By Atonia Walpole

 

Part 3

Chapter 8

They began to take precautions upon leaving the brownstone. Morvan, the least likely looking vampire, would emerge first by the back door and circle around the block. If all was clear he would tap on the door and continue on down the street. This night he did not tap on the door.

“The attic,” Jameson said. “We can get out through the attic and cross over to the next building.”

“Jameson, this means we’re being watched.”

“Yes, I know. We can’t come back here so if there is anything you want you’d better take it.”

Jameson added a long raincoat over his jacket. William added a sweater under his. “This is it, let’s go.”

Jameson hesitated, looking around, and then took a lit candle set the bedspread on fire and tossed it down the stairwell. He leaned over the railing, watching as the hall rug caught fire.

“Jameson! What have you done?”

“Ended a chapter of my life. Let us go and go quickly.”

They jumped from roof to roof until they reached the end of the block. From there they hurried across the road and down the sidewalk in vampire fashion. Three blocks away they resumed a normal stride.

“Let’s take a taxi.”

“All right, where to?” Jameson was agreeable.

“Central Park.” That would get them far away from the activity on Washington Square.  Sirens could be heard and then fire trucks came rushing down the street. The taxi waited until all was clear before moving out.

They walked along the west side for awhile and William stopped. “Marian lives near here.”

Jameson looked at him. “Oh, no, you aren’t thinking about…”

“I may, if I can find her.”

“I’m not looking for her, William. It’s because of her that we’re out here wandering in the park. She reported us.  You know that.”

“Hmm, yes, but I’d really like to see her again. I’ll just quickly scout around. I won’t be long.”

Jameson couldn’t believe him. What an absolutely stupid thing to do. He shook his head in dismay and walked away. Thirty minutes passed and he detected another vampire in the vicinity. It was Morvan, who came jogging up to him. “Jameson, sir. I’ve had quite a tour around the city looking for you and my lord William. He’s not here?”

“No, he isn’t. He smelled Marian and took off.”

“The house is on fire.”

“I know. I set it ablaze. I wanted to make sure I was never tempted to go back there.”

“I see, sir. Wise, I think.”

William found her and went up the building next to it, hopping over onto the roof and letting himself down onto her balcony. He stared through the window. There was a man in there but he was leaving…hat and coat over his arm. He watched her turn away from the door and pick up her cigarettes and light one. She walked to the window and he ducked back. Why had he come if not to see her and be with her again? He willed her to look up and she did.

Her breath caught in her throat. William! She opened a door. “Come in. You know the police are looking for you?”

“I am aware of that.”

“How did you get out there?”

“Magic. You look well.”

“I’m not well. There’s a police detective watching this place. I can’t even get into a taxi without being followed. Why have you come?  Why risk it?”

“I wanted to see you. I think we may be on the run again and there would not come another chance.”

“I’m surprised you wanted to see me. I was…angry, William. Angry because I…I fell a little in love with you and then when I found out what you are…I knew it was all over. It could never be anything.”

“I suppose it depends on want you want. I gave you what I have to give. But of course you are right. It can come to nothing.”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I reported you to the police and started this nightmare. I know you would never do me harm. You aren’t some monster like they report in the papers.”

“Oh, but I am. I am, Marian. I did kill one of those men found in the well. I fed on him.”

She covered her ears. “Please.”

“I come to ask a favor of you.”

“A favor?”

“Help us to get out of the city.”

“I…I can’t do that. I told you, I’m being followed. They’re probably watching this building.  In fact, I know they are.”

“You will not help? That is a shame. We are what we are, Marian. I cannot change a thing about me.” He looked into her eyes, debating and then he did it. She leaned forward a little. “You want me now, don’t you? You want me to do things to you, to make you feel.” He picked her up and took her to her bedroom and undressed her and made love to her.  He brought her to a climax and then had his own.

Jameson stood back in the shadows watching the merry-go-round. He liked the sounds, the music it made and all the lights. He wondered if it ever stopped going around and around.

Morvan had walked off alone towards the street. Jameson knew he was worried about William. Jameson wasn’t worried; he was a little put out with him. He shoved his hands in his pockets and started to step away. He detected a vampire and thought it might be William.

“Fancy a ride?”

The vampire had appeared beside him. “What? Who are you?”

“Come with me.  Your fellow awaits you.”

“William? Where?” Jameson went with him to the curb and was quickly pulled into the long black car. Morvan was on the back seat, his eyes wide. “What’s the meaning of this?”

“Your life, Jameson Cornith. We’re here to save it.”

“But we can’t leave William behind.”

“He’ll find us.” The driver pulled away from the curb and started down the street.

“I want an explanation,” Jameson said.

“You’ll get one…in time. I’m not the one to give it.”

Jameson hissed.

“You’ll want to compose yourself. It’s not my fault the city is in an uproar over vampires.”

