By Atonia Walpole

The Cornith Saga, continuation of Wings Above the Ashes

 

Part 1

Chapter 1

The sound of the car in the drive brought Morvan cautiously to the front door. He doused his candle and opened it wide enough to see. “Oh, sir, you’ve come.”

Jameson bounded up the steps with Pat Conner on his heels. Bram O’Malley, Pat’s man, took the car around to the garages. “Aye, yes, I’ve come.” Jameson handed him his hat and coat. “William?”

“In the music room, sir.” Morvan took Pat’s coat and hat and stood aside to let them enter.

The music room windows were covered with thick black cloth. A single candelabrum cast a dim glow over the furnishings. William looked up and put his book down.

“Jameson, I was afraid you wouldn’t make it.”

Jameson came over past the long sofa and stood in front of the unlit fire. “It was hell trying to drive without headlamps. William, there will be no more trips to London. There is no more petrol to be had. The townhouse stands, however, mine is gone…nothing but rubble remains. We stayed in the townhouse. I’m afraid it’s only a matter of time. London is a shambles…how anyone dares to still try and live there is beyond me. We must do something.”

William’s sapphire eyes glowed softly in the candlelight. “Pat, come in.  No need to hang back in the doorway.” He ran a hand over his forehead. “We’ve been lucky…here at Cornagaugh. It won’t last. I’m sorry about your house, Jameson.”

“Indeed it will not last,” Jameson replied.

“You did not notice in the darkness but Morvan and I have already begun to move the important pieces to the cellars. The painting, the sculptures, some books. Your piano…I…”

Jameson walked over, touching the keys. “It cannot be moved to the cellars. If it goes, it goes.”

“It is priceless, Jameson.”

“Have ye looked at takin’ it apart?” Pat asked.

“Can it be done?”

“I don’t know, Jameson. I’ll have to have a look. Take legs off, it might well go down.”

William stood up and came over to Jameson and kissed him.  "We will try and save what we can. I thought if we stored the pieces and blocked the entrances they might survive a bomb.”

“What a world we find ourselves in, William. I long for the old days, the peaceful days.”

“Well, we are well past that now. What do you think, Pat, will they come off?”

“Oh, yeah. I’ll need some tools and a light. Ask Morvan to send Bram in here.”

William took Jameson’s arm and led him out and into the drawing room. “Switzerland is neutral.”

“There are Nazi’s in Switzerland, William. If we could possibly get ‘cross the water to Canada or even America, though I did once swear never to set foot in that country again. At least they are relatively safe from bombs. Every time I say I shall never leave England again, something happens. Bombs, for God’s sake. Hadn’t we enough of that in Spain? Mankind has gone mad.”

“I have heard that Canada is a frozen place.”

“What do you want to do, William? America?”

Later with the piano in the cellar and sealed off, they gathered again in the music room. Dawn would be coming soon but something had to be settled.

“America,” Pat shook his head. “I don’t know about that, now. I’ll go back to Ireland. With the war on, no one is going to be remembering me. We’ll find another place to settle. Bram and me, we don’t need such fancy trappin’s as you gentlemen do. We’ll make do with what we find there.”

“You’re sure?” William looked at him closely. “We will not be able to come to your aid.”

“I’m well aware of that. Hopin’ you won’t be needin’ to think of it. We’ll be careful.”

“There should be enough petrol in my car to get him to the coast. He can figure it out from there,” Jameson said.

“And us…how are we to make it to America?”

Jameson shook his head slightly. “Somehow we will make it.”

 

While the ocean liner Queen Mary lay in New York Harbor, the newest of the Cunard line, the Queen Elizabeth, was being refitted for wartime. Such secrecy surrounded her in Clydebank that no local knew anything. But vampires have a different sense of hearing and sight.

“They say, she’s going to Southampton,” Jameson said, pulling the collar of his greatcoat up around his face.

“That’s the last place we need to be,” William answered.

“Yes, but that is what is said. I have it from one of the crew to his mate that they’ve been told to be prepared for six months or more away from home. The crew is not your ordinary crew for a ship this size. Only 400 men. Now, then, should we be able to get ourselves aboard by whatever means you have come up with…?”

“Jameson, I am not at all willing to go aboard that ship not knowing where it is going. We may end up at war…the very thing we are trying to get away from. It’s being refitted for wartime.”

“Hmm, here comes Morvan. Let us see what he has discovered.”

“The orders for this ship are coming by king’s messenger. I know nothing else about its destination.”

William looked toward the ship. “One would think even the king would not be willing to risk such a vessel in a bombing range…now, German U-boats…ahhh, that is the kicker.”

“They say she is a fast sailing vessel,” Morvan added. “Wherever she goes she will no doubt get there quickly.”

“Let’s do it,” William said, his eyes alight. “How dull we are becoming, Jameson.”

Jameson smiled. “That’s the spirit. If we go down, we go down, and we have lived a long, long, long time.”

“Are you still refusing to go, Morvan? We will need you on the other side, wherever that may be.”

Morvan looked again at the ship, all gray painted but still looking substantial and threatening. "All right, my lords. What else have I but you two?”

Morvan arranged for the trunks to be fabricated with locks on the inside, a smaller one for himself and a large one for his charges. They would go in together. The ship was carrying no passengers but did allow the trunks to come aboard with proper papers addressed to Mr. William Cornith of New York City. They were taken to a stateroom and left behind a locked door. Not exactly cargo but the belongings of an English gentleman, late of London.

On March 3, 1940, the Queen Elizabeth left her moorings and sailed down the Clyde and along the coast to meet up with the king’s messenger. With his orders in hand, Captain Townley set out on a perilous journey in an untested ship across the Atlantic. Just as well; Southampton was bombed by the Luftwaffe at the very hour the ship was scheduled to arrive.

Out of their trunks and at the window, the vampires looked out at the open sea.

“No idea,” William said. “We’ve lost the land. Certainly we are not headed for Southampton.”

“I should go out and discover our destination,” Morvan suggested.

William looked down at him. “Morvan.”

“He’s small, William, and near undetectable when he wants to be. Don’t go far, Morvan. This ship is a maze.”

“No, sir, I shall be a shadow.”

A shadow he was, slipping down the corridor and up a set of stairs to where he could hear voices. The crew was all in uniform and Morvan dressed in black blended into the shadows. There were no lights to be seen as the glass was all covered in blackout. All the better for him to move around and listen.

“Sirs, we are headed for the port of New York City,” Morvan announced.

William and Jameson embraced. “Ah, what a relief that is,” Jameson said. “Better New York than a war zone.”

“Yes, but we are now in a war zone, the open sea,” William said.

The Queen Elizabeth made the voyage in six days, changing her course many times to avoid danger. She moored beside the Queen Mary and the Normandie, the only time the three ocean liners were ever in port at the same time. The ship was secured and no port authority officials were allowed aboard. Mr. William Cornith’s belongings were forgotten. A perfect time when the sun set for the three vampires to escape their cabin, find their way to the open deck, pick a spot on which to land and jump ship.

They were soon lost in the shadows of the dockyard. “I’m hungry,” Jameson announced.

“Yes, a nice meal and then I suppose it is up to you, Jameson. I have no knowledge of this great city.”

Jameson looked upward. It had grown since he’d lived there with Jane. So many memories came flowing back to him. He shook his head to clear it but they wouldn’t go away. Jane as she had been then. Jane whom he’d made vampire.

“Jameson?” William took his arm.

“Sorry.”

William looked into his eyes. “So am I. Is it so very painful coming back here?”

“Does it show? Well, I must face it and move on. It’s damned cold here this time of year.”

“A feed will warm you. Let us hunt in this strange city.”

After feeding well and disposing of the bodies, they walked the streets. Morvan disappeared for awhile. As a clock struck midnight there were still many people on the streets. They kept their hats pulled low and their collars up around their necks and faces.

“An outrageous sum,” Morvan complained after trying to find accommodations for them.

“Thank you for your efforts, Morvan,” William said.

“You have to pay for everything here with cash or check," Jameson sighed.  "A gentleman’s word or bank account does not stretch across the sea. I’m afraid we will not be able to stay within the city for long. Jane and I had a townhouse, a brownstone they call it here. I would rather we not attract attention. This is a different world, William. While we were accepted in Paris, we would not be in New York. Likely as not, we would be hunted and killed by some gruesome means. When I was here with Jane there was a club we used to go to. There were vampires then but I do not detect any now.”

