy had such long arms, Harvey thought. This led to other, more uncomfortable thoughts, but what the Hell, Alice WAS growing up, she WASN'T a bad kid, her Big Brother WAS watching, and if this kept her from moping around during her recuperation, her father would just have to endure it. Harvey walked into the kitchen to find his wife staring into a cup of coffee.
"You lost the battle, I see," he
said, "and I can't say that I'm sorry. I love you, Mary Beth, but you CAN
"I'm HARD? Just because I don't want my daughter to get hurt---"
"Like YOU were, once upon a time? Mary Beth, that was 35 years ago! God KNOWS we spent enough embarrassing hours on lectures for the boys, and we trusted that would keep THEM out of serious trouble. We spent TWICE as much time lecturing Alice, and I know Christine put in HER two cents, to make sure our little girl didn't make the same mistakes we ALL did! That's a NICE, clean-cut, VERY bright, and SENSITIVE young man she likes, NO matter what his FATHER MAY, or may NOT have done! What if I had judged YOU on the basis of what YOUR father did, or what HIS neglect probably led YOU to do?"
"DON'T bring that up!" Mary Beth was in NO mood to be reminded of her greatest mistake--- her failed love affair at age 19, which had ended in abandonment and a horrific abortion, which haunted her for years.
"Mary Beth, you know I would NEVER do that, unless it was important, like NOW. But if you're LOOKING for me to throw past mistakes back in your face, how about all the times you criticized ME for stupid things I did before we met? THAT'S the kind of hardness I mean--- I don't want to call it hypocrisy, but sometimes, you drive me NUTS with your unrealistic expectations, and the way you over-react when people FAIL you. And they ALWAYS do.... I admit, you've gotten better at rolling with it over the years. I really thought you finally accepted everyone for what they were, not what you IMAGINED they could be. But it seems like all it takes is a few cracks in the cement, and your whole foundation comes tumbling down again! We keep rebuilding and rebuilding, but it keeps crashing, one layer onto another, like that place in Connecticut a few years back.... " Harvey had to stop. His face was turning beet red, and he was getting short of breath. His wife made a move to help him, but he waved her away. "I can get my own pills, thank you very much." He rummaged around in a cabinet, and was soon gulping down his medications. After a while, the pain and pressure lifted, and he said, "I have to get out of here for a while, Mary Beth. I need some fresh air. Willie said he wanted to take a ride with me someplace this evening, and I think I'm gonna take him up on it." He went to the phone.
Harvey left to meet Willie at the same time Christine was coming in. "Boy, is THIS place at sixes and sevens!" she observed. "Alice is cuddling with our chief suspect's son, Harvey is running out to meet our former suspect, and as for me--- I'm going to the Old House later."
"Great, the whole world is abandoning me," Mary Beth mourned. "So, how did things go in the field with Collinsport's Finest?"
"It's just as well you kept busy with Alice," Christine replied. "There was nary a trace, anywhere. We searched Amy Jennings's house, the one she closed up while she stayed in Collinwood. We found an address book, but none of the parties we managed to call had heard from her recently, at least, that's what they SAY. Her former sister-in-law even offered to come back here from Oklahoma to make a personal appeal on WBAM News, but I have a feeling Amy isn't terribly interested in TV at the moment. Certainly not during the DAY."
"Oh, God, you ARE on the Chupacabra bandwagon for real," her friend sighed.
"Well, those vampires
are pretty cunning at hiding themselves during the day. Assuming Amy's still in town. Doesn't a vampire need a 'thrall' or whatever they're called? You know, someone they bite just to make them bodyguards?"
"Well, if it isn't DAVID, I can't imagine who else.... But if there IS one, I'll find out somehow. Because, while I DON'T believe Barnabas did these things, I now believe he DOES know SOMETHING---"
"Back on the see-saw, eh? Well, if you can keep your cool when he tries to get you back into Josette's precious room...."
"I'll avoid it like the PLAGUE."
Christine poured herself some coffee, and sat down next to Mary Beth.
"I DO love him," she insisted, "but I've heard, well, things that put doubts in my mind, and THIS time I CAN'T discount them."
"Want to share? It might take my mind
off my OTHER problems."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Willie avoided Jeremy when the latter returned from a long day at the Cryogenics Institute and after, at GenScan. However, Jeremy sought HIM out. "Willie, we're going to need a lot of blood with the X-factor. Dr, Lang hopes to isolate the protein and combine it with the pineal gland extract, AND his uncle's old vampire treatment that Mother used. With any luck, we might have a usable medication in a matter of days!"
"How can you TRUST that guy?" Willie asked. "Does he even KNOW what he's trying to cure?"
"Quentin seems to THINK he does, but, furthermore, this Dr. Lang shares some traits with his uncle, including a drive to possess esoteric medical knowledge for its own sake. This MIGHT help ensure his discretion, because, until it's proven to work, it would be highly embarrassing for a doctor to admit he thought he could wring a cure from an organ most people don't even know exists, for a disease nobody BELIEVES exists!"
"So, you're going to hit on me and my relatives for more blood. Well, maybe tomorrow or the next day.... but not tonight. I'm going out with Harvey Lacey for a while. Seems he and the Mrs. had a spat, and he wants to clear his head. I was so sorry, and I was sorrier that I can't take him for a drink, with all the heart pills he needs to take."
"Well, I'm certainly GLAD there won't be any drinking, for the sake of the blood samples. But tonight is the limit on nights off, Willie. With Amy at large, we need, more than ever, to stop the problem at the source, and the source IS Father."
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be happy to roll up my sleeves in the A.M. Now, go take a rest. Miss Cagney's going to come over later and keep your Dad company, and he WON'T do anything with HER around, especially after he's full of that blood you got from the butcher's."
"It's already proving difficult to explain why I need it," Jeremy sighed. "Maybe he'd better take it easy, until I locate other butchers. I wonder if Kosher butchers would ask a lot of questions?"
"You got me. Maybe it isn't the butchers
themselves that would ask, but the rabbis who check up on them."
Willie put on his coat. "Now, I gotta go and meet Harvey at the Blue Whale. SHUSH--- I know what you're gonna say, but we're only getting Coke or mineral water or coffee or whatever Harvey can have. It's just that he's never been to the 'Whale. Lot of places he hasn't seen around here yet, and I figure I might as well take him around while it's still early."
Willie had a hard time finding a parking place anywhere near the wharf tavern. He looked around for Harvey's car, but gave up the search and went inside. It was wall-to-wall bodies in the Blue Whale. Willie couldn't figure it out--- there was a big police search going on for an attempted murderess, and yet every fool in town was out anyway. Maybe they felt safer in this crowd, where one could barely move an arm or leg, than at home brooding about the stalker. There was enough gossip going around about Amy, strict, sedate schoolmarm-turned slasher.
"School's gone crazy," one patron declared. "Kids are pretending to be 'Dracula' and 'LeStat' AND 'Jack the Ripper' all over the damn building, jumping teachers and scarin' 'em half to death, because, what the Hell, doesn't MISS JENNINGS do the same thing?"
Another barfly, a woman this time, said,
"One of the dirty little hoodlums had a plastic KNIFE that was melted into
a squiggle like the one that was used on poor Job Woodard! Almost gave some old
a heart attack! And I also heard, some boys almost jumped Elliot Collins in the boy's restroom, on account of THEIR parents are stuck working for that JAILBIRD father of his! If a teacher hadn't walked in right then, HIS ass would have been pushin' up grass, I tell yah!"
A familiar voice spoke up from the crowd. "Gee-Zuss, why can't they leave that poor kid alone? He has to catch it from EVERYWHERE these days!" It was Harvey, all right. Willie watched as his cousin hoisted a glass tankard of beer to his lips. When he'd drained it, Harvey signalled to the bartender to fill it again. He took another long draught. So much for his heart medications.
Willie snake-hipped through the crowd somehow, and made it to his cousin's side. "Christ, Harvey, what the Hell are you doing? You out to KILL yourself just because you had a fight with Mary Beth?"
"No, I've had PLENTY of fights with her
over the years, Willie," Harvey replied, "and I NEVER killed myself, not ONCE! I'm just anes--anestha--nestize--- uh, numbing
myself up so I can go home and whack my head against the same stone wall I've
been whacking for--- God, how many? Over 30 years! She's HARD,
Willie.... hardest on HERSELF, but a man gets tired when his woman has to put everybody and everything through a wringer before she caves in like you KNEW she was going to do, anyway! Why do they DO that, I ask you? I do it to her maybe ONCE for every TEN times she does it to ME--- US.... The kids too.... Alice, our sweet little baby girl. Mary Beth ASKED me to make that baby, you know. It wasn't like you and Maggie and the little plastic cup.... And the MINUTE she had the kid, it started. She had another object to bounce her craziness off. Why do they DO that, Willie? You're the SMART one here, you never got married, you lucky dog...."
"Harvey, shut up," Willie said
urgently, "People are going to overhear, they're gonna
think something's wrong with the Sheriff because her old man has to go out and
get wasted. They're gonna hear your talk about
Maggie.... Tell you what, Harvey, coming HERE was a bad idea after all. Maybe we should go get some fresh air, away from here. We could drive by the ocean, or anywhere.... There's this really interesting building I've been meaning to show you."
"Isn't it gonna be dark soon? Aren't you afraid of the Big Bad Amy monster, Willie?"