“Where do you come from?”

“I have been sent here to find you and hopefully save a few lives. There aren’t many of our kind left in the good ole USofA.”

Jameson looked over at Morvan with alarm. “Is this a...a kidnapping?”

“More like a rescue. Where’s the other one?” the one in the passenger seat asked.

“I don’t know, some building around the park,” Jameson answered.

William emerged from Marian’s apartment onto her balcony. He retraced his trek across the roof and down the next building. Melting into the park into the shadows, he began looking for Jameson, at once knowing Jameson was not there. He began casting his mind further afield, thinking he couldn’t have gone far, or wouldn’t have.

The driver turned around. “I’m Dave and this is Al. We’ve been sent to get you out of the city and to a safe place. We can’t wait around much longer because we’ve got a drive ahead of us."

Al opened his door and stood by the car for a moment. “He’s walking.”

“This way?”

“Let me.” Jameson opened the back door. “I’ve got a stronger connection with him.”

William wanted to run but couldn’t risk attracting attention to himself. He’d detected vampires and began to walk towards them as quickly as he could.

Jameson cast his mind out and found him. “He is coming this way.”

Dave started the motor. William stopped a half block from the car. Something wasn’t right. There were two more vampires. Jameson and Morvan he recognized. He cautiously approached the alley where the car was parked. It began to move.

“Get in, don’t waste time,” Dave said.

“It’s all right,” Jameson added from the back seat.

William wasn’t so sure of that but if Jameson and Morvan were in the car he would be too.

“What is this?” he asked slamming the car door.

“A rescue,” Jameson replied. “They’ve been sent to get us out of the city.”

“Sent…by whom?”

Dave was concentrating on the traffic. Al turned to them. “You’ll find out when we get there. This is Dave and I’m Al. First names only. Don’t worry; you’re not in danger, at least not with us. We have a place that’s safe. That’s all you need to know. So settle back and enjoy the ride.”

William was facing backwards in the limo. His eyes met Jameson’s. They were strong; they were powerful vampires. They could handle anything that came up.

The car picked up speed once it was out of the city. Hours ticked by. They rode in silence. There were many questions and Jameson had some for William but didn’t want to broach the subject in the car. Hours ticked by and the car rolled on.

They left the main road and began climbing. The powerful car took the mountain curves without a hitch. There had been no points of light or other vehicles on the road for over an hour when the car slowed and came to a halt between two massive boulders on either side of the pavement. High wrought iron gates opened and the car passed through. Morvan turned and saw the gates closing behind them. He felt a moment of fear through his extremities.

After another round of winding road their destiny came into view. Street lights, although dim, peppered the area. Buildings loomed up here and there, smaller cottages and at the end of the road a circle with a fountain in the middle.  Straight head was a huge stone mansion.

William sensed the compound was vampiric. No mortals lived here. “What is this place?”

Dave turned to him. “It’s called Crest Haven. It sits on the crest of a mountain. It used to be a private college that was abandoned at the turn of the century. It’s a nice campus.  We’re isolated but that’s good. Mortals are not allowed past the gate, well, except one. The delivery man comes twice a week. He’s not a full vampire, only half, but he’s okay.”

“Crest Haven?” William turned to Jameson. “Who owns this place?”

“We do.  We all own shares in it. You’ll probably be given shares too…that is if you pass.”

Dave and Al got out and opened the doors of the limo. “You’re to go right in.”

It was colder here in the mountains than it was in the city. Morvan pulled the collar of his jacket up and stayed close to William.

“I’m not sure I like this, William.”

“We shall soon see.” William led the way through the tall doors into a lobby. Comfortable seating was arranged in the center of the room. At a round table four vampires were playing cards. They glanced up out of curiosity and then went back to their game. Others were reading. A grand piano was unattended. Jameson’s eyes strayed to it for a moment. The room was flanked by two huge stone fireplaces, roaring with fire and providing the heat for the room. A thin young man came up to them.

“We’ve been expecting you. Follow me, please.”

To the left they passed an elevator and through an archway a long hallway lay out before them. Windows were on one side and closed doors on the other. They stopped before a door and the young man opened it. “He’s waiting for you.”

A tall vampire with intense green eyes came over to them from behind a massive desk.

“Welcome to Crest Haven. I’m Reggie.” He looked each of them in the eye for a moment and then indicated they were to sit on the facing leather sofas.

“I’m William Cornith; this is Jameson Cornith and my man, Morvan.”

“I know who you are. I’ve been following your exploits in the newspapers. That’s why you’re here. We’ve been living peacefully here in our refuge for twenty-odd years. They keep coming…from all over seeking a place to exist in peace.” He spoke with a British accent.

“We were not seeking refuge,” William said.

