PART EIGHTEEN--- FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2000 (C)
Almost everyone, it seemed, was at Seamen's Memorial Hospital. Mrs. Melwin and Jenkins were to allert the incoming guests that the funeral services at Collinwood would be postponed, though the flotilla of the remaining Collins brood had returned, just minutes after their mother and new brother were taken to the hospital. Emily Collins--- a serious, dark-blonde girl with her late grandmother Elizabeth Stoddard's jade-colored eyes, had explained that the younger children were so agitated, not fully understanding what had happened to their Daddy, and crying on and off for both parents, that she felt there was no choice but to get them home, post-haste, so they'd at least sleep in their own beds. She left Heather Melwin and 14-year-old Bethany in charge, along with Heather's mother and the caretaker, and brought Marisol, Elliot, and Hannah, since they'd been intimately involved in the whole drama all along and refused to sleep until it was all over.
When they got there, however, Hallie was still sleeping, with her father-in-law keeping a tender vigil, while rocking and comforting his final grandchild.
It was upon this scene that Christine, who'd woken abruptly from a 2-hour nap, intruded. Mary Beth was still sleeping, but wept a little now and then in her troubled rest. Christine comforted her friend until she snored again. Christine was anxious to be out and about, keeping abreast of the continuing crisis until her partner was sufficiently rested and able to resume her harsh responsibilities. But she was loathe to leave Mary Beth alone. The nurses and aides hadn't time to sit with the sleeping Sheriff. Suddenly, there was little Hannah Louise, standing in the doorway, and Christine had an idea.
"How's your Mom doing, honey?" the older woman asked gently.
"Oh, okay, I guess, but she's still napping," the little girl replied. "Emily and Marisol are resting with Elliot in the waiting room. So I'm taking a break. Is the Sheriff going to be okay soon?"
"Yes, if she gets at least one more hour of sleep. Would Emily and Marisol mind terribly if you stayed in here with Sheriff Lacey for a wee bit? I have to go check the progress of the investigation, plus I want to stop in and see Mr. Lacey and Michael, and maybe have a word with your grandpa?"
"I'll go see." Hannah skipped out, and returned 2 minutes later. "Marisol and Emily said okay. Miss Cagney, d'you think this is really a GOOD idea? When she was on the railing, Sheriff Lacey seemed to think I was some dead little girl named 'Jerry McCarthy'. And that Elliot was a dead boy named 'Renaldo'. That AWFUL Chupacabra man teased her and teased her that it was true!"
"The Sheriff's over that, she knew you when she was with your Mom. Even if she's a little confused when she first wakes up, she'll see at once that you're the little blonde girl, very much ALIVE, who HELPED her, and NO relation to that bum Jerry McCarthy!"
"Was he bad as the Chupacabra?" Hannah asked.
"Oh, Hannah, when you grow up, I hope you know enough to steer clear of the 'Jerry McCarthys' and 'Jason McGuires' of this world. They make the Chupacabras look like---like French poodles!"
Hannah stifled a giggle. "Gee, Miss Cagney, I wish you would stay here forever with the Sheriff's family. Maybe someday I could be a police lady like you two? I know Pauline kind of wishes she was. When you're in the police, do you have to climb lots of high fences and stuff?"
Christine tousled the child's hair. "Not TOO often, thank the Lord. Actually, I thought I'd left all that behind, but it just goes to show, you NEVER know, so it pays to stay FIT!"
"You DON'T have to bring babies too often?"
"Thank the Lord again, NO!. The truth is, that was my first time in 30 years. But your Mom and the baby survived my midwifery, so it wasn't so bad after all."
Hannah dutifully perched on the bed Christine had just vacated, next to Mary Beth's. "That's 'cause SHE helped you. It's nice you stayed friends. I wish I had a real, living friend like that--- you can really count on each other, and almost finish each other's sentences!"
Christine said, "I don't think we're THAT close. Sometimes we have to make independent decisions. Like now. Hold down the fort for me here."
She went down to Intensive Care. Though she was now free of her mud-sodden clothes, had a brief shower, wore doctor's scrubs and a scuffed pair of nurse's loafers, the nurse in the ICU was still reluctant to admit her. Harvey, however, woke to the sound of the mild squabble that resulted. Christine could only stand in the doorway of the glassed-in room, and announced that Mary Beth, at least, was safe. "We're hot on Alice's trail," she said brightly, "and guess what? We ended up delivering Hallie's baby. Poor Mary Beth is wiped out, but she'll see you as soon as she wakes up." Harvey smiled gratefully, though Christine wondered how much of the cheerful bull he'd bought.
Christine ran into Michael, who was white as a wraith due to HIS lack of sleep, and the extra donation of his blood. She repeated the same upbeat message, though it was clear the son was not as easily fobbed off as his father. She said, "Young man, get a hot meal into yourself, and then lie down for a while, even if they have to give you a sleeping pill or Xanax or SOMETHING."
A quick ride to the Maternity floor, and soon
she approached Hallie's room. The nurses nodded and
bobbed their heads respectfully--- apparently a cop who delivered a baby was
still considered a big hero in some places.
She accepted the addition of a big apron-like coat and a hair net over her hastily-rinsed blonde locks, and gloves to carry in case she wanted to hold the infant once more.
Christine's heart was touched by the sight of Roger rocking the newborn, while Hallie dozed. The grandfather saw her, and beckoned her inside. "Miss Cagney, I want to apologize for my remarks to the Sheriff and yourself when David first---" he choked back a tear. "And I certainly understand why you snapped at ME. In any case, you two have done our family sterling service this night. Who knows WHAT might have happened if neither of you was around this morning?"
"Maybe nothing out of the ordinary," Christine said sadly. "It seems that, in his zeal to attack myself and Mary Beth, the spirit of Jason McGuire was hell-bent--- excuse the expression--- on hurting everyone connected to the Collinses. It may be OUR fault--- well, specifically, more mine than the Laceys--- that all this happened in the first place. He had a monstrous grudge going on, and years, apparently, for it to build." She sighed. "I notice you're accepting all this ghost talk without a qualm."
Roger explained, "I once was a skeptic, but over 30 years, I was forced to believe. First, by my late wife, Laura. At least, I HOPE she's still dead. She believed herself to be a Phoenix, one of those mythical birds who set themselves on fire from time to time, and emerged unscathed, in fact, just like new. She tried to kill our son, but David was saved by his governess. It seems there was a history of such women in Laura's family, who tried, and often succeeded, in burning themselves and their children. My grandmother may have been one such. She tried to kill my father Jamison and Aunt Nora when they were children. An ancestor of Barnabas's saved them both."
Christine said, shakily, "And nobody connected the incidents? Don't you worry about your grandchildren?"
"My grandfather destroyed most mementoes of my grandmother, including any portraits, so I knew little about her, except that she was also named Laura--- perhaps a great-aunt of my wife. Apparently a great uncle, far removed, had a similar terrible incident 200 years ago--- his first wife immolated herself and their infant girl. Ironically, Barnabas's earliest ancestor--- the one in the portrait at Collinwood--- tried to save the baby. His uncle rewarded him, years later, by stealing the younger man's fiancee!" Roger sighed. "So, yes, I worry, but these children--- and Pauline and even Jeremy--- have infusions of outsiders' blood. Perhaps they will escape the centuries-old bane on the family."
"A bane from where? Why?"
"Some say it came with the first Barnabas's fiancee and her maid, who later married her master. They were from the Indies, then still the home of voodoo and so forth. Others say it came much earlier, when one of my ancestors had an accused warlock beheaded. Still others--- Elizabeth favored this theory--- say it was because of one of our ancestors, who had been an Indian slave of the family before a Collins son wed her. She had a terrible history, fraught with murder and incest. She herself wasn't one to curse anyone, it seems she was quite virtuous, and was a staunch Calvinist due to her upbringing, but it was in her blood. And this has passed, drop by drop, to her descendants."
At this, Roger hugged the infant, who burbled in reply. "Miss Cagney, hand me that bottle of formula." He fed little Roger, and burped him by supporting him on one knee, and rubbing his back. "I was never a man to cater to babies, but with so many grandchildren coming so fast, it became necessary to learn," the doting grandfather smiled.
There was a burning question in Christine's mind. Barnabas had killed Jason--- why? Willie said it was because of a secret his former friend had learned. Perhaps about Barnabas's illness back then? But he had appeared fairly normal to everyone, so what difference could such a revelation have made to Jason? Barnabas himself said it wasn't an S.T.D., which certainly would have been embarrassing back in 1967, but hardly a reason to KILL anyone! Maybe it was in vengeance for what Jason had tried to do to the Collins family? "Roger," she said carefully, "You know Jason was a ghost. Have you any idea how long he's been dead?"
"It could have been ANY time after Sheriff Patterson told him to leave town 33 years ago. The last person to see him in Collinsport, at least that I know of, was Vicki Winters. She said Jason made a taunting remark, and dashed out of the Blue Whale. A man like Jason must have made MANY enemies over the years, ANY of whom might have killed him, if that's what you're thinking. It wasn't one of US! I can't imagine why WE were the favored recipients of his wrath!"
"My late father, Detective Charles Cagney of the NYPD, was his first cousin, and most determined pursuer." Christine watched Roger's reaction.
"Oh, good heavens! You didn't KNOW the wretch, DID you, Miss Cagney?" Roger demanded accusingly.
"No, only what little my father wanted me to know. He was deeply ashamed, as you might imagine. My father inspired me to become a policewoman, to CATCH crooks like McGuire, not to become one!"
"Then you're extremely fortunate.... My own dear sister was not. Jason was a fast friend of her late husband's, who had followed him from--- New York, I believe. Liz didn't know him well, and certainly didn't like him, but had to put up with him, because Paul--- my brother-in-law--- was the most indiscreet man alive, and the worst businessman to hit Collinsport, and he confided all sorts of financial and familial secrets to McGuire. Elizabeth, however, was pregnant and having a hard time of it, so she let matters go on until Carolyn was born.
“Paul was very negligent of the baby, and plotted with McGuire to embezzle as much of the Collins fortune as possible, and head for greener pastures. To make matters worse, Paul had fallen in with some cultists who promised to make him richer if he promised to sign his daughter away to them--- a debt they tried to collect in 1969. Barnabas foiled that, but at the cost of Paul's life and that of Carolyn's first husband--- Jem Hawkins or something like that, I forget. They were only married a week, poor children!
"But that's getting ahead. Elizabeth had discovered her husband's plans--- at this point she had no idea of Jason's connivance--- and quarreled with Paul. When he got especially insulting, she hit him with a poker! Terrified that she'd killed him, she called Jason, who was conveniently nearby. He offered to dispose of the body. While he was digging a hole in the cellar, Paul miraculously rose, badly hurt, of course, perhaps with a few screws already loose, and his memory shaken. Jason claimed, later, that he'd divvied up the blackmail money he received from Liz for the cover-up with the living Paul, who disappeared,. and later amassed a fortune, thanks, I suppose, to investment advice from those Leviathan devils. PAUL, however, claimed that Jason had sent him packing with barely enough for train fare. Jason continued to blackmail Liz for years. My poor sister spent many nights, bitterly weeping at what she thought was Paul's grave. And poor Carolyn grew up a very confused young lady!
"I was away, at school, most of that time, and later, living in Augusta. My own record isn't too bright---perhaps you've heard of the notorious fatal DWI with Burke Devlin and my then-fiancee. I did a LOT of things back then, which I've spent half my lifetime making up for! But when I came back to Collinwood with David, Jason showed up. He wanted no less than to marry my sister and take over the Collins fortune, under the old threat of exposure of her crime. ALL of us tried to talk Liz out of it, even Devlin, who later turned out to be one of the best allies of our family!
“Poor Carolyn was so angry and miserable, she threatened to elope with one of the local motorcycle gangsters. Fellow named Buzz. Well, HE was honest in his intentions compared to McGuire, who, moreover, foisted Willie on us! Back then he was quite an uncouth, dangerous creature who tried to attack all the girls here. Carolyn almost SHOT him! Then, after a terrible illness, he quieted down enough to get hired by Barnabas. Jason was as jealous as--- well, perhaps 'spurned lover' is NOT quite accurate, though I wouldn't be surprised, but they WERE close as an uncle and favored nephew, at the very least. There WERE some heated words with Barnabas, that much I know.
"Any way, in spite of all our efforts, the wedding day arrived. Liz behaved like the willing victim of a sacrificial ritual. Then, just as the judge asked if there was any reason NOT to wed--- Liz couldn't take it any more. She began to confess on the spot, to our collective shock. And, surprise! Carolyn dropped a gun she'd concealed--- she was going to SHOOT her new stepfather--- making good on the practice she'd had with Willie, no doubt! Sheriff Patterson was called, and it was then Jason confessed that, while Liz DID knock Paul out, the man was, as of ten years earlier, still alive! They dug in the cellar, and found an empty old trunk. It was then that Patterson, who pitied my sister, and wanted to spare her another scandal, simply ordered Jason to be out of town by sundown. And that's the last we saw of him!"
Christine asked quietly, "Was Barnabas at this wedding?"
"No, he was often out of town on business most days, though he usually made it home every night. But he wouldn't have approved. Liz told me, years later, that he had saved her from taking her life a few days earlier, from despair over her betrothal. And, like I said, he and Jason loathed each other."
"How soon did you inform him?"
"Oh, it might have been the next evening.... I don't recall. It was a very confusing time, just after Maggie was kidnapped, then found, and we were all told she was dead, for her protection! I often wonder if Jason stopped to say good-bye to Willie, maybe tried to convince him to go along. Considering what happened to Willie later, being accused of Maggie's kidnapping and getting shot, maybe he SHOULD have joined his former partner in crime. All due respect to Harvey Lacey, but finding his long-lost cousin didn't do him much good."
"Yes, cousins CAN bring unexpected trouble," Christine sighed. She was no nearer an answer than before, though, if Roger's timetable was accurate, Barnabas did NOT kill Jason on account of the wedding, which he may have thought was cancelled anyway, due to Elizabeth's suicide bid. UNLESS Willie had tattled on his former friend; however, given the latter's timidity, and anxiety to protect everyone he cared for from danger, probably developed in that era, THAT didn't seem likely. Maybe Jason was going to blackmail Barnabas over the "big secret" he'd discovered, and that particular Collins was NOT one to take a threat lying down, and used something far more effective than a poker!
Roger said, "Speaking of cousins, Miss Cagney.... It occurs to me, in fact, it occurred to me before, but I was so amazed by the resemblance between Willie and Harvey that this was a lesser comparison.... You DO remind me of someone I met years ago. A girl Elizabeth had roomed with at boarding school, and her best chum. She brought her home one Christmas. I was dazzled, but I was only about TEN. Still, I never forgot her. In fact, I may have some snapshots of her at home, made with the camera I had just gotten from 'Santa'. Liz frequently visited her in New York. I guess you resemble an older version of the lady. Katherine, her name was."
"Olmstead?" Christine was suddenly as excited as the 4-year-old she had been.
"Yes, exactly. One of the Westchester Olmsteads. They called her Kaye--- a fairy-like blonde."
"Well, I'M not fairy-like--- never was, but Kaye Olmstead WAS my mother!"
"Hmm...." Now Roger looked sad. "Well, this Kaye WAS my sister's best friend--- once. You see, Kaye introduced Elizabeth to the young man she eventually married--- a cousin of hers."
"Paul---Stoddard? He WAS my cousin, too? I DO remember the night they met--- barely. I was only 4! And that's the only time I ever saw Jason when HE was alive. After that, Mother and her friend would write, and called each other, but all contact ceased by the time I was in first grade. Somebody DID tell Mother, though, that the marriage had broken up, and her friend was living alone, though she had a baby. There WAS a time, just after her divorce from Dad, when Mother went to visit this friend, and came back one day later, complaining about the surly caretaker who refused to let her on the property!"
"Matthew Morgan," Roger sighed. "An old cannery worker whom my sister recruited as a bodyguard of sorts, after she'd sacked all the other servants. He was loyal unto death, so loyal he went off his head and killed, or tried to kill, anyone whom he saw as a threat to Elizabeth. Your mother was lucky that Matthew let her off so easily! Though it's likely he never told Liz of her friend's concern."
Christine sighed heavily. "Mother never talked about the situation after that. Paul's mother had been my grandfather's sister, and she only had the one son. She died years before I was born, and her husband had remarried, so I never really knew them at all, nor did I remember the names. Grandfather, who, I was told, had been grooming this nephew to join his business, must have been disgusted--- HE never said anything about that part of the family, either, though the match had been HIS idea. Even so, Mother probably blamed herself for setting the disaster in motion. I KNOW she and Dad didn't like Jason, and thought he had something to do with your sister's problems. Then, when Interpol and the NYPD were after Jason, that's when my father went after him with a vengeance. That was just prior to his return to Collinwood."
"Your father never saw him afterward, either, I take it?"
"Not while either were still alive, anyway." Christine wore a faraway smile.
"A-ha--- I think I understand. And now that I think about it, I can see some slight resemblance between yourself and Carolyn. She'll be thrilled--- almost as much as if Vicki Winters ever came back. That, however, is a story for another day." Roger handed Christine the baby, who was dozing now. "Little Joshua already has 'David' as a middle name. Perhaps Hallie should give this boy a male form of YOUR name. Roger Christian. 'Christopher' brings back bad memories of Amy's brother."
"Alice's middle name is Christine, mainly because I got her mother to the hospital in time."
"That's a very great compliment. But I'm sure you would have done all right delivering poor Alice as you did my grandson. As I hope you can deliver her from whatever evil has her now."
Christine gazed down at the infant, who was so much more appealing now that he was clean, sweet-smelling, and dry. Funny, though she had rescued Mary Beth from giving birth to Alice Christine on the bridge so long ago, and Mary Beth had given the child her partner's name in gratitude, Christine didn't really feel close to, or comfortable around the little girl until she was older, housebroken, and had developed a discernable personality. THIS little one, however, whom she had brought forth with her own two hands, the child of people she barely knew and probably wouldn't see again after Alice was found, one way or the other--- she felt a real bond with this boy. Yet, she thought with real regret, he would probably grow up to hate her and Mary Beth, no matter how encouraging Hallie and old Roger were, because of what had happened to his father.
Then the baby opened his eyes. At first, Christine feared he was going to cry or wet or spit up--- but baby Roger just gazed up at her. His eyes were a twinkling kind of blue already--- they didn't look like that indefinite shade of baby blue that would go dark like his parents' eyes. They were like Roger's, or Quentin's or, for that matter, Willie's and Harvey's--- they who were blue-eyed Collinses too. Then the baby smiled--- a REAL smile, she fervently believed, not the grimmace that came from gas, God forbid! The smile reminded her of someone else, a man in a Buster Brown suit, who warned her about the bats and the butterfly.... Psyche. The soul. It could fly away, or it could come back.
Jason had come back in one way, though, hopefully, he was gone for good. Jonah was back in the same way, but hopefully, he would stay. There were rebirths all the time, like that Allarice Bertrand.... "The curse was here long before I came". How true!.... Christine was almost convinced she must have known her in another life. And this little fellow, born just as the search for the missing Alice had dragged to a miserable impasse. Mary Beth thought she'd seen a vision of Alice's corpse. That didn't mean--- couldn't mean--- the soul in this baby was HERS, did it? Like that old song--- "When I'm dead and gone, there'll be one child born to carry on...."
"When I formed you in the womb, I knew you." The old Bible verse used as the Church's chief Scriptural argument against abortion suddenly popped into Christine's head. Sister Mary Dymphna in Catholic Family Life Class was especially fond of this one. This was supposed to mean that the child had a soul already installed at conception, like cars had all their engines installed on the assembly line in one day. So, even if there WAS such a thing as reincarnation, the previous owner of the soul had to have passed away anytime prior to the new conception. COULDN'T be Alice inside of you, then, little Roger, Christine thought, though with a shred of relief. But is she alive ANYWHERE?
"Roger," she said to the elderly edition, now almost dozing himself, "Is there any place on your property, or Barnabas's, that we've missed, searching for Alice? You may be the only one who has any idea."
"I think you pretty well covered Collinwood proper. And it's been a LONG time since I explored the grounds. You AND the Sheriff were in the Old House at various times, weren't you?"
"Yes, but--- there were locked areas, and though it's a smaller place, I got the feeling there was more to it, if only because it's older, and was built when Indians were more of a threat, and maybe because of some legend about an Abolitionist Collins who had a stop on the Underground Railroad."
Roger replied, "Then you must get the old blueprints. Barnabas took them when he was restoring the house. I'm worried about him too, you know, and Jeremy. It's quite unlike them to be absent during a family crisis. I fear the evil of Jason has gotten to them too, because of the bad old days. You'll have to ask Willie."
Christine put the now-sleeping baby in his clear plastic bassinet, next to Hallie's bed. She glanced at the still-sleeping mother--- in deep slumber, Hallie looked surprisingly young. That's what David Collins saw every night, Christine thought sadly. No wonder they thought they were young enough to go on expanding their family indefinitely!
