Reads: 219

‘Is that…?’ asked Madeline, indicating the small vial that Sebastian held in his grubby hand. He nodded as Madeline continued to stare at the water-like concoction, but as she did her brow furrowed, a question forming in her mind. ‘But if Mason wanted you to research this compound how come you have it and not him?’

‘Because he does not know that I have it,’ said Sebastian, a slight smile playing across his weathered lips.

‘What? How?’

‘As far as he knows the research was unsuccessful. As I began to regain a sense of who I once was the disgust and horror of what I had become and the actions I had undertaken overwhelmed me so, and when I was restored enough to start working on the compound I had resigned myself that if there were such an elixir that could rid the world of our dreaded kind I would do everything in my power to keep it out of his evil hands. If he gained possession of it he could work on a potential antidote, destroying what little shred of hope I have left in finally ending his centuries long rampage of murder and deception.’

‘Does this compound really work?’ asked Madeline, carefully taking the ornate glass container from Sebastian and inspecting its contents.

‘It does now, I have been working on its completion for many years but only recently have I managed to perfect the mixture.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘While I was working under the watchful eye of Mason I had access to all the necessary equipment, but after I was finally able to get away from him my resources very quickly evaporated. I had to rely on what little time I could snatch in laboratories and institutions.’

‘How did you manage that?’ asked Madeline, wondering how a man dressed as Sebastian could gain permitted entry into anywhere, let alone chemistry labs where there would no doubt be high security.

‘I snuck in at night or whenever the places were empty,’ he answered.

‘And you never got caught?’

‘Not once. You see, although I hated with the deepest passion what I had become I found that some of my newfound talents could be put to my advantage.’

‘How so?’

‘Where do you think I went after you found me in your room? You only looked away for a second, did you not?’

‘Yes,’ said Madeline uncertainly, wondering what Sebastian could be driving at.

‘Well, where do you think I could have gone in that second where you were not looking at me?’

‘You…turned yourself invisible?’ Madeline felt stupid just saying the words, but a more rational explanation she could not find.

‘In a manner of speaking,’ smiled Sebastian. ‘I merely made it so that you could not see me.’

‘But isn’t that the same thing?’ asked Madeline, somewhat confused.

‘Not exactly. I was there; I just blended myself in with the general background of your room, so to speak. Believe me, had your brother a dog with him when he came it would have seen me.’

‘Dogs can see you? I mean, even when you’re trying to not to be seen?’

‘Most animals, yes,’ said Sebastian, a wistful look coming across his face. ‘I learned that lesson the hard way, and trust me when I say that guard dogs bite hard.’

‘I thought you said you never got caught,’ said Madeline, still hoping that she wasn’t being taken in by an elaborate scam.

‘Oh I never did, but that does not mean that I did not find myself on occasion in a place that was patrolled by dogs. Another setback, if you will.’

‘So the compound is ready now?’ asked Madeline hopefully.

‘Yes, I scraped what time I could in the various laboratories that I came across in my travels. I have even been using your university’s Chemistry Department for a short while, but I conducted the final test recently and the compound is indeed ready.’

‘But if you’ve been on campus so much how has Mason not known? Can’t he sense you or something?’

‘Mason is nothing if not arrogant,’ said Sebastian bitterly. ‘He may have been able to sense my presence if he thought it worth doing so, but I am sure that his confidence that he dealt with me the last time we met meant that I was able to slip by unnoticed, simply because he did not think to look for me.’ Madeline looked nervously at her hands as Sebastian spoke, realising that she may have alerted Mason to his presence.

‘Sebastian I’m sorry but I think I…’

‘Told Mason about me, yes I know.’ Madeline looked up in shock but saw that Sebastian’s face wore an expression of understanding and not anger or annoyance.

‘How did you know?’ she asked, feeling relieved that he didn’t seem to mind but curious of how he could know.

‘I have been keeping tabs on you shall we say for a while now, I knew Mason had chosen you so I knew I had to find out what kind of person you were. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I saw that you are a sensible and level headed woman.’

‘Thank you,’ said Madeline, feeling slightly embarrassed.

‘I mean no offence to women but some of the flighty little things that caught his eye were utterly useless, and I could not get them to listen to me for love nor money.’

‘And they died because they didn’t listen to you?’ asked Madeline gravely.