“You were not but you badly needed it. There are 37 of us here now. We live in peace and comfort. All our needs are taken care of here. There is no need to hunt for victims of our blood lust. We have an arrangement with a local supplier. He runs what is called a blood bank. Blood donated by residents of the surrounding area and sometimes beyond if the supply is low. It supplies the local hospital. There is a village which is visible from the back of the property. It sits far enough away. They do not bother us and we do not bother them. There are many outlets for recreation here. We have an indoor pool, a tennis court, a golf course, walking trails. We have an extensive library and from time to time we acquire a film. You will be responsible for your own laundry; there are facilities here in the basement of this building. You are required to keep your rooms clean. You are required to at all times be courteous and kind to others. As in the outside world, differences abound. We understand that but violence is prohibited against another of our kind. What questions do you have?”

“Are we allowed to leave?” Jameson asked.

“If you leave you cannot come back. There is the fear that you may lead some unfriendly force to our door.”

“You have created your own little world here. How did you come by it?” William asked.

“I bought it outright at an auction. Like you, I was on the run along with several others. One was the former owner of a bar in New York. He contacted a few that he knew and let them know of our arrangement. Others we have rescued.”

“How do you keep it going, this property and the buildings?”

“Money, it’s not a free retreat. If one is poor and cannot pay they are still allowed to live here but must work in return for their shelter. Others pay a fee. We have some who pay monthly and others who made a lump sum payment. Permanent residents own a piece of it.

“I’m not sure how long we will be here,” William said.

“Pay what you think is reasonable for the use of our facilities while you are here. I understand you fled a war torn country. I’m sorry you had to leave your home.”

“Bombing runs were spreading out into the countryside. Very near our home a dairy was destroyed. Jameson’s house in London is destroyed. By now, mine may be as well. These were our safe havens. I was born in England and we still occupy the house.”

“Were you? I’m from Coventry originally. I was brought over as a child in 1860. What relationship are you and Jameson?”

Jameson looked at William. “In the beginning, he adopted me. He and Morvan brought me up. I’ve had a rather complicated life. We are no longer father and son and have not been for some time.”

“He made you?”

“Yes, at my insistence.”

“You are the famous composer, are you not?”

“I am.”

“Perhaps you’ll entertain us with your talents. While you’re here, you will not use your real name. We already have a Will and so you will be Bill and you will be Jim. As for Morvan…Mort, yes, Mort. Right, now I’ll have you shown to your rooms. We are far from full here so there is a choice of views. I hope you will be happy here.  That is our goal.” Reggie summoned the thin young man and handed him some keys. “Let them choose.”

When they were finally alone William and Jameson embraced. “What have we gotten ourselves into here?”

“It’s not like we got ourselves here. I didn’t have much choice, William. The car pulled up; they already had Morvan in the back seat. I was pulled in. I do know if we had stayed in the city we would not have had a moment’s peace.”

“That is true enough.”

“What…what did you do with Marian?” Jameson asked, still holding his arms.

William broke away and walked to the window. “Her heart was still beating when I left her.”

“You bit her?”

“Yes.” He turned around. “I seduced her, ravished her, and bit. I don’t know how she will come out of it or if she will. She betrayed me. We told her our innermost secrets. She’s had two interviews with the police and the next one would have implicated us as vampires. She would have told them…I have no doubts about that. She would have done it to protect herself because she was under suspicion. I’m…not sorry for it.”

“Nor need you be.”

William’s hand went to his forehead. “We didn’t ask about sleeping arrangements. Where are we to go?”

Jameson went to the window and looked out. The sky was already pale lavender gray. “There are shutters here.” He pulled the curtains back from the sides of the window. “You can sleep above ground, can’t you?”

“I can if…but I forget, this is protected property. We would not be disturbed.”

Jameson smiled. “I think I like this arrangement.”

“It’s like a hotel. How strange is the name? I couldn’t believe it.”

“Americans, I suppose that name might be popular,” Jameson said and began pulling the shutters closed.

William went across the hall to check on Morvan. “The shutters close out the light. Pull the drapes over the window after they’re closed.”

“Isn’t right, is it, sir?”

“What isn’t?”

“This place.”

“Well, it’s not permanent. We’re only stopping over until we decide. Nothing to worry about, Morvan.”

 

Chapter 9

As William was coming back across the hall he spotted the thin young man.

“Excuse me, sir. I forgot to tell you about the sleeping arrangements. The rooms can be darkened or if that is not suitable there are caverns beneath the main floor. Also, tonight is feeding night. We gather in the main room.”

William looked at him a moment. “Thank you. What is your name?”

“Ben, sir.”

“Tonight is feeding night,” he repeated to Jameson. “We’re to gather in the lobby.”

“Feeding night? I’m not at all sure about all this, William.”

“Neither is Morvan.  We have little choice in the matter, at least until other arrangements can be made.”

“I’d watch that money belt if I were you.”