She met Willie in the waiting room. He, too, had been hastily hosed down, and wore borrowed clothing. He was upset because he couldn't see Harvey until regular visiting hours began a few hours hence. "But I'll hang in there," he declared. "Vicki's coming too, after she gets more sleep."
"Willie, I need your help again. You have to hand over the blueprints to the Old House."
Willie blanched. "Why? Nobody's there---
trust me, if there was ANY wierd stuff going on, I'd
know about it, and I'd tell you flat out. I would rather DIE than have Alice
hurt. And Barnabas wouldn't
hurt--- Oooh...." he slammed his hand to his mouth, knowing he had committed the ultimate indiscretion.
Probably, Christine reflected, the same kind that got McGuire killed! She pulled him roughly to his feet, and led him outside. "Okay, Willie, enough BULLSHIT!" she growled. "Just what, in the name of God, wouldn't Barnabas do to Alice, hey? What, exactly, WOULD he have done?"
"Please, Ma'am, I just meant, whatever happened to Jason...."
"WHY would Barnabas want to harm a hair on Alice's head, for God's sake! What kind of illness DOES he have, Willie?" Christine's eyes took on the same steely glint as Julia's, so long ago, when she demanded information, Willie thought. Maybe WORSE.... The way she shook his shoulders reminded him of BARNABAS! "Loomis, we've been dancing around the truth for days now. I know just how Barnabas reacted when he saw a Cross, how he flinched when Holy Water touched him.... The way he feels cold and hot and cold again.... The so-called 'insect bites' on poor Amy.... The same bites on CANDY and ALICE and the half-hearted nip on YOUR OWN DAUGHTER--- What, uh, WHO IS it, Willie? Barnabas--- or Jeremy?"
"Excuse me, what's the meaning of this?" Christine wheeled around, and saw Dr. Heard. Good old, reliable Dr. Heard, Jeremy's mentor, the discoverer of the X-factor, who had piloted Alice's early treatment--- and saw her through her relapse. Good old Doc Heard--- who was, once again, scratching his neck, the way he had since the day BARNABAS had come in for his "blood test", the same day Alice HAD the relapse....
"Dr. Heard," she said in a commanding voice that would have done her domineering Grandfather proud, "PLEASE open your collar!" She couldn't miss the sight of Willie shaking his head "No".
"EXCUSE me?" the doctor replied, in consternation.
"You HEARD me," Christine insisted. She reached out, and yanked the Doctor's tie loose, and flicked the top buttons away. Under the bright lights illuminating the hospital porch, she saw what she KNEW she'd see. Two tiny, inflamed fang marks.... "How long since you've seen HIM?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," the enraged Heard said. "This has nothing to do with the kidnapper or Amy or any such attack! I got these insect bites a few days ago. Strange how those insects didn't appear until you New Yorkers did!"
Willie tugged on Christine's arm. "Please, Miss Cagney, he's telling the truth. Come on, I'll take you to the Old House, I'll give you whatever you want."
Christine's eyes gleamed with triumph, but she managed to apologize to Heard. "Sorry, the strain of the investigation, and being rescued from quicksand and from falling off Widow's Hill and delivering a baby---"
"Yes, yes, I understand. But you needn't have been so rough! I want that poor girl found as much as anyone! A sweet innocent virgin...." he muttered.
"What's that you said?" Christine tried to ask, but Willie's tug was definite this time. She followed him to the parking lot.
"Miss Cagney, please DON'T pull that crap again. Heard doesn't remember what happened. He hasn't seen---"
"Yeah, Barnabas.... Doc hasn't seen him since that morning. When Barnabas makes up his mind to leave someone alone, he sticks with it. That's the way he was with Candy, and---"
"Alice. But Willie, if Barnabas was supposed to leave them alone, where the Hell IS Alice right now?"
"I wasn't in on it, I swear," Willie whined. "I gave Barnabas a talking-to, and he agreed to leave all the girls, even Amy, until she went off her nut and stabbed poor Job Woodard. Even then, I was able to keep him from killing her for good. We thought we could keep her under lock and key until we could either cure her, or move her out of town. Then Jason must have showed up with all his fancy promises and gave her all the ideas about biting me and Harvey and taking Alice. Barnabas was mad at me for setting up Harvey like that, he whupped me around and locked me up the way you found me. Still, the last I knew, he WAS keeping away from the girls, and talked about going away from here."
"But is he going ALONE?"
"I don't know. It's been over a day since I saw him--- and poor Jeremy, too."
"My God, he wouldn't kill--- or otherwise do anything--- to his OWN SON, Willie?"
"YOUR father wanted to kill YOU, Ma'am."
"MY father was CHARLIE CAGNEY!"
"Whatever makes you feel better to think, Miss 'Cagney'. Jason told me years ago, if you have to know. He liked to brag about ALL his conquests. Anyway, Barnabas ain't in what you'd call a clear state of mind."
"No kidding," Christine gave a short, bitter laugh. "Neither am I!" She reached under her scrubs, and pulled out her gun. "Let's get to that damn house of horrors NOW!"
Willie, fortunately, had his keys, and drove her in his own car. "I didn't leave a message for Vicki!" he cried.
"Don't worry, you'll see her later, after it's all over."
"Miss Cagney, why are you doing this? Why didn't you just get the other cops and do the job proper?"
"Because it's ALL on
me, Willie. YOU can't do it,
because I KNOW he attacked you years ago. Your terrible anemia, don't you
recall? The HOLD he must have had over you, so strong you changed from a piece
of human filth to a human being, a power so strong, that you couldn't protect a
girl you loved--- Maggie--- or your best friend, such as he was--- Jason. He
must STILL have this power, because you stayed with him all these years! And as
for Mary Beth, she's hit her limit. She has to be with Harvey and Mike now, or
she'll have a total breakdown. And too many cops would be a disaster, the way
it was in old caretaker Hinckley's cottage. I have the answer with me right
now. I HAVE to do it--- I have to deliver Alice from evil.... The evil I helped
to run rampant, because I LOVED him. I love him
STILL.... But that's MY punishment. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! Forgive me, Father for, I have sinned...."
"No, Ma'am. You DIDN'T sin. All of us who kept Barnabas going sinned, since his own father locked him in that Mausoleum--- so long ago you wouldn't believe it---"
"I BELIEVE! I've known it ALL along, and denied it! Because I wanted him so much---"
"NO, Ma'am, because you saw the best of Him, like Julia did. Like I did, even. But I guess this HAS to be the end. All my girls-- and my boy--- I love Jeremy like my own--- won't be safe until He's gone to be with Julia and His folks for good."
"Especially 'sweet, little virgin' Alice. Christ, Willie--- what does he mean to do? Have-- have INTERCOURSE with her?" Christine felt nauseous at the thought, not so much from jealousy, but the mental picture of a 200-year-old corpse.... with a delicate young girl .... Would there be consummation before--- or AFTER Alice was killed? Could vampires even DO that? Or was there something even WORSE? At least, Christine thought, I'm a little closer to his age. If he did something so horrible to ME, I could stand it--- He COULDN'T be that perverse--- could he?
Willie said quietly, "I don't know, Ma'am. I never really knew exactly what He was gonna do to Maggie, either, except that He meant to turn her into one like Himself, and I wasn't allowed to watch.... The same as He did to Amy, but this was drawn-out. Like a courtship.... He had her in training, like those Moonies used to do.... Dressed her up in a wedding dress like the one Josette was buried in, browbeat her, told her she didn't have a 'common' name like Maggie anymore, she WAS Josette Du Pres, kept her in a cell, locked her in a coffin when she tried to get away.... But that was like practice, since after the 'wedding', they would have matching coffins. In the end, she got away anyhow--- someone who knew the house better than Barnabas, helped her." He was silent a moment, probably internally debating whether to tell her the one thing he knew for sure. "He DID tell me what He thought of Alice's blood--- like an 'elixir' of youth. Like a fountain--- of blood, I guess."
Christine suddenly recalled something she'd read years ago--- that the most prolific serial killer of all time was a Hungarian countess who'd butchered hundreds of kidnapped virgins to bathe in their blood. "ENOUGH!", she shouted, and watched Willie drive for a few minutes. Then, when he was about to turn up Weeping Meadow Road, she said, "No, Willie. Take the second left, toward the beach.."
"But I thought you said you wanted the blueprints!"
"I don't need them. Because I have a pretty good idea where Barnabas IS. And so do YOU."
Willie parked the old limousine near the public walkway where he and Barnabas had first met Christine, the walkway that ran directly around the circumference of the Collins estate on the high palisade above, to a point just before the multitude of jagged boulders under Widows' Hill. Christine, however, knew she needn't go that far. She raced ahead of Willie to the clump of bushes near the bench, just barely visible in the pre-dawn gloom. She made out the opening of the cave Barnabas had casually dismissed as being too shallow to shelter a tunnel. She turned to face Willie, who came up behind her, all out of breath.
"That cave has an inner passage, and probably stairs too, DOESN'T it, Willie?"
"No, it's just a little opening---"
"THE HELL IT IS! I remember the day Barnabas, and then YOU, showed up down here. He said there was a long stairway from the cliff above, but I've been on that railing, as you very well know, and I saw NO such stairway ANYWHERE. What's more, when you two took me back to my car, it was the only one in the lot, so YOU didn't drive down there to get Barnabas. What's MORE, I read Sheriff Patterson's description of the night Sam Evans rescued Maggie. She was found right in this area, lying on the beach--- I'd wager, right about where that bench stands now! Nobody could figure out how she'd gotten there, though they knew about this so-called 'shallow cave'! There IS a stairway inside of that cave, from the Old House above, ISN'T there, Willie?"
"YES! Isaac Collins first had it dug out so he'd have a way to escape if the Indians or French attacked. Later, it was used by Joshua during the Revolution, and a lot later, by that Abijah Collins, to get the slaves to Canada. It leads to a place in the cellar where we kept Maggie, and somehow, she figured out the trick to opening the wall. She almost didn't make it. It's like a maze, with a couple of rooms at different levels. One of them has locks. That's where we kept Amy." Willie shuddered. "I thought Barnabas would've been smarter than to use it now, since he knows I know about it, and Jeremy, but maybe he thought he killed me like he almost killed Harvey. Or that I'd gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, with no memory, like I did years ago. And as for Jeremy.... what can I say, it's his Dad. Of course he'd protect him. Like Julia did for years before he was born." Willie thought it prudent not to mention what Barnabas had done to his son. Miss Cagney was on a hair-trigger as it was--- no use in getting her more upset until it was necessary.
"I hope the poor kid isn't actively helping his father with Alice. I hope to GOD that he doesn't get over-zealous in defending Barnabas."
"Well, Barnabas DOES have a couple of guns. Jeremy may be patrolling around with one. I'd hate to see a shoot-out, and maybe BOTH of you killed!"
Christine said grimly, "I'm not bragging, but I've passed marksmanship tests since before that boy was a gleam in his father's eye. I'm NOT trigger-happy, but I WILL do what the situation calls for. Sorry as I feel for Jeremy, my FIRST duty is to rescue Alice if possible. Do you understand, Willie?"
Willie's eyes filled with tears, but he said clearly, "I understand. And you'll understand if I have to help Jeremy. I'm afraid to die, but not if it means saving him." They entered the cave. He said, "There's a door way back here, painted to look like rocks."
"Can one hear approaching noises in that room?"
"No, the room is about midway to the top
of the stairs. With the thick doors, and all the dirt around it, I'm not sure
one could hear anything.... But if we wait till dawn, Barnabas will be asleep,
"By then, Alice may well join him in that big sleep, IF she isn't already. I'm sorry, this can't wait." Christine took the key Willie held out, and turned the lock. The door swung inward, to more darkness. She drew her gun, and waited with Willie, lest someone investigate the intrusion. An anxious minute later, Christine, led by her companion, was creeping up brick and stone steps and easing around narrow, earth-scented corners. They passed through a couple of chambers long the way, as Willie had described. Finally, they came to a landing that faced another large door. As both had anticipated, it, too, was locked. However, they could hear movement, and even the sounds of speaking within, though they couldn't make out the words. Then, there was a female scream, and shouting.
Willie was suddenly galvanized into action, pushing Christine aside and opening the door himself, swiftly yet silently. They stood on the thresh-hold of a large interior chamber, similar to the Mausoleum at Eagle Hill. Christine led with her revolver, though the sight within the room rattled her so badly, she had to force herself not to flinch!
There were FOUR open caskets in the room--- two old ones, and two new, hastily assembled of plywood. Some of the tools and left-over nails still lay in the corner. Alice Lacey, dressed in a moldy old wedding gown which had been flung up to her knees, reposed in one of the older models. Her leg and throat were bleeding, and she appeared to be dead. Jeremy stood near the others, grasping his struggling former fiancee tightly, and about to sink new fangs into the old wound on Vicki's throat, which, Christine suddenly realized, must have been made by himself in the first place! And, seemingly supervising the whole revolting event, was BARNABAS, who now looked as young as the arrogant 18th-century aristocrat---HIMSELF!--- in the portrait at Collinwood, and whose eyes, with a feral expression of joy, were trained on his son's. "Carrying on the family tradition," Christine thought bitterly. To do Jeremy some justice, he appeared to be hypnotized, but he didn't hesitate, and Vicki shrieked once more, as he sank his teeth into the scabs on her throat.
Christine didn't NEED to shoot Jeremy--- Willie had already thrown himself upon the couple, and wrestled the younger man to the ground, though it was a hard call as to who would win the struggle. She reached for Vicki, but Barnabas grabbed the girl, and bared his own fangs, which were much longer than anything Christine had ever seen in horror movies. What's more, he had extremely long nails, like a long-dead corpse, like the vampire in "Nosferatu", and these held his houseman's daughter in a painful grip, as he took over his son's left-off task, all the while regarding his former lover with a gloating, stop-me-if-you-can look. The same one Mansfield and a hundred other criminals had turned upon her often enough in the past!
Christine raised her gun and fired. She had aimed for Barnabas's shoulder--- it was too risky to the squirming Vicki to try for her attacker's heart or head, and she'd hoped the vampire, or whatever the Hell Barnabas was, would lose his grip on the girl just long enough for her to escape, and for Christine to finish the job. But the bullet had caught the girl in the same place, and she faltered in Barnabas's arms. Still, it appeared to have been enough of a distraction that Barnabas moved away from her just enough for Christine to see.... The bullet had passed through Vicki's shoulder, and into HIS chest!
Christine couldn't judge how serious the wound was, but Barnabas DID let Vicki go. The young woman fell, bleeding profusely. Willie glanced at her in anguish, but was still rolling around with Jeremy, who now tried to bite HIM. The older man somehow evaded these clumsy attacks, and, after getting in a punch he'd probably perfected years ago in barrooms across the globe, finally subdued the eager young vampire, and pinned him with his full weight.
Barnabas, meanwhile, staggered towards his assailant, a look of naked hatred on his face. "TRAITOR!" he sputtered, and reached for Christine's neck, to wring it, rather than bite it. She wasn't fast enough to evade the hands that had once shattered the vertebrae of the late Jason McGuire. She gave the best fight she could, though, clawing at the clawed hands which grasped and scratched her throat, elbowing his solar plexus, knocking his knees, and grinding the heel of the old nurse's shoe into his foot. However, it was to no avail, and the pain and panic began to ebb away, as her airway was crushed, and blackness inked her ability to see and think.
Suddenly, Barnabas released Christine. As she rubbed her neck and took great gulps of the musty air, he clutched his chest, and winced in agony, as though having the mother of all heart attacks. "You used a SILVER bullet," he gasped, as he fell at her feet. He seemed to be paralyzed--- didn't even attempt to attack her again. But he still breathed, and gazed up at her, now with a pleading expression, in a face that had suddenly started to accelerate in age!
"Sheriff Patterson saved them from the time he killed Chris Jennings," Christine rasped. "I warned you once about the choice I would have to make if things came to this pass." Now that Barnabas was down, and looking pathetic rather than threatening, her old feelings for him seeped through her deadly anger. She suddenly had an impulse to kneel beside him, and say she was sorry for what she had to do, but this wasn't her father, smacked down on a bedroom rug, and SHE wasn't her mother, eaten up by shame and guilt for making him that way.
This was some kind of monster who had DELIBERATELY flaunted his villainy in her face, upon innocent people Christine cared for--- had killed a child she loved, ruined his OWN child, and a woman he had befriended as a child, and nearly killed his devoted servant's child. He had nearly killed HERSELF, whom he had once professed to love, had made love to!
This wasn't some doped-up, dropped-out perp in an alley, whose rights STILL had to be protected, even though he'd killed, or nearly killed, a fellow officer--- somehow, that was easier to bear, as were all the atrocities she'd witnessed, because, unlike most of those sometimes terrible, horrific incidents, this was MORE than personal. This was BEYOND Miranda rights, or the whole library's-worth of legal procedure she had memorized over 30 years. There was a Higher Power involved here, which Christine had denied for decades, and now, made sure she knew the score....
Barnabas, though badly
wounded, though aging once more, STILL wasn't dead for good, and she HAD to
complete the task. Then she would
have to shoot JEREMY--- who was barely being restrained by tired old Willie,
and then, she thought with a sick pang, ALICE, whom she had sought to save....
Then, maybe, if there was still a bullet left, she would shoot HERSELF!
"How did this all happen? WHY?," she wept,
as she put her foot on Barnabas's already bleeding chest, and aimed directly at
his heart. "Try to remember, Barnabas, I love you forever." She
looked directly into his eyes, and pulled the trigger.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mary Beth came awake with a start. At first,
she was confused, but soon recognized that she was in a hospital room. She
glanced at her watch--- 4:30 A.M. She looked over at the bed next to hers,
where, she knew, Christine had also lain down for a rest. But the bed was
empty, except for a little girl who now sat there, watching her. Hadn't Mary
Beth seen just such a little girl lately, with long red hair? This one, now,
was a blonde. Oh yeah, the Sheriff thought. Hannah Louise Collins, David and Hallie's girl, who was such a help, and had come to the
hospital with her family after the baby was born just over 2 hours ago.
"Hannah," she said now, "Where's Chris--- Miss Cagney? In the bathroom?"
"She went to see my brother," Hannah replied.
"Why would she see Elliot? We ruled him
out as a suspect in Alice's kidnapping almost from the first."
Anyway, I KNOW who's REALLY responsible."
"She went to see my brother," the child insisted, but without heat. "She left just a while ago. You have to follow her, or she'll make a terrible mistake."
"Hannah, I think you're a little confused, honey." Mary Beth got off her bed, and knelt by Christine's. She took Hannah's hand and looked into her eyes, which, she noticed for the first time, were a smoky shade of brown, probably much like her father's at that age. "It's not right that you should be here. Marisol should have brought you home and put you to bed. It's just as much a strain on children as for the adults, and you've had so much heartache in such a short time, with your father passing away...."
"Papa died when he was 82," the girl recited solemnly, as though by rote. "That was 27 years after I left. Mama died when she was 50, just a few weeks after I left. My Uncle Jeremiah was only 33 when HE died, but not before he told me about the tunnel. He always said I reminded him of his little girl, who was burned up around the time I was born, and he wanted to share secrets with me, because he knew Papa wouldn't. Nor my brother."
"And just WHEN were you born?" Mary Beth tried to keep it light-hearted, hopefully, the better to snap Hannah out of this waking dream, or whatever this was. "I'd guess about 1990."
The child shook her head. "I was born in 1785, and I went away for the first time, on my eleventh birthday."
Mary Beth shuddered when she realized the meaning of the euphemism "went away." Poor, poor little girl, who might have been a Collins ancestor, and poor, poor Hannah for fixating on her, whoever she was. "Hannah, YOU are alive! Your Daddy just died, it's true, but your Mom is still with us, and you have a lot of brothers and sisters. You have a COUSIN Jeremy--- well, maybe he was named for that Jeremiah person."
"You don't understand. But then, you never did."
"EXCUSE me?" Mary Beth was shocked at the usually polite Hannah's impertinancy.
"Please, this is taking up time. You have to get to Miss Cagney before she makes a mistake with my brother and my nephew."
"Hannah, ALL your brothers are HERE. And what's this about a nephew? Your Mom would be worried if she knew you were talking like this!"
"Mama is crying in the shadows. She couldn't help the first time my brother got in trouble, and she can't help now.... YOU are the only one who can help now. I will help you, but I can only do so much. I couldn't do anything for my brother the first time. They told me he went away, but some of the servants said he was dead. I saw him outside my window one cold, rainy night, and I ran away to find him. When I found him, he had BLOOD on his mouth! I was scared, and I hid. They found me, but I got very sick, and I left him again, just as he was telling me he was sorry. Everyone was very sad."
There was a noise in the doorway of the room. Elliot was awake, and was on his way to see his mother, when, on impulse, he chose to stop by. "Oh, my God," he said, "she thinks she's Sarah Collins again. She used to play at that when she was little, but now, I think she's really lost it this time. I hope this doesn't mean she's having a breakdown!"