“Neither do I,” William said. “What shall we do? Perhaps obtain a car and look to the countryside might be best. Did you venture out to the country?”

“I did on occasion, but that was then. Much has changed. What we need is a car.”

“What we need is a bank so that I may change this money over,” William said.

“Sirs.” Morvan spotted an unattended car.

Before long they were heading up towards Times Square in the newly acquired vehicle. Jameson was amazed. This was nothing like the New York he’d lived in. Gone were the horse drawn taxis; stretching up towards the nighttime sky were skyscrapers, office buildings, apartment buildings and the streets were well lighted. For a moment he experienced doubts as to their decision to flee England. Would it not have been better to go to ground for the duration of the war? But that was something he’d never done. Unlike William, who had no qualms about the long sleeps, Jameson had a fear of it. What if he didn’t wake up?

“Deep thoughts?” William asked, leaning against him.

“Hmm, rather. If you’re depending on me to guide us through this maze, I’m afraid I’m not quite up to it.”

“Do not fear, Jameson. We have been in worse places. The unknown is a challenge, is it not?” William looked over at a large department store with men’s clothing displayed in a window. “Morvan, park near here. We cannot go about in our traveling clothes forever. Jameson?”

“I’m with you, William.”

The two vampires entered the store and before the alarm had been sounding for five minutes, drawing a police van down the street, they were back in the car with armloads of assorted clothing. Morvan moved away from the curb, dodging a police car, and casually made his way up the street. They moved so quickly that they were not seen and as yet, the car had not been reported as stolen.

Nearing dawn, Morvan came through a small town called Greensport. There they found shelter for the day and hid the car in what appeared to be an abandoned shed. They awakened in an above ground crypt and carefully made their way back to the car. The sun had left the valley as far as they were concerned. It was early for them but the cloud cover gave a sense of false darkness. William looked for a bank and was the last customer for the day. He’d exchanged some of the money he had with him for a few hundred dollars. Morvan gassed up the car and while it was still semi-dark, they went in search of a place to stay. Knowing the importance of privacy, they left the town and ended up following a long and winding road that led them to a house, a mansion called Crest Haven. Stepping out of the car Morvan sniffed the air.

“No humans here.”

William and Jameson left the car and went up to the mansion. It was boarded up on the ground level but that was soon remedied.

“I would say,” William remarked, “no humans have lived here for some time, though they have left all possessions behind.”

Together William and Jameson explored the house and cellars. The cellars were important for their day rest. “What do you think, William? Shall we claim it?”

“I see no reason not to. Unless some person comes to evict us.”

Jameson grinned. “He who would come on such a mission shall never leave.”

Morvan found the garage for the car and brought their new wardrobes inside. They chose bedrooms and settled in. Jameson looked for a piano and was disappointed to find only an upright, out of tune instrument. He plunked a few keys and moved on.

William walked out to an open balcony and looked up at the sky. It was bitter cold along the river and not a star was to be seen. It was silent. He held out a hand and felt snow. “Jameson, it’s snowing.”

Jameson was helping Morvan maneuver a log into a fireplace. “You should come in and close that door. We are about to have some heat.”

“You found the woodpile?”

“Morvan found it, bless him. If it’s snowing then we’re going to need a lot of wood.”

“How much is there?”

“Not that much,” Morvan replied. “A night or two if we’re lucky.”

“Then we shall have to be lucky.” William smiled and slipped an arm around Jameson.

 

Chapter 2

It snowed all night and all the next day. The river was partially frozen and in the twilight they could see it was so. The house afforded a wonderful view. Lights dotted the opposite shore here and there but on their side there was nothing to be seen but the rolling landscape now blanketed in white.

Morvan discovered the coal bin and a coal furnace but he didn’t know how to operate it. He decided to use the coal in the fireplaces. It was his job to look after William and Jameson and they were lacking supplies and the road was impassable. There was water from the faucets but without the boiler in the basement, they were without hot water. What pots he could find to heat water on the stove in the kitchen didn’t produce nearly enough for a tub bath. Like his masters, he had become modernized.

William stood in front of the meager fire with two coats about his body. He looked at Jameson, who’d found a book of interest and was trying to read it by the light of an oil lamp. “You do realize we are going to have to go out.”

Jameson put the book down. “Yes, if nothing else, hunger will drive us from this place.”

“It drives me now.”

Jameson smiled at a thought. “Do you ski?”

“No, but I may need learn.”

They’d been in the house for a week. The snow showed no signs of melting anytime soon. “Morvan said there is a sleigh in one of the garages but we are without horses to pull it.”

William let out a breath. “Then we shall walk out.”

At the bottom of the hill, around a copse of trees, they stopped. Jameson placed a hand on William’s arm. “Smoke, I smell smoke.”

“Warm blood,” William hissed through his teeth.

The snow had drifted against a stone wall obscuring most of the house from view. It was a small cottage built of the same strange materials that had constructed the main house. Warm yellow light streamed from the windows. Morvan moved up in front of them.

“Shall it be me who draws him out? There’s only one and a dog.”

William nodded and Morvan went to the door and knocked. The dog began to bark viciously and the man’s voice could be heard soothing him.

“Good evening, sir. My masters wonder if you might give them a lift to town. Our vehicle is snowed in the garage and the drive has disappeared.”

“Your masters?” The man stuck his head out and looked beyond the small man wrapped in a greatcoat and a scarf that covered most of his face.

William stepped forward. “Indeed, sir. We’ve taken residence at Crest Haven. It is, as you see, a snow bank at present.”

While William spoke to the man, Jameson made a quick reconnaissance around the cottage and found a tractor and a truck. The drive to the house had been recently scraped enough to drive upon.

“You’d better come in.” The man stepped back. “Have you walked from the house? You must be frozen.  Look how pale you all are, nearly blue with cold.”

It wasn’t the cold that accounted for their white faces. It was near starvation.

“What a gentleman you are. I realize the hour is late but it is important that we reach the town tonight.”

“I see you have a tractor,” Jameson joined in. “I wonder if you might run it up to the house tomorrow?”

“I can do that.” The man puffed on his lighted pipe and again cautioned his dog. “How is it you are occupying the Oglethorpe residence? I was not informed there would be tenants.”

“We came upon it by chance, a port in a storm…you might say. I’m sure the Oglethorpes won’t mind. We intend no mischief. I’m Lord William Cornith and this is my…cousin, Jameson Cornith. Morvan is our servant.”

“British aristocracy, are you? I’m Calvin Marks, caretaker of the manse in return for lodgings.”

“Marks.” Jameson tilted his head. “Are you by any chance the author?”

The man tugged at his well worn knitted vest. “I am when I choose to be.”

“About a lift into town?” William persisted. He’d decided not to make a meal of the man. He might be useful.

“It’s rather late to be going into town. Not much open this time of night.”

“Nevertheless, it is important that we get there. Are you or are you not going to attend?” Jameson said, raising his chin. Like William, he’d rather not eat the man, but it was an option.

“I’ll get my coat. Dooley, come in here boy.  What’s got into you?” He led the dog into a room and shut the door. “He’s usually a friendly fellow.”

The five mile trip into town was question and answer time. William did most of the talking and told him that they’d come over fleeing the war. The rest of the talk was about the war. Jameson sat against the door and looked out at the passing scenery. Only one lighted house did he see until they were on the outskirts of town.

“You can drop us anywhere. We probably won’t be coming back tonight. And, ah, if you could see to the road tomorrow?” William stuck a bill on the dash.

“You don’t have to pay me.”

“Nonsense, we’ve used up your petrol and then there is the tractor to consider. Thank you, sir, for your assistance.”

Calvin sat in his car a moment, watching them cross the street and gain the sidewalk. “Odd, how very odd they are.”

Once he turned around and was out of sight they broke ranks, each to his pleasure.

 

Chapter 3

After a night of excesses in feeding and debauchery, they found shelter for the day in the basement of an empty house.  Rising at twilight, they took a taxi back to Crest Haven. True to his word, Calvin Marks had plowed the road and the taxi was able to take them to the door.

“What is it you notice?’ Jameson asked while removing his overcoat.