William folded it and put it under his pillow. They opted to share a room but it was a spacious room, once a classroom; it was now furnished with a sofa and chairs, tables, a small fireplace. They didn’t bother lighting it for the day. There were two full beds. Although the furnishings were Spartan they were not uncomfortable.

William found it hard to fall into that twilight state in a bed above ground. He left his bed and got in with Jameson and after awhile he settled down.

 

“OH, LORDY ME!” Minnie screamed. “Miss Marian, Miss Marian! I got to call the doctor.” She went running from Marian’s bedroom to the phone in the hall.

Marian drowsy, half conscious, stared at the white ceiling of her bedroom. It seemed to be descending on her like a great weight. She kicked at the sheet Minnie had thrown over her. There wasn’t enough energy in her to pull the silken comforter up. She was cold and sleepy; her neck felt stiff and sore.

Minnie came back in the room. “Doctor’s on his way. What happened to you?  You take sick in the night? Lordy, honey, you so pale.” Minnie found the comforter on the floor and spread it over her, tucking her in.

The doctor was about to leave his house for the hospital. He directed the taxi to Marian’s building. He got a look from the officer outside the front entrance.

Marian couldn’t answer his questions. Her words came out unformed. She was too weak to think much less talk. He took her blood pressure and ordered an ambulance. Minnie was running around wringing her hands.

“Woman, find her something to wear!” He asked her a few questions but she couldn’t answer anything that had any bearing on Marian’s condition. The only thing Minnie knew was that she had a dinner date with a Mr. Alvin Carter.

At the hospital she was surrounded by medical staff, taking blood samples, hooking up an IV, listening to her heart, pumping up a cuff on her arm. She just wanted to sleep.

Minnie called Gail Bingham, Marian’s assistant, and she rushed over to the hospital.

She only saw her for a moment before she was shooed out the door of Marian’s room.

Gail found the doctor and wanted to know what was going on.

“I can’t account for it yet, Miss Bingham. She’s lost a tremendous amount of blood. There’s no sign of bleeding or injury. The only mark we could find was a bluish bruise on her neck, nothing more.”

Gail’s hand went to her throat. “A bruise?”

“Yes, a bruise.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m looking for the results of a blood test.”

Gail backed against the wall. Bruise on her neck, blood loss…William…William Cornith? What should she do? It was only a suspicion but what else could it be? There was a write up in the paper that morning about the ‘Vampire House’ going up in flames. She put her head down and started to leave but ran into a man in a trench coat. “Excuse me.”

“Wait a minute, aren’t you Miss Bingham of Thorpe’s?”

“Why…yes, I am…oh, it’s you, Detective Dunn.”

“Yeah, it’s me. What’s going on with Miss Oglethorpe?”

“Ah, low, um, blood pressure.”

“Low blood pressure, ay? Well, she seemed okay to me when I met with her yesterday.”

“I guess a lot can happen in 24 hours.”

“Yeah, yeah…how bad is she?”

“You can’t go in there. I was hustled out. They’re busy working on her right now.”

“I got time…I’ll wait.”

“She, um…has a bruise on her neck.”

“A what? A bruise?”

“Yes…I, uh, though you ought to know. She’s lost a lot of blood. I have to go.”

She moved past him and ran for the elevator. The elevator opened and a man started to step out. “Hello there, Miss Bingham. Artie Frye with the Times. I hear your boss was brought in this morning.”

“How, how did you…?”

“I got my ear to the ground. I hear things. What can you tell me?”

“Nothing. I haven’t talked to her.” She stepped in the elevator and he pushed the lobby button.

“I tell you what...I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. I think we need to talk some things over.”

“Look, I need to get to work. You’re a reporter.  You’re the one who’s been writing all those vampire stories. We don’t have anything to talk over.”

He grinned. “Oh, I think we got lots to talk about. Like how long has your boss been having an affair with a vampire?”

“WHAT?!”

The elevator doors closed.

It was touch and go with Marian for awhile but after having two units of blood her color was returning and her blood pressure was coming back to a normal range. By 3:00 that afternoon she was conscious and her doctor had some questions.

“I don’t remember,” she said.

“How did you get the bruise on your neck? Somebody hurt you?”

Her hand went to her neck. “I don’t know. It isn’t sore.”

“You don’t remember hemorrhaging during the night? No trips to the bathroom or anything?”

“No…no, I…I.” What was coming back to her now was seeing William on the balcony. “How did he get there?”

“What’s that?”

“Nothing…” She wrinkled up her forehead, trying to remember. He was there; she spoke to him and then…then what? Nothing until she woke in the hospital.

“Your maid said you had a dinner date last night.”

“Yes, with Alvin Carter. He’s an old friend.  We went to Hennessy’s. We had dinner and a few drinks. He brought me home in a taxi.”