"Not--not really. She can't be everywhere, and I don't think she would know about this place. Come on, we'll take my car--- you have no business drivin' right now anyway."
Harvey paid the bartender and paid a short visit to the Men's room. At first he was confused by the signs--- the tiny rest compartments were whimsically marked "Gulls" for the Ladies' Room, and "Buoys" for the Men's Room. But as soon as he "got" the joke, he chuckled loudly all the way.
Harvey relaxed in Willie's big old black Buick. "I bought this dirt cheap from the undertaker years ago," the latter explained. "I COULD have got the hearse, instead, but Barnabas doesn't have a sense of humor about death and stuff." Harvey closed his eyes, and didn't wake up until Willie had stopped and was shaking him.
"Come on, we have to hurry, before it gets REALLY dark!" his cousin urged.
Harvey got out of the Buick and stretched. It took him a moment to comprehend his surroundings. "Willie," he whispered a little fearfully, "this is a CEMETERY!" Then he collected himself, and said, "What's going on here, Willie? Maybe Barnabas doesn't have a sense of humor about death-related stuff. But it's obvious that YOU do!"
"No, it's not LIKE that," Willie insisted. "There IS a building here you'd be interested in. You won't believe it when you see it!"
"What, a mausoleum, maybe? I don't know, they're pretty straightforward. One small room, a couple of big cabinets, and a nice little stained glass window. I think I can see one like that from here."
"Well, that IS old Mrs. Stoddard's tomb, but that's not the one I meant. There's one further back. You won't believe it, but it's holding up a big hill!"
"Still, I'm not sure I feel up to exploring. In fact, my stomach's kind of queasy."
"Well, come see the outside anyway. You're going to have to take a little walk to work off that beer before you get home, or Mary Beth's going to have something ELSE to fight with you about."
"Maybe you're right, Willie. Maybe I'm just tense. A little stroll might loosen up the knots." Harvey followed Willie down a path beaten down through long, yellow grass, skeletons of last year's crop waiting to yield to the new grass just coming up. "Nobody takes care of this place anymore, Willie?" Harvey asked. "What a shame, there's quite a few antique stones. Lots of Collinses," he observed.
"There used to be this old guy who
pretty much LIVED in here, when I first came to town," Willie replied.
"He was a pretty creepy old coot, but he knew EVERYTHING about EVERY skeleton in this bone-yard. Kept the grass cut with one of those old-fashioned blade mowers. I never figured out who paid him to do this, but I heard a rumor that he was the secret son of a Collins spinster and the family butler. Story goes that Nora Collins told the boy secrets about their family, and they gave him this job to keep him out of sight and to keep his mouth shut, about all those secrets and about who his mother was. Being out here all the time made him kind of weird, but he was probably the best-paid cemetery caretaker in history!"
"Well, maybe it's not such a BAD job, at that," Harvey said. "I mean, it's probably very pretty here during the day, and God knows, nobody's going to complain if the weeds don't get whacked when they grow an inch. Or twelve."
He chuckled at his own joke, but Willie had gone silent as they approached a large, marble structure resembling a Greek portico, complete with Ionic columns and a heavy, ornate wrought-iron gate, which swung open with surprising ease when Willie opened it. "It's kept oiled, because sometimes Barnabas visits," he said. Harvey looked inside, and there were 5 simple-but-elegant sarcophagi in a row, in the shaded, cool anteroom. Willie explained, "These folks were his direct ancestors, parents of the 'first' Barnabas, with their own little girl who died. Our Barnabas wanted to keep the 'family' together, so he had extra crypts built for Julia and himself, when his time comes. I don't know where he expects Jeremy to go, but I'll be long gone by then. They'll probably just plant me outside the gate so I'll be at Barnabas's beck and call like I've been for over half my life." Willie sounded rather bitter.
"If you prefer, Willie, even if Mary Beth kicks up another fuss, I'll be glad to include YOU in OUR family plot, when we get around to arranging that kind of thing. Unless you'd like to go back to St. Louis, to be with your Mom." Harvey shook his head. "It's not the kind of thing people are EAGER to plan, but I've had 2 bypasses, and, well, this IS a cemetery, it's hard NOT to think about it." He sat one of the crypts, the one in the center. There were chased bronze ring handles on each one, which matched a quintet of rings suspended from the mouths of bronze lions' heads fastened to the marble wall behind. Each lion's head was below a plaque carved with the names and dates of each of the deceased, except for the one presumably intended for Barnabas. Joshua, Naomi, the child Sarah (the tomb Harvey sat on), and Julia Hoffman Collins--- this last was distinctive because HER incised name was filled out with gilt enamel. A vase filled with dessicated roses which appeared to have been red, sat on her crypt.
"You feel up to seeing the amazing room now, Harvey?" Willie asked.
"Yeah, I guess so. But make it snappy. The sun's almost down already, and to be blunt, I'll be looking for a bathroom again before long. I'd hate to desecrate a cemetery."
"Me, neither, but sometimes you can't help it." Willie reached up to the second ring in the row, under Naomi's plaque, and pulled on it. To Harvey's surprise, it appeared to be attached to a cable, like the pull-string toys his children had played with long ago. To his astonishment, this caused a great rumble in the seemingly-solid wall, and in a minute, the panel with the plaque loosened and creaked, and Willie was able to boost its action with a shove. A gaping opening was revealed--- very dark but with the faint flicker of some kind of tiny light within, perhaps candles. "Come and see," Willie coaxed.
Harvey got up and looked into the secret room, almost in spite of himself. Even in the dim light, he could see it was quite large. He shuddered a little bit when he saw the velvet-draped outline of an old casket on a marble catafalque, illuminated by a small candelabrum on a stand, but told himself, it's a mausoleum, what did you EXPECT to see? But something bothered him--- why were the candles already lit? And how could there be enough air in there to keep them going? "Willie, when did you light those candles?"
"Hours ago. They're the long-burning kind." Willie suddenly flashed a strange grin.
"Why would you do a thing like that? I thought this was a spur-of-the-moment outing. You weren't PLANNING on this for some reason? I mean, what reason COULD there be?"
"I WANTED to show you. Come in here.
This place is amazing. Granite walls holding up Eagle Hill!"
Willie tugged on his reluctant cousin's arm. Harvey came down a short flight of steps, and gaped at the sturdy vaulted ceiling, the seamless granite walls, the stone floor.
"And--and HOW did YOU learn about this? Barnabas? Why would HE show it to YOU, knowing you were once a criminal and might use it for some crooked purpose?"
"Barnabas didn't show me. I discovered
it before we even, uh, MET, if you want to call it that." Willie pushed
Harvey into a corner, where some granite tiles had been pulled up. The dirt
beneath had been
dug out, and there was a tied roll of filthy cloth, canvas maybe, showing in the dim light. "Ever wonder about that old cabbage-rose rug, Harvey? Well, here it is!"
"Boy, Barnabas sure made you do a lot of unnecessary work, Willie," Harvey said uneasily. "Wouldn't it have been easier to take it to the dump?"
"Any other time, maybe, but there was something wrapped up with it, something you just CAN'T take to the dump." Willie tugged at the roll, until the rotted twine holding it together, broke. There was something whitish inside, but with some dark fuzzy stuff clinging to it. Harvey stared, and, in a moment, clapped his hand over his mouth and retched loudly.
"Jason MacGuire!" he choked between heaves. "I KNEW it! Don't ask me HOW I knew it, but---" He vomited in the opposite corner.
"Oh, Harvey, I'm SO sorry," Willie said. "You just wait here, and I'll get you something to clean yourself up with." He shoved his cousin to the ground, and ran up and out of the mausoleum. By the time Harvey could pick himself up, the heavy marble-and-granite door was groaning on its hinges as it closed. He flung himself at it, but the movement was inexhorable--- if he tried to stick a hand or foot in the opening, it would be crushed. He beat on the door and screamed for Willie, for help, for ANYBODY! until his voice was hoarse and his knuckles were bloody. Then he sat on the steps, and stared into the gloom, tears running down his face.
Why had Willie done it, WHY? What had he, Harvey, ever done to him? Was this some kind of revenge against Mary Beth for picking on the Willie, or the Collinses? Or had Willie been insane all along, planning his revenge while he was ingratiating himself with the Sheriff's family? Maybe this was revenge for the fact that Willie's mother had grown up, deprived of her mother and her birthright, while Harvey's mother, her half-sister, had grown up, if not in wealth, with love and a reasonable degree of security? Revenge for the fact that Harvey could openly bring up his own daughter, while Willie couldn't publicly acknowledge his? Revenge because Harvey had led his own life, and had honorably carved out his own niche in the world, while Willie, driven to criminality by his own sense of worthlessness, now considered himself permanently beholden to a family of wealthy ingrates?
It was too much to comprehend, and distracted
Harvey from the task at hand, which was to find a way out of this mess. Have to
keep calm, he told himself, or a heart spasm will kill me in this Godforsaken
place, and I'll be just another skeleton with McGuire here. He speculated on
how McGuire met his end--- killed by Willie?
Or Barnabas? As if it made a difference anymore! Harvey KNEW there HAD to be some kind of secret switch inside the tomb--- otherwise, how could Willie have gotten away with the long and laborious process of burying his former associate without being detected by the ubiquitous caretaker? Unless he had killed the caretaker, as well!