“Warmth, the heat is on.”

“That means Marks has been in the house. Is that a good thing, do you think?”

Morvan slipped down to the basement and found the boiler hot. He fed a little coal into the furnace and came back up to test the hot water faucet.

“See here, he’s left a note.” William unfolded the paper. “He says he knocked and got no response but he noticed the house was cold so he started the furnace. 'It’s a tricky old thing but I got the best of it.'” William read it and handed it to Jameson.

“That was nice of him but I do not like that he has access to the house…though, rightfully as caretaker he should have, I suppose. Don’t you find it odd that a published author would occupy himself as a caretaker?”

“I hadn’t given it any thought. I need a bath,” William said and headed for the stairs.

Jameson watched him go. He’d detected the cheap scent on his clothes. William had a woman, maybe more than one. As for himself, he’d found a willing young one. She reminded him of a girl he’d once rescued from a whore house. So long ago…and he’d let her live in his house, his house that was no longer standing. Had she died in the rubble…or…but that was years ago. She may not have been living there any longer. But she might have been there…waiting for him to return. That was the sad thing about their existence. How easy it was to fall in love and how desperately hard it was to walk away, for it always must be so. Though he’d condemned William for killing Marilee at the time, he now realized it was for the best. It couldn’t go on much longer.

He suddenly wanted to play and went to the piano. If they were to stay here for any length of time something must be done about this. He sat down and let his fingers run over the keys. The sound was flat to his ears.

William had been hearing it for some time when he came down the stairs in a velvet smoking jacket and soft slacks. He came over to Jameson and kissed his neck. “I miss your playing.”

“You’ve never heard it like this.”

William frowned. “We’ll get you a proper piano. I agree it’s important to you and a part of our lives. I may even find a violin.”

“We’ve given up so much…little things and, yes, music we must have or go mad.”

William moved to a chair and sat down, draping a leg over the side. “We may already be mad. What are we doing here, Jameson?”

Jameson stopped playing and looked at him a moment. “I’m not really sure. Perhaps it was a bad idea. We might have stayed at Cornagaugh, weathered the bombs.”

“I went through one war. It’s not just the bombs; it’s a whole way of life that’s taken from you. How different everything was after the war when I returned home. Oh, not because you and Jane were there, it was everything. London, the people…it wasn’t the same.”

Jameson turned back to the keys. “London will never be the same again. I saw it, I saw the destruction. There is no war on this continent and that is why we are here. Should it ever end in Europe and England, we can return and see what remains.” He played on, softly.

William stared at the ceiling, elaborately carved and tiled. “I didn’t think America was cold.”

“It’s winter, darling,” Jameson replied.

“How strange this house is. It’s part Persian.”

“Very bohemian. I like it.”

“Would you be happy in these surroundings? It’s awfully busy.”

“I can be happy anywhere or nowhere. I like fine things as you do and I do have certain standards. However, I am not as rigidly formal as you are.”

“Am I?”

“Mmm, I remember you so well in your high starched linen. Spotlessly perfect in every way. You are a beautiful man, William, but with some starch.”

William laughed. “Starch…ha, ha. Not so anymore. I’ve not had a starched collar in some years. It’s not the thing nowadays. How long will the snow last…any idea?”

“None at all. It’s March. I should think by the end of the month the weather will take a turn. If you last that long.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll be bored to death by then. I know you, William. Even at Cornagaugh there had to be something going…usually you.”

“I shan’t be going here…where would I go?" he sighed.

“The city, there is life in the city. We might try it later on for awhile.”

“It’s like London, Jameson. Sure we aren’t welcome there any longer but one can get lost in the crowds. I’ve never been afraid to walk the streets and parks in London. We’ll just have to take care we aren’t known for what we are.”

Jameson turned around on the piano stool. “Is there hot water?”

“Loads of it.”

“Then I’m away to the bath.”

William went over to the piano and began to play softly at first and then as loudly as he wanted to. Mozart as they’d played in Vienna. He moved on to other pieces, Liszt and he remembered the man. What a long life he’d lived and it was not over, not nearly over. Jameson was right. He would soon be tired of this house.  As curious as it was, it would not hold him for long.

The next evening as they came up from the cellars, Jameson grabbed William’s arm. “Smoke, cigarette smoke. He’s been here or he’s here.”

“He smokes a pipe,” William replied. “The back stairs.” He motioned towards the back staircase and they went up and then came casually down the main staircase. It wasn’t Calvin Marks standing in the main room. It was a woman dressed in a dark blue fitted coat with a matching hat.

She lit another cigarette, laying the gold case and lighter on a chair side table and turned around.

“Good evening,” William spoke.

She looked at him a moment and then the one behind him. “You must have been hiding in a closet.”

“I’m sorry?” William tilted his elegant head.

“I’m Marian Oglethorpe. Calvin called me upset that I’d let the house out without telling him. Of course I had to come and see who I’d let it to. One doesn’t usually forget these things but I’ve been terribly busy of late. Who the hell are you and what are you doing here?”

William stepped farther into the room and into the lamplight. “My name is William Cornith and this is Jameson Cornith.” Jameson stepped forward too and stood beside William.

She was at once struck by their beauty. Flawless, absolutely flawless. But she’d come here on a mission…to throw the interlopers out. “I didn’t let this house out to you. What did you do, break in? I should call the police.”

Jameson moved away from William so that they formed a triangle. “As a matter of fact, we removed some sheets of wood from the doors and windows. You’ll find them stacked in the garage. It was a dark and cold night and we were about to run out of petrol.”

“Petrol? He said you were English. Well, you can’t stay here.  This is private property.”

“It’s not being used,” William said, his eyes beginning to glow slightly.

“Not at present. It’s winter. I rarely come out this way in winter.”

“This is your house? Why don’t you live here?” Jameson asked.

“Yes, it’s my house. As I said, I rarely come in winter. Sometimes I come with a party of friends in the summer. Why am I explaining this to you? I must ask you to leave.”

“May we sit down and discuss this?” William asked, gesturing towards the seating.

“There is nothing to discuss. You’re trespassing.”

“Indeed we are,” he smiled. “Shall I tell you how we came to be here?” He told her about crossing the Atlantic, leaving out the part about the trunks. “We really didn’t know for sure where the ship was headed. Such a relief to see it coming into New York.”

“We left our home in England because of the war,” Jameson added. “We owned property in London. I lost my house there and William’s was still standing last I saw it. The countryside has been bombed, coming ever closer to our home. It was a hard decision to leave. We’ve become refugees.”

“Why aren’t you serving your country?”

“We are not fit for duty,” William answered. “I won’t go into it.”

“As to the house, we’d be happy to pay rent whilst we’re here,” Jameson offered.

She stubbed out her cigarette in a glass bowl.

Jameson smiled, “We promise not to damage a thing.”

William could see she was turning it over in her mind. “You would toss us out in the snow? Really, we have no other place to stay. The hotels in the town are…not suitable.”

“It’s late, I’m tired…I’ve been waiting for hours.”

“I’m so sorry. Of course we didn’t know you’d arrived.”

“We’ll talk about this tomorrow morning. I see you have taken over rooms upstairs. At least you didn’t take mine. Really, this is most unusual.”

William looked at Jameson. “Tomorrow evening might be better. We keep rather odd hours and will be away most of the day.”

“If you think I’m going to hang around here waiting for your convenience, you’re very much mistaken.”

“Then let us settle this now. Will you take Jameson’s offer to pay for our lodging or not? What do you think is a reasonable sum?”

“It’s never been rented before. I have no idea. There’s the electricity and the expenses.”

“A hundred pounds a month, fifty a week?”

“You mean dollars, dear,” Jameson said.

“How long would you need the house?”

“Possibly a month or two. We need to get our bearings and decide where and what we are to do here in this country for the duration of the war.” William’s voice purred.

She stared at him while he spoke, leaning a little forward. She only caught part of what he said. She sat back, shaking her head. “All right, we’ll settle on $100 a month. It’s a paltry sum for such a house.”

“But it was empty,” William said.

“It was meant to be empty.”She reached for her cigarette case and lit another. There was something very disturbing about these men. She began to feel a little uneasy, her confidence waning. “How do I know you aren’t thieves…murderers? Why should I trust you?”

