A Tale of Dark Shadows
BRETHREN OF THE FANG
Copyright © 2006
Illustrated by the Author
Colorized by Tangor
This story is actually one of my least favorite DS stories. It was the first one I wrote and it smacks too much of the Gold Key and Marilyn Ross. The storyline was buoyed by me getting the episode guide for the end of the series which allowed me to make it a direct sequel to the series. It does not connect with any other Dark Shadows story I wrote. Ironically, this DOES connect with Catch of the Day and the Prodigal, both of which mention the same Bowen family from which Godfrey Collins is descended. —The Author
I — THE SEA WOLF
When it struck, Death took no notice of its surroundings.
That Death also passed over Quentin Collins in its search for a victim was purely a matter of chance. Of course, Quentin was no stranger to Death. He had seen it in many forms, and had on occasion been its instrument. This night, however, he was but a captive observer.
Having spent some time away from the gloomy seacoast town of Collinsport, Maine, Quentin was anxious to return to his ancestral home. In his mind, he saw the gables and towers of the Great House at Collinwood, and though his memories of it were not always pleasant, still he yearned to be back within those stone walls. Its siren song called to him, even here, bobbing as he was upon the Atlantic.
Quentin had booked passage on a steamer, The Maine Belle, and it was due to arrive at Collinsport about midnight. A jet airliner would have been far faster, but Quentin had a disdain for such rapid forms of transit. His mentality was of an older time, when events took shape at a more leisurely pace. He much preferred modes of transportation that had existed from time immemorial, as ships had. So it was that he found himself upon the ocean's bosom.
Standing at the wide steel railing, Quentin looked up into the night sky. Blazing like a jewel set upon velvet was a bloated, gibbous moon. Not full, not yet, thankfully, but still it paled the stars and turned the black of night into soft layers of silvered purple, and wave tops to glittering triangles of golden green.
Then, Quentin Collins felt Death's approach.
It began when the short hairs on the back of his neck began to rise like hackles. He turned his striking, leonine head from left to right, but could not identify the object of his uneasiness. Powerful, corded hands grasped the rail as Quentin tried to come to grips with his feeling of dread, but it would not be satisfied. About him, others chatted innocuously, and his blazing stare was returned by more than one female passenger of above average beauty.
In an instant, Quentin knew that Death would come from the sea.
It was too late, though.
Suddenly, the sea beside The Maine Belle boiled and seethed. Then, from the depths came a huge form that sent water flying in glittering sheets like a cascade of broken glass. Quentin found himself staring into the huge red eye of some fantastic beast from a madman's worst nightmare. Its barrel-shaped body was clinging to the ship's side by a pair of stubby arms that ended in taloned, webbed paws. Iron gray hair covered the misshapen head and neck, but the body glistened an oily, seal-like black, fading to a dirty white on its underbelly.
The huge head was not unlike that of a wolf's, but it was monstrously distorted. Fangs thicker than Quentin's thumb protruded from the snarling mouth, and raw nostrils flared as the thing sought its prey. Waving upon its slender neck like a cobra, the great head struck, and drew back, having between its jaws one of the crew members.
Quentin made a futile grab for the man's leg as he was dragged over the side, but the creature was too quick. Quentin had another glimpse of that huge red eye, glowing as it did like a dull ship's lantern, then it was gone beneath the churning waves. He knew in that instant that the thing had seen him, and that it would know him if they should ever meet again. He had no basis for his conviction, but he instinctively felt it, and being a Collins, he accepted it.
All about him, pandemonium reigned. Women screamed and dashed for the relative safety of their cabins. Men mobbed the rail to try to see if the monster was still about, while crew members hastily armed themselves in case another assault was pending. Quentin remained where he stood, and was lost in his thoughts, oblivious to his surroundings.
He thought back over the years, and tried to remember all that he knew of the sea. He recalled vague tales, passed down over the centuries, of such a creature. In times past, there had been stories of a sea monster called the Sea Wolf. Always, when it had appeared, some great evil had been wrought in Collinsport.
Then, he felt a presence at his side. There stood the Captain of The Maine Belle, and his face hung heavy with fear and sorrow. With a large, scarred hand, he gestured away from the railing. Beside him was a crewman armed with a heavy Colt revolver.
"You must come away from the side, Mr. Collins," the Captain urged. "I can't risk the safety of the passengers. Whatever it was might come back."
"I understand," Quentin stated, turning to go.
"It is an omen," the crewman commented, his beaten, taciturn face blanched with fear. "It is an omen of evil."
As he went to his cabin, Quentin could only agree. It was, indeed, an omen of evil—but for whom?
Word had not reached the citizens of Collinsport that tragedy had befallen The Maine Belle. Most were long in bed, save for a cluster of anxious people who awaited the arrival of their friends and relatives at the docks. Their activities went unnoticed by a group of men who busily went to and fro across the dockyard from The Maine Belle's berth.
These men were all brutal, swarthy types, dressed in black garments. Their rough faces were constantly revolving in every direction, as if they feared scrutiny. They were engaged in transferring a number of heavy crates from the warehouse's interior into several panel trucks. As each truck was filled, its heavy-browed driver would send it off in the general direction of Collinwood, ancestral home of the Collinses.
As they toiled in darkness, a fog rose in curling wisps from the sea and marshes that surrounded Collinsport. Like a rotten, gray shroud, it enveloped Collinsport, turning the sharp streetlights to softly glowing orbs. The evil-faced men at the warehouse smiled to themselves as they were enfolded, content that their business would be further concealed.
Arriving late to the wharves and docks of Collinsport was Beverly Wentworth. Tall and slender as a willow in her dun, mock-fur coat and its matching hat, Beverly exited her car. This night she had come to meet The Maine Belle because it carried her adopted father, Henry Wentworth. Left as a child at the Collinsport orphanage, Beverly had known no other parents save Henry Wentworth and his wife.
Henry Wentworth had adopted Beverly within weeks of her arrival at the orphanage. She had grown up in a comfortable, loving environment, since Henry Wentworth was a scientist of international reputation. His work in physics and electromagnetics had made him in demand the world over. Even now, he was returning from England, where he had helped the British government in their research of superconductors, something Beverly knew very little about.
As she approached the docks, Beverly swept a lock of deep bronze hair back from across her clear, gray eyes. The fog muffled all sounds, but perversely, it magnified the clatter of her high, leather boots. Their staccato sound against the pavement disquieted her. Adding to this uneasiness was the closeness of the fog and that strange darkness all about her.
For an instant, she considered running back to her car and locking the doors. What a silly impulse, she chided herself. Now, she could hear the voices of dockhands and others waiting for the ship's arrival. Dimly, she also heard the deep voice of Collinsport's lighthouse, and occasionally she perceived its brilliant beam sweep the ocean.
Water made chuckling sounds against the pier beneath her. a small, crackling sound came from above her. Putting one slim hand to her hat to prevent its loss, Beverly put back her head. At first, she saw nothing, but the yellow shaft of Collinsport lighthouse's searchlight passed nearby, and a dark form was silhouetted against its radiance.
It was a bat.
Stifling a scream, Beverly plunged headlong toward those who awaited The Maine Belle. In her haste, she blundered into a large man who caught her in his arms.
"Here now, miss, are you all right?" the large man asked solicitously upon releasing Beverly.
"I'm fine," she replied absently. "I saw a bat."
"Is that all?" His tone implied his lack of respect for her tormentor.
"Yes." She immediately felt foolish, and a warm blush came to her ivory face. "I am here to meet The Maine Belle."
"So am I. It's coming around to dock now."
Refusing to look for the bat any further, Beverly waited the ship's berthing. Still, she remained near the large man. His easy confident manner gave her a sense of security. She regarded him with interest. He appeared to be about the same age as her father, but was of a more rotund build, while Richard Wentworth, even for his age, had the frame of an athlete. Perhaps this man knew her father. Certainly, his voice carried a cultured tone to it.
"I am Beverly Wentworth," she introduced. "Perhaps you know my father, Richard Wentworth, the scientist."
"Indeed I do," the man replied, his affable smile making his bluff face take on a rounded appearance. "Professor Wentworth is a treasured colleague, though our fields of expertise are different. I am Professor Stokes."
"I've heard Father mention you, Professor," Beverly acknowledged. "Your expertise is more anthropological, I think."
"Charitably described. Is your father onboard the "Belle"?"
"Yes. He took the trip to work on his notes in relative solitude. Are you meeting someone also?"
"Yes. A friend of mine from Collinwood, Quentin Collins."
"Oh, yes, I know of the Collinses," Beverly assured him. "However, I've never met any of them."
"We shall have to rectify that," Professor Stokes stated. "Let's go forward; they've lowered the gangplank. Look how the people are rushing off the ship. You'd think it was cursed."
Professor T. Elliot Stokes had never before professed a gift of prophecy, but his offhand remark soon turned into chilling fact. No sooner had he and Beverly found their way to the jammed gangplank, than they began to hear frenzied, wild tales. Families reunited to bewail the narrow escape of their prodigals, and crewmen tried vainly to keep order as their charges fled that ship of death. First to be recognized was Professor Richard Wentworth, whose thin, ascetic features were easily seen above the heads of the more average-sized passengers.
His angular frame slid between frenzied survivors as Beverly called and waved her shapeless hat. Happily, she flung her arms about his neck and dragged him down to her own height.
"Daddy!" she exclaimed. "What happened? Was there an accident with the ship?"
"A man was swept overboard," Richard Wentworth explained, his voice level, though weary-sounding. "I was in my cabin, and can't tell you much, I'm afraid."
Elsewhere in the churning mass of humanity, Elliot Stokes had discovered Quentin Collins. Quentin had recovered his bags and was struggling away from the dock. Professor Stokes grabbed a suitcase and fell in beside the tall, graceful man.
"What happened out there?" Stokes inquired, after they had reached his waiting car.
"How is Barnabas?" Quentin countered, ignoring Stokes' question.
"The same." Stokes' shoulders slumped somewhat, and his demeanor changed from anxious to resigned. "You would think that six months would change him. Ever since he and Julia and I returned from 1840, well, you know the story."