"WHO was Sarah Collins?" This name sounded familiar to Mary Beth--- didn't the late Sheriff Patterson write of a strange little girl named "Sarah" who seemed to drop clues about Maggie's kidnapping all over town 33 years ago? At this point, she was willing to accept help from anyone short of the Devil himself!
"Baby sister of the first Barnabas, doted upon by everyone, it seems, except for her father. The mother loved her, but she was a drinker, or so it was said. Sarah adored the older brother, and was devastated when he disappeared. They all lied to her about it, until one night when she thought she saw him. She was found in Eagle Hill Cemetery, already sick with pneumonia, and died on her birthday. Her mother died a few weeks later, some said, of grief and shame over all the troubles--- all the animal attacks and murders around town like my Great-Uncle described in his books, her son gone, her sister-in-law dropping dead, her brother-in-law killed by her son in a duel, her cousin's daughter gone mad, her daughter's governess tried for witchcraft---"
"I remember, you told Alice about THAT. So what DID happen to the first Barnabas?"
"He apparently went to England, where he begat a series of look-alike descendants, who later visited Collinwood every 40, 50 years or so."
"Elliot, you know a lot about your family history, and a whole lot MORE, for such a young kid. Tell me the truth. All the strange goings-on over the years.... Based on what I've read, they started whenever a Barnabas came to town, DIDN'T they?"
The boy hesitated, but finally answered, "Yes. Oh, it's not that my family was ever that happy. They had a LOT of troubles through the years, until my parents...." He sobbed. "But they were NORMAL problems. Which DID seem to escalate the minute an English cousin arrived. But it's just a coincidence," he protested, as his father had before him. "Our Barnabas came 33 years ago, and there WAS trouble, but it came to an end, and everyone was getting along just fine, until NEW cousins arrived--- yourselves! Now I don't know WHAT to believe."
"All I know IS, when Barnabas first arrived, your teacher Vicki Shaw's mother was attacked, then kidnapped, and was later found on a beach pretty close to Collinwood. Nobody ever knew how she got there, and Willie could never tell. Now my Alice is missing, under similar circumstances. And Barnabas is missing, along with his son, rather than Willie."
There was a knock at the door. Mary Beth turned, and saw the grief-stricken face of Maggie Evans Shaw. "Sheriff, please.... I know you're worried about your daughter, but now MINE is missing too!"
Mary Beth listened to her story--- Vicki had been all set to go to the hospital to wait with her father, when Jeremy showed up, claiming that HE was on his way there, to check in with Dr. Heard, and offered to take her. "I didn't like the situation, but I knew she was sorry about breaking up with him, and they ARE adults, so I thought, well, maybe they deserve a chance to patch things up. Then, I called here, and not only didn't Jeremy and Vicki ever arrive, WILLIE is gone, too."
"AND my partner." Mary Beth gazed upon Hannah Louise, who was tugging at her sleeve. She silently handed the Sheriff a leaf torn from a notepad provided by the hospital. Under the usual advertisement for some medication, there were scribbled words, which the child had probably written between the time Christine had left, and the Sheriff had woken up. "The cell. The bricks. The tunnel.", it read. Mary Beth guessed. That strange barred room in the Old House cellar, the bricks flung about and only partly replaced--- A TUNNEL.... How else could Hannah Louise have known of these things?
"Mrs. Shaw, please wait here. I think I know where your daughter is." Mary Beth flew out of the room. She'd dropped the paper, which fluttered to the ground in her wake.
Maggie caught it, and read it. The cell, the bricks, the tunnel, she thought. A memory she thought was gone forever. She looked down at Hannah Louise.
"YOU remember it, don't you," the child said brightly. "I remember YOU."
Mary Beth ran into her son, who was talking to Jonah Newman. She still had to restrain herself from a startle reaction whenever she saw the resurrected detective. This is Collinsport, she told herself, things like this HAPPEN. How, or why, it's better not to question. She addressed Jonah by the name he gave everyone. "Johnny, I think I'm going to need your help again, if you're up to it."
"It's Chris, isn't it? That Dr. Heard or whoever was just here, complaining that she'd roughed him up and left abruptly with Willie."
"Exactly. Seems she's going into quicksand again--- figuratively---"
"I'm on it!" For a man who'd already come close to losing his newly-regained life, Jonah seemed eager to place himself in jeopardy again. But he was the only choice, as far as Mary Beth was concerned. He'd already BEEN dead, and had kept company with one species of Undead, so she assumed he knew all one needed, to go after another kind. Jonah trotted along with the Sheriff.
Maggie and Elliot, who was holding Hannah by the hand, came out, and saw them leave. Marisol stepped up to collect Hannah, who, she saw at once, was breathing a little shallowly.
"She thought she was Sarah again, and I don't mean Sarah Johnson," Elliot reported. "She really went off, telling the Sheriff how she died on her birthday and so forth. But she also told the Sheriff where she should go."
"And so should YOU, " Marisol said. "You may be able to stop the Chupacabra in a way nobody else can. To save Senorita Alice---"
"And now, my Vicki!" Maggie mourned
"And also little Hannah here. Did you not forget, tomorrow is her eleventh birthday!"
"Okay!" Elliot protested, "But how will I get there? My car's at home, and all the cops are out there, the ones who haven't dropped from exhaustion, that is."
Michael tapped his shoulder. "I hate
sitting around here, waiting, waiting, waiting. I've
been thinking of riding around town myself, hoping I might see SOMETHING. If
you don't mind riding pillion on my Harley---"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Even Vicki hadn't REALLY wanted to go with Jeremy, but she was so relieved to see him, alive and well, after all the rumors flying around town, she went with him willingly enough, in spite of her mother's reservations and her father's absence. "Uncle Wi--- Dad will be happy to see you later. He thought the stalker got you, or even AMY."
"I'm not a girl or an old man," Jeremy replied calmly. "This kidnapper, or kid-NIPPER"--- he smiled at what Vicki considered a pretty tasteless joke--- "Has pretty straighforward preferences. And there's nothing desirable about MY blood." This last, he said with a mysterious bitterness. "Vicki, would you still consider marrying me, and creating offspring of OUR mixed bloods?"
Vicki said, coldly, "I thought we were through when you couldn't explain the killer hickey."
"I don't think I'll ever come up with an explanation that will satisfy you, or your father, or even MYSELF. But it WAS a aberration." He pulled off the road. Vicki became anxious, jumping to the Passat's door, hoping Jeremy wouldn't keep the locks down with his master control. To her relief, he didn't--- she opened the door easily, and was poised to get out and run, when she heard him sobbing. She had only heard him cry like that twice in their time together--- years ago, when she'd fallen off the swing at the moment his mother had died, and when Willie had driven the disgraced fiance away after Jeremy had bitten her. He sounded so lost in grief, she instinctively turned to comfort him.
He reached for her, and they were soon in a tight embrace, kissing passionately. "Come away with me," he whispered desperately. "We'll elope--- we can take a plane from Bangor, down to South Carolina. I think they still perform quickie weddings there. It would be faster than a trip to Las Vegas! And then, we can move away from here, permanently. It's Collinsport that's the problem, I think."
"Jeremy, I still want to marry you. I'll even be happy to elope right now, but you're not thinking straight, otherwise. Maybe you still need help. Maybe some tranquilizers, but I don't mean FOREVER. And we'd BOTH need to find other positions first, which may take a while. And we just can't leave our parents in the lurch like that! I'd like to tell MY folks."
"Not right now. I can certainly imagine WILLIE'S reaction, after what he saw that night. Tell you what, let's go on to my house--- we're right in the area---and I'll pack a suitcase, and we'll tell Father if he's there, then we'll hurry back to YOUR house, and we'll tell your Mother while you pack some things. SHE can break the news to Willie. Then, after we're married, truly and forever, I'll go to any kind of headshrinker you prefer, though I think it's all our separations, due to school and work and the latest town crisis, that have made ME so crazy. It's obvious we're meant to be together!"
Jeremy held Vicki so tightly, she was out of breath, and could barely utter her consent. She hardly felt the prick of the needle he jabbed into her shoulder. A dazed moment of realization, and she collapsed against her fiance. Jeremy drove on to the Old House, parked his car in an old, half-hidden shed rather than the carriage-house garage, and carried his limp betrothed in through the back door of the mansion. Jeremy had made sure to lock the basement door, and the cell door, and even put Vicki down to pull some of the strewn bricks into place, making the entrance to the tunnel smaller, before proceeding down to the secret chamber.
There, his Father awaited, dressed in the well-preserved regalia he'd worn for his original 1795 portrait, holding the hand of an entranced Alice Lacey. She was exquisite, even in the tarnished finery which had NOT belonged to the long-departed Josette, who had been laid to rest in the wedding gown she would have worn for her 1795 wedding to Barnabas, but a poor copy the latter had ordered from a distant bridal salon in 1967. (Willie had been forced to make the 100-mile round trip to pick it up, lest a delivery cause suspicion.)
Maggie had worn it 24 hours a day, until the hems and train were a bit grimy and ragged, and she'd worn it when Barnabas forced her to spend the night locked in a casket, from which Willie had rescued her. In her hysterical frenzy to escape, Maggie had torn some of the gauzy material. So it was in poor condition, but the tall, slim, dark-haired girl with the arched eyebrows and heart-shaped face seemed to transform the rags, while they transformed HER.
"Father," Jeremy whispered solemnly, "Vicki CONSENTED. Of course. she didn't know what she was consenting TO, but she accepted me, even though she still thought I was a bit, errr, UNSTABLE." He gazed at the pallidly-radiant Alice, and asked, "Is there a wedding-dress for MY betrothed?"
"I'm sorry to say, I didn't think that far ahead, my son," Barnabas replied. "It was SO enjoyable, stripping my Bride, and adorning her with more suitable garments, I lost all track of time. However, if you'd like to do the same, you could even dispense with clothing Vicki afterwards!" He gave a dirty laugh.
Jeremy still had enough humanity to be appalled. "Thanks, but NO thanks, I think I'll leave Vicki as she is. There's time enough for that kind of intimacy later, AFTER our weddings. Who will perform the ceremony?"
"It's a do-it-ourselves special, but just in case we needed a clergyman, well, I obtained one. With a mallet and chisel. Behold, the late, great Reverend Simon Trask, fresh from his last pastoral position, which was dangling from chains inside one of our cellar walls!" Barnabas stepped back, and pointed to a box in the corner, which contained a skull, and dozens of bones, some of them still held together by remains of material, much like Jason McGuire's back at the Mausoleum.
"This poor excuse for a Man of God came to persecute Sarah's innocent but foolishly-self incriminating governess, who had a lot of help from my first wife, Angelique, in sealing her fate. In the first instance, it was a hapless stranger named Phyllis Wicke, but somehow she was replaced by Victoria Winters, who sealed her own fate by babbling about the future, and vanished again, at the moment of her execution. Then Victoria went back yet again, to reclaim the lover she'd stolen from the original Phyllis, who then fell into a kind of limbo. NOBODY knows what became of her after.
"In the last days before the execution of Phyllis or Victoria, I forced this Trask, who had also incited my superstitious Aunt into accusing the governess of witchcraft, had coerced a former friend to testify against her, had bamboozled 3 otherwise sensible judges into condemning the innocent girl to death, to sign a confession of his mistake. To keep him from recanting PERMANENTLY, I chained him inside a wall, and bricked it up. Alas, it was to no avail, and because he could not vouch in person for his affidavit, the hanging went forth. His spirit later pursued the real witch, and his SON, who had also lost his fiancee due to Angelique's reinstatement of my curse, actually killed her. I killed BOTH men, but only have the remains of the father here."
Jeremy asked, tremulously, "You mean
that person was right here, in OUR house, for over 200 years?
I PLAYED in this cellar, Father! Did Mother know?"
Barnabas turned away for a moment; apparently he still had one weakness, and that was the mention of Julia. "She knew EVERYTHING about me, even summoned Trask's ghost to evict Angelique. When that quest appeared to be successful, Willie bricked him up again. What else was there to be done?"
"Bury him in consecrated ground! After all, he simply made a stupid, but understandable, mistake!"
"He was rather more than a man too easily suggestible about Satan's work, my son. He was a sadist who delighted in torturing the suspected witches, usually beautiful young girls who secretly aroused him!"
"And YOU are better than he?"
"At least, I am NOT responsible for my condition. Not THEN, not NOW. HE had a choice."
"YOU took his choice away, Father! God
Above, you could have BITTEN him, HYPNOTIZED
him--- made him do your bidding.... Like Willie. Like ME.... And NOT made his final hours a living Hell! And then, to kill his wretched SON, because he avenged what YOU did to HIS fiancee--- I can certainly sympathize with HIM!"
"Yet you went ahead and brought YOUR fiancee here, where YOU will finish doing MY bidding." Barnabas approached his son, whose entire body shook with the terror of undergoing what both had agreed was inevitable. He held the younger man in a steely grip, while he snapped at Jeremy's neck so hard, he spat out flesh. In one long draw, during which his son wept in agony, Barnabas took a lengthy draught of blood, which he also spat, because half of it came from himself. Jeremy passed out momentarily, but when he opened his eyes again, and opened his mouth, his father smiled approvingly at the new fangs which had forced themselves out from the son's gums. "Now," Barnabas said, "It's time for the ceremony. Make Vicki stand up."
Jeremy lifted the young woman to her feet. Vicki was groggy and floppy, but the fiance was able to prop her in his arms without both toppling over. In the meantime, Barnabas had lifted Alice into a casket. He surveyed her supine form, deciding which would be the best place to start. Then, he pulled the bodice of her gown down to her small breast. In the margin between her shoulder and bosom, he tore an opening in her flesh, and lapped the blood which started to flow. At this, Alice woke briefly; at first she whimpered with pain, then sighed, and held him to her. Then, she pulled up her own skirt, and permitted her Groom to re-open the nearly-healed wound on her thigh. While he drank at both wounds, Barnabas, at all times, caressed her under the gown, making Alice moan with pained pleasure. These noises, though, started to fade as the girl got weaker and weaker. Soon, she was still.
Vicki, slowly regaining full consciousness, at first observed this activity with a dream-like acceptance. What a funny thing for her future father-in-law to do to her favorite pupil, she thought. Then, she saw Barnabas's shadow on the nearby wall. With his cape draped around him, and leaning over Alice in the box like that, his silhouette, in Vicki's dazed mind, came to resemble the strange, vulture-sized bat that had first bitten the teenager over a week ago! What was even MORE frightening, Barnabas seemed to be getting younger before her eyes! He faced some point behind her, his own eyes focused on some object with the acuity of a laser beam. Then, she felt a painful pressure at HER throat--- Jeremy's strangely-chilled lips curled around the "hickey", and she felt, again, his jaws closing, his teeth breaking the skin, the sucking and licking....
She kicked and struggled, and then, to her relief, her father was suddenly there, pushing her from Jeremy's arms; unfortunately, though, she landed right into Barnabas's! Christine Cagney had come with Willie, though, and now tried to aim her revolver at the being--- Vicki wouldn't even call Barnabas human anymore--- and TRIED to get a clean shot. Vicki felt a sharp sting all the way through her shoulder, on the same side as the bite mark, the bloods mingling. Barnabas DID let her go, pitching her from himself so precipitously, she was flung forward, and landed in a corner. From this vantage point, she forced herself to turn and watch Willie futilely struggling, and finally knocking Jeremy out. She saw Barnabas try to strangle Christine, then fall to the floor, holding the wound on his chest, obviously in great pain. Vicki observed Barnabas, now under Christine's foot, turning grayer than he had been before the biting began, the police woman's revolver held just 12 inches above his chest, her finger on the trigger....
NOW, Vicki shut her eyes.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Allarice Bertrand, in former lives, once known as Miranda DuVall, Angelique Boucharde, Valerie Collins, and Cassandra Blair, and in full possession of her memories, but few of her former powers, paced anxiously in a small storage room at Seamen's Memorial. She had never left the place, instead, coming to this old room, which had, 33 years earlier, been the office and laboratory of Dr. David Woodard. She hadn't wanted, after all, to return, with David Collins's body, to the Institute, so distant from the troubles here. Yet, what else can I do? she wondered. She had played the part required of her, helping to formulate the cure to her own curse. Amy was on the road to recovery--- and a probable prison sentence. There was still enough of the medication left for Barnabas and maybe one other victim, if it came to that. She knew that Hallie had been delivered of her child, a few days earlier than anticipated, and didn't expect to see Carl Collins again.
She was WRONG. A flash of reddish-brown, and Carl stood before her. "How can this be?" Angelique demanded. "You CAN'T leave the body you have been reincarnated into, or it will die shortly!"
"Oh, Angelique, you forget the powers YOU taught me to use. I took enough breaks while little Roger was growing inside his mother, and even got tossed into the Infernal Sewers for a day or so. Hallie just thought her baby was sluggish, but he was still alive. A pregnant mother is the best life-support machine in the world! As for NOW, I just got a 'body-sitter'!" Carl gave one of his old giggles. "There was a stray soul floating around, and I pressed her into service. She was crying a lot, but seemed to take to the idea of animating a cute little baby boy."
"SHE!" Angelique sputtered. "You can't cross genders either!"
Carl shrugged. "Whyever not? It isn't FOREVER! I WILL go back, but right now, we have to get to Barnabas."
"You know I'm NOT supposed to see him, and I don't know where he is now, anyway."
"There's this little girl who seems to know, one of my new 'sisters'. I hope they're nicer than the sister I USED to have." Carl sighed, thinking of the starchy Judith. "She wrote it down for Harvey's wife, and I saw it. I didn't know there was a tunnel running down to the beach from the Old House!"
Angelique replied, "It was an open secret when Joshua Collins was alive. The tunnel is older than the Old House itself, but was extended down to the beach, and was bricked over, right after the Revolution. There was some doggerel rhyme that told how to open it, but the old skinflint wasn't telling. I often thought he'd hid money in there. When my mother-in-law gave the deed of the Old House, her own childhood home--- she had been a Collins cousin--- to Barnabas and myself, Joshua went, as they say nowadays, ballistic. He must have assumed HE owned the place because he'd married Naomi, but evidently, her parents had protected her rights. He was livid, no doubt, that he couldn't get back into the house unless WE let him. I didn't care about the money or whatever he had there, for myself, but I hoped I could find it for my husband's sake, to ease having been cut out of Joshua's will."
"Well, someone found the combination already. That's where Barnabas is NOW." Carl's forehead furrowed. "If you must know, I WOULD let him get punished for what he did to ME, but this isn't the time, or the place, or the way it will be properly done. If he dies NOW, it will be a quick drop into Hell, and he won't have a chance to repent and make restitution. Nor will his executioner, nor will his victims, should they die with him. Alice Lacey! I'LL be in hot water, and worse, if I can't protect my own family! And JEREMY---"
"Take me, then! I still have some of the medication! But-- but HOW? I can't de-materialize the way I used to."
"Hold my hand."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Mary Beth and Jonah soon arrived at the Old House. There were no cars visible in the small parking area near the garage, and the house itself was dark. The double front doors, as they expected, were locked. In spite of the home's seeming desolation, Mary Beth knew better than to just barge in at this point--- there might be SOMEONE lurking about inside, perhaps with a gun, waiting.... She drew her own weapon, and signalled to Jonah to follow her around to the back. She was gratified to see that the back door was slightly ajar, and that, further, a small light was visible inside the kitchen.
Hoping against hope that it wouldn't squeak or squeal, Mary Beth delicately pulled the screen door open, and gently toed in the simple wooden door. Leading with her gun, she searched the first floor--- nobody ambushed her or Jonah, the place appeared to be empty. The door leading from the parlor, directly to the cellar, was missing its usual padlock, but to Mary Beth's chagrin, it was locked from the inside.
Strange, how someone had locked this door, while stupidly leaving the back door open. Jonah, she thought, had been just behind her, but was suddenly missing. God forbid, she thought, that he was attacked, or suddenly called back to that Mr. Best, or worse, had simply been a hallucination.
Then, she nearly jumped when she felt a tap
on her shoulder. She gave a frightened glance back---
it was Jonah, with a key-ring, which he stuck in her hand, holding the keys still to keep them from clinking together. "Found this upstairs. No-one there," he mouthed.
"Don't take dumb chances again!" Mary Beth barely whispered back. Still, she thanked whatever God there was, that someone had an extra set, and had been careless enough to leave them where they would be found. All the evidence pointed to the work of amateur criminals, like, presumably, Jeremy. The Sheriff doubted Barnabas or Willie would have been so careless.
There were six keys on the ring, and the third one she tried, opened the cellar door. Again, the Sheriff and her assistant moved stealthily. The cellar was dimly lit with bare light-bulbs in sockets irregularly set in the granite walls. Mary Beth noticed that the big, incongruous brick wall in the alcove of the main chamber had been opened, the bricks stacked very neatly nearby. How anal-retentive, she thought, but quailed at the sight of chains and manacles dangling within the tiny space thus revealed.
