Thad stood his ground, while Tim and Worm retreated to a darkened corner of the living room, Worm holding out the ancient crucifix in front of them. They were both shaking like leaves.
“That is a very good weapon, indeed, but I must warn you, it means nothing to me. My strength and experience are much to overwhelming for such pitiful toys.”
Something thumped onto the roof and began to creep around, as if testing the roof for some weakened point.
“He cannot come in, and I will not allow him entry – and there is the other, Randy, whom my friends are sure to come across soon. He will perish soon. Bones will be a different matter. You met the two men that are here, did you not, Thad?”
“Yes, I met them, two men from England that is.”
“And what did they tell you, my friend?”
While Tim was having some difficulty accepting the “my friend” aspect of the conversation, Worm had settled down into an easy chair to hear the whole thing out.
“Well,” Thad said, “they said they had been following you for years, and that you are like a disease. Everywhere you go. As soon as they spoke to us, they knew that we knew… all about you.”
The serious expression on Drake’s face was hard to avoid. “And just what do you know about me?”
“We know you’re a vampire,” Worm said, his voice sounding frail. “We know you ‘turned’ Bones into… into one of you.”
Drake looked at Thad. “It was unfortunate that he decided to break into my home. At that point I felt he would have made a good apprentice. But, he has taken matters into his own hands, and will pay the ultimate price for it. And I fear that Randy will soon meet his end, as well.
” I never had plans on killing you, Thaddeus,” he said. He looked at Tim and Worm shrinking in the corner. “And I have no plans on putting any harm on you two, as well. Please, come forward with your friend and listen to me.”
The two were reluctant and moved with the stiffness of zombies as they came forward and stood with Thad.
Drake seemed pleased, yet remained calm at the composure of these three before him. “So you say Bones got a hold of that big oaf Randy?”
“Yes-yes, he did. And I ran like hell. I can’t believe I got away from…” His words fell short, as if he were afraid to call Drake and his kind by any other name, like a racist calling someone of another color a long forgotten name, used only by the foolish that still hold on to dusty, barbaric attitudes.
“You were lucky,” Drake said, “that he was so involved with your big friend. But I’m afraid the two hunters that are canvassing the neighborhood will come upon Randy soon, and put him to rest.”
“What about Bones?” Thad asked. “Will he be caught, too?”
“Bones is a different story altogether. They will not catch him, only I can do that. And then I will have to put him at rest. And I will do it in a way that will prove to you three that I mean to clean up and leave. You will never hear from me again.”
A long, mournful howl rose up somewhere in the night, and Drake gazed blankly at the ceiling as if regarding an invisible moon coasting by thousands of miles above the Earth’s surface.
“They are near,” he said, turning his attention back to the others. And then, he spoke again, sadness and regret forming his words. “I do not expect you to understand, accept, or deny me -1 am what I am -1 did not ask for this condition, but over time I have learned to accept for myself what I am, even cherish it. But, I am still a rational man, and among my breed that is rare. Once ‘turned’, as you would say,” he said, looking at Worm, “the natural response is true and clear. The deep, barbaric impulses that lie within us all comes forth, and all that is left is the intelligence of man and the animal instinct to kill and feed. It overtakes everything else, and cannot be stopped unless the animal is killed.”
“Bones,” Tim uttered under his breath.
“Yes, Bones,” Drake said. “Regretful. Many times during my travels I take on an apprentice of sorts, hoping that one day I will have created one like myself that is rational, able to control his emotions. To almost remain…human, and still have the unique talents that my kind carries. But, it has never happened. For me, wisdom guides me, and keeps me alive. I have been alive for one hundred and sixteen years.”
Thad and the other two gawked.
“Over the years, I suppose boredom brings forth men’s follies, or perhaps curiosity. I am not filled with pure folly, as was the one who made me. His was pure folly, almost a game – this I could gather just from the short meeting we had. I am the product of a mere folly, but from a somewhat rational being. It is why the animals despise me. The canines, and especially those bastardly felines.”
“I was twenty-five when it happened, ” the pale, handsome figure said. “And I shall remain twenty-five to the end of my time.”