“We mean you no harm,” Jameson said softly. “We’ve no need to steal. I’ll bring you the first month’s rent right now.” He rose and went upstairs.

“I’m very sorry to have caused all this trouble,” William said. “I know what we’ve done seems rather extraordinary. It does to me too, but the night we arrived it began to snow. We were snowed in for a week before Mr. Marks took us into the city and plowed the drive.  Of course, we had no idea we had a neighbor.”

“He lives in the gate house in return for keeping an eye on this place. What did you do in England?”

“Not much of anything.”

“I thought you might have been on the stage or in the movies.”

“No, not me. Jameson has been on the stage. He’s a composer and a pianist.”

“Is he famous?”

“He has been. Why did you ask that?”

“Well, you’re rather extraordinary looking, the pair of you. Calvin said there are three of you.”

“Morvan is our servant.”

“He’s not very well trained, is he? I’ve been here for over an hour waiting and nothing has been offered to me.”

“What would you like?”

“Coffee would be nice.”

“Morvan.” William barely turned his head. “Coffee for Miss Oglethorpe, please.”

Jameson came back down with the correct amount of bills. “We’ve got cash. There’s been little opportunity to open a bank account.”

She took the money, feeling a little embarrassed over it.  "Thank you.”

Morvan scoured the kitchen looking for coffee. He found a can marked coffee and opened it. A coffee pot filled with water and the grounds began to perk on the stove. Sugar? The sugar was hard and he chipped it until it resembled lumpy sugar. As for milk, he hoped she didn’t take it.

“I’m afraid there is no milk, Miss Oglethorpe.” He presented a small tray with cup, saucer and a china coffee pot and sugar bowl.

“That’s okay. I take it black.” She took a sip and winced. “Strong.”

Morvan withdrew. “Aren’t you having any?” she asked.

“No, I find it doesn’t sit well with me,” Jameson answered with a small smile.

“Nor me,” William added. “We’re not very well supplied with foodstuffs. We tend to dine out.”

“Not sure what you find to eat in the town. Of course if you aren’t picky eaters…”

“We aren’t,” William smiled. “Whatever comes to hand will do for us as long as it’s warm.”

“I can’t drink this.  It’s too strong. I’m going up to bed now. I’ll have my attorney draw up a proper lease and it will be mailed to the gatehouse. You can pay your rent to Calvin and he’ll forward it to me.”

“Where do you live, Miss Oglethorpe?” William asked.

“New York City.”

He turned to Jameson and smiled. “Should we ever find ourselves in the city, perhaps we might call on you.”

“Ah, we’ll see about that. Goodnight gentlemen…and I lock my door.”

They waited until she was up the stairs, stifling their mirth.

“How could she not see us?”

“Jameson, she’s never seen our kind before. She thinks we might be movie stars.”

“Oh, lord!” Jameson laughed.

“I told her you have been on the stage.”

“You shouldn’t have. She might start inquiries. I once lived there, you know, as James Cornith.”

“There’s no one alive now who would know that.”

“We made the papers, William. Jane killed her lover. That’s when we parted ways.”

“Still that was…well, it won’t come up anyway. She’s quite attractive…Marian.”

“I thought you were going to seduce her for a moment.”

“So did I and then I thought better of it. Time enough, Jameson. She can be…I know that now.”

Marian climbed into her bed and pulled the comforter up around her shoulders. The radiators were only a suggestion of heat if one stood over them. She thought about the two men downstairs. What were they, exactly? A couple of smooth operators, she figured. Somehow they’d tricked her into renting the house to them, them, who’d come into it as trespassers…or worse. She really should have called the police. Should have had them here when she entered the house. It was only Calvin’s insistence that they were English gentlemen that had stayed her hand. She turned over and gave her pillow a punch. “I’ll regret this day,” she said under her breath.

Marian was a very wealthy heiress, having inherited from her famous father the house and the apartment in New York overlooking Central Park. He’d been a collector, a world traveler and a businessman. He owned a large department store on 5th Avenue. Marian now ran the business single handedly. She’d had many suitors and almost married one until the real reason for his attentions became apparent during a prenuptial visit to her attorney’s office.

She was now thirty years old and had resigned herself to a single life. There were plenty of men around if she needed an escort to some function or to warm her bed if she felt inclined.  As she drifted off into the velvet darkness of sleep, William’s face floated to the forefront. Something about his eyes. Sleep claimed her before she could properly think it out.

Sunlight woke her, streaming through her windows. She roused up and entered her bathroom. Now that she was awake, the evening took on a different light. She was a business woman; this was a business arrangement…letting out the house. She needn’t have anything else to do with it. Calvin could collect the rent and her attorney would take care of the details.

There was no one about when she came downstairs with her overnight case. In the kitchen she found there was nothing to be had. Did they go out for breakfast as well? How strange her tenants were. She stopped by the gate house and told Calvin of the arrangements.

“There’s nothing for you to do except accept the rent money and forward it to my attorney.” She handed him a card. “This is his address.” The smell of coffee turned her head towards the kitchen.

“I was just making breakfast. Won’t you join me, Miss Oglethorpe?”

“Well…I…a cup of coffee, perhaps.”

“They didn’t seem to be about this morning,” she was saying.

“I didn’t notice a car going by. They might be having a sleep in.”

“Hmm, well if you should notice anything out of the ordinary or…well, I’m not asking you to spy on them or anything, but it is my property.”

“I’ll keep an eye out. Should I go ahead and order the coal for the furnace?”

“Yes. I’m not sure how long this arrangement is going to last. We shall see. Now I must be off. Thank you, Calvin, for the coffee and for being here.” She smiled and touched his shoulder. “How’s the book coming along?”

“Slowly, but these things take time. Be careful on the roads. They’re likely icy this time of the morning.”

He walked with her out to her car. They stopped and looked over the river. Dark clouds were gathering and already the early morning sun had disappeared. The air felt colder.

“I’d say we’re in for another storm.”

“That’s all we need, more snow. You’re all right here in the gate house, no problems…plumbing or heating?”

“I’m quite comfortable, thank you.” He watched her drive away, going too fast and fishtailing along the drive. He shook his head. “Hope she makes it.”

By noon it was sleeting and by two o’clock it was snowing, a thick heavy snow. Calvin bundled up and took the tractor up the drive to the house and back again. He’d given it a good scrape and if the gentlemen desired to go out they’d be able to make it to the main road. He settled in by his fireplace with a stack of books and a notebook to enter his thoughts as he researched his manuscript.

Marian made a stop in the village and another for gas at a service station along the road. She was warned that the highway was getting pretty bad down towards New York. There’d been a big wreck  and a string of cars were blocking the road. The attendant advised her not to try it.

She debated with herself whether to try another route or to return to Crest Haven while the road was still passable. Aggravated with the situation, she turned back for Crest Haven. She passed the old mansion on the left and hit the curve too fast. She skidded across the road and back again, fighting for control of the car, but it was in motion and headed for the deep ditch on the right. She hit the brakes and went over into the ditch sideways. The car landed with a thump as did her head. In a moment all was silenced, the snow continued to come down, covering the windshield. The motor cut out and soon it was very cold inside the car. The blood began to congeal on the woman’s face.

Chapter 4

The thick clouds gave the impression of twilight along about four in the afternoon. Morvan was the first to rise and enter the house from the cellar. He went to the window and looked out at the snow. Fearing they might get snowbound again without a means to feed, he went back down to find Jameson and William on the stairs coming up.

“What is it, Morvan?” William asked.

“Snow, it’s snowing again and it looks bad out.”

Jameson went to the back door and opened it. “It’s early yet.  What time is it?”

“Nearly four thirty,” William answered, following him to the door. “It should be dark within the hour on a day like this.”

“Yes, we should wait for darkness.”

“I’ll get the car out,” Morvan said, but first he found his winter coat.

Morvan opened the garage door and found a snow shovel within. He began to shovel a path to the back walk. He was enjoying the semi-darkness. Not often was there ever a time he could be outside at this time of day. The wind was coming off sharp from the river. He looked down from the drive and noticed it was freezing over along the shoreline. Drifts were beginning to pile up against the front of the house that faced the river. There was no time to waste.