‘I am afraid so.’ Sebastian went quiet for a moment, remembering all the times that, in his mind, he had failed in stopping Mason.

‘You mentioned meeting Mason before, and him thinking that you’d been dealt with,’ said Madeline after a few seconds silence. ‘What did you mean?’

‘Well as I said, I have been trying for some time to put a stop to his demonic pastimes, and on one such occasion things came to a head.’

‘What happened?’

‘It was sometime in between the World Wars, and I had tracked Mason to a small town in Northern France, some eighty or so miles from Paris. He had set his sights on a local maiden, the Mayor’s daughter in fact, and I tried in vain to speak with her of the danger that she was in.’

‘Wouldn’t she listen to you?’

‘I am afraid not, for you see Mason had twisted this poor girl so wholly and completely to his will that she had fallen in love with him.’

What?

‘Yes, his forms of sick amusement took many forms, but they all ended in the same gruesome way, which was why I was determined to make this girl realise the mistake she was making.’

‘So what happened?’ asked Madeline, feeling like she was being the told the plot to some kind of film rather than events that were supposed to have happened.

‘No matter what I tried I could not get through to the girl, so smitten was she with Mason’s cruel charm that I decided to try her father, the Mayor.’

‘What did he have to say?’

‘Unfortunately, I had not anticipated that Mason had woven his evil magic on both the girl and her father, so my pleas once again fell on deaf ears.’

‘And did Mason find out what you were doing?’

‘Regrettably so,’ said Sebastian quietly.

‘What happened?’

‘He and his man cornered me in an abandoned barn that I had been staying in.’

‘How did you escape?’ asked Madeline, feeling strangely enthralled by the tale.

‘My interference in Mason’s plans meant that he was forced to move on, find another town somewhere that he could ply his despicable trade, but so as not to arouse suspicion about being the same man decade after decade and not ageing, he always made sure that his exits were, shall we say, grand.’

‘Grand?’

‘He liked a good fire,’ said Sebastian, sighing as he spoke. ‘It gave the locals a show and removed any evidence that he wanted left behind. It just so happened that this particular time I was amongst that evidence.’

‘He left you to die in a burning barn?’

‘He did.’ Sebastian looked for a moment at Madeline before continuing. ‘As far as he was concerned I was dead and gone, literally this time.’

‘So how did you escape?’ asked Madeline, repeating her question.

‘They had left me beaten and bruised and tied by my leg to a support beam, they thought I was as good as dead.’

‘What did you do?’

‘It was merely a matter of patience. The fire of course engulfed the barn and I just had to wait until the structure had weakened enough for me to be able to break the beam that I was lashed to. Once I had managed that all I had to do was find a nearby stream to put myself out in.’

‘You were on fire?’ said Madeline, her eyes widening in shock.

‘Considerably so, yes, but your average vampire, I have found, can sustain fire for a lot longer than a mortal, unless of course it’s fire brought on by sunlight, but you’ve seen a sample of what that can do.’

‘I’m sorry about that,’ began Madeline.

‘It’s quite alright,’ said Sebastian, smiling. ‘It was not pleasant to do, I will not lie to you, but I knew it was the only way to make you believe.’

‘So Mason didn’t think to look for you because he thought you were dead?’

‘Indeed.’

‘Then I’m so sorry I told him about you, I’ve put you in such danger.’

‘I would have been in danger anyway,’ said Sebastian reassuringly. ‘I had ascertained that you were a sensible enough woman who would hopefully at least listen to me. I even tried to sneak the note I gave you into your room sooner than I did.’

‘What? How?’

‘One of the ways I can, as you say, become invisible, is to blend with the shadows when it is dark. I become one with them, you might say.’

‘So why didn’t you leave me that note the first time you tried?’ asked Madeline, wondering just how much of her recent life Sebastian had seen.

‘Your radio alarm went off and you woke up.’

‘You were watching me sleep?’

‘Not exactly,’ said Sebastian, looking uncomfortable.

‘Just how often have you been spying on me?’ Madeline began to feel like her privacy had been violated and she didn’t like it.

‘I have not been watching you shower or anything like that, if that is what you are worried about. I have been watching you, yes, but from a respectable distance, so to speak.’ Madeline’s rising indignation deflated somewhat when she saw the genuine look in Sebastian’s eyes, he seemed to be telling the truth so she decided to drop the matter.

‘Okay, about this compound,’ she said.

