Go back to previous chapter


By Sarah Hapgood

Adam woke up to find himself sitting just inside the French windows in the sitting-room. He was feeling rather hot, swathed as he was in a robe and blanket, with a hot water bottle propped against his chest. Lonts was sitting in a chair opposite him, studying him intently with his thumb in his mouth.

"Adam!" he exclaimed, removing his thumb "You're awake. I'll get you a glass of water".

"I don't want one", said Adam, irritably trying to remove the blanket from around his knees.

"All sick people have to have a glass of water", said Lonts, pouring from a carafe on a side-table.

"That's probably why they're sick", said Adam.

Lonts propped him up in the crook of his arm and made him take a sip from the glass.

"Why aren't you dressed yet Lonts?" Adam asked, eventually.

"No time", said Lonts, briskly "I've been told to watch you".

"I don't think you need to watch me quite this intently old love".

"Ah Adam, you're awake", said Julian, coming into the room.

"I wish you'd all stop sounding as though I've just been resurrected", said Adam "What's going on here? Why am I wrapped up like this when it's about 150 degrees outside?"

"You had a bad turn", said Julian "Your chest. Can't say I'm surprised. I wouldn't treat a mad dog the way you treat your lungs. You gave us all quite a scare. One we could do without".

"It's getting dark outside", said Adam "Have I been sat like this all afternoon?"

"You weren't fit for anything else", said Julian.

"And in the meantime the whole place goes to pot!" said Adam "Why hasn't anyone dressed Lonts yet?"

"Because he's quite big enough to dress himself, except he's too lazy", said Julian "You've spoilt him rotten over the years".

"What's everybody up to?" said Adam, fractiously "Where's Patsy?"

"Oh ... er", Julian began in an evasive fashion "He's around the house somewhere".

"What do you mean, he's around the house somewhere?" said Adam "Where is he Julian?"

"Now I don't want you to get excited", said Julian "Everyone's split into pairs and are searching for him. It's not a very big house, he can't be far".

"What the fucking hell has happened?" Adam clambered laboriously to his feet "Where is he?"

"After you'd had your turn", Julian explained "He went upstairs to get dressed ... and he never came down. But you mustn't worry. He can't have gone very far".

"If that's the case, why haven't you found him yet?" Adam bellowed "If anything's happened to him, I'll kill the lot of you!"

"It was your own fault", Julian shouted back at him "If you hadn't distracted us all by kidding us you were at death's door, none of it would have happened. If you took care of yourself better you'd be able to take care of him".

"The fact remains there are eight others of you bastards around here and you still lose him!"

"Seven", said Julian, quietly "Domino is dead. Ransey and Finia found him in the cellar, in a pretty bad way".

"Throat and stomach torn out", said Lonts.

"And you sit there telling me all this as though you were giving a weather forecast!" Adam yelled at Julian.

"Well what else can I do?" Julian exclaimed.

"You could be looking for Patsy that's what else you could be doing".

"I'm looking after you, you stupid old fool!" said Julian "Somebody has to, because you won't look after yourself".

Kieran had no memory as to how he had got into the room. His mind was a blank from walking into Adam's room to fetch his bath-robe onwards. His last thoughts had been anger at Lonts for causing so much trouble. Then he had blacked out rather suddenly. He had come round to find himself lying in a room he had never seen before. It was an exceptionally depressing room, with bare brick walls, and a door with no lock or handle on the inside. That omission was worrying.

The worry turned to outright fear when he realised he was lying naked on a bare bloodstained mattress, with his wrists and ankles tethered to the four bedposts with rope. The rope was rough and tied so tightly that red marks had appeared on his skin. He couldn't scream as a handkerchief had been screwed up into a ball and thrust into his mouth. He kept wanting to choke on it, and was terrified that he would do so. He was vulnerable, and he knew he was completely at the mercy of the next person who walked into the room.

"You're done for now aren't you?" said Angel, appearing gradually at the foot of the bed, emerging out of green vapour "That was a lot easier than I thought, getting you here. I've got to give Caln credit for that, considering he's not very bright".

Kieran could do nothing but stare at him imploringly, and shake his head in a futile attempt to persuade Angel to remove the gag from his mouth.

