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