Indeed, Quentin Collins knew the story well. Julia Hoffman had explained in detail her visit to 1840, and how they had defeated the sorcerer Judah Zachary. There, Barnabas Collins had been released from his curse of vampirism by the very author of his misery—Angelique. He also recalled how Angelique had been foully murdered by Lamar Trask, the descendant of Barnabas' enemy in 1795. Since returning to 1971, Barnabas had been morose.
He had understood Angelique's love for him, and more, he had finally come to return that love, when Trask's bullet had ended her life so abruptly. 1971 had turned to 1972, and still Barnabas would not stir from the Old House. Willie Loomis, his servant, assured the family that he was eating and sleeping well, but beyond that, Barnabas Collins remained within the dark shadows of his ancestral home, as much a prisoner as he had ever been when cursed.
Quentin understood what it was like to lose loves. Made immortal in 1897, he had roamed the world, hiding under one persona or another. Lately, his drinking had become a concern for the members of Collinwood, so they suggested a sea cruise in the hope that a change would be good for Quentin. A sea change. Now, upon returning, Quentin had realized that nothing really changed. There was still loneliness, and torment, and death.
He and Stokes turned from loading the car when they heard the Professor's name being called. There, they found Beverly Wentworth approaching, her father in tow.
"I wanted to thank you, Elliot," said the older Wentworth, "for waiting with my daughter while the ship docked."
"Your daughter is a sweet child," Stokes complimented. "She reminds me somewhat of my niece, Hallie, who is away at school. Beverly told me that she had never met a Collins. May I rectify that by introducing you to Quentin Collins? Quentin, this is Richard Wentworth and his daughter, Beverly."
Quentin took the scientist's firm grip in his own. "Hello." Turning to Beverly, Quentin held her delicate hand gently. "I am truly delighted," he told her, summoning up some of his old charm.
Instead of polite reply, Beverly's face suddenly convulsed into a twisted countenance of red hate.
"Child of Darkness!" she hissed in a low tone. "Get thee behind me Satan!"
Abruptly, she snatched away her hand. As the contact was broken, her face once more composed itself into a vision of beauty, reigned over by confusion.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled, "did you say something?"
Quentin blinked, unable to comprehend what had happened. He glanced at Elliot to find the Professor equally mystified. Richard Wentworth put a fatherly hand upon his adopted daughter's shoulder.
"Is something wrong?" he asked her.
"No, I don't think so," she answered. "Why?"
"You pulled away from Quentin as if his hand had turned red hot and you hollered something about Satan."
Her confusion deepened. "I did? I'm sorry; I don't know what could have come over me."
"It has been an unusual night," Stokes offered. "I have an idea. Dick, why don't you and Beverly come down to Collinwood. I'll be visiting there for the next few days, and can give you a tour."
"That's an excellent idea," Quentin agreed. "I'll ask Liz if dinner this Saturday night would be in order. What with Roger out of town and Hallie at school, the house could use some new faces."
"Capital idea," Stokes said. "I'll give you a call, Dick."
"Fine by me," Wentworth answered. "Okay with you, kitten?"
"Of course!" she breathed, unable to look away from Quentin's questioning gaze. "Well, we must be getting home. I am sure you and Mr. Collins are both tired."
Saying their good-byes, Quentin and Stokes drove off, back to the Great House at Collinwood. Both men were silent for a time, then Quentin spoke.
"Something bad is coming," he said, almost mechanically. "The Sea Wolf has returned. Now, this girl, whom I have never met, accuses me of being devil-bought. I can't fathom it, but I sense that whatever curse lies over this family is beginning its cycle anew."
Stokes nodded in agreement. His full lips compressed, the Professor was lost in thought, considering the night's events. As the road wound past the old McGruder Mansion, neither noticed a light burning downstairs.
II—RETURN OF THE PRODIGAL
Willie Loomis hated his job.
Being servant and companion for a morose ex-vampire was definitely not a cushy berth. Of course, the money wasn't bad; it was, well, the working conditions. Gloomy as his master Barnabas Collins was, the surroundings were bleaker. Barnabas lived in the original house on the Collins estate, referred to as "the Old House". After rising from his 170-odd year imprisonment in a secret room, chained in his coffin, Barnabas had used some family jewels he had hidden to pay for a partial refurnishing of the Old House. Still, without electricity, or a telephone, Willie found his place of employment depressing.
A lot of rooms had remained untouched, and were full of either cobweb-laced furniture, or dust-coated portraits that stared at you no matter what part of the room you were in. Then there was the Attic. Nobody went up there, and Barnabas kept the key to it in his pocket. Willie knew that it contained a portrait of Quentin Collins, except that the portrait was weird. Not only was the house gloomy, but strange things had happened, none of which Willie liked to think about.
However, his master's state of mind was the newest crisis, and one which was beyond his ability to help. After all, Willie was no psychiatrist. For six months, his master had wandered restlessly about the house, spending hours in his study, or sometimes not even leaving his bedchamber. Willie made sure that Barnabas ate, but his limited social graces were unable to break the spell of gloom that had descended on Barnabas Collins since his return from 1840.
Willie didn't know a lot about that trip. It had occurred after Barnabas had dealt with that vampire, Roxanne Drew. Willie remembered her. She was beautiful, but deadly. She had used an astrologer, Sebastian Shaw, as her servant, just as Barnabas had used Willie. The problem had come when Shaw fell for Maggie Evans, the governess at Collinwood. The two of them ran off not long after Roxanne had been chained in the secret room, with a cross on her chest. Barnabas couldn't bring himself to drive a stake through her heart, because she reminded him of another Roxanne Drew he met while tripping out in another dimension.
Julia Hoffman had taken care of the she-leech. Maggie was almost her victim, but she was healed fine, and the next thing Willie knew, she and Sebastian had driven off, never to be heard from again. Maybe that was what Barnabas was upset about. He used to like Maggie, Willie remembered. Willie was in the study, carrying a tray of food for Barnabas. He looked up at the beautiful portrait of Josette duPres, Maggie's dead-ringer, and decided that it was Maggie who made Barnabas unhappy.
His master was seated at his desk, looking over some stock reports. Barnabas had learned about the stock exchange quickly, and had taken what money was left over from refurnishing the old house and invested it. It was paying off, and paying off handsomely. Willie never figured out how Barnabas had gotten so lucky, picking out that one stock which had risen so high, the one with the funny name—Xerox.
"Here's your lunch, Barnabas," he announced, setting down the tray with a clatter of silverware. "Chicken salad sandwiches and iced tea."
"Good," nodded the darkly handsome Barnabas as he studied sheets of figures, "it will be a welcome change from those gastronomic nightmares you call cheeseburgers."
"Well, we can always go down to the Blue Whale," Willie offered as he uncovered the tray.
"To what end?" Barnabas tossed down the sheets and fixed Willie with a piercing glance. For a moment, Willie almost expected to see the vampire fangs, wicked and gleaming, but he knew that they had been cured. "What good is a life when there is nobody to share it with? When one learns of true love, only to have it snatched away so callously, why should one bother making further efforts? I can only be hurt so much."
"Come on, boss, you can't keep moping around this pile of bricks. There are others besides Maggie."
"I wasn't even thinking of her. There was Roxanne, from whom I was separated by fire in the Parallel Time, only to find her again and learn that in this time, she was a vampire. After that, in 1840, I learned once and for all that Angelique's love was genuine, that she regretted her past cruelty, and had freed me from my curse. Then, when I felt able to return that love, she was snatched away by that damned Lamar Trask, cursed be his entire lineage."
"She might come back," Willie theorized. "After all, she's showed up a couple of times."
"But, she was so different," Barnabas complained, examining his luncheon fare with distaste. "Her evil master has bound her closely to him, and I am unsure if the Angelique of today is not more like her former vindictive self. Who knows how the change in history has affected things? You remember Angelique, and Sebastian Shaw, and Roxanne, but what of Gerard Stiles?"
"No, just what you told me."
"My point exactly. History has changed, and Angelique must have changed as well. Which reminds me, what of Roxanne Drew's coffin. Is it still secured in the basement hidden room?"
"Don't know, boss. I haven't been down there since you got back. Haven't really needed to."
"For God's sake, Willie, what if Shaw sneaked back and freed her? She could have used her powers to call him."
"Don't think so, boss. I think he and Maggie were pretty set on getting away from here pronto."
"Still, there might have been other of her victims. We must be sure. Come on!"
Covering the tray, Willie turned and followed his master. Barnabas cut a dashing figure in his dark gray wool suit, contrasting sharply with Willie's leather jacket, turtleneck, and jeans. Their boots clattered hollowly on the stone steps leading to the basement, and soon Barnabas was turning the hidden latch to the secret room, the room in which he had once concealed his own coffin.
The old lock gave in grudgingly, and little-used hinges protested loudly. New cobwebs hung in dust laden loops until they broke off in fluffy explosions and the door was forced open. Willie found a flashlight on a bench near the door and thumbed it to life. Barnabas grabbed it from him and thrust the light into the hidden room. Its sickly yellowish radiance revealed a dustª-coated interior, void of decoration or adornment.
"She's gone!" Barnabas clipped.
Carolyn Stoddard had just gotten used to Quentin's return when she heard the hollow booming of the front door knockers. No doubt it was the police, she decided, heading for the foyer. All of Collinsport had been abuzz that morning over the mysterious death of one of The Maine Belle's crewmen. Rumors abounded, ranging from shipboard romance to flying saucers as the cause. Quentin had maintained an air of silence over the matter, and it irked her. This new mystery had almost made her forget the late Jeb Hawkes, but not quite. However, upon opening the massive front door, Jeb Hawkes temporarily disappeared from her mind.
Standing there in the bright spring sunlight was a man, tall and gaunt. He was probably two inches taller than Quentin, but his frame was bony and angular. Upon his high-domed forehead was plastered a thin outcropping of almost colorless hair. His hollow-cheeked face bore a set of smoldering blue eyes, which regarded Carolyn boldly.