And while the Drake estate lie on the outskirts of London, among forests and meadows that were populated with ancient trees with glowing heads of greenery during the day, dusty, luminous monstrosities at night, the mansion was far from considered out of the way for those wealthy and popular among particular veins of London societies. The white mansion, with it’s outer walls touched here and there with creeping ivy, it’s garden and stables, was often the place of gatherings where some could, figuratively, let their hair down, get drunk and boisterous without chance of some newspaper catching wind of the affair and plastering it in the papers. No one else could get on the grounds.
At the rear of the estate was the groundskeeper’s cottage, which was occupied by a very formidable, stout man in his late forties names Stills. Stills kept constant watch over the grounds with the help of two Dobermans that were penned next to the cottage.
Though the man lived alone, he realty was not alone, for he had an astounding relationship with his dogs, so much so that even members of the Drake family themselves feared going outside alone for fear that one of the dogs might be loose without their master. The dogs lived by rule with no exception, and did not really know the true masters of the estate.
But this, by no means, stopped the goings on at the estate. On nights during which some of the fashionable, elite, and sometimes obscure visitors were to arrive, the dogs were penned, and the gravel drive lighted with glowing lamps for horses and carriages alike.
This particular evening did not require use of the main hall, for it was a relatively small gathering, and they had all gathered in the library, perched on leather chairs and sofas amidst a collection of books that Jack Drake was particularly proud of. Unlike any of his friends, who kept such merely to boost their own egos, Drake had actually read a huge portion of the volumes, and was quite learned in many things. And this spawned his pride, for he could browse the books and lift a title or two to tell whatever fascinating stories that lie between the covers.
Miriam Drake, in a white dress festooned with purple bows and lace, sat on the sofa next to the patriarch of the family, who, in his tailored suit looked more like a senator or other political figure that he was certainly far from being. He prided himself on his independence from such affairs, on how he lived well knowing just how to manage his financial and social attractions.
Dominick Drake himself entered the library, smiling and filled with the stature and self-confidence that always pleased the ladies and nearly frightened his father. Dominick always dressed himself to look handsome and roguish – the tight pants with a silk band around the waist, wide, open necked silk shirts that always reminded his father of pirates.
“Here’s the young lad now,” Jack called out as Dominick flowed gracefully into the room.
Annabelle Sutler, who had arrived with the Hornsbys, instantly began fussing with her hair and dress as if she were about to meet a king. One of the single of London’s elite, it was no secret that she had had her eyes on him for a long time.
And so Dominick sat between Annabelle and Jason Hunnicut, who seemed more interested in what Jack had to discuss. Jason was also in real estate, and at Jack’s request attempted to find out just what someone would pay for such a beautiful estate. But nobody ever made an offer on the house, though it was a very beautiful house. Perhaps most knew that Jack would never sell, that it was merely an act to remind folks of the wealth and beauty of the Drake house. Pure ego, that was.
Joseph Barnaby, who sat across the room on another of the plush leather sofas with his mistress Lily (no one ever knew her last name, and it was better off that way), eyeing the two bulging breasts that looked as if they my pop out at any time like over-filled balloons. They often had some of the men’s eyes looking as if they might bulge out as well.
Frederick Hornsby and wife Gertrude sat on one of the lovely small loveseats, and they both were already sipping their fair share of brandy provided by the host. Both were great friends of the Drakes, and had a special liking for Dominick himself, maybe because he had his own views on things, and intelligent views they were, enough to make any father proud.
After several drinks, however, Dominick, not being the heavy drinker as his father and his familiars, announced that he was going out for a walk.
“Oh, 1 should like to join you, Dominick, “Annabelle immediately piped up. The oohs and ahhs that came from the room left the girl blushing, and batting her long eyelashes at her intended target.
Dominick stood and kissed the lovely girl’s hand, which brought about even more blushing, and small laughter from some of those in the group. “I’m so very sorry, sweet Annabelle, but I must walk alone to do some very serious thinking, for I have discussions with my father in the morning.
Jack smiled proudly from his place next to Miriam, whose expression revealed that she would rather have had Dominick take the woman with him.
“But Annabelle. Where is Annabelle? ” A relentless voice now.
Dominick did not know how much longer he could keep up this charade, and keep his eyes open. “She has left, Father, and I must rest. Please leave me so I may rest. “
“Alright, son. But I’ll expect you down soon for lunch, or maybe supper. “
The outside hallway grew quiet, and Drake let out a huge, nervous breath. He glanced at Annabelle and tried to remember the events of the night before; he could not recall leaping from the ground up to his second story balcony in order to avoid being seen by his family and guests. He could not recall Annabelle Sutler coming into his room to check on him, only to disrobe and climb into his bed along side him. And he could not recall giving in to the new sickness that flowed through his veins.