‘Yes?’

‘You said once you’d become yourself again you’d decided to keep the compound out of Mason’s hands, if it existed. How did you manage that?’

‘Mason sired me for one purpose and one purpose only,’ said Sebastian resentfully. ‘To work on the compound. Feeding my wife and daughter to me while I was nothing but a bestial shell was his way of ensuring that once I regained my sentience I would be broken enough to bend to his will, but it just strengthened my resolve to get away from him as soon as I possibly could.’

‘How did you do that?’

‘Well, even though my research began to show fruit I never let on to Mason, whenever he demanded to see my work I would always show him false notes and as time wore on he became increasingly frustrated with my seeming lack of progress. I realised after a time that whatever he had heard about this mysterious compound was indeed true, but I knew that I could not finalise the formula while still under his dubious employ, there was too much of a chance that he would discover my deception and force me to complete the compound correctly. I therefore decided to halt my work and continue to concentrate on the falsified research.’

‘What happened?’

‘After what I deemed to be a suitable length of time I gave my final report, lying that such a compound did not exist. His relief at my untruth was outweighed by his irritation that he had seemingly sired me for nothing, and in a fit of anger he banished me from his sight, unknowingly granting me the freedom I needed in order to complete the compound.’

‘But wait, I’m confused,’ said Madeline, holding up her hand to stop the conversation. ‘In the book you said Mason was able to play with people’s minds, make them think things they normally wouldn’t. How come he didn’t know you were lying?’

‘Mason can manipulate people’s minds but he cannot read them, I was very careful to find that out before I began showing him the false notes.’

‘But now that you’ve finished the compound what’s to stop you using it on him?’

‘Like I said in my book,’ said Sebastian, sighing once again. ‘I am unable to bring any harm to my sire and this compound must find its way into the bloodstream for it to be effective. This is why I have tried, so far in vain, to enlist the help of Mason’s quarries before it was too late, and that is currently you.’ Madeline’s gaze dropped from Sebastian for a moment and the heavy silence that filled the room stirred Sebastian to continue. ‘I understand Madeline, truly I do, were there any other way to stop Mason without involving an innocent such as yourself I would never have come to you, but you are the one and only hope, and I tell you this because you have to understand the vital importance of what is at stake here, success can be our only outcome.’

‘But this is so unfair,’ said Madeline, a quaver clearly audible in her voice. ‘Why me?’

‘I wish I knew, I have spent decades trying to fathom his methods but all for nought. The only thing I can be sure of is his rampant misogyny.’

‘His what?

‘Oh yes, I have puzzled over his pathological hatred for women time and time again but it simply makes no sense. It didn’t then and it doesn’t now.’

‘What do you mean it didn’t then?’ asked Madeline.

‘Well as I said he has done this many times before, but there was one particular period that garnered an unprecedented amount of attention, in which he revelled deviously in.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Sebastian looked hard at Madeline for a second or two before continuing, trying to work out the best possible way to tell her what he knew he must.

‘This is the one thing that I have agonised over more than anything else,’ said Sebastian, running his hand through his dishevelled hair.

‘But you’ve already told me that Mason’s apparently a vampire,’ said Madeline. ‘What could possibly be worse than that?’

‘Why do you think I wrote my book under the name Sickert?’ asked Sebastian, his haggard features unwavering. Madeline frowned in confusion for a moment or two, casting her mind back to the book she had read but a week ago, and as her eyes widened in abject shock Sebastian knew that she had made the all important final connection.

‘No way,’ she said. ‘No way!’ She began to pace the room as she spoke. ‘You can’t be serious, this is just too much.’

‘Madeline I am sorry but it is the truth. I did not believe it myself when I first found out, as I did not really know him at the time, but it is something that all vampires sired by him eventually learn.’

‘But him? He was Jack the Ripper?’

 

***

 

Learning that her history professor was a vampire was enough of a shock to the system for Madeline, but to be told that he was also the elusive killer she herself was writing a paper on was madness. She had been forced to accept a lot of outlandish claims over the past couple of weeks but this one was just too much to take. She simply could not believe that being told someone was a vampire would almost pale in comparison to being told they were also one of history’s most vicious and mysterious killers, but her extensive research into the Ripper case gave this already chilling ordeal an even more frightening undertone.