"Yes?" she inquired, a catch in her voice.
"Are you the daughter of Roger Collins?" the man countered in full, deep voice.
Carolyn shook her head slowly, causing her blonde locks to tumble about her shoulders. "No, I'm his niece. Uncle Roger is not home. He's out of town on business. Perhaps my mother could help you."
"You will do," the man stated, after giving her more consideration. He rubbed his pointed chin with a slender, long fingered hand. To Carolyn, it looked like the hand of a virtuoso, or a strangler. She repressed a slight shudder as his eyes swept her form. "Actually, I have come here on family business. You see, I am Godfrey Collins."
Carolyn was non-plussed. She had never heard of a Godfrey Collins.
"What branch of the family do you come from?" she asked, still considering whether or not to let the man in. He did have some resemblance to the Collinses, especially around the nose and mouth.
"I am a descendant of Thaddeus Collins," admitted the stranger.
Carolyn had heard that name from Professor Stokes and Julia Hoffman. They had encountered a Thaddeus Collins in 1840. Perhaps the stranger was telling the truth. She decided to take the chance. Stepping back, she opened the door wider.
"Won't you come in?" she offered. "I am sure that mother is anxious to meet you. Cousin Quentin will probably be interested as well."
"Quentin Collins?" Godfrey demanded. "Descended, no doubt, from Edith Collins."
"Yes," she confirmed as he entered the Great House. "We are all direct descendants of Edith and Gabriel Collins, that is, of course, except for cousin Barnabas."
"Barnabas Collins," Godfrey pronounced slowly.
"Yes." Carolyn was leading him up the long hall to the drawing room. "He is a descendant from the English branch. Long ago, the first Barnabas Collins returned to England, and Barnabas returned here about six years ago."
"Of course." Carolyn didn't like the way Godfrey spoke those words. It was almost as if he was laughing at a secret joke.
Barnabas Collins was distraught.
Now dressed in a bleached cotton hunting outfit, he was wearily trudging back to the Old House. Beside him was an equally despondent Willie Loomis. Barnabas' once-pristine quilted coat was now smudged and ripped, and his pants had mud caked on each knee. Willie had a cut on one cheek, and his boots were brown with cracked, dried mud.
They had spent the afternoon searching in the cemetery for Roxanne Drew. They had tried the secret room in the mausoleum, various unlocked crypts, and every conceivable location sizable enough for her coffin. The results were nil.
"She had help," Willie decided wearily.
"No doubt," Barnabas replied, too tired to point out the obviousness of Willie's statement.
"Well, what are we going to do?"
"We need more people involved in the search."
Willie pointed up the path to the mansion. "Well, there's Quentin now. We might as well tell him and get it over with."
Quentin was waiting for them on the steps. He was dressed in matching denim jacket and pants. Barnabas secretly envied Quentin on his ability to adapt to new styles and attitudes. But then, he realized, Quentin had been born over a hundred years closer to this time than he had.
"You fellows look like you've been chasing rabbits through the brambles," Quentin greeted.
By way of answer, Barnabas produced a hammer and stake from the large pockets of his shooting jacket. Quentin's dark eyebrows raised in amazement.
"Roxanne Drew?" he asked.
"Her coffin disappeared from the secret room," Barnabas answered. "We have no idea when or how. I have not left the Old House since returning from the past, though I suppose her accomplice could have sneaked in at night when I am asleep."
"Who could it have been? Do you think Sebastian Shaw is back in town?"
"Unlikely." Barnabas went inside, removing his soiled boots in the foyer. Willie followed suit. With Quentin, they sat about the various benches and chairs in the foyer. "If you recall about Shaw, he was prepared to empty a pistol full of silver bullets into Roxanne."
"As if that would have worked," Quentin snorted. "He had his curses mixed up. Still, he had the right idea." He gave Barnabas a knowing look.
"I couldn't bring myself to do it," Barnabas explained. "She was so much like that other Roxanne, in Parallel Time."
"Leave a problem undone, and it just comes back to haunt you," Quentin snapped, hammering in his point. "You are as bad as your father."
"And I would not be here if my father was as hard-hearted as you think I should be. In this case, however, you appear to have been correct. Elliot Stokes and Julia should be told."
"You can tell them yourself, tonight," Quentin offered.
"I don't understand."
"That's why I'm here," Quentin revealed. "Elizabeth is having a dinner party tonight. A friend of Elliot Stokes is coming over, as well as one of our cousins."
"Godfrey Collins, from Boston."
"I am not familiar with him."
"Nor am I. It was my understanding that he is descended from Thaddeus Collins."
"Tad? But he died in the Civil War."
"Perhaps our new found cousin will explain that at the dinner party. It gives you some incentive to show up."
Barnabas nodded grimly, his gaunt face suddenly lost in shadow. "I will be there. We must pray that Roxanne Drew has not been released."
Quentin rose and headed for the door. "Well, I'm sure that you and Willie need to bathe and change. In the meantime, I'll keep my ears open for any sign of Roxanne Drew."
Dinner began promptly at seven.
The eleven people seated in Collinwood's spacious dining room were all rather preoccupied, though, for some reason or other. This was evident by the half-hearted way they picked over an excellent repast of Maine lobster tails sautéed in butter and oyster stew composed of bivalves imported all the way from Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. The cook threw up her hands in disgust and nearly quit, but Elizabeth managed to calm her down without disturbing her guests.
Stately and regal in the best tradition of Maine society, Elizabeth Collins Stoddard hosted her gathering with a panache slowly being eroded by an age of fast food and instant gratification. With Roger absent, she sat at the table's head, with young David at her left and Carolyn at her right. Barnabas, Willie, and Quentin faced Elliot Stokes, Richard Wentworth, and his daughter Beverly. Dr. Julia Hoffman sat beside Beverly and had the privilege of sitting across from Godfrey Collins. She found his conversation to be witty, but she was aware that his luminous blue eyes studied every occupant of the dining room, especially the members of the Collins family.
"Where is cousin Roger?" Godfrey politely asked as he prodded his string beans.
"Gone to New York," Elizabeth replied, frowning slightly. "He is meeting with representatives of the International Business Machine Company to study the feasibility of computerizing some of our business interests. Do you know that one of them told him that in ten years over a third of the households in this country will have computers in their homes? 'Personal Computers' I believe he said."
"You cannot fight progress," Godfrey advised. "Only three years ago, we put a man on the moon. Once we remove ourselves from this terrible war in Asia, you will see even more wonders."
"I am sure President Nixon knows what he is doing," David piped up, not wishing to be left out of the conversation.
"No doubt," Godfrey said dubiously.
"Why don't you tell us about your branch of the Collins family, Godfrey?" suggested Julia Hoffman. The trim analyst from Windclyffe Sanitarium caused all eyes to look in Godfrey's direction by her question. "I have been engaged, off an on, in writing a history of the Collins family. There is nothing in the family records here beyond the death of Thaddeus Collins in the Civil War, at the battle of Gettysburg."
"Of course, Doctor Hoffman," Godfrey agreed, and his expression became so pleasant that his strong features almost gave him a leering aspect. "As you know, records do get lost in war. Thaddeus, or Tad Collins as he was known to the family, was engaged in many actions in Maryland and Pennsylvania. His regiment was one of those who joined with Purnell's Legion in driving the Confederates from Virginia's Eastern Shore. On the eve of Gettysburg, he was still in the vicinity. His unit was garrisoning Somerset County, in Maryland.
"There, he met his first and only love. She was Mary Catherine Bowen, of Bowen's Island. She came from a line of Bowens who had settled upon one of Chesapeake Bay's many islands. Indeed, old Ezra Bowen ran the island like a private kingdom. However, that is another story. Thaddeus Collins met and fell in love with Ezra's daughter, Mary. They were to be married, but Thaddeus's unit was called away when Lee invaded the North. A week later, his body was one of hundreds littering the field of Gettysburg. However, his life was not without issue.
"Mary Bowen made enquiries, and discovered Quentin Collins living in Boston with Daphne Harridge Collins. Of course, she took with her the child of her and Thaddeus' love. Quentin accepted Mary, and the child was given the name of Collins. A sizable portion of Quentin's inheritance went to the child, and, along with Mary's not inconsiderable assets, he grew to success."
"And so, this was your ancestor?" Quentin remarked. "I am surprised that none of your line visited us before?"
"Letters were written, but Edith's children never answered them," Godfrey revealed, and his pleasant demeanor vanished. "So, since Thaddeus' son was considered an outcast by those who lived in Collinwood, it was deemed best that no further contact be made."
"Until now," Barnabas noted. "Why?"
"Indeed, why?" Godfrey countered, turning his electric gaze in the ex-vampire's direction. "I suppose there was a yearning for me to see Collinwood, the great mansion that Thaddeus had described so glowingly to Mary Bowen, who in turn described it to her son. That same son whom Edward Collins would not acknowledge, the one whom he and Quentin Collins II considered a bastard, I might add."
Barnabas repressed an urge to glance at Quentin. Dinner broke up, and the entire group went into the drawing room for drinks. Elizabeth took Godfrey's hand as they filed in, and Barnabas saw gentle compassion shining in her eyes.
"Whatever our forebears considered your relations," she began in a calm tone, "you may rest assured that we are a very kind and loving family. You will always have a home here if you need one."
Godfrey placed his other hand atop hers and gave it a firm squeeze. "You need not fear for my well-being, cousin Elizabeth. Even if I did not possess the wealth of my inheritance, my profession would amply provide for my needs."
"What do you do?" Carolyn asked.
"My field is physics," he answered, releasing Elizabeth and taking up a brandy snifter proffered by Quentin, who was acting as unofficial bartender.
"Indeed?" spoke up Richard Wentworth. "We have something in common. My research is in conductivity. I am attempting to see how much can be stored on one of these new micro-chips. Theoretical physics says that we may soon be able to put a processor capable of hundreds of operations on a chip of silicon the size of a thumbtack head."