"None of 'em will find you here", said Angel "You're in the tower room. Caln likes to sit up here. The door can't be found easily from the outside, it's concealed behind wallpaper. The governors of the leper colony used to use it as a priest-hole".

Kieran suddenly noticed a glass jar on the mantelpiece. It was full of eyes.

"I wouldn't panic too soon if I was you", said Angel "I haven't decided what to do with you yet. I won't kill you, not when you're too useful to me alive. But it might to be quite nice to keep you up here, as my own personal livestock. No more pointless bargaining with you everytime I want to take some of your blood. Perhaps I might eventually start carving bits of you off for a special treat, like Caln's been doing to the hospital inmates. You know what I mean, the odd foot here, the odd arm, the odd pound of flesh".

Angel climbed onto the bed and sat astride Kieran, who tried hopelessly to writhe away.

"Now I think", said Angel, scooping Kieran's hair away from his neck "That it's time for a bit of tradition".

Kieran saw exploding lights in his head as Angel's teeth latched onto his neck. The pain was indescribable. He tried to scream, tried to shout. If Angel continued to take from him on this level he wouldn't last the night. He was already weak from not having eaten all day. But the gag was securely in his mouth, he couldn't say a word or utter a single sound. As Angel continued to suck from him as relentlessly and remorselessly as a vampire bat, Kieran began to slide into unconsciousness. Soon the blackness claimed him once more.

They had all met up again in the dining-room. It was now very late, and an extensive search of the house, plus the rocks and the outbuildings had revealed nothing. Kieran seemed to have vanished into thin air. A shocked gloom had settled on the gathering, as they found it hard to comprehend what had happened. Even Lonts was too awed by the air of disbelief to start up his usual fits of paranoia and self-accusation.

"We can't just sit here", said Ransey, after a while "We should do another search".

"We didn't find anything last time", said Hillyard, gloomily.

"I know, but we can't just sit here", Ransey repeated "He can't just vanish. He must be somewhere we haven't found yet".

"Where?" Adam barked "We have looked everywhere. The attics, the cellars, everywhere".

"I can't believe it", said Joby, numbly "You just turn your back for five minutes ..."

Suddenly the double doors that led into the hall were kicked open, and Angel appeared on the threshold. He was carrying Kieran in his arms. Everyone watched in appalled amazement as Angel crossed to the table and dumped the unconscious man on it. There was blood pouring from an open wound in Kieran's neck.

"He needs some kind of tourniquet applying to it", said Angel, casually "You should get him to fucking eat something once in a while. He's no use to anyone in his condition".

Angel turned and walked into the hallway. After ordering the others to see to Kieran, Adam pursued the vampire.

"Angel!" he yelled, cornering him at the bottom of the stairs.

"Be bloody grateful I'm on your side", said Angel "I only wanted to toy with him for a while, but he even does me out of that pleasure. I'm not really double-crossing you, you see. If I was I could have had him for breakfast, dinner and tea. I'm on your side, even if you did once want to kill me".

"That was a very long time ago", Adam protested.

"It's not exactly the sort of thing you forget!"

"And that had nothing to do with Patsy anyway", said Adam "He was against the whole idea".

"Yea well he'll live", said Angel "And you can destroy Caln too, if you keep your heads and starve him. And then the hard part begins. Getting rid of Vanod".

"But will you help us Angel?" said Adam "Will you?"

"I just might at that", said Angel.

Kieran lay propped up on the sofa, his neck secured with a length of bandage Ransey had dug out of his First Aid kit. The others were milling around him, talking excitedly at the tops of their voices.

"This room's like a casualty field hospital this evening", said Ransey, putting another cushion behind Kieran's back "What with you and Adam both giving us frights like you did".

"I feel like I'm about to read me will", said Kieran "The way you're all gathering round me".

"I vow to defeat Caln and Vanod once and for all", said Joby "That's all you've got to say. With a little help from your friends".

"That's what I wanted to talk to you all about", said Kieran "We need to trap Caln and starve him, as Angel said. That is the only way to effectively destroy him".

"It's going to be difficult to trap him", said Ransey "When he can vaporise at will".