‘This can’t be happening,’ said Madeline to herself as she sat back down, repeating the phrase again and again. ‘This just can’t be happening.’

‘I cannot tell you how sorry I am,’ said Sebastian, placing a comforting hand on her now trembling knee. For the second time in Zeb’s shop Madeline’s emotions got the better of her and she erupted into a fit of tears, burying her face in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably. After a moment or two Zeb poked his head through the curtain with a concerned look on his face.

‘Everything okay in here?’ he asked from the doorway, not wanting to intrude on what he knew to be a private moment.

‘I’m fine,’ sniffed Madeline as she forced back the tears and pulled a handkerchief out of her bag. Zeb and Sebastian shared a knowing look before the shopkeeper went back in front.

‘I really am sorry, Madeline,’ said Sebastian, the sincerity etched into his voice. ‘It pains me to see you like this, no one should have to go through something so terrible, but had we not met that monster would have toyed with you and taken your life at the merest whim.’ At this Madeline broke down in tears again, her face returning to her hands while Sebastian cursed whatever insane creature spawned Mason. ‘I so wish there was a kinder way to break this all to you but only the naked truth could do justice to such horrible facts.’

‘So what happens now?’ asked Madeline before noisily blowing her nose.

‘Take this,’ said Sebastian, handing the small vial to her.

‘Are you sure?’ she asked, holding the vial reverently in her still shaking hand.

‘I can do no more with it, you will have to find a way to get Mason to ingest the compound.’

‘How am I supposed to do that?

‘Alas I do not know, but I will help you all I can.’

‘Really?’

‘Of course,’ smiled Sebastian. ‘I may not be able to bring harm to my sire but that does not mean I will not aid you in this more than arduous task.’

‘Thank you, Sebastian.’

‘I only wish I could do more.’

‘Well I’d better be going,’ said Madeline, standing up. ‘I’d like to get back before it gets dark.’

‘Very sensible of you,’ nodded Sebastian.

‘What should I do about Mason though?’

‘I do not mean to alarm you but he could have struck at any time since choosing you as his latest prize but he has not, meaning that he is biding his time. So as you can see time is something we do not possess much of.’

‘Well I’ll think of something,’ she said, slipping the vial into her pocket, all the while trying to calm her tremulous hands.

‘Thank you for taking this so well,’ said Sebastian, as he stood to see Madeline out of the backroom.

‘You think I took it well?’ asked Madeline incredulously.

‘Well I was able to tell you all I needed to; I have rarely gotten that far. You did not run off screaming or try to kill me, so I would say yes, you took this grave news extremely well.’

‘Thank you, I think,’ said Madeline, a half smile briefly flitting across her lips. She pulled back the curtain and Sebastian stood aside, avoiding the afternoon sunlight that found its way into the shop. Zeb looked up from his comic as Madeline re-entered the shop and made his way to the front door to unlock it.

‘I hope you’re okay,’ he said as he opened the door for her.

‘I’ve been better,’ said Madeline, glossing over the fear that lay like a sickening ball of lead in the pit of her stomach.

‘Well I hope you feel better soon,’ he said.

‘Thanks, see you around.’

‘Look forward to it.’ Madeline smiled thinly before making her way back to campus, Zeb watching her walk out of view before returning to his shop. He walked across to the curtain and spoke through it, rather than flooding the backroom with sunlight again. ‘So what did you tell her?’ he asked.

‘Everything,’ said Sebastian, his reply seeping through the thick material.

‘Really? Wow, I’m impressed. She didn’t even spaz out.’

‘I know, she could be the one.’

‘Hope so man, I sure hope so.’

 

***

 

Once around the corner from Shelob’s Lair Madeline blew her nose one more time before opening her bag to put the handkerchief away, but as she did so she felt her fingers brush against something that caught her attention. Fishing it out of the general debris of her bag she found it was Sergeant Thomas’ card and as she looked at it a thought entered her mind. She was clearly way in over her head, so what was the sensible thing to do?

Call the police.

Madeline felt a little silly wondering what she was going to tell the sergeant but she knew that if everything Sebastian had told her was true she was going to need as much help as she could get. She rummaged in her bag again and pulled out her mobile phone, keying in the number that was on the card.

‘Sergeant Thomas,’ said a voice as the other end of the line was eventually picked up.

‘Hi, this is Madeline Jameson, we spoke the other day at the university meeting.’