"Why stop there?" Godfrey challenged. "Why not thousands, or even millions? Such machines would revolutionize industry. The work of hundreds could be done by one machine. An entire warship could be controlled by a bank of computers, machines able to react hundreds of times faster than humans."
"Really, Mr. Collins!" spoke up Beverly. "If you don't mind, I hear enough of this talk from my father. Can we not discuss something a bit lighter?"
"Forgive me," Godfrey stated, and Barnabas noted what appeared to be genuine humor in the smoldering blue eyes of Godfrey Collins. "Certainly it was not my intention to put a dull edge on the evening's conversation. Quite the contrary, I had hoped to liven up things around here with my arrival. Allow me to pop out to my car and I will show you some gifts."
"Really, Godfrey, that wasn't necessary," Elizabeth protested. However, without replying, he disappeared out the door. Barnabas took the time to discretely speak with Elliot Stokes and Julia Hoffman.
"Roxanne Drew's coffin has disappeared," he whispered, after drawing them to one corner of the room. "Willie and I spent the afternoon looking for it, but without luck."
"Are you sure it even existed after we changed history?" Julia questioned.
"Yes, it existed," Barnabas admitted ruefully. "Both Willie and Quentin remember it. Evidently, she was not destroyed in 1840, and the entire incident with Sebastian Shaw and her would have happened no matter what we did in the past. However, since he disappeared with Maggie, the question remains, who helped her escape?"
"Angelique," Julia guessed, with more than a hint of bitterness. "She controlled Roxanne in 1840, and almost had her kill me!"
Barnabas thought for a moment, then shook his proud head slowly. "No, I cannot believe it of her. After what happened in 1840—"
"That was 1840!" Julia snapped. "We all have the memories of her mischief here in the present. They haven't changed, and neither has she. You know that your judgement becomes clouded in these matters, Barnabas."
"You are right, as always, Julia," he agreed. "What would I do without your level-headed counsel? Still, if Angelique were involved, I suspect that she would have paid me a visit by now. Until we learn the truth, then, let us not close our minds to any possibility."
"Excellent idea," Stokes remarked. "Best get over to the others now. Here comes Godfrey back."
"He's another mystery," Julia stated. "I'd watch him, Barnabas."
He squeezed her shoulder gently. "Don't worry, old friend, I will."
Godfrey Collins burst into the drawing room bearing a large armload of brightly wrapped gifts. Setting them down on a piano bench, he began to pass them out. "Here, Barnabas," he said as he proffered his gifts. "You first. Because of what I understand is your predilection for the nocturnal, you should enjoy this book on bats." Barnabas smiled, but it was forced. "Thank you," he managed.
Godfrey produced an oblong package for Quentin. "For cousin Quentin, a fine leather belt."
Unwrapping the package, Quentin opened the box and examined the belt. "How unusual. It's double woven, and feels padded. What type of leather is it?"
"A unique design, wouldn't you agree?" Godfrey parried. "For the ladies, some Lucite jewelry. Those pendants contain rare painted spiders. Quite deadly, but of course, harmless in their encasement. Exquisite, aren't they?"
"Yes," Elizabeth agreed, turning hers idly so that the various colors of the spider gleamed in the lamplight. Carolyn immediately put hers on.
"Lastly, David," said Godfrey, drawing forth a large package. "Here, my boy."
"Gee, thanks!" breathed David, as he unwrapped his present to reveal a Lucite globe the size of a bowling ball. Inside it was a huge scorpion, frozen forever in the position of striking.
"A giant scorpion from the Middle East," Godfrey explained."I was sure that the boy would like it. I suppose Roger's gift can wait until he returns. Well, it's getting quite late, and I must be going. There is much to be done in the morning."
"Well, we certainly appreciate your coming," Elizabeth said. "I again express my apologies for what has transpired in the past. You have shown yourself to be a welcome member of the family, and we hope to see more of you in the future."
"Have no fear," Godfrey promised, "you will."
Some hours later, Beverly Wentworth was in her own bed, having fallen quickly asleep after her return from Collinwood. She had little time to wonder over the sights she had seen, and how proud and courtly the Collinses had been. Even the new one, Godfrey, had displayed a certain air of society in his mannerisms. Of course, Quentin had been the one to occupy most of her thoughts. How handsome he was! Then again, she had little opportunity to cultivate his attention, what with Godfrey overshadowing the affair with his gift-giving, but there would be other opportunities, of that she would be sure.
She slept, and as she did, a dream stole upon her unconsciousness. She was suddenly transported, still dressed in her nightgown, to a mist-shrouded wood. White tendrils curled about the rough boles of sturdy pines, and a bloated full moon hung overhead. Before her, upon a rise, was silhouetted the Great House at Collinwood. A single light shown in a window. Knowing no other recourse, she began to make for it.
Beverly had never known so real a dream. Her slim white feet were prickled by wet grass, and suddenly, her heart was sent racing by a twig snapping behind her. Looking back, she saw two red eyes, glowing like living coals. Putting a hand to her mouth to stifle a scream, Beverly began to run up the path she was on. The house seemed so far away now, and she could hear something padding along the path behind her.
She ran on, but she knew instinctively that she would never make it. Now she heard the creature's labored breathing. Beverly could stand it no longer. Spinning, she faced her tormentor. To her horror, it was neither beast nor man, but a hideous travesty of both. It loped along in a strange, malformed fashion, and its misshapen, wolf-like head reared back to reveal a mouth full of wicked fangs. Beverly was beyond hope as the iron-gray creature prepared to spring.
Then, without warning, a tall man dressed all in black interposed himself between Beverly and the creature. Beverly had only a glimpse of the man's face, but she noted severely pulled back hair, a wide mouth with full, sensuous lips, and eyes that burned with the finality of death. In his right hand was an ornate silver cross, and as she watched, it glowed incandescently.
"Back!" snapped the man. "Back to your pit! How are you fallen, O Lucifer, Son of the Morning!"
Beverly's shattered senses could take the tableau no longer and with a start, she awoke. Staring in disbelief, she realized that she was in her own bedroom, though her blankets were twisted and half lying in the floor. Sweat drenched her slender body, and her breath was labored. It had been so real, but it had to have been a dream. It had to have been.
At about that time, Godfrey Collins was in the basement of the old McGruder mansion. He touched a gas-light stanchion, and a section of the wall slid quietly aside. Slipping inside, Godfrey was now in a small foyer. He traded his houndstooth coat for a white lab smock, and then went into an adjoining room. This room was large and spacious, containing a jumble of apparatus decidedly foreign to the ancient edifice above his head. A bank of computers and related machinery covered one wall, while opposite them was a series of glass jars. These jars, however, were eight feet tall, and every one had hoses connected to them that ran to some pumping apparatus that purred quietly in one corner.
In the opposite corner sat a coffin wrapped in stout chains.
Godfrey rubbed his hands anxiously. He stopped before two of the glass jars, and these contained people. They were quite alive, though their haggard faces were a testament to their ordeal. One was an attractive brunette woman, her liquid eyes full of hatred for the man that stood before her. The other was a slender man whose hair was a mass of shaggy bronze curls. His large, luminous eyes had dark circles about them, and he beat upon the glass walls of his prison, but to no avail.
"There, there, Mr. Shaw," admonished Godfrey in a mocking tone. "Violence will do you no good. You are only upsetting Miss Evans there."
"When I get out of here, I'll strangle you!" shouted Sebastian Shaw, but his voice came thickly through the glass.
"Now, now! You don't have your horoscopes, so you have no way of knowing if you'll ever get out of there. But perhaps you will. I might even let you do my horoscope. Certainly you have helped me make my future bright by giving me valuable information."
"Only because you threatened to suffocate Maggie!" Shaw growled. Savagely, he threw himself against the jar, as if to overturn it, but it did not budge.
"It would have been so interesting to see how long it would take her to suffocate as the air was withdrawn from her jar! Well, you were cooperative, so I suppose I should be grateful. After all, you are helping me achieve my lifelong dream—the total destruction of the Collins family!"
IV—THE CYCLE BEGINS ANEW
Beverly Wentworth should have been an artist.
In fact, she had always been drawn to self-expression. Her college studies had all been geared toward the arts, and she had sold several paintings over the years. Loath to leave the parents who had raised her so dearly, Beverly had turned down several offers from large advertising firms to relocate to New York. Instead, she managed her father's voluminous correspondence and taught classes part-time at the local university. She had no real need to work, since her father's profession rewarded him amply enough to insure his adopted daughter's financial security, but she had little of the temperament of the idle rich.
Immediately after dawn, she had arisen and gone to her studio. Replacing a half-finished painting of St. Eustace Island with her large sketch pad, she opened it to a blank page. Beverly then selected several drawing pencils. She studied the pristine rectangle as it sat upon her easel, recalling in her mind the events of her dream. Then, without further hesitation, she began to delineate what she had seen.
Beverly's hands trembled at first, but her determination won out, and within an hour, she had reproduced her nightmare. Hunched and fiend-like as if it had sprung from a medieval engraving was the monster. Before was the man in black, his hanging-judge face set as he held forth his cross. The man's eyes were the toughest aspect. She remembered them being as hard as chips of diamond. Satisfied, she set down her pencils and collapsed in a nearby kitchen chair. Though she had worked but an hour, the ordeal of remembrance had drained her.
What had caused her to dream of this? It was unlike anything she had ever seen before. No horror movie or novel had ever contained such a scene. It was so real.
"There you are, kitten," came a voice.
Beverly's head came up in a cloud of bronze hair. Gray eyes wide, she turned to find her father standing there in his velvet dressing gown, steaming coffee cup in hand.
"I'm sorry; did I startle you?" he asked in dismay.
"Sorry, Daddy," she gasped. "I was lost in thought." She got up, dusted her hands, smoothed her dingy smock, and went to stand a yard from him. "Daddy, do you believe dreams have significance?"
"Dreams are how the human mind sorts out its daily input," Richard Wentworth replied. "Their greatest significance is perhaps their therapeutic ability. We can escape our troubles in dreams, on occasion."
"Can we?" She locked her gaze with his. "Can dreams come true?"