The doctor went out in the hall and told Detective Dunn what she’d said. “Maybe this Alvin Carter can shed some light on her condition.”

“What about this bruise on her neck, Doc?”

“Oh, I can’t say what caused it exactly. You know I’ve seen similar bruises before. Some call ‘em love bites.”

Dunn’s eyes widened. “Love bites?”

“Yeah, you know, sometimes in the heat of passion a guy or gal might suck on the other’s skin. Brings the blood to the surface and creates a bruise.”

“Tell me something, does she have any puncture wounds?”

“No, not a mark on her except the reddish bruise.”

“You ever seen a…a vampire bite, Doc?”

“Have you ever seen a vampire, Detective? Ha, ha, and to answer your question, no, and I don’t believe there is such a thing. It’s medically impossible.”

“Yeah, right. I wonder if I could speak with her just for a moment.”

“You can have two minutes and that’s all. She needs to rest and recover.”

“Hello, Miss Oglethorpe, I wonder if you can tell me what time you got home from dinner last night with Mr. Carter?”

“Oh, I don’t know exactly, somewhere around nine or nine thirty.”

“Did he stick around for awhile?”

“No,” she answered indignantly.

“You have any other visitors after he left?”

She turned her head on the pillow.

“Miss Oglethorpe?”

“I…I’m not sure. I thought I spoke to someone but I don’t remember anything else.”

“Who, who did you speak to? Where did you speak to him?”

She felt her neck and turned back to look at Dunn. “On my balcony. He was there.”

“Who was there?”

“William…William Cornith.”

“You’re damned lucky to be alive, Miss Oglethorpe. I reckon your maid found you just in time.”

 

At 4:30 that afternoon in the mountains a van pulled up to the gates at Crest Haven and left behind two metal containers. The driver also left a stack of newspapers before he pushed the buzzer. He then got in his van and returned down the winding road he’d come up.

At a quarter to five a car left the main house and traveled to the gate. A young woman opened it and retrieved the metal containers and the stack of papers. Back in the kitchen at the house she opened the containers and began measuring out the contents into jugs. 37 jugs, no there would be 40 tonight. The jugs were capped and moved to a wheeled cart.

Out in the main lobby the fires were built up by two men whose job it was to keep the room warm. Lamps were lit, tables quickly dusted off by another man. The woman, Carol, brought the cart up from the kitchen and began to line the jugs up on the long bar against the back wall.

“How’s the sky?” the duster asked.

“Gray, no sun,” she answered, and he went over and opened the drapes, making sure they were all tied back exactly even.

Jameson woke and feeling William next to him, began to make love to him. William was ready. They kissed and embraced and indulged themselves in each other’s veins. Afterward they took baths and shook out yesterday’s clothes.

“How many wardrobes have we left along the way?”

Jameson chuckled. “I couldn’t begin to count the clothes I’ve lost. I wonder what they do here for clothing.”

“Perhaps the deliveryman brings it,” William smiled and opened the door. Morvan was standing outside.

“I didn’t want to disturb you, sir. I see you’ve dressed already.”

“Choice wasn’t a problem. Shall we go down to the lobby?”

The lobby was filled with all the residents of Crest Haven. Reggie came in and introduced Bill and Jim and Mort to the group. They didn’t try to remember all the names of the vampires assembled expectantly in the room.

“We line up over there for feeding. You see some are already in line. There is a jug for everyone and everyone gets the same amount.”

“Same amount of what?” Jameson asked.

“Blood, life’s elixir, the thing that keeps us going.”

“How often do you, er, feed?”

“Every three days.”

“You must not have any young vampires in residence.”

“Ah, there are a few but they’ve adapted.”

“How does one adapt to such a thing? A young vampire must feed daily!”

“When there is nothing to feed upon, one learns, one adapts…Jim.”

William placed a hand on Jameson’s back to warn him. When Reggie moved on he whispered to him. “Don’t try and buck the system, Jameson. It is what it is. If it works for them then so be it.”

“Outrageous,” Jameson replied.

William went first, Morvan between them. He picked up a jug, uncapped it and looked in, smelt it and looked back at Jameson. “It’s blood.”

They took their drinks and found a seat. “It’s not warm,” Jameson remarked.

William was noticing the other residents. They all were exceedingly pale. He was too, but not to that extent. They were underfed, all of them, except Reggie and two others who were sipping their drinks and talking amongst themselves. They were discussing the three newcomers and soon one tall handsome vampire came over.

“I know you, Jameson Cornith. You used to come into my bar and tickle the keys on the piano there. I’m Vic.”

“Yes, I remember you too. So this is where you retreated to, well, well. And how do you find it?”

“Didn’t have much choice at the time. We just skedaddled out of town and spent a few days on the road before Reggie saw this sign about an auction.”

“Why did you leave the city?”