Still, reason dictated that such a device
must exist. Whoever designed this tomb was subtle as whoever had designed the
Pyramids, and may have had other uses for such a large structure than the
storage of one casket!
THAT would explain the fact that oxygen enough flowed to keep the candles burning for so many hours; maybe this was used to hide soldiers and weapons in the Revolutionary War, and later, as a stop on that Underground Railroad! Though, Harvey thought with a dismal pang, an abolitionist MIGHT have wanted to keep the runaway slaves from escaping and wandering around lest they (and he) were caught, and might have jimmied an inner switch. Still, it was worth looking--- if there WAS a switch, even if broken, Harvey MIGHT be able to fix it!
So he played around wherever he thought he saw a loose stone, in the steps and everywhere.
After what he figured was a half-hour, Harvey sat down again, in increasing despair, with just a vain hope that Willie might relent, or that, perhaps, Barnabas would decide to visit his wife's tomb before too many days had gone by. For the first time, he regarded the coffin with curiosity, which, he was certain, would go unanswered forever. Who in the Collins family, had been banished to this lonely resting-place? Was it due to disgrace, or to distinction? Or was it a family retainer? Since it could have been placed here at any time, perhaps it WAS the old caretaker, whose illegitimate Collins heritage had been honored with a secret consignment to the family tomb?
"It's none of the above," he heard
his voice tell him. But Harvey had not spoken. And he doubted that WILLIE had
returned. There was a burst of the familiar colors before him, and a man who
looked somewhat like himself when young, and Willie as well, stood before him
in the candle-light. The man wore a rather boyish-looking ensemble, a brown
velvet suit that made Harvey think of the old illustrations in the "Alice
books--- this man looked like a Mad Hatter, without the hat!
But Harvey knew him. "Carl Collins," he said, amazed at his own calm state at the moment.
"You're not bad at guessing, Great-grandson," Carl said cheerfully. "Actually, Willie is better, but we're BOTH mad at him now, AREN'T we?"
"Yes. But I don't understand WHY--- We knew we were cousins, we knew you were our great-grandfather, we were getting along fine. He gave blood for my daughter!"
Carl shook his head. "Something has come between you two, something I can't fix, but YOU might, if you follow my instructions. I was once caught in here, myself, you know. My BROTHER locked me in, but I figured out the secret. I was SO good at puzzles and mazes then. Not so good at figuring out the mazes of the minds of those I thought I could trust!"
"I thought I could trust Willie," Harvey said sadly. "Here I was, even offering to bury him in our family plot, when we get one."
"Well, if you don't get out of here, you'll be dead, but NOT buried in a nice family plot, and WILLIE will be DEAD, but not necessarily BURIED." Carl led Harvey by the hand--- a touch as gentle as a whisper. Carl pointed to a brick at the end of one step, which he told Harvey to pull HARD, to reveal the switch. "It's NOT broken, don't worry. Willie still needs it there."
"How do you know what I've been thinking?"
"I can get into your head and Willie's, if either of you have had some experience I can identify with. Right now, YOU are the victim, like me, and so I'll do my best to help you. Later on, WILLIE will be a victim, and I'll have to go to HIM."
"Whose victim? Barnabas's? For failing to kill me?"
"Not at this point, but you'd better get out fast. And leave Willie to the judgement of Heaven. You know what THAT means. DON'T be a tittle-tattle, or you'll BOTH pay."
"I'll keep my mouth glued shut if I can get out of here alive!"
"My, wouldn't THAT change your appearance, great-grandson," Carl said. "Collins men run toward the lean side, but you probably take after your great-grandmother Daisy--- er, Dorothina. She was what she herself called 'zaftig', but very appealing when she waved those veils. Quite an armful, but every inch and ounce was worth the holding!" Carl danced around, hugging himself, and singing a ribald-sounding German song--- perhaps taught to him by Daisy herself.
"Yes, I can appreciate that,"
Harvey said, thinking warm thoughts of his wife for the first time since he'd
come to the cemetery. "Now, let me get to work." He had the brick
pushed out, and hand his hand on the switch, when he felt a cold slap across
his already-injured knuckles. There didn't appear to be anyone there,
anymore; the Ghost of Carl was gone. But when Harvey reached for the switch, the brick slid on its track, and smashed his fingers. Not enough to break them, but as the bully spirit had intended, Harvey was
"Ye're not getting away THAT easily, me lad," a snapping voice with an Irish brogue echoed from the general direction of Jason's remains.
"Who--- oh, YOU'RE McGuire," Harvey
said. "Please, I WILL be out of your er,
afterlife, if you let me be.
I just want to go HOME---"
"Ah, a male Dorothy in need of Kansas. Why, Harvey, click your ruby-red slippers together 3 times, and say, "There's no place like that casket.... But there's only room for ONE. You WONDER who it is, don't ye? Well, the answer will soon find YOU!"
To Harvey's horror, it suddenly seemed as though the coffin itself was about to speak the answer. There was, at first, a muffled cadence in the still air, which still reeked with the stench of vomit. As the minutes slipped by, Harvey began to believe he was hallucinating--- the cadence was becoming distinct, and had assumed the sound of a very loud heartbeat! Then, there was a rustling coming from the casket--- it appeared to be SHAKING a little bit. In a moment, the top began to rise under the velvet drape. Harvey, in a panic, dove into the corner where Jason was buried, rather than the malodorous corner he had soiled. He cringed there, shaking, not knowing what to think when he heard the sound of the coffin lid opening, creaking on its hinges behind him, the growl of a familiar voice as it cursed the tangled velvet drape which impeded the exit of the individual who now LEAPT from the box, and said,
"WILLIE! What in HELL'S NAME are you doing there? What IS that foul stench, and--- WHY have you dug up JASON!" A powerful hand reached for Harvey's shoulder, forced him to stand, and whirled him around to face---
"Barnabas!" came the pitiful whimper, all Harvey could manage when he stared into Barnabas's eyes, which seemed to GLOW with infernal light, staring deep into his soul, and, worse, when he stared into Barnabas's MOUTH, where he could see yellowed FANGS glittering wetly in the flickering candle light!
"You-- YOU are NOT Willie--- MY GOD, HARVEY!" Barnabas cried in anguished rage. "What--WHAT are YOU doing here? Where is Willie?"
Harvey was beyond any ability to speak. His heart popped and skipped. His hand traveled to his left shoulder, where pain burned like a hot knife up and down, and ricocheted into his chest. He gasped and began to turn blue.
"Harvey, I AM heartily sorry for what I MUST do to you, but I PROMISE this will all be like a horrible nightmare from which you WILL awaken safely!" Barnabas held Harvey's heavy body up against the wall, and loosened his collar, preparatory to biting him, when he saw the eyeballs, pupils dilated, roll up into Harvey's head. The Sheriff's husband had ceased to breathe, and when Barnabas lowered him gently to the floor, he could detect no heartbeat. "Oh, oh, my.... my God...." Barnabas mourned. "I HAVE killed--- and I never WANTED to, never MEANT to...." He sank to his knees. "Christine will-- will NEVER forgive me if she knows I have killed her friend.... What will I do NOW!"
Well, for one thing, he couldn't leave the Sheriff's husband in the mausoleum. Barnabas dragged out the body. He saw NO cars parked anywhere. He was mystified as to how Harvey even GOT to the cemetery without a car. But he COULD leave Harvey's body close to the road, and someone else would deal with it. There wasn't a mark on him that could be traced to Barnabas. When he was done, he assumed the bat form, and fluttered away, he thought, without carrying great anxiety which he HOPED he could conceal from Christine.
As soon as Barnabas was gone, Amy, whose prison had been opened by Willie, appeared. She gazed down at Harvey's inert body. "There may be just enough life left in the old boy for ME," she announced to the empty air. First, she examined him, and confirmed that he WASN'T quite dead yet. Then she began to perform CPR, though she knew it might not work.
To her delight, she soon had Harvey's heart pumping and his chest heaving. His eyes fluttered open, when he saw HER. He squirmed and writhed under Amy, but she showed HER fangs, and bit him even more viciously than she had bitten Willie. "That's because you might die any minute for real, and I don't want all that blood to go to waste," she explained as Harvey drew deep breaths. HE wanted her, too, and suddenly rolled on top of her. But Amy became invisible, which confused Harvey, especially when he was still able to hear her voice.
"Oh, Harvey, there's only one thing you can do to please me, and to keep Barnabas from finishing you off, once he discovers you're still alive."
"Anything, ANYTHING!" he said. "If I get what you ask, will you KILL that traitor, Willie? It's worth more than money to me!"
"Then, you must bring back that which you value most in the world." When Amy whispered into Harvey's ear, he cried, "NO! I CAN'T do THAT!" and tried to jump off her invisible body, but she kept biting. Then, when she was sated, she moved around under him, giving him a sample of the promised delights. All those years of being called a Teaser by my old dates are finally paying off, Amy thought happily.
Harvey rolled off, and said, "I only have one problem, Amy. I don't have my car to get home, and this place is miles from the Blue Whale. I DON'T think I'd live through the walk back to get it."
"It's your lucky night," Amy
giggled. "I can fly, I can drive, I can do it ALL for you! Give me your
keys, and I'll have the car here in less than a half-hour. Your wife, the
Sheriff, will NEVER suspect the truth!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Sheriff was too busy to spare a thought for the husband she was still angry at. She had reviewed the late Professor Stokes's "Fallen Angels" book, and, with Christine, came up with a workable plan for trapping the purported "vampire", using David as bait. But Christine had already committed to the evening with Barnabas, and Mary Beth agreed that it would be prudent to avoid putting him on his guard. So, Christine was gone, but with a promise to return before midnight. "Somehow, that seems like the ideal time to catch a vampire, or a chupacabra, or anything that goes 'bump' in the night," she said, not entirely in jest..