"In a technical sense, some can. We dream of marriage, of success, and because we succeed, or marry, then they do come true. Dreams are no more than a safety valve. Why this sudden interest? Did you have a nightmare?"
"Yes," she admitted, feeling slightly foolish. "I dreamed of this." She indicated her drawing. Richard Wentworth studied it with slight interest, taking a hesitant sip from his cup as he did so.
"Bizarre," was his only comment.
"What does it mean, Daddy? I have never seen anything like this."
"Your mind is very agile, kitten. Of course, you may have picked up the image unconsciously. There was once a case of a fellow who remembered an entire obscure language while under hypnosis. Everyone believed it to be proof of reincarnation. It was later learned that he once glanced at a page of a book containing that language. You never know what memories are retained only to be released later. It was just a dream. Leave it at that."
"If you say so, Daddy," Beverly agreed dubiously. She took another glance at the deadly gaze of the man in black, and a shudder coursed through her slender frame. Then, the telephone rang, causing her to thrill anew.
"Who in the devil?" Richard Wentworth wondered. "This is pretty early."
She picked up the receiver and spoke into it. "Wentworth residence."
"Beverly Wentworth?" a strong male voice demanded.
"This is she."
"I hope I haven't gotten you out of bed. This is Quentin Collins."
"Not at all!" she assured him, thoughts of her dream vanishing.
"Well, I like an energetic person. Last night, your father told Professor Stokes that you are something of an artist."
"Little more than a hobby," she answered modestly. She thought about painting his portrait—the strong, proud features offset by his mass of dark hair. His powerful body, lean and agile like a wolf's—did I mean to use that adjective?
"That's not what I understand," he returned. "Your father claims that you are wasting your talents up here."
"What do you expect from one's father?" she asked, giving Richard Wentworth a loving smile. He raised his coffee cup in salute. "At any rate, what do you require?"
"We have found a new cousin, as you realized from the dinner last night. I was thinking that it was time to have a family portrait done, something unique in the history of the Collins family."
"Nearly unique these days, Mr. Collins. Most people have photographers do portraits. It's usually much cheaper."
"Call me old-fashioned. While you're at it, by all means, call me Quentin."
"Only if you call me Beverly. Do you have any idea of the cost of a full-size family portrait?"
"I am unconcerned, Miss-er-Beverly. When family is involved, money is no object."
"There is also a matter of time. Can I reasonably expect the entire Collins family to sit and pose for me?"
"A good question. It may be that you will have to complete the work in stages, as time permits one or the other to stand for you. Certainly you only need their faces?"
"Well, I could substitute others for the bodies and then put in details unique to the person later, but I must have the living subjects part of the time."
"Of course. Well, it sounds like we have a deal."
"Yes, sir, you've bought yourself a horse, as the saying goes around here," she laughed.
"Good enough," he agreed, and heard humor in his voice, too. "Perhaps we could discuss details over dinner at the Blue Whale? That is, if you are free tonight?"
Am I? You bet, she thought, but she said instead: "Tonight will be fine."
"Excellent. If you will give me directions, I'll pick you up at seven, if Liz will allow me use of her car. Otherwise, we may have to travel by horseback."
"I could pick you up," she offered.
"Please! I know that equality is the norm among the sexes these days, but allow me some shred of male chauvinism. I shall see you at seven."
She gave him directions and he rang off. Replacing the phone in its cradle, Beverly sat back and stared in wonderment at her father, who was idly draining his cup.
"That was Quentin Collins," she breathed. "He wants me to do a painting of the entire family. We're having dinner tonight to discuss the matter."
"Sounds like a wonderful opportunity. Classes are near the mid-semester break, so you should have time to work there. My correspondence should be manageable, and if not, I can always hire some temporary help."
"Oh, Daddy, you don't know what this means! To paint a family like the Collinses."
"I think the dinner invitation carried some weight, as well."
"Daddy! He is handsome, though, and a Collins."
"Beverly, kitten, you went away to school, and being adopted, well you don't know all about the Collinses. Though they are the number one family in this area, they have a rather dark past."
"Past is the operative word here, Daddy. This is now, the 1970's. The past is dead."
"With the Collins, nothing is ever dead, for long."
Godfrey Collins was in the study of the old McGruder place.
He sat before a beautiful antique roll-top desk, and was working on some complicated formulas. Littered about him in odd piles were books on diverse subjects, some scientific, some bizarre. While the symbology of some were couched in mathematical terms, others used the icons of necromancy and Kabbalism, as well as cursive Arabic. Godfrey seemed at ease when searching through either type. Nearly buried in this librarian's nightmare was a stand that held a computer keyboard and its attendant monitor. Cables snaked from these incongruous contraptions, to be lost in a hole callously drilled through an exquisite Persian carpet.
Occasionally, Godfrey would stop his scribbling to either look up something, or to enter data into his computer that lay beneath his feet in the hidden basement room. He recited some formula out loud, using words difficult for his human mouth to form. At times, the air would shimmer about him, or an object would start moving, seemingly of its own accord. At other times, strange noises seemed to spring from nowhere. Some would sound like howling winds, though not a breath stirred without. Then would come a melancholy keening, or a series of moans or shrieks. Godfrey usually seemed satisfied with his results.
He worked ceaselessly, like some articulated insect, forgetting food or the time, until long shadows fell across his unkempt lawn. Godfrey remained totally absorbed in his work until he felt a human presence in the room. Turning and cocking his head in a praying mantis-like fashion, he found his chief henchman, Jaffir. Dressed in black turtleneck and pants, in adherence to Godfrey's orders, Jaffir stood out against the lamplight like an ebon cutout. Large olive eyes contrasted against his swarthy face, eyes that held a tinge of fear amid the respect he held for his master.
"What is it, Jaffir?" Godfrey demanded.
"Almost sunset," Jaffir stated, pointing a scarred hand toward the window.
Godfrey nodded, watching the shadows encroach upon Collinsport like a phantom army. He smiled a deaths-head sort of smile and smoothed out his clothes with his long fingers. Then he got up and walked past Jaffir to the door. "Can't keep our guest waiting, can we, Jaffir?"
"No sir." Jaffir returned the smile with a wolfish grin of his own, showing gleaming, crooked teeth beneath the stiff bristles of his drooping mustache. He followed his master out into the hall, and down the steps to the basement.
"Full moon tonight, right?" Godfrey asked as they descended into the damp atmosphere of the depths.
"Yes, sir," Jaffir responded.
"Excellent. It should be quite a week, Jaffir, quite a week. And when it's done, I shall be master of Collinwood, and all my dear sweet, patronizing relatives will be dead—or worse. We shall live like kings, Jaffir."
"Yes, sir." Jaffir's tone sounded jubilant. "Much blood then?"
"Much." Godfrey rubbed his hands together and then turned the stanchion that opened his secret passageway. "All triumphs are usually at someone's expense, and I can't think of anyone more deserving that my well-bred cousins. So high and mighty, and yet so riddled with their own kinds of evil. How they have tried to throw off their curses! Too bad Edith and Edward are beyond my reach! No matter, I will extract what I am owed from those that linger on. Who will be assisting us?"
"Colbourne and Webster, sir."
"Vilest of the vile, those two. Excellent pair for such work."
They entered the musty-smelling room. Godfrey worried about the moisture seeping into his prized electronic equipment, but there was no help for it. Things must be concealed, at least, until the week was out. Then, if all went well, he could move openly. Godfrey went to a cabinet and produced several large crucifixes. He then went over to the coffin that sat in one end of his secret room. There Godfrey found his two henchmen waiting for him. He handed a crucifix to each, and one to Jaffir.
Then, from a pocket, Godfrey took out an ivory box, about the size of a pencil case. From it, he plucked a stick of black, greasy-looking chalk. Bending down, he inscribed a circle about the coffin with his chalk, occasionally stopping to draw a symbol along its inside perimeter. Satisfied, he returned his chalk to its case. Then, almost lovingly, Godfrey ran his spidery hangman's hands over the coffin's veneer where it was not crisscrossed by heavy chains.
"Have you the cold chisel and hammer, Jaffir?" Godfrey demanded.
"Yes, sir," replied the taciturn lackey, holding up both tools for Godfrey's inspection.
"You may begin, then," Godfrey instructed.
Jaffir and his cohorts used the hammer and chisel to strike off the confining chains, the sound of their blows making a terrible din in the room. Finally, they fell away with a soughing rattle. Godfrey fingered the plated handles of the coffin for a moment. Then, with an expression of glee, he got a firm grip and flung the lid back. It struck the floor with a dull booming sound.
Nestled within the coffin's padded satin interior was Roxanne Drew. Godfrey had never seen her in life, but he knew her story well. His months-long torture of Sebastian Shaw and Maggie Evans had paid off handsomely. He thought back at his intricate plans. He had kept a watch on Collinwood for nearly a year, doing research and gathering information. When Shaw's convertible came roaring away from Collinwood, it was easily intercepted by Godfrey's men as it passed through the woods.
Yes, his gamble had matured into marvelous dividends.
Roxanne Drew lay stiffly within her coffin. Her liquid eyes were staring wide open, as if they saw only a raging horror. Upon her breast lay a crucifix.
"Ready with those crosses, boys," Godfrey ordered. "Make a circle. The ring I drew about the casket will keep her from turning to mist or animal form, but she can still use her superior strength and speed, not to mention her hypnotic will. I believe that is how she escaped her fate in 1840. They thought her trapped, but at the last second before sunrise, she turned to mist and fled to her hiding place. This will not occur again. That chalk was made from demon's blood, and combined with those symbols, will dampen the magic powers of any hellspawn. Now, steady on, for I'm removing her crucifix."
While one hand held his own cross, his right hand dipped into Roxanne Drew's bosom and plucked away the offending talisman. The effect was immediate. Her expression of revulsion turned into one of animalistic rage, transforming her beautiful features. She sat up in her coffin, and, when faced with a sea of crucifixes, bared her gleaming fangs and hissed like a great cat at bay.
