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LUCILLE AND THE HEALERS
ANTHONY J D BURNS
Copyright © 2011, Anthony J D Burns Anthony J D Burns has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the Author of this work. First published by Mushroom eBooks in 2011. This Edition published in 2011 by Mushroom eBooks, an imprint of Mushroom Publishing, Bath, BA1 4EB, United Kingdom www.mushroom-ebooks.com All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. ISBN 9781843198581
I II III IV V VI VII
Stowaway........................................................................................... 1 The Lodger...................................................................................... 19 The Research Team ....................................................................... 34 Body and Soul................................................................................. 51 Taphophobia .................................................................................. 70 Sanctuary......................................................................................... 90 Facts of Afterlife........................................................................... 110
VIII Side Effects.................................................................................... 130 IX X XI XII Weak Links ................................................................................... 148 The Ones You Love ..................................................................... 167 The C.O......................................................................................... 189 Final Remission............................................................................ 209
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
A few hours ago, the two men loitering at the Royal Victoria Dock had been subject to considerable curiosity. Their drab, near-identical clothing — both of them sporting brown trench coats and matching trilby hats — suggested the possibility that they were plainclothes detectives. On the other hand, the heavy leather satchels they carried, not to mention their twitchy air of nervousness, made the conclusion that they were not-veryconfident burglars seem more likely. Some bets had even been taken, but the passage of time, not to mention the almost offensive dullness of the figures, had taken effect, and to most of the dockworkers they had now become as natural and uninteresting a feature of the background as the loading-cranes, the rusty barges, and the murky waters of the Thames. The loiterers themselves, however, were becoming more agitated with each passing second, and less cautious in their whispering. If any passing docker had still
been curious enough, he might have heard the following without taking any great effort to eavesdrop: “Damn Yank ship ought to’ve been in ages ago,” declared the younger of the two, glaring almost accusingly at his watch. “It’ll be past sunset by the time it puts in, if it ever does. What the ’ell are we goin’ to do then?” “We do our job, lad,” answered his colleague, with rather forced calm. “This is your first field euthanasia, I suppose?” “Yeah, and I ’adn’t expected I’d be doin’ it in the dead of night. If that blasted boat had come in on time—” “We’d have ’ad an easy time of it, sure. Still, nothin’ like a baptism of fire, eh lad?” he commented, with an unreassuring smirk. “Just think: if you survive tonight—” “It ain’t funny, you old—” “Keep a civil tongue, boy. Dunno what you’re so jumpy for, anyhow. You got your Winchester, ’aven’t you?” “Yeah,” he answered, grasping for the sawed-off shotgun beneath his coat. “But that’s goin’ to be a fat lot of good if we have to deal with it after nightfall, ain’t it?” “Well, we’ve got the rest of the gear,” the senior man reminded him, hefting his satchel. “Ways and means, lad. Ways and means.” “And what if it’s expecting us, and gets the jump on us first?” “Bloody ray of sunshine, you are. The Ligeia ’asn’t reported no trouble, so that means it can’t have been feedin’ off the crew, or they’d have sent out an SOS. Can’t have ’ad more than a nibble, at any rate. So it’s got to be weak by now, right?”
the bloody ship’s sunk in the Channel. not to mention bleedin’ ravenous. See what he’s got to say. You got any change. And what if she puts in after midnight? Didn’t the lady who gave us the briefing say they get stronger then.” “God willing. but to these observers it was an evil omen indeed. remember? Special orders to search her for smuggled goods soon as she comes in. you stupid son of—” “Oh. Be discreet. not to mention a carrier that knew full well it was being hunted. he had never before been required to perform field euthanasia upon a fully active carrier. now gloriously dappled with rosy tints that the failing sunlight had painted across the vast canvas of London’s air pollution. Got your official papers?” “’Course I ’ave. never mind whether or not they’ve been feedin’?” “We got hours till midnight.“Right. and even the older man could not suppress a pang of nauseous dread. and in spite of his show of confidence. It was a fit subject for Monet. d’you think? No awkward questions?” 3 . Meantime. you can chase up the harbourmaster. In all his days as a Healer. mind. passing a few coins to his associate. We’re customs men. lad? I reckon I’ll call Radlett HQ — see if they’ve got any news on it. “It’ll be alright with the harbourmaster. the youngster had a point. and the senior Healer could not help sympathising with his next wish: “With any luck. Coward though he was. you want to bet it can’t take that much longer?” They both looked to the skyline.” he answered.
see?” “That so? And why would coppers be passin’ themselves off as customs men. and ’ow d’you work that out.. “but I’ve been hard at it all bloody day and if I don’t get some beer down me throat in the next five minutes I’m liable to bite 4 . You owe me half a crown. Security. Means they’re coppers. then?” “Prob’ly. then.” “Or not. that’s how.. and they’re waitin’ to pick him up before he gets loose in the country. When they were both out of earshot. Bill. Well.” ordered the senior Healer.” “Poor lookout for the country if you’re not talkin’ a load of old rubbish. not very confidently. who set off in search of a telephone box whilst his assistant made for the warehouses. Getting aboard her’s goin’ to be the easy part. “Yeah. gazing down-river upon a panorama that remained stubbornly free of American merchant vessels. without commitment. Maybe some foreign spy stowed away on the Ligeia. like. “It might be some hush-hush bit of business. a docker who had been unloading a nearby barge turned to his workmate and gave him his short but concise interpretation of the curious scene: “Right. as the case may be. so I win the bet.“Don’t fret. let’s be about it. or are you pretendin’ you didn’t hear that bit?” “Well. or so I heard. sure enough. Engine trouble.. at Tilbury docks.” quipped the younger healer. The Ligeia stopped early.” “Oh.” he replied. then?” “One of ’em said ‘Home Office’. mate.” he answered. Major Drayton’s put the fix in at the Home Office.” “Did it? Oughtn’t we to have told ’em.. trust me.
” **** As the evening wore on into night. I’d have said that Lulu got what was coming to her. though. 5 . “It wasn’t bad. a crowd of patrons filed out of the Empire Cinema and onto Leicester Square. Bill — I’ll stand you a round. Give me the pick of any country to be an outcast in. the film had left many of the watchers cold.” “You’re not goin’ to pay up. Can’t really say I felt much pity for such a loose woman.. in her latest film.” “You read too much. They had just been watching Hollywood’s Louise Brooks — the current glamorous idol of many thousand starryeyed teenage girls and at least as many hopelessly infatuated men — being stabbed to death in a squalid attic by Jack the Ripper.” declared one bowler-hatted city gent to his equally respectable-looking companion. Pandora’s Box. like what the Ancient Mariner did. and very uncertain what to make of it. “Tell you what. all things considered.” “Might do. mate. Pretty little parasite though she was. “Well. If he ain’t just your fantasy then I say good luck to the poor sod. and I sure as hell wouldn’t be putting this one anywhere near the top of me list.me own arm and start drinkin’ the blood. In spite of all this glamour and violence. then we can drink to your foreign spy.. slightly forlorn.” “You thought so?” replied his friend. but at least I don’t read no rubbish about foreign spies ’n’ the like. are you?” asked Bill. “Downright dismal ending.
with a faintly creepy slyness that the girl still did not find as repulsive as his friend’s self-righteousness. “Right. She had also got rather carried away in dusting down the shine of her cheap rayon stockings. her all-too-obvious social inferiority did not discourage her from looking upon the respectable gent with intense disdain.Something wrong. though it did not exactly coordinate with her battered old brown mackintosh. giving the impression that she had been wading through flour. straight and not unlike a German Stahlhelm — but the cut was rather uneven.” she replied. and turned back to his companion. Her pale skin shone out in contrast to her garish and clumsily-applied make-up. and all-tooobviously a fashion victim. I think you’d hardly call me a prude—” 6 .” replied the other man. Its source was a sixteen year-old girl. Interesting subject. Miss?” he asked. Now. contemptuous glare that had just been fired in his direction. such a look as one might reserve for an ardent supporter of baby-eating as a solution for overpopulation. Her dark hair was cut in a voguish style — short. However. emerald-green flapper dress was at least beyond reproach. the man decided it would be safer to take her at her word. thank you. in response to the seething. Her short. focusing as much malice into that little pleasantry as a fascist dictator might have required for an entire speech. low-waisted. “I’m fine. Confused as to what exactly his crime had been. “Anyway. where were we?” “Loose women.
since she was there by her own merits and not by the payment of the tuition fees which her mother certainly could not have afforded. This is not to suggest for a moment that Lucille was shallow. much less stupid. but I hardly think you’d compare me with a woman like that Lulu character. however.“Safe to say I definitely wouldn’t. seemed almost a blasphemy against the screen goddess herself. two years beyond the normal leaving age. a certain sense of personal affront was inescapable. Poor Lulu’s was ruined for her. indeed? thought the girl. Cyril. after the thrill of fury had passed. and since Lucille (as the girl — Lucy Kitson — preferred to be known. If that isn’t poetic justice. Moments later. she wondered at herself for having taken it so personally. Well I’d like to see how you’d have turned out if you’d been born into a filthy attic. had fallen foul of artillery 7 . until she finally meets a lover who puts a knife in her. I don’t recall anyone forcing those horrible men to ruin their lives. having long since decided that her given name had no place in the Jazz Age) had spent the last two years painstakingly copying the style of Louise Brooks as far as her scarce means would allow. going through lovers like a lion through a herd of antelopes. while the two gents drifted off across the Square.” “Indeed.. And now you mention it.. Captain Thomas Kitson. I don’t know what is. Her father. An insult against a Louise Brooks character. as malevolently as one can. just using the men who fall in love with her. was proof against that notion. The fact that she was sixteen and still at school.” Don’t you. with nothing but your looks to survive on.
fire at the Battle of the Somme, and for as long as she could remember, her surviving parent had encouraged Lucille and her sister to read, write, add, subtract, sew, and sketch as if their lives depended upon it, which was depressingly close to the truth. The state pension for an infantry captain’s widow was nothing great, and although Mrs. Kitson took in lodgers to help make ends meet, and both of her daughters earned a few shillings for assisting Miss Provine after school and helping her to teach some of the younger girls — experience they would need before going to college to train for their own teaching certificates — they were not a well-off family. They were not quite desperate, although in hard times, such as when lodgers were scarce, they had flirted with desperation, and the dream of seeing both of her daughters qualified to earn a respectable, independent living was Mrs Kitson’s greatest comfort. That dream was now becoming a reality: Eleanor, now eighteen, would be heading for Avery Hill Teaching College this very summer, in expectation of doing very well indeed. It was rather a lot for Lucille to live up to, although truth be told she did not quite share her sister’s enthusiasm. She had resigned herself to this fate mainly out of the grim knowledge that she was unlikely ever to follow in Louise Brook’s footsteps and be accepted into a major New York dance company. There were fragments of shattered china ornaments to testify to that, the result of her attempts to practice the Charleston and the Shimmy in the limited floor-space of their living room. All the same, she was not
resigned to a glamour-free existence, and put a lot of effort into fighting against that dire possibility. Although she was unable to afford the latest Chanel dresses, she collected patterns and made her own: an activity which her mother allowed was at least constructive, although she did not share her daughter’s admiration for the waifish and in her opinion unfeminine look of flappers in general and of Miss Brooks in particular. Lucille’s pearls were the cheapest of cheap imitations, but the chances of someone casting an expert jeweller’s eye over them in the darkened picture-houses and jazz clubs she frequented seemed pretty slim. Make-up, on the other hand, was a real problem: not because of what it cost, although that was of no great help, but because her mother had an intense, old-fashioned prejudice against the stuff, and had moreover discovered all of Lucille’s hiding-places with the sole exception of the loose floorboard under the bedside table, and that could only be a matter of time. Cigarettes presented her with much the same problem, not that Lucille even enjoyed smoking, but a long cigaretteholder was the essential sidearm of any flapper worthy of the title, and for Lucille to have been brandishing an empty holder would have just looked silly. Had she been openly rebellious, and indifferent to the feelings of others, keeping up this lifestyle might have presented fewer problems, but such was not the case. It was her narrow prospects for which she had no love, rather than the people who, in all kindness, had arranged them. They, for their part, had not lost faith in Lucy Kitson, though they preferred not to think too much about Lucille.
Miss Provine, headmistress of St. Clarimonde’s, was weary with telling her that if she could only refrain from daydreaming with every other thought, she might even surpass the accomplishments of her sister. She had the creativity and the intelligence, and it was a great pity that she chose to channel all of that into such frivolous pursuits. Lucille, however, had nothing to do with frivolity: she took her escape-routes deadly seriously. The cinema was her temple, and the silver screen the altar before which she could find it in herself to believe that life had beauty and meaning, and the human race had inner nobility and was not just an absurd and rather unpleasant accident of evolution. In spite of the difficulty Lucille had in relating to such everyday characters as that pompous Lulu-hating gentleman, Miss Provine, or — sad and shameful as it was to admit it — her family, she could instantly identify with such “people” as the man-eating yet vulnerable Lulu, the lovesick, vengeful mad scientist from “Metropolis”, or the Phantom of the Opera, condemned to be feared and hated for no better reason than his deformed face (so wonderfully hideous, as she recalled, that the only ones in the picturehouse who did not scream at the sight of it were the ones who had been too busy fainting). She did not identify quite so strongly with the “good guys” of cinema, whom she felt were not only less interesting than the “villains” and “loose women”, but also seemed to suffer a lot less. Would the gallant and handsome Raoul de Chagny, for example, have been such a model hero had he been born with the corpse-like face of the Phantom? She had her doubts. Besides which, it was
only natural that she should feel more for the outsiders, considering her own frustration that she had been born into the grimy little brick hell of Stepney instead of the glitzy paradise of Manhattan, or Berlin. Still, if she could not hope to escape the place physically, she would take every opportunity to do so in her imagination. Tonight’s escaping, however, had been more costly than usual. The East End picture-houses had (cruelly and shamefully) not been screening Pandora’s Box, and having paid the fare into town and the high ticket-price at the Empire, her purse was feeling even lighter than usual. Time was also wearing on, and back home there was an essay on the French Revolution in a depressingly unwritten condition. Perhaps it would be best to call it a night, she thought, walking in the direction of Piccadilly Circus where she could catch a bus or a tram, and avoid straining her dwindling finances with the cost of a cab fare. It seemed a shame to end Saturday night so abruptly, but needs must, and at least her mother would be glad to see her home at a reasonable hour (for once, on this particularly contentious day of the week). On Coventry Street she was overtaken by a group of young people, some about her age, some a little older. They all looked slightly more prosperous than her, although the girls, in their knee-length shift dresses and cloche hats, had much the same air of economy models of Louise Brooks. The boys, in their pinstriped tuxedos and fedoras, appeared to be a not-very-threatening mob of Chicago gangsters who had left their Tommy-guns at home. As they passed by, she caught the eye of one of the
girls, whom she recognised. Vera Alcott had been one year her senior at St. Clarimonde’s, leaving at fourteen to become a typist in some legal firm. She had, since then, married one of the firm’s associate members, who did not, to the best of Lucille’s knowledge, appear to be among the Al Capone lookalikes in the group. Vera had never been a particularly close friend of hers — being, as she was, effortlessly popular and infuriatingly pretty — but they were on polite terms, meeting occasionally in circumstances such as this. “Hi, sweetie!” declared Vera, as brightly as if she had been greeting some dear relation who had been lost at sea for ten years rather than a casual acquaintance she had bumped into in Charing Cross Road only a fortnight ago. “Long time no see! The Wicked Witch still keeping you hard at it?” This obscure mythological reference was to the longsuffering Miss Provine, and — whatever her differences with the headmistress — Lucille was forced to consider that it did not do her justice by a long shot. In the interests of friendship, however, she kept her reply simple and affirmative. “Oh, absolutely, darling. How’s Stuart?” “Hard at it as well, poor baby. But we’re off to Paris next week. A change of scene’s the best... Anything the matter, Luce?” she asked, noticing her former school-friend wince in obvious pain. “Bit of a headache,” replied Lucille, extracting her fingernails from her palms (into which she had suddenly and involuntarily sunk them). “Long film.”
“Well, you’d better shake it off quickly, sweetie. Abe Lyman’s playing at the Kit-Kat tonight, and I don’t suppose he’ll ask the band to wait for your head to quieten down.” “Coupl’a Bloody Marys’ll see that right,” slurred one of the fedora-topped men, sounding very much as if he, if anybody, ought to know. “I don’t know, really,” protested Lucille, though in the weakest sense. “Perhaps I’d better just—” “Oh, don’t be a wet blanket, Luce,” urged Vera, not quite unkindly. “This might be the last I see of you for months. Stuart’s business might drag on for simply ages, and I don’t suppose I’ll have much to do in the meantime. Still, if he gets the partnership after all, he’s promised to take me for a proper holiday in Berlin. Isn’t that just the bee’s knees? I... Oh, copacetic, sweetie,” she rapturously exclaimed. “You’ve decided to come after all.” With gritted teeth and very sore palms, Lucille joined the party. Just for a few minutes, she thought, as they set off for Haymarket. Maybe half an hour. It’s only around the corner, after all, and it wouldn’t be polite to just refuse. Her inner voice was now sounding so pathetically unconvincing that she was only too glad of the opportunity to enter into the small talk when someone was finally considerate enough to aim some in her direction. Before long, however, all uncomfortable thoughts were drowned in a mixture of jazz music, cigarette smoke, and the cocktail which Vera’s slurring, swaying, altogether “splifficated” friend had pressed upon her, although how he had managed to order it in his condition would have to
remain one of life’s mysteries. The huge amount of alcohol consumed by the club’s patrons — of which hers represented a tiny percentage — at least made sure that her dancing was no worse than anyone else’s, and in spite of the trivial conversation and the fact that she hardly knew anyone there, she was actually beginning to enjoy herself. But how much longer could she afford? She stole a glance at her dancing-partner’s watch: past eleven already. Even if she started back now, both her mother and Eleanor would be in bed by the time she arrived. Might as well not disappoint everyone, then. Another hour won’t hurt... any more. With that almost-comforting reflection, she returned to her shimmying.
North of London, overlooking the village of Radlett from a wooded slope, stood Serapion Abbey. From the time of King Henry VIII until the reign of Queen Victoria, the medieval abbey had been an empty ruin. Then, a successful city stockbroker had bought it, hired an architect with a fevered imagination to “restore” it, and thus ended up with a looming mass of gothic arches and fairytale turrets that resembled the old Norman building about as much as it did the Statue of Liberty. When the stockbroker was later obliged to move to less ostentatious premises (namely Pentonville Prison), Serapion Abbey had been placed on the market. It was now the property of the War Office, though they did not use it for official government business. For, in the eyes of the public, the department codenamed “Firebreak” did not exist, and its Healers, researchers, and support staff, down
to the janitors and tea-ladies, were sworn to absolute secrecy under pain of severe punishments. Furthermore, they all knew that their boss would take a grim delight in enforcing them. Major Miles Drayton, thirty-eight and in peak condition, had not volunteered for this unglamorous, unrewarding assignment. He would much sooner have been with his regiment in British-occupied Iraq. Regrettably, his overenthusiastic tactics in combating the Arab nationalists, to say nothing of their wives and children, had forced his quick, face-saving transfer. Since the War Office did not particularly want those gruesome events exposed to the media, he had graciously been allowed this “second chance” instead of a court-martial. He made the best of a bad lot, however, and the very same night that Lucille was fishing for excuses to extend her visit to the Kit-Kat Club, Major Drayton was giving an unfortunate pair of Healers the tongue-lashing of their lives, although only down the telephone line. What awaited them when they returned...? Well, no doubt something would come to mind, if he gave his boiling anger a chance to coalesce into solid ideas. “Lazy incompetents!” he spat into the receiver. “If I’d had this information earlier, we might have acted on it. But no. Thanks to your stupidity, that damned creature’s now loose in this country. I trust that your conscience is punishing you, but don’t worry if it’s not — I shall certainly make up for it. Report back here at once!” At this, he slammed down the receiver and looked up at the tall, middle-aged woman in the long white coat and round spectacles who had entered his office unannounced. For
they do seem to be creatures of instinct. “Well isn’t that rather fanciful. you mark—” “Never mind the Healers. It’s the ship I wanted to talk about. “What the hell do you want. and leave me in peace to deal with this fiasco?” “I take it you mean the Ligeia? I heard the news.anyone else in the abbey. however. but Ruth Goldstein — Firebreak’s head of research — was the one colleague with whom Drayton felt compelled to relate on very nearly equal terms. The chances of her breaking down by herself—” “You’re suggesting sabotage?” he asked. perhaps. this action would have been career suicide.” “So I gather. Those cowardly idiots reported it to you first. Not that he addressed her with anything that might have been mistaken for politeness. I was informed that engine trouble caused her to stop at Tilbury. that ship was fully serviced before she left New York. Commander. It might be purely psychological trauma. Ruth? Oughtn’t you to be in bed by now. I’ll cure them of that delusion. although their brains show no evidence of physical decay as far as I can determine. a shock-induced failure of the higher brain functions. with vague mockery. or—” 16 . didn’t they? Thought they might get off lightly.” “I admit. considering the ‘intelligence’ of your lab specimens? Hardly master engineers. The crew were highly experienced. The only talent that I could ever see in them was senseless brutality. According to her owner.
and my passport out of here and back to where I belong. Commander.. the achievement alone.. No deadly force. A blood-curdling.. I mean capture him.” That it might. I’ll give the order — in the increasingly unlikely event that the Healers ever make contact with our lucky little refugee. The thrill of scientific discovery loomed large before her. perhaps even receptive to communication..” “Well possibly. But she restrained her fury. they’re to use protectives only. 17 . but this one might be different. He might be a rational creature.. if that isn’t too obvious an idea for your exalted scientific mind to accept. but—” “Very well. If you’re right — and I strongly advise you to be — this might be our first real breakthrough. Of course. I’m working on a purely theoretical basis. rather than euthanasia. thought Goldstein. selfish piece of. Commander. assuming the day ever came when she could publish any of this research. Even if it doesn’t. long-drawn shriek that seemed to echo through all the corridors of the abbey.” “Is it so important that we risk the lives of our Healers so that you can have a chin-wag with an active carrier. then. If we could only take him alive.. There might even be a Nobel Prize in it. you narrow-minded. Ruth?” “Important as in it could potentially lead to a permanent solution to this pandemic. and for that she was prepared to swallow far greater quantities of pride. not to mention the means of protecting the future of human evolution itself.“Or they just might be subhuman vermin. Miss Goldstein.
Perhaps it’s connected to their ability to use ultrasonic hypnosis to attract human prey — their ‘siren song’ — though we don’t quite understand how—” “Well. put an end to their reflections. This seems to be some lesser ability of theirs: projecting sound along a psychic carrier-wave. Just find a way to shut the filthy thing up before I attend to the matter personally. The only further interruptions were a couple of repetitions of that piercing. Major Drayton having a regrettable habit of honesty when it came to making threats. completely unfazed. leaving the commander to enjoy his pleasant daydreams of being returned to active service with honour. never mind all of the whys and wherefores. Ruth?” asked Drayton.” Aware of the very real danger this posed to her specimen. 18 . and it’s soundproofed. “No. each worthy of some newly-fallen angel on its first day in Hell. like a radio signal. “Did you forget to shut the lab door. Goldstein quickly withdrew. Commander. tormented cry. but blissful silence shortly followed.inhuman yet eloquent with despair.
that had long been Lucille’s trusty ally on these occasions. Lucille hoped — the bus pulled up on Stepney Green and she alighted. but it enabled her to pay a quick call on a dear old friend. This was not the closest stop to her home in Peony Place. even if painful scenes were a certainty. a cast-iron Victorian hand-pump on the street corner. 19 . This would help to smooth things a little. Although she dreaded what the morning would bring. her skin was now purified of all illicit substances. As far as she could tell by the wavering light of a gas lamppost. After about a minute of vigorous scrubbing in the bitterly cold water. lipstick. she did not harbour too many regrets about the evening. she took her hand mirror from her horribly depleted purse and examined the results. and she was as well prepared to face the music as she would ever be. helping her to wash off all traces of eyeliner. and other offending cosmetics before she had to risk facing her loved ones.CHAPTER II THE LODGER 02 The Lodger At about one-thirty in the morning — certainly no later than two.
Even though the atmosphere of the club was not so much elegant and sophisticated as it was desperate to be thought of as elegant and sophisticated. it seemed that her only option would be to spend the entire day halfasleep. while attempting to calculate how long it would take her to save up enough money for another evening on the town. The jazz music. clarinet. and might even. it still came a lot closer to her personal heaven than the mean little pubs and coffeehouses where most of the population of Stepney did their socialising.There had been some small unpleasantness when Vera’s intoxicated male chum had become a little too friendly. she reflected gloomily. had been truly sublime. lifting her soul on heavenly strains of saxophone. and youth eternal.. Fortunately. or this morning. romance. That did not bode well for her homework. 20 . and after the bouncers had deposited his semi-conscious form in the street. he had soon drunk himself into a horizontal state. time had ticked on regardless. Lucille quickly recovered her enjoyment. and whispering unwanted compliments to her between songs. have spitefully accelerated.. Like it or not. and trombone. beyond time and space to mystical realms of beauty. she suspected. dancing. Since she had no wish to increase her family’s inevitable disappointment in her by missing church tomorrow morning. in fact. Back in the real world. or at least rhythmically staggering far closer to Lucille than she had felt comfortable with. but at least she would have the opportunity to make it up to everyone the following weekend. alas. at least.
with two bedrooms upstairs. for it suggested that Mr. flanked by terraces of grim. identical except for their door numbers. accessible by a flight of stairs leading from the pavement. on account of the rat he had supposedly seen. Sheridan — their current lodger — had not made good on his threat to leave that evening. The front door led directly into the tiny living room. with slightly revived hope. Number 14 was no different from the rest. narrow. or at least softening the impact of Lucille’s impromptu night on the tiles. concrete-covered back yard. although Lucille counted it as a good omen. And so. and after a short walk and another turning she arrived in Peony Place.At the next street corner she turned off Stepney Green. Could she have read it correctly? She 21 . That ought to improve her mother’s mood. she let herself indoors as quietly as possible. the living room and the kitchen downstairs. To see the window of this basement flat illuminated at this unholy hour was rather unusual. most of the space cluttered with furniture. Bitter experience had taught Lucille how easy it was to have a clumsy and noisy accident in such a situation as this. Anyone else would have been hard-pressed to tell that little street apart from most of the others in the vicinity. so before she even tried to remove her coat and shoes she took a match from her purse and lit a small gas lamp standing on the table beside the door. her attention was suddenly seized by a letter that lay open upon the dresser. As it hissed and flared into life. grey-brick houses. or more particularly by its address. hopefully cancelling out. and a single-roomed basement flat. the toilet in a poky shed in the tiny.
conveying an almost otherworldly allure: New York City. were sheer manna from Heaven: To whomever it may concern. Yours faithfully. I confirm that Mr.moved in for a closer inspection. Red Hook. No complaints were ever received from any of the other tenants regarding him. Sheridan had left them after all. and there were those legendary words. It seemed that surly old Mr. and the young man’s personal conduct struck me as unfailingly polite. Although she had heard the term “young man” used to refer to males of ages downwards from forty-five to a very sarcastically-meant seven. Conover Street. Peter Van Sloan. Joseph Ward was one of the best tenants ever to have stayed in this building. except by their association with that glorious metropolitan Mecca: Van Sloan Apartment Building. His rent was always paid in a timely fashion. a native of New York: Lucille’s Celestial City. The following words. on the other hand. The words that came before this were not so interesting. of all people. Brooklyn. 22 . I am sorry to see him go. only to be replaced by. and his room was kept in a clean and orderly condition.
Duke Ellington.” This did not seem to need a reply. to prevent Lucille from suffering a few blunders and bumps in the process of getting undressed. sadly. put her shoes away. extinguished the light. but she was fairly satisfied with her efforts at preserving silence as she slipped beneath the quilt. The fact that Mr. Joseph Ward had chosen to rent cheap digs in the dingy domains of the East End did not lend much weight to these hopes. Perhaps he was some bright young bohemian. With a lightened heart. and — God willing — even Louise Brooks. she hung up her coat. She was. jerky filmreels of them and. but Lucille was never one to let a little thing like reality pour cold water on her dreams. seen live shows on Broadway instead of silent. of her age or possibly a little older. however. and tiptoed upstairs. which helped to free up a bit of space in their cramped quarters. have rubbed shoulders with the likes of George Gershwin. Not enough. only permitted a few seconds until the cold voice again intruded upon her peace: 23 .she was content to imagine better things. though she did not want to get carried away in that direction. Your hair stinks of cigarette smoke. for all she knew. She was cruelly disillusioned when Eleanor — somewhat less asleep than she had seemed — said the following: “I wish you’d stick your whole head under that wretched hand-pump. Someone who had breathed the air of Fifth Avenue and Times Square. She and her sister shared a double bed. danced in the Cotton Club. which was just as well since Lucille had little enough to say in her defence.
“I’ll pick it up tomorrow. or whatever.” “Today. “I’m sorry. though I told her she needn’t have been. to pass on the news of her reckless pleasure seeking — beneath contempt. you mean.” Father Morris was the vicar of St Dunstan’s Church. And you won’t. I just didn’t think to. of all people. Mother was worried sick. though she was at least consoled by the knowledge that it had never occurred to her anyway.” “Why doesn’t that surprise me? And I don’t suppose you thought to drop by Mr. however — the guiltier part — had to admit that it was a workable. and the compulsion to make some amends became almost as strong as the compulsion to end this depressing conversation and get some sleep. and such absentmindedness was easily forgiven. You could have called him. Part of her mind. with rather half-hearted defiance. the less forgivable her absentmindedness seemed to her.” 24 . Gibson’s to pick up the rat poison. and Lucille was strongly inclined to find this suggestion — that she ought to have called him. that a shilling for a telephone call—” “And since when have we had a telephone?” asked Lucille. like you said you would?” The more it mounted up. We’ll just have to hope that poor Mr. I’d have thought with all the money you waste. then he could have let us know you hadn’t been run over. Ward can cope with the rat for a day. or fallen in the Thames. if unappealing plan. unless he’s started opening on Sundays. “Father Morris has one.“You might at least have called home.
Lucille included.” And that was all.. Lucy. however..” Mrs.. he seemed a quiet. one thing to be grateful for: the dreaded confrontation with her mother had been far easier than she had dared to hope for... I don’t like to have to worry too much. “For pity’s sake. During breakfast. then? Well.“The new lodger? What’s he like?” she asked. she had only seen the familiar faces of her neighbours there.. immune to all sarcasm. brightening up a little. never mind achieve a state of anything even vaguely like concentration.. “Oh.?” she persisted.” “How old. are you? If that’s the sort of life you want. I don’t know. you’re not a child anymore. There was. respectable sort. so you had time to read his reference letter. she had broken the uncomfortable silence with a tentative apology. She could barely keep her eyes open. Besides which.. beginning with the tried and trusted words. I suppose. that there had been little point in her bothering to attend church that morning. You wouldn’t like him. “About last night.. Nineteen or twenty. Ward.” **** It was an opinion shared by all. Now can we please get some sleep? Some of us aren’t lucky enough to be nocturnal.. Kitson had cut her short: “Well. But I do hope in the future you’ll tell me when you’re planning to stay out all night. not counting the vast amounts of suppressed disappointment that her mother was apparently 25 . when she had been hoping to catch her first sight of Mr.
however. Ward had not.. for example.. so at least she had not missed any precious opportunities to make his acquaintance. so this suited her fairly well. but also because whoever was to change the sheets and dust the surfaces in the basement flat would stand a better chance of meeting the new lodger than. Camilla. Had she known that was his intention. Her mother. the better her chances of finally meeting the elusive young American this evening. someone chained to a history textbook in her bedroom. likewise. Ward’s rumoured respectability. the sooner she concentrated upon finishing this wretched essay. No doubt he had gone into the city to see the sights. partly out of remorse. Most of the rest of the day was spent slaving over her neglected homework. had the occasional 26 . he might have found in her a most enthusiastic tour guide. been at home all day. **** By half past seven. Their cat.too kind or too weary to put into words. Neither Eleanor nor her mother had seen him since last evening. Besides which. she found that thought wonderfully empowering. but she did know that Eleanor had not exaggerated his quietness. was too tired to deal with emotional scenes. although generally opposed to all forms of exercise that did not lead to food. but even Lucille was reluctant to spend too long dreaming about the downright impossible. in fact. She repeatedly offered to help with the household chores. Even in the face of her painfully dull task. and as the afternoon wore on Lucille’s frustration was relieved by the news that Mr. Lucille. was having none of it. Lucille was no better informed about Mr.
it was strange indeed that she should be so pathetically nervous when it came to knocking on his door. He was also keeping the room in a cleaner condition than his predecessor. and dirty clothes 27 . newspapers. her arms full of softly grumbling feline. Mr. with a fresh. his short. After all of her desperate anticipation. and Lucille had rushed out to retrieve her. however. if unfashionably dressed in a rather worn brown suit. Ward sat at the table. and since the concert from St. he was clean-shaven. she eventually worked herself up to the momentous task. Turning back to the house. Since he was back. studying a London guidebook. He was decently. nor her mother. she entered. and to all appearances living up to his reputation. in a soft but unmistakably American accent. packets. as she found out. and was rewarded with an invitation to “come in”. he was passably good-looking. and although he was neither very tall nor strikingly handsome.annoying habit of strolling around to the front of the terrace and settling down in the middle of the road. She had not heard their lodger return. and wishing she had at least thought to apply some lipstick. and neither. and open sort of face. who even on his first day had managed to spread an impressive amount of empty bottles. However. Paul’s Cathedral was about to start on the radio and the kettle was boiling away merrily on the stove. it seemed altogether courteous that someone ought to invite him up for a cup of tea. had Eleanor. Lucille volunteered as if her life depended on it. she saw light in the basement window. Gathering her nerves. kind. sandy hair was neatly styled.
