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