She led the way to the cell room. Again, it was locked, but another key fit perfectly. Mary Beth was somewhat dismayed to see most of the bricks back up in place over the opening that had once been in the wall, but soon noticed that they weren't sealed with mortar. She and Jonah began pulling and throwing the bricks aside with abandon, to reveal quite a large, earth-lined tunnel.
Mary Beth recalled Jason's references to the cave where the hapless Indian princess hid from her rapacious father, and suddenly realized the TRUE reason the girl had suggested this site for her father-in-law Isaac Collins's house. A built-in cave to hide valuables and weapons in, and even people, in the event of an attack, whose approach could be easily seen from the hilly yard and cliffs nearby! She recalled something else--- Maggie had been found on the beach below the cliff around here, 33 years earlier. Christine had mentioned a cave down there, where she'd met Barnabas and Willie. Could be, Mary Beth mused, this runs all the way down through the palisade, to the beach?
No time to figure that out now. Jonah had found a long candle-stick, and a box of old-fashioned flints. He guided the Sheriff by its tiny, flickering flame. There were noises ahead, around a dark corner. They found the landing, and a stout door was flung wide open. Mary Beth took one look, dashed in, her weapon drawn and ready, shouting at the top of her lungs at the blonde woman about to fire directly into Barnabas's heart!
Christine turned to face her partner, and said with a sob, "Mary Beth, please. This is for YOU. Look over there." She pointed to the casket which contained Alice. The Sheriff rushed to the box, drew her daughter's limp body to her breast, and wailed. Christine, her voice, cold-metallic and empty, like the electronically-distorted one that had directed them to Amy and David, continued, "This isn't a regular bust, any more than what happened with Amy, or McGuire--- my FATHER!--- and you KNOW it! By all the laws of God and Man, HE must be destroyed." She resumed her position. She realized that she didn't have a crucifix to fend off Barnabas, should he suddenly recuperate enough to rise, so she recited the invocation of the Sign of the Cross. "In the Name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit...." Yes Elliot, she thought, I DO believe! She aimed the gun again, touched the trigger--- "Amen"---
THIS time, the gun was painfully slapped from her hand! Christine, thinking for a moment that Jeremy had fought Willie off, or, worse, that Willie himself had decided to protect his old Master, instantly jumped at the interloper. Her small eyes met the large ones of Allarice Bertrand! What's more, the contacts were gone, and the doctor's eyes, a seething mixture of crystal and every blue in the spectrum, were plain in the light of the candles all around.
"How dare you interrupt the extermination of a vampire, who has killed and killed again!" the policewoman shouted. "HOW DARE YOU!"
"I DARE, because I made him that way in the first place!" Allarice knelt at Barnabas's side, took his hand, kissed it, and began to weep. "I made him, and I will deal with him!"
"I am Angelique Boucharde Collins. Barnabas's first wife. I was also Cassandra Blair Collins, Roger's second wife. In these guises, I caused much harm. In the first instance, I put the curse on Barnabas, to avenge him for preferring another woman, and for despising myself, whom he had seduced, and later, tried to kill! All his family and friends suffered with him. In the second instance, he obtained a cure, but I tried to bring the curse back. And made sure his family suffered anew! Then, something happened to change our pasts, and my soul was flung forward, to be born again as Allarice Bertrand, who became a healer--- of DEAD people! And now, though we cannot be anything to each other now, I still love Barnabas, and I can cure him."
"How did you get here?"
"I can't vanish and appear anywhere on my own. Carl Collins brought me. As you know, his blood runs through the Laceys and the Loomises, and we used it, Conrad and I, to formulate our cure. It worked for Amy. It will work for two others."
Christine snorted bitterly, "Well, 'Sophie', time to make your choice! There's Barnabas, but there's also Alice AND Jeremy!"
"I'm sure if I give it to Barnabas, this will help cure the others." However, by the tone of her voice, it was clear that Allarice-Angelique WASN'T so sure!
"I wouldn't bet on it," the other blonde woman retorted. "Amy may not have been a full-fledged vampire, and already had a head start from feeding on Harvey and Willie. In any case, she had to take a LOT of the stuff before it worked. I can imagine how much you might need for Barnabas--- maybe BOTH syringes, and then some! It's possible that Alice and Jeremy might not NEED as much, since they've only been like this for a short while!" Then, her voice broke. "PLEASE .... Give those two kids a chance. I know how you feel about Barnabas, since I feel the same way about him .... Even though he tried to KILL me ...."
"He killed my 'Angelique' body, and he nearly killed Julia on one or two occasions," Allarice recalled. "I made it part of the curse that everyone who loved him would die untimely deaths. Little did I fancy that I would be the first such victim. He has since been hardest on the women who loved him the most--- myself, Julia, and YOU!"
"All the more reason to save the youngsters! And to end the suffering of the Laceys, the Loomises, the Shaws--- I would rather DIE than see my partner, my best friend--- never mind that, my SISTER over there, a broken woman, her baby dead, her husband sick and broken also for the rest of his life.... haven't you EVER felt that way about another WOMAN in your life?"
"Only my mother," Allarice muttered. "I mean Angelique's mother.... I liked my Bertrand parents, but in all my lives, I was closest to my Martinique mother. She bore me as an unacknowledged bastard daughter to Josette's father, and raised me alone, shunned by Josette's aunt, who stood between us and my father and HALF-sister, and would surely have poisoned his mind against my making any claims on his estate. To stay close to them, I became their SERVANT! Then I met Barnabas, but he USED me, and fell in love with that airheaded fashion-plate! After that, I was resentful of ANY woman who was favored in fortune and love. I've gotten better, but a part of me will NEVER fully trust another woman, not as you do Mary Beth, and she, you." She pulled a syringe from her pocket. "YOU know whom I will cure first," Allarice taunted now. "Go ahead, Christine Cagney, why don't you shoot me, and take the syringes to give to your friends?"
Christine intended to do JUST that--- there were still 5 silver bullets left, and they probably didn't even have to BE silver in order to stop the mostly-human Allarice-Angelique. But it HELPS, she thought, as she fingered the trigger again. Allarice jabbed the needle into Barnabas's arm, but before SHE could press the plunger, HIS hand stayed hers.
"No, Angelique," Barnabas whispered. "Give the cure to Alice and my son. My time is almost through. I can feel the dawn coming .... Nobody has to finish me off, I WILL be finished in a few minutes! I don't wish to leave the world without having done SOMETHING good for SOMEBODY.... To save the children, to save my beloved from becoming a murderess, as I have murdered so many, to save YOU for the next step in YOUR redemption...." He forced himself to rise. Christine jumped back, but he seemed to be no longer a threat to anyone. He was on his feet, but unsteadily, and he faced her, eyes looking deeply into hers, touching her cheek. "I am going to die, Christine, but outside, where nobody will see me--- if you still love me, you WON'T follow!"
She wept as she replied, "I meant what I said before, Barnabas. I will love you the rest of my life. Maybe I always loved you, but just didn't find you in time to do anything about it.... But please, stay here. I'll hold your hand, kiss you good-bye.... I've lost so many good-byes!"
"You wouldn't want to hold the hand of what I'll become at the moment of death. I wish to spare you that. Now, get Angelique up, take a syringe from her, and hurry.... If those children don't get those shots before the sun comes up, curing them will become more difficult, if not impossible." He limped and shuffled toward the door, but stumbled.
Jonah, who, up till this moment, had watched from the shadows, knowing in his enlightened heart that this was something that had to be settled between the love-crossed trio, stepped up to help the weakened vampire. He took Barnabas's arm and walked him to the door. "I HATE to do this," the younger man said. "Whatever you are, I don't believe you are nearly as rotten as Jason."
Barnabas regarded him calmly. "Oh, I WAS, I just fought it harder than most. But I DO deserve this. I'm not afraid. If you've died as many times as I have---"
The door slammed in their faces! A mad peal of laughter, a voice.... It was Jason's voice, but the figure that materialized was--- HARVEY? "I got away from that dithering fool Charlie," Jason / Harvey boasted. "And I made a quick stop at the hospital. Poor poor David Collins lost his heart in vain, alas."
Mary Beth clutched her dead daughter even more tightly. "Oh Christ, oh Christ," she moaned, "Harvey is DEAD! Alice is DEAD! JASON WON!"
Christine grabbed Allarice and forced her to give up the second syringe. "No matter, we're going to give the kids the shots!", she declared briskly, trying to conceal her fear. Allarice sent a longing look towards Barnabas, but he nodded at her, and she crouched by Willie and Jeremy.
Jonah dashed to Christine's side, and took the gun from her, while she administered the syringe to Alice. "Keep away, Jason," he snarled. "These are silver bullets, they SHOULD work on a ghost!"
"Oh, but Johnny--- my little Yid friend, if ye DO use the bullets, ye'll be doing more than sending MY spirit back to Hell. Ye'll be sure to finish off Harvey here, for I pulled the same magic on him as I did for myself, before my lovely daughter here got rid of my finger bone. He's as real as you. Go on and shoot, boy."
Jonah wavered. Mary Beth stared at him blankly, beyond all ability to react, it seemed. Christine hissed, "It's a LIE! An ILLUSION! GO for it, Jonah!"
Willie broke the impasse by leaving Jeremy, and lunging for his cousin. The two heavy bodies, one in work clothes, the other in a hospital gown, rolled and grunted as they fought. "Harvey", however, soon had the better of Willie, and grasped the latter's throat, banging his head on the stone floor.
Barnabas lurched back into the room. Instead of going toward the melee, he headed to the box containing the bones of Reverend Trask. He rummaged through the bones until he found what he was sure was a finger phalange. He gasped, "Angelique! Take this to the Mausoleum!"
Allarice understood, but said, "I haven't those powers any longer, but--- CARL!!!"
The slight blond man in the Buster Brown suit appeared at once. "I was way ahead of you there, folks. The instant I heard Jason's voice, I took care of the matter. See!" he yelled delightedly.
Instantly, the two cousins broke from each other. Harvey lay near Willie, both gasping. A third man stood above them, dressed in peacoat and shiny shoes--- McGuire! He tried to rush from the room, but this time, Jonah took aim, fired, and Jason fell to the floor, twitching in death throes for the second time in his existence. But the death throes stopped, and Jason whispered, "I cannot die, there's someone else holding me back!"
Allarice said, "Trask.... You have his finger bone. You want to die, we'll cut it off--- if you can remember which one. Do YOU remember, Carl?" she asked archly.
"Goodness, no," Carl said seriously. "One finger bone looks like another to me. I just put it in a hand, and he was out of the grave in no time."
Mary Beth finally spoke. "Well, we're not going to cut off both his hands! It seems that Mr. McGuire here will simply have to go on living as long as this Trask person lets him, and he'll have to face the earthly penalties for all he's done, beginning with the murder of Timothy Adam Samwell, and down through the conspiracy to murder police and citizens alike...."
"As Trask himself would have it, no doubt," Barnabas concluded. "Now let me go, and hurry with those shots!" He made it out the door without assistance.
Christine and Mary Beth both wondered at themselves for their collusion in letting a suspect go, but Barnabas already looked 100 years old; there was no doubt in either woman's mind that by the time they found him again, he'd be little more than a pile of bone fragments and some teeth lying among tattered clothing, like McGuire had been. And, among the remains, a single silver bullet.... "He tried to help in the end," Christine muttered regretfully, as she pressed the plunger of the syringe stuck into Alice's arm. Her partner darted between holding Alice and holding Harvey. At the moment of injection, she was at her husband's side, whispering desperate words of courage to him.
"Barnabas WAS a good man once, I sometimes forget that," Allarice replied, as she finally injected Jeremy with the serum.
He opened his eyes first, and gazed up at her. "YOU!" he shouted. "YOU were in my dream! Years ago, warning me about.... Papa...."
"I, too, might have had such a dream, years ago," Allarice said. "It was how I learned MY destiny. Was there a volcano, and a large white bird?"
"Yes, yes.... You saved ME, but it's too late for my father...." Jeremy turned from her, and wept. Allarice was gratified to see the fangs recede in his mouth, until they simply became eye teeth again.
"You look so much like your poor mother," she said softly. Would that I had such a son with Barnabas, she thought, but that would never be, not even in a future life. "Now she and your father are together, I am sure, and they'll always be waiting for you."
Christine had emptied the syringe into Alice, but the girl still lay in a death-like state. The older woman listened for a heartbeat, felt for a pulse, chafed Alice's cold hands.... Nothing. Then, Christine glanced at her watch. It was just before 6 A.M.--- the sun was probably struggling over the horizon now! Nothing left to do, it seemed, but get the child to the hospital, and hope that Allarice and Conrad could churn up enough serum before the sun went down again at 6 P.M.!
Elliot and Michael barged in just then. "God," Elliot breathed, "I've heard stories about secret tunnels and stuff like that on the estate.... It's all true.... But so is--- ALICE!" he cried, and beat the shocked brother to the girl's side.
"Get her out of this casket!" Michael shouted, though he realized the irony of his demand; soon his sister would have to be placed in ANOTHER casket. Both young men picked her up, and put her next to her father, who reached for her cold hand.
Michael said, "We would have been here a lot sooner, Mom, but Dad was suddenly MISSING--- nobody could explain it!. All we knew was what Mrs. Shaw told us, about going through the Old House cellar. We called Deputy Twomey and Officer Rooney. But we beat them, taking my Harley."
"It's-- it's going to be OKAY."
Mary Beth tried to sound brave. "We'll get an ambulance. Your Dad will
pull through, if I have to MAKE him, and Alice--- she just needs more medicine.
medicine...." She broke down in her son's arms.
"It will take hours to make more," Allarice said despairingly.
Willie rose, and took the unconcious girl from her lover's arms. "We'll have to give her something to tide her over till then," he said. "Give me that syringe, Miss Cagney."
"What the HELL are you going to do, Willie?" Christine asked.
Willie snatched the syringe away, and stuck it in his own arm. He drew forth a small amount of his own blood. "It helped her before," he said stubbornly, as he stuck the needle into the girl's arm. "I doubt it will hurt her any now."
"Willie," Harvey whispered, "Me too. It won't take too much---"
"No, Dad, I'll do it," Michael insisted. "I've given a lot of blood, but it will still hurt me less than you."
"I'll help," Vicki offered, "though I'm so doped up yet, it may make Alice stay asleep for a while."
"Never mind, the lot of you," Carl's ghost said. "Give the syringes to Elliot."
Mary Beth exclaimed, "ELLIOT! But he's not your descendant!"
Allarice said "It must be true! Elliot's as much a Collins as your husband and Willie, it's entirely possible he has the blood factor. They just didn't think to test the BOY for it. But, now that I think of it, it MUST be so, because his father David's heart matched so well with Harvey. That COULDN'T have happened if the X-factor wasn't present, don't you see? The X-factor is like an antibody, or a histamine. It would reject an organ or blood that didn't have the same component, possibly induce anaphylaxis. Perhaps that's why BARNABAS had that adverse reaction, like Amy before her. It wasn't drinking blood from two old men that made Amy old, it was the surfeit of untreated X-factor, which was corrected when I gave her the correct dosage in the serum.
"And Barnabas turned young, then old, for almost the same reason. He HAD fed on Willie, but he was in the first pure flush of his curse then, he might have been immune. Then the series of injections, being cured, then reinstated--- maybe even his trip to a parallel band of time where he bit an alternate Willie--- it was like the Rh problem in pregnant women, who have one normal pregnancy, then build up resistance to a subsequent one, unless there are massive blood exhanges. Barnabas probably passed the syndrome to Amy. But Alice has the X-factor already, Elliot apparently has it--- there should be no such conflict!"
Elliot kissed Alice's pale face. "Marisol said I could keep the Chupacabra from killing Alice. Maybe this isn't exactly what she meant, but I'm running with it." He held out his arm. "Go ahead, take the sample, give it to her, NOW." Allarice drew forth 100 cc's into each syringe, hoping that some other disease wouldn't be spread thereby.
Mary Beth gasped. "We don't even know if he's the same blood TYPE!"
"What other choice IS there?" Christine said. She put an arm around her partner, and both watched the blonde doctor as she injected the girl.
At first, it seemed for naught. Alice was still unconscious. Then, just as all hope died, Alice's eyes fluttered open. her lips parted--- no sign of fangs! She stirred, though she was very weak. Then she whispered, "Elliot? Mom?" She looked around. "Aunty Chris--- Daddy--- Willie--- Miss Shaw-- Dr. Collins....everyone's here. Thank God. But where's Mr. Collins? And who are YOU?" she asked Allarice. "And who are THEY?" She pointed at Jonah and Jason. Carl had vanished. "Where-where--"
Christine said, "Let's get her out of here, pronto. And everyone. Let this room become a secret once more." They slowly struggled upstairs--- Elliot carried Alice, Michael and Willie walked Harvey along somehow, Jeremy and Vicki, her shoulder hastily bandaged, supported each other. Jonah, Christine, and Mary Beth pushed the reluctant Jason, whose wrists were bound with a strip of material from Alice's gown, up the steps. Allarice tailed behind, longing to go down to the beach, and find out what became of Barnabas. Perhaps, when matters were settled upstairs, she'd sneak away.
The group emerged from the cellar to the
blinking glare of police car lights outside the windows. Somebody was banging
at the doors. Christine pulled them open. Twomey,
Rooney, and the rest....
In the background, there was Maggie Shaw, who gave an involuntary whoop when she saw her daughter alive, though her face fell when she saw the bandage. There was also an EMT truck, ready to take casualties to the hospital.
Rooney beamed when he saw his Sheriff and Christine. And he was amazed to see Jason. "I though you said he was taken in," the officer said.
"He escaped," Jonah reported, "and we caught him.... Right at the scene of his crimes."
"It appears," Christine added, "that he's responsible for ALL the troubles in this town, going back to the so-called accident in Germany that claimed the life of Timothy Samwell, the Amy conspiracy, the kidnappings---"
"Yes, yes, ye needn't read me the rights, I know 'em, but I did it all." Jason seemed to be in great discomfort that didn't come from his bullet wound. What nobody would ever know was that there was a tiny, sharp voice nagging, "Now confess your foul deal with Satan!" And Jason's internal voice answering, "I'll tell them what they'll believe, ye canting Calvinist, and not a word more. How much longer will I have to live with ye?"
Trask replied, "As long as I would have lived, to the Biblical injunction of three-score and ten. 35 more years." Jason's heart sank. I DO hope I get murdered in prison, THAT would be preferable! he thought. Even CHARLIE beating on him in Hell with a red-hot poker, taking turns with the late Paul and Elizabeth Stoddard, would be INFINITELY preferable!
"And what of Barnabas Collins?" Twomey asked. "We've searched for him in connection with these crimes---"
"It was I who committed the lot, not he," Jason said, resignation in his voice and manner. "Go down to the beach, he was trying to get away from me there. He was in bad shape, he may be dead."
Rooney held back Christine and the pretty blonde doctor, when they would have followed him. "Ladies, ladies," he crooned, though with sympathy at their devastated expressions rather than condescension, "it's time for you all to go back to the hospital for a rest. We'll search for Mr. Collins. And God help you, sir---" this was addressed to Jason--- "if, as you say, he really IS dead on your account. As it is, I hope you'll be in prison until you're 100, and doddering with Alzheimers!"
Twomey gave Rooney a shove. "Enough, Bob, his lawyer will accuse us of police brutality or coercion or something when he or she hears about your little tirade."
"Not any lawyer from around THESE parts," Rooney assured him.
After the Sheriff, her partner, and the civilian crowd had departed, Twomey and Rooney led an expedition to the oceanside walk. Near, a cave opening, past a decorative bench, down on the sands at the churning waters' edge, they saw a prostrate figure, face down, wrapped in an old-fashioned, long, flounced cape. The tail end of the cape fluttered in the wind.
The irrepressible Rooney struck out first, but soon approached the body with trepidation, already feeling an ache of sorrow for Jeremy Collins and Chris Cagney. He knelt, and gently removed a cowl that covered the person's head. When he saw what lay underneath, he started back, a shocked expression on his normally-stolid features.
"Yes, yes," whimpered an extremely
feeble voice. "Go back.... There is nothing more that can be
done.... Let me die, please...." A hand, dry and bony, though still covered with skin thin as gossamer, emerged from the billows of cloth. There was a small, round pellet, which glinted, though coated with pale blood, clutched between stained fingernails as long as tweezers. The hand released the object; it rolled into the nearby surf, and disappeared.
Rooney signalled to
the others, and made a frantic call on his radio. "Get the EMTs down to
Ocean Beach Park STAT--- Male, early seventies, but my God, he looks like he's
WAY over 100.... Worse than Amy Jennings...."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PART NINETEEN--- FRIDAY, APRIL 21, 2000 (D)
It was late afternoon by the time Christine and Mary Beth woke up again. They were NOT together this time, though---Christine was alone, and Mary Beth was sleeping on a cot in the Intensive Care waiting area, to be close to Harvey and Alice, who were both doing better.