"What have you done?" she snarled at Godfrey, who stood closest. "Why do you release me, to torment me more? Ah, you have power, as well, for I feel my ability to change my form has been bound. You have me so chained, no doubt, because you wish something of me. Beware, my jailer, to have a care. Though I have lived long, my riches are small, while my anger is great. Sebastian!" Her eyes fell upon the large jars across the room. "Now I see. You have caught my old servant, and have wrung my secret from him. And what a lever! You've got the girl, too."
"I have quite an arsenal," Godfrey assured her. "More than enough to destroy you if that were my intention. Instead, I offer you a return to your existence."
"In exchange for what? There is an enemy you wish destroyed? Why not do it yourself if your powers are so great?"
"I wish to torture those I will use you against. After that, you may live unmolested under my protection, or again travel the world as you see fit. It is for you to choose."
"I will consider your bargain. Tell me what has happened since I was chained by that shrew Julia Hoffman and her lackey Willie Loomis. First, though, I thirst. Who will offer their throats to me? Or perhaps you will give me dear Maggie? The nectar of her veins is infinitely sweeter that any of yours."
"In time, mayhap, if she or Mr. Shaw do not behave. I have what you crave, fear not."
Turning away, Godfrey Collins went to a small refrigerator and brought out a bottle of blood identical to that used by hospitals. The label from Collinsport General was still attached. Godfrey opened it and handed it to Roxanne. The vampire drank greedily. Once done, she returned the empty vessel to Godfrey, licking about her beautiful lips and revealing her wicked fangs as she did so. If Godfrey was dismayed by her feeding, he showed no sign of it. Instead, he took one spidery hand and stroked Roxanne's short red tresses.
"Excellent," he murmured, "excellent."
"It was poor fare," she complained. "Cold and stale. I wish it hot and pumping from its living container. Name your deed, so that I may be fulfilled."
"Very well," Godfrey Collins agreed. "I wish you to return Barnabas Collins to his former state. Turn him back into a vampire!"
CHAPTER V — DINNER INTERRUPTED
Beverly Wentworth was in heaven.
Well, at least she considered herself close to that exalted realm. Her day had been long and agonizing, accentuated by her anticipation of the evening's dinner plans. She chose her outfit carefully, trying to avoid appearing the wanton, yet wanting to be beautiful. Finally, Beverly settled for a dark maxi-skirt and boots, accompanied by a khaki blouse. Her jewelry was tasteful and her makeup unobtrusive. She had no intention of scaring off Quentin Collins.
Seven o'clock eventually dragged itself around the dial of her watch. She heard the crackle of tires across gravel out front, and assumed it to be Quentin. Eagerly, she listened as the doorbell rang, and her father answered it. There was a muffled exchange of pleasantries, and then her father's strong voice called her name. Grabbing her purse in a hand that trembled slightly, she walked regally down the stairs and into the foyer.
He was even more handsome, if that was possible. He wore a champagne-colored turtleneck, over which rested a navy-blue sport coat, bearing the Collins family crest on its pocket. Black pants ended in gleaming leather boots. She wanted to run to his arms, but she dismissed the urging as both silly and adolescent.
"Good evening," she returned, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Liz was gracious as ever," Quentin said. "Of course, Carolyn offered her car, but I didn't know if you cared for Volkswagen Beetles with large pink flowers painted on them."
"Actually, I prefer yellow," she replied.
"Well, enjoy yourselves, you two," Richard broke in. "And, Kitten, not too awfully late, please?"
"Daddy!" she gasped, scandalized. "This is as much business as pleasure. We have much to discuss. A family portrait!"
"Ah, yes, immortality." Richard Wentworth gave a last grin and returned to the living room.
"Of a sort," Quentin murmured, as he offered his arm to Beverly. She took it immediately, thrilling to the strength she felt beneath his sleeve. Gallantly, he held the door of Liz's polished Continental and, sliding behind the wheel himself, started them on their journey.
"You drive as if you were riding a horse," she observed. "All dash and spurs. You should buy yourself a sports car."
"Perhaps," he considered.
They drove through Collinsport's well-lit streets to the Blue Whale, encountering an oppressive fog several blocks beforehand. Sitting at a booth, Beverly found Quentin commanding the space with his presence. He was handsome, virile, and his finger held no trace of a wedding band. What more could she ask for? Shame on Daddy for mentioning the dark stories about the Collinses. Obviously made up by gossips and jealous people! They had drinks, then ordered the seafood that made The Blue Whale such a local favorite.
"I noticed that you are wearing that belt your cousin gave you," she said as they awaited dinner. "It is quite nice."
"Very comfortable," he acknowledged. "Strange grain to the leather, but supple. Feels like its padded."
"Very odd about your cousin showing up after all that."
"The Collins family is very old. We settled this area in the 1600's. I am surprised that we don't hear from more cousins. He's a Collins, though. I recognize the nose, and the chin. You know, I always wondered what happened to the first Quentin Collins and his kin. Quite a few Collinses went to war. Tad was a major when he was killed. Well, so much for that; let's talk about the portrait."
Talk they did, until dinner arrived. Then, they said little as they feasted on succulent Maine lobster. Outside their round window, the fog began to part like a rotten garment, revealing the rising of the moon.
"What do you do, if I'm not prying, Quentin?" Beverly asked while waiting for dessert.
"Now?" he returned. "Ah, nothing at the moment. I've made a few investments that have paid off, so I'm not really strapped for cash, but still, I suppose I should be looking for a new challenge. Even though I'm not deeply rooted, I still come back here, so I'm not sure what is in store for me. I've considered the wild and adventurous—perhaps raising the Titanic. Then, I've considered other things. Perhaps I'll go to California and produce wines, who knows? I have nobody to consider but myself."
"Nobody else in your life? What of your family here?"
"No romantic attachments?"
Beverly studied his strong features, looking for some hint of loneliness. She wanted so desperately to reach out to him, and was contemplating taking his hand, when suddenly, his eyes grew large and his expression became agonized.
"What's wrong?" she asked, startled. "Is it your stomach?"
"No!" he gritted, hands clutching the table top. He shook with a palsy and his white teeth champed amid flying spittle. "It can't be! Not again! Not after all these years!"
Quentin staggered to his feet. Beverly snatched at him, but he shrugged her off. He looked left and right, like a caged beast, then spied the sign for the restrooms.
"Excuse me," he managed, and rushed in that direction.
Beverly went and stood by the bathroom door. For several seconds there was silence, then there came a shattering sound, followed by muffled floppings. The bartender heard and came forward, a short club in one meaty fist.
"What's the problem, miss?" he demanded brusquely.
"My friend had a sudden seizure," Beverly explained. "He went in the restroom. Could you check on him? I'm afraid he may have fallen and hurt himself."
"No sweat, lady."
The man tried the door handle and found it locked. Taking a step back, he lashed out with his left heel and the door caved inward amid a cloud of splinters. Beverly looked over his broad shoulders. The restroom was empty, and it was apparent why. Above the flattened door was a jagged orifice where someone had smashed the window. Gingerly, Beverly stepped inside. Looking at the broken glass, she saw some of its edges coated with crimson. Outside came a blood-curdling howl, close and loud. To Beverly, it sounded like the howl of a wolf.
At the Great House, Barnabas and Julia were poring over various family records of the last century while Willie took the opportunity to raid Roger's liquor cabinet. Stuffy and a grouch Roger might be, Willie thought, but he sure knew good booze when he saw it. Elizabeth and Carolyn were in the living room watching television. Faintly, Willie could hear Edith Bunker's inane whine beyond the double doors. He sure wished Barnabas would get electricity!
"A blank," Julia conceded, closing an aged tome amid a cloud of dust. "No mention of Tad's affair with Mary Bowen, and no mention of a visit by anybody from Maryland or anywhere else, claiming to be Tad's child."
"There should be some records in Maryland," Barnabas reasoned. "Godfrey said that the Bowen's were an old and powerful family. Certainly they have living relatives. Can we make an inquiry? Perhaps call the county seat? I should see about having a telephone installed, I suppose."
Willie almost choked on his purloined brandy. A phone? The boss must be going soft for sure.
Julia scanned the study's ample shelves until she found a large atlas of the U.S. Turning its pages, she found the state of Maryland, looking, as it does, like a toppled F.
"Here we are," she said, pointing to a tiny speck on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay. "Bowen Island. At least that part of his story is true. The county seat of Somerset is a town called Princess Anne. I'll call down there in the morning."
"Say, Dr. Hoffman," noticed Willie, coming over to peer at the atlas, "that's close to Crisfield. That's where Liz got those oysters from. Why don't you call down there and order up some more?"
"How do you know about that, Willie?" Barnabas demanded. "You weren't at the party."
"That's what you think, boss," Willie chuckled. "The cook ran me a whole pot of that oyster stew over right after you all got through eating. She was madder than a wet hen 'cause nobody asked for seconds. It was pretty good, too."
Barnabas could only smile. He knew that Willie's resourcefulness far outweighed his lack of social graces. The smile was brief, though, as Barnabas' mind boiled with the events of the past two days. Godfrey's appearance was just a distraction to him, and a very irritating one, at that. He certainly didn't need one more person snooping about while Roxanne was at large. Barnabas was also dubious about Quentin and his idea about a family portrait, but at least the artist, that Wentworth girl, would probably only be around in the daytime. Where was Roxanne's coffin?
"Come on, Willie," Barnabas ordered. "We had best get back home. I want to get an early start in the morning and do some checking about near Collinsport. Mostly old houses where Roxanne's coffin could be concealed. Then we can come back here and see how Julia is making out with her inquiries into our new cousin's past."
"Sure, boss," Willie agreed. "There's some stew left over, I think."
"This experience has made me hungry. Very well, Willie."
Saying goodbye to Julia at the foyer, Barnabas and Willie turned down the moonlit path to the Old House. Their way was crisscrossed by the black bars of budding tree branches. Though he had lost his preternatural hearing, Barnabas' ears still picked up a quick fluttering above him. Turning his head, he saw a large shape flit across the whitish disk of the moon. In an instant it was gone, but Barnabas had recognized it. A bat. He shuddered and urged Willie to pick up the pace.