There were tracks on the main road leading to the town. Other vehicles had been through and packed it down enough for Morvan to drive. The street lights were on as were the windows of the houses they passed. They would have to finish their business there quickly. After feeding and disposing of the unsavory victims at the bottom of an abandoned well on the edge of town, they stopped at a service station and had snow chains put on the wheels. Morvan had noticed other vehicles with the same and they seemed to be moving along without bother.

By the time they started back to Crest Haven, darkness had fallen, a complete darkness that only the headlights of their car penetrated. Morvan drove slowly along the road.

It was William who caught the scent of blood. “Stop the car.”

“What, out here in the middle of nowhere?” Jameson said, looking astonished. “If someone comes along behind us on this curve we’ll be pushed off the road.”

“There’s something…”

William opened the door and Jameson followed him out onto the snow-packed pavement. “Blood,” Jameson said, lifting his head.

“Nearby…somewhere.”

Their preternatural eyesight soon caught the outline of a car lying in the ditch. “Still alive,” William said. He could hear the heart beating. They brushed the snow away with their gloved hands and Jameson wrenched the door open.

“It’s Marian Oglethorpe.” He couldn’t help it. The sight of blood, even partially frozen blood, caused his lips to curl and twitch.

“Let’s get her out of there.” William came over to help. He felt over her to see if anything was broken and then lifted her out of the car. Jameson grabbed her purse and bag from the passenger seat and they brought her back to their car.

“As quickly as you can, Morvan,” William said.

“Should we stop at the gate house?” Jameson asked as they neared the tall stone pillars that announced the drive.

“No,” William answered. It might have been a better idea for there was a phone at the gate house. Jameson looked at him, wondering at his intentions.

Upstairs in her room, Morvan took over, sending them down for basins and cloths, bandaging and first aid supplies from the kitchen cabinet. William watched him with a clenched jaw as the blood became liquid during his cleaning. He was well fed but it was his nature.

Morvan cleaned her wound and noticed the bruising around it. He felt her scalp. “She’s had a bump on the head, nothing cracked.”

“Why is she unconscious?” Jameson asked.

“I suspect the accident and then the cold. The cold will put you to sleep after awhile. You may undress her to a point and pile on the covers.” He moved away, taking the medical supplies with him.

William undressed her down to her slip and covered her in warm bedding that had been draped over a radiator. “I will sit with her.”

Jameson and Morvan went downstairs. Jameson followed him into the kitchen.

“What will we do with her? She really should be in hospital. I have no idea how far away a hospital may be.”

“I think, sir, that Mr. Calvin should be told. She may be ill for some time. We’ve nothing here to feed her but a few old tins and something in jars I would be afraid to open. There will be no one to look after her during the day.”

“I agree and I was some surprised that William did not stop at the gatehouse. I don’t know what is in his mind.”

“Before dawn, I shall go down to the gatehouse and summon him. I believe she will sleep through the night and if she wakens, himself will be with her.”

It bothered Jameson. William could be unpredictable.

Her forehead looked pale and blue around the bandage Morvan had affixed. William smoothed her hair back from her face and looked closely at her lashes, the paleness of her skin. But it was changing, a hint of rose was coming back into her cheeks. There were still traces of her red lipstick on her lower lip, a full lip that relaxed into almost a smile. He wanted to taste her lips, her mouth and her body, but not yet, not while she was asleep. She slept, warm and snug in her bed.  Consciousness tried to surface but dove back down into deep darkness. From time to time William walked around the room, looked out into the dark of night towards the river that seemed to glisten in the night.

Jameson came up to check on them and William smiled and waved him off. Jameson quietly closed the door and stood in the hallway for a moment. William had claimed her…for whatever purpose.

Before dawn officially broke, Morvan drove carefully down to the gatehouse and pounded on Calvin Marks’ door. Calvin, roused from a dream, sat up in bed for a moment trying to determine why he was awake. He heard Dooley in the front room growling and found his slippers and robe and came sleepily and disheveled to the door. He had to back the dog off.

“Yes, what is it?”

“Sir, you must come to the house at sunrise. The lady, Miss Oglethorpe, was injured in an automobile accident. She is there and needs someone with her today.”

“What? But…she went back to New York City.”

“No, sir, she is there at the house. We found her last night.”

“All right, let me have a minute here. How badly is she injured?”

“A bump on the head, a cut that bled but I have attended. She has not come to herself as yet.”

“Why didn’t you call an ambulance? Never mind, I’ll be up there.”

“Thank you, sir.” Morvan made eye contact with the dog, who bared his fangs but didn’t make a sound. He lay down with his head on his paws. Morvan turned and ran for the car. The sky was already beginning to lighten up, though there would be no sun this day. The snow had all but stopped, only a sprinkling of flakes now.

“He’s coming,” Morvan said to William. “Dawn approaches, sir.”

“Yes, thank you, Morvan.” Before he left her, he kissed her softly on her lips.

Calvin arrived at the house. He’d come on his tractor. “Hello? Hello the house?” he called from the front door, which was unlocked. Stamping the snow off his boots, he entered, removed his hat and gloves. “Hello? Anybody about?” Where were they? The car had certainly not got down the drive this morning. He went to the bottom of the stairs and called again. Through the downstairs rooms he went, opening doors and closing them. Finally he went upstairs and saw a door open at the end of the hall. It was Marian’s room.

“Miss Oglethorpe?” He went over to her and had a look at her head. He touched her arm. “Miss?” Standing back for a moment, a flash of anger went through him. ‘Needs someone with her today’, the man said. What was he to do? Well, the first thing was he’d call the doctor. He'd call his doctor that he sees in Greensport.

Downstairs in the hall, he was on the phone. “The drive has been scraped and by now the  road crews will be out. It’s perfectly safe…I wouldn’t dream of bringing her in.  The lady is unconscious…yes, yes, well, I’ll be looking for you.”

Meanwhile, he thought he’d have a hot drink. In the kitchen he went through the cupboards, the pantry and the refrigerator. He found the coffee and set it to perk on the stove. Shaking his head in disbelief, he looked again at the pantry. The gentlemen had been there for nearly two weeks and not a crust of bread, not a can of soup, not a thing except some dusty old tins of peas left from the summer. He compressed his lips into a grim line. This would never do. And where were they…these gentlemen tenants? Asleep? He hadn’t the nerve to start opening doors upstairs. However, he thought the servant…the man, Morvan, ought to be around.

The doctor arrived at ten o’clock and while he was there she regained consciousness. The doctor wanted to transport her to a hospital for observation.

“Nonsense,” Marian replied. “I just need to rest. Give me something for this headache and I’ll be fine.”

He checked her wound and left a tube of ointment and a vial of pills. “Stubborn woman!” he exclaimed as he walked out with Calvin. “I remember her.  She once sprained her ankle down by the river and I was called out. I left her then with her foot in a champagne bucket full of ice. She wouldn’t budge. You’ll be around, Calvin?”

“I hadn’t planned on it but I’ll stick around for the day. There’s no food in the house and I’ll have to run down to the cottage and bring back some things.”

“What’s she doing out here this time of year?”

“She’s rented the house.”

“Indeed…and where are the tenants?”

“I don’t know but they brought her back here after finding her car last night. I suppose something should be done about it, have it towed somewhere.”

“Good luck finding anyone today. There must be a hundred cars in ditches around these parts. I must be on my way. You’re doing all right, Calvin?”

“I’m feeling great.”

“Don’t try to do any shoveling. That’s another thing, dropping like flies they are, heart attacks, you know.”

Calvin went back upstairs. “You really should have gone to the hospital.”

“Why, so they can find something else wrong with me? Don’t you know that’s how they survive? Perfectly healthy people go in for a checkup and end up incarcerated in a hospital for something they didn’t even know existed. Would you hand me my bag, please.”

“I’m going to run to the cottage for some food. Is there anything special you’d care for?”

“I don’t have much of an appetite. Maybe an egg and some toast.”

“Right, well, I’ll be along.”

“Where are the Cornith men?”

“I haven’t the foggiest. Haven’t seen them since I got up here.”

Marian took out a hand mirror and looked at her forehead. “Ooo, that looks painful.” She pulled her hair over it. It was painful and after a staggering trip to the bathroom she went back to bed.

Calvin was in and out, dashing about. He’d been to a local store and picked up some basic groceries and drinks. She wasn’t his responsibility but he’d known her father. That was his connection to the place and to her. He kept all the receipts and would submit them along with the bill for the coal truck, if it ever arrived.