“It’s nothing. have my own. But thanks.” he replied. “Everyone who’s anybody goes there. more than matching him for embarrassment. don’t worry. and we wondered if you’d like to join us. broke it.” “Oh. The only thing that struck Lucille as slightly amiss was a pale. really..” Lucille at once conceived the desire to kick herself in the teeth.. “I’m very sorry.” “Well then. and I’m sure we have a spare.. I know it’s hardly the Cotton Club. uh. having noted his look of total incomprehension. uh.” declared Mr.. but making her painfully aware of her impoliteness. but.. with a slight chuckle.” she replied. Ward? Mother’s making some tea. I’ll be glad to pay for it. faintly disappointed. “Uh. where a mirror had once hung. “I guess that makes me nobody.” “That’s okay. square patch on the wall. In Harlem? The Cotton Club?” she repeated. please. I can get by without it. Mr. “Was there.about the premises. anything else?” “Oh. some bar. but in vain. um. “Just a silly accident. miss. It’s.” “Won’t you need it to shave?” “I. Ward.. I kind of. following a short but awkward silence.” Then.” she answered. She looked around for it. Would you like to come up to the parlour. Please don’t bother.. I didn’t mean—” 28 . yes. obviously. “You’ve never been there?” “Not that I know of.. or dancehall?” “A nightclub. he asked. meekly.
with a shudder of make-believe dread.” “Ouch.. “Whatever brings the dollars in. however. My. was reassuring: “I sure have... I don’t know for certain... I. they do say that every great artist must expect to suffer for their work. “Still.. see? So I don’t get about much. respectable young lady like you are.. 29 . His reaction. edit and write for a magazine. “Hollywood secrets. I guess. Ward.” commented Mr. uh. or the nickels and dimes. and I thought it was one heck of a movie. half-smiling. They had yet to touch on the subject of Louise Brooks. her fascination once more overpowering her embarrassment.. and was instantly afraid of having sounded a good deal sillier than she had meant to..” “What sort of work.” All her disappointment was now gone: anyone who recognised that Lon Chaney was a great artist was a person of discernment and wisdom as far as Lucille was concerned.“Don’t let it get you down. of course. And I’d sure love to know how he got his face to look so..” “Well. you know. I guess you won’t have heard of that. uh.” “You write horror stories?” she asked. but I heard that he used fish-hooks to pull back his cheeks. work keeps me in all hours. if you don’t mind me asking?” “Oh. with Lon Chaney?” she asked.” “Have you seen The Phantom of the Opera. and had metal discs pushed up his nose. And heck.” he concluded. Tales of the Netherworld. anyway. there are days when I might as well be nobody. but the night was young.
or have a chat. I’d. pale and with a light.. Spasms of distress. almost pained glances at the wireless.. while Mrs. Kitson and her daughters valiantly strove to administer to his comfort. clouded his expression every now and again.” “Why. she chose a quiet moment.. Nevertheless. we understand. I’m. although Lucille enthusiastically assured him that he wouldn’t be. uh. But perhaps you could just sit with us for a while. which was doing nothing more offensive than broadcasting a slightly fuzzy and distorted performance of Handel’s Messiah. I never drink tea.“Won’t you come up. Ward? We’d very much like to have your company. That is. crouching almost self-defensively in his chair. Kitson with a troubling sense of failure in her duties as a hostess. even while refusing every attention from a slice of homemade cake down to a glass of water. Mr. Of course. but to tell the truth. however. miss. if I wouldn’t be in the way.. and as the evening progressed he became quite animated and talkative. if you’re too busy. I’d like that. nervous sweat on his brow. and Lucille saw him cast a couple of anxious. thanks. It would be nice just to get to know you a little better.. his enjoyment of their company seemed real enough. his hands on his knees. Not that he was anything less than impeccably polite. to not be “in the way” was almost a physical impossibility. uh..” In the cramped confines of their living room. 30 .” “No. he did his best to occupy as little space as possible. listen to the wireless. his legs pressed close together.” “Oh. In spite of leaving Mrs. in fact. kind of allergic to it. Nonetheless.
the legions of motor-cars and the daring fashions of the young people — were ample compensation. Mr. She learned that he was not a native of that city. Ward replied that they had already been more than helpful to him.while her mother and Eleanor were both in the kitchen and Mr. The Kitsons did not pry. Observing her discomfort with some concern. the picture-houses. he could do far worse than to ask her younger sister. to turn down the volume. although he was reluctant to go into detail about this story. Ward was glancing through The Times. the theatres. after which he seemed to be in better spirits. not to mention more than a few of his published ones. and he had plenty of material to work with for the present. and instead sought to oblige the shy young writer with all the information they could think of about their home city. but had moved there a little over a year ago from New England so that he could be closer to the head office of his magazine. his descriptions of New York — the towering architecture. In spite of the small disappointment of his not being acquainted with the Cotton Club and its celebrity clientele. Eleanor drily observed that if he was in need of first-hand impressions of London after midnight. and so his failure to have become intimately acquainted with New York’s nightlife was easily forgiven. He had come to London because he was planning to set his next story there and needed to “get a feel” for the place. who instantly turned red from resentment and shame. claiming that he was always embarrassed about his unfinished works. What he would really 31 . in all of its seedy splendour. the ceaseless bustle even in the dead of night.
Ward was definitely an unusual young man. biscuits. Who. Whether this was sincerely or just kindly meant. perpetually complaining predecessor? Here. cocoa. although he had made a firm promise to see the film. at last. cursing. Ward before she 32 . Mr. it was an invitation that Lucille could not refuse. was if there was anything worth seeing in London’s picture-houses. as he was an avid admirer of the movies whenever he got the chance to attend.like to know now. and she could not help but worry that he had deliberately understated his health problems. Unfortunately. could not seriously darken Lucille’s mood as she went to bed that night. he declared. however little he chose to make of it. this prediction proved to be true in more ways than one. and classical music — though Lucille would herself have preferred a jazz-playing radio station — his situation appeared most unpleasant indeed. was a lodger whom she would not have to take great pains to avoid — quite the opposite. but that Monday morning she was up at the crack of dawn for the purpose of retrieving the spare mirror from the understairs cupboard and delivering it to Mr. indeed. Mr. but combined with his apparent allergies to cake. and the sort of reaction her half-baked essay was likely to get from Miss Provine. though. and by the time they had all retired to their rooms. An allergy to tea was one thing. not to mention all of the facts he could ever possibly need to know about its star actress. Ward knew pretty much the entire story of Pandora’s Box. Even the thought of school tomorrow. water. could deny that he was a vast improvement over his boozing. Lucille was not a natural early riser. nevertheless.
had to get ready for school. To her dismay, however, he was nowhere to be found. Perhaps he preferred to get all of his sightseeing done before the streets were too crowded, she thought, although he had not allowed his urgency to make him at all careless; the flat was as clean as a whistle, and the bed was beautifully made. Lucille hung the mirror over the space lately occupied by its broken ancestor, noting with some curiosity the considerable length and sturdiness of the nail upon which it had hung. How on earth did he manage to knock it off that? Unless the string was weak, of course, she reflected, in her frustration. Still, the thought of seeing him again that evening kept her spirits tolerably high as she returned to the house, finished her preparations, and set out for St. Clarimonde’s School for Girls, feeling ever so slightly reconciled to the real world.
THE RESEARCH TEAM
03 The Research Team
Only one part of Serapion Abbey had survived the “improvements” of its former Victorian owner: the medieval crypt, a subterranean forest of ancient stone columns supporting the many arches of the vaulted ceiling. Its solemn, sepulchral atmosphere had been ruined, however, by some recent additions — heavy white partitions had been erected in several of the archways, dividing the cavernous chamber into an extensive network of rooms and corridors. Many of these compartments were of an uninteresting nature, having been converted for use as washrooms, storerooms, and offices. There were also several armouries in which Healers could supply themselves with rifles, Tommy-guns, swords, holy images, protective sprays, and all such tools of the trade as the occasion required. Some rooms, however, were far more curious, and were marked with such interestingly obscure door-signs as “Psychic Pathology”, “Applied Stress Treatment”,
“Research — Immunisation”, and “Research — Photonic Anomaly”. Within this last room, events of considerable interest were now unfolding, or at least most of the assembled scientists and technicians seemed to think so. Major Drayton, who was leaning in a thoroughly bored fashion against the door, did not share their enthusiasm. “I don’t suppose you’d mind telling me the point of all this, Ruth?” he asked, his polite words clashing horribly with the withering contempt in his voice. “I was under the impression, Commander,” answered Miss Goldstein, as she connected a microphone to a gramophone disc recorder, “that you were very keen to study and harness the Photonic Anomaly. You surely don’t mean to tell me that the prospect of invisible soldiers, tanks, and planes has lost its appeal for you?” “Results appeal to me, and they’re conspicuous by their absence. What precisely is all this tinkering about supposed to achieve?” “To improve our understanding and help us grasp the actual nature of the carriers’ physical anomalies. Now; are you ready with that turntable, Mr. Jordan?” she asked one of the technicians, who nodded. “Good show. Then I do believe we’re ready to proceed. Mr. Jordan, stand by to begin recording. Everybody else, to your positions, please. On my mark: three, two, one... and go.” The technician set the turntable revolving and lowered the recording needle onto the disc, while Goldstein’s voice took on an even more authoritative tone, as she lectured into the microphone: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is Photon Experiment Nine. We shall be making use of Test Subject B, the late
Diana Portman—” but she was interrupted by a cautionary cough from Major Drayton, and corrected herself rather resentfully: “But who shall from this point be referred to only as ‘Subject B’. Let us turn to her.” A long, coffin-like bench occupied the centre of the laboratory, upon which lay Subject B. She was deathly pale, bald-headed, and of uncertain age. Her tightly drawn skin and hideously protruding bones were her main distinguishing features, but they were the results of malnutrition rather than decrepitude. It was partly due to this emaciation that her teeth and nails appeared unnaturally long and sharp, although there was no mistaking that the canine teeth of her upper jaw were a lot longer and sharper than the rest, well-deserving of the title “fangs”. Her eyes were wide-open, opaque, and as colourless as her stretched skin, but there was no sign of life in her dehumanised wreck of a body. Nevertheless, her wrists and ankles were bound with thick ropes. “The time is now twelve-eleven PM, and the subject is dormant,” declared Goldstein, “although in accordance with departmental regulations we are using safety restraints — ropes soaked in protective water. Subject B is in a weakened condition, but still alive... still viable,” she corrected herself, in response to another of the commander’s cautionary coughs. “Observe the mirror fixed above her — she casts no reflection, therefore we know that she is viable. After death... euthanasia, I mean, carriers no longer exhibit this anomaly, but become ordinary corpses. Primitive and superstitious people might say that Subject B casts no reflection because she has no soul. It
occurs to me that even Newton would not have been impressed with that theory.” Following a faint ripple of polite laughter from her audience, she went on: “Needless to say, were that the case, no inanimate object would have a reflection, yet I am confident that none of the furniture in this lab has a soul. It is worth noting at this juncture that inanimate objects in close contact with carriers, such as clothing, also cast no reflection. I refer to Experiment Four, in which our test subject was transfixed on a ten-foot steel pole. Though most of the pole was visible in the reflection, all of the section within the carrier’s body, as well as three inches on either side, was invisible. When electricity was passed through the pole, we found that the electrons lost considerable energy during their transit. The hypothesis we have drawn from this is that carriers exist within ‘bubbles’ of distorted space-time, explaining their tenuous relationship with the laws of physics: their ability to phase through solid matter, their shape-shifting, and their agelessness. Light and radiation may enter and leave these bubbles, but it does so in an altered state. Light is reflected off our test subject, so we see her, but the photons have lost energy in passing through the distorted space, and are no longer able to create further reflections, or to cause the chemical changes in photosensitive materials that would allow us to take photographs of carriers. That, at any rate, is the case with visible light photons. We shall test our hypothesis with more intense forms of electromagnetic radiation, and bombard Subject B with shorter wavelengths, beginning with ultraviolet and working our way up to gamma rays. The reflected rays will be captured
on photographic plates, hopefully giving us some images to compare. If successful, that may give us some valuable insights into—” She was interrupted by a harsh, rattling, barely-human scream. The skull-like face of the captured specimen had become perversely animated, its fanged jaws champing at the air as if they could hope to extract blood from oxygen, and the pale, cloudy eyes bulging even more prominently from their sockets. Writhing violently, in seconds it had torn free of its restraints. Most of the observers, including Goldstein, instinctively retreated to the edges of the room with expressions varying from mild panic to mortal dread, but Drayton advanced towards the cadaverous figure with a grim, purposeful look. He was carrying a metal canister with a pump-action nozzle, not unlike a garden spray gun, which he levelled upon it. Although his intention was clearly threatening, it actually smiled at the sight of him, though it was an expression of desperate desire rather than of joy or affection, and did nothing to improve its mummified appearance. The thing crouched in a tense, catlike posture, but before it could turn this into a fullyfledged pounce, Drayton discharged a blast of red vapour into its face. It gave a despairing wail and sank back onto the bench, still writhing, but very feebly, while Drayton continued to pump the protective spray until it was once again completely still. Very tentatively, Goldstein and the technicians crept back into the middle of the room. “Someone call the orderlies,” commanded Goldstein, her authoritative tone now undermined with a nervous tremor.
“Let’s get her back to the morgue before she revives again.” “So much for your blasted theories, Ruth,” declared Drayton, “though let’s be thankful for small mercies — for a moment there I was in grave danger of dying of boredom. You ought to have majored in insomnia cures, then your doctorate would have been in the bag.” As he made these deadpan remarks, he unscrewed the nozzle from his spray gun. Upon removing it, he took a deep swig of the canister’s contents, much to Goldstein’s surprise. “Commander? What on earth—?” “I’ve as much right to steady my nerves as anyone.” “With communion wine? Isn’t that in rather poor taste?” “You can burn me at the stake later. Right now, just tell me why your so-called ‘dormant carrier’ tried to make a leap for my jugular vein.” “You know as well as I do that they can be active even during the day, especially when they’re underfed. Hence, the restraints.” “Oh yes; the ones she just tore apart as if they were damp paper chains. You did use the word ‘weakened’, I seem to recall.” “Well... any desperate or wounded predator can be highly unpredictable. Oh, where the hell are those orderlies?” “Never mind that. Hey, you, pass me that medical kit,” he ordered the trembling duty physician, who instantly obeyed. Drayton rummaged through the kit, pulled out a hypodermic syringe, and filled it with wine from his spray canister. “Let’s try another little experiment, shall we?
This ought to pacify your murderous little friend, Ruth. I don’t believe we’ve ever used protective liquids intravenously. We’ve sprayed, dripped, and forced them down carriers’ throats any number of times, but never directly into their veins. It might even be useful for the Weapons Research Unit to know the effects.” “Commander! I must insist—” “Must you? There’s no compulsion. I certainly wouldn’t object to you shutting your trap. Now, how does it go?” mused Drayton, placing the needle-tip against one of Subject B’s veins. “It’s been a fair while since I was in church, but... Oh yes: ‘the blood of the New Covenant, shed for many for the remission of sins’... not to mention for the extermination of parasitic mutant vermin. Take this, in remembrance of me.” “We ought to set this up as a properly controlled experiment! The subjects are not easy to replace! We can’t afford—” but there seemed little point in finishing, as Drayton had already pumped the wine into Subject B. She stirred, and gave out a low, plaintive moan, which rose in pitch and volume until it became a piercing shriek, and a fair few of the onlookers had clamped their hands over their ears. It was not long, however, before it died down, and everyone had recovered their hearing and their nerves. Goldstein cautiously approached the bench for a closer examination, and was appalled — though not surprised — to see the dead woman’s reflection in the overhead mirror. Very slowly, and to the awe and disgust of the junior researchers, she stretched out a finger and pushed back the
and wasteful. revealing a set of teeth of entirely regular. I suppose? No significant wounds? The blood loss inexplicable. didn’t you think?” “Not to mention pointless. dispassionately. “Major Drayton speaking.. He seems to be starving to. I trust you’re content.. Mary’s and get him to send you a batch of laboratory rats..... That blood we gave them from the medical supplies was of no use at all.” he replied. sarcasm-free tone.” said Goldstein. we now have another corpse for the incinerator. Commander?” “No. I suppose its energy content deteriorates quickly. Is that so.. Commander. icily.? Really? And he lived to tell the tale? Well.. Pardon me.. let’s hear the details. Mm-hm? Typical MO. “Thank you. ‘death’. If your subject’s too fussy to settle for those. I suppose.subject’s upper lip.” “Then might an ignorant layman suggest trying him out on fresh blood?” “Are you volunteering your own veins. then tough bloody. 41 .” “That depends on whether or not the engineering boys can knock up a decent design for a poison dart gun using this stuff. Sergeant? Another attack? Very well. for heaven’s sake?” “He’s on his last legs as well.” he said. “Rather effective. even when refrigerated. then. well. He lifted the earpiece and assumed a somewhat politer.” “You’ve still got the other test subject. haven’t you? How many do you need. “Where once we had a valuable test subject. human formation.. as the wall-mounted intercom started ringing. I merely suggest that you wire our chap at St.
Sergeant. I don’t like the thought of him going to the hangman. armed robber. don’t you? Circulate it. unconscious and suffering from acute blood loss.” He hung up. He slipped up badly last night. “It’s your lucky day. I trust you remember the one that got away last week?” “The one from the Ligeia? You don’t mean—?” “A possible sighting. Take charge. perhaps he came for the hunting. Maximum healer deployment. after all. A mugger. may even have a murder or two on his CV. The police in Wapping made an arrest last night. Ruth. just some common criminal.. you can call our man at the Home Office.just make sure we get all of his particulars for the Infected Citizens Register. though. No. Offer a reward? Well. Twenty pounds ought to be tempting enough. He fits the profile of our lucky little refugee. and he was able to describe his attacker. although I can’t imagine what possessed the fool to come to London after having taken such trouble to give us the slip. Or he could be 42 . He’ll live to stand trial. London is a very large and densely populated territory. I suppose we might as well.... Good work. you have his description. no more. The carrier? Well. and tell him to make sure that the body’s delivered to us if he is executed. We’ll have the healers comb the entire East End.. and report to me twice daily. only to revive for a whole new career of mayhem and murder. and turned his attention back to Goldstein. Stick with the standard cover story: he’s an escaped convict... but we needn’t go mad. In fact. not the carrier himself. Can a dead man have a subconscious death-wish?” “Well. Sergeant. though — they found him in the gutter. It’s only the East End..
or when she started to wonder how anyone could not be in love with dear Joseph. Ruth. This situation was not helped by the intensive scolding she received from Miss Provine. she had seen nothing of him for the whole of Monday. I haven’t the slightest objection. utterly dejected. it turned out to be the axis 43 . could have charted the exact points at which she decided that she preferred Mr. Her after-school work extended her ordeals well into the evening. You will tell your men not to use any lethal force. Ward’s company to anyone else’s. At least one of these milestones had been passed during his third evening at 14 Peony Place.looking for someone in particular. who had marked her excuse for a history essay (mainly in short. least of all Lucille. that she might possibly be falling in love with Mr. Ward emerging from the flat. to see Mr. and might have seemed very trivial to a casual observer. As a result. violent strokes of red ink) and “requested” that she do it again. Not by choice. but through a combination of ill fortune and the lack of any good excuses to go knocking on his door (how she then wished that she had saved the mirror-replacing chore for the evening). He might even lead us to others of his kind.” **** No-one. on Tuesday she was even more distracted and downhearted at school than usual. won’t you?” “As long as you’re perfectly happy to have his next victim on your conscience. Ward. and it was not until after dark that she returned home. Although the conversation that they had then and there on the pavement was quite short.
at any rate. When they parted. Ward merely wanted to thank her for having recommended Pandora’s Box to him. sadly. on the off-chance of meeting him outside or in the shops. but she lived in hope. in 44 . her elation was so great that she did not even think to wonder what he was doing going out and about at such an hour. she took every opportunity to meet with him “by chance”. It seemed that Joseph was addicted to starting his days at the crack of dawn. Some evenings she was successful. had taken little interest in the famed nightlife of New York. She found this particularly strange for someone who. Mr. by his own admission. eagerly taking responsibility for every chore that would get her into his flat or even out of the front door. and assured Lucille that the world.of joy around which Lucille’s otherwise pointless. which he had seen the evening before. which was all the more to be wondered at since he also seemed to be very keen on late-night ventures. but never in the mornings. she was at a loss to imagine. and he set out into the gloomy labyrinth of terraced streets. He was not so bold as to ask her to accompany him for a second viewing. was chock-full of people who considered themselves to be very good only because they were lucky enough not to have to do any bad things in order to survive. and found it as moving as any film he had seen since Phantom of the Opera. What London had to compare with Harlem. Perhaps it was his lack of sleep that made him. He also agreed with her scathing opinion of the respectable gent who had dismissed Louise Brooks’ tragic heroine as a “loose woman”. or so it pleased them to imagine. As the week progressed. soulcrushing day revolved.
so the only lesson to be drawn from the embarrassing incident seemed to be to take a greater effort with hiding-places. and expressed the hope that they would not put themselves to the trouble of replacing it again. he seemed so concerned to spare them this small trouble that they thought it best to save him any further embarrassment. He. such as that time last year when she had almost.spite of his neatness. Nor the fact that he would. With him. had insisted on paying for both. Maybe he was a spy. and respected his wish. but without judging her as either selfish or stupid for it. but for the horrified intervention of her mother. seedy. or maybe he was on the run. unlicensed music hall. trivial little hassles of her own daily existence. These enigmas did not trouble Lucille very much. taken a weekend job as a chorus-girl in a small. In fact. listen with eagerness and pleasure to all the tedious. of course. she felt perfectly at ease talking about things which were a closed subject to the rest of the world. did not know what a rotten dancer she actually was. so clumsy: for he had somehow managed to break his second mirror.. nor the fact that he always shied away from conversing about himself. Joseph had heard this with amusement. not that she would want to miss any 45 . which was a far kinder opinion than even she was inclined to permit herself. it had been no easy matter thinking up plausible excuses for why she should have a pair of dancing shoes and sequinned tights at the back of her drawer. but whatever else he may have been. Unfortunately. he was the most sympathetic of listeners. in spite of dismissing his own life as too boring to be worth talking about..
Eleanor and her mother had gone into town. he admitted that there had even been times when he had almost lost the will to live. but with the possibility that they might stay out for tea if the shopping trip took longer than expected. and in a few hours another Saturday night would be upon them. As 46 . but she had set her heart on making up for it. and of fate having cruelly mapped out a future he would never have chosen for himself. The week before.opportunity of demonstrating her rotten dancing in person. Whatever distress this unguarded remark may have caused him. should he feel the need for a companion next Saturday night. given the enormous amount of detail he now knew about her life. well.. she had possessed neither the money nor the nerve to take advantage of that fact. and had made a hurried farewell before setting out as usual. That presented Lucille — who had offered to mind the house — with the perfect window of opportunity to solicit Joseph’s company for the picture-house. but she was determined to get there all the same. she was not quite sure of the “where”.. but she accepted that whatever he was choosing to hide was very painful to him. at which point he had become extremely embarrassed.. although since meeting her. for her it was another blessed milestone on the road to. which might have been considered insulting. His understanding nature showed itself in other ways: he once confessed to her that he. He did not go into detail. like her.. Two weeks had passed since his arrival. Indeed. mainly to buy Eleanor’s books for college. and whatever else might follow. was only too familiar with the feeling of being trapped.
in spite of feebly protesting that he was “okay”) and leading him down the steps. It was thus no small surprise when.. firmly. his eyes were bulging. she asked very insistently what was really the matter with him. that is. very weakly..” he mumbled. uh. Be right as rain after a bit of rest. I can’t just—” “No! Please. change some dollars for the rent. as she was scrubbing the front steps at only ten past four. and in spite of his ardent but pitiable efforts to strike a cheerful expression. “You look like something awful. but his face was glistening with sweat. as he came closer. Her joy was short-lived. have to be off?” he asked. ’s all. I feel better already. cloudy day. It was a cold. “Yes.. You’re not getting shot of me that quick. Really.. he had the air of a man who might vomit up his entire digestive system at a moment’s notice. Don’t you worry yourself.” 47 . as she made for the door. it became obvious that he was not a well man. or at least that he was unlikely to pass away on the spur of the moment. Lucille. she sprang into action. I’ll be fine.long as she could encounter him in the early evening. “Needed to go out. in which she failed to acknowledge his polite greeting. Prob’ly something I ate. into the flat.” she replied. Following a few seconds of silent panic. “’S nothing. and onto his bed. to fetch Doctor Hardy. Joseph. You. as it seemed to be the only time that he was simultaneously around the place and awake. taking him by the arm (which he did not resist. When she was satisfied that he looked comfortable. Jus’ came over a little queasy. she heard rapidly approaching footsteps and looked up to see Joseph heading her way.
it’s not going to kill me.... Lucille.” he declared. but.“Well you don’t look much better. but I only want to help. rubbing a little more salt into her wounded self-esteem.. however little the prospect of survival seemed to please him...” Whether or not this was meant to be a subtle invitation for the kind of evening she had been planning to invite him on. she was now afflicted with the deadening sense that he did not seem to trust her at all. and she had to wonder 48 . crestfallen but ever so slightly relieved by his confidence... and I don’t want to talk about it with anyone. “I’m sorry.. heck. mirthless laugh.. Word of honour. I swear to you I’ll be fit for turning somersaults.” he answered. “I didn’t mean to offend. But I guarantee you. in a softer. but there must be something he could do. okay? By this evening. Oughtn’t we at least— ?” “I’m not seeing any doctor!” he snapped. You’ve been so kind. Can’t you. I know you make light of it. Won’t you—?” “I know what’s wrong with me. she no longer cared.” he interrupted.? Oh. as Lucille’s struggle against her tears became a losing battle.. harshly. if only to make you feel a little better. or anything else. your health. with a short. “There’s nothing he could do. Okay?” “But.. “and I don’t need any doctor to tell me that it’s incurable. What is—?” “I don’t like to talk about it.” she announced. “I’m sorry. On top of her concern for his wellbeing. Just trust me on this. selfreproachful tone.
and was valiantly attempting to buff some shine back into her battle-scarred Mary Janes when a hard and persistent rapping at the front door distracted her. however. Nevertheless. the prospect of smothering her hurt feelings in music and chatter was at least more pleasant than that of nursing them in solitude. and black. army-style boots. seemed hollow now. His most noteworthy characteristic was the leather satchel he carried. She tried a few things to relieve her sick. she picked out some clothes. and she made for her room. Even the prospect of picture-houses and nightclubs. a brown tweed hat. buttoned-up brown coat. She laid down her brush and shoe and trudged listlessly downstairs to answer it. retrieved her make-up from behind the wardrobe (Eleanor having recently passed an all-tooknowing remark about the loose floorboard).what she had done to deserve such a total lack of confidence. confused feelings — reading. The caller was unknown to her. and even the ever-present last resort of homework — but all to little purpose. for which she had spent the whole fortnight saving up. suggesting he was either a door-to-door salesman or some journeyman in search of casual work. sewing. on which assumption Lucille tensed herself to shut the door in his face. she managed to force a weak smile as they parted. praying. feeling almost as wretched an outcast as the Phantom of the Opera himself. and almost abnormally nondescript in his dull attire: a long. On reflection. Intending to be prepared for an immediate start as soon as her mother and sister returned from town. 49 .
touching the brim of his hat. however. If you’re selling—” “Oh. Just making enquiries. and she could have sworn that a look of panic had. and if you need to see our license. then—” “No. nothing of the sort. “Detective Constable Radcliffe. in no mood for courtesy... seemed astounded rather than offended. “My father died in the trenches. Anything the matter.“Afternoon. An American bloke. slightly built. Permit me. crossed his face. fair. We’re on the trail of an escaped convict. miss?” 50 . “Might I have a word with your dad?” “Do you deal with the dead very often?” she sullenly quipped. at which an unmistakable look of relief came upon him. “and my mother’s away in town. miss. miss. yes?” “It is.” at which he flashed an identification card with the Royal Coat of Arms before her eyes. I’m given to understand that this place is a lodging-house. see? We reckon he might have gone to ground hereabouts. I wondered if you might have taken in any strange customers during the last couple of weeks. “Do I what. About five-foot-nine.” she explained. if only for a moment. The caller. now?” he asked. CID. he’d be.” he opened.
eh? Can’t do no harm to check up. “Think you might have seen him about the place?” “Well. how old did you say he was?” “About twenty.. give or take.. definitely. last Wednesday.” answered the detective. and which one did you catch. Sorry. no. well. He was still waiting when I caught mine. miss. I did see an American gentleman at the bus stop. You didn’t happen to notice which bus he caught. nothing. as well..” “Never mind. Sorry.” “Oh. then?” 51 . miss?” “Oh. “Err.. I think. Err. did you say?” “That’s right.” “Right. The man I saw was older than that.. but she knew at once that she had spoken a little too quickly and earnestly.” replied Lucille. I think he was taller.. all-tookeenly interested. did you?” “Err..CHAPTER IV BODY AND SOUL 04 Body and Soul “What? No. an American.” “I see. You quite sure of that..
sat on the edge of her bed. about three o’clock.” “Right you are. then?” “No. Was it really out of love for someone she hardly knew. but I’m sure I’ll be fine. miss. went back upstairs. Righty-ho. but I’m a chorus-girl. with a very small. miss?” “Um. learned a lot more than she cared for in the last few 52 . Well. Not that it’s any of your business. yes? So what is it? Night shift?” “You could say that.” he muttered. Lying to a policeman was certainly a new experience for her.” he advised. and not one that she was comfortable with. He can be pretty dangerous. “I’m only trying—” “To catch a criminal. I know. having heard no objections from the detective. and I don’t much care for being interrogated as if I was one.” “Three o’clock. miss.” “But you’re off work at three. jotting the worthless information into a small notebook.. silently but profusely.” “On Wednesday. but that was the least of her woes. It was far more painful for her to consider the reason why she had lied. twenty-five. with a slightly dangerous note. thank you very much.” “Easy now. it must have been.” “Thank you.” She closed the door and. indeed. very forced smile.“The. and cried. to Oxford Circus. Good afternoon. and of whom she had.” she answered in a matter-of-fact tone. while inwardly cursing her own stupidity.. mind how you go.. “At what time. er. You don’t go to school..” he replied. “I have a job. “Sorry to have bothered you. But I’m not a criminal.
into the bargain. The fact that this would save him. summoned her strength. as far as she could tell.minutes? What stupidity had even caused her to imagine that her feelings for him were love. and not just another of her ridiculous fantasies? But had she only imagined that Joseph was a kind. and that settled it for 53 . understanding person? It sickened her to the heart to think any evil of him at all. It could not be ignored. but its hateful logic made too much sense of Joseph’s eccentricities: the strange hours he kept. but it seemed almost impossible that he could have cut and run in the awful condition in which she had last seen him. whatever pain it caused her. detested enlightenment immediately. and there would only be worse to follow if she did not act on her new. Perhaps he had heard her conversation with the detective. The door was unlocked. she found somewhat appealing. Besides. Perhaps this escaped convict business was mere coincidence. the least she could do was to save her family from the results of her folly. She dried her eyes. While she was taking stock of the place. having already broken the law and endangered heaven alone knows how many people. and given the dire urgency she saw no point in knocking... She would tell Joseph about his “visitor” and persuade him to leave at once. and his unwillingness to see a doctor. his dislike of talking about himself. but what real hope was there of that? She would not have believed the detective’s story for the world. but upon opening it Joseph was nowhere in sight. the few possessions that he had were. and descended to the flat. she noticed his shoes beside the bed. considerate. all present.
she turned her attention to the space underneath the bed. but it took little enough imagination. shadowy outline forming a human-shaped void in the threadbare carpet. tingling sensation. Not that Lucille had ever seen a corpse. but certain wonderful facts could not be denied. hoping it would catch some slight mist of breath. The bedclothes hung right down to the floor. a sense of profound. she took out her hand mirror and held it to his face. were at least very strange. she tipped over the heavy iron-framed bed and knelt beside him.her. the appropriate word leapt into her mind — vampire — and with it. and her recent horror at his ill health returned with a vengeance. and recoiled in shock. She realised at once that her feelings. in 54 . That so-called detective was. She felt his wrist. The poky little flat did not exactly offer a wealth of hiding-places. After a few moments of frozen incomprehension. seeking desperately for some sign of life. rigid as an ironing-board. Joseph was lying on his back. Lifting them. and he showed neither the smallest flicker of motion nor the faintest whisper of breath. Empowered by sheer panic. as if a light electric current was flowing through him. He was cold to the touch — for that much she had been prepared — but not for the prickling. but only a vague. his eyes were wide-open and glassy. she discovered Joseph. if not actually perverse. and after she had checked that the wardrobe was uninhabited. but instead she received an even greater shock — his face was not reflected. joyous relief. the probability of anyone going on the run without their shoes seemed beyond absurdity. Changing her strategy.