Barnabas was still shaken when they arrived at the front door. Willie lit the lamp that hung from a nail outside and went around firing up the various kerosene lamps about the house. Barnabas shut the door and bolted it securely.
"You know, boss," commented Willie as he shook out a match, "your trips to the past had one good result. At least they made the restoration easier. I would hate to think how bad off things would have been if the house had been vacant the whole time since 1795. Well, I'll get the stew going."
"Excellent, Willie," Barnabas acquiesced distractedly. "Is there any garlic in the house?"
"Uh, no I don't think so, boss. This stew doesn't need any, though."
"You must go and get some first thing tomorrow."
"Sure, if you say so. I'm glad your appetite's better."
"I have no intention of eating it. It's for Roxanne."
"Rox — oh, yeah, I get you, boss. I figure if Roxanne were free, she would have paid us a visit a long time ago. Especially me and Julia, since we chained her up. Hey, that's right. I'll get that garlic first thing, boss, you can count on it."
Willie turned and went into the kitchen, where Barnabas heard him busying himself among the pots and pans. His mind still wrestling with the implications of Roxanne's disappearance, Barnabas went to a nearby window and parted the heavy drapes with one hand. Beyond the glass lay a world of silver and shadows, tree boles standing out sharply against moonglow, mingling with the humped shapes of two hundred years of detritus. Beyond, he knew, was Widow's Hill, and the sea.
Barnabas contemplated the sea's vastness, the way it endlessly crashed against the rocks below Widow's Hill. Relentlessly it wore away at the land. Barnabas felt that his soul was being eroded in similar fashion, a bit at a time. First Josette, and her despairing suicide. Then Maggie, Josette's double, now gone away with Sebastian Shaw, and Lady Hampshire, Josette's true reincarnation. The two Roxannes, one innocent prey, the other preying on the innocent. Finally, Angelique, who would dominate them all, even without her vast powers. Where was she? Was the truth of Barnabas' love for her being kept from her by her diabolic master? If only he could see her again, and tell her. He stared at the full moon, framing her lustrous blonde curls within its sphere.
Suddenly, Roxanne Drew appeared before him, her luminous green eyes locked in his.
He could not look away. He was helpless, trapped as a fly in amber. He drank in her details, the same clothes she had worn when chained in her coffin, the same chopped off red hair that he had detested before. He remembered her from 1840, in her frills and long coils of shining copper. Now, he felt only revulsion as his will bled from him. There was no struggle. Her power was old and well-practiced, nearly as old as his had been. He almost laughed at the irony. He knew there was no fighting, so he waited, hoping that Willie would return.
"Meet me at the gazebo," came her sibilant whisper through the thick pane. Barnabas was unsure if it came from without or within, but he had no choice. Stopping for nothing, he turned to the front door and slipped out noiselessly. It was some minutes before Willie emerged from the kitchen with a tray of steaming bowls.
"Boss?" he called.
He saw Barnabas' silver-headed cane leaning by the window, then felt a cool draft from the front door. Understanding instantly, he put down the tray and took up Barnabas' cane. Without further hesitation, he went to the door and checked the soft sand beyond the stone porch. Footprints headed around the house, in the direction of the gazebo. Cursing silently, Willie grasped the cane by its middle and jogged that way. He had to be in time. He had to be.
He ran warily in the uncertain light. The mottled path wound upward past hedges and trees. Then, he broke into the open circle that contained the gazebo. It stood out whitish, sitting like a truncated grain silo. Leaves lay in windswept patterns all about the clearing. Beyond, Willie could see the looming silhouette of the Great House. He scanned the area. There! Within the shadow of the gazebo's roof, he saw movement. The fact that he didn't have a plan did not deter him for an instant. Barnabas was in trouble, and that was that.
She was sitting on the gazebo's gray-painted steps, cradling Barnabas' head in her lap. His body was sprawled across the gazebo floor. It was a bizarre tableau, a black satire of a mother holding her son.
"Stop!" Willie shouted.
Her head flashed up with amazing speed. Willie could see her emerald eyes suddenly pulse like fanned coals as a crimson tinge overtook them. Her mouth was a dark gash — too dark. Barnabas' collar was spread back, and Willie could see where she had fed. For once, he was too angry to be afraid.
"Oh, it's you," Roxanne Drew snorted with disdain. "Alone, eh? I was too distracted to hear your approach, but now, I find no others with you. Only two sets of breathing, and two heartbeats — yours and his. Since you are alone, then I will warn you to keep your distance until I am done. It won't be long."
"No," Willie disagreed, waving the cane with a flash of silver. "Get away from him, now!"
"Or you will do what? Strike at me with that cane? It will have no effect. I can easily take it from you and make you swallow it. Or perhaps some other orifice will do. Be still, and I will be finished."
Willie twisted the silver wolf's head, and the cane unscrewed. A shining blade slid from its concealment in the dark wood. Willie had not seen Barnabas use this weapon, but he had discovered it while cleaning it one day. Barnabas had explained that the steel was overlaid with silver. Willie held the sword awkwardly, like one holds a butcher knife.
"I am not impressed," Roxanne yawned. "Put it back in its sheath before you hurt yourself."
Willie swore, frustrated. After he had exhausted his considerable store of invective, he thought about the ways you actually did fight vampires. He knew some, but he had none at hand — no garlic, no stake, no cross . . . or did he? He looked at the two pieces of cane and sword in his hands. It had to work. Advancing upon Roxanne, he held up the blade and sheath before him, making a cross-shape.
"Get back, bitch!" he commanded. "He's suffered enough! Back off, now!"
"You little worm," she snarled, flinching as the cross's shadow fell over her. She rose quickly, allowing Barnabas's head to fall to the planking with an audible thump. He let out a low groan, but otherwise lay still. Willie stood over him as Roxanne retreated.
"Beat it!" Willie told her. "Take a hike!"
"How long can you keep that cross together?" she asked him sarcastically. "How long before you arms grow tired? The night is young. We are all alone. Leave now and I will spare you. I can turn to bat or wolf and outmaneuver you. I can turn to mist and creep up behind you. Put that thing down, now, and I will make his demise as quick as possible. We have no choice in this, you and I. He must die, and he will."
She heard the growling only an instant before Willie.
It was low and throaty, the warning of an animal that is ready to spring. Willie, still keeping his makeshift crucifix over Barnabas, turned his head to stare down the path. Yes! His eyes picked out a shambling form dodging in and out of the blobs of shadow. It half ran, half trotted across the distance between them and it. Willie knew instinctively that it was no dog. It's malformed shape had a familiarity about it.
Reaching the opening, the thing reared up and studied its prey. Willie remembered then. The Jennings boy! Three years had passed since the bizarre murders, but Willie remembered the thing that had caused them. Now, it was back.
Shreds of clothing still clung to its gray-black form. It advanced, wary, seeking out a victim. It settled on Roxanne. She seemed to know what it was, as well.
"So, you do have an ally," she spat at Willie. "A skin-turner. Or is he your ally? I have no desire to battle him needlessly, so I will depart, and leave you to his tender mercies. If he kills Barnabas, he will become a vampire, anyway. My poison is within his blood. Unless he becomes a werewolf himself. What an ironic fate. I wonder if he who contracted for Barnabas' death would care? Well, enough prattling. Farewell."
Then, she was gone. A diaphanous mist swirled about where she had been, then nothing. Willie turned to face his new antagonist, using the gazebo to limit the thing's approach. Now this was a creature that was affected by silver. Willie swung the sword experimentally, unsure whether to cut or stab. The thing eyed him contemptuously, its low growling building as it approached. Then, it leaped at him. Willie settled for a slashing blow, dodging back as he swung.
It caught the creature on one furry shoulder, biting in with a crackling hiss. Willie saw a puff of smoke as the thing bounced away, then caught a glimmer of gold as the werewolf writhed in pain. Part of its remaining clothing consisted of a torn blazer, having a still intact crest. Willie recognized it as the Collins crest! Enraged, but evidently not incapacitated, the creature howled a strange, wolflike howl and launched itself into the brush. It could be heard crashing about for some time, then it was gone.
Relieved, Willie turned his attention to Barnabas. The marks on his neck were clean of blood, but his face looked pale and drawn. He appeared to be asleep. Willie shook him, and was awarded by a sigh and a fluttering of deep-set eyelids.
"Where?" Barnabas mumbled.
"In the middle of a whole load of trouble!" Willie said excitedly. Now that the danger had passed, Willie suddenly realized the enormity of his rash actions. He began to tremble, but he knew that his task was not yet done. "We have got to get back to the house, boss. Can you stand?"
"With some help," Barnabas assured him. Willie sheathed the sword-cane and took Barnabas' hand.
Barnabas rose shakily, and Willie kept a grip on him until they were once more inside the Old House. Settling Barnabas down in an overstuffed chair, Willie then went about looking for crosses. He found a few, and made several more by taping together butter knives and other things. Satisfied with his handiwork, he then hung the crosses in each window and doorframe, saving two real ones for Barnabas and himself. Willie returned to find Barnabas still conscious, but bewildered as ever.
"Why now?" Barnabas rasped in an almost-whisper. "Why did she wait six months?"
Willie poured a glass of water from a stand and gave it to Barnabas, who drank slowly. He considered whether it was better to get Dr. Hoffman, or wait until morning. Barnabas seemed OK, but you never knew with vampires.
"You want I should get Dr. Hoffman, boss?" he asked.
"Daylight will be soon enough, Willie," Barnabas assured him.
"How do you feel?"
"Like my life has been siphoned out. How long had she been feeding?"
"Not long, boss. Couldn't have been more than a few minutes."
Barnabas rubbed his scored neck. "I'll need to have this bandaged. Get some antiseptic."
Willie hurried to obey. He ministered to Barnabas as best as he could, but he knew that it wasn't worth a plugged nickel if that she-leech got to him again. Barnabas finished his water, and Willie got the tray of stew out once more.