Conrad Lang had repaired to the Institute to create another batch of the X-factor medicine; now that he had the formula down, it took him less time than expected, and he was back in the hospital, putting a small sack on Alice's IV tree, and a large syringe-full for Jeremy, though both parties seemed to be recovering quickly anyway. "This will act as a vaccination, I believe," Conrad explained, "rather like a series of rabies shots, without, of course, the pain and side effects associated with those treatments. So, let us make these young people resistant to the syndrome to which they are obviously vulnerable. In time, I hope to have a small cache of serum, to be used in the event of future such incidents."
After he'd treated the victims, he visited Allarice, who was lying on a couch in a psychiatrist's vacated office. He took her hand and kissed it, and she opened her eyes. He was shocked to see their true aqua-blue color.
"I know what you're thinking," Allarice said. "I really am blue-eyed. I just like brown eyes better. I hope you don't feel deceived, Conrad."
"Not at all," he fibbed gallantly. "Though I HOPE you were going to let me know before we made wedding plans!"
"It's a little soon to talk about a wedding, when we haven't even had a DATE yet," she teased.
"Is it too soon to ask if and when THAT important event shall take place?" Conrad clutched Allarice's small hand in his two long-fingered ones.
"I just have a little more personal stuff to work out," she sighed. Like, she remembered suddenly--- what about BARNABAS? "Do you know if the police found Bar- the elder Mr. Collins, Dr. Collins's father, yet?" she asked urgently.
"Yes, they have," Conrad said very quietly.
"Is he still alive?"
"Barely. It seems that he, too, is afflicted with the same syndrome as the others, but much worse--- he was almost completely dessicated when he was found! I've never seen anything like it! I had some of our medicine left over, so I gave it a try, though not as much since he seemed so close to death, and I was convinced the young people would profit more by it. Mr. Collins is still in a deep coma, and is on life-support, though his appearance HAS been somewhat restored to the way it was when I first met him."
Allarice sat straight up, and explained her theory, with certain details left out, like her 1795 curse, for instance.. "You must make MORE serum!" she snapped. "I'll help you!"
"You should rest, dear. Mr. Collins's condition IS, for want of a better word, STABILIZED for now--- there should be enough time to obtain more serum. Do you know him that well?" A note of jealousy insinuated itself into Conrad's voice and manner.
Allarice looked him straight in the eye. "No, I do NOT know him, really, at all. I am thinking, however, of his poor son's feelings, and Miss Cagney's. They are very fond of each other. Dignum et justum est."
Conrad relaxed. "Ah, Allarice, that's what I like about you. So intense in your concern for others' happiness, that you use LATIN to express it."
Allarice rose from the couch. "Still, I have to check--- after being so involved. I will definitely see you again, Conrad." She kissed his lean cheek, and hurried away to the ICU.
Nurse Craig was there, checking all the machines' digital readouts. "Ah, Dr. Bertrand," she said pleasantly, "Again, that medication seems to be working well. You and Dr. Lang should get the Nobel Prize. Maybe somebody here will nominate you."
"Seeing anyone recover due to MY handiwork is enough of a prize, believe me," Allarice said. She was happy to see Barnabas looking fairly normal, even though that meant a normal man in his seventies. Dignum et justum est, she thought again. This is his life right now. The final word hadn't come down as to which of the women who loved him best would eventually claim him for eternity, but it certainly wasn't HER time to compete.
Barnabas opened his hazel-brown eyes. His pupils, formerly so dilated that the black had eclipsed the iris, contracted normally in the soft light. "Wonderful!" Nurse Craig sang. "He's regaining conciousness."
You wouldn't think it so wonderful, Allarice thought, if you only knew the whole story of what went down in that tunnel. Still, Barnabas was beyond that animalistic behavior once more. He appeared to recognize her. "Nurse, I'll stay with Mr. Collins for a while," she said. "Go tell Dr. Lang and Mr. Collins's son."
When he saw that the nurse was gone, Barnabas whispered, "Angelique.... I AM grateful, but.... What do you require in return for curing me this time? And my son and my other victims?"
"The time when I would have demanded anything is long past, " she replied. "I was reborn, this time, without any special powers except, it seems, a peculiar medical talent, and a will to use it for BENIGN purposes--- best used in concert with the nephew of the man who tried to cure you, and whom I killed. The present Dr. Lang seems enamored of me." She smiled, the old sly smile on full lips, and the dimples Barnabas remembered, twinkled along with her azure eyes. "I don't even feel inclined to use him as I did so many other men in the past. Maybe I'm really falling in love with him, a little. That should be a relief to you and Miss Cagney."
Barnabas looked stricken, and turned away. "That is over. She has seen the worst of me. I almost killed HER."
"Oh, JULIA forgave that kind of thing over and again. She even forgave ME. Your Christine, I have reason to suspect, has a tendency toward the same situational ethics as your late wife. This new love WILL find a way. However, the time has come to tell you certain truths. You know the ghost of Carl Collins aided you. This was pre-ordained, in the event you would get in this kind of trouble again."
"The one who deserved least to die at my HANDS. Literally! Except for Christine."
Allarice continued, "The spirit of Jason escaped Hell over a year ago, and found a way into the good graces of the very lonely Adam. When Adam realized what Jason was about, he was murdered. But before he passed over, he, like myself, like your son, had been sent a vision to show him his part in solving the problem his inevitable death would cause. Carl was chosen, partly because of his essential good-heartedness, but also because he had descendants involved in law enforcement, and, due to cosmic forces, involved with others connected to the old days at Collinwood, reincarnated spirits of people who wanted to do the right thing, but were prevented, either by you, or me, or Jason, or others.... That part of the story, I would like Christine and Mary Beth to hear." She went to the door, called over Nurse Craig, and asked her to summon the two policewomen.
In minutes, the Sheriff and her partner, both a little dazed from their abrupt awakening, shuffled in. Christine, however, came wide awake when she saw how much better Barnabas was, and, with a little yelp of joy, rushed to his side. He reached up to embrace her. Then, as if suddenly remembering the events of the dawn, she drew back. "I can't--- can't anymore, Barnabas," she said. "Too much water under the bridge."
"I am not what I was," he protested weakly. "I tried to make the sacrifice. Some well-meaning police officers prevented its consummation."
"You ARE what you WERE--- underneath a veneer of a polished, urbane, well-bred denizen of the EIGHTEENTH CENTURY."
"We are ALL animals under our veneers," Allarice pontificated. "A curse like mine simply brings it closer to the surface. As did the curse on the first Quentin Collins and Chris Jennings. And, surely, you two have dealt with more mundane animals in human form?"
Mary Beth sputtered, "In a manner of speaking, Doctor, but this hurt OUR people in the most PERSONAL ways ANYONE has ever thought up, till now. My family has been threatened by vengeful criminals before, but I can ALMOST understand their motivation--- the Laceys, and the Cagneys, for that matter, don't exist as real people to those crooks. Oh, sure, they know what will HURT us, but they NEVER pretended to have loving feelings, or concern, or considered us as 3-dimensional BEFORE they made their threats and made their attempts. By the same token, I suppose, sometimes WE'VE forgotten their humanity as well, but we have our laws and rules of procedure to keep OUR impulses in check. It isn't perfect, but it works most of the time in the imperfect world WE come from. But this--- THIS! This situation had NO objectivity about it. It WAS all about hatred, real, personal HATRED, LUST, BETRAYAL!!! I'll be asking myself, my whole life long, why THIS? Why US?"
Allarice said, "It is complex and simple. Your souls have taken a spin on the karmic wheel. In a life long ago, you, Mary Beth, were that unhappy Indian grandmother, trying to protect your grand-daughter by killing your own son, the child's father, and leaving your great-grandchild with strangers. There was great guilt connected with that necessary murder of your own child, which had to be expiated. Jason knew so much about it, because HE was the insane son you killed. Amy and Willie were the karmic descendants of the wife and brother-in-law he had mistakenly executed, and still bore animus towards. CHRISTINE, here, was your grand-daughter, and Alice the great-grand-daughter, left to the mercy of the Collinses. Isaac and Barnabas had a certain Puritan stubbornness in common. The poor girl was almost enslaved for life, but was saved by the love of a Collins heir, and her blood passed down to ALL Collinses, including your family."
Christine asked, trembling, "You said--- without words--- that you knew ME from somewhere. I already know about my-- my real father. Jason McGuire."
"Whom I killed," Barnabas sighed. "I am sorry, Christine, but if I should come into contact with him again, I might be very tempted to do the same thing!"
"Don't apologize. He made my mother and my Dad suffer, and made Elizabeth Stoddard suffer, thanks to his early friendship with another of MY cousins, Paul Stoddard.. We'll ALL be safer with him in prison." To Allarice, she said, "But YOU had nothing to do with Jason, he was gone by the time you claim you came back as Cassandra Blair Collins. What is OUR connection? And, for that matter, have you any connection to Mary Beth? Besides the obvious one of having known Harvey's ancestors, and Willie?"
"Yes," Allarice said. "I recognized her right away, though I am rather glad Barnabas did not. In a later life, her soul strayed back into the Collins family, and became the bigoted, witch-hunting, frustrated spinster, his Aunt Abigail!"
"Angelique!" Barnabas remonstrated. "This COULDN'T be Abigail, whom I frightened to death!"
"You almost scared my HARVEY to death," Mary Beth snarled. "You almost killed my Alice! What the HELL did this Abigail do to YOU, that I should deserve to pay for it?"
"She badgered and badgered the authorities to persecute my younger sister's governess, whom she fancied was responsible for what turned out to be ANGELIQUE'S crimes! But I did NOT mean to scare her to DEATH. I had no idea her heart was THAT weak, but perhaps that's why she remained a spinster. I was just trying to convince her--- a bit FORCEFULLY, I admit--- that she had been wrong, that my own curse was NONE of an innocent girl's doing. The law of karma dictated, it seems, that she be re-born into a REAL law enforcer, who operated from knowledge rather than superstition---"
Mary Beth said, "You got THAT pegged right, I wasn't superstitious until I came HERE!"
"But you DID have a strong tinge of Abigail's old self-righteousness," Allarice commented. "However, I commend you. You never used it to hurt people, like SHE did. And you have the things she missed long ago--- a husband, children, a worthy occupation that makes the best use of YOUR talents and inclinations...."
Mary Beth protested, "But you're the SAME witch! He's the SAME vampire--- well, FORMER vampire, but he hurt ME, and MINE, just the same. The only difference is, I've survived, and I really DO have some power now to do something about it, while you two seem to have lost yours."
Barnabas said quietly, "I take full responsibility for my actions, and will take my punishment along with Jason and Amy, if YOU will it so. But I will say this, if NOT for Jason, you WOULD have found your work peaceful, your family safe, your beloved friend happy as I had hoped to make her.... What one learns here, is the degree of connection people can have without being aware of it. The currents that can drive us together. I am not trying to turn your head around, but EVERYONE, as you must know by now, has done things that merit damnation. And what do we do, if we have any trace of conscience? We make it up when we can, the best we can."
"As YOU have, Mary Beth," Allarice said earnestly, "In regard to Christine here. In this life, you have MORE than made it up to each other."
Mary Beth protested, "But I was the Indian grandmother! My grand-daughter jumped from the cliff in spite of everything I must have tried to save her! Then, you tell me, I was some sex-starved old biddy who tried to get some stupid girl hanged, if not burned at a stake!"
"Oh," Christine said. "NOW I know what Allarice-- Angelique--- meant when she once told me how surprised she was to see US work together. And how I felt I knew HER--- someone I tried to make friends with, but she turned on me. I WAS that governess, wasn't I, 'Angelique'?"
"YES! But not Victoria Winters--- she was born in this century, probably around the same time as yourself. She vanished into our time, to take the place of the original victim of the witch hunt. A hapless young lady named Phyllis Wicke. She tried to befriend me. I had contempt for her, though she was a kind-hearted sort of girl, and she had a way of aggravating Abigail, especially when she enthused about some young man or other. First, it was Jeremiah, who took her up on it, until I decided he should steal Barnabas's fiancee Josette. Then, it was a girlish crush on Barnabas himself, who tried to be her advocate at her trial. Naturally, this made ME even MORE jealous!
"Then she fell for her lawyer, Peter Bradford, who broke her out of jail, and somehow she ended up shooting someone who tried to kidnap and murder Barnabas's little cousin Daniel. However, her heroism went unrecognized--- the boy was whisked away by his brother-in-law, Nathan Forbes, who had arranged the near-murder, before Daniel could tell the truth. The boy's cousin, who was Barnabas's father Joshua, immediately seized the child from the in-law he loathed, and sent Daniel away for safety, before he could testify for his rescuer, not that anyone would have believed him by then.
"Vicki took over Phyllis's life, from the moment of her arrival--- dressed in scandalous clothing from 1968, which certainly didn't endear HER to Abigail--- until the moment of hanging, when she was brought back to her own time. I never knew how THAT happened--- someone wanted Vicki to learn the truth about Barnabas, but she never quite did, and she went back in time yet again, to wed Peter Bradford, only to lose her life for good. She jumped off Widow's Hill to avoid being sacrificed by the same cult that later killed Carolyn's father and brother. As for poor foolish Phyllis, nobody knew what had become of HER soul. Until NOW."
Barnabas said, "Now you two know all the things you didn't in your previous lives."
"I---I only believe what I see, or KNOW I saw," Mary Beth stammered. "I KNOW I saw Jason, and Jonah, but so does EVERYBODY now. I KNOW I saw some of the results of whatever happened in that tunnel, but I didn't see everything. I KNOW I saw how David Collins died, know how Job got stabbed, and the other officers bludgeoned, I KNOW what a strange woman Amy is.... I know, moreover, all the mistakes I've made in my life. I know what Christine has done for me, as my partner on the beat, and as a friend. However, I didn't see the processes that brought these things about. If you want me to believe I was your aunt in another century, or an Indian squaw, I don't FEEL them inside of me, like I did my pregnancies. I'm not saying it's impossible--- I've seen a lot so far that I always BELIEVED impossible--- but I think I'd KNOW if I was someone else inside. Maybe I'm a descendant of all these people, like my Harvey was a descendant of Carl, but he ISN'T Carl, and neither is Willie. I really have to think about this. Until then, Barnabas, I AM placing you under arrest. I'm going to get police guards right now. Sorry, Christine, you look like you want to bolt, but bear with it. I doubt the doctor who cured my child will hurt you, and Mr. Collins isn't going anywhere right now."
When Mary Beth had left, Christine said, "We know all the secrets now. Secrets that others have died for."
Barnabas said, "NOBODY is going to die for those secrets, ever again!" He glanced at Allarice, who nodded vigorously.
Christine persisted. "Doesn't that BOTHER you just a little? This will make the national media, and I DON'T mean the National Enquirer, ir the Star or those other bogus papers. The New York Times! Real CNN coverage! You won't be featured on 'Sightings', you'll be the lead story on '60 Minutes'! Bubba in your prison cell will come after you with a mallet and a hawthorn stake, or smuggle in a gun with another silver bullet. Your son's life will be ruined."
Allarice said, "I wonder. The world has come a long way,
and perhaps, for the worse. At least the public outrage, fear, and will to
eradicate evil seemed more SINCERE in 1795. They could FEEL the Devil reaching
out His tentacles to snag them and their loved ones. The modern public may
still reel in shock at a Jeffrey Dahmer, or a Ted
Bundy, but only the victims never forget. The public refuses to admit that THEY
can be tempted to do terrible things. They forget crimes and scandals
quickly, even glosses them over with their prejudices. People will hear
this story and say, 'Well, a bunch of inbred Maine-iacs
played at being vampires, but nobody died except a couple of rich men, and
it was probably their fault anyway'. It's true, they don't know US, don't know what the world lost in David Collins, or even 'Crazy Howard Hughes wanna-be Timothy A. Samwell', but these were not OUR doing."
"I tried to keep Amy from hurting anyone else," Barnabas insisted. "Though it was for MY self-preservation as well, I had spent over 30 years befriending David and his family, and wanted nothing terrible to happen to THEM. I was angry at QUENTIN, and injured Pauline to hurt him, but they both survived, and NOW, I am TRULY glad and relieved. And I will feel sorry for the rest of my life, and maybe beyond, in Hell, or, perhaps during expiation in the Catholic Purgatory."
"Keep up the remorse act, Barnabas, it
will help at your sentencing," Christine said bitterly. "Mary Beth
didn't see you biting Vicki, but I did. And Vicki, I'm sure, saw you do
whatever you did to Alice. If HER brain's not turned to oatmeal by the trauma,
I'm sure we'll have enough to put you, and maybe even Jeremy, in an institution
for the criminally insane, if not prison, for the rest of your days." At
the approach of the police guard, she got up and hurried to the door, but not
before saying, "I can't believe I blinded myself to all the
self-justification and excuses, but I've been a fool for love for 200 years, it
seems. Maybe in my NEXT life, I'll be a nun in a strict cloister. Or a rock on an island."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Willie had sat, also sleeping, next to his daughter in her hospital room. He had been given a painkiller for the bruises on his head and other aches incurred during his tussles in the tunnel. Vicki had been given a small dose of the serum, to stave off whatever effects Jeremy's bite may have had. But she hadn't a chance to get injured nearly as badly as her fiancee and poor Alice, so it was probably superfluous. Willie woke up, rubbing his still-sore head, and saw Maggie sitting beside him, with a tender look on her still-youthful face.
"Thank you again, Willie, for saving my--- our child."
"I'm sorry she got screwed up by Jeremy. I guess they're all over for good, this time. God, it makes me SICK--- what an old curse that we thought was laid to rest and buried, came back to wreck what Julia planned. She must be crying her heart out, wherever her spirit is. And I'm sorry for YOU, Maggie--- I guess this brought the bad old days back for you, too."
"I remember, Willie. I mean, I REMEMBER. Pretty much everything."
"You mean--- Barnabas and all that?"
"Yes. it came back, partly bcause of what Hannah said--- she was kind of posessed by Sarah Collins for a while, then she got sick. Then, I saw the EMT's wheeling in Alice Lacey--- wearing the gown I wore, when I was supposed to be 'Josette'! He was going to do the same thing to HER, wasn't He?"
"Yeah, but we STOPPED Him in time!" Willie protested. "What ARE you going to do about this memory coming back, Maggie?"
"What I should have done, years ago, if I had been ALLOWED to remember, by Julia, then Nicholas Blair! I'll tell the Sheriff, and Miss Cagney. Maybe the statue of limitations is up on MY kidnapping, but it's relevant to Alice's and Vicki's."
"What if I told you that they KNOW?"
"Well, what are they going to DO about it?"
"Well, for starters, they'll throw the book at the guy who was the REAL mastermind--- Jason McGuire--- er, JUNIOR." This was the identity Jason had agreed to use when he was brought to the police station.
"God, I remember Jason SENIOR! What was his SON trying to do?"
"He was avenging his Dad's death, I guess. We found a skeleton." This meant the rather-well-preserved remains of the late Reverend Trask, minus a fingerbone. "No tellin' who killed HIM, though we all can guess WHY. Anyway, THIS Jason killed Adam, he made Barnabas and Jeremy sick, he brainwashed Amy---"
"That STILL doesn't let Barnabas off the hook for what happened to ME, 33 years ago. The OLD Jason surely had nothing to do with THAT!"
Willie was silent. In the meantime, Vicki opened HER eyes, the bright, true-blue eyes she had inherited from him. "Mom," she said, "I was dozing, but I heard some of that. No wonder you didn't want to wear Grandmother Evans's wedding gown! But what's this, you want to tell the world about YOUR kidnapping? Do you KNOW the implications for Dad here? After what happened in that cave with Jeremy and his father, knowing what Barnabas could make his OWN SON do--- I can imagine how it must have been for DAD--- WANTING to help you, WANTING to stop Barnabas, but unable to because of the Infernal Power. Dad was already implicated in that crime, and paid, I think, as heavy a price for it as though he'd been in prison all this time. BUT HE NEVER HAD A TRIAL!"
Maggie said, "I DROPPED the charges."
Vicki argued, "But they MIGHT be able to re-instate them, ESPECIALLY if they also decide to prosecute Dad for whatever his collusion in the latest incident might have been. Mom, MOTHER, I'm BEGGING you, PLEASE try to forgive, even if you can't forget. Dad gave his ALL in that cave, even his BLOOD, for everyone there!"
Maggie thought, Julia, Julia, you were even more conniving than I gave you credit for. In making me the mother of Willie's daughter, you handed me an obligation to protect him. And in doing so, I am helping to protect YOUR son's father, who hurt ME! Checkmated by the mistress of the game! Oh, if only I could ask TONY for advice--- but her heart was suddenly full of pain. He hadn't been available the last few nights, and it had nothing to do with Collins family troubles. Another woman, she just KNEW it. What a fool she'd been, she was just ONE of his women, but she had been SO besotted, grateful to find love AND lust at her age, and distantly hopeful of a future with him. In the end, all she was left with was her precious daughter, her memory of her brief happy years with Sebastian, and the only other man who had always put HER first.... Willie?