Morvan appeared in the hall downstairs. Calvin had  just taken up a bowl of soup. “Ah, there you are. Where the heck have you been all day? The doctor’s been. She’s to have complete rest for a few days. He left some pills and ointment for the wound. I’d like a word with you…”

William and Jameson went up the back stairs and to their rooms, where they bathed and dressed for the evening. They had adjoining rooms and one bath between them.

“I’ll go and check on our houseguest,” William smiled and left Jameson in the bath.

“I was beginning to think you’d deserted me,” she said upon seeing William at her door.

“I didn’t want to disturb you. You needed your rest.”

“Yes, well, I’ve had it most of the day. I’m a little wobbly on my feet.”

“I don’t doubt it. That was quite a blow you took.”

“I should thank you for finding me and saving my life. I would have frozen to death eventually. Where’s my car?”

“Still in the ditch, I suppose. Were you headed back here when you had your accident?”

“The roads were blocked. Big accidents on the highway. So…yes, I was returning. Was it you who undressed me?”

William smiled and dipped his head. “Yes.”

She smiled a little and fidgeted with her comforter. “I’d rather it have been you instead of that little man.”

“Morvan? He’s a treasure. He’s been with me for many years, since I was a lad. He’s devoted his whole life to me, to looking after me and my needs.”

“Hmm, has he? It must be nice to have such a devoted servant. They’re hard to find. Are you really titled?”

“Yes, but I don’t use it. I don’t sit in the House of Lords.”

“British government…what do you do?”

“I travel, I enjoy the theater, concerts, and an occasional movie.”

“You’re one of the idle rich…well, so am I. Though I’m not so idle. I manage my store…Thorpe’s.”

“Thorpe’s. Is that the large department store in New York?”

“It is the same one that was robbed a couple of weeks ago. Someone broke in and cleaned out our men’s department.” She looked at the jacket he wore but as she never descended to the actual sales floors she didn’t recognize it.

“I remember seeing it as we drove through.”

“I should be there now. My staff will be wondering about me. I should have Calvin give them a call…Gail Bingham is my assistant. Or, perhaps you might do that for me tomorrow. I’m unable to go up and down the stairs until my head clears.”

“If you want to go downstairs, I’ll carry you down.”

“Tomorrow…maybe.”

He smiled. “We’ll be out until evening. Perhaps you’d better ask Calvin. He seems a nice fellow.”

“Oh, he is. He was a friend of my father’s.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Morvan apologized. “Mr. Marks had a word.” He began laying out clothes for Jameson.

“What sort of word?”

“Well, sir, he came down on me for not looking after things around here. About the lack of food and drink, and about leaving the lady abed without help. I explained that my duties were to you and to my lord, William.”

“Rightly so. If Miss Oglethorpe requires a nanny then someone else will have to see to it. Thank you, Morvan.”

“There is the thing about the car. I think I should move it before morning so as it would appear we are not at home.”

“What a bother!” Jameson exclaimed, adjusting the silk scarf at his neck. “If you think it needs doing, then do it.”

“I tried to explain to Mr. Marks that we are only at home in the evenings. He’s rather a nosey fellow.”

“He’d best watch where his nose goes,” Jameson smiled and patted Morvan’s shoulder. He went down the hall and to Marian’s room. “Good evening, Miss Oglethorpe. You’re looking much better.”

“I’m feeling a little better. You are…Jameson?”

“I am, have been all my life.”

“I think we can dispense with the Miss and Mister. William was telling me you are a pianist. He said you once played the Albert Hall.”

Jameson looked at William. “I did, some time ago. I was going to ask if it would be all right if I had a piano delivered here. The upright is…well, it really won’t do.”

“Ha, that old piano has seen better days. It hasn’t been tuned since I was a girl. Of course you can have one delivered. You may have to come into the city to find what you’re looking for.”

“We were planning a trip into the city,” William said. “But of course we shall wait until you are ready to return.”

“I’m ready now, but my head says nooo. I feel as though I owe you two an apology. I was rather abrupt with you.”

“That’s not necessary. You were perfectly correct. We are interlopers, squatters, the worst.”

Marian looked at them both.  Again she thought they were perfectly beautiful, almost too beautiful to be real. “Well, if you’ll forgive me, I’ll forgive you. Let’s be friends.”

“Excellent idea,” Jameson smiled. "Don’t let us tire you.”

“I’ve taken one of my pills and I think I’m ready to rest again. Don’t go too far away.”

“We’ll be downstairs,” William said and pressed her hand.

“Your hands are cold.  Find a…warm place.” She yawned. “Excuse me.”

Downstairs William was thinking of a warm place to put his hands but Jameson had something to tell him about Morvan.

“I shall speak to Calvin Marks. Morvan belongs to me and if he has a complaint, he should talk to me. The car is a bother, yes, I agree. However, he’s likely to have a look in the garage so it’s best it not be there. It’s all become rather difficult, hasn’t it?”

“I would suggest we move on but for the lady upstairs. I am under the impression you are not ready to leave her.”

“Not yet. I don’t know what will develop there, Jameson. I like her, I desire her, and I will have her…eventually.”

“You will expose yourself.”

“I will try not to,” William said with a pained expression.

“The last thing we need is exposure.” Jameson slipped his arm around William’s waist.

“I won’t betray us, I swear it.” William turned and kissed him and kissed him again, deeper, slipping his arms beneath Jameson’s and holding his back. “You know I love you above all others.”

“I know.”

“Let me love you now.”

“Here? What if she decides to come down?”

“Then upstairs in your room.”

Jameson felt himself tremble in William’s arms.

Morvan waited until nearly dawn before moving the car. He’d eased the car down the drive half way and watched for lights in the cottage. The chains sounded awfully loud to him on the frozen snow. Once out on the road he had to decide where to go and hide the car. Marks was likely to drive out and see it if he left it exposed. He found a driveway some distance down the road. The big house loomed up dark and looked deserted. He couldn’t detect a heartbeat inside. He left the car there behind a row of shrubbery that separated it from the walkway. The walk back was not bad as he moved at lightning speed, only to stop once and see that Miss Oglethorpe’s car was still in the ditch. He could pull it out and thought about it but didn’t. Questions would be asked.

William caught up with him near the stairs down to the cellar. “Morvan, do not talk to Mr. Marks again.  Refer him to me.”

“Yes, sir. I will, sir. Is the, um, lady provided for?”

“We’ve left her some broth in a thermos. You’re freezing. Go and stand by the radiator until you warm. Is it still snowing?”

“Oh, no, sir. It’s very cold and dry. I saw stars in the sky.”

William smiled and pulled his collar up. “Go and warm yourself.”

Jameson came into the kitchen. “Are we to sleep?”

“Yes, all present and accounted for. Where did you put the car?”

“Morvan rubbed his hands over the radiator. “I left it in a drive. The house was empty.”

“Good, we’ll retrieve it tonight.”

Jameson put an arm around William. “I’ve turned the lock on the cellar door should our neighbor become nosey again.”

“He’s a nice fellow and I would like to leave him alone. But he must also leave us alone. Shall we go down?” William led the way. Sure enough the cellar door could now be locked from within. “A good idea, Jameson.”

Chapter 5

Calvin let his dog out and stood on the front stoop of the cottage. All was snow covered but at least it had stopped. He supposed he’d have to go up to the house again. This was really eating into his work. “Come on, Dooley.  Time to go in.” The big dog loped through the snow and stopped, giving himself a shake before crossing the threshold. The snow clinging to his coat would melt and dry on the hearthrug.

He took his time with his breakfast and his bath and once dressed and ready, he headed up the hill to the house. He was on foot this time and he noticed right away that the car had been down the hill. He hoped they hadn’t left Miss Oglethorpe alone.

She was up. She sampled the chicken broth in the thermos. It wasn’t coffee but it was still hot and it was something on her stomach. Her appetite was returning. She had a bath and washed her hair. Parts of it had been stiff with dried blood. She examined the gash on her forehead. It wasn’t much more than an inch long.  The bandage had scared her a little but this was nothing. A band aid would cover it. The bruises were awful-looking now, having traveled down her forehead and settling under her eyes. She applied makeup from her purse to try and cover the worst of it.