‘Oh yes, Madeline, hi. What can I do for you?’

‘I think I have some information on the recent murders.’

‘You do? Can you come down to the station?’

‘Only if you can give me a ride back to campus afterwards.’

‘It’s a deal, see you soon.’ Madeline closed her phone and along with the card slipped it back inside her bag, closing the clasp and heading in the direction of Armitage Police Station. As she walked away a black Mercedes with tinted windows sat idling at the side of the road some several yards back. The driver of the car was also talking into a phone.

‘She has left the establishment,’ said Andreas, Mason’s personal assistant. ‘Do you wish me to follow her?’

‘No,’ Mason’s replied, his voice indulgent and rich with malice. ‘Sebastian is the issue at hand. I could have sworn that we took care of him in France, but it appears that he is more full of surprises than we gave him credit for, That little insect has caused me unending headaches and I want him stepped on, hard.’

‘Yes sir, I will deal with him at once.’

‘No, don’t do that. Come and pick me up first, I want the satisfaction of removing this thorn from my side personally.’

‘Yes sir.’ Andreas slipped the phone back inside his immaculately tailored suit jacket and the Mercedes purred around the corner in the direction of Mason’s house.

 

***

 

As Madeline entered the police station she didn’t even need to ask for Sergeant Thomas at the Reception, as he was waiting impatiently by the desk. As soon as he saw her he strode up enthusiastically and shook her by the hand.

‘Madeline, thanks for coming.’

‘It’s okay,’ said Madeline somewhat bemusedly, as the sergeant continued to shake her hand vigorously.

‘Would you like a coffee or something?’

‘No thanks, I’ll be fine.’

‘My desk is just back here; follow me.’ Sergeant Thomas led Madeline through the station to his desk, which was stacked with files and papers. ‘Please, sit,’ he said.

‘Thank you,’ said Madeline as she took a seat at the side of the desk.

‘So what’ve you got for me?’ asked the sergeant eagerly. Madeline guessed from his forthright questioning and the mounds of paperwork on his desk that he wasn’t getting very far in the case she had come to discuss, so she hoped that the bizarre tale she had to tell would help in some way. Madeline began her story hesitantly, expecting at any moment for Sergeant Thomas to accuse her of wasting his time but instead he just sat there in silence, only breaking eye contact to make the occasional note in his pad.

‘Wow,’ was all he had to say when Madeline was finally finished. He laid his pen down and placed his hands together before continuing. ‘That’s quite a story.’

‘You don’t believe me, do you?’ asked Madeline.

‘I didn’t say that,’ said the sergeant.

‘I barely believe it myself.’

‘So, let me see if I understand you, you’re saying that vampires are real?’

‘Yes,’ said Madeline.

‘And this Mason guy is one of them?’

‘Apparently so.’

‘As well as this Sebastian guy?’

‘Yes.’

‘Come with me.’ The sergeant rose from his desk and beckoned for Madeline to follow, they made their way to the station entrance and once outside Sergeant Thomas walked over to his squad car. ‘Get in,’ he said. ‘You can toss your bag in the back if you like.’ Madeline quickly threw her bag into the backseat and climbed into the car, fastening her seatbelt before the car pulled out of the station car park and drove off into Armitage.

‘What’s going on?’ asked Madeline.

‘We couldn’t talk in the station,’ said Sergeant Thomas, keeping his eyes on the road. ‘This case has already gotten me a reputation and even if you’re lying to me I don’t need anymore hassle.’

‘I’m not lying to you,’ protested Madeline, although she wished she were.

‘I’m not saying you are, but you can hardly blame me for being a little cautious.’

‘I guess not.’

‘So this Sebastian can corroborate your story?’

‘Yes, just don’t ask him to prove he’s a vampire.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘Nothing,’ said Madeline, smiling to herself.

‘So where can we find this Sebastian?’ asked the sergeant.

‘At a comic book store the other side of town, why?’

‘Because that’s where we’re heading.’

‘We?’ asked Madeline. ‘What do you need me for?’

‘I’m sorry Madeline but I have to find out if this story of yours is true and as much as I hate to say it if you are feeding me a load of crap then we’re going right back to the station.’

‘Oh,’ said Madeline quietly. They drove in silence until Shelob’s Lair came into view. ‘This is it,’ she said. Sergeant Thomas pulled up to the curb and looked at the shop exterior.