"Perhaps not as difficult as you think", said Adam "Patsy defeated the Devil by earthing him at the Skirra Fludd lighthouse, and we all know how he did that".

"Simple", said Joby "He just wanks into a jar or something, and then we can smear it round Caln, keep him trapped somewhere".

"I hope that'll be enough", said Kieran.

"I've been thinking", said Lonts.

"Not now Lonts", said Adam.

"No it's a good suggestion Adam", said Lonts "When Isaac appeared in the dining-room, Joby threw the salt-cellar at him and he disappeared. Well when I was locked in the City Assizes, I used to sprinkle salt around me to protect me from demons. Except of course it never worked where Krik was concerned".

"Even so it's a good suggestion", said Kieran "Every little helps".

"How do we get hold of Caln first though?" said Hillyard.

"He's a vampire", said Kieran "And we have what he needs. To trap a rat you bait the trap. And we bait it with human flesh, the likes of which he won't be able to resist".

The trap was set in a small room at the far end of the cellar. It was little more than a booth housing a whipping-post. Hillyard sat down on the damp floor, removed his shirt and leaned against the wooden post.

"I won't leave you for a single moment", said Kieran "Have no fear on that. I appreciate you doing this Hillyard. You're a brave man".

"Who else could you have asked?" said Hillyard "With my ample flesh I mean. Trixie? Lonts?"

"It doesn't matter. The fact remains I could count on you and that's all that matters".

"I hope after all this he puts in an appearance", said Hillyard.

"Oh he will", said Kieran "He's greedy. He won't be able to resist".

Kieran sat down on the floor behind the door, but resigned himself to the prospect that he and Hillyard might have a long wait together.

It was an uncomfortable vigil. Cold, damp and dark. Kieran and Hillyard sat facing each other for several hours in the booth, not daring to speak, unless by noise they betrayed themselves. They were dug deep into the still watches of the night before they heard a heavy tread in the rest of the cellar, a sloshing sound as Caln waded through the ankle-deep water, sending rats scurrying into the darkness, his nose telling him where the meat was situated.

Hillyard was suddenly very afraid. There was something about the heavy dragging of Caln's feet that was so unearthly it almost stopped his breath. He looked into the corner, towards Kieran for support. Kieran put his finger to his lips and indicated the jar resting in his lap. Hillyard gulped and hoped he wouldn't disgrace himself by letting his eyes start to weep.

Caln scraped into the room. His dark eyes lit up on seeing Hillyard's muscley flesh. Hillyard knew it was imperative he sat silently, that he mustn't distract Caln from his blood-lust in any way. He returned the vampire's steady gaze. It all seemed to take a nightmarishly long time. Caln was upon him now, his fetid breath hitting Hillyard full in the face. His mouth was only inches away from Hillyard's skin.

"I eat your skin", the vampire breathed, in a dazed voice "Eat your skin!"

Kieran galvanised himself into action. He clambered to his feet and broke the glass jar across Caln's back. A sticky mixture of his semen and common house salt crawled onto Caln's flesh. Caln screamed and attempted to vapourise, but he couldn't generate the presence of mind to do so.

"The chains Hillyard!" Kieran barked.

Caln was securely tied to the whipping-post with the chains, which had already been coated in the same potent mixture that had decorated his back. Chronically weakened already he crawled around the whipping-post, spitting and snarling.

"What happens now?" said Hillyard, slouched in the dampness just outside the door.

"We starve him", said Kieran "However long it takes. We make sure it's done this time. Deprived of his meat he'll shrink and shrivel up, until eventually we can fit him into a jar. The fate all vampires dread".

"And then what?"

"We inter him somewhere. I haven't quite decided on the location, atlhough the walls of this house would be quite appropriate in some ways", Kieran stooped to help Hillyard to his feet "I couldn't have done it without you. I admire your courage".

"Don't be daft", said Hillyard "As I said earlier, you couldn't exactly have made the baby go through all that".

"Not on your life".

"And now we just sit up there and wait do we?"

"For as long as it takes", said Kieran.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License.

Go forward to next chapter

Return to Sarah Hapgood's Strange Tales and Strange Places web site