Her immediate problem was how to awaken him. Joseph was not a criminal after all — at least not in any normally accepted sense — and she reproached herself for having allowed such an unworthy suspicion to enter her head. She could see full well what he really was. at any rate — she gave up on logic and opted for a technique more noted for 55 . yet Joseph remained stubbornly comatose. wasn’t it? Of a man who was sick and weak in the sunlight. surely some fear was in order. She wanted to believe in him so badly. but she owed it to her family to get a proper account of him before offering sanctuary from the lawful authorities. all the same.fact. wailing her head off in premature grief. and she would not think the worse of him without solid evidence. but knew that she had been terribly naïve. it was hard for her to see what the next logical step was. his self-inflicted isolation.. On the other hand. and who could blame him? But now he would just have to trust her. for loving him in spite of it? Would the virtuous act be to hate him for what he was. No wonder he had been so secretive. rotten liar. a dirty. and generally blundering about the place.. Perhaps for that reason — or partly. his shyness. and if it did then what did that make her. however low her opinion of them might have sunk. and that made perfect sense of everything: his health. Without a megaphone or a starting-pistol to hand. she had been anything but quiet. not including vague scare-stories from door-to-door lie merchants. knowing nothing of what he had done? She could answer that question with a resounding “no”. or even when he heard religious music on the radio? And did that make him evil. What with overturning the bed.
he kissed her in return. Also. and even the fact that her blood was being drained could not account for it. was intensely numbing. was quicker than any anaesthetic. He raised himself from the floor. it seemed better not to leave the job half-done. hers were around him. That was before she felt the pain. the only response. and before long both of his arms were around her. building up to an overwhelming sensation that. although by no means unpleasant. just that nasty little sting that every hypodermic-wielding doctor denies the existence of before inflicting it. when she felt the gentle touch of a hand upon her shoulder. It was dawning upon her that she might not have made the wisest of decisions. what’s the best therapy for a dead. However. except that it was twofold and in her neck. The tingling. as she leaned over him and lightly pressed her lips to his. sliding around her back to embrace her. On the other hand. electrical thrill that she had felt before was. the paralysis that spread from the twin punctures. but her will to move — even her very instinct to survive — was now swamped in a blissful fog of indifference. but with rapidly increasing vigour. Something else was being given back: the tingling sensation that had been superficial was now flowing through her bloodstream. and everywhere they made contact a million ice-cold pinpricks danced over her skin. Only slightly at first. and it was not without effort that she could 56 . until it engulfed her whole body. mythological being? she thought. The signs were now pretty positive. In itself. it was nothing very dramatic. for a second or two.its success in fairytales than in medical journals.
although common sense suggested otherwise. wincing slightly. but I guess I didn’t drink that much. thank Go—” he declared.. not to mention cold and damp around her head where he had splashed her. on the other hand.. an empty but still-wet glass in his hand. was the most flustered corpse imaginable. Not too much. even these sensations faded. Soon. then. she had been unconscious long enough for him to repent of having attacked her. and a look of panic on his bloodstained face..even summon the strength to draw breath. The surface upon which she lay was soft. As her vision faded. and all she could feel was that strangely soothing but totally incapacitating sense of pins and needles. which switched to uncertain joy when he saw her recover consciousness. had her fear gone? Was she simply tranquillised. the only sound she could hear became a persistent high-pitched ringing. “You’re awake. He might just as well not have bothered. and then. and with quite the opposite effect — her senses returned. or was it more than intuition that was telling her that this new presence in her body had no intention of letting her die. but not her strength. Another wave of coldness washed over her. Apparently. even if her dear friend drank every drop of her blood? She could not help but believe it. but not a soothing one. she saw Joseph standing over her. I’m sorry. and to attempt to make her comfortable. I was thinking. I 57 . anyway. she was so numb and relaxed that she could have lain with perfect calmness upon a bed of nails. Where. to turn the bed the correct way up. Opening her eyes. Joseph. “For a minute there..
when you.. “It’s. uh.. What made you stop what you were doing?” “Well. Especially these days. when you. I’ve spent years. sensing in spite of his reassurances that this knowledge might soon be quite important to her.. and it was only then I realised that I’d bitten you. maybe you. Why did—?” “I love you. My conscious mind was still asleep.. forgetting for the moment the more pressing reason that had inspired her to do it. uncomfortably..” he interrupted. “you passed out. Lucille. “And I thought that..” he replied. what we really are — demigods. Just like I was in a dream. but feeling it keenly all the same. that was only my instinctive self. decades trying to find out where it all began. but if you thought I’d.. The ravings of medieval alchemists. you kissed me.. then?” she asked... I couldn’t help it..” “Is it so awful?” she asked... complicated. devils.” she muttered. aware of how senseless her disappointment was. Frustrating. You see. too. You can’t begin to imagine what it’s been like. woke me. but when I came to and realised—” “You didn’t mean to do it. I couldn’t stop myself. Dangerous.. uh. I don’t know how you found me out.really didn’t mean. “So you don’t—?” “I do love you... or freaks of nature — and I’ve learned precious little except vague theories. “and that’s why I stopped. I would never mean to inflict this on you. stories of Pythagoras and his disciples 58 . with a not-verytender note of sternness which did not seriously affect her pleasure at the words.
. for these last few years. and no mercy. Of course. Thanks for the rat poison. lilin. But times and religions changed. rodents. even in a different country. and force me to move on.?” “Without drinking blood? I’ve known some who tried... striges. we’re just ‘carriers’.. but the longer you go without. mostly baloney. We’re powerful. vampires.searching for immortality. Doesn’t matter how we live. and the like. Lucille. of course. No discrimination. under sentence of death. Lucille. and governments help each other to track us down. the legend of his disciple Zalmoxis who supposedly learned the secret. Well. Guess it’s good to know they can actually cooperate on something. spent three days and nights buried in a cave in Transylvania. 59 . of course. jiangshi.” “How do you live? Can you live without. now that I’m on their registers.. and emerged immortal. But I’ve got by since Ariadna died. in today’s world. that is. If I tried settling down anywhere. and people expected higher standards of their deities.. we are immortal. until you lose self-control completely. We’re fugitives. on just birds. and we’re not exactly averse to the occasional ‘blood sacrifice’. by the way. to be wiped out. draugar. the harder it gets. or what we do. monsters.. we can grant immortality upon those we choose. and in some civilisations people even used to worship us. to become a god of the Thracian people. I’d expect them to smoke me out eventually. a walking plague. so we became mere demons. but people are so much cleverer at it these days. we’ve been hunted for centuries. but with grains of truth.. so it kind of figures. shape-shifters... But now we’re past all of that...
You didn’t just drain me. Gone now. but I can hardly move. but tired. I know..but I didn’t use it..” he suggested.. and I’m afraid that also brought out my predatory side. I settled the vermin problem in my own way. you never have to attack people?” “Uh.. somehow. said you were an escaped convict... to be honest. He’ll live. You might fight it off. Calm.... Yeah.. though.. They were here. but—” “You came to warn me... some low-life did try to stick a knife in me down at the docks a few days ago.. half-heartedly.. Nothing for it. you’ll have to take me with you. You don’t think I’d just run out—?” “You have to go.. did you? I’m changing.” “I don’t... How long until.. I mean.?” “Look.” he added.. It’s pretty hard to drain someone to death without intending to. no... out of consideration for her sickened grimace. how are you feeling? Any better. “Who knows? I sure don’t. Waste not. Well. “Still..... My eyes.” “I’m not going anyplace.. you know. Uh... The police. I’m so sorry. or different?” “I don’t feel bad. I can hardly keep them open. Heck. just try and stay awake..” 60 . speaking of which. I know it. I swore I’d never do this to anyone. asking about you. Lucille.. that’s better than. disgusting. don’t think I shall.” “Then I won’t. Some way to thank you. and tingling all over..
Lucille. “by going. though.” “Healers? Who—?” “‘Exterminators’ would be more accurate. The ones hunting us are as secretive about their existence as we are. It’s run by a couple. Even Joseph. with his special insight.. Must go. Suspicious. anyway. in Spitalfields. I doubt that was the real police that called... weakening voice. clinically dead by the standards of any reasonable medical practitioner. anywhere. and avoid the Healers. so to speak.. But you saw them off?” “Think so.” “I do know of one place. there’s you to think of. who run the refuge — I did say I wouldn’t go there again until things had quieted down. but they like to kid themselves they’re doing us a favour.. Not risk drawing the hunt to them. I reckon this probably qualifies. except in an emergency. he could not have been 61 .. However.” she announced. She lay still. start new lives. They were helping me to find somewhere I could stay long-term. This couple. They’ve helped others to lie low. or as close to safe as someone like me could ever hope to find.. almost mournfully. Besides which.. and felt an inner vibration so faint that no doctor’s instrument could have sensed it... When he touched her. though.. somewhat firmly in spite of her strained. I guess so.” “Yeah. Might come back. her eyes open but expressionless..“You can thank me... her heart silent. Lucille? Lucy?” he asked. That’s the reason I came up to London — a safe haven. They can hardly refuse to. feared the worst. safer than here.
when he ran into a scene that disgusted him. but as surely as no-one ever remembers the day of their birth. It had been a dreary. moaning piteously. who was furiously babbling phrases from scripture while the lady cowered in the gutter. musketbearing corporal of the militia. not long after the Declaration of Independence. but the preacher had taken his defeat very ungraciously. he knew he would never forget the day of his “rebirth”. cursing Joseph to an eternity in Hell for having helped the “demon slut”. he returned to check on their victim. He had driven them off quickly. Having made certain of the gang’s departure. It was a long think back to the time when he had been in her position. and even joyful to see him. She thanked him for his gallant conduct 62 . Their apparent leader.more relieved had she jumped off the bed and gone for a ten-mile run. and the thugs closed in for the kill. and was heading back to barracks alone. to his amazement. when he first met Ariadna. he was not overly impressed by the threat. drizzly evening in Providence. He had just parted company with some of his comrades in the militia. none of them being in the mood to tangle with a uniform-wearing. In a gloomy little alley. a young Spanish woman was being menaced by a gang of knife-wielding ruffians. or words to that effect. Rhode Island. Since one of Joseph’s ancestors had been hanged for witchcraft at Salem. with much the same sort of “legal process” as this poor young woman had been receiving. was a preacher. She seemed unharmed. well off the path of any respectable citizen not brave or mad enough to follow the screams.
His memory of the rest of that evening was extremely clouded. deep within his subconscious. he had loved her. but this was out of pride rather than principle. and thought them to be as fair game as any animal.with such affectionate words that he could have refused her nothing. despised and feared them. least of all to escort her back home. She would not hunt children. dark confines of a stone sarcophagus. but he could not have denied that she lacked ethics. Some primeval instinct. but Ariadna’s charms had won the battle. That experience would almost certainly have driven him out of his mind. with whom he found himself sharing his new home. On the other hand. or the utterly helpless. had it not been for the soothing words and embrace of his self-appointed “bride”. had tried to warn him that this was a stupid thing to do. she had been a devoted companion to him and an excellent instructor. but vibrant with the same unearthly power that was now animating his own body. In spite of his not-exactly-willing initiation. teaching him to make full use of his powers and protecting him from any number of fatal mistakes in the early years of his immortality. he would certainly have fallen victim to some fanatical priest or freelance hunter. 63 . but he did recall waking up the following night in the close. equivalent to an antelope taking a stroll with a hungry cheetah. not to mention that their blood was a far more satisfying source of energy. Without her aid. Nor had her touch felt cold to him any longer. For she considered humanity her natural enemy.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century. carefully observing anyone who showed the faintest vampire-like habits. fairly certain that Ariadna had not suffered. There were. It was. however.Unfortunately even she. On the plus side. he had given up trying to restrain her ruthlessness and she had given up trying to awaken his. that was of precious little comfort to him. Some all-too-observant person. and managed it far more efficiently. trained Healers had begun prowling America’s streets. very many successful cases of “euthanasia” upon vampires. for this was long before it became customary practice for Healers to attempt the capture of live “carriers” for experimentation. there were not very many accidental killings of humans. and even fewer as the Healers’ methods became more reliable. Joseph and Ariadna had taken to hunting separately by then. and adding their names to the register. at least. and that gossip had made its way into the files of the Healers. and there was nothing left within it except a couple of spent shotgun cartridges and a few bloodstains. One night he returned home to find that the grave had been forced open. The teeming metropolis of New York had offered Joseph some refuge — a crowd to get lost in — and for a long time he had managed to lead an almost normal. albeit lonely existence. though. who 64 . In spite of their strong attachment. and the death rate was rising. with all her experience. had been completely taken by surprise when the United States government usurped the grim duty of vampireextermination from the religious orders. In all honesty. however. must have taken note of his nocturnal habits.
but Lucille’s kindness had made the greatest impression. fashion. and would not be denied. The only right and proper thing to feel was guilt. Assuming she was genuinely amenable to the idea of a relationship with her killer. he found himself responsible for someone else: the poor victim who was hopelessly involved in his fate. and other matters of little importance to a social leper such as himself — the conversations they shared had often revealed her intelligence and sensitivity. He had worried for some time that he was falling in love with her. Now it seemed that his efforts to give the Healers the slip had been in vain. but a guilty joy was also making its presence felt. he wasted no time in selling his personal effects. and not out of mere loneliness. preferably somewhere the Healers could never reach them.had decided to observe him as a potential target for euthanasia. Even worse. there was the small matter 65 . for if he could only get her to safety. and although she had a giddy enthusiasm for subjects which did not really interest him — jazz music. at any rate. celebrity lifestyles. obtaining his landlord’s reference letter. it would mean an end to the lonely excuse for a life he had been leading for almost half a century. and stowing himself away on the first London-bound cargo ship. He was certainly amenable to it. When he knew for certain that he was being trailed. The whole Kitson family had been most considerate to him. Also. even if they did tend to begin along the lines of “Did you see Louise Brooks / Lon Chaney / Mary Pickford in such-and-such a film? Wasn’t she / he absolutely divine / copacetic / the bees knees?” and so forth.
The sunlight was fading. call a taxi to 14 Peony Place. just in case you were thinking of getting too happy about this little atrocity. although professional Healers received psychological training for such occasions. Lucille had to be taken to safety without delay.of her having discovered his “little secret”. he 66 . but also because of the risk that she might have her own ideas of what would be in her undead daughter’s best interests — probably very misguided ideas. but if the Healers were patrolling the district then it would endanger both of their lives if he were to simply carry her in his arms all the way to Spitalfields. There was nothing for it but for him to make for Stepney Green and the nearest telephone box. which was helpful. but instead having reacted with absolute. unswerving compassion. And if she hadn’t. she’d still be alive and wouldn’t have to go into hiding. or having staked him to the floor. If he was attacked. or the parish priest. That was partly out of understandable cowardice. Waiting around for her to revive was not an option: the Healers would almost certainly return and. he might even be able to hypnotise his assailants. if it came to an honest-to-goodness street brawl. he mentally chastised himself. at that. Kitson. On the other hand. and hope that the Healers would have the misfortune of not intercepting him en route. looking at her pale. inanimate body with a sense of foreboding. he did not particularly relish the thought of explaining the situation to Mrs. moreover. yet not having called the police. because if he waited for it to get fully dark he would be able to move a good deal faster and defend himself more effectively.
if cowardice seemed the wiser course. but since he had only recently fed. diminishing his very sense of being. Halfway to Stepney Green he was deeply regretting his decision. He doubted that he could manage to sustain a shape-shift all the way to the telephone box. delay was unbearable. Even the weak twilight would be hard for him to endure. overpowering and enfeebling his finely-tuned senses. he could elude his enemies by phasing through a solid wall or two. Kitson as her daughter’s murderer. was. and it could not be long before the sun had the decency to set properly. and was about to ask the operator to connect 67 . but this might have been for the best as the only animal form he had ever been able to assume — that of a black bear — was not ideally inconspicuous in the East End. but he was already committed to a course of action. But with poor Lucille now in as much danger as he would be should the “police” call again. and making him feel every inch the walking corpse that he. realising that anyone who attacked him now would hardly have their work cut out. dropped tuppence into the slot as soon as his blurred vision refocused. disrupting his spiritual energy. and a wide-brimmed hat for shade. legally speaking.would certainly stand a better chance after dark or. he staggered into the telephone box. After a few more excruciating minutes. Even these precautions were only of limited use. as he guiltily reflected with another glance at the bed. He put on a long coat and gloves for insulation. and set out. he could survive the exertion. as was the thought of facing Mrs. the dismal. grey light was like deadly radiation to him.
Mercifully. hearse-like 68 . and for every one of his depraved. and a witness to his own guilt. he even had the desire to confess what he had done. a parasite who had already outlived his natural years and owed it to the world to die. his brain preferring unconsciousness to the promise of insanity should this soul-crushing experience be suffered to continue. too late to prevent himself from being doused in the face with holy water from a spray gun. He saw himself through the eyes of thousands of righteous. he passed out from sheer excess of despair. ensuring that she would not be a cause of pain and shame to her family. overwhelming him with the knowledge of his own worthlessness. Lucille. including those whom he claimed to love. Thus. His “life” was an insult to creation.him when he heard the door opening behind him. a curse even to himself.. so that the Healer might also find and exterminate Lucille quickly. and added to his self-hatred was the disgust that he felt for her. a twisted parody of the human image.. For a few moments. but she was now as he was. uncontaminated human beings: a contemptible thing. a terror to the human race. concentrated hatred in liquid form. but that was nothing to this. He turned. however. and a crime against all those unfortunate enough to cross his path. despised by God and humanity. The sunlight had been hateful enough. for Ariadna before her. he missed the part where he was thrown into the back of an unmarked. it was pure. distilled. but for his unusual choice of sidearm and his sadistically triumphant expression. diseased race. held in the hand of a drab-clothed man who might have passed for a detective.
black van and driven north to a certain abbey crypt in which several white-coated human beings were eagerly anticipating his arrival. Although to exaggerate their benevolence would give quite the wrong impression. 69 . and with nothing at all like hatred of him.
and traffic were absent. The typical sounds of bustle.CHAPTER V TAPHOPHOBIA 05 Taphophobia Lucille had no idea how long she had been wandering these streets. she occasionally heard the reports of explosions — some distant. chatter. sinister drone. she also began to take in her surroundings. low. tormented screams. through which only the silhouettes of the houses were visible. When she finally began to consider this. Above the mournful sound of this siren. and what had seemed the familiar terraced lanes of Stepney were suddenly as alien and threatening as a scene from Dante’s Inferno. some uncomfortably close — and faint. though she had the heartsick if improbable sense that it had been for an eternity. and some lay in ruins. Then she remembered how it was that she had — so to 70 . except where occasional glowing patches of red and deep orange revealed that many of them — and even whole streets — were on fire. which were the only evidence of life. replaced by a constant. Thick smoke hung in the air. dazed and listless.
but sensed that it was neither. She was plainly dressed in a grey suit and a long wrap-over coat. if not downright threatening. only to be further tortured by the knowledge of how childish this must have appeared. “I quite understand. Her expression was compassionate.. unblinking eyes seemed far more real than her surroundings. It takes time to adjust. The burning desolation that had once been Stepney was reflected in it... dear. you’ll probably think all of this was just your own fantasy. straight. and that can only mean one thing for me.” said a voice behind her. but not sentimental. and it will be difficult for you. though it shocked her nonetheless. dark-haired woman of about thirty. infected her. and then? An appalling idea struck her: Is this Hell? “Nothing so melodramatic. can’t it? But just to settle the matter. horror. Our first 71 . but she was not. and who could blame you? But try to remember me. Lucille wheeled around to encounter a tall. dear. however. Lucille was well aware of this. In a flash of despair. and bright. seemed sympathetic. and self-pity.speak — “found her way” to this terrible place: how Joseph had drained her blood. as if she was the only three-dimensional inhabitant of a particularly horrible cartoon. Her companion. When you wake up. she dashed it to the pavement. she stared at Lucille with a loving intensity that most people of the non-vampire persuasion would have found at least rude.. quite kindly. shining hair. if somewhat unnerving: her porcelain-pale skin. she took out her hand mirror to check her face for any signs of alteration. but by any reasonable standards was strikingly beautiful.
.. Listen carefully. I think.. the sound was indefinably more real — although no 72 . it’s a wonder that we should be so hunted and reviled. like the dark-haired lady. I’m only dreaming? I’m not. There’s no guarantee that either of us will remember this dream perfectly.. that is — might well be crucial to your survival. You may have to find me yourself. certainly never straying beyond the human collective unconscious. They dream only in the realm of their own minds. just like our boys in the Royal Air Force have been doing to the Arabs. Humanity has such a talent for killing and terrorising itself.. whereas our dreaming spirits travel the astral plane throughout an infinity of dimensions. First. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. I’m afraid. You’re just a little bit time-slipped.?” “Undead? I’m afraid it’s too late for any regrets about that. And this destruction has all the hallmarks of being a war. though only as observers. and you can just about hear aeroplane motors. We don’t dream like mortals. but if we both—” At which point there was another scream — not an uncommon sound in this infernal future version of the East End. but I can assure you that this isn’t Hell. and that’s that. but unique for two reasons. A massive aerial bombing. when? What’s happening?” “It feels like the future to me. dear. but not. very far.” “Then where. but you will be hunted.... I can help you — dreaming spirits do not cross paths like this for no reason — but you must try to remember me.” “Then. and I’d like you to be ready for it.meeting — our first meeting in real time and space. And ‘only’ dreaming is perhaps not quite right.
was much clearer. and traced the tormented sounds to the entrance of the basement. He wouldn’t thank you for committing suicide for his sake. She was reaching for the doorknob. she heard the voice of the strange lady calling out behind her: “Come back to me. heedless of the explosions. the bomb-blasts. there was a “ceiling” 73 .and her hands connected with a flat. wooden surface. Lucille entered through the charred. as darkness and silence suddenly fell.louder — than the air-raid siren.” But she was now out of earshot. and everything else apart from the woman’s voice. Not even if you could find him. however.. Running through the war-torn streets in what she supposed to be its most likely direction. Trust me. when there was another explosion.. if they’ve got him. her new situation came into focus.. You need to take care of yourself. Without my help... and seemed to emanate from the gutted wreck of a house just a few yards further ahead. the distant plane engines. She looked up to see the remains of the roof descending upon her. Lucille recognised the voice. her pleas drowned amidst the phantasmal but very loud noises of the bombing. Second. The screaming. . although she had never before heard it express such agony.. She was lying down upon a wooden floor. She threw up her arms in a futile gesture of protection. as if the sounds of the nightmarish city were just a background track being played on a cheap gramophone. half-splintered front door. Lucy. this time ear-shatteringly close. After some moments of sheer confusion. a lethal shower of broken beams and sharp shards of slate. You can’t help Joseph.
of wood directly above her. 74 . of no impediment to a true immortal. Although a terrible suspicion was dawning upon her. she rapped against the wood in the hope of attracting attention. and still there was no response. or a year. and something in her mind gave way. Passing ripples in a cosmic lake. her fear swelled to unmanageable proportions. and as she felt around. inner nature. from deep within. If her conscious mind was too weak to come to terms with that. but her sense of the unreality of the external world was even more intense. leaving her with insufficient room to move more than a few inches in any direction. It was almost as if she had slipped back into her dreaming state. it had better make way for her true.. swamping her frail conscious mind like a tidal wave. done that. or a thousand years of this confinement. phantom things. and pounding with her fists. The coffin. the earth around it. and after that she began kicking against it. Then she rapped a little harder. and thrashing about. She pushed against the roof of her tiny cell.. transient collections of elementary particles that were themselves mere vibrations. and she had already been there. There was no escape from her coffin — as she now realized it to be — except by death. but it did not yield in the slightest. and even the world were temporary. and screaming. she realised that there were wooden walls on every side. After a few minutes of considering how it would be for her after a week. only mistaken for solid forms by naïve human eyes. powerful new instincts arose.
As automatically as if she had been breathing. and overwhelming her with a sense of elation and power that was too much for her reasoning mind to cope with. not exactly hunger. unwilling. but knowledge no longer mattered. was the only truly unreal thing in the vicinity. **** Joseph had travelled far and wide in his dreams. Beyond the boundaries of St. Mercifully. a rich territory for a predator such as her. Energy was flooding into her. soothing and healing her body. her body set out quickly and stealthily into the East End. while her mind — confused. 75 . but she could not live on it alone. and had beheld many tantalising glimpses of past and future times. and in danger of losing her fragile grip on existence unless she could find the sustenance she needed to restore it. Driven by pure emotion. without a shred of selfcontrol. although by no means unpleasant. drained her of what little willpower she had left. but a sense of emptiness and tenuousness. Dunstan’s graveyard lay a teeming jungle of brick and concrete. But something was lacking. but unresisting — went along for the ride. for her new instincts could sense it all around. and her terror was replaced by a tremendous exhilaration that. She did not know how to go about getting it. as if she. She could “breathe in” this dark energy. which she was not. her mind reeling in a chaos of terror that intensified for each second that she continued to violate the laws of classical physics. only a few such seconds passed before she emerged into the night air. She had a desperate craving. she found herself rising through the solid wood and densely-packed earth. in fact.
But by the third night he was none too confident that this was going to be the case. and crystalline mountains. Sooner or later he knew he would come face-to-face with his captors. his sense of crushing pain was very slightly alleviated. scenes worthy of Heaven and Hell. leaving him to cope with the constant. whether animal. such as pulsing arteries. a myriad of unearthly forms. impossible to say. mineral. there was no improvement. For the last three days. however.and of other places besides: alien worlds of golden skies. if only with the help of his fear. but the darkness and paralysis continued. and total paralysis. in darkness. his sense of despair intensified. fresh open wounds. and shapes and colours without name. and dripping fangs that were testing his selfcontrol to its limits. when he was awake. but even in this wretched state he had the experience to keep them in check. phantom odour of blood. and he was becoming acutely aware of his need to hunt. that might have driven a merely human observer to insanity. and he preferred to have his wits about him for that encounter. His instincts were fighting for attention and control. agony. During the night. he had dreamed of being trapped beneath a pile of rubble. This formed an all-tooappropriate accompaniment to the persistent slideshow of mental images. his true sense of smell had failed completely. or something altogether unknown. vegetable. which was encouraging him not to do anything stupid. scarlet seas. and had reached the conclusion that this could not possibly be a good sign. 76 .
emerging into what turned out to be a very peculiar morgue. somewhere close to his head: “If you can understand me. though. in an impressively patronising tone for a vibrating electromagnet. You will drain them and await further instructions. Sight was not important. or play recordings of hymns. we will be lenient. You will now be released. his vision gradually adjusting to the light.He was almost ready to surrender to merciful insanity when a harsh. briefly blinding Joseph as glaring artificial light poured in upon him. distorted. and prayers through the loudspeakers. If you are well behaved.” A motor whirred somewhere in the dark. all except his had been stamped 77 . These are for your nourishment. and the long metal cabinet lid slid open on rails. You will find a cage containing rats. bearing the ID number of the “subject” within and the date of its capture (and. Do not attempt to leave the morgue area. “In a few moments your cabinet will be opened and you will step out into the main morgue area. but recognisably female voice emanated from an electronic loudspeaker. rather worryingly. padded door. mantras. and his urge for it would not be suppressed for the sake of any petty shame he might feel at accepting rats from his enemies. There were about a dozen or so long metal cabinets like his. Each was marked on the front with a filing card. Any hostile action will be punished. he could sense living blood nearby. in a row against the wall opposite the single. pay attention. We can pump vapourised holy water into the morgue. He climbed out of the cabinet.” explained the machine.
” She took a silver medallion from the box and showed it to him. greying blonde hair.over in red ink with a large “X”). “You need have no fear. the door opened to admit a woman of about fifty. revealing herself to be the source of the stern. possibly Middle Eastern but unknown to him. his eyes fixed upon the box as she undid its clasps. The walls of the room and the linoleum floor tiles were bare and white. Joseph found himself backing self-protectively into the corner.. and in less than a minute the cage had been torn open and the “nourishment” taken. the threat of starvation was worse. Whatever it was. to sound curious rather than pleased. whilst the vaulted ceiling and the pillars at the corners were of ancient-looking stone. wearing a long white coat. inducing almost as powerful a sense of disgust and depression as he had felt when the healer had sprayed him in the face with holy water.. of course. “That’s effective?” she asked. and although her air was that of a schoolmistress rather than of a torturer. When he had finished his meal. cursive script. It’s from the 78 . A few lines were carved upon it in some elegant. with short. The only furniture apart from the cabinets was a wooden table. then I shall take measures. which she set down on the table. She was carrying some kind of toolbox. “I wonder. do you know what this script is? Apparently not. patronising loudspeaker voice. For example. Distasteful as it was to cooperate with his captors.. having the goodness.” she declared. he found it intensely repulsive. creating an atmosphere somewhere between that of a hospital and a dungeon. upon which stood the promised cage. at least. “unless you give me any trouble..
for a tight. with derision that he instantly regretted. and her hand tightened upon the handle of the toolbox. “You’d fit right in at the Depart79 . that rules out a merely psychosomatic effect. Since you didn’t recognise the text as holy. it’s my theory that those who write Bibles. Surah 113: ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak from the evils among His creations. Might not thoughts — beliefs — also have power. making of them mirrors.’ But don’t be alarmed. almost sympathetically. or sing Gregorian chants imbue their own faith into their creations. although energy. with superficial calmness and deep. lenses. then? A scientist or a witch?” he asked. You see. No. enough force to subtly change the nature of the objects we focus them on.” she urged.. holy texts. “What a shame we can’t get you a job at Cambridge University. carve crucifixes. we still laboured under the superstition that protectives — amulets. nasty little smile suddenly appeared on her face.Qur’an. returning the medallion to the box. “That was just a little test of a theory of mine.” she announced. actually. from the evils of darkness as it falls. thus making them into weapons against your kind.. when our organisation first took on this business. Does that seem farfetched? Yet Planck and Einstein have shown us that even light.” “Is that so? What the heck are you. seething venom. also has physical entity. but I’m definitely not Muslim. or channels of that spiritual energy which repels and disables your kind? That is one of the things I hope you will help me to establish. and suchlike — worked against your sort because of the Healer’s own faith in them. and can affect matter. momentum.
that’s why I’m here. our work is classified. ‘Inborn Psychical Abilities and Their Implications Upon the Quantum Theory’. and meticulously researched. and exact revenge for her careerrelated disappointments. Working for this department has disadvantages. and I do get to deal directly with subjects like you. our first true capture in the field. mark you — from a bloody vampire!” It was a passionate rant. and Joseph kept dreading the moment in which she would pull another torture-device out of her box of tricks. Unfortunately. if I say so myself.. Our other live subjects were all brought here before they revived as vamp. and continued in her former stern but non-threatening tone: “Still. and the bodies are delivered here. as active carriers. just in case. I had reliable witnesses and detailed accounts of psychic phenomena. scientific nature of the paranormal. and would make their precious university a laughing-stock! And as if that wasn’t humiliation enough. with the rest of those sceptical blockheads. But the government pays for my resources. all of the ones we brought in went insane upon 80 . and it will be years before I can publish any of my research. She had. however. But you’re unique. A real academic masterpiece. now shouted off all of her fury. now I’m facing the same mockery — mockery of the true. I was all set to write my doctoral thesis.ment of Experimental Psychology. and what do you suppose happened? Instant rejection! Those wretched professors didn’t even look past the damn title! They told me it was sheer fantasy. We get reports of deaths when there is a chance that the victim was infected. so there’s precious little recognition..
Perhaps they require time ‘in the wild’.” Goldstein smiled. then? Well. But the house had no electric devices to speak of. managing to sound superbly unconvincing in the space of four words. as I think you know full well. but there needs to be intention. or everyone I’d ever bitten would have become. and I assume you want to help her. That’s one reason I gave orders for your little girlfriend to be left alone. to adjust.” “Oh sure.. It ‘tingled’ when it was touched. like when you’ve got all you can out of me. or at least attraction.. Attraction or intention. according to the coroner’s report. 81 . So you and she were definitely close.” “I couldn’t.” “I’ve no idea what—” he replied. so to speak. not altogether unkind. indeed? Interesting. That’s to say. She died three days ago. “The Kitson girl. all the same. “but even so—” “I believe I get the picture. for the present. like you’re not going to ‘heal’ us both.. I didn’t exactly mean to. as a quizzical eyebrow was raised. But you and I know where that energy came from. I hope you’ll be cooperative.. don’t we? And there’s no earthly point in your denying it.” he hastily added. although he also suspected a fatal electric shock — her body had a strong static electrical charge. and that was in a different room. We may need to have a little chat about that. sooner or later. That won’t help her. not that there have been all that many. before Goldstein interrupted.. from a very odd case of anaemia. in a knowing and superior way that was.revival.. apart from a radio. unless you infected her by accident.
yet there are no government plans for irresponsible motorists to be shot on sight. I guess ’cause you think we’re pretty dangerous. but deemed it wisest to play along. of course. and sent forth all of their new disciples to spread the mutation far and wide. the majority of your victims seem to be prowlers. In any case.“Why do you imagine we do this work?” she asked. But nine times out of ten they don’t like to report that they’ve.” 82 . and general low-life. “‘Why’? Well. I don’t know about the US Congress. drawn by your siren-like charms. vagrants. She was inconsiderately dodging the issue of his imminent demise. More people die in road accidents every week than in carrier attacks for a whole year.” “Don’t flatter yourself.” “Yeah. but we’re not really all that social. he thought. I daresay. ahem. It’s crossed my mind. Some victims are even willing. well. muggers. if you take my meaning.” “That so? Then what’s the carnage all about. Now. Imagine if one of your lot got it into his or her head to raise an army. especially one that it wouldn’t even dare admit the existence of to the public. but our government wouldn’t spend millions of taxpayers’ pounds to deal with such a minor danger. ‘been with’ a vampire. pure and simple — a plague of immortality threatening this country. if you don’t mind me—?” “Plague prevention. and most confirmed attacks are non-fatal. Especially to their husbands and wives.
because at least we’ll have plenty of animal blood to drink! Not while I live and breathe. the whole fabric of our modern civilisation will crumble. the population would level out sooner or later — we can’t reproduce except by infection — and even if everyone in this country was claimed. Next thing you know. and even mirrors will be rendered useless. but that’s alright.” “Oh. there’d probably still be enough animal blood for them to live off. it mightn’t be an absolute catastrophe. nobody will be able to live or work during the daytime anymore. witheringly. I mean. thank you very much... Our main project here is to develop a vaccine. and so they drive their plague-carriers to our shores. populated only by degenerate mutants... although I’m quite sure it would please the United States no end if the British Empire were to collapse into a purposeless chaos.. “Humanity’s been derailed off its evolutionary tracks.” “Point taken. and before we know it we’ll be overrun with bloodthirsty immortals.“One of you might conceive of it as an act of revenge.. they’d be getting seats in Parliament. film. It would only take the one. isn’t it?” replied Goldstein. But no matter: you can help us. now. photography. or a means of gaining power.” “Hey! I’m not some government agent. The human immune 83 . ma’am.” “Of course. The US government was after my hide just as eagerly as you folks. but even if it really came to that. well that’s just fine. the cycle of birth and death upon which the progress of society depends has been rudely curtailed.
You’re very tricky customers to analyse. Well. I know who you are. Help me to find the vaccine. You made a fairly decent life for yourself. Think about it: you could save your entire race.system seems to have no resistance to your infection. I’m sure. although you missed out the bit where we take your girlfriend’s name off our extermination list. That’s what happens if you refuse to help us. by all accounts. right?” “Broadly speaking. I put up with enough interference from the bloody military without accepting input from some hack horror-story writer as well. but they have a nasty habit of breaking down very quickly. there’s no reason why you can’t do so again. The purge would be over. But I don’t see how I can—” “I don’t want your scientific aid. I’m sorry to be so blunt. But as long as the British public 84 . or any other carriers as long as they behave reasonably. obviously..” “And if you find this vaccine of yours.” “Well sorry. ‘euthanatise’ either of you. although we’re pretty sure we’ve ruled out a bacterium. but there it is. as long as you’re prepared to cooperate with my experiments. though. The US Bureau of Investigation was kind enough to forward us your details. Of course. and we’ll have no reason to.. Oh yes. and the purge has to continue. I’m supposed to believe you’re just goin’ to let me walk out the doors of this place. ahem. you were quite the model citizen. in this country. we’ve taken no end of blood and tissue samples. Apart from being a carrier. Joseph. We can’t even guess at the nature of it.” “By helping you to guarantee its future extinction?” “No.