‘Come on,’ he said as he unbuckled his seatbelt. ‘Time to meet Sebastian.’ Madeline couldn’t help but feel that the sergeant didn’t believe her, she just hoped that Sebastian was there. The bell sounded their entrance but Zeb was nowhere to be seen, the shop looked deserted, and at once Madeline had an uneasy feeling. ‘Hello?’ shouted the sergeant, hoping to catch someone’s attention. At first it didn’t sound like there was any reply but a curious noise was coming from behind the counter.

‘What is that?’ asked Madeline, the feeling of unease mounting inside her. Sergeant Thomas walked over to the counter and drew his gun as soon as he saw what was making the noise.

Madeline, get over here!’ The sergeant’s sudden outburst startled Madeline out of her worry for why the shop was so quiet, but when she came behind the counter that worry was instantly replaced by fear and shock. Lying prostrate on the floor was Zeb, beaten and bloodied and barely conscious. Covering her mouth in horror, Madeline gasped as Sergeant Thomas knelt by the battered shop owner, surveying the damage he had sustained.

‘Is he okay?’ asked Madeline in a voice that was almost a whisper.

‘He’s alive, but barely,’ replied the sergeant before looking up at Madeline. ‘Take my keys, get back to the car and don’t let anyone in until I come out…go!’ Sergeant Thomas hastily fished his keys out of his pocket and threw them to Madeline, then began speaking into his radio, calling for an ambulance for Zeb, when suddenly the ill fortuned shop owner began to stir.

Look, he’s moving!’ exclaimed Madeline, the quaver in her voice growing with each word.

‘Sir, can you hear me?’ asked the sergeant, leaning in closer. ‘Sir?’ Zeb’s swollen lips began to move slowly and gingerly, a hoarse whisper coming from the back of his throat. ‘I’m sorry sir, I can’t hear you, what are you trying to say?’

‘I would think that he is trying to warn you,’ came the cold and callous voice of Mason from somewhere in the shop. Madeline had barely chance to recoil when she and the sergeant were grabbed and hauled bodily through the backroom curtain, leaving Zeb where they found him. Madeline tried to scream but a hand closed over her mouth and gripped her jaw painfully, while the other held her wrists together with vice-like strength.

‘Now now Andreas, don’t hurt the young lady,’ said Mason smoothly, as he himself held Sergeant Thomas about the throat and wrists. ‘We must commend her for coming this far, she really has shown tremendous spirit.’

Let me go,’ shouted Sergeant Thomas as he struggled in vain against Mason’s inhuman strength. ‘I’m an Armitage City Police Officer, you’re both under arrest.’

‘Oh do be quiet,’ said Mason irritably, as he increased his grip on the sergeant’s wrists. The room was suddenly filled with the painful cries of Sergeant Thomas as his wrist bones were crushed beyond repair. Madeline tried to look away but Andreas’ hold on her was much too strong, forcing her instead to close her eyes and listen to the sergeant’s screams. They were eventually muffled when Mason moved his hand from Sergeant Thomas’ neck to his mouth, and after a moment or two they died down to a deep, ragged breathing. Opening her eyes once again, Madeline noticed a tattered pile of rags that lay against the back wall under the window.

Sebastian.

‘I think you can let her speak now, Andreas,’ said Mason, a thin, malicious smile playing across his cruel lips. ‘I’m sure she knows better than to scream, don’t you my dear?’ Dutifully, Andreas loosened his grip on Madeline’s jaw and placed his hand instead on her shoulder, firmly enough to remind her what would happen if she struggled.

‘You monster!’ hissed Madeline. ‘How could you?’

‘Quite easily, I assure you,’ oozed Mason. ‘Do not think yourself anything special; you are merely the latest distraction in a long line of playthings; easily toyed with; easily discarded.’

‘So you are a vampire.’

‘Of course.’ Madeline was somewhat taken aback by Mason’s frank honesty, but his nauseatingly casual manner with which he carried himself filled her with such intense anger that she couldn’t contain her rage any longer.

‘It was you, wasn’t it? You who murdered Sophia Damico, you who’s behind all the disappearances, it was all you!