Then, she had another memory. Those emerald earrings she had found in her purse at the old cottage she'd shared with her Pop.... She had never learned the identity of the giver, but she remembered how she'd felt the few times she wore them--- loved, IDOLIZED by SOME unknown admirer. It was enough to drive the first real wedge in her relationship with Joe Haskell. Poor Joe, whom, she'd read in last night's paper, had died the other day in far-away New Bedford, but would soon be returned to his family at Eagle Hill cemetery, his parents, his Jennings cousins....
The Collins mausoleum--- NO! She didn't even want to THINK about THAT place. But it brought her back to Willie, former thief, entranced to almost sensual reverie by the sparkle of any gem, who had worked with Barnabas during her imprisonment, but had also tried to comfort her with decent food, extra trinkets for her "Josette" identity, including.... THOSE EARRINGS! HE had stolen them later, from Barnabas, and given them to her, in token of his secret, unworthy love. The love that, under ordinary circumstances, might have created Vicki in a more conventional manner!
As it WAS, after Joe had the earrings appraised ("Over 150 years old, worth $ 30,000!" he had snapped as though it was somehow HER fault someone left nearly-priceless gems practically on HER doorstep!) she HAD, once she'd regained her senses, turned them in to the police. Maggie got the earrings BACK after 30 days. ("That's the law, Miss," the cop on duty had told her with a big smile, "Finders are keepers if no-one reports the loss, nor answers any advertisement of the items!")
The Collinsport police hadn't exactly erected a BILLBOARD announcing their possession of the jewels--- in the case of very valuable items, to prevent casual claims by just ANYONE, the advertisements were so discreet the OWNERS might miss them!) These, she kept in the vault at the bank, until after her sojourn at Collinwood and her wedding to Sebastian. She sold them for $40,000, and started the Evans Gallery. So, in a way, Willie had helped her make a living for herself and Vicki, even though he could barely have supported them himself.
She studied him now. He looked older than his years, yet his face was still kind-looking, his smile still impish, and his eyes, though faded, sometimes had a boyish twinkle, most often when he regarded their daughter, though Maggie HAD caught him, a few times, looking that way at HER in the years since Sebastian's death. He was someone she could always count on, and her daughter as well. His hands, though thickened and coarsened with the rest of his once-wiry frame, were ALWAYS gentle for her and Vicki, even after the terrible times when he'd had to restrain Maggie, under Barnabas's orders, so long ago....
So long ago.... Maggie had been the first Collinsport
woman Willie hit on when he'd arrived with Jason.
Maybe the whole thing WAS Jason's fault, for bringing such a stupid. greedy assistant with him, he'd tried to rob a coffin, but released a vampire instead. Still, here they both were, alive and well, with the fruit of their unlikely union. Maggie loved Vicki, Willie loved Vicki, Vicki loved them both. Willie had loved Maggie, Maggie liked and trusted him enough to hold silent about their terrible experience. Maybe, Maggie reasoned, there WAS sufficient emotional equity to accept the umpteen proposals Willie had made over the years. It would certainly make Vicki happy, and the poor girl would need all the happiness her parents could bestow, after the horrible time with Jeremy, son of Barnabas.
"Okay, Vicki, you win," Maggie said finally. "I won't bring up ancient history about Willie. And I've been thinking.... Maybe we three could start spending some quality time together. You and your father have a lot of catching-up to do--- he was around a lot when you were growing up, but not every day! Willie, you're welcome to drop by our place anytime, and you could come by for dinner whenever you'd like...." She held Willie's hand, gave it a little squeeze, and gazed into his eyes.
"That's--- that's real nice, Maggie. I'd love to spend more time with Vicki. And you, of course. You could fill me in on what I missed, the first steps, the first day of school, the proms, the graduations, whatever. It's nice when a man can finally be friends with his grown-up kid and her mother." Though he spoke kindly, and made the correct response, there was dismissal in his eyes--- the love for Vicki would always be there, but something told Maggie her new hopes would be dashed as well.
Willie kissed his daughter, and rose. "I have a couple more visits to make here, then I think I'll be getting home. I've been up and out, most of 2 days! I haven't done that since way before Vicki was born!"
He headed to the ICU. He hoped he could see
Harvey. He was in luck--- the Sheriff was with Barnabas, who had somehow
survived nearly shriveling back into the skeleton he should have been 200 years
ago. Harvey was awake, and eating little dabs of an
omelet, nibbling at the toast which came
The first thing Willie said was, "I'm sorry---"
Harvey pushed his tray away, and held out his arms, which were once again connected to IV's. Willie came close, and gingerly returned the embrace, while trying to avoid knocking the tubes askew. "Hey," Harvey sobbed, "I'm sorry too. Jason may have had my body, but my mind was still pissed off at you for taking me to see the Mausoleum, and the skeleton, and Barnabas and Amy! So it WAS a little bit of ME trying to smash your skull in. How IS your head?"
Willie said lightly, "Hey, Jason always said I had a thick skull. Maybe it's true. I don't have a concussion or anything, just a bump and a few cuts back there. That's not as big a deal as your HEART."
"Thank the Lord, David Collins apparently kept his heart in shape. Maybe making all those kids, huh?" Harvey winked. Then his face fell. "Still, it's a rotten shame. Such a young kid, by OUR standards."
"I knew him when he WAS a young kid," Willie said. "It's lousy to think my life is like a bookend around the life and death of such a young, healthy guy with so much to live for. Thank God, at least Hallie came through with that baby. 'Roger' she calls it. I hope that makes David's Dad feel less like HE'S a bookend as well."
"What about OUR kids, Willie? I know Alice will be okay--- if she wasn't, I don't think I'd still be here, either."
"Vicki's fine now, but she's worried about ME, and even though she didn't tell her Mom, I think she's worried as Hell about Jeremy, too. You know, Harvey, it wasn't that boy's fault HE went off like that."
"He ran into Amy, too?"
Willie realized that Harvey honestly didn't know the full story--- he had, mercifully, arrived late and only became conscious of the goings-on AFTER Jason had departed. As far as Harvey knew, Barnabas was also somehow a victim of whatever had contaminated Amy, Alice, and Jeremy. "I'm not sure, Harvey," Willie replied finally. "I wasn't there. Mary Beth will probably fill you in."
"Willie, you're evading. But that's okay. I can only take in so much at a time right now. I know you mean well. You saved my daughter as much as Mary Beth and Christine did. And that pretty lady Doc. And Carl Collins. Elliot, and that Johnny kid from New York--- Damn, but he seems familiar, but I can't remember right now." Harvey sighed. "I can't finish this lunch, I feel like sleeping again. You want some? It's probably a little cold, but it isn't too bad for hospital food."
"Maybe I will." Willie took up a spoon from the tray, and ate the tiny omelet ravenously and rapidly. "I'll have to stop in the cafeteria and have something bigger," he said between sips of the rather decent coffee. "Hey, Harvey? When the smoke clears and things settle back to almost normal, and you're better, you think we can fish together again? I remember we were going to make a date, but...."
"Things got away from us, like most of the fish we almost caught. Sure,Willie, whenever Doc Mehta and Doc Lang give the green light, and Mary Beth says it's okay."
Mary Beth came back at that moment of amity. "Harvey, I'm not sure we'll be able to make plans like that. After you recover, and the legal matters are squared away, I want to LEAVE this Hell-hole!" She began to sniffle and sob. "Willie, please leave. I can't deal with YOU right now."
Willie touched her heaving shoulders. At first, she pushed him away, then hugged him. "It's not that I'm not GRATEFUL to you--- as far as I'M concerned, you are off the hook, now and forever, because of what you did for all the kids. It's not what the state law says, it's what the law of the HEART says. But I have to talk to my husband."
Willie headed on down the corridor, to
Barnabas's room. He would have gone in, and told Barnabas he
understood, and would even forgive, but that maybe it would be better if he, Willie, finally left his lifelong employment. However, that Dr. Bertrand--- Angelique!--- was speaking to him. No matter WHAT kind of do-gooder the blonde witch had come back as, Willie knew he'd never feel 100 % safe in her presence.
Maybe I'm being unfair, he thought, but THEY shouldn't be together, Miss CAGNEY should be with Barnabas! Am I right, or am I not, Julia? he thought. A husky, almost masculine, but tender voice in his mind agreed. Oooh, old Harvey must have decked me harder than I thought, Willie mused. It's just wishful thinking, that's all. Not EVERY dead person came back as a ghost, even when it would have been a good idea.
He peeked into Jeremy's room, and saw Quentin sitting with the young man. Good, Willie thought, I can't face Jeremy right now, either. He had forgiven the young man, but that didn't count. Willie felt he wouldn't have the right to befriend the boy he'd helped to raise until VICKI made her peace with her fiance. And it was nice of Quentin to be so helpful, when he'd been absent on Collins business for most of the last 20 years, then spending his time at home shagging poor Pauline, it seemed! In any case, it was good for Jeremy not to be alone.
Finally, Willie arrived at his true destination. He humbly asked permission of the police guards, to enter Amy Jennings's room. She was staring disconsolately at her lunch, while a nurse sat with her. The nurse retreated when Willie wanted to sit nearest the bed. "Hey, Amy," he teased gently, "They have good food in this place. I just finished Harvey's meal. If you don't want yours, I might just relieve you of it."
"Go ahead. Why did you come here, just to pick on me?" she whined. "Bad enough I'll be weaving baskets in Windcliff for a decade, and making license plates in Augusta for another. I have to be TORTURED while I'm still in the hospital?" Tears rolled down her cheeks, REAL tears this time.
"Shush, Amy, I'm sorry. Honest, I am. I was just tryng to make a little joke." Willie patted her bare arm. Then, almost unconsciously, he began to stroke it on the soft underside. Amy looked like she was going to pull away, but changed her mind when she looked into his now-adoring eyes. "I forgive you for what you did to me. I'm not so sure about Harvey, though. But it's like I told you, back when YOU were in that tunnel room. YOU reminded me of ME. And the good part of you came back, like I knew it would."
"You're confused, because something about me reminds you of MAGGIE," Amy sobbed. "But SHE didn't do bad things for Barnabas, nor did she ever make YOU do a bad thing. Nor Harvey. I AM so sorry about what poor Alice went through because of ME. I'm horribly sorry about what I did to David! And Maggie gave you a child. I can't even do THAT--- though it's just as well. They'd take a baby away from me, soon as it was born, in either the nuthouse OR prison."
"That's okay, I have one kid, that's enough. I'm too old to raise a new one. But I guess I'll have grand-kids sooner or later. Maybe if you get time off for good behavior, we can get hitched and we can BOTH enjoy them." Willie took Amy's hand in both of his.
"As if Vicki would let a cop-killer near her children."
"The cops DIDN'T die, they're all getting better."
"I led David into a death-trap, and HE died, all right."
"That wasn't part of your plans! I know you loved him in your own miserable way. Well, maybe he'd have ended up like you were, but there WOULD have been a cure for the both of you. Hell, I know I could have gotten killed in that cottage when I was fixing it up for you, but I forgive you for that, too."
Amy shook her head. "You're missing the point. As usual. But I thank you, anyway. You're the only one who still treats me like a human being--- after what I did to you and Harvey. You know what the head of the school board just called to tell me? Hallie Collins told them to make HEPSEY WOODARD the new acting principal of the high school! I guess she deserves it, she HAD a teaching degree and was working toward her Master's, she just did it a little by little, and worked as a secretary because it was just an 8 to 4 job that left her evenings free, until her kids were old enough to take care of themselves. Now she'll be able to hire nurses to help take care of Job, till he's back on his feet. That's just another reason I was moping when you came in."
Amy laid back on her many pillows. "I guess Hepsey must really hate me, even though she's got my job now. I really did major damage to Job, no matter what kind of patch-up job Dr. Lang did. Yet, just 2 weeks ago, she was really the closest thing I still had to a friend. She was always looking out for me, trying to get me to stop drinking and so forth. She really seemed to understand. And Hallie. She tolerated me, gave me a roof over my head, when she KNEW I still had a thing for her husband. We WERE pretty good friends, once. And I threw it ALL away. God, WHY?"
Willie reached for her, and held her while she cried. "There was something you needed BAD, and couldn't get the way you wanted to, the GOOD way. I was like that once, only WORSE! We both thought Barnabas would give us what WE needed, once he got what HE needed from US! THAT'S one of the reasons, I think, I love you. Yeah, I LOVE you! I really mean it! It doesn't have anything to do with you biting on me. I started feeling for you when I saw what He did to you, but then I remembered you weren't scared of me when you were a kid, the way HALLIE sometimes was. And I felt for you when Chris got killed. I guessed it was because of YOU, and was amazed that some little teenager would have the guts to do what I couldn't. But I was too tied up thinking about Maggie and then Vicki, and you were way too young anyway. You're STILL a lot younger than me, but at our ages NOW, it doesn't seem so ridiculous. Just accept it, Amy. You have a guy here, who knows what you are and what you were, and is willing to sign for the whole package."
Amy pulled away. "I have to think sensibly. This would mess up YOUR life, Willie. What are you going to do? Visit me every Sunday at Windcliff, then through a glass window in the State Pen? You'll be 85 by the time I get out!"
"I wouldn't be so sure. They caught Jason---"
"I still don't understand HOW---"
"I guess even Hell was tired of him. They let him run amuck till he got himself caught. He has to pay off a few debts before he has to go back. But the point is, YOU who THINKS I don't get the point, is that Jason's been singing like a canary, as we used to say back in MY day. He'll be confessing to the Holocaust, the Viet Nam War, the Colombian Drug Cartel, AND killing O.J.'s wife before he's through, and they'll probably buy it. You may get that time off for good behavior a lot sooner than you think." Willie embraced Amy again, and this time, he kissed her on the lips. She surprised herself by kissing him back!
"Sweet William," Amy sighed, resting in Willie's arms. "I mean it THIS time."
"We're two of a kind, honey," he
whispered into her hair.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hallie sat by her sick daughter. The doctors still couldn't put a name to what mysterious illness Hannah Louise suffered, save that it wasn't meningitis or anything else communicable. So the mother had been running between this child, and the nursery to feed the new one.
Elliot and Emily came in. The latter spoke first. "Mom," Emily said, "Marisol brought the other kids here. When they woke up and saw that you still weren't home, and heard that HANNAH is sick, the littlest ones cried and carried on, wanting to see you two and the new baby. What should I do?"
Hallie considered. "I guess I'd better attend to them," she said at last. "Hannah's condition is stable, but I can only leave her for a few minutes. Elliot, you sit here, and make sure I hear if there's been any change, for better--- or worse." She left with her eldest daughter, stopping by the nursery to make a temporary withdrawal of baby Roger, so she could show him to the rest of his siblings.
Elliot held his little sister's hand. He was happy when she opened her eyes and seemed to know him, but his heart sank when she spoke. "Cousin Daniel," Hannah said weakly, but with a smile, "I'm glad you came to keep me company. My chest hurts so much, I'm 'fraid I'll stop breathing."
The boy tried to talk sense into her. "Hannah, please, it's me, your BROTHER. Elliot. And you DON'T have pneumonia. Maybe a stress-related breakdown, and perhaps a cold from being out half the night, but you'll get better in a day or so. You're having a waking dream. You'd get better if you just went to sleep."
"Oh, Daniel, don't tease me about the things I see in my dreams. Wonderful things, like the stories Miss Winters told us, like horseless carriages and big, cold, humming boxes to put food in, and aero machines and camera obscuras that have real pictures and sound. But also terrible things, like getting sick enough to die, people falling from the cliffs, and ladies having babies on the floor, and Barnabas.... My brother. Hurting young ladies and getting their blood on his face. And YOU.... marrying my best friend Harriet, and then getting mad enough at her to push her off Widow's Hill someday.... A lot of it was in Miss Winters's book, but some things.... I just KNOW them."
Elliot explained patiently, "That's because Sarah Collins died 200 years ago, and if she came back as a ghost like Father once claimed, she's seen a LOT of secret scandals since then. She just didn't understand them. But YOU are going to grow up, Hannah, and you will have what poor little Sarah missed. Including the understanding."
Hannah gazed into his eyes. "Will I get married, too?" she asked. "I know Papa wanted me to marry YOU. But I got you to kiss Harriet, and I KNEW you loved HER, not me."
Elliot's eyes misted. "Of COURSE I
loved--- LOVE you, munchkin. But, NEVER in THAT way!
I CAN'T, I'm your BROTHER. Elliot Jamison Collins! And I love a girl named Alice---"
"MY Brother is Barnabas Isaac Collins!" the girl protested. "He went away soon after Poor Uncle Jeremiah died. Well, that's what they SAID. He came back, you know. I think it was because of my birthday, so I went out to look, in the cold rain. SNOW wouldn't have been so cold, but rain is all it did that winter. I SAW Barnabas, bad as he was. Now, I want to see him, 'cause I'm REALLY sick, and I have to tell him I understand now, and I'll forgive him. Please, Daniel, get Ben to fetch my brother for me. Just don't tell Mama and your big sister. Millicent gets scared seeing dust kittens, and Mama would just be really sad."
At this, the little girl's face turned bright crimson, and she became hotter than before, tossing and turning. Elliot called out the door for doctors, nurses, ANYBODY, to help!
Dr. Heard was the first physician to arrive. Elliot hastily explained the genesis of the current situation, leaving out that Hannah thought she was a ghost. "She's hallucinating," the boy said. "I think she must have heard that Barnabas is in here, and when her fever spiked, she started raving about needing to see him."
"I'm not sure that's possible at this time," the doctor said, though he sounded sympathetic. "Mr. Collins is hooked up to many machines full of serum and blood and other medicines and nutrients. And, for some reason, the Sheriff considers him under ARREST! I don't understand it, I thought it was all that McGuire fellow's doing."
"Well, let's ask Sheriff Lacey if we can bring HANNAH to Barnabas."
The doctor shook his head. "This child is in such a state right now, I fear she may go into convulsions, even organ failure---"
"Listen Doctor, I don't know WHY my sister is this way. She's never been close to Barnabas at all, but if seeing him helps her in any way, shape, or form, shouldn't we give it a shot?"
"And what if seeing him scares her and makes her WORSE?"
"Look, just go ask my mother, ask the Sheriff, PLEASE."
Dr.Heard sent a nurse to lay the matter before Hallie, and went to get Mary Beth himself.
Mary Beth was still sniffling, after her dispute with Harvey. "I KNOW you're still sick, honey," she'd said, "and it will take a month or two before you're ready to go anywhere, then I guess I'll have to appoint an acting Sheriff--- if JOB was okay, he'd have been my first pick, but now I'm stuck choosing between Twomey and Rooney. Not a choice I WANT to make! Then, we'll have to sell the house, uproot Alice again---"
"Uproot her, and transplant her--- and US--- WHERE, Mary Beth? You can't go back to your old job, and we're too old to settle back in the city."
"How do YOU know I can't go back to the job?"
"It was CREATED for you by Christine, wasn't it? You think that new D.A. is going to be as accommodating as Feldberg? You RETIRED from it, so it's ceased to exist. And you can't go back to the old 14th. Except maybe for Commissioner Petrie and Lieutenant Isbiecki, it's a whole new generation of cops out there, even the women."
"Well, Harvey, I COULD become a private eye or a security consultant, or anything related to police work. Or we could live on my pension, your IRAs, and our Social Security."
"SURE we can--- in a HOMELESS SHELTER!
Unless you want to crowd my poor brother and sister-in-law out of their condo! And what about college for Alice, heh?
And, Christ, Mary Beth, what about ME? I admit, I wasn't too crazy about the idea of living here to begin
with, and all the shit we've been through in the past 2 weeks almost proved me
right. But, damn it--- after we went through SO MUCH with these people in such
a short time, I feel like I belong here. It's like the pioneers on the
a bunch of strangers who had to learn to depend on each other through all kinds of weather, traveling through deserts, forests, mountains, rivers, fighting Indians, outlaws, and whoever else go in their way. Those people formed a BOND, and when they finally settled someplace, it was like a FAMILY. Like these Collinses here. Are you going to deny ME, and ALICE, and MIKE, and maybe even Harvey Junior if he ever shows up here, the right to know their relatives?"
Mary Beth shook her head. "Harv, must I remind YOU, there was once a group of pioneer families who stuck together through thick and thin in the wilderness, and ended up EATING each other? You know, the DONNER PARTY?"
"That's because they didn't know what they were getting into!" Harvey argued. "Well, WE didn't, either, but we made it through the pass okay. A little worse for wear and tear---"
Mary Beth ticked off the list of casualties. "The man who hired me, YOUR cousin, dead. Three of my best cops, just off the critical list, but with months of recuperation ahead of them. You, my husband, ditto. My partner's potential husband, implicated in unspeakable crimes. His son, ditto. A Collins cousin, ditto. My daughter, a victim of a VAMPIRE, an we have NO clue as to the long-term effects, either of her injuries, or even the medicine used to cure her. Your cousin's daughter, almost killed as well. Harvey, I'm pleading and begging and I'll even GROVEL if you want! We got along just fine all our lives without knowing this branch of YOUR family! We'll get along just fine, and so will they, if we LEAVE them!"