The change had taken much of his memory.
With the cover wrapped around him, a dead body watching over him, and sunlight burning just outside like the sun itself, Drake succumbed to sleep as if he were sedated.
He awoke not slowly, gradually coming in contact with his surroundings, but with a start, that left him instantly alive and aware of exactly where he was at. The feeling of alertness and energy was uncanny, opposite of what he had felt hours earlier, and he rose from the floor, casting aside the coverlet like a discarded rag.
He regarded the body of Annabelle, and felt no remorse or misgivings; he was truly different now, and wanted only to escape before being discovered. There was one more thing he had to know in order to reassure him that he was not living a lie. That the whole thing had happened.
He already knew that dusk had fallen before he drew back the curtains, and he found himself on the small balcony just outside the window. The air was sharp, as were the sounds and smells that surrounded the house. He smelled what was coming before Stills appeared below on the large expanse of lawn, the two Dobermans following in formation close behind.
One of the dogs turned its pointed face toward Drake and barked. Before the other could follow suit, he had already ducked into the bedroom to again face the staring body on the bed. He heard Stills scold the dog as he led them around to another side of the mansion.
Drake went out onto the balcony and looked down. From his position, the ground seemed miles away; however, it was his only hope to escape the unfortunate and unexplainable situation he was now apart of.
He climbed over the ornate wrought iron railing and lowered himself down as far as he could. He clung to two rails, looking down at the ground below, which seemed to be clearer than he remembered. He saw every nook and cranny of the lawn.
He braced himself, and let go, felt the butterflies in his stomach as he dropped through the cool air, expecting a hard landing.
To his surprise, he landed on both feet with not pain nor broken bone, but strength and agility. It had been too easy. The dogs barked from somewhere on the other side of the great house, and Drake jolted for the forest, not realizing how fast he was traveling until he overtook the small clearing from the night before.
He retraced his steps and gazed around him. Everything was dark, and yet, he saw everything in a strange kind of light, a glow that allowed him to see everything for what it was. He approached the tree where the devilish dog had been tethered.
The chain still encircled the tree, draped onto the ground where it was still connected to the studded leather collar. The dog was gone. There lie there instead a small pile of gray powder, and when Drake ran his hand through it, he realized it to be ash. He recalled his own aversion from the sunlight in his room.
The dog had burned up in the sunlight. Even under the canopy of trees, enough sun had escaped to kill the beast.
He stood pondering over Cross’words: And I shall kill everyone of them, if you wish. If you come to this very spot tomorrow evening, you will find this hound quite dead. Mere ashes from the light of the sun. It must be destroyed. Hark my warning, stay out of the sunlight, or you will suffer a similar fate. You are a nightwalker now. You shall never again walk in daylight.
Drake felt the new urges flowing through his veins, and yet his human side still glowed with reluctance and fear; but that fear was a mere spot amidst his entire psyche. The new urges took hold fast, and without being able to help himself, he took flight into the woods, toward the east and the great city of London.
“So you see,” Drake said, “I was a victim of circumstance, much like you are now.”
The three remained silent. To the shock of Tim and Thad, Worm spoke up unabated, yet fearful. But the words came anyway. “But, you are still a cold-blooded killer.”
Drake regarded him, and for a tune, the other two though Drake might lash out and kill their friend.
“Yes, it is what I am. But, I am not an animal. I do not have to kill needlessly, as I have said that I would not kill you three. But don’t push me, my friend, for I am still what I am.”
“What now, Drake?” Thad asked.
“I must take care of the two who seek me, and leave this place forever. It will be messy, but I shall never see you again. I should like to thank you, Thaddeus, for your hospitality. I shall never forget it.”
“ It’s alright, sir. Just please, end it now.”
Drake left through the back door of the house, and while no one saw him cross the street, all three knew that he had already entered his own home to await the strangers that sought him.