“Some idiot left a body in an alley and it was found, drained of blood and quite dead. So the cops come around and start asking questions. Everybody was getting nervous and we got a new mayor who said he was going to rid the city of vermin, meaning vampires. They even brought in a vampire hunter, oh, not the guy that’s in the papers now, no, this was the real thing. Pretty soon a couple of vampires disappeared, friends of mine, too. It was time to move on.”

“You think this is better than being out there on your own, to hunt and live as you please?”

“I think it’s safe, Jameson, er, Jim. Not supposed to use real names here. Maybe someday we can live out in the world again. It’s not bad here. I don’t mind it at all. And some of them here need this kind of thing. You know, regulation.”

“Excuse me,” William interjected. “But it comes off as a sort of asylum.”

“Heh, not really. It isn’t. There’s enough to keep everybody occupied and as long as we don’t leave the compound or fight, we can do pretty much as we please.”

“This is bloody awful.” Jameson set his jug down, though he’d drained it.

“You’ll get used to it. It’s better than nothing and it keeps us out of trouble in the village. Why don’t you try the piano? We haven’t had anyone who could really play well in a long time.”

Jameson was drawn to it but he looked out the window towards the village, seeing the lights coming on and the street lights. Out there was life…not here. He sat down and uncovered the keys, tested it for tone, and began to play, softly at first until he got into it and he played his own music, composed so long ago when he was touring.

William looked over the back of the sofa where he sat. The room had gone quiet, cards lay on the table where they’d been dealt. Newspapers and books were lowered. Jameson had an audience. When he finished clapping started and then a cheer went up. They were starved for entertainment too. He smiled and began again. The music took him out of this confinement to better places.

Reggie came over and sat beside of William. “He’s given himself away. What an extraordinary talent he is. What a shame the newspapers are making such a hash of you two. There’s no way that you can remain here anonymously. Oh, well, nothing to be done about that now.”

“Should we leave?”

“Oh, no, no. It’s just that it is better, don’t you think, that one doesn’t know one’s neighbor or one’s past life. There is always the little jealously but we shall deal with it.”

“Jameson is quite capable of handling himself.”

“I don’t doubt that at all, Bill. Oh, I see Lil is going to perform with him. Excellent…another talent.”

Lilith Bancroft approached the piano and stood beside it. She was  an opera singer and after a moment she picked up the movement and began to sing. It delighted Jameson.

“I’m sure others have special talents too. I hope they will be inspired to come forward now,” Reggie said quietly to William. “I was hesitant, you realize, to bring you here due to your current notoriety. I felt you were in great danger and that overrode my fears of possible corruption.”

William looked at him a moment. “Corruption?” He almost laughed. “Well, we do appreciate your hospitality, Reggie, but I don’t think we will be here long enough to corrupt your little utopia.”

“You must realize now is not the time to go out into the world again, Bill. You and your companions are being hunted. Your descriptions are everywhere on the printed page. There are even sketches of our illustrious pianist and of you in today’s Times.”

“I don’t read the accounts. They’re mostly lies.”

“Nevertheless, the citizens of New York are up in arms over your misdeeds.”

“Misdeeds? I do not deny what I am. I have lived this way for over 400 years.”

“You are indeed one of the ancients.”

“Not really, there are others in Europe. Some do not live as I do. I live as a man as much as I am allowed to. It was the only way I could live with myself once my true nature was known to me. And I will again.”

“I know that what we have here is not ideal but for some of these poor creatures, it is the only peace they have ever known. That girl there…we found her starving. She’s very new to our ways and could not bring herself to do what is necessary to survive.”

William watched her gathering up the jugs and loading them onto the cart. “Where is her maker?”

“We have no idea. She doesn’t know. She’s only seventeen. The boy, or young man,  I should say, loading wood into the fireplace. He’s become her protector. They are a fine pair but I doubt either of them would last very long out in the world. We found him living off the blood of rats.”

William shuddered. “I know that some do use animals. I’m sure I’ve seen this lady by the piano perform in London.”

“She was part of a touring company in the last century. She lost her companion in Paris.  She’s quite efficient looking after herself. Her country is now overrun by the Nazis and so she is here. She said she could not bring herself to drink their blood. She came with her maid to New York. Vic found her and brought her here.”

“What did you do before you came here?  Where did you live?”

“Me, well, I came over about 30 years ago from London. I’ve lived in New York since then.”

“30 years ago?  Odd that we never met, odd that I never knew you were in London but then I may have been elsewhere at the time. You couldn’t have been there for very long.”

“I wasn’t there for very long. I thought to try and trace my roots but I found my family was not from that area of England. I traveled to Cornwall and observed. It was not home for me, though I was born there. So I came back to the States and took up residence in New York City.”

“Did you have a family…wife, children?”

“I was married and had two children.” Reggie looked away. “It’s still painful after all this time to think of them. I couldn’t go home, you see. After the war…I wasn’t myself any longer.”