"Please, Mary Beth, I really AM too tired for this--- I was just going to sleep when you came in an chased Willie out. If you want to quit this job, there's nothing I can do to stop you. But if you want to LEAVE Collinsport, maybe you should go back and lie down and sleep on it. Like I am." In a minute, Harvey was snoring away.
Mary Beth was wiping the angry tears from her face when Dr. Heard arrived. He saw Harvey was sleeping, and pulled the Sheriff from the room. He explained the situation with Hannah and Barnabas.
"I don't think bringing those two together is a good idea," Mary Beth said. "The kid will get a flashback to whatever Barn--- the original Barnabas did to scare his sister, and end up like Sarah Collins, dead on her 11th birthday."
Hallie came running towards them with baby Roger clutched to her shoulder. "Please, Mary Beth. We can't get Barnabas to Hannah's room. And a closed-circuit TV isn't going to cut it, though if you don't give consent to a face-to-face meeting, I will authorize it, but I don't think this 'ghost of Sarah' comprehends television and modern technology. I know you're probably thinking I'm hysterical, and you're right, I AM! You know WE'RE not a typical rich family who has children just to keep the money in the family, then lets nannies and boarding schools take over ALL our responsiblities! Sure, we have some help, but not a lot, considering, and though we'll send the children to school if it's best for them, it's not banishment until they're over 21! That's why I brought my son home, why I kept Hannah close to me, and the little ones.... Why I'm breastfeeding THIS baby, when I could just as easily hand him to a nurse with a bottle.... YOU, who helped me and my baby, you who almost lost your OWN daughter, should understand how hard it would be for me to lose ANY of my children!"
Mary Beth pleaded, "But what about the threat that seeing Barnabas could bring back whatever terrible trauma killed the original Sarah? Hannah is obviously EXTREMELY sensitive--- she sees your dead 'Mrs. Johnson', she's probably as smart as your Elliot as far as knowing the family history, she's probably so wound up in this character, she may feel OBLIGATED to die the other child's death!"
Hallie replied, "THIS Barnabas is an elderly man, not a hale 30-year-old like that portrait. Whatever he may have done, it WAS because of this evil Jason person. I've no doubt my David would have concurred--- he used to tell me stories of the first Jason, and Roger expressed some opinions about him that would make your ears curl! The point is, as far as HANNAH knows, the present Barnabas is what he's always been--- a gentle old man, a little distant, but always concerned with his family. We haven't had a chance to tell her anything else, so I'm hoping my little girl can break through whatever shock her ghostly friend might experience, and bring both back to a reality they can cope with until Hannah, at least, is old enough to comprehend the truth."
Mary Beth sighed, "Well--- DO IT, then, if YOU think there's no other way."
Hannah's entire bed and her IV tree were slowly and laboriously brought down from Pediatrics to the ICU area. Allarice Bertrand saw them coming first, guessed immediately at the purpose of the invasion, and beat a hasty retreat. There was NO telling how "Sarah" would react if she saw the former sister-in-law who'd brought her family so much grief and had inadvertantly caused her own untimely death back in 1796. BARNABAS, after all, hadn't KILLED the child--- it was seeing the effects of the curse, realizing that the blood on her beloved brother's lips was connected to stories the poor child had heard about attacks on the dock whores and even people SHE knew. The Hannah Collins of 2000 might have a veneer of sophistication due to her exposure to modern media, but she was still an innocent child who had been overwhelmed by her father's arrest and death, as well as the frightening experiences on Widow's Hill and seeing her mother give birth under less-than-deal circumstances.
Still, there WAS something Allarice could do for the child, something she, as Angelique, had done when she'd made Sarah sick in order to extort marriage with Barnabas as the price of a cure. She ran down to the hospital pharmacy.
Barnabas looked up with dismay at the bed containing Hannah. Hallie and Elliot quickly explained. His heart sank. Maybe he could still fob off his relatives with the same tired story of being a descendant of the "original Barnabas", but Hannah / Sarah KNEW. Still, he had no choice, but to try. He sat up, looked as benign as possible, took Hannah's hot, flaccid hand, and spoke briskly.
"Sarah, it is I, your 'brother'. Barnabas. I've been WANTING to see you again."
Hannah opened her dark eyes, very much like Sarah's, only the latter had ebony hair to match. Hannah's golden ringlets cascaded on her pillow. "H'llo, Barnabas," she whispered weakly. "They said you were gone to England."
"Indeed, I WAS there, dear heart." Barnabas struggled to remember what he'd read to Sarah about happenings in the mother country back then. "I saw the Prince Regent in London. He has a beautiful baby daughter now, with big dark eyes like yours. Her name is Charlotte, and they say someday, she will be Queen of England, all on her own, without having to marry a king. But I'm sure she'll marry a handsome prince someday. As YOU surely will. A prince, or the next best thing, since America has no princes like England."
"Were they mad at you 'cause you're American and Papa fought in the War of Independence, and is building ships for our Navy?"
"I made sure I didn't mention it," he said with a smile. "I was just sight-seeing, you know, like I did just before YOU were born. Perhaps we can go back there together. When you're well, of course."
"Did Angelique go, too?"
"Of course, sweet child, she's my wife. I have to tell you a secret though. I think she's going to have a baby. A little nephew or niece--- perhaps both! For YOU, and you're still young enough to play with them."
"Barnabas, that's all very nice, but it's a LIE!" Hannah sat up, and was very red in the face. "You NEVER went away! Angelique went away on her own, somewhere, because she was mad that you still liked Josette, even though poor Uncle Jeremiah only just died--- was SHOT. YOU did THAT! And I CAUGHT you, in the mausoleum, with all that NASTY blood on your face! I didn't know why THEN, but I guess I know NOW!" She recited a Sunday-school doggerel.
" 'That evil is wicked, is well understood. The wicked are punished, so you must be good.' YOU taught me that, an' I had to remind you once, when you were going to hurt---"
Barnabas swiftly moved in his bed, and reached for the little girl's shoulders. "Sarah, Sarah, I KNOW what you are talking about. But I am NOT the same Barnabas YOU knew. After you passed on, Barnabas DID go to England, and the baby--- TWO babies-- were born, and they later came to visit the family here in 1840. The second Barnabas's son came to Collinsport, in 1897. I am HIS grandson. I know all the terrible things that happened, and I carry the guilt and punishment for the Barnabas YOU knew. You can see, I am an old man, like your Papa when he died. The last time you saw your brother, how old was he?"
"He turned 30 just before Josette and Angelique and that cranky old countess came to live with us."
"I am over TWICE that. Sarah, you, too, have changed. You are living in a little blonde girl named Hannah Collins. She's good as gold, and brave, and very bright, the way I-- I mean, your BROTHER, had hoped YOU would be. And I have a son, a grown-up now, from Julia--- you remember, you spoke to her, and to Maggie, or so I've heard. Maggie is fine, she and Willie--- you remember how sad he used to be--- THEY have a fine daughter. You can see that everything is DIFFERENT than you probably remember it. So many years have gone by, so many sorrows...."
"All the people who loved you were supposed to die."
"Everyone dies, Sarah, whether sooner or later, and it usually has nothing to do with whom they love. You died too young, but you ARE alive again, and with God's help I hope for many, many years to come. As is the spirit of your brother, whom you see in me. I HAVE had a long life, and maybe soon it will be over."
"Then you'll go back to the casket? The empty one in the mausoleum?"
Barnabas looked stricken at this, but said, "I wouldn't want a good casket to go to waste, and I have a place next to my wife, and near YOU. But you won't be there, sweetheart. You'll be out here, living the life you should have had. Schools, parties, love, a family, an interesting job, if you'd like.... Even the bad things that will come, but you'll learn to deal with them, and become strong. Hannah is strong. Her love is strong too. That was the strongest thing about YOU, Sarah. It killed you, but it later helped others to survive, including myself. Hannah helped others to live, too. But you have to stick with Mrs. Johnson. She is your best guide, as she has been Hannah's."
"Okay...." This distinctly modern phrase was not lost on the group in the hospital room, though Barnabas knew his sister must have heard it countless times since she'd first appeared to David in 1967. Still, it wasn't a word Sarah had ever been known to use, herself.
Barnabas urged, "To whom am I now speaking, Sarah--- or Hannah?"
Hannah had drooped back on her pillow. She had suddenly become very tired. "I dunno. I think I'm Hannah," she muttered. "I wanna stay, but somethin's pullin' Sarah---"
"It CAN'T be McGuire," Mary Beth whispered. "He's a walking Act of Contrition, and he's just human now--- in a jail cell miles from here."
Hannah looked toward the empty doorway, and
smiled. "Miss Winters--- I haven't seen you in SO
Mary Beth said, "We can clear this up--- Get Miss Cagney! I don't know WHERE she's run off to, but that Phyllis person is inside her---" Elliot was off like a shot. He had an idea where Christine might be.
He found her in the chapel, a makeshift affair, with collapsible non-denominational altar and anonymous stained-glass windows, that could be converted to use, in the event of an emergency, as an extra room in the small hospital. He dragged her to the ICU, saying, "Here's why Phyllis Wicke had to come back!"
On the way, they met Allarice, who handed them a small cup filled with crushed pills. "This is the equivalent of a cure I made for Sarah back in 1795," she explained. "Fill it with hot water, and get her to drink it."
Christine eyed the mixture suspiciously. "This is on the level?"
"I made the choice you wanted in the tunnel room, didn't I?"
"You did what BARNABAS wanted."
"He wanted what YOU wanted, so it amounts to the same thing! The serum WORKED didn't it? This is FAR simpler. Hannah is re-living the result of something I did to Sarah 205 years ago. This will knock out the fever unlike anything the hospital has offered. I can't face the child. If she recognizes me she WILL be frightened to death. Let Dr. Heard administer the cure."
Christine and Elliot came into the room. They gave the medication to Dr. Heard, who, at his wit's end with this case, would have accepted a dancing voodoo shamann and his potions. He went to fill the cup with warm water, and handed it back to Christine.
She walked slowly to Hannah's bed. She glanced nervously at the man she'd left in anger just a short time before, but Barnabas's expression and manner only reflected concern for the sick girl. I have to be Phyllis now, Christine thought. What would SHE have done? "Sarah," she whispered softly. "Do you know me?"
Hannah looked her over, uncertain. Then she said, "Oh. OH. NOW I remember. You were supposed to be my governess. I saw your carriage overturn, and you were walking towards the house, but when my brother answered the door, there was Miss Winters."
"Yes, well.... In another life, another memory that you REALLY have, I WAS your governess. In the effort to show Miss Winters how you lived in 1795, you made history screw up somehow. Now Miss Winters is lost, and I have been found. I really miss the times we had together." But, what kind of times? Christine thought desperately.
"Well," the child whispered, "I THINK you told me a big secret, that Aunt Abigail was never, ever to know. It was on a Sunday, when the servants were supposed to go to church. You said you weren't well, and she chided you, but you told me later, it was because---"
Christine took a wild guess. Please God, let this be it! "Because--- I'm Catholic, that's why I couldn't go to a Protestant church?"
Hannah / Sarah smiled. " 'Zackly! Aunt Abigail didn't know you were Cath'lic when you were hired. She just assumed you were Protestant, 'cause you'd been with so many other Protestant families. She REALLY would have thought you a witch much earlier, if that was the case. She said Papists were devils, she even disliked Josette, the Countess, and Angelique because they had BEEN Cath'lics, but were willing to convert. Yet, you taught me a couple of prayers in LATIN, which my parents and Barnabas wanted me to learn, anyway! Say one."
"Only if you drink this medicine." Christine held the cup to Hannah's lips, and tripped over her parochial school prayers. "Ave Maria, gratia plena, Domine est...."
Hannah ceased to drink for a moment. "You're getting it wrong."
"Finish, and THEN tell me. It's been a couple of centuries, you know!"
Hannah, mercifully, drank to the dregs, before she rattled off a word-perfect "Ave", "Patria Nostre", and threw in part of the "Credo" for good measure. Her face lost its redness, and when she appeared drowsy this time, nobody quaked in fear at the implications. Christine had one last thing to say to her. "Sarah, remember how much your Aunt Abigail didn't like Catholics? Well, guess what, she came back as one!" Mary Beth turned red at that sally, but was grateful that Christine didn't throw in that she had only attended Protestant churches with Harvey and the family, since that time in Puerto Rico.
"Good," the child mumbled. She turned to Barnabas. "An' Barnabas.... This is the last time I'll talk to you like a sister. I un'nerstan' everything now. I love you."
"I love you, too, little one. I promise I will stay closer to Hannah in the future, as long as I can, as I should have.... And perhaps Miss Wicke here will consider---?"
Christine said," I have to think it over." Preferably, she thought, back home in New York, away from this unbelievable place, this unbelievable man.
After Hannah was safely asleep, and returned to her room, Christine went outside the hospital to smoke. She hadn't done it for a long time, but always kept the last pack of Marlboroughs her father had owned. Over the years, she had rationed them to herself in times of extraordinary stress, in lieu of taking a drink. Now, there were only five left. Soon, she was joined by Mary Beth, who had also abstained except when under extreme pressure. Christine offered her friend a cigarette, and in a minute, the two were amiably puffing away on the stairs.
"I think I'll just save the absolute last one to display in my casket after I pass," Christine said. "I'll leave it in my will. Brian will just fall over when he has to bury such a valuable antique. Antique pack of cancer sticks, that is." She laughed mirthlessly. "Our family heirloom, along with Charlie's last bottle of Irish whiskey. Well, Brian's family heirloom, anyway. I should only get the buttons from McGuire's coat, that's all I'M entitled to."
"Christine," Mary Beth said, "You know, there's still a chance McGuire might be mistaken about being your father. There's only one way to find out. Get a blood sample from McGuire, from yourself, and tissue samples from your folks, and send them to GenScan. McGuire is being SO co-operative, he'll probably let you have a pound of flesh to make extra sure."
Chrstine almost dropped her precious cigarette, which she had been dragging on slowly to savor it. "But--but I CAN'T desecrate my parents' graves!" she sputtered. "And BRIAN would have a heart attack if I suggested such a thing!"
"Christine, you said yourself that Brian probably remembered McGuire from the time before you were born. He may have had his own suspicions, but kept them to himself, out of love for you, your mother, and even Charlie. He's a pretty reasonable guy, but you know he'd do almost anything for you. I really don't think this is so unreasonable."
"Maybe not, maybe not.... I'll give him a buzz when I get back home. Which, Mary Beth, will probably be tomorrow. I need a day to unwind before I get back to the grind. And YOU need a breather, now that all the old debts are paid."
"I want a PERMANENT breather! I told Harvey I want to QUIT! I'd go anywhere.... But he's stubborn. says he wants to be near HIS people. This will be news to CARL. His brother Carl, I mean."
"Mary Beth, I don't think you should give this up. Life will be back to normal soon. Normal as it can be for Collinsport, anyway."
"What, are you NUTS, Christine? It's easy for YOU to say, you were always going to go back to your old life anyway, Barnabas or NO Barnabas----" Mary Beth silenced herself abruptly when she saw her friend's tears, which were dowsing her cigarette. "I'm sorry, I know it'll take you a good long time to get over him, but you've done it before." The sheriff wound her arm around her partner's heaving shoulders.
"It's not LIKE before," the blonde woman protested. "I MEANT it when I said I would love him forever. Hell, I'm 57 years old. I finally learned, there DOES come a time when you either find the right one, or you give it up for the last leg of your journey to the 'finish line.' He WAS the right one, but it was the WRONG time, and I will be going it alone for the rest of my days. TRULY alone, no more futzing around! I won't be working on the widowers at the convalescent home when we're 80, Mary Beth, if that's what you're worried about. Besides, you arrested Barnabas. It wouldn't do for a special investigator in the Manhattan D.A.'s office to have a relationship with a man who WILL be spending the balance of his life in prison, or the asylum."
Mary Beth took two long drags on her cigarette, before she replied. "I'm going to drop the charges. NOTHING will be gained by keeping that peculiar old man in the slammer, any more than it would have done to lock up your old friend Albert Grand. Just from a practical standpoint.... Imagine the difficulty of trying Barnabas! First, his attorney-- and I'm sure he'd hire the best--- would insist on a change of venue. Imagine getting a pool of jurors from outside this area, who would BELIEVE some of the charges, and some of what we've been told are the FACTS! Any other Judge but Frank Garner would probably laugh his ASS off before throwing the whole thing out!
"And a host of witnesses, some of whom were drugged or hypnotized by persons unknown, or under the influence of another person who thought she was a vampire in the style of Charles Manson--- a doctor who's the reincarnation of a witch, a detective who died 15 years ago and came back to life---! And I'm going to give your beau the benefit of considering his ultimate choices. If Alice had DIED, or remained sick, that would have been one thing, but Barnabas WAS willing to sacrifice his chances at life and freedom, to save her and the others, and almost DID lose them!. There are just some questions the law, as we understand it, isn't designed to handle.
"Remember, years ago, when Isbecki was getting dope for his dying mother? She passed away before we would have had to lower the boom, but Victor NEVER did ANYTHING like that again. We backed the right horse by keeping mum and waiting it out until the situation resolved itself, which, fortunately for Victor, happened pretty quickly. Though, understandably, HE didn't see it QUITE that way for a long time. But it WAS a good example of how desperation CAN drive basically good people to do outrageous things they wouldn't ordinarily do. Barnabas WAS a decent guy when that curse let him alone. He and that poor son of his will probably live out pretty lonely lives from here on out in that big white mausoleum they call home.
"Jason's taking the rap for everything in sight--- well, LET him! Barnabas has paid HIS debts, I just didn't really FEEL it until a few minutes ago. Imagine, the suffering of losing everyone you ever cared for, just because you made one dumb-assed mistake with the wrong person? And centuries of sin and repentance! I THINK I know SOMETHING about how that works! Barnabas almost made it to the home stretch, until Jason mucked it up. The way he almost mucked up OUR efforts to make up for OUR sins, mortal and venial. Maybe that's the REAL message of what we all went through."
Christine grinned. "And YOU want to LEAVE Collinsport? You sound like a true Maine-iac already. The late Sheriff Patterson would be proud."
Mary Beth ground the butt of the Marlborough beneath her heel. "I don't know, maybe Harvey IS right. This place has gotten to ME, too. Imagine, a place where the lion CAN truly lie down with the lamb, without a meat-eating thought in his head! Maybe there's a place here for YOU, too, Christine."
Her partner replied, "I have a couple of years to go before I can retire with a full, glorious pension for all my years of servitude to a flawed justice system, which I've seen from both sides now, as the song goes. After that.... Well, that's what I have to go home for, to make a clear-headed decision."
Mary Beth reached out and rubbed Christine's shoulder. "Well, if you decide to come back, you know we'll always have room for you. You ARE one of the family."
"Actually, I AM, if you think about it. Though not on the Collins side, but now we're ALL related through Carolyn Peterson." Christine took a last soggy puff from her Marlborough, and mused, "You know, Mary Beth, I wonder if, way before you were my Indian grandma, or the bigoted spinster who helped get me hung, we really WERE sisters, maybe back in Greece or Rome? Sisters who had a terrible falling-out and needed about 15 centuries to work our way back to each other? Sisters, like Rachel and Leah in the Bible, fighting over the same man, or our children, or taking different sides in a war.... Something SIMPLE that got out of hand and snagged the line of history SO badly, this is what it took to finally untangle it?"
The Sheriff answered, "Well, you know what I was REALLY afraid of, when Allarice was telling us those stories of our past lives? It had something to do with something Elliot told me, about a rich woman who was so unhappy, she drank to relieve the stress, and, I'd guess, probably didn't get along with Aunt Abigail too well, and loved Barnabas so much, she died when she found out the truth about him.... I thought she was going to say that you were the reincarnation of Barnabas's MOTHER. Naomi Collins!"
Christine smiled wanly. "That WOULD have
been the perfect bit of irony, wouldn't it? The laws of karma don't seem to
respect human rules for relationships. In a way, it's all very pragmatic and
unsentimental. Whatever gets the job of righting the balance done, whether it's
falling in love with your mother, or, say, two sisters being born into a couple
of Sapphic lovers and then back into a pair of contented straights. But maybe I
WILL return one day, and spend the time researching the Collins family history,
visiting the cemetery--- in the DAYLIGHT!--- and REALLY digging up some dirt on
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Quentin caught Willie hugging and kissing Amy. As usual, he didn't find an amorous display especially shocking, though he wondered why Willie would choose another former vampire to devote himself to, one who was, moreover, in serious criminal trouble, rather than make things legal with Maggie, who was, it seemed, available once more. Quentin DID wonder how Barnabas would deal with his former servant's late-life switch in loyalty, but at least it forever disproved any doubt about Willie's orientation--- Amy was, if possible, even PRETTIER and more feminine than she had been since her youth. That serum must have had some kick to it, better than just a dusty old portrait!