That was loud. we can tolerate a few carriers about the place. The smallest detail might be the essential clue I need to defeat this germ. but I’ll be very impressed if you can find any court in this country willing to uphold the rights of a dead illegal immigrant.” “In that case. What would you like? A contract? I’ll type you up one if it would make you feel better. Our commander is an apathetic. Joseph?” **** Patrolling Mile End Road at the dead of night. nothing. Now. as long as they don’t make too much of a nuisance of themselves. and after tonight he would sooner have 85 .. once again reaching into the box.is protected from the threat of eternal life. ignorant sadist. then? First. need I go on?” “Oh no. with nothing more aggressive than a notebook and a pen.. you can tell me how you became infected.” she replied.” “What do I have except for your word on all of this. I guess I’ve no choice. had never been one of PC Weston’s favourite details. her hands emerging. much to his relief. keeping an eye out for drunks and vagrants to move along or drag off to the cells.. and what it felt like.” “Good. did you find your transition very painful. or whatever it is. but even he occasionally bothers to check reports. clear. and real tactless. “Shall we begin. ma’am?” “Well. and if the girl makes too much trouble. seeing as how I trust you about as far—” “You might also want to bear in mind that I can’t protect Lucy Kitson indefinitely..
to say the least. “I won’t hurt you.taken a permanent transfer to the Outer Hebrides than to have walked that beat again. Even the way she stood up and faced him was all wrong. freezing him to the spot in spite of his common sense and fear. he knew that something was clearly amiss. and let me kiss you?” A very. then her eyes glinted and she broke into a smile that might have been seductive had it not been for the blood. pale skin and short. neatly-styled black hair were. emotionless expression. She did not even pause to blink. but as soon as the light of his torch fell upon this particular lurker. she stared at him with a blank. Her clear. For about a second. To encounter somebody huddled in the gloom of an unlit side street was nothing unusual. I like you. each soothing word was accompanied by an inaudible. but his mind was no longer pulling the strings of his body. too quick and coordinated. thought PC Weston) the length of her teeth. Why don’t you come closer. however. not to mention the dead pigeon in her hands. He took a step back. very stupid idea. And then there was the blood sprinkled around her mouth and down the front of her chic green dress. in an affectionate tone that did not. he thought. “Don’t be frightened of me.” she urged. high-frequency vibration that pierced right through to the motor-centre of his brain. not to mention (Oh Christ. make for entirely pleasant hearing. uncommon traits for the drunks and vagrants he usually saw. like the reaction of a startled animal. but stopped dead in his tracks as she spoke. Mere thoughts of 86 .
numbing sensation flooded through him. all of these twisted fantasies soon forgotten. and 87 . new feelings overwhelmed her: anxiety. granting her the most exhilarating. The very last time. waiting to wake up from this latest stage of her nightmare. Her mother and sister might even be glad to see her alive. and he felt himself slipping away. Clarimonde’s. and assuredly real experience of her life. For most of the night she had drifted in a soothing fog of disbelief.. all set for another wonderfully. but better that than to live like this. or at least a small part of it. at any moment she would find herself in bed with dear Eleanor. Tranquillising waves of indifference smothered his fear and reason. horrible. She pulled herself away from him. prickling. just as usual. As soon as she had formed this resolution..and as PC Weston went limp and unconscious in her arms. blessedly tedious day at St. But as the policeman’s blood ran down her throat.. there was no room left for such hopeful delusions. after a fashion.resistance could not even slow down his legs as they carried him into the pitch-dark lane and the outstretched arms of the girl (or the girl-shaped demon.. . God willing. however. They would shelter her until she could figure out what she needed to do in the long term. she would find her way home. She knew what she ought to do. even as the eager kiss that she planted on his neck turned into a bite. at any rate). Lucille’s mind. disorientation. and told herself: Never again. carefully laid his sleeping form against the wall. and as she wrapped them around him a cold.. It was a terrible burden to impose on them.. rebelled against her instincts.
. stimulating dark energy was already fading. No! Never again. but even in her less than perfectly sound state of mind. The sight that greeted her there. Dunstan’s. and if it did not kill her it would certainly leave her crippled and helpless among mortals. torment her..1929. to find someplace it could never penetrate. swift and cat-like. and gain the strength for the hunt to resume. The sewers? Safer. uncontaminated night air. her grave was cool. But for every second that brought the day closer. perhaps. When all danger had passed she could emerge again.. The gentle. She could lie there all day.. engraved upon a small slab of burnished marble — “Lucy Kitson. keeping to the shadows. Must go home. b. It would weaken her. hateful radiation. Her only thought now was to hide from it. dark.nausea. however. her fear increased until it exerted an unbearable pressure on her already fragile willpower.. This argument would have to wait until later. her instincts were not going to be overruled. and no enemies would find her. Miserably and reluctantly.. and would soon be replaced by searing waves of harsh. quickly silenced. many of whom would be only too glad to finish the job. if she hoped to escape detection. back to St. Get help. she succumbed to her body’s desire and crept. Beloved 88 ... the sunlight would not hurt her at all. for the present. close at hand.1913. The faint voice of rational horror was. A tube station? Hardly practical. It made perfect sense. d. bask in the invigorating. and completely safe. that was an unappealing prospect.. and she knew instinctively that dawn was breaking.. Especially given the obvious alternative that leapt to mind: My grave? But.
sadly lamented” — very nearly shook her back to a state of full self-awareness. 89 . It was no longer capable of protesting as she melted back into the comforting embrace of the cold earth and her coffin. no longer afraid. where she lay. but feeling safer than an unborn baby in the womb. ever-lightening grey. but the blissful darkness had now degraded to an ominous. a barrage of weak but nonetheless painful rays of sunlight was attacking her from the east.daughter. and her mind was a hopeless turmoil of dread.
dirty. and his hair prematurely grey and thin. with the sort of superficial politeness that one instinctively knows can vanish in an instant. battle-scarred face was almost as threatening as the flick-knife with which he was all-tooconspicuously toying. had he not looked quite so gaunt and careworn. plain suit with a priest’s collar. but his cheeks were unhealthily hollow. Dunstan’s Church. two men stood at the lych-gate of St. as he wore a dark. ain’t you?” “That’s a way of looking at it. One of them was at least in keeping with the place.” declared the knife-man. in an utterly indifferent Scottish accent. Stepney. at about eleven o’clock. should the occasion arise. “Out ’n’ about rather late. vicar. he was a much more appealing sight than the other man. Both suit and wearer were respectable-looking.” replied the priest.CHAPTER VI SANCTUARY 06 Sanctuary The following night. He might have even been handsome. while saving all of his 90 . although sadly worn. Even so. whose bristly. “Evenin’.
Under normal circumstances it would have been a very beautiful face. coming face-to-face with Medusa herself would not have been a significantly more nasty experience. This was without even considering the sound that came out of that distended. snarling. but I’ve no money. paralysed and trembling in the presence of some ravenous carnivore. what a pity. like. some time. “Or maybe you jus’ likes blowin’ it all away on the sins of the flesh. the surface politeness swiftly evaporating. unless you’re countin’ on feelin’ a damn sight worse.” “I’ll have to take your word on that. wheeled him around. Well. I’ve actually been out of work for. but conveying a sense of primeval terror that stripped millions of years of evolution away from the mugger’s mind to leave him a small. I could say the same about you. a growl.” “I’m sorry to hear that. then I’d strongly advise—” But before he could fully articulate his advice. helpless mammal. you could say.real attention for a grey owl that was circling overhead. vic’.” “What? Parish been holdin’ back your wages. a hand grasped him by the shoulder. father. Medical problems..” “Well. You can tell me.. You know ’ow it is. ’as it?” he asked. sabretoothed mouth. 91 . don’t ’ave no beds to go to. and he found himself within inches of the most appalling face he had ever seen. some of us. father. but since it was twisted into an expression of such devilish rage as had never been equalled by human facial muscles. or a screech. not exactly a hiss. “Mind. No shame in that.” “Oh.
I know. for whatever he’s got to live for. here’s one option you’d better take — come and drink at once. You look awful. you don’t look as though you’re on the verge of fading away.” “I was considering my options. Please don’t collapse and force me to have to drag you all the way home. on the other hand. I did see the girl while I was circling. only two nights ago—” “You had one mouse and a half-dead sparrow.” she concluded. dear. “I do love. Follow me as soon as you’ve finished with him. so he ought to survive another draining. drawing back from her prey with a much calmer. even force a scream.” “Possibly not. Not good enough. I’d better get after her. she was crossing Whitechapel Road and heading north. albeit bloodstained expression. I only took a quick sip from him.” “You’re sure? Where is she now?” “Well. and I do hate.” “I hardly think I’m to blame for being mugged.Even as the diabolical creature sank her teeth into his neck. Robert.” “Actually. but if only you didn’t consider it a sin to take proper care of yourself..” “Really? Well. or meet me back home. in spite of all his fear. but then we had to have this little distraction. protested loudly. thanks all the same. The priest. Bon appétit. Just be sure the next time I see you.” she declared. her form 92 . if my husband is going to let trash like this stick knives in him. “Anne! For pity’s sake—” “I don’t do pity. which is just as well. Anyway.. though. he could not. but you ought to know by now that I have little time for anything in between. On the bright side. dear.
and continued on foot for the rest of the way. and the newformed owl headed skywards. When she first saw her up close. When I awoke. her face stained with blood and grime. It was not long before she relocated the girl. dear? Two days ago I dreamed that I met you. she hoped. and her expression wild-eyed and vacant. You were frightened. Anne spoke to the girl cautiously and. but you ran away. and in the dream I knew who you were. I didn’t remember it too well the next night — you know how one doesn’t always — but yesterday I saw you in my dream again. landed in a nearby lane. so I checked the local obituaries. territorial hiss. scanning the labyrinth of streets with its razor-sharp night vision. her close-cropped hair dishevelled. Anne stopped in her tracks.becoming dark and indistinct. Anne’s unbeating heart went out to her. hoping not to alarm her. I remembered your name. she found it difficult to think of a better reaction. The girl’s clothes were filthy. soothingly. and her voice distant and echoing. and knew that I had to help you somehow. You are Lucy 93 . not out of fear — for there was no way this poor. and in spite of Anne’s claim not to “do pity”. I tried to speak to you again. Then the amorphous shadow that she had become resolved and focused into a new shape. Anne swooped down. pathetic creature could have seriously threatened her — but in the hope that she might thus avoid scaring her away. “Don’t you remember me. chasing rats in a rubbishstrewn lane somewhere in Spitalfields. in spite of the lessthan-friendly greeting that she received: bared fangs and a long-drawn.
“You’re very handsome too. that was suspiciously quick. Might not be anything left that we can reach.” “I see what you mean. and you still look like death warmed up. but this is only her second night. I hope you won’t 94 . we can argue about your death-wish later.” she urged. with bold understatement.. Lucy. “That’s just my utter idiot of a husband.” commented Robert. May I assume that my concern fell on deaf ears?” “I had a wee drop.” “Doesn’t everyone?” “Why. having to see her like this at all is heartbreaking. If we could only bring her back to her senses she’d make a very lovely vampire.. “Total shock. Still.” “Ever the optimist.” “Yes. She does look a bit far gone. as a large black hawk swooped into the lane and shape-shifted into the form of the ashen-faced priest. for now. in spite of all your efforts to wither to a skeleton. I can believe that. No! Don’t run.. Well. Robert.” he protested. practically a walking coma. But enough of that. and it’s a little early to write her off as a zombie. Robert. at the sight of Lucille’s snarling mouth and empty eyes. I wasn’t expecting to see him quite so soon. all-too-used to her husband’s sarcasm and self-loathing. would you not say? Just hunger and motor reflexes keeping her active. aren’t you? You were Joseph Ward’s friend before. nearly causing the girl to bolt away in shock.. In fact.Kitson. dear.” replied Anne. “No more than I needed. thank you. I doubt it would do much to reassure poor Miss Kitson.
and let me fix your hair for you? You’re very pretty.” she said.” he replied. helmet-like style while Lucille’s face gradually lost its wild look of terror and settled into a dismayed but human expression. while I attend to Miss Kitson. so Anne halted. Now. let’s see.” She ran the comb slowly and gently through the short. Lucy. soon restoring them to their fashionable. and reassure her that her whole world had not collapsed into supernatural chaos. A little closer. who had ceased her snarling and was now merely staring. Would you do that for me. clear and pale. “Nothing to be afraid of.take it amiss if I ask you to wait at the end of the lane and keep an eye out for healers. as Lucille began a very cautious advance. “There now. dear?” “Aye. shiny. but you look as though you’ve just crawled out of a train wreck. I’ll leave you to it. Had their bickering touched a nerve in her confused mind? Perhaps all that the poor girl needed was something commonplace to latch onto. dear. then. perhaps? Well done. “There. Anne took out her pocket-comb and stepped forward. whatever. just hold still while I clean off some of this muck.” she ordered. and spoke to her softly. “Why don’t you come here. Now. mainly in fear but also — if Anne’s hope was not deluding her — with a trace of curiosity. before delicately spitting onto her handkerchief and dabbing at the bloodstains and dirt on Lucille’s face. That’s right. Carefully. Anne turned her attention back to Lucille. tangled locks. that’s better. slowly uncovering a Hollywood-perfect complexion. Lucille flinched back and bared her fangs again. profoundly relieved. and set off briskly in the direction of the main street. didn’t I say you 95 .
.” “For goodness’ sake.” declared Robert’s deadpan voice. dear. if you wouldn’t mind.” “Try telling that to them when they catch up with us. observing the increasing awareness in Lucille’s expression with joy. enemies coming. well. “though I can’t say I’ve got the first idea who—” “Robert. I thought you’d like to know that a black van just pulled up across the end of this lane. I’ll kill them. while continuing to whisper soothingly. and I promise you.. or rather pulling her along with them. Lucy. didn’t I just ask you to—?” “Aye. dear.were pretty? No. “I was having my doubts. taking Lucille by the arm and leading.” she said. and without waiting for him to finish she took Lucille by the shoulders and addressed her. who had gone a little way ahead and was acting as their navigator through the stygian labyrinth of lanes and back streets. “I’m glad someone has. calmly but very insistently. with 24-carat irony. Just keep following Robert... Anne. Now is it just me. I wouldn’t bother looking in your mirror. but—” Anne. You look just like Louise Brooks. however. as he swiftly approached. “Just a little faster.” she suggested. or are our 96 . “We must go at once. “Perhaps just a little less violence wouldn’t hurt. I see you’ve heard of her.” said Robert. Not that I stopped to see who’d come out. There are Healers. but our home is close. Turn left here. If anyone tries to. must you—?” “Corrupt the child?” she interrupted. That’s right. had got the message.” “That’s a relief. Take my word for it. I won’t let anyone hurt you. Oh. but if you say so. He knows the way.
only to find them waiting for her on the other side. with frank contempt. I have no problems at all with being 97 . as—” “As me.. They’re getting a good deal sneakier of late. If we take enough detours we can probably shake them off. A shotgun blast to the heart. Briony tried that trick last year. but I’ve no doubt they had worse in mind for her.” “Aye. She’d have been done for if David hadn’t come running back for her. poor girl.. Still. for all they knew. and no more than two hundred yards behind us... you know me better than to suppose I have any shame of what I am.. After all. “What I mean to say is. it’s only natural they should be afraid. for all the good it did him. Robert. had their ambush gone as planned. I hear them too. she might have been as dangerous as. At least five men. it’s a matter of perspectives. though.. heavilyequipped by the sound of it. at least.. we mustn’t be judgmental..” “Speak for yourself. Anne.” she replied. you might recall.” “Aye. well.. but. I don’t suppose Lucy’s feeling up to that...” “Of Briony? You’ll have to remind me when it was that she ever drained anything larger than a guinea-pig.” “Well. there’s no denying it. Poor thing.. he died quickly. Robert? Come now. and your opinion of me is quite correct.footsteps suddenly echoing a wee bit more than you’d expect them to?” “No. She’s even afraid of rats.” “Probably just as well. though I’d feel a lot happier if we could phase through a wall or two...
.. Anne.” “That was a very long time ago.” 98 . as well. and they made their way to this sole sign of habitation. I know it. known as “Geraldine Court” if the grimy little metal plaque in the entrance passageway was to be believed. Oh. if I had the chance... but. “I knew I was right to trust in your sense of direction. obscure little square. I couldn’t. to go back and change my decision.” “We can work on that. yet I don’t see anyone rounding them up and exterminating them on the off-chance. dear.. as they entered a dirty.. dear. They certainly don’t sound as close as they were. I accept all of that.. poor dears. I don’t mind if.their enemy.. but I’m not proud of that fact. and I do believe they’re heading the wrong way. I fail to see what harder evidence I can offer. the better. here we are. any man walking the streets might be a wanted murderer. and I think we may have lost our assiduous friends.” “I’ve had regrets. surrounded by a quadrangle of dilapidated tenement houses.” she declared.. I’d do no such thing. Perhaps you’re regretting it. Otherwise. As long as you still love me. I’m afraid your opinions disgust me. and the greater a danger I am to them. That’s undeniable. The doors around this courtyard were all boarded or bricked up with only one exception. Why else do you suppose I’ve been helping you to run the refuge all these years?” “Not because you love me?” “I loved you enough to die for you.” “I know.. For all they know. though. Anne. Robert.
Must get back—” “No. but you’ll be very vulnerable. and very comfortable. and there’s a place for you to sleep.” suggested Anne.. dear?” “Sleep. You’ll never be free.” “Do you mind. What’s that. ignore him. so it would seem.” apologised Robert... Must go—” “This is home. and even if they did. Graveyard. and you’ll never learn to control any of your instincts. her calm. now? Speak up. and it’s perfectly safe. it will become an unbreakable cycle. “Thank goodness that we didn’t lead them back here. faintly peevish tone belying the concern she felt at seeing Lucille’s eyes so wild and staring again. Hey. though. what’s the matter. Not safe. I dread to think. If you stay with us. We’ll get you cleaned up. If you keep doing that. Beg pardon. Robert? I promise you. Lucy.“Aye. “What’s that you’re saying.. Trust me.” “Oh. I can’t promise there won’t be dangers — these are difficult times for us — but if we survive them. miss?” he asked. Lucy.. Thank the Lor..... so the Healers couldn’t just break in. you’ll be safe here. resisting Anne’s efforts to lead her in. touch wood. after they had all finished wincing in a brief but keen flash of existential pain.” 99 .. muttering incoherently... my bonny lass...” “Home.. that’s exactly what you mustn’t do. yes.” “Theoretically speaking. as Lucille halted before the doorway. Lucy. we rent the place legally. we can help you.. we still have eternity to look forward to. “No-one’s ever found us here.
and the old-fashioned wooden panels. narrow. Her vague. animal-like feelings of anxiety and isolation became fully-intelligible emotions of grief.” The hall was gloomy. That’s right. sobbing quietly but profusely against the cold. Presently. They’ll be certain to find you if you stay there. and sorrow. Can’t wait for that. “You have a good cry. I’ll see 100 . guilt. now.” said Robert. believe me. Under most circumstances. morosely. which she bore silently for a few seconds until the pressure became unbearable. and she broke out in silvery. lass. tingling skin of her neck. and the side tables were all the worse for wear. but this gaunt. and turned back to Lucille. while Anne settled for making incoherent soothing noises and stroking Lucille’s hair. Let it all out. “Welcome to our little refuge. she found herself encircled in Anne’s arms. and a lot safer than your grave. smoky candles. Lucy. as Lucille’s hesitant steps gradually brought her into the hallway. The burgundy wallpaper was faded and peeling. faintly luminous tears that quickly evaporated. but were as quickly replenished. barely lit with a few flickering.” said Robert. “That’s right. it would have looked anything but homely. grim little antechamber — lacking anything even as modern as a gaslight — seemed almost like a more funereal version of Lucille’s own home — the home to which she could never return. encouragingly. Anne cast him a quick but acidic glance. “We’ve a nice place for you: quiet. the Victorian dressers.” she said.“Aye. now. dark. Come along.
. No need to fret. “Since when have mothers ever shared their daughters’ fashion sense? I think it’s a lovely dress. don’t worry about that. Said it was too short.. dear? You’ll have to speak up a little. even if neither of them could see the purpose of the comment. then?” “Robert! Don’t you have a bath to run? Pay him no attention.. I made it. Lucy.” murmured Anne.. What was that. “Everything will be all right.” “She often goes wallowing in blood and dirt. Lucy. I’m sure we can get it clean soon eno—” “My mother. much to Anne and Robert’s pleasure..about the bath.” “Oh.” “Oh. is my favourite dress. dear. I suppose she’s about the same size. There.. “I did 101 . never liked it. Robert. however.. Anne.. weakly but intelligibly... as Robert set off to the basement.. there. took a wild guess: “Aye. How about you find her something clean to wear?” “Briony might have a spare nightgown.. It looks just like one of Coco Chanel’s.” mumbled Lucy. but she had me buried in it. Where did you buy it?” “Didn’t. but—” “This. “He just likes to be...” said Anne. well. I know things must look pretty awful just now. as an especially intensive aftershock of sobbing shook the girl in her arms.. how clever.” “Mother never liked it.. did my figure no favours. dismissively.” she urged.” at which Lucille cried even more piteously than before.
.. That’s what he’d want. and Eleanor. actually. isn’t Joseph here? I thought maybe—” “Err. dissolve Firebreak’s scientific wing. was so ungrateful. but still. but kept her actual reply sympathetic: “Perhaps we can talk about that later. **** “This had better be damn good. and just continue to fund the Healers. storming unannounced into the crypt-chamber of Serapion Abbey which bore the sign “Research — Immunisation”. We’ll be very glad of the company. Let’s just get you settled in first. “The War Office has been on my back. poor lad.. first.. and not to be upset. and whatever they’ve done to him. They’ve a good mind to cancel your research grant... with painfully-forced calm that would have instantly alerted Lucille’s suspicions. That I’m—” A vampire? That ought to cheer them up no ends.. but right now what you need most is a good rest.” advised Major Drayton.. Ruth. let’s leave that subject till later as well.. had she been less mentally exhausted... For you. Tell them I’m sorry.” “I have to see her.” wherever those murdering scum have taken him. thought Anne. Briony’s our only other resident just now.....” “It’s an uphill struggle for even the most evil people to lose their own mothers’ love. disappointed her...” “Then.so many things to upset her. and poor Lucy. Lucy. I would say. “We should take care of you. shall we?” she suggested.. I’d introduce you. never mind what it might do for our security. I can’t say that I blame them. for all the 102 ... it’s impossible.
She opened the box.” replied Goldstein. and an icy mist poured forth. Goldstein led him across to a long laboratory bench. but in spite of his efforts to seem indifferent. and electrical gauges. One would think that might be of concern to— ” “I believe I have your breakthrough. they have the right to expect some results every now and again. would be damned lucky if you ever got another job offer again. I might be stuck in this god-forsaken excuse for a posting until I get retired. Commander. They deteriorate within minutes at room temperature. he had acquired a tense look of anticipation. “In fact. But without this major breakthrough you’ve been promising me and I’ve been promising them. transferring a few drops of the liquid onto a microscope slide. an insulated metal box. red-gold liquid within it was unfrozen. I have some results to show you right now.” explained Goldstein. but we’d better be quick now that it’s out. Encouraged. upon which were assembled a microscope.money you wretched boffins get.” “From your talkative little pet. “Carrier blood sample. wires. She removed a testtube. is it? That pasty-faced yank you’ve been experimenting on for the past few days?” 103 . In spite of the ice crystals all over its surface. on the other hand. and a complex arrangement of power cells. “They keep longer at very low temperatures. remarkably cheerful in spite of the tongue-lashing.” Drayton shrugged in assent. if you’d care to step this way. You. the translucent.
” “Run out of rats. if you’d care to look in the microscope. “You needn’t send the Healers after me just yet.. really. then?” “In a sense.“Err. That’s certain. indirectly. Now. out of consideration for Drayton’s appalled. it has caused those red blood cells to mutate into cells that reproduce the infection and transmit it throughout the 104 . that is. Commander. with almost-suppressed disdain. never mind in micrometres. and multiplied rapidly. It’s actually my blood. even at this magnification. Joseph. I think I’d rather not. is far too small to see. what I did was to add a drop of his blood to my own blood sample.. sort of. almost horrified expression. “Though we’re theorising somewhat. glittery things. immortal birds swarming through the nation?” “On the whole. So they would be the golden. Can you imagine a flock of blood-drinking. I need hardly add. The actual virus. it must be small enough to measure in angstroms. and just as well. Anyway.” she declared. and there are no white blood cells at all. you’ll observe that the red blood cell count has been drastically reduced. To affect living matter at the quantum level. As we can see.” she added nonetheless. have you?” “Only humans are susceptible to infection. apparently prefers hunting birds.. Subject A.” “Right. I needed to study the actual process of infection. or whatever it is.. we’re fairly certain that the ‘glittery things’ are ex-red blood cells. The infecting pathogens have destroyed them.” “Quite so. Infected after being extracted.
but it is something like that business with the mirrors.. Commander.. while inanimate mirrors and cameras cannot. As if this infection was somehow invisible to the human immune system.. golden infected cells moved slowly but surely.?” he attempted to ask. I’m all ears. but our automatic defence system does not recognise its existence. It responds automatically to the threats in the body that it can sense. One might have expected some defensive response from the white blood cells — attacking infected cells is what they’re for. The immune system is not conscious. amazed in spite of his determination to be as discouraging and unimpressed as possible. crowding to the left-hand side of the magnified view. but did as instructed..” “I’d call those little baubles pretty visible. As he watched. Ruth. Our conscious mind can see it. as if in intense concentration.” “Spare me the suspense. then?” “That’s my hypothesis. Thus.body.. more than likely with some aid from our latent psychic abilities. after all — but there was none. but this infection is practically a ‘ghost’. are able to sense the altered photons that have passed through the carriers’ dimension.” “It’s your eyes that I need first. unless we can find some way to ‘blow its cover’. He looked up and saw Goldstein with her eyes closed and her fingertips pressed to her temples. it rages through the body undetected and unchecked. while the uninfected red blood cells remained still.? How the hell. our eyes. 105 .. Would you mind looking in the microscope again?” Drayton sighed impatiently. “Did you. the scattered.
drain. and so forth. have you?” she replied. The point. take after the nature of the carriers themselves. infect. they’re legendary for infecting the ones they loved in their former lives....“You’ve never given my psychic abilities much credence. the discovery of which is in itself worth a Nobel Prize. I just fail to see how it helps us in any—” “Commander. and spectacularly irrelevant. “I could send the cells back the other way. the people they wouldn’t want to outlive. with matter-of-fact smugness. Commander. if you will — but they interact with this dimension. if you please?” “If the infection can be moved like that.” “Fine. the carriers have complete psychic control over which of their victims they choose to infect. as you call them. or would want to keep with them as companions. They move. then mere thought is being converted into kinetic energy. our bloodthirsty friends are partially shifted into another dimension — the ‘spirit world’.. attack. In fact. After all. so I’ll move on. I believe you. That would strongly imply—” 106 . we’ve known for ages that not all of the victims attacked by carriers are infected. I’m ashamed I didn’t realise it before. As we know from the Photonic Anomaly experiments.” “How touching. if you need any more convincing. So you can play telekinetic tennis with vampire germs. These ‘germs’. but we mistakenly assumed that infection was a random occurrence. but I see that fails to grab you.
Now.“That their germs must have some real. we might be able to see and wonder at them. That’s where this machine comes into play. then we’ll have to rush them in here as soon as possible.. I doubt you can afford to wait that long. and then?” “I added the highly-charged sample to some of my own blood.. until we find a case of someone who’s been infected but hasn’t died of it. I found that I could increase the electromagnetic charge to a detectable level.” “For the sake of your career. We’ll just have to stay very alert.” she declared. normally. so to speak? Interesting notion. Deprive the germs of their natural camouflage. We can hardly put out a call for volunteers. I mean. if the infecting agents can be moved by mere mental energy. That’s quite a problem. it follows that they might be electromagnetic in nature. affectionately patting the assembly of electronic components.” “I see.. and I’ll get on the wire to 107 . but their actual charge is too slight to detect. but I tell you what we’ll do: you just set up your little experiment.. Ruth. but they must have a partial existence or they’d be mere apparitions. They don’t fully exist in this dimension. physical existence after all? Is that what I gather from your babbling? They’re not just a pretty little ghost?” “Precisely. “By running a current through a sample of carrier blood. and this time the white blood cells did react — they attacked the infected cells — but I’m afraid we shan’t know if they can actually create specific immunity until we’ve tested it on a live human subject. but they couldn’t physically affect us.
indeed...” “Right..” “Fair point. She seems to have dropped from sight. It’s a plan after my own heart. err. and have them sent to us instead. but pardon me if I don’t fancy facing the official enquiry after he sinks his fangs into the next schoolgirl. I was using her as a hostage.. to ensure his cooperation. I thought you might not—” “Approve? Oh. won’t you? As for your 108 .. if he survives.Pentonville Prison. diplomatically. Why didn’t you think to report to me about her.. find out who’s up for the gallows.. I know about the Kitson girl. “but he really doesn’t seem to be dangerous. Err.” she lied. Everyone’s happy.” “You make him sound like a house-trained wolf. this does work—?” “You want me to set that freak of nature loose?” “He’s very socialised.. you should know me better. but you will still be sure to report all such activities to me in the future. Ruth.” “Oh. Commander. I’m sure you’ve got him wonderfully domesticated. of late. we’ll commute his sentence to life imprisonment. by the way?” “I. though I wish I’d known about her a lot sooner. So if. speaking of bargains. I did sort of mention to my test subject that he might be eligible for release if he cooperated with us — which he has done — and if we were successful with this experiment.” “Experiment on a condemned criminal? Do you think that’s ethical?” “Why not? Call it a plea bargain. and I wouldn’t permit one of those to roam the streets either. Oh yes.
Ruth.. But you’re welcome to promise him whatever you like. which ill-becomes a scientist even of your dubious credentials. We’ll aim to commence at fifteen-hundred hours. You just concentrate on setting up your experiment.vicious little pet. You need hardly lose any sleep over telling lies to one of them. until his usefulness expires. That’s not virtue.” 109 . just squeamishness. if you think it’ll help to smooth things along. and I’ll see about getting you your live human subject. he stays here.. then euthanasia for him.
it certainly seemed to have a talent for decimating itself in ways which no vampire would ever have contemplated. being unable to physically search through the smouldering debris. it was agonisingly difficult for her to be certain that no human remains were mixed with it. For all of Lucille’s efforts not to allow immortality and power to go to her head. this would merely have been out of a preference for not recklessly destroying valuable walking food.CHAPTER VII FACTS OF AFTERLIFE 07 Facts of Afterlife Lucille searched frantically through the ash-coated. but she had dreamed of this appalling future often enough — and had seen more than enough charred and mangled bodies — to fear the worst. rather than out of compassion for said food. though admittedly. it was becoming all too easy for her to sympathise with Anne Straker’s low opinion of humanity. 110 . for some of that race. save the ground upon which she stood. but without much success — it seemed that she could touch nothing in her dream-world. Thus. bombed-out shell of 14 Peony Place.
..” “Then you’ve become. as Anne’s grim tales of the Healers. to say nothing of beloved voice spoke from beneath the heap: “Wha.. but I’m alright now. incredulously..... emanating from a pile of rubble right at her feet. How are you finding.Then. but now it was as close to her as it had ever been. but audible. “Is that—?” “Lucille?” “I’m here. It shifted from place to place every night. if I help them. of which she had heard plenty 111 .. came the screaming and moaning.. Unthinkingly.... The sounds of agony ceased.” “But what about you? I can’t just—” “I don’t even know where they’ve taken me. The Healers. it?” “Difficult at first. Trying to find a way to stop more people becoming like us. she bent low and tried to shift some of the bricks.? Who’s that?” “Joseph?” she asked... as always.... people have taken me in: Anne and Robert Straker. but she did connect with something — an irregular surface that was soft. keeping me prisoner. They’re good people.? I’m so sorry.” “You trust them?” she asked. said they’d let me go. only for her hands to sink through them. You stick with them. cold. the ones I told you about.. and tingling... Maybe for the best.... Who knows? Anyway. Do you know them?” “Yeah.. let us live. and a tangible sense of joy flowed through her as a weak. Joseph. Some other. tenderly stroking the buried face. now.
” “You’re trapped.. Just questions.during the past few nights.. keeping me alive. On the other hand.. Don’t... No other chance.” “Keeping me in a morgue. really. in pain. old stone. Might be okay after all. tell me the truth. Lucille awoke.. haven’t actually tried to harm me.. and she cursed loudly. although vampires might force themselves to remain awake during the day. Lucille! Even if you could find it..... It’s underground. “What’s it like?” “Dunno... bit like a hospital.” she began... pumping a mist of holy water into my box.. Turns my dreams into nightmares. What were the odds that they would feel bound to honour a promise made to a carrier? “Got to. playing hymns.” At which point. No chance. too many Healers. much to the surprise of Briony — her roommate and fellow-refugee — with whom she shared a croft house style box bed.. “This place you’re in.. and prayers.. Unfortunately. the thought of having no better hope than the promises of the Healers was unbearable. What have they done to you?” “Not much... they were 112 .....” She sensed that this desperate optimism was as much for his comfort as it was for hers. Lots of—” “If you love me... Why do you ask? If you’re thinking... but fit for the purpose. but they’re feeding me. as tactfully as possible.... of course.. came to mind. Joseph.. completely enclosed with wooden panels.... Keeps me from moving until they need me to... and was reluctant to crush it. not quite a coffin. armed to the teeth. the dream-world faded into obscurity..
in Lucille’s tactfully unspoken opinion. The sickly moonlight that filtered into their basement bedroom through a dirty. framed by long. but could not prevent the manager from harshly dismissing her. drained a pint or two of their blood. She was not intimidatingly beautiful. and his favourite tactic had been to hang around in jazz clubs and cocktail bars until some of his fellow patrons were so drunk that they hardly noticed when he escorted them down a side street. “Anything the matter. Joseph would now be awake and probably suffering all of the tortures that he had. concealed from her. and stole their wallets. had apparently been sorely in need of all the niceness he could get. pulling open the side panel of the bed. Briony had been a waitress at the Kit-Kat Club. street-level skylight barely alleviated the pitch-darkness. Even if she could have done so. in all kindness. albeit with a permanently confused expression. unmanageable chestnut hair. as Anne was.naturally energetic after sundown. however badly they might want to resume their dreams. kind and pretty. but had a look of almost preternatural niceness that reflected her personality. although only for the single night that it had taken her to spill a whole tray of drinks over David. wide-eyed face. Perhaps it was this that had attracted David — her late boyfriend — who. but it was all that Lucille needed to see her roommate clearly. Hunting practices varied from vampire to vampire. who tried to make light of the accident. Briony Cooper had a round. 113 . curly. love?” asked Briony.