Mary Beth looked in on Alice, Elliot, and Michael. Elliot was smiling wanly at Michael's stories about Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, who, to the teenagers, WOULD probably seem like remote historical figures already. Then, Michael and Alice both started telling anecdotes about the wedding last summer, and wishing Iris was there to tell it from HER point of view. "I hope this trouble is settled soon," Michael was saying. "Iris called me to say she had a doctor's appointment on Monday, and I want to be there to take her."
Mary Beth walked out into the living room with some trepidation. "Oh, Mike," she said, "you didn't tell me Iris was THAT sick. Maybe you should go home tomorrow."
"It's not that bad, Mom," her son assured her. "Iris seems to be getting along, and she has her own mother there. But I WILL have to leave by Sunday morning. Anyway, if it was that much of an emergency, the doctor wouldn't make her wait until MONDAY."
"I hope you're right." Mary Beth turned to her daughter and Elliot. "I'm terribly sorry for what happened earlier, Elliot. I'm walking such a tight-rope these days, and I really shouldn't act like the sins--- or ALLEGED sins--- of the parent are automatically visited upon the child. And I usually DON'T--- I've been involved in police work for over 30 years, and I generally try to give the benefit of the doubt to the children of suspects. They often suffer as much as their parents' victims. But it's different when you're worried about your OWN child. Do you understand, young man?"
"Yes, Ma'am. Remember, I SAW what happened to Alice when the 'animal' bit her. But my DAD had nothing to do with THAT."
"No, I admit HE didn't, and soon, we may find evidence that he had nothing to do with what happened to Hallett and Riggs, or with Miss Jennings's escape. But I HAVE to cover all my bases. Even your mother understands THAT. Because, much as she loves your father, and loves you and your brothers and sisters, she doesn't want what happened to my two officers to happen to anybody ELSE, even if she doesn't particularly LIKE them. You have a GOOD mother, and I DO believe she has a good SON. Do you believe ME when I say this ISN'T personal, Elliot?"
"I'll---I'll try. And I'll try to be good to Alice, Ma'am. I would NEVER hurt her!" Elliot pulled Alice closer to him. She patted his cheek in an almost maternal manner.
"Okay, I guess we can call this a truce, then," Mary Beth concluded. "Now, I want to apologize further, for being such a terrible hostess. Would everybody here like some hot cocoa or whatever? I want to do that much for you kids now, in case I have to go out again, later."
Mary Beth, bearing 3 orders for hot cocoa in her mind, turned toward the kitchen. In that moment, the painting of the fisherman and the swordfish caught her eye. Harv, she thought, I haven't mended my fences with YOU yet. Where ARE you? It wasn't all that late, just 8:00, and he WAS with Willie, but she didn't want to leave the house on a possibly dangerous mission before making things up with her husband, just in case.... Still, it HAD happened often enough when they were still living in New York. But we're getting old, we SHOULDN'T have to keep doing this! her heart cried. After almost 35 years together, they STILL hadn't attained that blissful state of pure understanding she had often fantasized about after their early arguments.
Mary Beth had observed elderly couples, wed 50 years or more, holding hands and sitting together, gazing at each other in smiling silence, and used to believe it was because they knew each other so well that they were TRULY like halves of a whole, "one flesh" as the churches taught, and had no further occasion for strife, having ironed out all those trivial conflicts years ago. Now, she thought ruefully, maybe the REAL reason they still held hands was because one might fall or bump into something, or because, due to senility, it was the only way they could keep track of each other, and where they were going. The cheerful silence--- perhaps they had run out of things to say, perhaps they decided silence was really the ONLY way to maintain peace in the house....
In any case, she hadn't long to wait for her husband to come home. She was still in the kitchen, when she heard him come in through the door from the garage, which led into a mudroom just off the kitchen. There was a bad odor emanating from the mudroom, and Mary Beth went to investigate. She was shocked by Harvey's filthy, bedraggled appearance. All her thoughts of goodwill went up in smoke.
"Sweet Jesus," she hissed. "What the HELL have YOU been up to, Harvey Lacey? What's that--- puke stains, grass stains, BLOOD stains! WHERE did Willie TAKE you, for God's sake? To some roadhouse or WHOREhouse I haven't yet heard of? What was there, a BRAWL? OUT with it, Harv---"
"I don't have to answer to YOU," he snarled. "And DON'T blame Willie. We had a disagreement, and we went our separate ways."
"A DISAGREEMENT? It looks like you two must have had a knock-down, drag-out fight that would make those WWF wrestlers look like they're ballet dancing!"
"It wasn't LIKE that! Like I said, we parted on less than friendly terms, but all this damage was my OWN doing, I SWEAR! If you HAVE to know, I WAS drinking---"
"Oh, Harv," his spouse mourned, "what about your heart condition? Those pills you took?"
"SCREW the pills, they're taking my manhood away from me, minute by minute, dammit! I just wanted to FEEL something for once, full-blast, not CAREFUL like we always--- YOU always need to be!"
"So, what else did this burst of manly passion make you do, Harvey?" Mary Beth turned red, and tears rolled down her face.
"I met a woman--- a real HOTTIE, as they say nowadays, and we rolled in the grass, laughing our asses off at all the careful people! But don't fret, Mary Beth, I'm STILL your man, in spite of my best efforts--- because all that rolling made me do the old heave-ho--- The Hottie in question scrambled like a scared bunny just in time, or SHE would have been SPEWED on! Damn, and I didn't even catch her name---"
Mary Beth said, with quiet rage, "Enough! I don't want to hear another word! Listen, you disgusting drunken slob whoremaster, your son and daughter are still out there with that poor Collins boy. I don't want them to see your filthy disgusting self or hear your obscene disgusting talk, do you understand me? You are going to wait in the mudroom until I can get them out of here, and then you're going straight into the shower, and then you're going to wash those clothes with bleach and what else it takes to get the traces of this night's filth off them. I don't give a shit if you have to stay up past midnight, you scum-king, but if you don't do exactly what I tell you, I'm going to get my sidearm and blow your fat head off, and tell everyone it's because I thought you were the stalker. I mean it, Harvey. Are we clear on this?"
yes, Sheriff, Ma'am!" Harvey
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Christine sat in the loveseat in the Old House's parlor, and watched in consternation as her would-be lover paced back and forth anxiously. "Why are you so nervous, Barnabas? What happened?"
"It's--it's hard to explain. Of course, I am terribly worried that Amy might somehow find her way back into the house and try once more to harm us---YOU, my love." At this, Barnabas sat next to Christine, and crushed her in his arms. "I would feel much better if we could, perhaps, pay another visit to Josette's room, but Willie isn't home yet, and my son seems to be sleeping like the proverbial log. I need more than the assurance of a beefed-up alarm system."
"That's all right. It would be a bit inhibiting with Willie or even Jeremy guarding the door to Josette's room," Christine joked lamely. "Until there is peace in Collinsport once more, maybe we'd better save our lust for another day." She thought a moment. "Anything else on your mind, Barnabas?"
Barnabas sprang up again. "Not really. I haven't DONE anything, if that's what you've been wondering. Oh, I AM sorry, Christine--- I know that sounds confrontational and mean. But it's quite true." He sat in his own Queen Anne wingback chair, and looked her in the eye. "I've been thinking, Christine.... Even though we haven't known each other for long, and even now, there are unanswered questions hanging in the air between us, I've come to feel very close to you."
"I feel quite the same. Of course, what we did in Josette's room was BOUND to produce that effect, if only for a short while." Christine's eyes twinkled, and she blushed. Again.
"Dear Christine, I was NEVER one to take the act of love lightly. Oh, I may have mis-interpreted my own feelings as well as those of my former lady companions, and, trust me, I HAVE suffered for it--- but it was NEVER from being wanton, so full of inconsiderate lust that I would have preyed on any woman who held still long enough! That was not the way I was raised, and while I've broken many of my parents' commandments, as well as Biblical, I never used a woman purely as a sex object. There was ALWAYS some true emotion with every act. I ALWAYS knew the lady's name, and, in the end, I DID live up to my responsibilities."
"You mean, you married somebody out of compunction," Christine said. "What, did you get your first wife pregnant?"
"No, though I admit I feared it. But I DID do her a great injustice, which she overlooked to help me with a terrible crisis at the time, so I agreed to marry her out of gratitude for her services. We DID love each other, underneath all our conflicts, but for years, this love was consumed by her jealousies--- justifiable, I admit---and my obstinacy. In the end, for a brief moment, there WAS complete understanding, but she was taken from me almost immediately."
"So she didn't just LEAVE you, exactly." Christine was thinking of the case history in Stokes's book.
"Over the years, yes, but we made it up before her death. In a way, this closure helped free me to pursue Julia, who had waited for me for so many years. And now, I am free again...." Barnabas, using his cane, moved to kneel at Christine's feet, and took her hand. "Christine, remember when we first met, and I said that, at our ages, it was wisest not to wait to act on feelings of love?"