‘Not quite,’ said Mason calmly. ‘That fellow who attacked you and your little friend was not affiliated with me, but fear not, he has been dealt with.’ Madeline’s eyes, already wide with terror, darted briefly to Sebastian once again, and catching sight of this, Mason grinned evilly, revelling in the torment he was creating. ‘And I am sure that this…poor excuse for a vampire,’ said Mason, indicating Sebastian with the utmost disdain. ‘Whom I was quite sure I had despatched years ago, has no doubt filled you in on my, shall we say, colourful past.’

‘He told me the awful things that you’ve done,’ spat Madeline, her rage unable to contain itself any longer. ‘He told me about his wife and daughter.’

‘Ah yes,’ said Mason, his twisted face taking on a sick nostalgic expression. ‘Dear Catherine and Isabelle, such a waste.’

Do not say their names!’ rasped Sebastian hoarsely, as he pulled himself up off of the floor, his haggard face contorted into a mask of pure hatred. ‘You do not have the right, you’ve never had the right!

‘But my dear boy,’ oozed Mason. ‘I never laid a hand on them, it was all you.’

‘So help me Mason I’ll stop you if it takes me until the end of time itself!’

‘Oh come now Sebastian, look at yourself. I will admit that I’m somewhat impressed, if not a great deal perturbed, that you were able to escape form that barn, but I happen to know that you have failed in every attempt to thwart me in the past, what makes you think that you can possibly stop me now?’

This!’ Reaching behind him, Sebastian quickly grabbed hold of the heavy cloth that covered the backroom window and tugged it free from the wall, allowing the day’s sunlight to pour into the room. Andreas instantly released Madeline as he rushed forward to try and shield Mason from the sunlight, and using the cloth to protect himself Sebastian made his move, grabbing Madeline by the wrist and rushing frenziedly out into the main part of the shop.

Run!’ he screamed.

‘But…’ began Madeline.

No, run!’ Her blood pumping in her temples, her breath deep and ragged, Madeline tried to concentrate as Sebastian’s grip dug painfully into her wrist. Throwing the shop door open, they all but slammed into Sergeant Thomas’ squad car as they barrelled out of Shelob’s Lair. ‘Get in, drive, drive!’ Looking about in total panic, Madeline realised she still had the sergeant’s keys pressed tightly in her hand, and as Sebastian flung himself across the backseat, still with the cloth covering his body, she climbed frantically into the driver’s seat and fumbled with the keys until the motor finally fired into life, and with a screech of tires and a jolt as two of the wheels abruptly left the curb, they were speeding away through the streets of Armitage, leaving Zeb and Sergeant Thomas behind with Mason.

‘Are you hurt, sir?’ asked Andreas as he fixed one of the spare pieces of cloth to the backroom window.

‘I’ll be fine,’ said Mason irritably, as he ran his thin, claw-like fingers across the affected areas of his face. ‘She has spirit, there’s no denying it, but this really is getting tiresome. Sebastian’s meddling is altogether too much, I regret ever siring him.’

‘Your wounds need tending, sir,’ said Andreas.

‘Yes, take me home, I’ve had enough of the air of this town for one day.’

‘Very good sir.’

‘But burn this place to the ground, Andreas. Send them a nice message.’

‘Yes sir. And the proprietor and the officer?’

‘Leave them.’

‘As you wish. What of the girl?’

‘Oh she fights now, but I have in mind a little insurance policy that should stack the deck further in my favour.’

 

***

 

‘We left them, we just left them,’ said Madeline, as the reality of what had transpired began to sink in.

‘There was no other way,’ replied Sebastian, his voice still hoarse and throaty. ‘He was right, I have failed so many times before, and I very nearly failed again, I had to get you away.’

‘But we just left them!’ Madeline’s eyes jumped from the road to the rear view mirror where she could see the huddled mass that was Sebastian. The streets grew more and more unfamiliar and with a sickening realisation Madeline knew she was lost.

‘We could not save them, had we tried to both you and they would be dead.’

They’re dead?

‘As good as, I am afraid.’ Upon hearing this Madeline slammed on the brakes and the squad car careened to a halt in a small street that she had never seen before. It had been a while since she had driven and her scrambled nerves had not concerned her with where they were going, just that they got as far away from Mason as possible.

‘How can you be so callous?’ she asked harshly, turning in the driver’s seat to look at Sebastian, still huddled under the thick cloth that once blocked the day from Zeb’s backroom.

‘You went to the police, didn’t you?’ he calmly replied.

‘What? Yes, yes of course I did. What else was I supposed to do?’