She lit a cigarette and sat down in a chair in her room. The house was quiet and she assumed the men had gone about their business. What business, she wondered? Oh, well…none of hers. Somehow she had to get down the stairs today and make a few phone calls.

“Hello the house!” called Calvin.

“Hello, yourself!” she called back and winced. Shouting made her head hurt.

He came up the stairs to her room. “I see you’re up and about. Should you be?”

“Now don’t start that, Calvin. I felt like getting up.” She pulled her robe together. “Is everyone gone?”

“Looks like it. What can I do for you today?”

“Ah, well, I want to go downstairs. I’d like it if you’d be at the bottom in case I go down a little faster than I intend.”

“I’ll be at your side to make sure you don’t.”

“Give me a few and I’ll take you up on that offer.”

“Just holler when you’re ready.” He went back down the stairs to wait.

She came down the stairs slowly, feeling every sore muscle and bruise on her body.

“Where too now?” Calvin asked, holding onto her elbow.

“The kitchen and I think I can make it on my own, thank you.”

“I brought some groceries in for you. These fellows don’t eat at the house. Not a slice of bread was to be found here.”

“I think I’ll be all right on my own, Calvin. Has anything been done about my car?”

“I called the wrecker before I left the house. He said he’d get to it sometime today. That’s Bradley’s Garage. You’ll know them.  They’re near the highway.”

“I don’t but that’s all right.”

“If you don’t need me, I’ll be off.”

“I’ll call you if I do.  Thanks for coming up.”

Marian made coffee and cooked her breakfast of egg and toast. She never had more than that. She left her dishes in the sink.

Later she called her office. “Gail, you’ll never guess what happened…”

Gail wanted to come down immediately and get her. “It’ll only take a few hours.”

“Not today. I’m still under the weather but tomorrow. Think tomorrow, Gail” She went on to ask about certain things and then rang off.

She went through the downstairs rooms. Sometimes she could barely stand to look at it, all the elaborate Persian décor made worse with the old furniture. She much preferred her New York apartment. Some books were out on a table. She wondered who was reading what. That set her mind on the two men and she found a place to sit down and think about them. They were too good to be true…what if they weren’t? Two handsome, pale Englishmen. Quite pale but then she’d always heard about the weather in England. Did the sun ever shine there? She was attracted to William…there, she’d admitted it. That’s the whole reason behind letting them stay. Yes, that was it. William Cornith.

At twilight, Morvan went for the car. It wasn’t there. He found tracks in the snow. Several cars had been there, man tracks leading up to the door and back and around the house. He could detect nothing alive inside the house. The drive was pretty well packed down from traffic. He couldn’t imagine what had become of the car. He rushed back to Crest Haven.

“It’s not there,” he said in almost a whisper to William. "Someone’s come and got it, sir. I’m so sorry. I should not have left it there.”

“Not to worry, it’s done. A problem but we shall find a solution.”

On being told about the car, Jameson became alarmed. “The car was stolen, you remember. Perhaps the owner found it or worse…the police.”

William shook his head slightly. “Well, we’ll play it off should it become part of conversation. There’s nothing else to be done.”

“Morvan, did you see Marian’s car in the ditch?” Jameson asked.

“No, sir.”

“We’re marooned,” Jameson said. “I suppose we should check on our patient.”

‘The lady is downstairs, sirs, for…dinner. Says she doesn’t want to be a bother and will have whatever the gentlemen are having.”

“Oh, dear.” Jameson looked up at the ceiling.

Down in the gate house cottage, Calvin sat staring into his fire. He’d been trying to work out something in his mind since the police had been to his door earlier that afternoon. His was the only residence aside from the big house until you got to Fountainville across the bridge.  They wanted to know if he had any information about the vehicle found at the Madison mansion. The tow truck driver found it when he stopped in there to turn around and go back for a car in a ditch. The Madisons were in Europe, stuck in Europe now that the war was on. The description of the car nudged at his mind. The car had been reported stolen in New York City.

Of course he hadn’t any information and he told them so. He hadn’t mentioned the two gentlemen from England. There didn’t seem to be any need for it. The policeman didn’t ask as it was known that Miss Oglethorpe lived in the city and only came out here for the summer. They were unaware that it was her car the tow truck driver was retrieving not a mile from the Madison mansion. “Blue and cream, a 1939 Roadster…blue and cream. Damn, it couldn’t be…”

He couldn’t leave it alone. He had to go and see what was in the garage on the hill.

Morvan had fashioned an omelet, some toasted bread and opened a can of peaches. He served this meal in the dining room, placing the diners far enough apart that they weren’t in each other’s plates.

Jameson took his cue from William. Much knife and fork action and always something to say when the fork should have gone in his mouth. Morvan had served Marian first and she got the largest omelet. She made no comment on the skimpy fare as she’d found a bottle of wine and William opened it for her.

Jameson flat out refused. “Sorry, I don’t drink wine.”

William met his eyes for a moment and poured out a little in his glass. He could fake it. He’d had plenty of practice. He held the wine glass to his lips as if drinking and then set it down. The wine was dark red and watching her drink from her glass made him uncomfortable. It was the color of blood.

“So, I hear you’re going back to the city tomorrow,” Jameson said. “What will you do there?”

“I shall go home and rest for the day and then I’m going back to work.”

“She told me she really doesn’t have to work. The store was inherited. It gives her something to do,” William said.

“I’d go mad with nothing but idle hours. I wonder you can stand it, William.”

“I’m hardly ever idle.”

Later they left the table and went into one of the living rooms. Morvan gathered the dishes and took them to the kitchen. He’d just filled the sink with soapy water when he saw a flash of light. Moving to the back door, he looked through the glass. The back door was four steps down from the ground level outside. He slipped out of the door, unmindful of the cold, to see what was afoot. Standing in the well of the steps, he saw a man with a lantern walking towards the garage. He determined it was Calvin Marks. What was he up to?

He hadn’t time to warn anyone. Marks came to the front door and Morvan opened it.

“Evening, your masters around?”

“Yes, sir, in the living room, just there.”

“Ah, I see, thanks.”

Sounds of laughter rang from the room. William stood up when he saw him come in. “Mr. Marks, won’t you come and join us?”

“Oh, do, Calvin. Jameson was telling the most marvelous story.”

“I’m sure he was. I, uh, wasn’t aware that you’d come in. I never heard the car.” 

“There’s a good reason you didn’t hear the car,” William began.  “We got a ride to the bottom of the drive and had to walk up. Unfortunately the car died on us today.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Something to do with the radiator, wasn’t it, Jameson?”

“A leak, we were told.”

“I can testify to their condition. They were cold. William’s hands were cold from the walk up the drive. I can’t imagine it myself in the darkness.” Marian lit a cigarette.

“I just wanted to make sure…um, that you weren’t alone up here.”

“I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. My assistant, Gail, is coming to get me. No doubt she’ll be with Roger Penn. I’m sure he won’t allow her to drive the distance alone. I understand my car has been towed off. Thank you for taking care of that for me, Calvin.”

“No problem. I’ll be getting on back down to the cottage then. By the way, the police were out here looking for a car thief today. I thought you should know…maybe keep an eye out…especially if you’re out walking around.”

“A car thief out here?” Marian laughed. “I can think of a million places I’d go in a stolen car besides Greensport.”

“Did you walk up?” William asked.

“Uh, I did, yes….heh, I’ll take my own advice. Have a good evening folks.” He touched his cap and left.

 

Jameson went over to the old piano and ran his fingers across a few keys. “He’s rather a funny old fellow, isn’t he?”

“Is he? Play something for us, Jameson,” William said. If he was reading Jameson right, something would have to be done about Marks.

“I will but you must understand, Marian, the sound is not what it should be.”

“Oh, darling, any sound would be good to these untrained ears.”

Jameson played a variety of music and some of his own. Marian was amazed he could get such sounds out of that old piano.

“You really are an excellent musician, Jameson. I think I’d better go to bed.”

“Do you need help with the stairs?” William offered. Jameson smiled and began playing softly.

“Oh, I might, I just might need your help, William. You’re so thoughtful.”

He held onto her elbow with his other arm lightly around her waist until they reached her door.

“I’m not really an invalid.”