"You didn't put it exactly that way," she smiled. "We were in a clinch already, and we HAVE, since, satisfied THAT compelling urge--- for the time being."
"Christine, DO you love me?"
She said, quietly, "Yes, I do. Very much. But I have so many questions---"
"Marry me, then, and I vow on my mother's tomb that I will answer them!"
Christine turned from him. "Please,
Barnabas. DON'T do this to me. I had a marriage where I discovered terrible
things about my husband's true character when it was too late. I need to know
certain things about you NOW, even if it means we DON'T marry. It doesn't mean
that I won't keep loving you, or that we could never
have a relationship, but marriage.... Maybe it's because I was raised a
Catholic, the product of a mixed marriage which broke up. I was able to get
along without marriage for so many years, and only took the plunge because I
really believed I could get by without sharing soul-shattering truths. Yet,
after 20 years of observing the Laceys in action, I
know that for a really GOOD marriage to function,
there has to be Forthcomingness....
Forgiveness.... Forbearance.... Fidelity....All that crap I used to laugh about in Sister Maria Dymphna's Preparation for Catholic Homelife Classes. And which finally resonated when my marriage fell apart. The next time, if there IS a next time, if THIS is meant to be the next time, Barnabas, I have to be assured that these traits are part of the deal, because the NEXT time HAS to be the LAST time. Not PERFECT, just PERMANENT."
"Well, then, perhaps this proposal will have to keep for a time when you have more confidence in US. But consider it, my love." Barnabas rose with difficulty. Christine helped him, and it was almost too easy. She was wondering if she had suddenly developed super powers, when she saw Willie standing behind Barnabas, holding his arm. "Well, Willie, how did the big night out with Harvey go?" Christine asked brightly. "Is he safely back with Mary Beth?"
"I wouldn't know," Willie said anxiously, "we had kind of an argument, and separated." He glanced at Barnabas, who looked stern.
"YOU were with HARVEY LACEY tonight?" The latter asked. Barnabas's eyes flashed dangerously.
"Yes, and what's the problem, Barnabas?" Christine asked calmly. "They're cousins, after all. I'm sorry they parted on bad terms, though I'm sure they'll make it up."
"Yeah, right, Miss Cagney, exactly. Barnabas, is there anything you two need before I go lie down for a while? I got a bad headache."
"Nothing for NOW," Barnabas growled. "But, definitely, later."
Willie hurried to his room, thanking God it
was on the ground floor and close to the back door. He yanked a battered
suitcase out of his closet, and began filling it with clothes, pictures,
anything he could stuff into it.
Then, he heard the sound of the door opening and closing behind him. He turned and saw Barnabas, who held up the cane, as he'd always feared. And there was nobody to stop his Master, it seemed--- "Barnabas," he whispered in terror, "Where's Miss Cagney?"
"She received a call on her cell-phone from the Sheriff, and had to leave. It couldn't have come at a more convenient time, COULD it, Willie?" Barnabas rapped his servant across the back.
Willie fell to his knees, groaning with pain. "Why are you doing this, Barnabas?"
"Don't act clueless around ME, you idiot! I KNOW you MUST have dropped Harvey off in the secret room in the Mausoleum. Just WHAT the HELL did you THINK you were doing? And WHY?" Barnabas brought the cane down again. "And don't bother calling for my son. I would imagine he's going to sleep till late morning with all the sedatives that were mixed in his usual chamomile tea."
"Okay, okay, I did it all," Willie blubbered. "What happened to Harvey?"
"You BASTARD! What you obviously HOPED would happen! I KILLED him!"
"Oh, oh Christ," Willie wept now, with REAL remorse. "Oh, GOD--- I don't know why I HAD to do it. Sweet Jesus, I DIDN'T want to hurt him. I wish I could have--- " He looked up. "How-- how did you do it? You didn't--didn't BITE him?"
"As if you cared! But I WILL tell you--- I killed him simply by virtue of my existence. I merely intended to bite him enough, to fix him as I fixed Candy Cane, so he would forget--- however, he was so TERRIFIED, his heart gave out before I so much as touched him with my fangs! I dropped him along the side of the road, the better for someone to find him before decomposition sets in. But I might as well have STRANGLED him, as I strangled your mutual great-grandfather. It all amounts to the same thing. And that's how I began to figure that YOU had something to do with it--- there was NO car out there, but how ELSE would Harvey have ended up at Eagle Hill!" Barnabas hit Willie one more time, this time with the wolf's head, with its sharp little ears and snout. "Now, tell me the TRUTH about your little evening!" He picked up the nearly unconscious Willie by the collar, which ripped neatly. Then he saw the fang marks.
"So, you have a new master, eh, Willie?
Or should I say, MISTRESS!" Barnabas dragged Willie over to his bed, and
tossed him on it, a gesture which mixed contempt with compassion. "Well, I
guess, this is part of
Amy's vengeance on the Sheriff, as well as myself."
"Then you're not mad at me anymore?" Willie panted. "SHE made me do it, and she's just as powerful as YOU! And hot to trot, too!" He grinned lasciviously in spite of his pain.
"We shall see about THAT. I will go now, to see if she returned to the cave room. Probably not, but I doubt locking her in will do much good anymore. We should have festooned the room with Crosses when she was still unconscious." Barnabas locked Willie in his room. The latter, his grief over his betrayal of his cousin stronger than his lust for Amy, cried and prayed for forgiveness, but he knew absolution wouldn't come until Amy was cured--- or killed.
The cave chamber was empty--- the casket was gone. Barnabas knew there was only one way to find it--- follow Willie when he was summoned, or David if he was freed--- wait! Perhaps there was a way to fight Amy without implicating himself or Willie in Harvey's death! It could easily be made to seem like Amy's fault, and perhaps a trap could be baited, with either of the current thralls, preferably David. But, how to communicate this idea, without making himself more suspect in the eyes of both Christine and Sheriff Lacey?
Barnabas went back up into the Old House, and
struggled to waken his son.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PART FOURTEEN--- Thursday, April 20, 2000
Christine arrived at the police station. Mary Beth was sitting there, quite alone. Her face was swollen and red in spots from weeping, but she managed to smile with a little confidence when her friend came in.
"My God, Mary Beth, what happened? Did one of your men take a turn for the worse? Or is it Harvey? Willie came home while I was with Barnabas and told us a little about what went down between them."
Mary Beth made an uncharacteristically subdued reply. "Harvey.... He--he got blasted after he left Willie, then he found a floozy to party with.... And when he came home, he wasn't the LEAST bit sorry! He was downright MEAN!" Tears spilled onto her mis-buttoned uniform, and plopped onto the desk. "For the first time in over 30 years, I REALLY felt like I wanted a divorce, Christine!"
"WHAT?" Christine barked. "This just doesn't sound like OUR Harvey. Are you sure OUR Harvey didn't disappear into another dimension, and a raunchy parallel form, or evil twin, or POD PERSON didn't take over his life?"
"I'm not sure of ANYTHING anymore.
Harvey was my Rock of Gibraltar, and now the rock is crumbling.
And over such a stupid fight! I hated to leave to set up the trap for Amy, but thank God, Michael will still be with us for a couple more days, so Alice won't be stuck home alone with the playboy of Collinsport." Mary Beth took a box of tissues out of her desk, and wiped her eyes. "How did your Mata Hari act with Barnabas work out?"
"He was acting strange--- agitated, as though he was waiting for the other shoe to fall. And guilty, though over what he wouldn't say.... His solution to his doldrums was to kneel and ask for my hand in wedlock, at which point he INSISTED he would start spilling the truth. Now, there's a smart man, Mary Beth, he's already thinking ahead about spousal confidentiality at his future trial." Christine suddenly looked downcast. "Under different circumstances, I WOULD have accepted, you know."
"Well, maybe it's for the best, Christine. You had ONE bad break already, and now that I'M having this terrible, out-of-the-blue crisis with MY husband, I'm beginning to see the real downside of the married state."
"Well, you DO have 30-plus years of history with your old man, a VERY good history, and it IS on your side, Mary Beth. Maybe this business with Harvey is just because of all the tension from the last couple of weeks, and the fact that he DOES chafe at all the restrictions of his heart condition. I'm SURE he didn't mean to RUN OFF with the floozy, whoever the Hell SHE was."
"Still, the fact that he NEEDED somebody like that--- I know I haven't been any fun to live with recently, but he used to be able to wait it out. I guess he thinks the time is slipping away too fast and he's suddenly discovered instant gratification. Weird, I used to think THAT was something more readily available in New York, but then, we WERE spending our free time together more than we have since we came to this 'oceanside paradise'. Well, Job Woodard was wrong about one thing, there ARE still 'bad girls' around the Collinsport docks. I should be grateful Harvey's stomach gave out before any REAL damage was done...."
"You mean, he DIDN'T---?" Christine smiled.
Mary Beth still looked glum. "Well, apparently NOT, but the fact remains, he WOULD have, and had NO hesitation, telling me so. According to what I've always been taught, the desire is just as bad as the deed--- or have you forgotten that from YOUR catechism classes, Christine?"
Christine looked sad again. "My memory of those long-ago lessons HAS become highly selective, but I'm finding, more and more as I get older, they're coming back to haunt me. Especially now." She cleared her throat and said, "This conversation is just draining our necessary energy. Let's concentrate on 'Plan A', if only because it's harder for the both of us to be up and out so late, than it used to be."