‘By involving that man you have sentenced him to death.’ This was all that Madeline could take, she hastily thrust open the car door and within seconds she had pulled open the back door and was dragging Sebastian bodily from the car.

I hate you!’ she screamed. ‘I hate you! If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be stuck in this mess.’ She punched and kicked at the shapeless form that was Sebastian as the tears welled up quickly in her eyes, hot and livid. After a moment or two her rage began to subside, and as her rational mind took control again she not only realised that Sebastian had not bothered to even try and defend himself but anyone could have seen or heard her. The tears continued to streak her already flushed cheeks as her fists relaxed, and only when she sank to her knees and began to sob into her hands did Sebastian finally speak.

‘You have every right to hate me,’ he said, sitting up. He replaced the hood of his tattered robe and removed the thick cloth from around himself. ‘I hate what I am so I do not expect you to feel any different, but you are wrong.’

‘What?’ said Madeline, looking up with bloodshot eyes.

‘It is him who has put you, who has put both of us in the peril we find ourselves. Had I not found you though, you would have stood no chance against his power.’

‘I guess I should be thanking you then,’ said Madeline with a strange half-smile.

‘Oh I wouldn’t go that far.’ Both Madeline and Sebastian laughed briefly at their light-hearted exchange before the weight of their situation silenced them.

‘I’m sorry if I hurt you,’ said Madeline, wiping her eyes on the sleeves of her jumper.

‘It’s quite alright. Where are we exactly?’

‘I don’t really know, I just drove in a straight line.’

‘How far do you think we are from Armitage?’

‘It can’t be too far…’ began Madeline, but as she spoke the radio in the squad car crackled into life, startling them both.

‘All units, all units, proceed immediately to one five seven two Jefferson Boulevard, possible arson in progress. EMT’s are en-route.’ Upon hearing the address given by the dispatch officer Madeline sprang to her feet and scrambled back into the squad car, slamming the door behind her.

‘What are you doing?’ asked Sebastian, rising to his feet.

‘That address, its Zeb’s shop,’ said Madeline almost to herself. Before Sebastian could say or do anything she stepped on the accelerator, spun the car around and headed back in the direction of Armitage, leaving the dishevelled vampire by the roadside.

‘I know,’ said Sebastian quietly, as he huddled his rags about him, picked something up off the road and began his long walk back to Armitage.

 

***

 

Her mind racing, Madeline drove at high speed back towards Armitage, not knowing what she was doing and dreading the gruesome sights that no doubt awaited her. All she knew was that she desperately wanted Sebastian’s words to be in vain, she couldn’t bear the thought of Sergeant Thomas and Zeb dying because of her. As the scenery became more familiar the horror that was growing inside her swelled as she saw a plume of thick black smoke emanating from above the rooftops.

Oh God don’t let it be true, she thought to herself.

Making her way through the streets towards Shelob’s Lair Madeline continued to see the cascade of black smoke rising into the sky, and as she rounded into Jefferson Boulevard her heart leapt into her throat. Zeb’s modest little shop was now completely engulfed in flames, fire fighters bravely trying to get the blaze under control while police cars and ambulances filled the street. People were crowded around the police barrier as an officer tried in vain to get them to disperse, and while Madeline took in the chaotic scene the driver’s side door was abruptly opened.

‘Step out of the car please, Ma’am.’ An Armitage City police officer stood with his hand on the car door, looking sternly down at Madeline. At first she didn’t know what was going on but the realisation soon hit her that she was sitting in what was effectively a stolen police car, a stolen police car that was returning to the scene of a potentially hideous crime. As she began to unsteadily exit the car the officer stood back to allow her room, and once the door was closed he started in with his questions.

‘Ma’am, where is Sergeant Thomas?’

‘What?’ Madeline’s eyes darted from the officer to the fire, hoping that the sergeant and Zeb got out alive.

‘This is his squad car, Ma’am,’ continued the officer. ‘You should not be driving it.’

‘Is he okay?’ she asked, her voice tremulous.

‘Ma’am I’m going to have to ask you to accompany me to the station.’

‘But Sergeant Thomas, is he okay? What about Zeb?’

‘Ma’am I’d advise you not to say anything more until you have a lawyer present.’

‘What, why?’

‘You’re under arrest for suspected arson and murder.’


Submitted: October 06, 2014

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