William found himself liking Reggie. “Where did it happen?”

“France. I was wounded and in hospital there…dying by inches. I had a visitor one night who offered to make me well…said I would live forever. I didn’t believe that part of it but I found out afterward that was a very real part of it.”  He sighed audibly.  “Would you like to see the grotto?”

“Yes, I’d like to see it.” William glanced at Jameson, who seemed to be doing fine with the opera singer and followed Reggie to a stairway.

 

Chapter 10

“It’s almost like a Roman bath,” William remarked as Reggie turned on the light switch.

“It’s not used much in winter as it isn’t heated. It’s quite different in summer. This is a cool retreat.”

“Are you happy here?” William asked suddenly.

Reggie looked at him a moment before answering. He liked William and thought he was one he could trust. “I could tell you the truth.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“At first I was because I was creating something for the good of our kind. It…it begins to wear on one.”

William squatted down and tested the water with his hand. “It’s confining, I think. When I said it seemed an asylum, I meant a place meant for keeping beings, whether they are human or not. That’s why I’ve told you we cannot stay here.”

“I envy you, William. You’re free to go whenever you wish. We can provide transportation to a nearby town, not the one at the base of the mountain, but nearby.”

William stood up and faced him. “Do you have a companion?”

“Not at present. I lost mine in New York, lost him to a vampire hunter.”

“It makes a difference, but you know this. I have Jameson.”

“I thought so.”

William kissed him. “We’d better go back upstairs.”

Reggie blinked and turned away.  “Yes, well, thank you for your company and your conversation.”

Morvan was looking for William. He’d been back in the radio room with some others listening to the news. He spotted him coming into the lobby and rushed over to him.

“My lord, William, we are on the newscast.”

“Are we? What have they said?’ William focused in on Morvan, who looked upset.

“There is an all points bulletin out on us and it has gone statewide. There is a reward for our capture.”

“I see.” William digested this, understanding it’s meaning. He went to find Reggie, who was speaking with Vic by the fireplace.

“I think it is time for us to leave before we bring trouble to your door.”

“You are safe here, Bill. No one comes here.”

“The police know of this place, do they not?”

“We certainly haven’t advertised it,” Vic responded. “If you go out there,” he gestured towards the front entrance. “Then you are surely to be spotted somewhere.”

William looked at Reggie. “The village…you have an agreement with them? Who is this agreement with exactly?”

“Ah, it is with the priest, it is with the mayor, and it is with the chief of police.”

“Police…well, there it is. He will have to search the premises, Reggie.”

“We will wait and see. Somehow I doubt he will come up here.  If he does, then he breaks the agreement we have with him. If it is broken then nothing stops us from coming into the village at will. He will put his people in danger.”

“He may not have a choice if the state police show up,” Vic said.

“Where are we exactly?” William asked.

“Near the state forest, Woodstock. If he’s determined to leave, Reggie, we could get him to the state line. It’s not that far to Connecticut.”

“What is Connecticut?” William asked.

“I forget you’re not from here. Come back here and I’ll show you map.” Vic led the way to Reggie’s office. “Now, we’re here, right here, and the state line is here where that red line goes down. You’re not wanted in Connecticut. Once over the state line they can’t touch you.”

“You would risk your people driving us there?  What if they are stopped either coming or going?”

Vic looked at Reggie. “Do you think somebody’d give up a car?”

“I shall ask Professor Reading. I believe he has the most reliable of transportation. He will not be leaving us…of that I’m sure.”

Out in the lobby the music had stopped. Jameson and Lilith were recounting old times. They’d played at the same venues and she was telling him about the current conditions in Paris.

“I am sorry to hear it. Paris…how I love that city. Many times it has been a refuge for us.”

William came into the lobby and watched as Reggie sat down at a table with Professor Reading. He looked over his glasses at Reggie and pushed aside his papers and pens. William saw him nodding and then he left the lobby.

“Jameson, I hate to interrupt. Miss Bancroft, I did so enjoy your voice. I believe it once graced the opera house in London.”

“It did, yes, and I hope it will again.” She smiled and dipped her head.

“I’m afraid we must depart shortly, Jameson.”

Jameson caught the current running through William and excused himself from Lilith. William told him what was afoot.

“I believe we are to have a vehicle. Morvan has gone back to study the map. I hope they will give it to him. If not then we shall find our way. However, we must leave immediately.”

Professor Reading returned with a set of keys. “Who will be driving?”

“Morvan,” William answered and Morvan appeared with a rolled map in his hand.

“I give you my keys, my car, and I wish you a safe journey.”

“Thank you, sir,” William said.

Ben led Morvan out to the garage and parking area. There were a number of cars out there. Ben topped off the tank with a gas can and brought the vehicle to the front entrance.