"Well, okay. I figure, given that Amy DOES behave like a vampire, that she'll be looking for her thrall before dawn, so he can make sure nobody's around when she goes to her hiding place, and also, in case she needs a little casket-time snack before turning in. This is in the event she hasn't managed to nip anyone else during the course of the night--- I haven't had any calls about fresh attacks since you've been out, so this IS a possibility."
"Oh, by the way, Mary Beth, how have the DNA tests on all the known victims been stacking up? Are they all Amy's victims?"
"Well, I got a call from GenScan as soon as I got here. The same KIND of necrotic blood cells were found in everyone, but there's a difference between the early victims and the last ones, David Collins and Ken Hallett--- the DNA in both sets has SOME markers in common, but they CAN be distinguished from each other. In short, it's as if the two sets were produced by members of the same family."
"So, we're STILL looking for at least TWO stalkers." Christine's eyes now welled up. Barnabas, don't let it be YOU! she prayed. Maybe there's an ILLEGITIMATE Collins somewhere around here?
"Well, Chris, if it's ANY consolation, it would be DIFFICULT to tell what side of Amy's family the DNA might have come from. She's 3 generations removed from her last KNOWN Collins ancestor, and her nearest living relative on that side is Quentin, who WAS in Germany during the early attacks. If you're worried about Barnabas, HIS most recent connection to the family went back to the Mother Country 200 years ago, and in that period, there could have been NUMEROUS incidents of hanky-panky between the Collinses and servant girls, cannery workers, you name it--- EVERYONE in this town probably carries a drop or two of Collins blood. So, I COULD force ALL the Collinses to get tested, but it might prove inconclusive. On the OTHER hand, in the old files, it seems there was some suspicion of Amy's brother Tom, who died of a similar syndrome, and WAS rumored to have 'come back' to perpetrate similar attacks, but the last of THOSE incidents was 32 years ago. So there you go, this might run on the Jennings side of the family. I'll just have to see if she has ANY other surviving Jennings relations."
Christine shouted, "Joe Haskell! I recall HE was mentioned somewhere in Christopher Jennings's file! He was their first cousin, I believe. HE was one of those attacked during the period Tom Jennings supposedly 'died'. And then, Sheriff Patterson said he went mad after coming into contact with what turned out to be Chris Jennings when HE was acting out his 'animal' instincts."
"Yeah, but wasn't he sent off to that WindCliff place? He may still be there. I'm SURE they would have informed my office if he escaped recently!"
"Yes, but what if he was simply released upon recovery? That could have happened YEARS ago, and since he WASN'T charged with any crime, there would have been no legal reason this office was EVER told! He may be lurking about, even now, getting the same depraved revenge on this town as his cousin Amy!"
"Still, Christine, HE must be pushing 60 or thereabouts.... But you're right, if I'm going to suspect Barnabas, who's over 70, and Willie, who's almost 65, then why NOT a 60-ish fellow who was once a mighty fisherman around here?" Mary Beth reached for the phone, and called Judge Garner to ask him to issue an order for WindCliff to open their patient files. She explained the need.
"I DON'T think that will be necessary, Sheriff," Frank Garner said. "You see, I'm an old friend of Joe's from grammar school. Knew him and Chris Jennings as well, we were all in the same class. I admit I lost touch with him when my father sent me to prep school and Harvard, but when I came back here to practice, I would run into Joe here and there--- Chris was living out of state at the time. When Joe was committed, I agreed to act as his advocate, so he would receive the best of care. I even visited him from time to time, which is more than Amy or the Collinses ever did, though Julia Hoffman Collins DID consult on his case. I can tell you right now, he was released in 1983, after some new medications were developed to ease his distress, and, rather than come back to the bad memories in Collinsport, chose to move quietly to Massachussetts, New Bedford to be exact, to work in the fishing industry there. I got a call from him around the first of the year, and though he hasn't married or anything, he seemed pretty chipper, even learned some Portuguese so he could talk to his mates on the boat."
"Well, that's an inspiring story, Judge, but may I at least have the name and number of the fishing fleet office, so I can confirm that he's still employed and has been at work these last two weeks?" Mary Beth wrote down the number, and made another call. There WAS someone in the office in New Bedford, manning the communications equipment.
Mary Beth finally hung up the phone. "According to one Manoel Vidiera, 'Senhor Jose' IS still employed by the fishing fleet, but he's been out, with 'la influenza', for almost 2 weeks. He said nobody's called or gotten a call since Haskell first informed them of his illness, but that wasn't unusual. I got Haskell's number, and that of his landlord." Two more calls. "Damn! Answering machines for BOTH places! I guess Mr. Haskell isn't that 'sick' anymore, if he can leave his home. Well, I'll have to try tomorrow, but in the meantime, we COULD get a photo of him when he was young, and have one of my clericals come in and work up an age-progressed picture on the computer. In the meantime, there's our work with David Collins and Amy---" Now, the phone rang. "Hope it's Haskell or the Landlord---"
"For my part," Christine declared, "I hope it ISN'T Haskell, because that would mean he's HOME, 300 miles away, and checked his answering machine. Maybe he was just in the bathroom!"
"Could be--- Hello?" Mary Beth listened, a look of consternation on her face. "WHO--or WHAT the Hell is THIS?" she shouted.
"What's the matter?" Christine asked.
Mary Beth covered the speaker, and whispered, "It's--it's an ELECTRONIC-type voice. Like those Crime witnesses who talk on TV, but their voices are distorted--- YES, could you repeat that?" she said aloud. "You say WHAT? It's best if we do WHAT with David? .... How do you KNOW this, uh, sir, madam, whatever?" There was an audible click as the other party hung up. "Damn AGAIN!" the Sheriff said. "IT wasn't on long enough for me to get a tracer put on--- obviously, whoever it was KNEW that much. Though, to tell the truth, if so-and-so did it through a computer somehow, it would be tough to trace with OUR primitive set-up here."
"Mary Beth, talk about catechism, you ARE cussing a bit much these days, but I'm SURE the Lord will take all your stress into account before issuing forgiveness," Christine said with a smile. "Where did this helpful entity say it would be best to set up our mouse-trap? Or BAT trap, rather?"
"According to The Voice, who seems to know more than he-she-it SHOULD about vampires, luring Amy here would be pointless. She wouldn't be so dumb or desperate, and all the Crosses would be a dead giveaway. She might even have another thrall on tap, just in case--- The Voice seemed to think so. The Voice suggested that we announce David's release, then wire him up and follow him to wherever she calls for him. Maybe she'll even show up to greet him in person!"
"That sounds quite risky--- I mean, what if The Voice was Amy herself, setting a trap for US? Or, say, her cousin, Haskell?"
"Well, we WILL have a contingent of deputies and officers with Crosses in their pockets, and silver bullets in their guns--- you still have them, don't you, Christine?"
"Yes, all 7--- in Collinsport, I wouldn't leave home without 'em."
"Maybe we should have some more made.
Well, I'll have one, you have one, and we'll have five for the guys.
I hope we don't actually have to USE them." Mary Beth called WBAM News, and the local radio station, and gave a statement about releasing David Collins. "Hopefully, that will help flush Amy out, if she pays attention to the media at all. Now, we have to get David, and take him someplace The Voice said Amy is SURE to find him, or at least communicate clearly with him."
"And where might THAT be?"
"The Jennings family plot at Eagle Hill
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I'd better hurry, it's 4:00 A.M. already, Amy
thought, as she rifled through the closet of her closed-up home.
The damn cops had made such a mess of EVERYTHING, as bad as any burglar. But she needed some kind of clothing, in case she had to leave town and set up someplace else. But I won't go without DAVID, she thought with anguish, and that Sheriff Lacey had him tight in her jail, probably with a slew of Crosses around the place.
Finally, she selected a few nice outfits, and laid them on her bed to choose which one she would wear to her new abode. Something alluring for Willie and Harvey, but not VERY--- she had something special in mind for when she was finally able to claim her beloved. So she chose a bright blue, low-cut number for "business", and a filmy, pink see-through gown for "pleasure"--- it was the very same nightie she had purchased over 20 years ago, when she was about to elope with David. She knew it still fit her--- she would put it on from time to time over the years, and gaze, wistfully, at her image in the mirror. She knew her image wouldn't appear now, but she wanted to try it on anyway, just in case she'd lost too much weight from her recent travails. It would be AWFUL if it was too "baggy" when she finally wore it for David!
The gown was made of a silk and rayon blend, and felt cool and smooth on her skin, after the scratchiness of the hospital gown. Amy knew she needn't have worried--- the gown, and the little panties and bra which came with it, still fit PERFECTLY. She instinctively reached for a brush to smooth out her tangled hair. In doing so, she glanced at the mirror--- WHAT was going on! There was a faint outline of her body visible inside the diaphonous gown, which WAS plain as day! What was the matter, she thought wildly, I can make myself invisible, I can fly, I can even go through walls now--- why can I still see myself in a mirror? She made herself invisible on the spot; she couldn't see herself at all, but that accusing ghostly image was not only still THERE, but there was something DISTURBING about it--- was that a streak of SILVER in her normally dark, undyed locks?