“You sustained quite a blow.” He looked at her bruised forehead. “You should take it easy.”

“I’m not used to taking things easy. I take them by the horns…things. I’m about to proposition you.”

He smiled and looked into her eyes. “Are you, are you sure?"  The door closed behind him with a click.

“I must warn you about something. I am by nature cold…cold to the touch. I hope this will not distress you too much.”

She let down the straps of her gown. “Is it a medical condition?”

“You might say that. There is no remedy.” A slight intake of breath as her breasts were exposed. “You’re beautiful.”

“So are you. Not often am I so strangely attracted to someone. From the very start…it’s been you.”

He kissed her and let his hands roam. A few moments later he lay with her in bed. She commented on the  chill of his body against hers and said it was exciting. He made love to her without seducing her, nibbling at her shoulder to keep away from her neck but he had to withdraw. The desire was upon him and he didn’t trust himself.

Downstairs, Jameson worried too. After what had happened to Marilee, he didn’t trust William not to give into his nature. He hoped he didn’t bite her. They really needed to make a clean getaway from this place and these people before something happened.

“Why did you stop?” Marian’s hands were in his silky hair. It was so full and lush and soft.

He raised up a little, his eyes darkly blue with a slight glow in their depts. “I’m sorry.  Selfish of me.” He began again, keeping his eyes on hers until ecstasy took both of them. His lips trembled and he kissed her to keep from moving to her vein. He was rather proud of himself for his restraint.

“William, that was wonderful. You must know I can’t let you go now. I want you to come to New York City with me.”

“I’m sorry but that will not be possible.”

“Why? You aren’t doing anything out here in the country. I need you. I want to show you off. You’re gorgeous you know.”

He kissed her and meant to get up but she held his head and her tongue slipped into his mouth and discovered some sharp teeth. He pulled away and sat up. “I should let you rest now.”

“Wait a minute, don’t go. Let me see your teeth.”

“Ah…no.” He reached for his slacks and pulled them up.

“You’re so different. I’ve never met anyone like you before. Think about it, William. Think about coming to the city with me. Jameson can come too if you’re worried about him.”

“I appreciate the offer, Marian, really I do. It’s not possible.” He buttoned his shirt and grabbed his jacket. At the door he stopped. “You’re fantastic, by the way.”

She pulled on her gown and sat up, lighting a cigarette. She wasn’t used to being turned down, being refused…anything.

Jameson came up to his room to look for a book he’d left on a table there. He noticed the through door was open into William’s room. He went through the bathroom. “I didn’t think to see you again tonight.”

“She wants me to go to New York City with her.  I told her it was impossible.”

“Having second thoughts?”

“No, not at all. You know, yourself, how impossible it would be. I…there are times, Jameson, that…oh, well. It can never be.”

“Did you bite her?”

“No, no, I didn’t. It was so much easier in the old days. You and I…we could do pretty much as we wished. There were never any questions or explanations…at least not many. No one questioned your whereabouts during the day. If you were out or off, so it was.”

“We have always adapted out of necessity, William. There are regrets. I have my own. I regret what happened to Jane…it was my fault she ran out into the sun.  I regret leaving Lizzie behind. I think of her and wonder if she’s still alive.”

“You loved her, didn’t you? Out of your long life, only two women have I known you to love.”

“I’ve led a different life than you. And besides, it was you I loved.”

“I love you, Jameson. Oh, I don’t know why I’m thinking what I’m thinking.”

Jameson went over to him and touched his cheek. “Stop thinking.  It will do you no good. Some things cannot change…not even for beautiful women. I would like to talk to you about something. We have to make a decision about what to do here. We are without transportation and that is vital. Neither you nor I are satisfied with this arrangement. Marks is bound to discover us for what we are sooner or later. We’re too far out, too…”

“You want to leave.”

“Don’t you?”

“It would be best if we did. I don’t know where to go.”

“There are more opportunities in the city for what we need. There is also nightlife, which we will not find in small towns such as Greensport. The city is big, William. If you do not want to continue the relationship with Marian, you won’t have to.”

Marian decided to talk to William again. Seeing a door open she entered and heard voices through the bathroom. She stepped behind the door and listened.

“You always have the answers,” William said and put his arms around Jameson. “I love you more than you’ll ever know and I know I’ve put you through some trying times. The Marilee affair was…”

“It’s all in the past. We go forward for we cannot step back in time. Do not think of it, do not speak of it. I know at the time I was terribly upset over her death, so unnecessary, I thought. But now I see it was inevitable. It could end no other way.”

Marian gasped and covered her mouth. They were murderers! The door made a sound when she brushed by it. William knew she’d been there but he hadn’t been paying attention to his senses. What had she heard?

She ran down the hall to the stairs, grabbing the railing as she made her way down. She turned to see if they were following her. She was in a near panic.

William was at the bottom of the stairs. He’d come down the backstairs in vampire fashion, his feet barely touching the treads.

“No!” she screamed.

“Listen to me,” William said.

“No, no…get away from me!”

She started to back up the stairs and Jameson was standing on the landing.

“I don’t know what you heard or what you think you heard, Marian. We will not harm you. Come down here.”

She sat down on the stair step, unable to stand any longer. She was making little sounds.

Jameson came down the few steps to where she was and sat down beside her. “We do not intend to harm you.”

“Murderers, that’s what you are. You killed a girl. You’re…you’re queers.”

“Not exactly. It is true, I have loved William all my life…in many ways. I would not put that label on us. You do not understand who we are or what we are.”

“Jameson,” William cautioned from the second step.

“What difference does it make? Should we let her go spouting off accusations about murderers at Crest Haven or tell her the truth? Do you think she can handle it?”

“I’m not sure,” William said and took a seat on the stair beneath them. “Do you really want to know the truth about us, who and what we are? What if I told you I was 400 years old and a bit? Jameson is younger. Would you believe me? Believe that we are immortal?”

“To a point,” Jameson said.

“Well, now, that depends…look at what happened to you. Marian, do you want the truth? Will you listen and hear me out?”

She cleared her throat, still not convinced they didn’t mean to do her some mischief. “Yes.” She grabbed her arms, chilled in her thin gown. Jameson gave her his jacket to hold around her shoulders.

William told her they were vampires.

“No…you…no,” she frowned and shook her head. “They’re monsters. You’re not like that.”

“I see you’ve been watching too many movies. I suppose in a way we are monsters but we try to live as men. The difference being that we are nocturnal creatures and we feed on human blood.”

She covered her face with her hands. “You…you made love to me. How can you do that?”

“We are highly sexual, Marian. As to the why, I have no idea,” Jameson answered her. “We just are.”

“So you see, my dear, why it is impossible for me to live with you in the city. It would never do for either of us and there is always the chance that caught up in a frenzy of ecstasy, I may lose control and bite you, drink your blood. You could become very ill from a single bite or it may have no effect on you at all. I won’t risk it with you.”

“This is all so fantastical, some gothic story. You’re just trying to frighten me to stop me from going to the police.”

“I wish that was all there was to it but you wanted the truth and now you have it.” William stood up.

Jameson gave her a quick hug. “If we meant to do you harm, it would already have happened. We’ve had every opportunity, Marian.”

“You could have killed me and sucked all the blood out of me. That’s what you do, isn’t it?”

“It keeps us alive as you see us now.”

She shuddered.

“That’s it then.  We’ll leave right away.” Jameson stood up. “Have Morvan pack us up and I’ll call for a taxi. It’s only going half past nine.”

“I think its best. She’ll be all right here by herself tonight and there’s Marks down the drive. I’m very sorry, Marian.” William went up the stairs and Jameson followed.

She leaned against the stair rail, miserable. To good to be true…was true.

Marion made her way back up the stairs to her room, locked the door and put a chair under the knob. She backed away to her bed and sat down. The bed where she’d…with him. Her head was splitting and so she took a pill. Jameson’s jacket she tossed across a chair and then picked it up meaning to check the pockets for some evil thing. Instead she saw the label inside the lining. Her eyes widened. Thorpe’s Fine Menswear.

Within twenty minutes they were ready to go and downstairs waiting for the taxi. Marian unbarricaded her door and, carrying the jacket, she checked their rooms. Gone. Down the stairs she went and opened the front door. The tail lights of the taxi were drifting down the drive.

“Damn!”

 

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