Jameson said goodbye to Vic and Reggie and got in the passenger side. William hugged Reggie.

“I like what you’re trying to do here. It’s not perfect but I can appreciate it. Stay well, my friend.”

Reggie smiled. “Friend…yes, always. Be careful.”

Morvan drove with the lights off through the gate. William looked through the back window and hoped the police would not harass them on their account. Morvan’s vampire night vision helped him down the winding mountain road. They were warned not to use the headlamps until they reached the highway.

Jameson wished they’d never come, never left England. It had become one thing after another ever since they landed. “What is this Connecticut, William?”

“A state, a small state. I believe there’s another attached to the other end of it and above it is Massachusetts, which looked to be larger. It has a coastline.”

“Is there not a Canada somewhere north of here?” Jameson asked.

“Yes, is that where you wish to go?”

“I don’t know…somewhere far away from New York. What was it you heard over the wireless?”

Morvan answered. “The lady, Miss Oglethorpe, told the police she was attacked…by my lord William. She is in hospital but will recover, they seem to think. The police have alerted all law enforcement over the whole state of New York to be looking for us.”

William looked out of the window. “I did not attack her.”

“It matters little now, does it?” Jameson turned and looked at him. “I worry that his hunt will cross borders.”

They rode in silence for some time and crossed the border into Connecticut. Morvan didn’t slow down until he reached a crossroads. Jameson spread the map out and they examined it.

“Go north.  There is nothing in this state for us and it’s too close to New York City,” Jameson directed. “Does that agree with you, William?”

“Yes, I leave it in your capable hands, Jameson.”

It took them two weeks of getting lost, changing directions and finally crossing the border into Canada. Crimes committed in New York could not reach them here. They made their way to Montreal with the intent of finding a suitable place to live and to settle. They drove down a street of mansions, some sadly neglected. The stock market crash weighed heavily on the neighborhood. Everything went bust and the people moved on. Only a widow or two still hung on to their deteriorating mansions. It was along this street that a house was spotted set well back from the street with a gated entrance. Morvan was sent to inquire about it as Jameson and William were still a little shy about moving out into the public.

They rented the house for a paltry sum from an attorney who was handling the property. The family hadn’t been in contact for years. He was happy to have a tenant and didn’t ask too many questions. The house, built at the turn of the century was not electrified. Morvan arranged for a firewood supplier to deliver once a week. William arranged for monies to be paid out with a bank where he’d deposited a sum of money. During their travels they’d acquired clothing, sunglasses, hats and gloves. They were able to go out and about in the evenings.

Montreal was a bustling modern city but still with enough character and history to remind them a little of home. The house was located apart from the city, which gave them all the privacy they wanted and needed but allowed them a short drive into the city when needs arose.

Jameson was anxiously awaiting the delivery of a piano they’d bought. The house interior had proved to be somewhat of a surprise. The public or front rooms were more of a formal nature but the second floor lounge was bohemian and it fit Jameson’s more relaxed and open personality. Great cushions and Turkish carpets, colored shaded lights that didn’t work because they’d not had the gas turned on, multicolored pillows and beaded curtains over the doorway. The big bay window looked out over the back garden and in this bay he decided to place the piano.

Morvan paid the deliverymen and hurried them out of the door. Already the piano was bringing the old house to life. He smiled and ran up the stairs to the second floor. It was dusk, not quite dark, and there was no danger from the sun’s rays. He lit fresh candles in Jameson’s music room and left unnoticed to see to William, who was just coming out of his bath.

“I hear the piano’s been delivered,” William said.

“Yes, sir, and a welcome sound it is.”

“I think we’re going to be all right here, Morvan. We must be very discreet, you understand.”

“Oh, yes, sir. Bury them deep and cover me tracks.”

William smiled. “Have my books arrived?”

“On the hall table, sir.” Morvan held his jacket for him.

William came into Jameson’s lair with two books he’d ordered. “Don’t stop. I’ve missed it so.”

Jameson smiled and continued. William looked around, moved a pillow or two and sat down. He still thought the room looked like a Russian bordello.

Jameson looked out the window and continued playing. It was something new that had been running though his head for some time. At last he was able to put it together. He stopped from time to time and scribbled notes on a piece of paper lying on top of the piano.

“That’s very nice, Jameson. Very new and modern.”

“I was inspired by the music I heard in New York. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of that fiasco.”

“You and I came out of it.  That must count for something.”

“We are survivors of the oldest order. The world is changing so, William. I begin to wonder of our place in this new society. Perhaps we should retreat to some far away undeveloped country.”

“Darling, where do you suppose that to be? The world is at war and I doubt very seriously if any of it will remain untouched.”

“Pray this corner of it does,” Jameson said and resumed playing.

William opened his book, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway.

He looked up a moment as the words came back to him, a long remembered piece:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…

 

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