It's just my imagination, she told herself. She glanced at the battery-powered clock she'd left running in the room--- 4:30, I'd better be getting back soon, while I still can--- but she was still rattled. She flipped on the TV for a few minutes. Might as well see what's going on in the rest of the world, she thought. The Late Late Late Edition of WBAM news was going into the Early Early Early Edition. Penelope Fereira was reporting, "Late last night, we received word from the Collinsport Sheriff's office that Collins Enterprises Mogul, David Collins, would be released from custody immediately, due to new information exculpiating him from the recent spate of terrible---"
Amy snapped off the TV. David was FREE! Free to be her love slave, that is! She gazed down at her body showing through the gown. David will be ECSTATIC if I summon him wearing this! And it doesn't matter if it's almost dawn--- nothing like the present to secure his loyalty, and to ensure that he would be at her side the minute she woke up later that evening, no matter WHAT was happening to that sow Hallie.
She concentrated very hard, and soon saw
David in her mind's eye. He wasn't even at Collinwood,
he was waiting for her at--- Eagle Hill? Among the graves of
her family? Why should he be there? But then, she assured herself, he
must have KNOWN she would call for him, and that it would be easier to hear her
voice THERE than in bed with his pregnant spouse. And it would be easier to
join him there, because her coffin wasn't so very far away--- it was in the
cellar of the old caretaker's former cottage, a building so delapidated,
even SHE was a little frightened that it would collapse on top of her resting
place. But Willie had PROMISED to reinforce a couple of the beams to prevent
it, and now she had HARVEY under her thumb as well, that dependable former
construction worker who HAD been looking for a little part-time restoration
work. However, she had given him another assignment, and he would just have to
deal with that first.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
At Eagle Hill, all was in readiness. David had protested mightily when Mary Beth and Christine insisted on wiring him, a task they had to perform themselves, since nobody in the Collinsport P.D. had ever done so before. Fortunately, not nearly as many wires were required as in years past--- these were tiny electrodes with a couple of fine strands connecting them, and would register signals on a hand-held device similar to a message beeper. Christine placed them carefully below the chest area.
"I keep telling you, I had NOTHING to do with Amy's crimes!" David shouted. "Why should I be put at risk to catch her?"
"Mr. Collins, can't you FEEL those bitemarks throbbing?" the Sheriff answered. "I can SEE them! She's sure to be after you, sir, and if that's so, wouldn't you rather it be in a controlled situation, where WE'RE sure to get HER, instead of HER getting to YOU? Think of Hallie and the baby and the other children, David!"
"I DO! All the time! Maybe THAT'S why Amy hasn't had as much effect on me as everybody seems to think. I admit, I've had my share of lustful thoughts about her, especially since she's been in my home, and my wife has been indisposed, but I wasn't all that hard to discourage, either. Amy is like a dream from my youth, and I often think of what MIGHT have been, but I ASSURE you, for the most part, when Hallie and I ARE together, we are almost of one mind. We DO have out spats and differences, as I'm sure you KNOW, Sheriff---"
"Yes, I DO recall our little conversation, David," Mary Beth said, resentment still in her voice. "Hallie had to MAKE you stop interfering with my job!"
SENSE into me. She's absolutely the only LIVING person who can do that for
me--- all the others who ever could, my Aunt Elizabeth, my friend Burke Devlin,
my governess Vicki Winters--- they're
all long gone. My WIFE is my most important advisor, but then, you would know something about THAT, Sheriff. You and Harvey have been married for what, 32 years already?"
Mary Beth looked stricken. "Yes, I guess you could say that, in the best circumstances, a devoted spouse IS one's best advisor and ally. And that's why we're doing this. Your WIFE said it was the only plan that might work."
At Eagle Hill, David himself led the way through the sea of headstones, some tilted, some broken, treacherous to those unfamiliar with the pathways covered by the long grass. He pointed to a large, low building at the foot of the Hill. "That's the mausoleum belonging to Barnabas's ancestors. He had extra tombs built, and Julia is there now."
Christine gazed at the mausoleum. "Funny how it's built into the hill like that."
"When this is over, I'll have to bring you out for a tour, during the day of course, unless Barnabas gets around to doing it first. It's quite fascinating because---" Suddenly, David stopped dead, right between two tombstones. His expression went blank, and his pupils dilated. Mary Beth aimed her flashlight at the tombstones, and read the inscriptions aloud.
" 'Thomas Jennings, 1944-1968. Christopher Jennings, beloved husband and brother, 1941-1973.' And those over there, must be the parents. Thomas, Senior, and Genevieve W. Both born, 1918. Both died, 1966. How awful for their kids. And who's this? 'Lenore Fillmore Woodring, 1896-1965'. Maybe a grandmother, but where's the grandfather?"
"Probably nearby, just out in the dark somewhere.
At any rate, this is the place we were looking for. We'd better get everyone to
hide," Christine said. She herself ducked behind a medium-sized,
pillar which bore the name--- "Carl Collins!" she almost said aloud. THIS would be something to show Mary Beth when the excitement was over. Alas, poor Carl, his pillar of life shattered before its time, his buds blasted on the vine--- Christine could feel the contours of the latter, a symbolic frieze carved onto the monument, surrounding his name and the dates 1864-1897. But his bloodline lived on, at least.
The group huddled breathlessly amongst the graves hadn't long to wait. There was a rush of wind down the hill, and the tiny sounds of a bat, just out of view. Then, a petite figure swathed in a pale, see-through night gown tripped lightly up the hill, and embraced the still form of David Collins. "Oh, David, thank God you've come to ME," Amy Jennings said. "Why, look at you--- why are you so shy with me? Isn't his what you wanted? Aren't I what you wanted? LOOK at me, look at what I'm wearing for our honeymoon! The one we SHOULD have had!"
David finally spoke. "It's beautiful on you, Amy. I remember you said you'd get something like that, back when we were going to run away together."
"This IS the gown I bought for the
occasion, and it still fits! If THIS still fits, then maybe everything ELSE
might fit--- you know what I mean?" Amy hugged
David again, and this time, he returned the embrace.
Amy bared her beloved's throat, and sank her teeth in. David screamed, which brought a rustle from the party among the stones, but they were under strict orders NOT to act until Amy was safely esconced in her hideaway.
"Why are you screaming, love?" Amy asked in consternation. "This should have been easy, after I bit you before.... David, why are you STARING at me like that?"
"Oh, no reason, really," he said calmly, though he was holding his throat. "You just look, er, TIRED. But then, the escape must have been exhausting. I wish you'd tell me about it."
"I'll do THAT, once we're at 'my place'," Amy giggled. She grabbed his hand, and led him from the graves of her family. "They are DEAD, but I'M still alive," she said happily.
"That you certainly ARE, Amy darling."
The police had to wait, fuming, until the couple was out of sight. Mary Beth checked the monitor. "Okay, let's head out," she finally said.
The cemetery was old and vast, but soon, the police, maintaining a safe distance, saw Amy and David approach a broken-down cottage on the edge of the woods. It was right next to another old mausoleum.
"Stockbridge Mausoleum," one of the officers, a big man named Rooney, whispered. "That old wierdo who used to take care of this cemetery, Eben Hinckley, his name was, he used to think he was the OWNER of that mausoleum, since the tombs opened right into his cellar! I was surprised the Collinses didn't bury HIM right along with them! But I heard tell, he was a Collins himself, from the wrong side of the blanket, as they used to say, and he WAS buried mighty near a Miss Nora Collins, who was thought to be his Mom."
"How long ago did he die?" Mary Beth asked. "That cottage looks as though it's about to tumble over!"
"Oh, back around 1980. He wasn't THAT old, about 70, but he'd been around the dead so long, I guess it aged him beyond his years."
"And nobody else wanted the job--- or his cottage either, I take it," the Sheriff replied.
"That's true, the Collinses hired landscapers, but they only come around once a month, and never in the winter. Here, winter runs a bit longer than you're probably used to. There was a big snow storm just week before you arrived, Sheriff, Ma'am."
"Thank God all the snow is gone, but it's still pretty cold," Christine commented. "I wonder how Amy feels, running around in that big piece of gauze and those little slippers."
"Probably NOTHING, Miss Cagney, Ma'am, if she's really one of the Undead," the same officer said. "That IS, if you believe that's what she is."
"She's CRAZY, that much is certain," Mary Beth concluded. "Time to run silent again, men." The group stealthily approached the cottage, weapons drawn. They arrived in time to hear an argument between the "loving" couple.
"Oh, David, come on downstairs. I had a 'friend' fix it up for me. It still needs some work, but right now it should be pretty stable." Amy stroked David's face. "Come on downstairs, and I'll give you a little 'preview of coming attractions' before I go to 'sleep'."
David still balked, but when Amy threatened to chew on his neck again, he went into the ram-shackle house obediently. The police arrived soon after. Mary Beth, Christine, and the gossip-loving officer Rooney, entered the ruined building first, and descended the cellar steps together. There was a small but steady light, which came from an battery-powered storm lamp, which Christine thought she recognized--- from Josette's room at the Old House! The first things everyone noticed were the numerous crypts which lined the walls, all inscribed with just the first name initials and the unbiquitous surname of Stockbridge. There were a few with the initial and a second surname between that and "Stockbridge", which Mary Beth and Christine took to be maiden names of Stockbridge wives.
They rounded a corner, and arrived in time to see Amy remove the diaphanous drape of the night-gown. She stood before her beloved clad in just the bra and panties. "David, you're STARING at me again. What's the matter?"
"My God," Mary Beth mouthed the words. "What the hell happened to her?" Christine shook her head.