During this relationship. as she was timid. or at least that was her understanding of his motives. devoted to her mother. and to apologise afterwards. claiming she had taken a job in the north and would be sending her earnings home. although Lucille had no difficulty imagining any number of other. If not. irregular earnings. She had moved into the empty house in which he was squatting. but such had been the case. David was. but it seemed 114 . and as yet unaware of his “condition”. She had been a terrible hunter. He had seen the wretched single room in which the pair of them lived. he learned how she was struggling to support her mother. but knew that she would never agree to it.Maybe David had rediscovered his compassion that night. he was convinced that the only thing to be done was to take Briony away from it all. Before long. then during the following nights he had certainly been given plenty of cause. kind enough to give her some of his nightly “earnings” for this purpose. which were all she could bring herself to feed upon. relying on her incredible niceness to restore his place in her affections. who had the regrettable habit of drinking most of her daughter’s poor. So far. Lucille had been distinctly unimpressed. baser reasons. and from which they expected to be evicted very soon. He decided the best option would be to “take” her by surprise. Briony’s love for David had triumphed over her brief anger and despair at having unexpectedly become a vampire. at least. and wondered how anyone could love someone so selfish and inconsiderate. relying upon him to catch small birds and mice. He had started taking Briony out by way of apology. and had written to her mother.
usually for a miserable pittance. Now. for similarly pathetic payments. and used no electricity — but even so. she spent most of her nights doing embroidery work. handkerchiefs. they would have been perilously close to eviction if Anne had not shared David’s habit of taking financial “donations” from her huntvictims. Lonely as they were. sprays. They sold her tablecloths. and the couple had beat a hasty retreat to the Strakers’ refuge. she had lost her abilities to phase and shape-shift. and machineguns.that he had not resented having someone other than his horrible self to care for. while Robert. a few months later. Their living expenses were mercifully low — they needed neither food nor heat. and seeing as how far more capable protégés of theirs had come to nasty ends after leaving the refuge. or he would hardly have confronted an entire squad of Healers for Briony’s sake. would spend most nights typing articles and stories for small magazines. and Lucille was forced to admit that he must at least have had some courage and sincere love. but the effects spoke for themselves. Then the Healers had dropped by. and as she was unable to hunt. and all of her clairvoyance. she tried to put a cheerful face on her grief. and napkins to local drapers’ shops. most of her strength and agility. Anne and Robert decided to keep Briony with them permanently. brandishing protective talismans. who was himself a very reluctant hunter. But David’s luck did not hold out. 115 . with fatal consequences.
but Anne found the whole incident heartily amusing. They caught a bus to Piccadilly Circus — not quite the supernatural adventure Lucille had imagined — and disembarked among crowds of late-night pleasure-seekers.” 116 . he couldn’t have harmed me very badly. Lucille was appalled by this accidental demonstration of her inhuman strength. and we heal so quickly anyway. dear. while rifling through the pockets of the would-be attackers and helping herself to their money and watches. They spent a few minutes traipsing around the back streets until they were confronted by a small gang of drunken.It had been on Lucille’s fourth night at the refuge. almost casually. “Well done. Still. leering men. She did not seem to be exerting any tremendous force.” she congratulated Lucille. that Anne had handed her a wire animal cage and cheerfully — if rather firmly — invited her to come hunting. laid out all of the men unconscious. He came to ground in a heap of rotting cardboard boxes. but Lucille had seized his arm just in time and pulled him away. and beat a hasty retreat. The next few seconds had been sheer chaos as Anne had. one prefers to avoid pain whenever possible. at night. with one exception: one of them had come close to hitting her from behind with a dustbin lid. “Of course. when her overpowering despair had settled down into a deep but manageable depression. but the distance she hurled him would have done any champion shot putter proud. bruised but intact.
broadly speaking.” 117 .. if you ask me. and it won’t do to be too fussy about following its rules.” she replied. The taste of a little alcohol-soaked human blood won’t turn you into a homicidal maniac. Or. The world is not our friend. openly shocked and faintly disgusted. in fact. What’s wrong?” “Drink their blood?” she asked. You’re a human being. there’s more life-force in them than we could get from flocks of pigeons or swarms of rats. perhaps you’d care to feed upon one of mine. Try to remember that it doesn’t even want us to exist. you’re not a dog. dear. I insist that you do. and for each other.” “But. “A little compensation doesn’t seem that much to ask. for goodness’ sake. Anyway. Come along. Now. Wretched vermin though they are. since your one seems to have run away. whatever we do. though Anne’s remorse was conspicuous only by its absence. what if I can’t stop? What if I kill—?” “Oh. we could spend the whole night chasing birds and rodents to get the same amount of life-force. “These men deserve prison time for what they were planning to do to us.. Lucy... Lucy. we need the money. if you have any plans on surviving. We must look out for ourselves. and they’ve done less to deserve it.“What on earth are you doing?” Lucille asked. if you prefer. suddenly mindful of the policeman she had attacked. but it will take us long enough to catch the ones we’ll need for Robert and Briony. “Generally a good idea. and I had other plans for the night.
” she added. There was. Perhaps we’ll save that lovely story for later. with a faintly nervous glance up the street along which the battered escapee had fled.. Anne was looking out for her.. “Well. so why be ashamed of it?” “And Robert. or something.“What plans?” asked Lucille.. although she had done it before in her delirium. after all. “Supposing I was to meet someone who knew me before I became.” she replied. I’m sorry. didn’t he choose?” she asked. suspiciously but slightly guiltily. I thought you might like to go to the cinema.” “That’s not a very good idea. was a depressingly sordid experience for Lucille. dear. but she was far from being convinced by her arguments. so they spent the rest of the night gathering and consuming smaller fauna.. morosely. This scavenging for vermin. but you do remind me of Robert. and she had no wish to be ungrateful. though Anne did not return any of the wallets or watches she had ‘harvested’. she conceded that it was perhaps too soon to expect Lucille to be comfortable with the notion of draining human blood. “Well. you know?” “One can but hope they’d be a little less disgusted by the idea than you seem to be. Doesn’t the world loathe us quite enough without us lending a helping hand? You didn’t even ask to be what you are. or dancing. feeling certain that she had heard something very much along those lines... Lucy. a brief moment of 118 . in a manner of speaking. however. For the sake of time as much as compassion.
but you’d better be sure to choose a place where the landlord doesn’t hang garlic in your windows. and with Robert safely ensconced in his study. Anne was true to her word.. Well worth seeing. and I was a vampire. to say nothing of grief-stricken 119 . rubbish-strewn lane not being the ideal place for such a gift — or the lack of anything remotely like functional fingers. we made the mistake of throwing our garlic away. “Robert had just been promoted to rector. for the couple of minutes she was able to sustain it. and Robert thought the Lake District and the Alps were just. full of tedious middle-class tourists swanning around like little Wordsworths and Coleridges. When they were back in the refuge. romantic scenery in those days. On the other hand. but he was badly drained. well. while trying to catch a pigeon. she inadvertently performed her very first shape-shift. and to celebrate we took a trip to Romania. and when I woke up it was the following night. She did not care much for the blurry vision. educated people that we were.exhilaration when.” she related. the all-toopowerful sense of smell — a festering. So we rented a cottage in the Carpathian Mountains. So many people were in search of wild. We went to bed one night. being the enlightened. she told Lucille the story of her own ‘rebirth’. too passé.. Robert wasn’t. and preferring our fresh air to the local superstitions. if you ever get the chance. Of course. into the form of a dark tabby cat very like her own Camilla. “Robert and I got married in 1794. the sensation of being completely inhuman and anonymous was oddly liberating.
” replied Anne. and burned the remains.. Whatever else I was. it was you who changed Robert?” “I wanted to. What do you think he did?” “Not kill you?” “No. “but that was the least of it. and of him.. not that I was offended at being slighted. and the change is usually quicker if the attacking vampire seriously intends to claim their victim.” “You revived in only one day?” “It affects people differently. from the very first moment I saw him.. more than anything. The peasants had dug it up. at first. but I touched the cross he was wearing. No doubt our attacker meant to do it. and he kissed me. I wanted to die..” 120 . Lucy. The pain was bad enough. We found his grave later.” she recalled.. and was overjoyed. I begged Robert to put me out of my misery. I was still me. “He took off his cross and put it away so that I couldn’t see it.. with a faint.” “So. then he put his arms around me. I’ve never felt so worthless. I daresay that explains why he never came back for me. what was left of it. sarcasm-proof as ever. and to have no afterlife. I’ve only ever loved the one man. before I could infect him. sick tremor in her voice. I went straight for his neck. to be completely unremembered. and reminded me of our marriage vows.because of my apparent death. and wanted me as a companion. hacked him to pieces. dear. the woman he had sworn to have and to hold. Mortal or immortal. Then he saw that I’d come back to life.
” muttered Anne. then? Would you have said that he was evil?” “He isn’t. least of all herself. don’t we? Or do you prefer that horrible little word ‘undead’? Anyway. but the Healers. Would you call that a very evil decision?” “I suppose not. What about Joseph. The chances of his still being—” “He’s alive.. to Robert I was still his wife..” “He’s alive. and our hopes. crying out for help.. You’ll find someone who deserves you. But not everything even we see and hear in dreams is true. That was the choice he made: to join me instead of abandoning or killing me. “Look. “Yes. “We live.... and Lucille went to bed that dawn even more depressed and discouraged than when she had begun the night.. and I know that it hurts now. they’re merciless. with great emphasis on the present tense but a good deal more determination than she actually felt.” “One could wish for a more positive answer. but things will get better.“For as long as you both shall live?” added Lucille. believe me. I know it! I hear him. in my dreams. Lucy. Lucy.. and although I knew he was only doing it for my sake — that he had no real desire to share in my fate — from that point I couldn’t resist claiming him. Anne smiled awkwardly and let the subject drop. I understand. We also dream about our fears.” she replied.” “Of course.” she repeated. sceptically. uncomfortably. though convincing no-one. All things 121 .
We’d even go as far as China. “Just another dream. quite unexpectedly.. no more. must have been very clever. Rome. at least on a temporary basis.” said Briony. with David.” “He. snapping out of her distraction. “No. not-altogether-pleasant things he told her did not seem to be mere wish-fulfilments of her fears or her hopes.considered. with a subtle but rising note of concern.. and tell what people were thinking.” she replied. before. But her dream.” answered Lucille. He could dream us to anyplace or anytime he liked. the hope that he was still alive. just like you’d imagine fairyland to be. “Anything the matter?” repeated Briony. or Egypt. though.. “I don’t dream much.” observed Lucille. He could change into all sorts of animals.... “Oh. yes.. 122 . almost brightly. well. bereaved Briony that her boyfriend was alive. err. she was finding her immortality a miserable experience. except. but so beautiful. and the mysterious. and the prospect of another horrible lucid dream rather than the peaceful day’s sleep she badly needed was no solace. He tried to teach me. wistfully. gave her a reason to endure her existence: she actually spoke to Joseph this time. “I used to. and there were some places I never knew what they were called. He’d take me to all sorts of places: Paris.” She did not have the heart to tell poor. nothing.. “He knew all sorts of things. hoping to stem her roommate’s lapse into melancholy silence. of course.
she and Robert were talking. Clara Bow.. and we haven’t really spent much time together. Lucille. “Didn’t much like that there was no sound. When you were having your bath last night.. have we?” “That’s very kind of you.. then?” “Won’t you be training with Anne again... well. but I can assure you it’s the other way round. “Oh.” she said. I don’t really feel like it. and we weren’t given much time together. but I wouldn’t want you to go disappointing Anne just for my sake.” “You know what? We should do something tonight. Couldn’t hardly ever afford to go.. really.” “Does she?” asked Lucille. I hadn’t really considered it that way... What about it. “Actually..” declared Lucille.. ever so slightly guilty at not quite being able to return the sentiment.. now desperately hoping that a change of both scene and subject might be the best therapy for Briony.” she recalled.. She really likes you.. What kind of films do you like?” “Don’t know. where no-one would recognise us. but David took me a few times.but. while Lucille mentally kicked herself in frustration. yes. We could find a small one.. tonight?” “Well. Joan Crawford. but some of the actresses were so pretty. I’m not a good learner. but maybe I’d best not be telling—” 123 . and what’s the name of that lady who does her hair like you?” “Louise Brooks. “We could go to a picture-house. mildly disgusted at the thought of it.
almost moving Lucille to tears. she went to Robert’s “study” —a cramped closet in which most of the space was taken up by a scuffed old leather chair. I don’t think you’ve been out for over a month.” she urged. Well.” “She said that you were coming along very well. and there are any number of things that need doing. upon which stood a clunky relic of a typewriter. a small table. Don’t worry. there’ll be no hunting. Briony. “For goodness’ sake. Abramson’s place to pawn some watches. considerately and without a trace of self-pity. and Robert would like a talk with you. in general. Briony. you can come for a walk with me. A bit nervous. Lucy. then why on earth not? Please. “It’s a lovely night.” “Nice of her.” she replied. and a bookcase full of battered hardbacks and dog124 .” When they had set out. and you’re a gifted hunter. now. but I’d only get in the way. maybe you could come hunting with us.. Before she could make another futile attempt at lifting Briony’s spirits. and looked upon her nightgown-clad charges with cheerful reproach. and Lucille had dressed. She was already fully dressed. probably be better than her before long. Hurry up and dress. “Well then.. Would’ve been proud to have claimed you herself. but that was only to be expected. I need to go down to Mr. do stir yourselves. girls.” muttered Lucille.” “Thanks. Anne — never one to stand on ceremony — walked into the room without knocking. Just to chat about things.“If it’s in my favour. unsure how or if she liked this compliment. We’re quite well stocked.
but he just smiled sadly. Unless.. a little awkwardly. so that they can drain their life force. if you want my opinion.” he opened. Even our most lurid and least historical legends are based on fragments of truth. is it a link? Something to let them. till he gives them blood to drink. she accepted it without hesitation. lass. “Well. You’re an educated young lady.. “How’s life treating you?” “Life?” she quipped.. but that’s not really the point. to let us stay among the living?” 125 . But why? And why did the ghosts in the Odyssey need to drink blood before they could talk to the living?” “I’m sure I’d be the last person to know. Well.. maybe that’s the question. and since she had enough on her mind without indulging in pointless games of “I’m politer than you”. vaguely aware that this was not the most gracious answer to his well-meaning question. Pagan folks the world over used blood sacrifices to give strength to their deities. Do you mean they were vampires?” “Well. are you not? Have you ever read Homer’s Odyssey?” “Yes.. I doubt that Homer ever kenned or so much as saw a vampire in his entire life. Robert offered her the solitary chair.. and I think I know where this is heading: you’re thinking of when Odysseus goes to the land of the dead and the ghosts won’t speak to him. “Aye.eared periodicals. There are legends in every country of ghosts that seek to get close to the living.
age and decay can’t touch us.” 126 . though it wouldn’t be all that surprising if I’d let my faith slide a little. though there have been times when. Anne says we have the best of both worlds. Some might think that’s a good thing. there’s no denying it. “I didn’t mean it to sound quite so bleak. and we suffer for it.” “Are you saying you’d rather be dead?” she asked. There you have it. We can pass through solid matter. I daresay. lass — the blood lets us exist in two states at once.“Anne said you were clever. rather confused. or some such gibberish. I’ve stuck with it for Anne’s sake. change our shape. best not to dwell on such things. and right enough. Miss Kitson. You know. having been under the impression that this little chat had been intended to make her feel better.. We’re not bound to the physical laws of nature. not even being able to look at a Bible without wanting to tear my own eyes out. being a vampire. half-human. but isn’t that rather an odd thing for a vicar to say?” “I meant immortality in this world..” “Don’t you like anything at all about it? It must be fun being able to fly. I believe the modern jargon is an ‘indeterminate quantum superposition’. and so forth. it’s of limited amusement. Human beings just weren’t created to be immortal.” “Believe it or not. at least. yet we can also feel the sensations and emotions of living human beings. Well. but you’ll like as not find this existence hard.” “Pardon me. but I find it less confusing to think of us as half-ghost.
who loved you for who you were. background. a few fantasies... But this isn’t helpful for either of us.. so to speak. Straker? You don’t believe that Go. though. Someone you were sure of. if we were satisfied. and if he was willing. None of us were meant to endure solitude on top of everything else. just look at poor Briony. I just wondered. So anyway.. make sure of his character. Anne and I would obviously want to check on him. let’s just suppose for the moment that there was.. and not just because you could grant them this dubious ‘gift’. to make the necessary ‘changes’ for your sake. someone. but I might be forgiven for having a few daydreams. You’re not punishing yourself are you. I mean.” “I see.” he said. Mr.. but what am I meant to think? ‘You-Know-Who’ seems to think me unworthy to speak. Strong though she is... in a sad but calmer tone. I doubt either of us could have faced it alone. lass. Anyway. I know I’m hardly likely to ever take up active ministry again. Not that we think you’d choose badly.. Well.. or even to hear his name spoken. that You-Know-Who would really have preferred you to have killed Anne.. that is... I suppose it is a wee bit uncomfortable. but I am an ordained minister.“You still dress like a priest. and all that sort of thing. “The point I was trying to make is that Anne and I have supported each other through this. and nor should you try. Doesn’t that hurt you?” “Not really. or left her to face being a vampire alone?” “Don’t I? I wish I had a cheery answer for you. then neither of us would stand in your way if you wanted to—” 127 ..
for instance—” “Who you seem to be writing off very quickly. where they’ve taken him. well some men might consider themselves lucky. For what it’s worth. but you’d be a dead one if I’d confided that knowledge to you. like laboratory rats. Anne and I have been unfortunate enough to have shared the thoughts of a few vampires who finished up in that hellhole. lass. David hadn’t any regrets. and seen the place through their eyes. I don’t think they mean to be cruel.” “You knew all along. would you? Aye. Sorry.. or forcing them to look at religious symbols.” “I’ve no wish to. Now. Joseph. I daresay.. but you’d have left him to die?” “For pity’s sake. or dissecting them alive. None of them survived.. you’re a brave girl. girl. Our clairvoyance has its down side as well. and you never saw fit to tell—?” “And then you’d have run off and rescued him.“You’re suggesting that I ‘make’ myself a new partner?” she asked.. but you must face the 128 . “After telling me all about how much you hate your own un-life?” “Aye.?” she began to ask.. If he was killed in the streets or taken to the abbey.. it all amounts to the same—” “The abbey? You don’t mean to say. before disbelief turned into outrage. “You know where they are. sadistic. in disbelief.. but seeing as how they’re electrocuting them. That place is no prison.. The Healers experiment upon them. It’s a slaughterhouse. but let’s be realistic about this. though I’d hope you might choose someone a wee bit less.
as her most recent dream came back to mind. “I can’t say I’m sorry to have to disappoint you. Right now.” “Well. Joseph is either dead or dying.” 129 .” she said. coldly but triumphantly.facts. Father Straker. and there’s nothing any of us can do to alter that.
“In all justice.” Goldstein. pouring himself an excessively large glass of whisky. she glanced over the typewritten report in her hands: 15:13 — Test subject (Fred Scanlon. Check your copy of the report.” she replied.” 130 . sitting at the opposite side of the commander’s desk. desperately rather than defensively. “had better be damn good. In hopes of finding some inspiration.” declared Drayton. technically. “the vaccine was successful. Commander. age 44) brought into laboratory.CHAPTER VIII SIDE EFFECTS 08 Side Effects “Your explanation. 15:16 — Injection of experimental vaccine VX-1 administered to subject. found that all of her eloquence had deserted her.. 15:42 — Subject stopped struggling against his restraints and went silent. Ruth..
prior to taking an impressive swig that drained his entire glass. 16:54 — Blood test reveals normal cell count and no trace of infection. If I’m correct. which she interpreted as permission to expound her theory. decision-making ability. Goldstein could not help but sympathise. and poured himself a second glass. really? Ought we to start pumping it into schoolchildren. then?” sneered Drayton. as she came back to the concluding statements of the report. or at least less selfish ones. “Let us suppose. the problem we face is insoluble.” Drayton shrugged. Like the carrier infection. possibly in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. that the infection which causes the carrier mutation is itself a mutated strain of something — perhaps a symbiotic organism — which is already present within the human body. Instinctive and motor responses seem unaffected. and possibly of memory. than he did for total dismay: 18:00 — Psychological deterioration of subject persists. All traces of carrier infection eliminated. 16:21 — Subject infected with a fresh sample of carrier blood.16:15 — Subject’s blood tests as normal. but manifests continued severe loss of cognitive abilities. Commander.” said Goldstein. she felt that she had even better reasons. Indeed. “I have a workable theory for this. “Oh. “though I doubt you’ll like it. abstract thought. it would be hard for us to detect — 131 .
and essential for such mental attributes as self-awareness. “As far as we can tell. with little conviction.” asked Drayton. Ruth. and we’ve accidentally found the cure for it?” “I wouldn’t have put it quite that way. My theory may be complete rubbish.perhaps harder. If I’m correct. Ruth. but has he shown no signs of improvement at all?” “I only wish he had. and more than likely as irreversible.” “It isn’t quite that drastic. having become adapted to our species over many centuries. beneficial form of the organism. but the point is that we can’t immunise people against the mutated strain without also causing their immune systems to attack and destroy the natural. that’s really going to put society in our debt.” “It’s early days yet. we can protect people from becoming vampires by turning them into vegetables.. swigging down his second glass and pouring a third.” she replied.” deadpanned Drayton.. “that the human soul is actually some parasitic disease.. and walk. all truly conscious thought—” “So you’re saying. Poor Mr. Memory loss was certainly not 132 . with a faint slur in his speech. free will. Stupendous. I’d wave goodbye to that Nobel Prize. his lower mental functions survived. “So. He can even speak if you ask him to.. Well. eat. He can still breathe. Scanlon might have been better off left to the hangman. but it fits the circumstances.” “Wonderful. maybe even evolving with us since the dawn of sentient life — but within us nonetheless. but his condition is reminiscent of some serious cases of brain damage. that is.
but any amount of time is unlikely to make a difference. at all events.” “I see. he’s capable of sustaining himself.. at least. it’s interesting. we need to give this country something to thank us for. maybe — that didn’t kill. It isn’t the usual definition of brain-death. He’s capable of performing various tasks when instructed to do so. as a vaccine. Physically. but he’d die from sheer apathy if left to his own devices. He just ignores abstract or advanced questions. at least. Our bombing campaigns in the Middle East put the fear of God into those savages. Unless we live to witness a truly miraculous advance of science. taking a sip. But maybe it will have other applications. mindless sheep. but with no instructions to follow he does nothing but sit and stare. I can’t see how—” “That wasn’t what I had in mind.” “I fail to see—” “Hear me out. “Well. Obviously. Now. but instead reduced fierce rebels and would-be martyrs to docile.. is a breakthrough. Commander. though.. Ruth. Just think how it would devastate the morale of our enemies. but I wouldn’t call it life. either. there’s no doubt of that. This vaccine — did you say it could be stored for a long time at low temperatures?” “It can.. Don’t even bother asking him how he feels. He knows. never mind what his political or philosophical opinions are. and then the rebellious spirit rears its ugly head again. especially the type of supersti133 . but fear fades away in time. that isn’t going to be the vaccine.total.” mused Drayton. imagine if we had a weapon — a gas. and some other facts. he recalls his name. What you and I both need.
I don’t think I’ll bother. though. so it hardly matters if we’ve turned him into a zombie. the League of Nations—” “Are a feeble. if nothing else. Do I sense a certain lack of enthusiasm. Our first priority must be to design a more efficient delivery system. useless pack of bleeding-hearts with no say over how the British Empire manages its own security. Poison-tipped bullets.tious rabble we have to fight in the colonies. although I suppose it could have some use as an interrogation drug — a truth 134 .. Commander. And the other people you intend to use this weapon on?” “Nobody we wouldn’t have bombed or shot in any case. fit for menial labour. Far better to avoid getting sentimental over individuals. I ought to say — you might think again about this plan.” “In that case.. At any rate.. if we’re able to threaten them with the ability to kill their souls but leave their bodies unharmed.” declared Goldstein. I still wonder at your squeamishness. “And even if you are. although it was more of a hopeful lie than a sincere statement of belief. That criminal was going to be hanged anyway. Don’t concern yourself about those nonentities.. it’s of no bloody use if we can only inject it. though. Scanlon for yourself — at what’s left of him. even if the War Office gave it the go-ahead. maybe? I still favour gas. you’ll never get approval. But we must refine it. though?” “Perhaps. I see.” “Oh. Why. if you were to come to the lab and have a look at Mr.” “You can’t be serious.
I trust?” he asked. “I’d rather not have to apply for you to be replaced with someone reliable. I don’t mind 135 . No more of this military research to plague your conscience.” “Jolly good. then. or to the press.. So. and answers questions as obediently as you say. wouldn’t you?” “I suppose so. I believe I’m entitled to some leave. believe it or not... You’d call that a fair offer. Perhaps I shall have a little chat with him after all. I am going to enjoy your full support in this. or to anyone else outside this department. That is an option. I’ll make this easy for you. then I’ll pull some strings. after we’ve had a look at your test subject. and get you into a position more to your liking.serum — if your subject has kept some of his memory. You can finally start taking some credit for your theories.” “You want a day or two off? Certainly. but I think we would make much better progress with you at the head of the project. if you’ll lead the way. but it needs some thought. noticing how little his reassurances had affected her look of sickened reluctance. I’ll get you a clearance form. and I need hardly tell a civil employee of your status that the penalties for breathing a word of this conversation to the general public.. but who’d have to learn all of your research from square one. Perhaps I can even persuade Cambridge University to let you in after all. weaponised form of your vaccine. would be severe in—” “Thank you. I am familiar with the Official Secrets Act. Ruth: if you can develop an efficient. and enjoy some respect — we can but hope — from your fellow-scientists.
A couple of George Gershwin’s. as well. deep down. and I daresay you are. who was glaring fiercely at him. and doing his utmost to avoid the eyes of Lucille.” “You bought it with stolen money?” 136 . turned out to be surprisingly profitable for us. “There were some records. It was not a promising scene. dear. cheerful manner that clashed violently with the prevailing mood. a gentleman with a knife pestered us. and. after we’d been though his pockets. Nothing very new. Fletcher Henderson. her arms folded. Abramson’s. entering the living-room with a brisk. I’m rather excited. Briony’s got them. Lucy. and we got Beethoven’s Sixth for you.admitting. Robert sat in one of the threadbare armchairs. wearing a grim expression. fixing her smile a little more determinedly. I’m afraid. she set her purchase — a wind-up gramophone. Things worked out quite differently. from the opposite chair.” she announced to Robert. battered but unbroken — down upon the coffee-table. “And might one enquire how in the blazes we can suddenly afford that?” “We had a lucky windfall. at having commandeered another of God’s exclusive powers?” **** “Look at what we found in the pawnshop.” said Anne. On the way to Mr. eliciting a reaction from him. and made every sign of wanting to rob us. hiding behind a copy of The Times. and so. What so-called scientist wouldn’t be. but Anne had set her heart upon a cheerful evening. although not a very positive one.
“Do I gather your little chat didn’t go all that well?” asked Anne. but with a hint of desperation.” “That and the fact that Joseph is alive. He told me they’re keeping him alive.“Yes..” declared Lucille. using him in 137 . dagger for dagger. suicidal gesture it would be. You mean they haven’t—?” “They’re holding him prisoner. who had entered the room after Anne with a small stack of gramophone discs in her arms. at this ‘abbey’. Like poor David. I’d say we had no less of a right to it.” replied Lucille. with enough irony to have withered Kew Gardens. and I was telling her what a senseless. at last causing Robert to lower his newspaper and return her stare..” explained Lucille.” “I daresay. and you don’t seem to care in the slightest. “That nice American gent? The one who loved you?” asked Briony. “Miss Kitson was in the mood for one. more than matching his contempt. but I don’t suppose it occurred to you that the right and proper thing to do just might have been to have handed that money in?” “You’d like the police to have our names and address. “But the Healers. still doing her best to sound upbeat. Anne?” asked Robert.. which I gather is the reason why she’s now sulking. “You fancy launching a full frontal assault on the abbey. would you. I thought they’d killed. “I spoke to him in my dream.. icily. but he’d stolen it first. dear? Whatever’s become of that cautious spirit of yours?” “Don’t worry. He’s still got it. not very patiently.
but her soothing tones were altogether wasted. if you’ll wait five minutes.. “For the love of. “There must be some way. and no offence.. already at the door.” pointed out Briony. but unless you were proposing to stab the guards to death with your sewing-kit—” “Anne’s very powerful. Couldn’t you fly there... I’ll just—” said Anne. Anne.. Not again. “If you’ve a plan for attacking that place that doesn’t involve us being captured. then I’ll be happy to lend it an ear. 138 . instantly causing Lucille’s frustrated expression to change into one of profound gratitude. “We have to get him out of that place. “Well. Hey. I’ve no such plan. so unless we get him out of there quickly—” “We’ve got to help him!” exclaimed Briony. you know. Anne need hardly consider herself morally obliged to get herself killed for the sake of someone who’s already as good as. dear.. before. now exasperated. then—” “You think they haven’t taken all that into account?” interrupted Robert.. I freely confess.” snapped Lucille. and ‘healed’. tortured.. exactly?” asked Robert. where—?” “I’m going hunting. rather than pleased..some experiment. Briony.” was the politest acknowledgement Lucille could bring herself to make as she swept out of the room. though it caused Anne to look sad and faintly guilty. That place is designed to keep vampires from breaking in or out. “I need time alone. admiringly. We’ve got to—” “Do what. We can’t let them. and phase through the walls..
if you think you can find a few hundred people you trust well enough to make immortal..” “I think I’ll keep an eye on her. even if she was in any state. of course. Anne. we wouldn’t stand a chance against the Healers. not very confidently. if that’s alright.” “Nor would we.“Let her be. though. “It only takes one of us to follow her. It’s too early for her to be out alone.. I’m sorry to say.. ill-informed. then? Well.. as she saw her well-meaning. and in all brutal honesty.. that is. and there’d be four of us against a small army. “Oh. after all. and if you think you can train them to fight professional troops. There’s no need to come.. you think starting a full-scale war would be a good plan. of us?” ventured Briony. anyway. and if it would only help her to calm down a little—” “If she was telling the truth about going hunting. as kindly as possible. won’t we?” “Anything we can do. Robert’s reply was anything but encouraging. “I’m not too keen on our chances with a plan. unless you had a mind to take over the government.” she protested.” added Robert.” “Couldn’t we make more. Briony.” “I’d like to come. would you?” “Of course not. and if 139 . We will find some way to help her.. I don’t suppose you’d have been mad enough to have told her where the abbey actually is. I feel so sorry for her. if less-than-useful protégé putting her coat and hat back on. but Robert’s right. Anne. We’re unarmed. “You said she was the capable type.” advised Robert. Without a plan..
as she saw her mother enter the kitchen through the living-room door. though I don’t suppose she’ll go very far. She would rather not have had Briony accompanying her. But how.. and opened one indifferent eye. yawned. and launched herself up and onto the kitchen windowsill. it might actually be for the best.you’re happy to be held responsible for more death and destruction than any vampire who ever drew blood. giving her someone else to worry about. 140 . which she closed again almost immediately. where Camilla was already curled up and resting. or at least not to be objected to. was expelled from her mind in an instant. then by all means let’s—” “Shall we just get going.? The subject of feline clairvoyance. Lucille thought this very strange.. but since Robert was clearly resolved to be as depressing and discouraging as possible. but otherwise paid no heed to the new arrival. dear?” interrupted Anne.” **** Lucille padded silently across the tiny concrete garden at the back of 14 Peony Place. or swiping of paws was thus decidedly curious. by the very first member of the family she had encountered. “I’ve no wish to lose track of poor Lucy. Does she know? thought Lucille. spitting. if mightily confused. Sad as it is. never mind on her “bed”. as one of the few things normally guaranteed to rouse Camilla from her habitual lethargy was the presence of other cats in her yard. and somewhat relieved — it was something to be accepted. though intriguing. She stirred. we’re all she’s got. wearily. fascinated. The absence of hissing.
against the cooking range. this was just as well. The few lines on her face were slightly deeper. however. there was no avoiding the fact that recent events had taken a serious toll upon her — she had acquired a thin. and her posture not as straight and disciplined as it had been. although the actual physical signs were subtle. The lateness of the hour might have accounted for some of these.The last time Lucille had seen her. fragile. This was the same heart-rending grief that would long since have withered poor Briony to nonexistence. were clear enough. careworn look. but she was far from having mastered the art of controlled phasing. Lucille was tempted to pass straight through the window and head for her mother’s arms. Mrs. Even allowing for the inadequacies of cat-vision. There was also her dream to consider: her 141 . handsome. But the sobs that racked her body and convulsed her face as she leaned. two-tone Technicolor film. conveying a sense of weariness. which was not unlike a poorly-focused. On reflection. to Lucille’s way of thinking. as the shock of that might have taken a good ten years off Mrs. and not only because Lucille had just become the most tearful cat in feline history. Lucille’s mother had no such protection against an early grave. dark-haired lady of forty-three. had she not been — for good or ill — immune to all physical decay. although to see her restless and wandering the house so late was in itself not a positive sign. Kitson’s life. Something needed to be done. her hair a little dishevelled and possibly greyer. for much-needed support. Kitson had been a tall. and right now she did not look as if she could very well afford them.
there was the risk that if her mother thought she had nowhere else to go. and walked all the way around the terrace until she stood before her former front door. in fact. to be as tactful as possible. hurried out of the yard and into the back lane. whatever the risk. it would surely pass of its own accord. in a spirit of natural fear and rejection. Her family had to be warned. tidied up her hair. she jumped off the windowsill. apart from being shown to the police. slammed the door in her face. Ought she to say something before the door was open. Determined. or pretend she had been alone since her “death”? Although it did not seem right to mention the refuge without their permission. the stupidest idea imaginable? However dangerous her mother’s grief appeared. suddenly prey to a horde of vexing little questions that put up a surprisingly fierce contest with her tremendous desire to ring the doorbell. come to that. but it was unlikely that an anonymous letter of impending doom would be acted upon. however. Was this.vision of a future time in which this house — this entire street — would be reduced to smouldering rubble. Here she paused. she would insist upon taking her in. at great risk to herself and Eleanor. slipped back into her human form. that is. This news had to be told in person. or wait until she was face-to-face with her mother. dusted down her clothes. and what. especially the one in which her mother. was the best form of greeting for such an occasion? Ought she to mention the Strakers and their refuge. It was not 142 . or suffered a heart attack then and there. There were still worse scenarios to consider.
that image of her — wasting away to a shadow of herself. She looked up to see a grey owl making circular passes over Peony Place. and Eleanor was still there to comfort her. in spite of their shocking indifference over poor Joseph’s fate.even as if. how much less likely was it that they would permit Lucille to put them all at risk for the sake of her mother. What sort of excuse was that for dropping yet another bombshell upon her mother’s fragile peace? Tearing herself away from the front door proved as difficult a task as ringing the doorbell. and it was no decision of her own that saved her from this limbo of contradiction. On the one hand. who was a total stranger to them? Furthermore. She ought at least to have been honest with them. considering the efforts the Strakers had made to protect her. what business was it of Anne’s if she wanted to risk seeing her family? But perhaps it did seem a little ungrateful of her. whom they had known. but an almost telepathic intuition that she could see herself through another’s eyes. she really had no idea when or even if that future would come to pass. it was the sudden sense that she was being watched. Lucille could 143 . Besides. and was stricken with both guilt and resentment. This was not some vague human fear. whilst they had no particular reason to trust her. as Lucille sadly reflected. however briefly. if they would take no risks for the sake of Joseph. she had been anything like a model daughter. As for her lucid dreams. they had every right to fear for the safety and secrecy of their refuge. and weeping her heart out — was stubbornly refusing to fade. On the other hand.