Brent Nielson awoke from an uneasy sleep filled with pieces of dreams that seemed jagged, frightening – dreams he could not begin to explain the origin of. While pondering over the sick images that his mind had served up, a beastly howling that could only be coming from the back yard, from man’s best friend, Sadie, caused his skin to grow cold, his heart alert beneath the bulk of his chest.
That was enough to get him out of bed and rush to the bedroom doorway in the dark, shirtless except for the gray sweats he always wore.
Another howl, this time cut short as if the sound had been muted. He rushed to the back door and flicked on the floodlight that lighted most of the back yard, and stepped onto the back porch.
In the conflicting dark and light he saw two figures out on the lawn: a figure lying there, covered with fur, obviously Sadie, and his heart jumped at the sight at the other figure leaning over the dog. He saw the blue and white lettermen’s jacket, and instantly knew who it was.
Brent ran over to Randy and planted a heavy foot right in the slats of the jock. “Get off my dog, you fucking moron!”
But, Randy was on his feet, baring an impossibly large and bloody maw. Brent saw the gaping hole in Sadie’s neck, and was about to attempt killing Randy.
“I’ve kicked guy’s asses for less than that,” the vampire Randy said.
Brent’s anger was abated when he saw the dark figure appear behind Randy, the glint of shining steel. A silver arc coursed through the night air, and Randy’s head was spinning off into the darkness, leaving only a body spouting fluid from the neck. And then, the body collapsed like a sack of potatoes onto the grass, all the while Brent Neilson watching wild-eyed in disbelief.
The man in the overcoat approached him, and he stepped back, afraid that he might fall victim to the same fate.
“You are safe now,” the stranger said. He turned and strode away as mysteriously as he had shown up.
Brent eyed the headless corpse, and started when it burst into flames and began to disintegrate into ash. Seconds later, a short distance away, the head burst into flame, and all Brent could do was watch horrified at the sight before him. When the flames subsided, and all that was left was gray ash, he knelt next to Sadie and wept.
Drake waited in the darkness of his house, very calm, collected, for he knew the confrontation was about to come. Someone entered through the back door, and at the same time one entered through the front door. It seemed that Drake’s season was about to be cut short.
A man with an English accent entered the living room from the kitchen. “Well, my dear man, it looks like things have come to an end.” The other hunter entered from the front door, and yielded his sword as if signaling that things were about to end. “Drake, it has to end here and now. Your evil must stop.”
Drake was about to say something when a shape flashed by him and attached itself to one of the hunters. He hardly recognized Bones as he ripped out a huge portion of the hunter’s neck and spat it to the ground. Bones merely laughed at the ease in which he had eliminated the man.
The other stepped back, trying not to show any fear, but failing miserably.
Drake killed him with the same ease as Bones had displayed; and yet, Drake was disappointed that he could not have disposed of both himself- it would have been the easiest thing in the world. Bones was out of control.
With the two hunters dead, Bones approached his master for praise.
“I did well, Master, did I not?” Bones asked, savage teeth protruding between his lips.
“Yes, you did well, my friend. Quite well.” Bones smiled through his elongated teeth, and paid no attention to the item that Drake was pulling from his overcoat.
It was an ornately carved stake, and Drake wasted no time in driving it into Bones’ heart.
Bones collapsed against a wall, eyes wide with dismay and confusion. “Why, Master, why?”
Drake pushed the stake in deeper, and said,” You need to rest for a short time. But, you will be back.”
Bones lost all coherence, and then was gone. Drake dragged him into the closet in which he had been originally been hiding, and left him there for the time being.
“You both need to spend the night here,” Thad said, “or it may not be safe.”
“I agree,” Worm said. There is no way we can return to our house tonight.”
“One of you sleep on the couch, and the other in my bed,” Thad said.
“But, where will you sleep?” Worm asked.
“I’ll sleep in my mother’s room. No problem. We should all try to get some sleep now.”
Tim went into Thad’s room and lay down on the bed, unsure if he would be able to get any kind of sleep at all.
Worm took the couch, which was comfortable enough, but had the same problem as Tim. Sleep would not come easy.
Just before dawn, there came a moaning from behind Thad’s house. Worm was alerted first, and he made the rounds of the house, searching for Thad, who was not to be found. The moans grew louder as the sun rose, and Worm and Tim found themselves outside looking for the source of the mournful sound; and, to their shock, they found the source, and were unable to do anything about it.