"Christ, she's OLD!" Rooney
whispered. Unfortunately, it was just loud enough for Amy to notice them.
She suddenly shoved David aside, into a beam. It began to shake ominously. For a second, it seemed as though Amy was frozen to the spot, trying to will herself to do something, but when whatever it was didn't happen, she attempted to rush past the Sheriff's party. Mary Beth fired her gun, followed by Christine and Rooney. He hit Amy in the shoulder, which caused her to drop to the ground, writhing in terrible agony beyond what one expected from such a wound. She looked up at the Sheriff and held still long enough to grin devilishly. "You think you've won?" Amy snarled. "Think again. You've ALREADY lost, Sheriff Mary Beth Holier-Than-Thou Lacey! The blow has already fallen...."
"Amy," the Sheriff sighed, "maybe it's too late for this, but you DO have the right to remain silent."
The other officers crowded into the cellar as the Sheriff called for an ambulance. One said, "How can that be Amy Jennings? She's only 42. This woman looks like she's over 60!"
"I have NO explanation, men, but we HAVE to get her out of here. The whole place looks like it's going to cave--- GOD! NO! DAVID!" Mary Beth, despite Christine's efforts to hold her, ran to David Collins's side just as the beam he'd been pushed into, gave way and fell heavily onto him. He was pinned, and chunks of the ceiling above fell around him. One hit Mary Beth, but she reached David and held his hand.
"Go, you have to go---" he gasped. Blood trickled from his lips. "The rest of the house will be down upon us any minute."
"NO! I brought you down here, damn it, and I WON'T leave until you're out of here! This is MY fault---"
"Not--not yours. Mine. Should have made Amy leave
town years ago. Her sake and mine. Now you HAVE
to get out, for your family.... For the town....
Forgive me for what I said the other day. And tell Hallie---
her--- the last Collins heir....Love...." David shuddered, and his eyes rolled up into his head. Mary Beth crawled close to him, and gently pushed down his eyelids. Then she wept.
There was a hand on Mary Beth's shoulder, tugging at her urgently. Mary Beth turned her tearstained face to the owner of the hand. "Christine," she whispered brokenly, "get the Hell out of here."
"I won't leave YOU. Now come on, before there are THREE casualities."
"But you don't get it. I was supposed to bring him home to Hallie! She thought I would keep him safe! I CAN'T go, don't you see? I failed. I failed so many times. I don't know why I'm still any kind of cop. Why am I, Christine?" She stroked David's lifeless hand. "He TRUSTED me. He put his life in my hands, even though he was angry with me. I deserve to die, too. I killed him. Like I killed--- I killed--- that boy who robbed the bodega years ago, and---and---" The words, "my baby" hung silently in the air. "I wish I had that strychnine stuff. I'd swallow it without bitching."
"Mary Beth, this was an ACCIDENT! If ANYBODY killed him, it was AMY, who brought him down here and shoved him into that beam." Christine tried to drag her friend away, but it was no use, until she heard a voice behind her.
"It's me, Miss Cagney," Rooney whispered. "I guess this is all MY fault, for scaring Amy. I'll help you get the Sheriff out of here." Between the two of them, they managed to pull Mary Beth out of the cellar, and not a moment too soon--- as soon as they were clear of the cottage, the remaining structure fell inward, raising a cloud of smoky dust. Mary Beth shrieked as though she was still inside, getting crushed. She conjured up a mental picture of just what David's body would look like when it was finally extricated from the rubble, and shrieked some more. When the ambulance arrived for Amy, one of the EMS attendants gave Mary Beth a shot to calm her down, and Christine drove her to the hospital, almost as quickly as the ambulance. She sat with her friend until another doctor was available to attend her.
Mary Beth's cell phone beeped, and Christine answered it. "Mike!" she snapped. "What the--- oh, my God!"
The Sheriff snatched it from her. As her son
talked, the effects of the sedative wore off immediately. "Okay, I'll be
there as soon as--- that's right, you're coming to the hospital anyway.
God...." Mary Beth dropped the phone, and wept stormily once more.
"Now I KNOW I'm being punished. Alice--- my baby--- she's been KIDNAPPED!
And Harvey--- when he woke up and found out she was gone, he had another
attack! Michael said he's near death. Why is this HAPPENING, Christine! Why
doesn't God just take ME!"
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The evening at the Lacey home had gone on, uneventfully, after Mary Beth left for the Sheriff's office. She had gotten the young people outside to say good-bye to Elliot, just long enough for Harvey to come in and sneak to the bathroom for his shower. Then, he roused his children's curiosity by doing the laundry as his wife had demanded. But when Alice or Michael asked about his evening out with Willie, he growled a little in their direction, and they backed off.
Alice went to bed, and Michael fell asleep in front of the living room TV. Suddenly, he realized he was having trouble breathing, and jerked himself awake--- only to fight a large, strong, leather-gloved hand clamped over his mouth and eyes. There was a gauzy cloth in the palm of this hand, which cast a medicinal odor that invaded Michael's nostrils and even his lips, painfully smashed together as they were. Though Michael clawed and kicked, in less than a minute, he was unconscious.
Alice had heard the sounds of her brother's feet striking the floor and furniture, and ran out of her room to investigate, but was quickly knocked flat in the dark hallway. The same gloved hand pressed the same chloroform-soaked gauze against the girl's nose and mouth until the owner of the hand was assured that she was completely knocked out. Then the assailant scooped her up in both arms, a little roughly, and flung her into the trunk of a car waiting at the curb, and drove off, without a backward glance at the Lacey house.
Michael eventually came to, again as a result of a heavy hand jostling him around--- but THIS time, mercifully, only on his shoulder. His eyes, bleary as they were, caught sight of the first silvery streaks of dawn through the living-room window. he glanced at his wristwatch--- HOURS had gone since he'd had his last frenzied glimpse of the television--- the Early News was on. His thoughts swirled, and he felt sick to his stomach, as he forced himself to look up, fearfully, at whoever had wakened him THIS time. "Oh, thank God, Dad!" he gasped. "At least he--they--- didn't KILL you!"
"Who---who killed---who? What are you talking about?" Harvey demanded. He was clad in his pajamas, buttoned closely under his chin, and his robe, but he appeared to be shivering a little. "I just woke up to go to the bathroom, and saw the TV was still on out here."
"You mean--- the stalker, or Amy Jennings, or whoever it was invaded this place, didn't dope you up like he or she did ME? I don't get it!" Michael rose slowly--- his legs wobbled and his stomach was still queasy from the chloroform. "Maybe that means he--- she left ALICE alone--- but then, why break in at all? Nothing seems to be missing.... Better go check on---" His eyes darted down the short hallway, saw his sister's slippers flung about. "Dad, didn't you see these?" Michael asked in a rising panic. "Alice wouldn't kick off her slippers where someone could trip--- ALICE!" He screamed now, as the realization hit him. Now, the lethargy left the young man in a flash, and his father snapped to attention as well, as they hurried to the girl's room near the end of the hall.
As both expected, it was empty. The bedding, of course, was turned aside and rumpled, as though Alice had been lying down and then got out of it, but aside from that, nothing else seemed to have been disturbed. Harvey, however, became upset over a rather trivial detail--- his daughter's heavy robe was still there, flung over her desk chair, silent testimony to the haste with which she had left her room, or had been abducted from it. "My God," he groaned. "No robe, no slippers--- she'll FREEZE out there, wherever the HELL that bastard took her."
"You DON'T think ELLIOT had anything to do with this? Maybe they eloped?" Michael suggested with a tiny shred of hope, though he KNEW the hand that had delivered the chloroform was TOO big and strong to have been Elliot's slim, aristocratic appendage. And Elliot surely would NOT have allowed his beloved to go abroad without something warm to wear! Michael quickly looked into the drawers and closets. Nothing, not a sweater, shoe, or jacket, appeared to be missing.
"Maybe it was WILLIE," Harvey sneered, "coming to get even for this fight we had earlier tonight. Hey, don't look so shocked, Mike. He DID help kidnap Maggie Shaw years and years ago."
"But he's the father of her daughter NOW, and they both trust him," the younger man protested. "And he seems to be a very repressed sort these days. I rather DOUBT his retaliation for whatever you two argued over would have included something this awful!"
"Son, you don't know the HALF---" Harvey suddenly stopped, as though he was remembering something. He shivered more violently, though he kept pulling his own robe tighter around his rotund frame. Now, his teeth chattered, and his lips were turning blue. "Christ, NO! It was--- it was.... Mike---" he gasped. "Call--- call--- Your Mom.... the ambulance...." Though Michael tried to catch his father, Harvey was too heavy, and the best the son could do was help him slide gently to the floor.
Priorities, priorities--- Michael called the ambulance first, then called his mother, as he waited for it. His father suddenly stopped breathing, and the young man dropped the phone to deliver mouth-to-mouth resucitation and pump Harvey's chest, which activity only came to a halt when the EMS arrived. Harvey's heart and breathing stopped and started twice more in the ten minutes it took to get to the hospital.
For some inane reason, before his father was
safely loaded in the ambulance and Michael could join him, he picked up the
remote to turn off the TV, as if it mattered. His finger on the remote-control
suddenly stood stock-still as Penelope Fereira of WBAM News chirped, "This just in! Alleged assailant in the attempted murders of 3 Collinsport Police and chief suspect in a series of assaults, former High School Principal Amelia Jennings, was captured just minutes ago---"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
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