” Anne had advised her. disapproving statement in Anne’s refined tones would have come as no surprise. she would put no-one at risk.not afford to waste this chance. but impelled by fear and morbid curiosity. were enough to warn her that a well-aimed burst of fire from those would. Not that Lucille had ever seen a real live Tommy-gun before. drum-bodied firearms that they both had trained upon her.” Or if you can’t phase to save your life. The only danger is if you get caught by surprise. and would gladly submit to whatever reprimands Anne and Robert saw fit to give her. and don’t you try nothin’! We’ve got you covered. “The trick with bullets. “is phasing — letting them pass straight through you. nondescript in all aspects except for the short. ask for her forgiveness. barking. horribly aware of the significance that cliché had acquired. male voice disconcerted her completely: “Turn around. like as not. 144 . be as lethal to her as any wooden stake. and leave quickly. Before she could act. but Anne’s survival tips. Lucille reflected. along with any number of gangster films. a voice called out from behind her. Thus. without mentioning the refuge or giving her a chance to form any kind but ill-advised ideas about Lucille moving back in.” Reluctantly. she turned and found herself confronted by two drabclothed young men. deliver her warning. during the night they had spent hunting. She would tell her mother the truth. sacred image. but this harsh. or a whole cellar-full of communion wine. A cool.
leaving his machine-gun to hang from its shoulder-strap as he reached within his trench coat and pulled out a much stranger-looking weapon. and a fair amount of pain. “holes”. then euthanasia. on account of the frenzied owl that suddenly dive-bombed his “mate” full in the face with an earsplitting screech. “Capture it alive?” asked the other. “Don’t you even think about hypnotising us. to explain that she was not hunting.“That’s the one. slowly advancing upon her. who she then recognised as the very same “detective” who had trailed Joseph to this house. “You sure about the new orders?” “The special order’s been cancelled. This distracted the other Healer long enough for Lucille to plant an extremely unladylike punch on his nose. or good old “lead” would remain a mystery. with little enough hope.” said one of the gunmen. that she did not care for hunting people anyway. so I suppose we proceed as usual. the owl had wasted little time in becoming 145 .” “I—” began Lucille. inducing him to collapse in a bleeding and insensible heap on the other side of the street. somewhat doubtfully. Meanwhile. I know that.” replied his comrade. and that she was only trying to check on her mother’s well being. vaguely gun-shaped but with a bottle-shaped tank instead of a magazine. and my mate’ll fill you so full of—” But whether this threat was to have culminated in “bullets”. “Unless it puts up a fight. “Shut it!” hissed the spray gun man. intending. right enough. One more word. causing him to let go of his Tommy-gun in shock.
She was beginning to fear that this was exactly her predicament.? Turning a corner. that is. she changed back into her owl form and shot skywards.. Lucille tried to follow on foot. whose condition had not noticeably improved since the struggle. but soon lost sight of the owl and could only proceed by her best guesses in the direction she thought it might have taken. when a second volley of shots. although its effect upon Anne was no less powerful than if it had been. It was from nearby. she assumed a look of overpowering dread. who then wasted no time at all in fixing her teeth in her victim’s neck. but not within their street.” she began. terraced lanes that were easy to get hopelessly lost in at the best of times. but its source was not the Healers they had dealt with. timidly. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. Anne’s flying towards the gunfire? She thought. she found her answer. “I’m sorry. then added. albeit a confusing one. But I need to—” A rattle of gunfire cut her short. gave her a reliable heading to follow.Anne Straker. After a few seconds. from much closer at hand. through narrow. I shouldn’t have lied.. as her spirit stirred ever so slightly within her. Dunstan’s and sink back into her grave to hide from it. But why. 146 . though not absolutely unkind. Lucille was too afraid and ashamed to ask — and subjected Lucille to a look which. was so intensely disappointed that she was powerfully tempted to make for St. she let him slide to the pavement — whether dead or unconscious. and with barely a moment’s delay and not a word to Lucille.
the head of the girl in her arms flopped back. marked as it was with a row of regularly spaced bulletholes. and none remained standing. but her back was hideously distinctive. wrathful parody of itself.It was a scene of no small violence. Afraid though Lucille was to approach and seek confirmation of her fears. When Anne heard her and looked up. Two Healers were sprawled upon the pavement. 147 . and frozen expression of pain. In spite of its deathly pallor. cradling the body of a fourth figure and trembling with silent but vigorous sobs. it proved irresistible. both unhealthily still. while Anne was kneeling some distance away from them. glassy eyes. showing her normally statuesque face twisted into a sorrowful. the face thus revealed was unmistakably Briony’s. pressed against Anne’s bosom. The face of the fourth figure was concealed.
“but I need a little more than your word on that before I disturb the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet. “but the Secretary of State for War is in a Cabinet meeting.” explained the clerk at the War Office. “I need to see him urgently.” replied Goldstein.CHAPTER IX WEAK LINKS 09 Weak Links “I’m awfully sorry. If you’ve nothing concrete to tell me—” “Very well. and I can hardly summon him away from it for the sake of your — if I may say — very vague and mysterious warning. discouragingly. madam. This is a matter of national importance.” “So you say. There’s an important public servant — an army officer — who’s planning to put forward a proposal for manufacturing a new biological weapon. Perhaps you could leave a message with Sir Laming’s private secretary. If this weapon 148 . well aware that any note she left for him about vampires and souldestroying vaccines would be thrown away as some ludicrous hoax without her personal testimony.” “I hardly think so. madam.” replied the clerk.
” “If you’ll pardon me. but I wasn’t. this officer won’t actually take his disgusting plan straight to Sir Laming himself. you may have been born yesterday. he would certainly reject it out of hand. and it’s our duty to stop it immediately... Without even knowing it. It’s that sort of deception I want him to be ready for. They might include the plan as a tiny clause in a large list of proposals. or just get him to sign the bill while he’s tired. and wouldn’t care in the slightest if the government’s reputation suffered because of it. and then he’ll have no choice but to try to justify it before the House of Commons. he might find that he’s approved of this abomination. “but you know what I mean. or in a hurry. First. Sir Laming should start reading all of his documents very carefully — especially if someone asks him to sign something quickly. he’ll get some of his army colleagues interested. I fail to see the problem. or make the government appear incompetent.” she hastily apologised. and hasn’t the time to read it properly. or when he’s got other important business on hand — in case anyone tries to trick him into committing our government to this atrocity. I’m sorry. Then they’ll try to sneak it past Sir Laming.” “Well. it will make our nation a byword for cruelty. madam. It’s a crime against humanity. If this weapon is as you describe it. as a slight tic of annoyance briefly animated the clerk’s listless face. and maybe some influential businessmen — people who could profit from the manufacture of this weapon. and such a proposal were actually to be put before the Secretary of State.” 149 .is ever used by our armed forces.
When she arrived at St.” “That’s not really all that practical.” commented the clerk. she ordered the driver to take her to Stepney Green.” she said... **** Having left the War Office building. I was working on the project.” “Being followed as well? How exciting.” “Quite certain. and if he’s working for my former employer.“Interesting..” “Never mind. and still 150 . I’m afraid he’s booked to travel to Colchester.. Dunstan’s Church there was still over an hour to go until sunset. Well. if you wouldn’t mind waiting till then. I very much doubt he’ll leave me in peace until I actually get the opportunity to do so. He’ll be back in his office on Thursday. madam. madam. in a not-overlyinterested way. If he saw me enter this building.. At what time will this Cabinet meeting end?” “As soon as it does. Goldstein flagged down a taxi. “My hopes weren’t exactly sky-high. Someone’s been following me all day. I am. but as she was frustrated. then he’ll know I intended to blow the whistle on the weapon project. until she was almost confident they had shaken off the other taxi that had pursued them closely from Whitehall. so help me God. vexed but completely unsurprised. impatient. fascinating story..” and at least I know where else I can go to seek aid. and after a few minutes of being driven randomly around central London.. I really can’t think what else to suggest. I can provide detailed information.. “I assume you are quite certain of the source of this. but it’s vital that I see Sir Laming as soon as possible.
151 . pocket Qur’an. She was most certainly of the race Goldstein had been expecting to meet with.ever-so-slightly afraid for her life. dark-haired woman. As the carrier turned a cold. any more than she might need her compact revolver. The sound of a nearby gunshot caused her to swiftly re-evaluate her priorities. Goldstein held out her sacred objects. but such precautions seemed to be in order. He was definitely the man who had followed her to and from Whitehall. and Buddhist Wheel of Life. motionless. none of which she hoped she would need. she discovered her pursuer concealed behind it. although he had looked much healthier at the time. he was ashenfaced. With her revolver in one trembling hand and all three sacred objects crammed into the other. and anxiously fidgeting with her crucifix. but she looked nothing like the pictures of Lucy Kitson that she had seen in the department’s files. as she passed by a tall Victorian monument. and lying limply in the arms of a strikingly beautiful. but her increasingly depressing vigil continued for another hour or so. Goldstein made her way immediately to the small tombstone of the late Lucy Kitson. It would have taken a more sanguine personality than Goldstein’s to have assumed that the redness around her mouth and trickling down her chin was merely an excess of lipstick. She spent her time pacing back and forth. Now. until she was on the verge of giving up and catching the next train to Colchester. she advanced tentatively in the direction of the sound. nervous glances in all directions. and the lovely. reflecting on her wisdom. hard stare upon her. Night fell. Eventually. casting quick. or possible lack of.
I was looking for Lucy Kitson.” she replied.. It’s quite possible you might have saved my—” “I know you.” hissed the carrier. rising to her feet and letting the man slide off her lap. but with no obvious increase of affection. Perhaps you ‘Healers’ are losing your flair for butchery. “Drop those. and you have every right to—” “Perform summary execution? How true. through the minds of vampires who were sent to your laboratories and experimented upon.” “Which goes to show that I must have had an excellent reason to actually dare to come looking for you.” 152 . not you. giving them electric shocks. then. with a poorly suppressed tremor of dread. sewing their eyelids open and forcing them to look at crosses. cutting them open—” “I realise that an apology from me would be fairly meaningless at this point. while obediently dropping her defensive gear into the long.” she interrupted. or sit through screenings of The Ten Commandments.statuesque face twisted into an agonised grimace. wet grass. So far so good.. and the gun. and scripture. “I ought to thank you. any more than this fool benefited from taking a shot at me. Are you—?” “I’ve seen you. “I doubt it. were it not for the automatic pistol that the carrier then pulled out of her unconscious victim’s fingers and aimed at Goldstein. “Not that it would help you. dripping it on their eyes. Spraying their skin with holy water.” “He was chasing me. I’ve seen you strapping them into torture-chairs.
and I’m taking no small risk here.” she declared.” she replied.. You could still rescue him. “Let’s not take it for granted that you’ll even survive this little encounter. lucky old me. but do you know Joseph Ward?” “I knew him. and could end up with your race becoming mere cattle. Preventing that is my only interest. having their blood ‘milked’ in laboratories for military use. betraying their secrets to one of you—” “Oh. a poison that destroys self-awareness. mock-reassuringly. If they ever found out I’ve gone behind their backs. distastefully.“No..” “Let me set your mind completely at rest. managing to sound faintly smug in spite of her mortal terror. but I have to ask myself what your interest in this could possibly be.. I wanted to end the experiment then and there.” “Perhaps. After all. but our commander wants to develop it.” interrupted the carrier. don’t be afraid of them. I can think of any number of people I’d sooner claim than you. or do you have a mind to turn vampire yourself? Please tell me it’s a trap. We found that it can be used as a biological weapon. “He’s alive. Is it that you’re planning to lead me into a trap. They need his blood for an experiment. why shouldn’t I—?” 153 .” “Well.. all-too-briefly. You were looking for Lucy.” “Then you’re not as psychic as all that. You just happened to be unlucky. before you heroic hunters murdered him. and likely to be for some time. “The experiment I spoke of threatens all of humanity. with my help.
. officially. and that somehow justified all of the suffering. With your powers. pretended that I wasn’t doing those things for myself and my career. “Please understand: I lied to myself for a very long time. and I can get you past the security guards and into our main HQ.. They’ll still hunt you. are you sorry for what you’ve done?” she asked. you ought to stand a fair chance of saving your friend. but yes. On reflection. not quite certain whether this was a cause for fresh hope or some more mortal terror. You can also take the opportunity to destroy all of the data for the biological weapon project. If you’re sincere. any more torture.” “What had you in mind?” asked Goldstein. Believe what you like.. her icy scepticism undercut by a thoughtful note. there is something else you can do for us. I’m ashamed of what I’ve done to your kind.... and it became impossible for me to pretend any longer. and of my reasons for doing it. I confess. 154 .. but at least there won’t be any more experimentation.. my guidance. You’re right.” “Torture? Or were you thinking of ‘genocide’?” “Yes. That will take away their motivation for capturing your kind. suggesting she had not completely rejected the possibility.. Then this weapon project came along. and if this is all I can do to make some amends—” “It isn’t. something that would convince me of your good faith. daydreams of a professorship at Cambridge seem poor reasons for. well.. but for some greater good. and the element of surprise.“Because I still work there.” “So.
and almost tomb-like. Goldstein instantly recognised her as Lucy Kitson.” she instructed. old-fashioned. “There’s no time to lose. by Goldstein’s best reckoning. somewhere along Commercial Street.” **** The vampire called the taxi to a halt in Spitalfields. opening the door under the staircase. Several minutes. listless face sat beside an enclosed box bed. since you can’t fly and I detest long walks. “Where—?” she began to ask. and you’d hardly expect me to give you the address. to say nothing of stumbles. Her blindfold was removed. cheerless. she was led indoors. it will require a taxi. The only answer was a very slight 155 . not that it made any difference now — the woman who had brought her here was clearly the one in charge. lit with only a few flickering candles. although it was as cold as it had been out in the streets. sombre. Ruth. trips. though. as she deduced from the change in sound quality and the sudden stillness of the air. blindfolded her with a scarf and guided her the remainder of the way. where a teenage girl with a sad. After she had paid the driver and sent him on his way. into an equally cold and gloomy basement bedroom. “Our home. First. her undead companion led her down a side street and. and she found herself within a narrow hallway. And you’re paying.“Nothing fatal. “Has there been any change?” she asked the girl as they approached the bed. Come along.” She led the way downstairs. after waving aside her half-hearted objections. although it may require a bit of courage. chilly. and bruises later.
glassy eyes. with a curt little tilt of her head. she needs to taste the freshest. sharply. Not one. she might stand a chance of recuperating. “Ruth. who is this? Is she—?” “She’s a Healer. It isn’t very much to ask. unenthusiastically. Even the weakest of us can usually recover from quite serious wounds very quickly. One thing might work. strongest blood we can offer her. The woman drew back the side panel of the bed and signalled. We only need a few drops of your blood to wake her up. Ruth?” Goldstein nodded. and that’s precisely where you come in.shake of her head. and hasn’t harmed one person in all of that time. meet Briony. hard to make out in the feeble light.. translucent skin. holding a candle close so that Goldstein could see all-too-clearly the white. and prominent bones of the invalid. “She’s been a vampire since 1925. but I believe she’s of a mind to repent and help poor Briony. and then we’ll give her animal blood. and she’s wasting away. but we haven’t been able to wake her.. Ruth. with a thin smile that might have been intended as encouraging. for Goldstein to take a look. whilst Anne.” said the woman. although even her silhouette was a ghastly enough sight — skeletally thin. “Anne. If she could only revive and take some nourishment and night air. but that didn’t seem to interest the Healer who shot her in the back last night. but one of the bullets pierced her heart. and rigid as a waxwork. A figure lay within the bed. Don’t panic.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Lucille. Aren’t you. took a flick- 156 . considering how much blood our kind has spilt for you. dear.
but so was everything else. her mind hazy and confused. “Don’t worry. and her last coherent thought. blood-red light that did nothing whatsoever 157 . Roll up your sleeve. and tried in vain to pull away from the vice-like jaws of this “harmless” creature. Even Anne was beginning to look bereft of hope. bony hands around Goldstein’s arm. surrounded by a halo of deep. **** Now the Earth seemed to be falling away from her at a fantastic speed as she spun through space.” Goldstein did as instructed. although the cut actually proved less painful than most of the bumps and scrapes she had received during her blindfolded mystery tour. it’s clean. Goldstein’s pain was growing fainter. struck: the corpse-like figure clamped her cold. was that the world would have been infinitely better without the human race — carriers and non-carriers alike — about the place. more than making up for the lack of pain Goldstein had felt when the cut was made. but to no avail. she opened her eyes. The blood dripped onto her teeth and tongue. like a fasterthan-light rifle shot. attempting to pry the ravenous patient from her prey. Her vision grew dark. but there was no quick response.knife from her pocket. when reassurance. increasing in size by the millisecond. was a black sphere. While she screamed. A little cut should suffice. of a kind. Looming ahead of her. dragged her closer. as she slipped into oblivion. as Anne took her by the wrist and guided the fresh wound over Briony’s mouth. shutting her eyes and gritting her teeth into the bargain. and right to the back of her throat. Anne and Lucille came to her aid. and sank her teeth into the wound. Tentatively.
insatiable emptiness. was fated to lose every vestige of her identity and become mere building material for something that was. That pitch-dark zone would drag her in. and had sacrificed her professional ethics for a desperate chance at fame and recognition. and spirit itself would be broken down into their most basic elements and absorbed into that darkness. to say the least. It was an uninviting destination. she knew beyond a doubt that it meant her 158 . she came to a standstill. Flesh. to exist for eternity as nothing more than an infinitesimal increase of its all-devouring nothingness. bone.to liven its ominous appearance. and she was horribly conscious of the fact that no efforts of her own would alter her course. blood. Something even more powerful than the phenomenal gravitational pull of the black sphere had caught hold of her. The ironic justice of it was not lost on her. not only limb from limb but atom from atom. and a faint golden aura around her. although what she could sense of it seemed absurdly gentle — a light. mind. An appropriate punishment. albeit not a very consoling reflection. tingling feeling of warmth. who had silenced in herself the voices of pity and shame. all individuality and personality lost. she. and then? More intuitions that she could have done without began surfacing in her mind — the forces within it would tear her apart. nothing but a great. Then. but it was hers nonetheless. Nevertheless. in more blatant violation of Newtonian physics. within which swarms of brilliant motes danced and swirled like fireflies. in spite of its appalling power.
. queasy feeling. cadaverous occupant all-too-vividly.. then?” There was a faintly hostile undertone to Lucille’s concerned words. but a strong sense of hollowness and weakness. both herself and her unexpected bedfellow. not quite sickness.reprieve. It was enough for Goldstein to discern. “Actually. Then.” Lucille drew back the panel to let some faint dregs of twilight in upon them. thank you. total darkness. she clawed frantically at the woodwork. but Goldstein was feeling too muddle-headed to give it much thought.. and a few seconds of disoriented panic before she realised that she had not. and the ravenous void would have to go hungry after all. reproachfully. She was neither abandoned nor forgotten. Her 159 . but was merely lying within the box bed. and all of her panic resurfaced with a vengeance. painless but distressing nonetheless. hoping to find the sliding panel and make her escape before the thing could finish her off. Added to that was an odd. weak. indefinable discomfort in her mouth. She felt the bedclothes shift as someone stirred beside her. in fact. attired in nightgowns. reposing beneath the faded floral bedspread in an almost offensively ordinary fashion. but you definitely saved her life. it only opens on my side. and be surprised at. and I hope you won’t hold it against her that she went a bit too far last night. Still a bit fragile. “A bit dizzy. been entombed alive. “I suppose you’re feeling all right.. and a strange. “She’s sleeping with Anne and Robert. Remembering the bed’s former.” she replied. and was slightly disturbed to find that her voice had risen a little in pitch.” “Briony’s fine. “I’m not sure. What happened? That hideous thing.” said Lucille.
instincts got the better of her. It happens to all of us, every now and again.” “You needn’t include me in that sentence,” she said, scornfully, as Lucille slipped out of bed. “Whatever you say,” replied Lucille, taking a metal Thermos flask off the bedside table and unscrewing the cap. “Anyway, you’d better drink this while it’s warm.” Willing to entertain the possibility that some tea or coffee might do something to invigorate her, Goldstein took the flask, sipped its contents, and then took deep and eager draughts. It was, in fact, only lukewarm, but that was a minor detail. For it was rich, sweet, and wonderfully restorative, with delicate hints of honey, wine, exotic spices, nectar, ambrosia, and manna from Heaven. She drank it with such enthusiasm that a fair quantity of it ended up missing her mouth and splashing upon the bedclothes. She looked down, noticed its colour, shrieked in horror and disgust, and dropped the flask, painting the floral embroidery with a large and spreading red stain. “Well,” sighed Lucille, retrieving the flask. “I suppose it is high time that we washed these sheets.” “How could you?” muttered Goldstein, between sobs that defied her efforts to suppress them, while shedding quicksilver vampire tears. “She promised me not to—” “If Anne hadn’t claimed you, you’d have died, and after what you’d done for Briony we couldn’t let that happen... in spite of everything else you’ve done. Anne told me; I know you’re the one who’s been torturing Joseph.” “I hardly touched him!” she protested, without much forethought, only for the guilty memories to start crawling
out of the woodwork. “Well, I might have shown him a holy sign or two... and kept him under restraint... but I did petition the commander for his release... unsuccessfully.” “It doesn’t matter now, anyway.” “Doesn’t it?” “No, because you’re going to help us set him free, aren’t you?” Amazingly, this was not a veiled threat, but a statement of purest faith and hope, and made Goldstein realise that although she herself had changed, her cause had not. In fact, she now had more reason than ever to put Major Drayton out of business, lest the Healers take exception to her continued existence. They were trained not to discriminate in cases of infected comrades and coworkers, but to “heal” them just like they would any other carrier. If being a vampire, however, was the only lifeline Goldstein had to keep her from that black sphere she had seen in her dream, if mere dream it had been, she would cling to that last vestige of hope with all her might. “Of course... Lucy... Miss Kitson. We’ll find a way. Human or carrier... or vampire, I mean, I still have my official pass. I can get us into Radlett HQ, and then—” “Hold on; that is a problem, isn’t it? I wonder if they’ll still recognise you.” “How do you mean?” “Well, last night, you looked about fifty, with greying hair. Now you’re platinum blonde, and you don’t look as if you could possibly be older than thirty-five. And, I notice, you haven’t asked for your glasses back.” “No,” she replied vaguely, while devoting most of her attention to her hands, having only just realized how
smooth and clear-skinned they now were. “I don’t suppose you have a mirror about you, by any... Oh... Silly question.” “I’ll do a sketch of you sometime, if you like. I know how annoying it can be, never being quite sure of your own appearance, but you can take my word for it you’ve been rejuvenated. It is a new life... Ruth... and you began it with an act of mercy. I only hope that’s how you mean to go on.” “I promise you, we’ll get your boyfriend out of that place somehow.” “Thanks, but I actually meant Briony. She’s very sensitive, and wouldn’t like it one little bit if she thought she’d hurt anyone even accidentally... so we told her that you wanted to be a vampire.” “You told her what?” “She couldn’t stand it if she thought she’d forced you into this. Is there really any point in telling her the truth? You’ll like her when you meet her, I promise you. Besides which, it wasn’t her fault. Blame Anne and me, if you must, or blame your Healers, or yourself, but if you’ve any sense of justice—” “If I had none, this could never have happened to me. But I suppose you’re right,” she added, self-reproachfully. “I’ve deserved worse than this. I wonder that you, of all people, can bear to share a bed with me.” “Well, as long as I think of you as Briony’s saviour... and it was either that or sleep on the floor. Vampires we may be, but our little ‘castle’ isn’t exactly overflowing with bedchambers.”
In spite of Lucille’s fears, the meeting between Briony and Ruth later that evening, although a little awkward, was not unpleasant. Briony was so generous with her words of thanks, her tears of gratitude, and her compliments upon how beautifully vampirism became Ruth — and how helpful it was, thought Lucille, that Cambridge-educated parapsychologists were not, it seemed, immune to vanity — that Ruth could barely find the occasion to say “you’re welcome” and “thank you”. Sadly, that was as amicable as the evening got. Robert remained shut in his study the whole duration, and Lucille was certain that he was delaying having to meet Ruth for as long as possible. Although he had grudgingly approved of Anne’s desperate scheme to find a willing donor to bring back to the refuge, he had not been consulted when they had decided to claim her, fearful as they were that she could not survive the blood loss. Heated scenes were inevitable, but even more depressingly Anne had gone out hunting without a word to Lucille. They had, in fact, spoken very little since the evening she had tried to visit her family, when Briony had been shot. The sense of having disappointed her adopted family as well as her real one helped to make Lucille’s life that little bit more unbearable, and Ruth’s incessant questions proved a less than soothing distraction. How did they live? How did they manage for rent, and blood? Were there other refuges in London? How exactly does one do the phasing trick? Is shape-shifting just an illusion, and if it isn’t, would she mind demonstrating how it’s done? Still, it
was better to be slightly useful to someone than to feel like a selfish and useless deadweight, so she gave her what answers she could, and demonstrated the few supernatural gifts she had mastered. Consequently, she spent much of that morning in cat form, chasing a rather unsteady but enthusiastic raven around the living room, while the fuzzy but sublime strains of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue played on the gramophone. Lucille was in fair danger of starting to feel not unhappy, when Anne entered the room and she morphed back into her old depressed self. The raven became Ruth, and touched down inelegantly, to say nothing of destructively upon the coffee table. A few seconds passed until Anne caught herself gaping in wideeyed astonishment, and very quickly pulled herself together. “A word of advice, Ruth,” said Anne, with a marvellous facade of calm. “Fly low, for now. I hate to imagine you doing that at a thousand feet. Did you teach her how to shape-shift, Lucy?” “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” “What are you apologising for? Goodness knows, you couldn’t risk practising outdoors, the two of you. Not without me, anyway, but I’m afraid you’ll surpass me soon enough, Lucy. It took me weeks before I could control my shape-shifting, and here you are, teaching it to someone else after only a few nights. Impressive, to say the least... But lest I forget, you never asked me why I went to Stepney last night.”
“I don’t remember you telling me that you did, but wasn’t it to find a willing blood donor for Briony?” “Yes, and I saw Ruth waiting by your grave while I was flying by, but that wasn’t my original plan. I had someone else in mind: someone who I knew would never refuse to help a friend of yours; would never attempt to bring danger upon us; and would, in any case, dearly love to see you. Can you guess?” “You don’t mean...?” asked Lucille, torn between disbelief, horror, and irrepressible joy. “You haven’t...?” “Of course, I didn’t get the chance to see her last night, so I called by this evening. We had a nice long chat, and I explained everything to her. She believed me... after I’d phased my hand through the coffee table a couple of times. Perhaps we might teach that to Ruth, and save the rest of our furniture... Anyway, she took it fairly well. She screamed just a little, and woke up Eleanor, but that’s all right, as it turns out, because they’ve both come along to see you. What’s the matter, dear?” “They’re here? Now?” Lucille half-spoke, halfstammered. “Anne; I don’t know if I’m ready for—” But it was pointless finishing this statement, as her mother and sister had just stepped into the living-room doorway. Eleanor looked much the same as ever, give or take her tired and unkempt appearance, and the constantly shifting expressions of fear and joy that fought for possession of her face. Her mother still had that pale and wasted look that had frightened Lucille so much two nights ago, but her bearing was straight and confident again, although her actual expression was blank and unreadable.
For a few seconds, they merely exchanged silent stares, and when she finally broke the silence, Lucille found herself sorely in want of something profound to say: “Mum? How are you? I’m sorry, Mum... I shouldn’t—” She was not altogether sure what she was apologising for —the unauthorised late nights out, the reckless spending, her general ingratitude, falling in love with a vampire, or all of the above. As it transpired, she had no chance to decide upon her worst shortcoming, as her mother, who had simultaneously broken out in tears and a smile of pure elation, came forward, embraced her, kissed her, and held her now equally tearful face to her bosom, effectively silencing her self-reproach. “Shh, Lucy,” whispered Mrs. Kitson, hugging her daughter almost too tightly for comfort, as if afraid some new force might conspire to pull her away. “You’re alive. How could I care about anything else?” Happy as Lucille would have been to have remained in that blissful haven, oblivious to the rest of the world, she could not help but notice as the study door opened and Robert entered the living-room. He took in the affectionate scene with silent horror, exchanged a hard stare with Anne, and immediately returned to his little sanctuary, slamming the door behind him.
THE ONES YOU LOVE
10 The Ones You Love
Abramson’s Pawnbroker Shop, located well off the beaten track in a dingy Whitechapel side lane, was in itself hard enough to find. Its tiny sub-basement, reached through a trapdoor normally covered with a mouldy carpet, was next to impossible to find, or at any rate, Mr. Abramson certainly hoped that it was. Amidst the clutter of a battered printing press and workbenches heavily laden with jars, bottles, stationery and photographic equipment, Anne could barely find room to stand, and wondered how the frail, sixty-eight-year-old Mr. Abramson, having neither her acute night-vision nor her phasing ability, could move through it all with such ease by the light of one feeble electric bulb. At least having a normal human sense of smell spared him the full force of the stale, chemicaltainted air, which was making Anne regret that she had not waited in the main shop for him. Her regret was shortlived, however, as he handed her a pair of official-looking documents, one worn and faded, the other fresh, but
though. with all of your wonderful tricks. and he’ll probably be in no fit state to move without assistance. they won’t bother to check the fine print. ably concealing the fear his words had evoked. the better.. The only bit that worries me is your personnel number. “The lady in the photograph looks very much like you. I’m sure if Ruth and I play our parts convincingly. these civil service passes are all very much the same. Your friend who gave me the original pass did not know how this organization numbers its staff. “This is excellent.. my dear. so I just had to guess... and Sir Laming Worthington-Evans.. Anyway. but I believe she should do the trick.” said Mr.” “I hope so.” replied Anne. and the longer we can keep them from raising the alarm.. pointing out the black-andwhite passport-sized portrait of a woman who. couldn’t you just fly in through the walls?” “Possibly. but is this really necessary for you? I mean to say. She surveyed them with satisfaction. And then we have to find these papers. or into the path of a patrol. although not very artistically captured. could indeed have been mistaken for Anne. my dear. does not have a difficult signature to copy. But if they should check it. I had to airbrush her cheekbones a little. The rest was easy enough. based on how many people they employ there. and poor Joseph as well. I never thought this was going to be risk-free. but I doubt that Ruth could. thankfully. and I need her help. Abramson..” “Well. Too much to 168 . I might fly right into a guardroom.identical in most other details.. “Lucky girl that she is.
Pruett and his intrepid band of racing pigeons. as a rule. “I’d like to pay you something.” she mused. though. and if I say so myself. 169 . who was preparing for college. though.” replied Anne. were none too profound: Lucille’s mother would tell her about Eleanor’s studies.. if only because there’s one more thing I need to buy. and stories of their friends and neighbours such as the ongoing saga of Mr. I’m grateful to him that he got you to this country.. Eleanor. always staying till past midnight. Their conversations. stooping slightly to plant a cold but affectionate kiss on the old man’s cheek. This nocturnal life began to tell upon Mrs. sorry excuse for a forger. Emery and the dry rot in her basement.. Kitson... rather than having to sell all I owned. I wonder if you have any spare bullets for one of these. could only visit during the weekend. but sensing the onset of melancholy. How much do I owe you?” “To save your friend from those butchers? I wouldn’t dream of charging you. “This pass will be a great help. I do a much better job than that greedy. pulled herself together in a flash.. albeit a healthier and far more cheerful one. and she developed a perpetually tired look.” **** The week following her mother’s first visit to the refuge was the happiest time that Lucille had known since her alltoo-brief acquaintance with Joseph. but her mother came every evening. I only wish I’d been able to get such a deal when I was in desperate need of a fake passport to get the hell out of Ukraine. or the epic battle between Mrs. my dear. Just to be on the safe side.” “Still.do. I’m sure of it.
but she was justly proud of her dressmaking efforts. her mother presented her with a paper package and a weak. not if it still involved her appearing before audiences in less clothing than Mrs. It was not quite up to the costuming standards of the Ziegfeld Follies. Not that she would have been any more enthusiastic in the extremely unlikely event that her two-left-footed daughter had been offered a major role in a top West End theatre. Kitson. ever-soslightly guilty smile. but not. 170 . On the sixth night since their reunion. thought Lucille. perhaps. and had been most upset when her mother took it from her. She unfolded the shimmering bundle. The continued existence of those painstakinglysequinned tights. and the leotard with the swirling Art Deco embroidery and attached skirt — which was pretty short.Lucille would alternately smile and weep at these tales of a world from which she was forever exiled. suggesting the dreadful possibility that she had unknowingly slipped into another universe where such things were possible. had been accustomed to wear for sea-bathing. appalled at the notion of her daughter flaunting herself on stage in some squalid little music hall. discovering — to her frank astonishment — her dancing shoes and the homemade chorus-girl costume that her mother had confiscated some months ago. at Lucille’s age. When Lucille unwrapped it. For her mother to be actually giving them back to her without anyone obviously holding her at gunpoint was almost frightening. scandalously so — was a great mystery in itself. she was momentarily dazzled by a display of twinkling sequins and shiny artificial silk.