For just before dawn, Drake had carried Bones to Thad’s back yard patio, and tied him securely to one of the posts. There, Drake waited until the very last second, before the sun would actually rise. He yanked the stake from Bones’ chest, and took flight into the cover of his house, where the two dead hunters lay from their childish attempts to stop a most powerful being.
All Drake had to do was wait until nightfall, and then he would finish his short season in Taylor, only to move on to a new area, one ignorant of such things as Drake. Thad had known too much, and had almost befriended Drake, taking on an air of understanding that not many would even consider.
Tim and Worm heard the howls and moans from the back yard, and were horrified; they searched the house for Thad, but to no avail. He had disappeared from the house altogether. With no time to search any further, the two went out onto the back patio, and saw the most shocking scene of their lives.
There, strapped with leather to one of the uprights to the patio was Bones. He looked normal in every aspect, except there were wisps of smoke rising from his body as if he were a victim of spontaneous combustion.
As soon as he saw the two he screamed, “Cut me loose, please! I need to be cut loose. Or I’ll die!”
Tim and Worm stood by and watched, unsure of what to do, but they both had a silent agreement that Bones could not be released.
The sun became brighter, and Bones began to screech in pain. “Cut me loose, now! Please, I beg of you, cut me loose!”
Tim and Worm looked at each other and shook their heads. The sun grew hotter. Bones began to change; that is to say, his body turned pale white, the veins popped and bulged in his face. His eyes changed into dark marbles, and his teeth grew into savage fangs that seemingly could tear apart anything.
But, the sun was too much. Bones twisted his head back and screeched at the pain of the direct sunlight on his skin, and he opened an impossibly large maw filled with jagged teeth that snapped at the open air. His eyes burst from their sockets, and the veins in his arms pulsed and bulged.
The two watched in horror as Bones turned an ashen gray, and then his entire being turned to ash and began to form a gray mound on the ground. His screeches still reverberating in their ears. The whole thing took no longer than several minutes. Soon, all that was left was a pile of gray ashes next to the post. And the resonance of the pitiful cries.
Worm and Tim went back inside Thad’s house, only to again find it empty, so they opted to go home to see if everything was all right there. And yet, they both wondered and were extremely worried about Thad. They would look for him later.
After dusk fell, Thad pushed open the hatch to the crawlspace in the laundry room, and rose with so much energy that he was unsure of what do with it. Tim and Worm were still waiting for him; that he had crawled from the very sewer that undermined the city did not seem to bother him. The battle seemed to rage on from nowhere, and he considered running next door to let Tim and Worm know that he was alright.
But, he waited.
Across the street, Drake waited in the dark for two more hunters to show up, and when they did, he snapped their necks, and tore the head from each of them when upon he leaned them against the wall in a sick display.
Alone in his house, a little unsure of what to do, Thad more sensed than heard someone crawling through the window in his mother’s bedroom. Thad went to greet his friend.
“Thank you for the gift,” Thad said. “I shall be careful.”
“If you do the right things, you may never have to run. Live your life discretely. Perhaps we shall cross paths again.” With that, Drake vanished.
Thad wondered if he really would see the man again. The man who had been a victim of circumstance.
Thad had not been a victim. He walked into the bathroom and looked into the mirror. No Thad Wendt stared back at him. He rubbed and scratched at the left side off his neck, where he had applied some of his mother’s makeup he had discovered in the medicine chest. He uncovered the two holes, along with some of the bruising. A trickle of blood oozed from one of the holes, and he dabbed it with his finger and poked it straight into his mouth. His hunger, or thirst, grew strong.
The telephone in the kitchen rang. Once. Twice. And then Thad knew who it was, and picked up the receiver, excited.
“Thaddeus, it’s Markus. I wanted to talk to you about the inheritance some more. Listen brother, I’m only trying to help you, you’ve got the know that!”
“And just how do I know you’re just not trying to swindle me?”
“You’ll know, brother, you’ll know. I do not charge much, and you’ll be left with enough money for the rest of your life.”
Thad smiled widely, revealing a maw filled with jagged teeth, not to mention the two on either side of his two front teeth – the magnificent curved fangs.
“Markus, why don’t you come down right away so we can discuss this then.”
“You mean it, little brother?”
“I mean it. Get down here. I’ve got some surprises for you.”
Thad hung up the phone and waited.