Still, it was also customary for Quentin to make an entrance designed to disrupt the proceedings in a manner that amused HIM, and he couldn't resist the temptation. "Willie Loomis, you cad!" he announced in a tone of paternal exasperation. "Unhand Miss Jennings immediately! I DON'T think this scandalous behavior should be permitted by the authorities!"
One of the policemen on duty, who had also been watching the show from the doorway, said, "It doesn't bother US, as long as he doesn't try to help her escape. In fact, she's calmed down a lot since he's been in there talking to her, and so forth. As long as they don't do the 'wild thing', he's making OUR jobs EASIER!"
This leering attitude DID make Quentin question the respectability and moral authority of police for the millionth time in his long life, but there was something comforting about the acceptance of this behavior by a small town cop. Amy DID look happier, and would probably, due to her desire to unite with her "true love" (!) before the latter was in his dotage, be all the more co-operative, in order to win as short a sentence as was allowable by law, and tolerable by the public's standards.
Willie, irritated, said, "Please, DON'T talk like that about my fiancee!"
His FIANCEE! Oh, brother, Quentin thought. Oh, brother CARL, indeed--- responsible for bring a little more inbreeding into the family, though it seemed unlikely that the couple before him would ever produce a future heir. An HEIR! THEN, Quentin suddenly remembered--- Willie still had to choose an HEIR to his share of Adam's estate. Much as he loved and pitied his great-grand-daughter, Quentin hoped that wouldn't be AMY! He had to get the besotted Loomis away from her charms ASAP, to discuss the situation!
"Er, Willie, I'm sure the officer was just issuing a cautionary note here. Anyway, there's something I need to talk to you about. Let's get a nurse back in here and let Amy rest, eh?"
The newly-affianced couple parted reluctantly. Amy sighed, "When will you be back, Sweet William?" (Quentin nearly GAGGED at that one!)
"Oh, probably around dinner time. But I'll bring my OWN stuff to eat. I still have a trout in the freezer from last week, and I figure I'd better cook it up, since nobody will be around to eat it for a while, otherwise. I got a little work to do at home before I take a nap, anyway, dusting and stuff." Willie gave Amy a long kiss, as though he wouldn't be seeing her for another 6 YEARS, rather than 6 HOURS.
"A husband who COOKS! And keeps HOUSE! Talk about a feminist's fantasy," Amy said with a sly smile.
Willie whispered, "Well, 'mature' as I am, I can still do other things that are MORE fun to fantasize about."
Quentin hurried out of the room before he heard any more. When Willie joined him, the latter was red-faced and a little out of breath. "You'd better take it slow with that over-eager old maiden in there, 'Sweet William'," the older man advised. "She'll KILL you on your first conjugal visit!"
"Hey, there ARE worse ways to die," Willie panted, "and I've seen a few of them in my life. But I want you to know, Quentin, I AM serious about Amy, and I'll take good care of her in EVERY way, if I get the chance."
"I don't doubt you will," Quentin said sympathetically. "But that brings me to something you may have forgotten in all the excitement of the last 2 weeks. Have you given ANY thought to Adam's legacy?"
Wille said, defensively, "I KNOW what you're thinking, Quentin. No, I'm NOT going to sign it over to Amy, though I guess she COULD use a better lawyer than Tony Peterson. And Vicki has her own share of the pot--- she might even OBJECT if I tried to give her more. She's that kind of girl. But I COUL:D take a page out of Adam's own book. He helped the family of that deputy he crippled. I'm thinking, I could divide my money up, and give some shares to the families of the cops Amy injured, and maybe send a nice check to that Candy Cane girl for a wedding gift."
"That's a very noble thought, Willie, one I'm sure will not only be appreciated for its own sake, but also might help public opinion in Amy's and Barnabas's situations, though I KNOW you haven't such a cynical bone in your body. Any other candidates for your largesse?"
"Yeah, but I'm going to tell THEM, personally, before anyone else."
Quentin smiled knowingly. "I THINK I know who you mean. Excellent choice, and I believe it will give the parties an incentive to stick with our team. But, you know, Willie, such a generous gesture shouldn't go unrewarded. I mean, you, yourself, can't keep any of the money. So, in recognition of your many selfless actions in the past 33 years, and the fact that you are my great-grand-nephew, and that you're going to marry my great-grand-daughter sooner or later, and that you'll probably have to leave Barnabas's employ, I want to appoint YOU as MY personal assistant, with light duties, yet with full benefits of insurance and pension, and a place to live where we can BOTH look after Amy."
Willie protested, "But we can't live at Collinwood--- the Big House. YOU can't hang around Pauline any more, and AMY certainly won't be welcome, after what she did to poor David. And it's gonna be a while before I can face Barnabas and Jeremy again."
"I'm still a Collins, we BOTH are, and we can still live ON the property, in such a manner as to have minimal contact with the rest of the family. You recall the old Georgian mansion near the ocean, at the north end of the estate?"
Willie was shocked. "SEAVIEW? But that place is broken-down, and what's more, I think there was some kind of legal reason nobody was ever able to use it, since the owner died back in in the 1800's. I remember, because the FIRST Vicki, Winters, that was, wanted it as a home for when she married poor Burke Devlin. Mrs. Stoddard told them both that Caleb Collins, who was some kind of hermit, put it in his will that nobody could live in there until 100 years after his death, but that, as soon as the will was up, she'd see to it that they would get it. But that was over 30 years ago!"
Quentin replied, "Well, my Cousin Caleb died 2 years after I was born, 1872, so that proviso has been a dead issue since 1972. I'm sure Hallie and Carolyn won't mind my taking the derelict building off their hands and off THEIR insurance bill. And as for Seaview's dilapidation, I remember my older brother Edward's saying that building was built quite soundly, in order to resist hurricanes and other storms, and that it MIGHT just last the 100 years until the will was up. I think we'll have sufficient resources to restore it. Perhaps you and Harvey might enjoy consulting on the project, since he has experience in construction, and YOU have experience in restoration. Yet, NEITHER of you will ever have to lift a FINGER if you don't feel up to it--- I'll have a professional team under your supervision. How does THAT proposition sound, future great-grandson-in-law?"
"If Harvey stays in town and agrees, and
Amy likes the idea, then I'M pumped, too, Quentin."
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
End of a long, long day.... Visiting hours were nearly over, and the police guards that had stood sentry at Barnabas's hospital doorway had vanished just hours after they had been assigned. Now, his only companion was a young male nurse who sat by, reading a book, and who checked the monitors and fluid supply every hour on the hour, per Dr. Lang's orders. Barnabas himself, calmed and drowsy after ingesting a sleeping aid, was nearly out, himself, when one last, reluctant knock at the partly-closed door roused him anew.
The nurse, Campbell, pushed the door open, and said to the person outside, "Hold on a minute." He whispered to Barnabas, who, though astonished, nodded in consent to the visit. Campbell agreed to sit outside for the duration.
In a moment, Maggie Evans Shaw stood before her long-ago captor and later, would-be lover. "It's been a long time, Barnabas," she said evenly and softly, in the almost-musical voice she'd always had, the voice so like Josette's, over 200 years ago. "Amazing, isn't it, how we can live in the same small town, how your late wife was my daughter's God-mother, how our children practically grew up together and were engaged, how you've actually ordered paintings from my gallery, and yet we two haven't spent more than 10 minutes alone together since Julia died 15 years ago."
"I suppose you've come to tell me you now know WHY this had to be so, why you instinctively avoided me, as I knowingly avoided YOU over the years, once you had left Collinwood and married Sebastian."
"Yes. I remembered all of it, when I went to the Old House and saw my Vicki, and Alice--- ESPECIALLY Alice. Good God, Barnabas, you even had her wearing the same wretched gown! The only nice thing I can say is that dress will probably be packed away forever in a storage room at the police station, in a dusty box marked 'Evidence'."
"So what are you planning to do now, Maggie? You ARE entitled to revenge, and retribution for what I did to you."
"I have already promised my daughter and her father that I will not mention that matter any further, for WILLIE'S sake. But I DID take YOU into consideration, as Julia probably foresaw that I might have to. Over the years, you DID try to make up for what you did to me, I KNOW you did come to love me for myself, even though I turned to Quentin and then, Sebastian, whom I married. You supported that decision. And I've since heard reports of your behavior in the tunnel--- I remember passing by that room, and nearly getting cornered there!--- that you DID help everyone once it was clear that Jason McGuire was to blame. However, I DO blame you for whatever you did to influence Jeremy to mistreat my daughter. I really LOVED that young man, too, as much as Willie did--- it was as if he'd been created specifically for my daughter, and she, for him. Like YOU felt about US, once, but THIS time, everything seemed to be RIGHT."
Barnabas hung his head. "I am not going to insult your intelligence by pretending THAT part was Jason's doing, though I've no doubt he rejoiced that I would, in my vampiric vanity, end up destroying my own beloved son. And I HAVE. Jeremy resigned from the hospital, and will turn in his license to practice medicine, just a year after he earned it!. JULIA managed to hang on to both positions, but my son harkens back to a more innocent, honest ancestress. His aunt, Sarah Collins, who saved YOU and so many others.
“I don't know what he will do with his life now. I haven't had a chance to talk to him. After he was released from the hospital this afternoon, he was questioned by the Sheriff, but she let him go about the same time she dropped the charges against me. I doubt he will see me. I will probably sign over his inheritance to him, and hopefully, he can take it elsewhere and make some kind of useful life for himself, without the shadow of his parents' crimes hanging over him. And he WON'T disturb Vicki again, of that I'm almost positive."
"Well, Barnabas, that's going to be a problem. In spite of everything that's happened, I WANT him to see Vicki again."
"What? I DON'T understand, Maggie! He hurt your child, though I'm sure he's very sorry about it, but why should a mother want someone like that seeing her daughter again?"
"Partly because I know she still loves him, though, under other circumstances, she might eventually get over him. However, it seems that our children have been a LOT closer than we were aware of. We just got the results of some tests.... Vicki is pregnant, and I have NO doubt about Jeremy's paternity."
"I have no doubt of it either. I have no doubt that, when he hears of it, he will offer to marry her at once, but the implications, Maggie.... The child might inherit this problem. The marriage, already tainted by their previous troubles, might become a terrible battlefield as a result. Vicki might lose her own position, if she's married to a disgraced former physician. I don't know what to tell you. Once, I might have been as happy as yourself at this news, but now---"
Maggie's face became set and stubborn. "I don't think the child will be afflicted by ANYTHING, though it was probably a mistake to give Vicki that medication. We won't know until a a month goes by, and they can start pre-natal testing. YOUR son was normal, because he was conceived when YOU were normal, I'm convinced of that. MY daughter was normal, because she was conceived long after Willie and I had recovered from your-- er--disease. I'd bet on the child being normal as well, IF the serum didn't do any damage to it so early in its development. The doctors are not certain just yet about when the current pregnancy started--- Vicki happened to get a super-sensitive new test that picks up HCG traces in the blood within 2 weeks. In a month or so, they can do an ultrasound AND a physical exam to determine fetal age, but now, it's too early for either. However, We HAVE to hope for the best, and Jeremy MUST see Vicki."
"Well," Barnabas sighed, "he won't come here at MY behest. I would have to say that WILLIE is the best choice to find my boy and bring him around. Even when Jeremy was at his WORST, Willie knew he wasn't responsible for the way I made him behave. He also knows the places Jeremy is most likely to go in his sorrow and despair. But I wonder, now, whether, in his anger at ME, and possible disgust with Jeremy for getting Vicki into this condition, he would WANT to help us find my son."
"He was still expressing regret at the kids' estrangement while sitting WITH Vicki and myself earlier. Oh, HE'LL do it, all right. I'll call him ASAP--- Wait!" Maggie saw a movement outside the door. "I think it's Willie out there right now! I wonder why he came back to the hospital at THIS hour! I hope it isn't because something's happened with the Laceys!" She got up and ran out the door. Sure enough, she saw Willie, who looked very cheerful and was even whistling, waiting by the elevators. She made it just as he was about to step into one. "Willie--- Please. You have to talk to Barnabas, right now!"
"I don't get it," Willie replied a little angrily. "Since when are you His friend all of a sudden? You lose your honey Tony, you strike out with ME, so now you're latching onto the guy who started all your troubles for you? Furthermore, Barnabas and Miss Cagney aren't through with each other yet, no matter WHAT either one of them says right now, and anyway, I have a new job and a new LIFE to go to, so it's none of my business any more."
Maggie snapped, "I don't know what's gotten into you since this morning, Willie, but I WASN'T kissing up to your former MASTER. Something serious has come up with Vicki---"
NOW Willie's attitude changed. "Oh, oh my God! I can't BELIEVE I was visiting in this hospital the last 2 hours, and nobody tried to find me! What happened, Maggie? Did she get sick from those bites, or the medicine, after all? And why tell BARNABAS?"
"Because he has, shall we say, a COMPELLING INTEREST! Why were you IN this hospital, if NOT to visit Vicki?" Maggie demanded. "I thought you were TIRED! Is something wrong with Harvey or Alice?"
Willie turned beet-red. "Well, no, and I'm sorry I didn't check in with you and Vicki again, but.... Well, I have a new lady friend here that I was visiting. It's kind of hush-hush, but---"
"Never mind that, you can tell me LATER. Let's go see Barnabas."
When they had explained the situation to Willie, he said, "Jesus--- this had better not have started last week, when he bit on her the FIRST time, or the baby might REALLY be born with the sickness!"
Maggie said, "It HAD to be earlier than THAT, Willie. According to Vicki, this was an almost weekly event. But she needs to tell Jeremy, and they have to decide their next move, together."
Willie replied, "Well, this ISN'T the way I HOPED they'd get back together, but if it's the only way, I'll try to find him."
"I thank you for my son, Willie," Barnabas said quietly.
"You know how I feel about Jeremy, Barnabas. I WAS gonna wait until he and Vicki made peace on their own before I forgave him. I might even forgive YOU again, if it all works out. But I have to tell you now, I won't be working for you any more. Quentin made me a good offer. I'll be a sport and help you train another houseman, but beyond that, the ONLY loyalties I have left are for Jeremy, and the memory of Julia."
"I consider myself fortunate to have retained that much of your good will after what I put ALL of you through, Willie." Barnabas sank back on his pillows, and sighed. "Just find my child and heal the wounds I gave him."
Willie drove immediately to Eagle Hill. Mercifully, this night was fog-free. He saw Jeremy's pale Passat parked by the gate, almost glowing in the moonlight, and ran directly to the Mausoleum between the silver-tinged weeds. Jeremy sat on his mother's tomb, staring silently at her nameplate on the wall. When Willie approached him, he turned around and made a scratchy sound, as though he had cried so much, his vocal cords had been stretched to the limit. Just as silently, Willie sat next to the younger man and drew his head to his sturdy shoulder, as he'd done the day Julia died.
"I wish I was dead, too," Jeremy said in a hoarse whisper. "I wanted to slash my throat where father bit me, but I didn't have the nerve."
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Willie said. "I know what He did to you, he did the same to me. But for some stupid reason, worthless as MY life was up till then, I just wanted to ESCAPE, not DIE--- unless it was necessary to save someone, like Maggie, or David, or Vicki Winters. Now, I'd give my life for our Vicki, and YOU, and the Laceys. And I almost DID! But, other than that, worthless as my life still IS, I want to LIVE. And so do YOU, because no matter HOW rotten everything is at the moment, there's something inside you that wants to see how everything will turn out. And YOU'RE still young, and smart, and rich, and you went to college.... So, maybe you don't think you can be a doctor any more, maybe they won't LET you be a doctor anymore, but THINK, Jeremy! You DIDN'T get arrested for what happened, you're gonna recover from what your father did, you're still very young, and you'll find something to make an honest living at. People WILL forget, and even if they don't do that here, there's a whole WORLD out there that's never even heard of you, and might be able to use your knowledge, your talents. That's more than I ever had, and yet, even I got a new job."
"That's-- that's nice for you, Willie. I
know father will miss you in his own way, and so will I
but--- I ruined the best part of my life. I guess I'm not as smart as my father, or my MOTHER here, who managed to hang onto her career, her life, AND her love."
"Believe me, Jeremy, it was all an upward struggle for Julia. She was once as dedicated to making people well as YOU were. How she felt about Barnabas, though, scrambled her brains somewhat, made her forget--- what do you call 'em?--- ETHICS. But she must have had to make a LOT of shady little deals to keep up in medical school and her career, because in those days, a woman who wanted to have a man's job was stuck playing by a man's rules. So she was probably USED to compromising herself. YOU never had to develop that armor, Jeremy. Barnabas and Julia didn't make a mistake bringing you into the world, but they made a mistake when they made separate plans on how to tell you the truth, which HAD to be done. Julia thought further ahead than Barnabas, but they wanted to protect you so much they didn't come up with a united front. She left you some papers and books, without giving you her viewpoint, or your father's, on the meaning of it all, and you thought it would never come to pass, so you kept it to yourself. And you felt you could do that, without even sharing it with the woman you loved, my daughter. Maybe this whole thing could have been avoided---"
Jeremy said, "It doesn't matter anymore. Vicki learned the truth the hard way, and that's all over. I'm surprised you can even stand to be near me. Hell, YOU broke me away from biting her! I almost bit YOU! I guess I can take my clean police record and my degree across the country, but I'm tainted now. I can NEVER get emotionally involved with ANY woman from here on out, after what happened with Vicki. How could I explain Father? Or any of the Collins history?"
"I had the same problem once, Jeremy. There was a beautiful girl I was really in love with, years ago, before your folks got married, and after Maggie pretty much turned me down. I met Roxanne when I had another job out of town. I was just bringing her around to introduce her before we went on to New York to get married, but Barnabas and Julia were in some kind of trouble with some other supernatural crap. Maggie was involved, and I couldn't bring myself to leave HER, either. So, rather than getting my girl mixed up with the truth of my life, I let her go. I've had days when I wondered how terrible it would have been to let Roxanne in on our secrets, the way the Laceys and Miss Cagney finally did, but she wasn't a cop who could defend herself like Mary Beth and Christine. It would have been like putting another Maggie, or another Vicki, or another Alice, into danger. But now, OUR Vicki knows everything. She's smart, too, and VERY understanding. And she still loves you, no matter what you've done. Like your Mom loved your Dad."
Jeremy shook his head. "Well, perhaps it's true, but I love HER too much to go back to her. I'll wreck her life. If she stays with me, it will be WRONG. SICK, even. Vicki has a good career ahead of her, and she's so wonderful I'm sure she'll have NO trouble finding another man, a GOOD man, who doesn't have a VAMPIRE for a father, nor a host of werewolves and witches for relatives!"
"You also got ME, and the Laceys," Willie pointed out. "We're ordinary folks who also happen to be your relatives, too. And Carolyn and Pauline.... They're pretty normal. Hallie's tribe, ditto. Your mother was a regular person, you have that blood inside you. And your grandparents and your aunt, even if they died 200 years ago, they WERE decent people. Your DAD was a decent man. He's BEEN a decent man the last 30 years. I think he's back to being decent, NOW. But that's not the issue. Vicki IS. You HAVE to see her. I WANT you to, and so does Maggie. And your FATHER, too."
"Are you sure? What's the urgency? Why not wait a couple of days, until both of us have had some time to think things over? Maybe I'll even be ready to see my father again, by then."
"You just told me that you wanted to slash your throat! Do you think, for a minute, that I'd let the son of the woman who gave me my own daughter, be ALONE while he's feeling like that? Do you think I'd let my daughter's heart be broken when she hears that her love, the father of HER child, killed himself?"
Jeremy sprang to attention. "What did
you say? Vicki is PREGNANT? Oh, oh, my God, it's too late.
I bit her, the baby will be a vampire too."
"NO, it WON'T." Willie hoped he sounded convincing, though he wasn't entirely convinced himself. Still, hope was all they had. "You weren't really a vampire when you bit her the FIRST time, and I doubt you had a chance to inject your spit when I broke the two of you apart the SECOND time. If you had really chewed on her, pushing you away would have torn her throat open! In any case, they can do all kinds of tests when Vicki's a little further along. It seems they can't do too much right now. The pregnancy is less than a month old. We're a little worried because she had that medicine, but Lang will have to monitor it."
"Okay, okay. I'll go back with you, Willie. I'll try to make things up to Vicki, and marry her, if she'll have me. If not, or if she loses the ba--- pregnancy, or it has to be terminated, I'll support her and her decision. What else is there to do? She's been a part of me, almost since she was born. And as for Father.... How did HE take this news, Willie?"
"He was worried as YOU are, now. But NOT pissed off at the circumstances. After having had YOU, this would be the greatest thing that could happen for him. And Maggie, too." This would, no doubt, help make up for her late disappointments. "And I would certainly be thrilled. Why, I was just telling someone today, how much I was looking forward to having grandkids, sooner or later. It's not the order in which I'd have wanted, but sooner might be better than later, as long as the baby turns out healthy."
As they headed toward their cars, Willie, who
had imagined Julia weeping for her husband and son, now
believed her mourning must have ceased. I can't live with them, anymore, Julia,
he thought, but I did the right thing by ALL of them.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
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