I had your interests at heart. well. I’m confident you can excel at something as ordinary as dancing. “and it didn’t seem a good idea to let anything get in the way of your schoolwork.” replied Mrs. darling. not at all. Sorry.” “Of course she can. I never wanted your father to die in the war.. and shows.. but it was slow work..” “You were only fifteen. with a determined effort at cheerfulness.” said Briony. anyway.” said Lucille. as she entered the living room.. “I remember how upset I made you. and jazz music.. but. or clubs. all-too-brightly.. “Anyway. Mind you. one never really knows how things are going to turn out. you know. or to have to take in casual lodgers.” “Thank you. silencing her lingering resentment of Joseph. Lucille had often tried to persuade her out of this attitude completely. if you’d only give yourself a chance. Not to save my. drunks. dear. darling. “Anne says she’s got perfect 171 . it’s not what I wanted for you.. but if you can change into a cat and pass through solid ground. all of those things. confused and sad in spite of her mother’s kind intentions.” she declared. Goodness knows. and vamp. Not very well. I don’t think you’re likely to finish school. Well. since you enjoy dancing. “But I can’t dance.” replied Lucille.. and working during the day is obviously out of the question for you. Kitson..” “Lucy.“I thought you’d got rid of this.. dismally. and you’ve grown up so much of late. It was just another silly dream. Just something to help make ends meet. not that I understand any of this. we all do what we have to do. maybe you can find some evening work in theatres. but then again. somehow.
feeling less graceful than ever. Lucille did the same with the dance steps. While the cheap. wind-up record player valiantly strove to do justice to the jaunty jazz music. but nonetheless she found herself in Robert’s study. Lucille? You’ve got your dancing clothes. it would have been more painful. push the air with both hands. Kick from the knee. Lucille did not recall when or if she actually gave her spoken agreement to this cruel and unusual attempt to boost her morale. to have disappointed them. and try not to knock any ornaments off the mantelpiece in the process. She knew the 172 . but would have given her innocent admirer a very sharp and negative answer. left. and so with swinging limbs and clenched teeth she began her performance. I see. back we go again. had it not been for her mother’s encouraging smile. Why don’t you try now. I’m sure you’ll surprise us all. and she ought to know. as she had never imagined that she would conceive a desire to hit Briony. right. indicating that she was on Briony’s side. When Lucille emerged. She had the common sense and kindness to suppress it. right. left. however slightly. and we could put something on the gramophone for you. changing into her stage clothes. Having raised their expectations so far. kickstep forward.” For her part. she was greeted by Briony’s ecstatic exclamation on how beautiful she looked. while the two conspirators sifted through the gramophone records to find the Charleston music. Lucille was already surprised. and a silent look of great affection and possibly even of faint pride from her mother. arms swinging.natural agility.
whereupon he took Anne aside for a “discussion” which Lucille had done her best not to eavesdrop on. the tears in her mother’s eyes were a sign of more than faint pride. Kitson’s first visit. At any rate. He managed to remain coldly polite until the visitors had gone. stating that it was foolish to suppose Mrs. or maybe the terrible pressure of being stared at with such loving confidence by both her friend and her mother carried her beyond ordinary stage fright. Kitson would do anything to put her own daughter at risk. but thin walls and raised voices had conspired against her. when the hall door slammed open and Robert walked into their company. and it would be sheer cruelty to keep them apart for the sake of obsessive caution. had been a slight too far. without anyone even bothering to consult him. and caused her instincts to take control as they had done during her first night’s hunting. but was somehow rarely able to perform them without damage to the furniture and to her dignity. and for yet another outsider to be granted access to their refuge. Robert had already been sceptical about Ruth’s “initiation”. stepped. Perhaps vampirism had indeed cured her of her clumsiness. embarrassed silence. Anne had ridiculed Robert’s objections. she kicked. 173 . without breakages or collisions. instantly plunging them into a dejected.steps off by heart. and Lucille was actually beginning to take pleasure in her performance. It was hard to be certain what was different today. It was no secret that Anne and Robert had quarrelled bitterly after Mrs. Briony was clapping joyously to the rhythm. and shimmied in near-perfect time.
I suppose?” Robert had sneered. so why—?” “Which just goes to prove my point: Joseph thought he’d taken every care. She’s worked at the abbey. for however long it takes the Healers to track you down. dear. I actually meant that Ruth could help us. law-abiding vampires? I wish you a pleasant time in the lunatic asylum. Anne. rescue any vampires still alive in there. She’s already lost her true love. but if we weather the storm—” “‘The storm’. Robert? Hasn’t our kind been feared and hunted for hundreds of years? What makes you think that’s going to change in the slightest. and what’s become of him? Dead. you can’t be too careful.“And you’ll vouch for all of her neighbours as well. That oughtn’t to be too long. or worse. if we don’t take steps to change things?” “And what the hell do you suggest? Ought we to write to our MP. In a life-or-death situation such as ours. perhaps. we could infiltrate the place. then? That’s the future we’re preparing Lucy to face — eternal fear and loneliness?” “That may be the case for the present.” “I beg to differ.” “Not quite my plan. if it means that poor girl is to have nothing to live for.” “So that’s it. and maybe even put a stop to their butchery. it’s bound to attract their attention. With her help.” 174 . and complain how the government isn’t doing enough to stop the persecution of poor. if we make such a spectacle of ourselves. “If she keeps coming here at the dead of night.
Even if I wasn’t sure of her sincerity. and take over our lease.” “You’ll be suggesting we make her into one of us.” “Her opinion of that may change when she finds you’ve got her marked down for this suicide mission. considering how little we have to lose and how much we have to avenge. they can move in with her. If the worst happens. she’s clever enough to realise that we’re her best hope of survival now. Kitson would. 175 . Robert. I know that if we don’t fight back in some way. but since she is here. I know you’re not happy about Ruth being with us.” “That’s why you brought her here? You know that we’re scarcely likely to survive this bold scheme of your new friend.” “We have each other to lose. don’t we? And what’s to become of the girls should both of us get killed? Who else do you suppose is going to look after them?” “Mrs. we should make the most—” “You trust her?” “Yes.” “Actually. now? And supposing we did — not that I fancy the odds of it — do you not think they’d just start up again. I just don’t think it’s such a bad idea. Anne. or she could move here. She’s kinder than you give her credit for. next. it was her idea. the only change will come when we’ve all been ‘healed’. I certainly wouldn’t object. so you wanted some insurance for Briony and Lucy? You might have spared yourself the trouble. if that’s what she wants. soon enough?” “Well.“Could we.” “I’d sooner leave that for her and Lucy to decide between them.
because we’re not doing it. grey look of a vampire who had been for a nice long stroll in the sunshine. His civility had also 176 . so Ruth became Anne’s new apprentice. and spoke little with Lucille. actively encouraged by Anne. matter-of-fact words. Kitson’s visits. being particularly careful to avoid the company of their new acquaintances. and you know it. but there seemed to be a new intensity to his misery: he had the sick. at least. The fact that on this particular night Robert appeared none-too-cheerful was thus of no great wonder. In spite of these determined efforts to keep Ruth active and useful. Since that evening. was easy for him to avoid. as she was still uncertain how friendly she really wanted to become with Joseph’s former jailer. semi-animalistic hiss. The affection of her mother and of Briony was sufficient a blessing for her to endure the atmosphere of depression and distrust created by her other companions. and exchanged only a few cold. presumably training. and the pair of them spent most of their waking hours out of doors. Anne and Robert had spent little time together. left Lucille with little time for hunting or training. Show me a real plan. and I’ll consider it. Ruth. Robert had confined himself ever more to his study. as Anne had taken her under her wing.” This frank declaration had appealed so little to Anne that she expressed her disapproval with a semi-contemptuous. and stormed out alone into the night. with a fair chance of success and a clear goal to aim for. but not this. which was not very probable after midnight on a dismal March morning. It’s a fool’s hope. This suited Lucille fine. she was still very melancholy. Mrs.
“You look a little.” 177 . without paying any notice to the peculiar scene in the living-room.” She left the sentence hanging. Are you feeling all right.” said Lucille. Kitson.. albeit a weak and listless version of it: “What in the. possibly aware that it had already become a lie: “a little” of anything did not do justice to the air of catastrophe written upon his face. Kitson’s nervous but polite “Good evening.” and walked straight through to his study.. “You haven’t been drinking enough. “and with a little practice she might even.. so in fact it makes little difference if my study’s become Lucy’s dressingroom. he offered no response to Mrs.” announced Mrs. opening the door and hastily gathering up her clothes. I hope that wasn’t—” “Think nothing of it.. quite fiercely. Father?” she asked. he rediscovered his voice.? Why do I have a dress and stockings over the back of my chair?” “Sorry. have you?” guessed Briony. but as a matter of fact.. as he turned his haggard face full upon her. Seeing as how Anne and Ruth hardly ever seem to bring anything back. If you think that’s a productive use of your time—” “My daughter just so happens to be a talented dancer. I’m compelled to make time for it myself. I’ve just now been out hunting. “And you know how much Anne worries about you.” “I’ll have to take your word on that. After he had closed the door behind him. and I needed somewhere to change... however.suffered.. “I was practising my dancing. Father Straker.
” “But. He lost his balance and crashed into the mantelpiece. Anne’s the best teacher. with a very shaken expression. “I wouldn’t have thought. however. She recoiled with such violence that she finished up on the floor. Father!” she exclaimed. nor if they’ve done my health in.. conveying him in spite of his feeble protests to one of the threadbare armchairs..“Ruth certainly isn’t learning as fast as you were. Lucille. As they arranged his pale. I suppose. as his face contorted in agony. as a very poorly-suppressed spasm of pain passed across Robert’s face. What’s the matter?” she asked. “Nerves. another painful seizure racked him. so he added. and as she regained her footing she saw Briony. Only her mother was unaffected and upright. just before keeling over in another excellent show of torment.” he managed to say. “There must be something..” but dishonesty was not Robert’s strong point. also struggling back to her feet. The pain did not last. thoroughly making up for Lucille’s failure to smash any china during her Charleston routine.. “I’m sure she will. do vampires get sick?” asked Mrs. tentatively.. Telepathy. then? she wondered. though. The others rushed to his aid. what’s—?” “I’ll be fine. “For pity’s sake. the anguish and sickness he felt seemed to pass into Lucille. Kitson.” “It’s nothing... But that doesn’t 178 . mercifully sparing her friend from having to make a polite reply to Robert’s sarcasm.. and as if it had been an electric shock.” said Briony. Hardly to be wondered at. shivering form into a comfortable position.
.” answered Lucille.” “Of course I will. Would you help me up to my room. “I’ll manage.. and keep an eye on her? She’s not all that.” 179 .” he interrupted. “It’s just nerves. The look that he momentarily threw at her was also less than encouraging.. she instantly turned to her mother and set the next stage of her plan into action. I didn’t think. but would you go with Briony. Unless it isn’t really his pain. as I said. Oh. and I don’t think we’ve any blood in at all. but Lucille — who was picking up Robert’s little signals like a well-tuned wireless — had been ready for this.actually explain why he should be in pain. Not that I’m much of a hunter myself. firmly but gently. “Actually. Bri..” “No. it was obviously intended for her alone. She might have called it desperate.. dear. I think... ably concealing her immense relief. distraught. with only slightly shaky resolve. I think you might have been right. angry. she thought. of course I’ll go. where do we keep the animal cages?” “They’re on top of Anne’s wardrobe. innocently. or pleading. Lucy?” “We’ll all help you. but you can’t. I hate to ask. if you wouldn’t mind...” threatened Briony. “Mum. I’m sorry.. He needs to drink.. too emphatically. “You are quite sure that Anne and Ruth went hunting tonight?” she asked him. Someone ought to go out and hunt.” replied Briony.. Err. but whatever else it might have been. When Briony had left the room. well.. All I need is rest.. “You don’t suppose they might have—?” “I’m sure.
mum..” “You mean you’d like to know what it’s like to be one of us before you let Lucy claim you?” she asked.. It just reminded me of your father’s service revolver. if need be. that the pistol Anne had taken from the Healer had gone. I know that I loved Thomas only in spite of his profession. then returned to the living room. the Healers wouldn’t kill you. evidently miserable.. Briony. I might find it.. I never got used to the sight of these horrible things. Lucy.” she said. Let’s call it an academic curiosity in my daughter’s way of life. it’s not that. Thank you. as her mother gazed upon the offered weapon with a blank look and tearful eyes. That would be murder. Robert was sitting upright. dear.“Still.. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. I’ve never really understood why men are considered to be more attractive in uniform. if you’d only consider lengthening the skirt by a few inches. Oh. Shall we go?” Lucille saw them out.. if you need to give Briony some time to get.” “What? Oh. You know. even in their books.. Sorry. and Briony was perfectly right: you are beautiful. but in no 180 .. now. though I do know how to use it. you might need this. and noting with dismay. “Of course.. It might give them second thoughts. “Well.” she said. I wouldn’t have put it quite like that. “You know. I think I’ll come along with you.” suggested Lucille. if not surprise. a wire cage in her hand. Mind you. though. and it is a very nice costume.. taking Ruth’s revolver from the dresser. you’re ready. quickly pocketing the revolver as Briony came back into the room. interesting. Now. as if it has been the most natural question in the world.
whom he was attacking. Truth be told. She was wearing dark glasses and a headscarf. Then it hit me again. and left the dire sentence hanging.obvious pain..” He experienced a particularly intense stab of anguish. What did you see?” “A flash. the pain. but that can’t be helped now. lass. isn’t she?” “You saw it. in this case?” “No doubt. It sends out telepathic signals. He gave her a grim nod and addressed her in a calm. like a beacon. it would be better if you were kept out of this. at the time both Anne and I felt their pain. with a weird sort of weapon. but in traumatic states.” “Anne’s in danger. I don’t know for sure that it was Anne’s.” “Which I suppose would be the abbey.. and the like. And a woman.. It’s probably an instinctive warning sign. holy water.. then?” “No. Then I lost the vision. like a spray gun. you mean?” “I doubt it.. “Anyway. something.. to keep other vampires away from the danger zone. I just felt. no more: white walls. but what else could it mean?” “But how? I thought our minds only made contact in dreams?” “As a rule. Better that they’re kept out of this. stone pillars. and that feeling of despair and worthlessness that we get from sacred signs.” “A sort of SOS signal. such as when the Healers were experimenting on those poor captives in the abbey.” 181 . if broken voice: “Well done. a man in uniform. but I’d have sworn she was that Goldstein woman.
I was afraid we might come to this.” she replied... Anne and I have both lived two whole lifetimes already.” he added. in deference to her look of outrage.. anyway? If you think you owe us anything. If it’s wrong of me to risk my life. as it were. A good deal more than her real mother ever was. What’s the point in cutting it short? Just so you’ll not feel guilty for outliving us?” 182 . but kept every trace of it out of her voice. “why are you telling me any of this? Why don’t you just sneak out without a word to any of us?” “Because if I. but I can’t let you come.” “Fine. and why are you so keen. Then should we both stay here. when do we leave?” “Ah. “If you don’t want any help. sternly. Sorry. then you’ll have to explain it to Briony. Lucy. she’s only just got you back from the dead. and I see no sense in both of us putting our heads into the noose.“So. “Consider your mother.. now. Make her understand. Lucy.. and leave Anne to her fate? That’s not happening. What was at stake was too important.. you might reflect that we didn’t get you off the streets so that you could throw your life away. I could never mean the same to her. don’t come back. but you’ve hardly started on your first....” “Isn’t there safety in numbers?” “I doubt it. anyway. Hear me out. it’s certainly wrong of you..” “Make her understand? You and Anne are practically her parents. Do you want to put her through her bereavement all over again?” Lucille felt a stab of guilt at this.
we don’t even have a pass. I’m prepared to trust her completely. but when did you last dream of him? Are you sure he’s still alive?” “Ruth said he was. I didn’t expect you to remember poor Joseph. But the Healers must have seen through the disguise.” “Aye. him. now? I may not be married to Joseph. I’m as much involved in this as you are. any damn plan would be something.. anyway?” 183 . and the dark glasses. where is the abbey. and I do love him. I suppose they must have tried to pretend that she was still mortal. Preferably a better one than Anne and Ruth had. but if that was their plan.. If Ruth’s been captured along with Anne. to make it less obvious that she’d been changed. well. She said they’re keeping vampires alive now. Robert.” “Ah. but he did claim me.. an official-sounding pretext for visiting the abbey. Anyway. Now. they must have thought that there was no use trying to force a way in. unless you have a foolproof plan.. and didn’t see fit to mention it?” “I was wondering.” “You need a plan. That’s why she was wearing that scarf. What more proof could we ask for that she’s on our side. so don’t try and tell me that I’m not.. you do need my help. and use her official pass to get in.” “Such as? Or have you been working for the Secret Intelligence Service all this time. That means we’ll also need some sort of excuse...“That’s all right.. for some new experiment. I can’t say that I’ve had much time to think of strategy.
either. unless they tell people that something completely different from anti-vampire activities goes on there. I was thinking that nothing could be more natural for a conscientious clergyman. I suppose?” “Aye. but if you think we’ll stand a chance of arguing our way in there as reporters.” “They’ll see through it. I only hope you enjoy having guard dogs set upon you. Lucy.. It’s the coming back that concerns me. “but speaking as a respectable citizen..” “Well.“North of the city. but I can’t see how that’s supposed to help us. “Bound to. if it’s all that big.” “Actually.. fairly close to Radlett. I don’t expect we’re in any danger of missing it. They call it a military prison. to want to check up on the welfare of the prisoners. I don’t know about you.” “Well. after a moment’s sincere consideration. the idea of secret prisons doesn’t appeal to me at all.” she replied. don’t you think?” “Nice speech.. Well.” he replied.” “Which is precisely what they do. after hearing about such a dreadful place. a faint smirk developing on her face. Father Straker. it’s a damn great tasteless Victorian mansion.” “Why? Who on earth would expect a vampire to come disguised as a vicar?” 184 . Or has Mr. In fact. but that’s not really the problem.” “And it’s quite a big place. you did say that you missed being in active ministry. it must be hard for them to keep it secret. Getting there is simple enough. Baldwin stepped down and made Mussolini or Stalin prime minister? The public has some right to be informed. I don’t see how they can keep it a secret.
. We can make them change the subject. Miss Brooks... depositing the cage on the coffee table. Except for the odd blasphemy. wavering. Why haven’t you taken him up to bed? I thought—” “My fault entirely. putting on an air of weakness. then—” She was cut short by the sound of the front door opening.. so I told Lucy I’d stay up for a wee bit longer. “I thought I might have been on the mend. Who are you meant to be. anyway. If we can only get them to take us into his office.. then who knows but you could even be as strong as Anne?” 185 . too. There was something of disgust in her expression. if you don’t mind. Not very clever of me.. and a capable one... “Will these do?” asked Briony. looking cold and nervous.“Less of the ‘disguised’.” “And if anyone actually mentions Go. and notices how we react?” “We can say that we don’t like hearing his name taken in vain. and I’ll certainly be grateful for some refreshment. Kitson followed hard on her heels. and a few seconds later Briony hurried into the room. All you need’s a little faith in yourself. “I know Robert prefers birds. Mrs.” said Robert. but also an unaccustomed glow and a faint. Briony... but. as if she shared or at least sympathised with Briony’s joy. You’re a thoughtful young lady. mentions YouKnow-Who. We should insist on being taken to see the commander. but very nearly proud smile. bearing her cage — now containing three scrawny-looking mice — at arm’s length. yet oddly exhilarated. brightly. I don’t suppose that they talk about religion very much in that place. then?” “I’m your secretary.
He was tactful enough not to follow this up with any observations about how she might soon, indeed, have no option but to learn to fend for herself, though Lucille could sense that thought in his dejected tones. Fortunately, overwhelmed as she was by his compliments, it was lost on Briony. “Would you like me to get you some more?” she offered, almost ecstatically. “I’m sure I could—” “That’s awfully kind of you, lass, but these’ll do fine, I’m sure. I’ll be off to bed soon, then you and Lucy can get on with your ballet, or your cavorting, or whatever it was you were about.” Lucille was mildly resentful at being expected to put on a cheerful front, while her fellow-conspirator was soon going to be mercifully alone with his depression, confined to his bedroom. Briony, however, came to her rescue. “Actually, I should probably get on with embroidering some napkins, if you don’t need me no more. Anne said we were a little behind with the rent. When do you reckon she and Ruth will be back, by the way?” “Tomorrow night,” answered Robert, without hesitation but with a distinct note of suppressed anguish that Lucille could only hope sounded like tiredness to Briony’s unsuspecting ears. “Anne’s giving Ruth some extra training: teaching her what she can do to survive if she gets lost, or if she can’t make her way back to the refuge. I gather they’ll be sleeping in Highgate Cemetery today.” “Oh. She never mentioned it... but she hasn’t been very chatty of late. I know she’s been upset, because you told her it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to attack the abbey,
so... Hey, you don’t think—?” she began to ask, with dawning horror. “What? That she’s gone to the abbey herself? I hardly think so, Briony. If she had then she’d have taken the revolver, surely.” Robert, evidently, did not know of the second gun. Lucille could only hope that Briony was equally ill informed. “I suppose,” replied Briony, reassuringly. “Oh well, I hope you have a good day’s rest, Robert. It was lovely to see you again, Elizabeth,” she said, giving Mrs. Kitson a quick but affectionate hug. “I hope you’ll come round often, or decide to stay with us.” “Thank you, dear, but I’m afraid there might not be room for me,” she politely dissembled, whilst Lucille cursed her own brain for being unable to suppress the morbid thought, Very soon there might be... She was afraid her mother might wish to stay and help, but after Briony left the room Mrs. Kitson also took her leave with a sad smile, seemingly aware that Lucille and Robert had no desire for company. Lucille wondered how much she actually suspected. Not knowing this was painfully frustrating, for if her mother suspected the truth, Lucille felt that a tearful parting with quite probably final declarations of love would have been preferable to this hateful secrecy. If she did not, however, then it was far better not to run the risk that she might protest at their suicidal plan or, even worse, offer her assistance. Although the Healers would probably not kill a vampire-sympathiser on principle, no doubt there were severe punishments even
for mere mortals who conspired to infiltrate government buildings and release detainees. When they were once again free from the presence of awkward loved ones, Lucille turned upon Robert the grim look she had been repressing. “Tomorrow night, then?” she asked, doing her best to sound resolved rather than merely resigned to her fate. “Aye,” came the morose reply. “An early start. I’ll set the alarm clock for five.” “Before sunset? Can we?” “It’ll not be fun, but if we’re to make it to Radlett in good time... besides which, I’d sooner be out of here before poor Briony’s awake. We’ll leave her a note to say we’ve gone hunting.” “We can’t tell her that. What if we don’t make it back? No... Tell you what, I’ll write two notes: one telling her the truth, and to tell her to head for my mum’s place. I’ll make the second note to my mum, asking her to look after Briony if... well... I’m sure she would look after her, anyway.” “That sounds reasonable, if you’re content with the risk.” “What risk? Briony wouldn’t hurt a—” “I know, but she’s of a mind to claim your mother, by the sound of things. How much more do you think she’ll be if she finds that she hasn’t got a friend left in the world besides her?” “I doubt it, Robert. She’ll have realised by then, if she hasn’t by now, that becoming a vampire is not a very good way of increasing one’s life expectancy.”
11 The C.O.
The wall-mounted loudspeakers piped a sonorous, albeit fuzzy Gregorian chant into Interrogation Room 2. Major Drayton found it rather irritating, but had to concede that unless this particular carrier was powerfully averse to Bach, Elgar, or regimental band music, it was unlikely that his own musical tastes would have been more effective at keeping her subdued. She lay upon a long bench, her arms and legs bound with chains made of rosaries. Her sleeves and stockings spared her from any direct contact with them, though she looked anything but comfortable. Drayton supposed that in different circumstances, had she been free to exercise her perverted wiles and vermin-like cunning, she might alltoo-easily have been mistaken for a beautiful woman, but at present that illusion was ruined by her reptilian hissing and bared fangs. How little pain and stress it took to expose their true nature, as he reflected. They were savages
indeed; undisciplined, untameable creatures, altogether useless... except in one way, of course. “You know something? You’re quite a lucky lady,” he announced, receiving an especially vicious snarl by way of a reply. Almost instinctively, his hand curled into a fist, but he quickly checked himself. Now was not the time, and there were, in any case, more effective methods. “Yes, you make a well-reasoned point,” he continued, with calm irony. “I ought not to gloat. Most unprofessional of me.” “Think nothing of it,” she replied, in a weak and halting tone that nevertheless carried a heavy load of hatred. “We’re none of us faultless, are we?” His appreciation of this witticism was expressed with a heavy, backhanded slap across her pale, glistening face. He was not in the habit of tolerating such insolence from ordinary prisoners, and was certainly not about to put up with it from this subhuman freak, as if with such feeble humour she might persuade him that she was a creature of reason and moral sense. Weaker men might have given heed to her deceit, and only realised their mistake when her fangs were safely in their neck, but Drayton knew better than to risk conversation with these creatures. That had been the mistake of that sentimentalist Goldstein, and look what’s become of her, he thought. Unfortunately, communicating with her was necessary to his purpose, but he had no intention of allowing this depraved parody of humanity free rein to insult him. “If I require you to speak,” he said, darkly, “I shall be quite clear about it. For now, you will listen, and by so doing you might just ensure your survival. I wasn’t being
facetious; believe it or not, you are lucky. It turns out that we need you in a viable condition. Your blood—” “Can be used to produce some disgusting new chemical weapon?” “Hmm... A biological weapon, actually,” he answered, with very forced restraint. “I see that dear Ruth’s been whistle-blowing for all she’s worth. Yes indeed, an airborne pathogen that will make our enemies docile and obedient. I wouldn’t expect you to appreciate how much that could mean to the British Empire, although I find your ridiculous pretence at morality... but you won’t provoke me. Lack of discipline is your field, my dear, and your downfall as well. What sort of sorry excuse for a secret infiltration was this, and what the hell possessed you to bring that pistol? Even a savage like you might have realised that you’d be searched on arrival.” “Ruth was with me, though... She works here... She vouched for me.” “Oh, poor Ruth, yes... She goes missing for days, after acting in a decidedly suspicious manner. Then she comes back at the dead of night, tells some half-baked story about having been on holiday in France, and presents us with some mysterious new ‘research assistant’. How do you imagine that appears to us?” “My pass was in order, wasn’t it?” “Indeed, I commend your forger, and I shall certainly make a point of taking down his particulars, as soon as you feel inclined to share them. I suppose it is remotely possible that you might have made it through gate security, had you concocted a reasonable explanation for concealing
a Browning 9mm in your coat pocket. You obviously never told Ruth about that little extra ‘precaution’ of yours, if we may call it that. She looked as surprised as any of us when they found it. Poor, deluded Miss Goldstein... What a way to go.” “You’ve killed her?” “No, you killed her, but she’s still among the walking dead, if that concerns you. I’ve been trying to interrogate her for the past hour, but she seems to have even less selfcontrol than you. As soon as we began to apply stress tactics, she degenerated into a hissing, spitting, writhing thing, not exactly taciturn but with nothing useful to say. Best to let her recover. It would be rather unfortunate if her mind was damaged beyond all hope. I’d count myself well compensated for all of these setbacks if we could still make some use of her scientific skills, as well as her blood.” “You’d continue to employ her? A vampire? Isn’t that rather hypo—?” “You’re not here to judge me, woman. Not unless you set even less value on your unnatural existence than I do. This outcome is certainly not what I planned for, but I’m prepared to protect both you and Ruth if you’ll behave. If you’ll actively cooperate, I might even be prepared to make your conditions tolerable.” “Oh, really?” she asked, wincing as the background music changed to a solemn Buddhist mantra, but soon recovering her air of weary defiance. “Don’t tell me... you’ve reserved a nice cosy cage for us in London Zoo.”
“You would prefer being permanently manacled to this nice, cosy table, or sealed in a morgue cabinet, perhaps? Those are definitely options. After all, I hardly need your willing acquiescence in order to harvest your blood. Just good, strong restraints, and a syringe.” “Then since I have no scientific skills, I’m at a loss to—” “Oh, there are other ways you might be of assistance, never fear. I’ve no doubt that you have great persuasive powers, to the weak-minded, at any rate. If Ruth — your ‘disciple’, I imagine — continues to be so unhelpful, I daresay you can bring her to see reason if none of us can... but enough of her for now. There are more pressing matters still. Shall we start with the whereabouts of the others?” “I haven’t the faintest idea what—” Upon hearing this oh-so-direct lie his patience, already badly frayed by her insolent attitude, was torn to shreds, and he pulled a crucifix from his pocket and pressed it against her forehead. She was quick to stifle her piercing scream, but her bloodshot eyes and clenched fangs were sure signs of agony, and also of a tremendous effort of resistance. And if that’s not as good as a signed confession, he considered, then I don’t know what is. After a few seconds of this treatment, he withdrew his hand, but kept the crucifix hovering a few inches from her face. “The night Ruth went missing, I’d sent a man to tail her,” he related, while the carrier recovered, her eyes tight shut and averted, her face glittering with silver-tinged beads of perspiration. “He followed her to St. Dunstan’s Church in Stepney, where I’m afraid he met with a rather
pressing the crucifix back down on her forehead and eliciting another high-pitched shriek. where’s your husband?” “What?” she barely managed to enunciate through her pain and shock. I killed him. or not.” “No! I hated him. If you were to help 194 .” “Oh.. you know. as the case may be. “We know that she revived. years later.. Where is she? You’re not helping her. so where is he?” “Dead! He’s dead! I killed him. She went to you. isn’t it? Infect your friends and lovers..unpleasant accident. didn’t she? You’ve been sheltering the wretched girl... you know... Where is she?” he asked. after I became a vampire. of course.” “Is that so? Yet you continue to wear the ring.. bottles of holy water and wine. there have been sightings. upon which were displayed several sacred objects. What chance do you imagine she has on her own? Assuming she is on her own. became like this willingly.. “You have a wedding-ring. but I somehow doubt that you’d have let him stay buried for long. That points to a fairly obvious conclusion. that I can believe. and we had her coffin secretly disinterred. but we shan’t dwell on that.” he declared.. That’s what you creatures do. and make them your companions in degeneracy. It so happens that a Miss Lucy Kitson — murdered by one of your kind — was laid to rest there. “This attitude won’t do anyone any good. It was empty.. and boxes of communion wafers. How touchingly suspicious of you.. removing the crucifix and moving over to a nearby table. Which reminds me. I left him.
. I suppose. dealing with our. He thought I’d best give you the heads-up. Far better that he should be made aware of its existence at some later date. er. However.” “Begging your pardon.. they would stand a far greater chance of survival than if we were forced to hunt them down in the streets. picking up a communion wafer and approaching his captive. unless you’d like me to call the orderlies and have it pried open with a crowbar. if that’s got to be the way of. and unexpected voice.. “Perhaps we ought to take a quick break for lunch. and see how you feel after a little refreshment. lieutenant. I seem to recall telling you that I did not want this interrogation to be disturbed on any account. visitors. You’d still be able to write down the information I need. as the intercom rang. What the devil?” he exclaimed. Now was most certainly not the best time for the Secretary of State to find out about the experimental serum. Open your mouth. Open it. Or we could just amputate your jaw. Pity.. woman.. “Can’t that fool Gibson hold the fort for five minutes without me?” He lifted the receiver and addressed it as though it had done him some personal injury: “This had better be damned good. then he could actually make himself useful convincing squeamish civilians and fellow politicians that 195 . preferably after he had been tricked into approving its development. The lieutenant’s busy right now. sir.” replied an anxious.us capture your accomplices.. with a note of not-quite-suppressed panic.” he deadpanned. I see that such reasonable arguments do not appeal to you.” “Visitors? From the War Office?” asked Drayton. “but this is Sergeant Felton.
So. They even know his name. about what goes on here. I’d be bloody surprised if they were.. The girl looks as though she ought to be in school. and heaven alone knew what she might have been up to.. You know. Although he had made sure that Goldstein had been followed from the moment she had left Serapion Abbey. sir. Things which they oughtn’t to. at any rate. sergeant. But they say they’ve been hearing some disturbing rumours about the way our. Well. sir.. prisoners are being treated. Let me guess.. and to whom she might have been blabbing since her “conversion”. Do they have dynamite strapped to their bodies. and they know about that bloke from Pentonville nick we used for testing the new drug on. sir. he had not been able to secure permission to put a tap on her phone calls.. became a zombie.” “But they’ve presented no credentials? No authorisation?” “None that I know of.. well.” “Then I do hope that they’re heavily-armed. they know things.. I don’t think they’re official inspectors. but I have a pretty good memory.. or as good as—” “Thank you. perchance?” “No sir.” “Such as?” he asked. er. or I shall be fascinated to hear exactly why they haven’t been sent packing. Miss Goldstein’s been to the gutter-press with our 196 . “Such as us holding that yank prisoner. sergeant. allowing his panic a freer rein. the one who went all. sir..such a terrible weapon was necessary for the defence of the realm. but. “Oh. sir..
whatever rumours these wretched hacks had heard. but at any rate he felt a little calmer as he left the interrogation room. it would count for precious little without proof. anyway. when that woman decides to commit treason. The man’s dressed like a vicar. and he was damned if he would stoop to offering bribes to these tabloid vultures just for a little extra peace of mind. I suggest you take advantage of the time to consider your options. so he knew that Goldstein had definitely not left in possession of any incriminating documents or other items. most discourteous of me to break off in the middle of conversation. sir.” “You’d better show them to my office.” Perhaps he drew some small catharsis from this parting threat. she certainly does it thoroughly. It won’t be for long.. Whatever she had seen fit to talk to the press about. it could do no harm to find out just how much she had actually told 197 . On the other hand. Says she’s his secretary. sir.” “Oh. he reflected. then. it was highly improbable that they had any solid evidence. What’s the girl dressed as? Joan of Arc?” “She’s normal enough. but I don’t think they’re reporters.. hadn’t you? And send some orderlies down here to cart this she-devil back to the morgue. I assure you.” He hung up the receiver and turned back to his interviewee with a contemptuous sneer.” “Begging your pardon. I’ll be up directly. “I do apologise. while I’m still inclined to leave them open to you. After all. how original.official secrets. has she? I must say. All personnel were searched in and out of Serapion Abbey.
there was no sense in being ill prepared for the worst. though. he was certainly lacking in the resilience becoming to a reporter. or at least a higher-than-usual degree of adolescent moodiness. and that would make it significantly more troublesome to sneak the proposal for the development of the serum past him any time soon. He did not seem to be very old — perhaps in his midforties — but his hair was half-grey and receding. his attitude nervous. his face gaunt and pale. Nevertheless. For if such rumours became public. Whether or not this so-called vicar was the genuine article. When he arrived in his office. instilling in him such a feeling of superiority that he even felt capable of being hospitable. and he conveyed an impression of such frailty that it seemed as if the slightest draught might have seriously threatened his existence. However. the major was patient enough to wait for the opportune moment. but rather a typically waifish little fashion-victim. he drew further encouragement from the appearance of his guests. there was always the risk that they might attract the attention of the Secretary of State. and inconvenient politicians were always replaceable. one way or another. providing that it got results. It was nothing for him to call out the guard about. Still. even if it meant having to grant an interview to these prying parasites. he thought that he detected a trace of defiant spirit in her expression. The girl actually looked the stronger of the two. nothing was impossible. 198 . and she was certainly no Amazon warrior.them. They were a pitiable pair.
Kindly excuse the blunt approach. have you? Well. how about a drink? We’ve scotch. That’s your affair. I—” 199 . which brings us to the point. In any case. of course. won’t you.“Have a seat. I daresay. in deference to the look of consternation that flashed across his visitor’s pallid..” he offered. to each his own. if you’ll pardon me. Now. “then I know for a fact that we’ve some red wine about the place. drawn face.” “Taken the pledge.. cognac. but I shan’t debate spiritual issues with you. Padre. sounding as uncomfortable as the hard wooden chair to which his host directed him.. Major. vodka. or even beliefs. Padre.” “No more than you. sex. though I can’t see the point of it. what good has the temperance movement ever done for America? Apart from providing plenty of inspiration for violent gangster films. “I’m accustomed to these hours. and boosting the trade in illegal booze and machine-guns. somewhere. would you not say? You can pass laws on anything you please: drink. well.” “Aye.. there’s a bit of a difference between choice and prohibition. and mine is keeping discipline. but for all that you can’t force people to be good.” “Obliged. order. and security. but what exactly do you want?” “I’m sorry. though. and if those are too strong for you. working so late.. After all. with a fair approximation of courtesy. “I’m sure you must be tired. I never touch the stuff.” replied the possible priest.” he added.. I find my work most stimulating.” “Perhaps.
or we’d be up to our armpits in sensationalist gossip-mongers and Fleet Street scum. first things first. Still. I assume?” “Aye.” “Father James Lennox and. Father Lennox. if I may say. let’s give you the benefit of the doubt until we know better. We have to be careful.. don’t we. So. or were you hoping for the guided tour? Do bear in mind that this establishment is classified top secret. Your names. Would you call yourself a superstitious man?” 200 . he thought. though I fail to see how—” “Well. in such a threatening manner. Miss Lucille Brooks. “Now.. “You. what’s it to be? Would you settle for my solemn assurance that we don’t abuse our prisoners here. but anyway.“Oh. but pardon my curiosity.” “Anglican. and then it’ll be out with the truncheons and we’ll find out who you really are and what you know. and if you should report so much as one word of anything you learn.” and judging from the look on your face. your identities and occupations will have to be confirmed before we can allow you to leave. er. following which he turned back to Drayton with the worst attempt at a calm and resolute expression the major had ever seen. and. er. my caution is well justified. without some clear purpose in mind... mentioned a guided tour. I somehow doubt that a man like you comes calling at such an unsocial hour. Could we—?” “See a prisoner? Perhaps. please. how might I help you in the meantime?” There was a short but suspicious exchange of whispers between the “priest” and his “secretary”. so-called Father Lennox.
201 . as he felt sure they soon would be. that’s usually expected in my profession. and that was the important thing. the dim lighting. and. When they arrived in the deserted morgue. and in life after death. he knew. “Yes. and the distant-sounding Latin litany coming through the loudspeakers created such a sepulchral. with your faith. I think you may come to sympathise with our aims. mortally afraid. Major Drayton’s guests looked extremely uncomfortable. This was a highly irregular procedure he was embarking upon. and he preferred to deal with his guests while they were unprepared. He should probably. the crumbling gothic pillars and arches.” or at least be scared out of your lying wits. major. at any rate. and he preferred to do it in privacy.” “Nevertheless. not especially. then disappointed when you realise that your editor will sack you on the spot if you try to present him with a story about the Radlett Vampire-Prison. have been seeking approval from the ministry for this. dread-laden atmosphere that it might have brought tears to the eyes of F W Murnau’s set designers.” “Though I suppose you believe in the Devil. disconcerted. I think you will soon appreciate our need for secrecy.Either outcome would have satisfied the major. but that was bound to take time.” Before they set out. he rang up the morgue on the intercom and ordered the few staff still in attendance to take their leave. though I wouldn’t say that makes me superstitious.” “Well.“Er.
” “You don’t mean to say you keep your prisoners here. “Yes. and then unlocking the nearest cabinet — one of the only three cabinets not marked with a large red “X”. They don’t seem to like it very much. looking over the occupant of the grim metal sarcophagus. I know. the American convict. by any chance?” “I hardly think.” said Father Lennox. but I want you to feel quite certain that what you’re about to see is no conjuring trick.” he declared. as his supposed secretary drew a small mirror from her purse. he heard behind him a satisfying gasp of horror from the girl. flourishing a key. incredulously. Now. and that’s all to the good. “Now then. Padre. “Of course.” she answered.. he could not help but concede. I wonder? Does Miss Brooks have a mirror on her. while checking through his keys. Father. in these filing cabinets? Why. this is worse than Russia! I never would have believed—” “Bear with me. in what the major considered a peculiarly reproachful tone. But how much. Well she might. say hello to Joseph. “Any chance we could have it turned off?” “It’s safer not to. we have our own mirrors here.” “Fortuitous. “Just a precaution. with a baleful glance at the loudspeakers. no doubt you’ll know something about Joseph Ward.“This music is quite annoying.” said Drayton. It had recently been discov202 . here we have it. You’ll understand soon enough.” As he pulled open the cabinet. Ah.” replied Drayton. taking it from her. “Bad habit of mine. You do?” asked Lennox. man. though..
Its hair was gradually falling out. were you unwise enough to report it. and one of the red Xs was the sole memorial of it. the lines of its face were approaching skull-like proportions.. It was no sight for the unprepared. milky orbs. but from her tears he could easily guess what emotion had in fact prompted her gasp.” he added. indeed. its eyes were a pair of bulging. quite cheerfully. that had been tried. and as he did not wish to waste these precious moments of terror and humiliation on the part of his guests. triumphantly. Thus.” he invited.. Come now. if anyone would ever believe you. he realised his mistake. as it became apparent that they were in no hurry to move any closer to the appalling figure. “Come and look. he reflected. although it was night. “He’s a gruesome sight. I grant you. “and decide for yourselves if it’s in the public interest to hear of what goes on behind these walls. but harmless enough in this condi—” But as he looked around. he held the mirror over the grisly death-mask of a face without delay. and its sabre-toothed mouth was frozen into a silent scream that would have graced any inhabitant of Hell’s deeper circles. There was no horror at all in the girl’s expression. its skin was tightly drawn. the thing in the cabinet looked barely more alive than the average Egyptian mummy. Then he remembered the photographs 203 .ered that a few hours of daily exposure to a fluorescent ultraviolet light would keep a carrier in a seriously weakened condition without the extreme risks of prolonged exposure to actual sunlight. The fact that it had been nourished on a less-than-regular basis did not help matters. there’s no need to be afraid. or.
and along with his tremendous relief he felt no small quantity of contempt for his attacker. “It took half-a-dozen Healers to take her down. She 204 . much to his guests’ astonishment. unwisely deepening the pit that he had already dug for himself. have you now?” It was by no means the first occasion on which Major Drayton’s life had been threatened. he noticed the dull gold band on its ring finger.” interrupted Drayton. if you don’t—” “Your wife was less talkative. Then. relishing every nuance of his enemy’s impotent rage. incorrectly. as the offending hand withdrew.” advised the priest. perhaps assuming. and three of them won’t be out of hospital within the week. I fear. Bad enough to be a carrier. and was unable to suppress a burst of derisive laughter. blood-red. when the right hand of the priest lashed out and seized his throat in a cold. Seen from close-up.he had seen of the late Lucy Kitson. Father Lennox’s eyes. “I’m warning you. never mind a carrier that lacked even the courage to act according to its own savage nature. you think this is all a joke?” asked the priest. you’ve no wish to make a hasty job of your last words. “What. “I’d think carefully about whatever it was you were planning to say. which had seemed dark brown. stifling the distress call. that it had made its point. He had just drawn a deep breath in order to call for reinforcements. but it was definitely the least convincing. tingling grasp. through clenched teeth. “After all. remembered where he had seen its counterpart. might easily have passed for a deep. He was confident that he knew very well the sound of a true killer’s voice from that of a coward’s.
. But strange as it may seem to you. will you? And even if you had the backbone to kill me. if we may call them that. Padre. she parted her lips rather more than necessary. As she spoke. that I might actually swallow your abysmal attempt to bluff me. But you won’t.” he added.would kill to survive. Miss Goldstein.. you know. You’re pathetic. but nevertheless—” “There might be a better way. “A way that would make him want to 205 . now. “You’ve been working yourself up to this all evening. but low. Escort us safely off this estate. I have been torturing your wife.. So what’s next on the agenda? Come on. and with an exaggerated seductiveness that set his teeth on edge. I’ve no doubt about it. Her voice was not threatening. and no tricks. I was in fact trained to kill and to die for my country. haven’t you? Hoping that it might not get this far. you murdering. as a gratifying spasm of pure humiliation crossed the carrier’s face. I just want them set free: Anne. to his immediate revulsion. or—” “You’ll threaten me some more. Look. Surely that ought to stir up some outrage in whatever passes for your soul.” declared the girl. per se.. if she’s still alive. and this poor chap. This may not be quite the way I envisaged it. If you were any kind of man at all. so I was never all that likely to have my spirit shattered by a few tough words. never mind human being—” “I didn’t come here for revenge. didn’t I make myself clear? Dying honourably is an occupational hazard I’ve been prepared to face since I was sixteen. displaying a considerable amount of fang. lilting.
. Miss Kitson?” he asked. no-one even knows that we came down here.” “I see only one problem with this. “How would that help you. you’ll be begging to help us. The girl. There was. I thought we might hide in some of these empty cabinets. or are we all going to hide in the broom cupboard. Then. but there was no cunning or deceit in the girl’s eyes. and if you should go missing for a day.” objected the priest. “If we make him a vampire. and now was as good a time as any to find out. “We couldn’t claim him 206 .?” the priest began. “You don’t mean. did not share his scruples. with subdued but sincere loathing. “what choice will he have? We’ll be his only hope of survival. and no shortage of hunger and malice.” replied the priest. and horribly. however. a flaw in the plan that he could only hope she had overlooked. but lacked the heart even to finish the sentence.” she crooned. “Let’s assume it takes at least a day for the infection to take full effect. Since you ordered this room and the corridors to be cleared. contriving to sound almost unafraid. what’s to be done until I revive? Will you camp in my office. won’t we?” “Oh aye. I don’t suppose anyone would think to look in here for you. there is that. disgusting little hide. in a day or two..cooperate with us. as she approached him. catching on to what he — pitiful coward that he was — presumably thought was her bluff. Drayton wished that he shared that opinion. widely. Even if you could control me afterwards.” She smiled. slowly. curse her diseased. and hope the cleaning staff all call in sick tomorrow?” “Actually.
Little Miles Drayton. and consumed rats straight out of the gutter. but if I could cope with it then I’m sure—” He knew full well that she was mocking him. gaze with childish awe upon grandpa’s medals and ribbons. had been determined to resume his family’s distinguished military record. Being despised and rejected for being something you can’t even help will be a new experience. his grandmother had made damn certain that her son pursued a career in law rather than follow in his father’s fatal footsteps. however. and her companion. although he had no stomach for inflicting them personally. perhaps we can make something of him. at the Battle of Isandhlwana. if only for our own security.then just cast him loose. We’re not like that. would we? Not one of our own. No doubt a trained soldier like you can soon learn how to hunt. Don’t be afraid. did not seem inclined to prevent her. We’d have to look after the wretched man. of course. until you and Anne took pity on me.” “Well. and 207 . but the only false thing in her voice was the compassion. But we wouldn’t leave him to suffer. continuing her languorous but menacing advance upon him. Drayton thought of his grandfather. and survive as a fugitive. This vicious little slut wished every ill in the world upon him. how I lost my mind. and dream vague dreams of heroic exploits in mysterious lands. For that reason. major. attacked that policeman.” replied the girl. ever since he had been old enough to wield a pop-gun. who had died honourably with a Zulu assegai in his chest. “Don’t forget what I was like at first.
leave behind a memory that his children might cherish and revere. in which he was condemned to an eternity of disgrace and dishonour. These detestable aberrations of nature had even robbed him of the option of death. This long-held dream could not have been further from that other possible future. on his neck. relations. if I have to raid every stinking cellar from Barking to Hounslow to find and exterminate the whole filthy pack of you. After that. and all decent society and denied even the basic mercy of a clean and respectable death. estranged from friends. but had he been able. anyone could afford to take a desperate course: “All right! You win. At least the girl’s vengeful cruelty was honest. he would have signed the contract then and there. my dear little harpy. to have dragged the priest kicking and screaming into Hell.” We’ll put this one down to experience. murder-suicide was not on Drayton’s current list of options. and then we’ll tighten up security here. as those hateful fangs of hers began to zero in. now unfolding before him. whereas the priest — although he drew the line at murder — could condone this obscene alternative and delude himself that he was being merciful. “I’ll let them go. don’t imagine that I can’t get the authority. slowly but surely. Under those sorts of circumstances. at the cost of his own soul. 208 . This war isn’t over yet. on account of being as extinct as you deserve. Unfortunately.” he interrupted. He hated the girl with all his heart. You won’t live to see that day.
Neither she nor Robert felt equal to the experiment of feeding him Drayton’s blood.CHAPTER XII FINAL REMISSION 12 Final Remission The immediate problem was how to move Joseph to safety. whilst 209 . including shaking him. his malnourishment was not life threatening. he was making up for his recent lack of it with an impenetrable coma which none of their efforts could break. and only detached herself when. and so they ordered the major to have a van waiting for them at the supply entrance. if not surprise — kisses of any duration or intensity. trickling animal blood in his mouth. Although severe. and what he needed far more than blood was a good long spell of supernatural sleep. she launched herself into Robert’s arms as if she had been spring-loaded. that they might at least be spared the task of manhandling Joseph all the way back to Spitalfields. Unfortunately. and — to Lucille’s disappointment. Anne presented them with no such problems: as soon as her cabinet was open and her restraints had been severed.
“I’m rather afraid that we still need him alive. she caught sight of Drayton.” he said. if strained effort at calm irony. and on the subject of sadists. whilst his wife..” “Of course we do.” Anne retaliated. and held her back from actually enacting any number of graphically violent fantasies upon the major’s person. although anyone foolish enough to expect anything like honour from you vermin—” “My husband is a kind. although her eyes continued to burn holes in Drayton’s throat. leaving her eyes at full liberty to shoot daggers and flames. you’ll find Miss Goldstein in cabinet six. Anne. for better or worse. caught in mid-lunge. who was presently detained in the handcuff-like grasp of Lucille’s slender but steely hand. you’d disembowel me on the spot? Fair enough. “Just let her out of there. forgiving man.” said Drayton with a brave. but Robert had been prepared for this.. Anne’s flood of tears ceased instantly.” “But if he were not here. “Not to mention the fact that your husband is a squeamish coward and a hypocrite to boot. “He believes.weeping blissfully onto his shoulder. that is. that any piece of sadistic human trash is capable of redemption. with the clear implication that he should be grateful at least one person in the vicinity possessed those qualities. gradually relaxed. If you’re quite sure that you want her. and I’ll thank you not to stir things up. and I prefer not to upset him. We know 210 .” replied Robert. “So you do.
Lucille snatched up his keys and made straight for cabinet six. While Drayton sprawled upon the bloodstained linoleum. As before.. Still.” he added. she had underestimated her own strength. “Come on. She was awake. and we’re not leaving here without her.. Ruth. The others are fine. and we’ve come to a little understanding with the major. she’ll have come clean about the holy water eye-drops? Or not. as Anne had been.. in a 211 . “What about the total immersion experiments. then? Or the sanctified silver machine-gun bullets? That was a good one. delivering a blow worthy of a cat-of-nine-tails in the hand of some muscular boatswain’s mate. the damage it inflicted upon our bank account was nothing to the horrible damage it inflicted upon the vampire we used for testing.” “Touching.full well she used to do your dirty work. owing to the slap that Lucille had delivered across his face. his tongue darting around the inside of his mouth in a frantic search for dislodged teeth. then. but seemed otherwise unharmed. cutting the restraints with a pocket knife and being very careful not to touch them herself. but she’s one of us now.” urged Lucille. and she stared at the ceiling in dead silence. not that she cared.. although damned expensive. as they tried in vain to suppress looks of disgust. her eyes and face sparkled with fresh tears. as Ruth can no doubt conf—” He broke off in no small pain. “We’re going home. offering Lucille no acknowledgement. I suppose. Ruth was restrained with rosary-chains. The awkward silence was shattered by the screeching of gears under stress as she wrenched it open.
” interrupted Lucille. aren’t you?” she asked.. You’ve got your friend Joseph back. but mainly of despair and selfcontempt. in a low. Go on ahead.” interrupted Ruth.” “I don’t like it. I’ll—” “No. We can’t afford—” “You want this serum to be used?” she asked. and keep an eye on the major. “You’d like British soldiers to be able to turn their enemies — and heaven alone knows how many innocent bystanders — into soulless human cattle? Ending that filthy experiment was the reason we came here. I must go there at once.” “No. don’t be silly. Anne and Robert can go on ahead. “Who’s to say that we can depend on the rest of the staff in this evil place 212 .manner of speaking.. You are alright. We all have to leave at once. Lucy. “Did they hurt you? Is there anything— ?” “Lab two. given half a chance.. get Joseph safely to the van. in what she hoped was a soothing tone. rising stiffly from her cabinet. and the refrigerated blood samples as well. We should leave here at once. we can’t leave without doing something. For Ruth’s voice smacked somewhat of courage. “Biological research. but I’ll come with you. though. “I wouldn’t put it past Napoleon there to double-cross us one way or another.. why I became a vampire. But I’m not asking you to take any risks for my sake. fearful at her continued silence.” complained Anne. scornfully. haven’t you? So just go. I’ll manage for myself. why I came looking for you in the first place. The serum project files: they have to be destroyed. I’m sure we won’t be far behind them. secretive murmur.” said Robert. “Of course.
” said Ruth. I appreciate the loyal gestures.” insisted Lucille. That sounds alright. sensing more than a trace of insincerity in Ruth’s voice. on interrogations.. irritably. very nearly repenting of her kind resolution. “Someone has to get him out of here as soon as possible.to leave us alone just because we’ve taken his nibs hostage? I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to protect him. they arrived at the laboratory.” “Hold on. They left the morgue. doesn’t it?” she declared.” “Nevertheless. “The commander and I occasionally work late. Will his own Healers? But I agree about the serum.. After a short walk through gloomy corridors. please take Joseph to the van. A couple of dozy orderlies patrol the corridors at night. all of those nights she had spent secretly 213 . evidently.” “Then do so. Ruth. I am coming with you. We should all go with you. but most of the research staff will be off-duty by now. It isn’t necessary for anyone to come with me. say. with Ruth raising no further objections to Lucille’s plan.. probably resigned to the fact that having the Strakers out of the way was the best she could realistically hope for. twenty minutes late in following. special experiments. If we’re more than. but I shall be quite alright. “Anne. faraway glow of electric bulbs high in the vaulted ceiling. what about Joseph?” protested Lucille. but they’re unlikely to pose much of a threat.. The door was locked. and suchlike. barely illuminated by the occasional. but Ruth phased through it without even relaxing her pace. then quickly turned away from their doubtful expressions and asked Ruth to lead the way. one of you can come back for us. Robert.
as it became apparent that she was not going to be taking the supernatural path. “You’ll find all of the relevant documents over there. A veritable art-exhibition of dismembered. then I’ll take care of the serum samples. If you attend to those.planning and training with Anne had not gone to waste. “Case notes. come to that. That’s something I need to work on. but it ought to be easy enough for you to force. She opened it from the other side for Lucille to enter.” “So. and I don’t have the key. gesturing casually towards a filing cabinet as she marched to the far side of the room. formulae. It was a fact that vampires. I should imagine it’s locked. in spite of being a not unhandsome species. I 214 . stopping before a cluttered equipment bench. then?” “Does the simplicity of it offend you? I am sorry. only to have that thought instantly driven from her mind. it was only due to the sudden realisation that coughing up a pool of blood was precisely the sort of gruesome finishing touch that this gallery of torture was not in need of.. and although she resisted the urge to vomit.” declared Ruth. or at all. Lucille reflected as she entered the room. and with all due respect to your Hollywood heroes and their dramatic conventions. mutilated figures and tormented faces greeted Lucille from the laboratory walls. I suppose you’ll just pour them down the sink. However. the research team’s sketch artists had done a creditable job of drawing them accurately and vividly in various stages of vivisection. but I’m clean out of explosives.. detailed instructions. by and large did not photograph well.
I agree.” “They won’t..fail to see the point of giving this obscene drug a spectacular send-off. wasn’t it?” She picked up the glass bottle that Ruth had attempted to conceal behind a centrifuge.” said Ruth. and if they should recapture me. level sarcasm with which Ruth was trying to divert attention from her actions. and could not help but be impressed at the calm. And which bottle did you fill it from?” she asked. now deflated.” she replied. venturing some last-ditch sarcasm. a silent epitome of dejection and shame. What makes you think—?” 215 . “This one. I’m relieved to hear that the girl knows her basic chemistry. Not while I live. I suppose I’m entitled to some explanation. which is why I was wondering what you needed that hypodermic syringe for.” said Ruth.” “You have to understand. I can’t promise that I wouldn’t crack under torture and give them all the help that they want. as in shorthand for You-Know-Who..” “No. the one you just slipped into your pocket. and read the chemical formula that was typewritten on the label: “H2O-X? That wouldn’t be ‘X’ as in ‘X-mas’. moving over to the bench at which Ruth stood. “It makes sense to keep things simple.. would it? Which would make this stuff holy water.” “Well. Not in and of itself. “You were going to kill yourself? Since I’ve just risked my own life trying to rescue you.. though her heart was not in it. My knowledge could be used to start the experiment all over again. “that destroying the files and the serum won’t do any good at all. rather feebly.
and the BBC. but even when 216 .” “Then let’s not destroy the files. and making a mental note to ask if there were any compact cameras about the place. forming secret plans to involve Britain in a terrible war crime. “Let’s copy them instead. one of his own army officers.” said Ruth.. well. “It would mark the end of Major Drayton’s career. Thanks... you know that we’d never just leave you to their tender mercies. the experiments I’ve conducted on your. I mean to say. I think we can be sure of that. I’d rather not be a burden.. on our kind... What good would that do?” “Everything the commander said is true. and government inspectors got to see inside this dreadful place.. If there was to be an investigation. Baldwin must be busy...” suggested Lucille.. just for good measure...? None of us want you to die. she gazed upon the research team’s artistic record of its atrocities. and why not to the Prime Minister while we’re at it? I know Mr. struck by a sudden inspiration. but surely he’d rather not be ignorant about this.“They’re committed people. and the War Office. But even if the government kept the Healers running. reluctant but mesmerised.” “I see. and Major Drayton will take the events of this night personally.” “What are you on about. you know.. Things one ought to be ashamed to do to animals. “All for one. she turned back to Ruth. Tightening her stomach-muscles.. but since my usefulness has run out.” and she had no trouble imagining their reactions as. We can send a few of them off to the press. acidly.. Ruth? Why would you think. one for all.. you can depend on it.
thinks of you as a friend. and for you to make amends for your past. and I know that she. that’s something to live for... gin-soaked parasite.. Not for a long time...the full measure of my crimes began to dawn on me. at least. and curious. she could have ended up in Cambridge. “for all that Anne and Robert treat her as if she’s as bright as a total eclipse. if it hadn’t been for you. if such a place exists. perhaps eternity to settle all of our differences. but she’s quick. then who knows? No self-confidence. poor kid.” “I have thought about it. or maybe even somewhere where women are treated like proper scholars. How exactly would you like me to break it to her that she’s lost somebody else dear to her?” “She is a sweet girl. but what’s the point? She could write the most brilliant thesis on any subject you 217 .. I would never have got Joseph back. I didn’t have the courage to stop. but we’ve a long time.” conceded Ruth..” “Well. desperate note in her voice again. and we know how much that cost you. or if her mother hadn’t been such a selfish. and not like precocious children. Wouldn’t that be a better thing to do than suicide? Anyway. which is altogether untrue. if only I’d taught her.. I’m not trying to say you’ll find things all plain sailing from now. If she’d only had a proper schooling.” “But you did stop. Now. I don’t suppose any of us will. Anyway. and Briony would be dead. isn’t it? Helping her to realise her potential. and Lucille was immensely relieved not to hear that sick..... what about Briony? I’ve seen the two of you chatting together.
then? Have you any interest in parapsychology. and so forth. but to be honest. Ruth. of course. boning up on Darwin or Nietzsche. I’m afraid you’d have more than likely found me at a discreet distance from the dance-floor. then. or pathology. We can’t have you lurking in the corners whenever we hit town.care to name.. but no university is ever likely to admit our sort.” “Well. I shall just have to teach you. or genetics.” “And pigs might become experts in aviation. it’s my dancing I really ought to be working on. What about you.” “We’ll see. Anyway. everyone was dancing the twostep and the waltz. but that’s no excuse for wasting it.” “When I was your age. “Don’t you even think about trying to get out of it. or theoretical physics. hadn’t we better—?” 218 . or were you just planning on enjoying your youth while you’ve still got it?” “Well. eh? I suppose....” she slyly insisted. but no harm in hoping for the best.” “Things might change.. although in truth she was as surprised as Ruth was to hear herself making the proposal.... We may have eternal youth. but on the subject of time-wasting. though. I suppose things might have moved on a bit. Oh yes. One day there might be enough of us to make a difference. I don’t suppose that’s really in your field of expertise. that might be for quite some time. or people might be less scared and superstitious.
**** A still more joyful event that failed to even make it into the family news pages was the marriage of Mr Joseph Ward of Providence. although any talk of what the actual charges would be was conducted behind closed doors. with the newspapers and the wireless reporting grim stories of anti-Communist riots in Berlin and yet more conflict between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Serapion Abbey was up for sale. some of which even the most sensationalist tabloids thought too insane to be worth printing. these mysterious events were indifferent affairs. as there had been no announcements. it seemed.“Quite right. The findings of a recent government investigation had been carefully guarded from the press. Nevertheless. and Miss Lucy Kitson of the parish of Stepney.” **** A fortnight or so later. wrenching open the cabinet drawer and taking out a thick folder labelled “Project VX-1”. few people took much interest in the collapsed fortunes of one Major Drayton. the ceremony 219 . and there was even talk of criminal court proceedings. He had. To most people. a large number of government-employed scientists and security staff suddenly found themselves in need of new jobs. resigned his commission “for personal reasons”. nobody seemed very sure of the details. Rhode Island.” agreed Lucille. although wild rumours abounded. but to a very few they were tidings of the utmost joy. This was not altogether surprising. but if — as no-one seriously doubted — there was some hidden scandal behind this. “We have dirt in need of dishing.
by cause of drink. understandably believing that she would never be able to attend her wedding. and almost certainly unlicensed Soho nightclub — a gaudily decked-out cellar in which the music was provided by a scratchy gramophone. and the priest had been officially dead since the 1790s. and the fact that she had quite recently attended her daughter’s funeral. took place in a cheap. such as it was. was a lovingly-crafted imitation of Lulu’s in Pandora’s Box. were a little faded. In spite of these disadvantages.was held at the dead of night in a candlelit basement. The wedding reception. Nor did she harbour any more resentment towards the groom. Three bridesmaids made up for the lack of a best man. and would have shown it better and sooner had he not been so spectacularly and sadistically inconvenienced by the War Office. Although he was hardly what most people would have considered a “good prospect”. Most of the bright young things. be moving into her basement flat rather than staying in the overcrowded refuge. Any sadness she might have felt at thus losing her daughter was insignificant in light of other considerations: the fact that the happy couple would. poverty. or both. and both the air and the beer 220 . by prior arrangement. she was at least satisfied that he loved her daughter sincerely. in one of her late father’s suits. taken a few sizes down for the occasion. although largely made up of recycled bedsheets and gauze curtains. it was an elegant little affair. if scarcely debonair. and the young lady’s mother gave her away with every sign of pride and joy. small. The bride’s dress. and the groom managed to look handsome enough.
they had no fears about their journey home. left on the dance-floor by their friends. Robert having cheerfully declined to accompany them on the grounds that (given his opinion of modern music) he could enjoy much the same experience by listening to the stray cats fighting in the courtyard. however. Fortunately. Ruth and Briony were not far behind in exiting. Eventually. if not his tactlessness. Their numbers were somewhat reduced. Thus. although they remained in the city for some hours yet.seemed to have been used a few too many times. and set off homewards. Anne stayed for a while. preferring not to impose upon the happy couple’s intimacy. the naturally adept scientist having taken responsibility for the training of the eager novice. but now she also knew that it was a “magnificent vindication of Professor Bohr’s Complementarity Principle”. and secretly sharing some of Robert’s musical opinions. and they wouldn’t charge him a twoshilling entrance fee or require him to desert the comfort of his study. As for Lucille and Joseph. she grew tired of flashing her wedding-ring in the faces of various disappointed young men. she had yet to decide. the wedding-party needed to partake of neither. Ruth had managed to keep in contact with a few wellplaced names in the civil service. not only had Briony regained her phasing ability. The 221 . by the following dawn. and had it on good authority that the Healers were over and done with. in her own inimitable style. How she was going to work this fact into future conversations. Mrs Kitson also excused herself from the party. and danced the Charleston pretty well for a girl who had grown up on minuets and gavottes.
the published rumours that prisoners had been secretly detained for use in lethal military experiments were quite enough to give the Prime Minister nightmares. They met up again. and the vampires it had failed to track down and kill were. fresh night. finally able to walk the streets without threat of abduction or summary execution. the Firebreak department had been disbanded. Pending a complete rethink of policy. they were quite content dancing to the languorous strains of “Someone to Watch over Me”. at least until the general election was over and done with. arrested the owner. gory details of his recent career. It was a cold. Lucille’s head upon Joseph’s shoulder. surrendering themselves to the perfection of the moment. when the police suddenly raided the club. and started taking the names and addresses of the patrons. with a stiff breeze that had won a very temporary victory 222 . brushed him down to the best of their abilities. It was brutally shattered before they had even reached the middle eight.investigation into Drayton’s secret project had brought to light the full. Not that the newlyweds were in any hurry to hit the road. Lucille avoided this minor inconvenience by shifting into cat form and slipping out between their legs. and whilst everyone from the highest levels of the government to the lowest regions of the gutter-press were being most careful to avoid using the “V” word. sporting a light veneer of soot and spiders. while Joseph phased through the wall into the adjacent cellar and emerged into the street from a coal hole. and set out arm-in-arm to find a taxi. For the present.
when I think of all that’s happened. if I must. “but it’s hard for me to be too hopeful..” “It wouldn’t surprise me. If I ever lost you—” “You never will. He draped an arm around her. “I love you. though I can’t help but wish. but what on Earth have I let you in for?” “Heaven on Earth?” “Some folks might say that’s a bit naïve.” “Not with me. which she did not resent. you haven’t..” she said. though it could not hurt to reiterate such an important fact.” 223 . I guess.” she added. “Isn’t it a beautiful night?” observed Lucille. Lucille. if only we could have met before. somewhat superfluously. “What’s the matter. I’m entitled to be naïve. I’ve the rest of my life to be cynical and miserable.” he said. and was disappointed by the very non-committal mumble she got from her husband. Sorry. as she had said those words more times than she could well count over the past few hours...” “I’m a newly-married bride. revealing a starry sky of unusual brilliance. but drawing closer to him. slightly reproachfully. dusty mark across the back of her dress..over the London smog. “I love you too. You know they’re not allowed to come after us anymore. Joseph?” “Oh. leaving a long. though that would have been kind of impossible.. Maybe I’ve just had more than my fair share of beautiful nights. planting a contrite kiss upon her cheek. though far be it from me to contradict. nothing...
of course. She had. and decent ones. “that we came to be so hated?” “Quite a question. so there.“Sure.” she replied. you know — but here’s the way I heard it. and put a swift end to vampire-worship wherever they 224 . Like I said before. “But she is kind and fair and decent. though — that only cruel and stupid people hate us. lording it over mortals. I can’t pretend I know for sure — I am only one hundred and seventy-three. and fair.” “I’d call that cruel and stupid. although the sudden recollection of that policeman whom she had attacked in Mile End Road forced her to empathise ever so slightly with those people who dreaded the supernatural merely for being supernatural.” “She wouldn’t be at all biased.” “Ha ha. Then Christendom and Islam came along. “How did it happen. but how much real difference will that make? Just because no-one’s trying to shoot us in the streets or torture us to death doesn’t mean the rest of humanity will start accepting us with open arms. never mind her entire race. flashing out the tip of her tongue in playful scorn.” she asked. like my mum.” quipped Lucille.” “I wish I could believe that.” “Some will: the kind. however. many of the ancient gods were more than likely just our kind. but truth be told there’s any amount of well-meaning folks who still believe the kindest approach to take to us would be with a crucifix and a sharpened stake. been completely out of her right mind on that occasion. and it was hardly a fair standard by which to judge her.
” “And the ones who do believe in us think that we’re demons. it just got worse. Odin. but isn’t that just the way of things? Out of fear.. or worse.” “Well now. isn’t it?” 225 . a lot of us — those of us who had no taste for war — just went into hiding. the human race saw us as an enemy. to make a new vampire had almost always been an act of love.. and with each new recruit on the hunt for equally worthless victims to serve them. so many of our kind were wiped out that now most people don’t even believe in us. any more than they’d believe in Zeus.. Any vampire you met in those times most likely would have been a fiend in human form. Before that time. but it wasn’t long before a policy of stopping the phoney religions turned into one of killing all vampires on sight. as far as I know. they were the ruthless ones — as cruel as their persecutors.. we don’t burn witches anymore. I mean the ones who weren’t staked or burned. and made us become monsters in order to survive. ambition. That was no bad thing in itself.” “But why did it go on? After all. That being said. They used the war as an excuse to attack and drain humans as and when they pleased.. though I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Major Drayton had a sideline in that. or diseased?” “Depressing. they’ve won the war. but the ones who didn’t. but they just used it to surround themselves with armies and minions. or Osiris..found it. the wrong people being converted for the wrong reasons: greed.... They weren’t at all particular about who they claimed. declared war on us..
but they could live with that.” he interrupted. shouldn’t they? Perhaps sometime. Joseph. a couple of taxis drove straight past them out of sheer embarrassment. good-naturedly. While this went on. he surrendered to her opinion with a prolonged kiss of assent. “Dreams can come true.” And although he scarcely believed a word of it. this has gotten well beyond naïve. and you’re the last person who could ever make me believe differently. when you’re a famous writer and I’m a famous dancer—” “Okay now. 226 .“They should get to know us better.
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