"Gotta eat, boss," he scolded. "Gotta get your strength back."
Barnabas obeyed. "How did you stop her?"
"Wasn't easy, boss. I had your cane, but silver's no good against vampires. I figured if I made a cross-shape, she'd sit up and take notice. It got her to stop, but what really fixed her was when the wolfman showed up."
Barnabas nearly choked on his stew. "A werewolf, you mean?"
"Yeah, just like the Jennings kid. She took a powder, then it jumped at us, but I got it with the sword cane and it took off, too." Willie shivered a bit as he remembered the strange wolf-thing, its yellow fangs and baleful eyes shining in the moonlight. Then he remembered the crest. "I got some more bad news about the wolfman, though. He was a Collins."
"How do you know that?"
"He still had some clothes on him, though they was tore up something awful. He had the Collins crest, Barnabas!"
Barnabas put away his stew as if it had suddenly sprouted tentacles. Quentin had gone out for a dinner engagement with that Wentworth girl. He had dressed in a blue blazer, one that bore the family crest. The enormity of it overcame Barnabas and he nearly swooned in his chair. Willie laid a rough hand on his shoulder.
"First Roxanne, then the curse of the moon. What has happened? Quentin was safe, as long as the picture was intact. Free of his curse, and immortal. How has this come about?" He buried his head in his hands. Willie had no answers.
"We've been through worse, Barnabas," Willie told him. "We can fight this, too. Roxanne said that your life had been contracted for, that somebody wanted you to be a vampire."
"What?" Barnabas' finely sculpted head came up and a new energy overtook his drained form. "She was under orders?"
"That's what she said. She said it was beyond her and me, that it was fated to happen. Could it be Angelique?"
"It could be," Barnabas conceded. "This smacks of her type of treachery. Something must have happened to her since her death in 1840 to turn her evil. After all, she bedeviled us all from the time she came back here as Roger's wife. I was unaware she could undo Petofi's handiwork, as well. Of course, this could be the work of Nicholas Blair, also. The list is short, but dangerous. There are many inmates of the infernal regions who wish me ill besides those two. Who knows what happened to Count Petofi, or Adam? What of Judah Zachary, or Laura Collins? This may even be some scheme of the Leviathans. Shaw resembled Jeb Hawkes a bit too much for my liking."
"Well, at least you're thinking about it," Willie conceded. "I'll stay up, but you need rest. I'll wake you at dawn."
"As if I could sleep. Very well, Willie."
Beverly Wentworth felt like hell.
Bleary-eyed, she drove Quentin's massive Lincoln toward the great estate at Collinwood. Several hours had passed since his disappearance from the Blue Whale, hours that had been filled with fear and heartache. She had been questioned by Sheriff Patterson, who had let her off with a warning not to mix with the Collinses further, that they "were all crazy or homicidal, or both." An examination of the bathroom by Patterson's men, and a subsequent search proved fruitless. Patterson refrained from calling Collinwood since, in his opinion, "Quentin Collins is over 21, and if he wants to stand up a date by jumping out a bathroom window, that's his business, wacky as it is."
Beverly refused to take this at face value. Quentin Collins was certainly not crazy. He was a bit whimsical, but she put that down as coming from a rich family. After all, she was not too serious, herself. Getting the car keys from the Blue Whale's valet, she prosecuted a search of her own, heading slowly toward Collinwood. Beverly was very tired, and her mind was churning with the events of the past few hours. What had happened to Quentin to make him react so violently? She passed through the last stretch of woods. Ahead, she could see Collinwood, almost completely dark except for a few security lights.
Then, darting across the yellow pool of her car's headlights was a half-bent figure in torn clothes. It passed into the trees to her right and was lost in darkness. Beverly brought the Lincoln to an abrupt halt and got out. She stood where the shape had crossed her field of vision and looked about. The pavement bore no footprints, but Beverly's eye was drawn to a bright spot of color near the road bed. Going over, Beverly plucked a scrap of blue double-knit from a bit of brush.
She stared at the soft, fuzzy fragment. It had to be Quentin's. She called his name, but got no response. Switching off the car, Beverly checked the trunk. In a box of emergency supplies was a large flashlight. Making sure it worked, Beverly closed the trunk and set off through the trees in the direction she had last seen Quentin going. She moved as rapidly as possible, sweeping the flash's beam back and forth. Its pale cone of light seemed barely adequate in the forest's gloom.
Poor thing, he must have had some sort of breakdown or seizure, Beverly decided as she swatted away a grasping tree branch with her free hand. Sweeping the ground, she saw scuff marks in the damp leaf carpet. Someone had passed that way. She called Quentin's name.
A ragged growl was her answer.
"Quentin?" she inquired, her tone breaking with emotion.
Another growl sounded, louder now. She heard a faint rustling in the blackness. With horror she realized her folly. Not only was she in a dark woods alone, she was in a dark woods alone with some wild beast! Her next thought, naturally, was for her personal safety. Turning on her heel abruptly, Beverly attempted to retrace her path through the now savage woods. Tree boles sprang up to block her as if by magic as she stumbled away from the growling. By the time the trees thinned, she was panting with exertion. She paused at the road bed, looking for Quentin's car and safety.
To her dismay, it was a hundred yards further down the road. She started for it, only to be brought up short by the murderous growling from the trees. Whatever animal was chasing her was emerging between her and the car! Beverly decided that her only hope was to make for Collinwood, and hope to elude the creature while doing so. Taking a deep breath, she began to run at top speed, thankful that she had decided on sensible flat shoes instead of heels for her date.
For some moments there was no sound except the slapping of her soles upon the pavement and her tortured breathing. Then, faintly, she heard a hissing growl, sounding ever louder, accompanied by an intermittent clicking. Beverly's mind raced with her screaming body as she tried to think of some means of escape. Her antagonist must be some wild dog, for it did not sound like a bear. Looking forlornly at Collinwood, Beverly suddenly knew instinctively that she would not make it. Still grasping the flashlight, she decided to use it as a weapon and sell her life as dearly as possible.
Turning, she aimed the flash's beam at the thing, hoping to blind it. In it's unhealthy glare, Beverly saw a sight that was totally unexpected. Blinking from the sudden illumination was a thing both man and beast, or neither. It half-crouched in surprise, one furry arm raised to shade its vision. Beverly saw fangs, and wolfish snout, and red, hate-filled eyes. Beverly then became frozen with terror, remembering that she had, indeed, seen such a creature before.
It was the monster from her dreams.
Yes, there could be no mistake. It was the same clawed, misshapen man-beast from her nightmare. Here she was, in the same setting, facing the same monster. She remembered the mysterious man in black, but saw no one about. The creature regained itself and prepared to spring. Beverly held the flash like a club, and waited.
She then felt as if she was not alone.
The presence seemed to spring from within, as if she were an amoeba dividing. Her strength failed her, and she half-swooned. Beverly staggered a bit. Her vision became slightly blurred. Then, as suddenly as it overswept her, the feeling vanished, save for a weak giddiness. Remembering her danger, Beverly looked at the creature. She found that a shape blocked her view.
Shaking her head, Beverly saw that the shape was that of a man, dressed in severe black, and before him he held a huge silver crucifix, ornate and bejeweled. This talisman held the beast at bay. It sat back on its odd haunches and howled mournfully.
"Back, back to the pit!" screamed the man in black in a strange accent. "How you are fallen, O Lucifer son of the Morning!"
Beverly nearly lost what little sanity she had retained through her shocking ordeal. Those words! The same as in her dream! And the man, he was the same, as well. Beverly shuffled to his side, to stare at both he and the creature. The beast was totally cowed, in awe of the massive silver cross. The man was fixed upon his adversary, and his face was as set as that of a cigar store Indian. Dark eyes blazed beneath a wide brow, topped by hair drawn back severely. His widely sensuous mouth was not a grim line. Beverly decided that the man was a priest of some sort, by his puritanical dress and high collar.
His clothes, however, were of a different era. They seemed stiffer, of heavier material, and the man's boots looked almost colonial in their design. Beverly took a deep breath, calmed somewhat by the creature's respect of this individual.
"Are you his trainer?" she managed, but he seemed not to hear. "Did this thing escape from some circus? Who are you?"
The man nodded his head almost imperceptibly at the creature, never taking his eyes from it. "He knows well enough who I am, as I know his brood. 'Twas one of his kith that finished me in this world. My line, and his, have fought down through the ages, holy blood versus the pit's venom. I have not always been able to intervene, but I have been given release."
Beverly understood none of this. "Are you telling me that you are a ghost?"
"Would that it were not so, child," he snapped in a barking tone. "Yes, I am spirit, but my will, and your energy, have given me some substance, that I may work against the accursed. You are of my blood, and together we will rid this world of hellspawn such as this. Now, demon-wolf, begone!"
The man waved his cross and the beast fled into the trees, howling mournfully until its noise was lost. The man put down his out-thrust arm, and his face became folded with shadows. To Beverly, his form seemed to waver, as if seen through a curtain of heat. The moment it lost some of its solidity, her strength seemed to increase.
"Can I help you in some way?" she asked.
His hooded eyes turned in her direction, and Beverly thought that she could see the outline of trees through his dissolving form. "I am beyond mortal help, and I am loath to accept witchery. Only my will permits me release. As long as you are near, I will remain linked to you, as my blood. My powers of discernment will flow through you. You will know the accursed by touch. Now, I feel the link fading. Seek out the demon spawn, and destroy it, or risk your soul."
Slowly, the figure lost its coherency until it was lost entirely. Beverly felt her strength welling up once more. She looked about for the strange creature, but it was also gone. Her attention was attracted by something glittering at her feet. Looking down she found the ornate silver cross lying there. Stooping down, she picked it up and twirled it absently, so that it threw off moonglow in dazzling patterns.
Her encounter had been real. The creature, the ghostly man in black, all real. What did it mean? Beverly walked back to Quentin's car in a daze, mind struggling with its grip on sanity. Up until this point, Beverly had never given the supernatural a second thought. Like most people her age, the closest she got to the unknown was reading her horoscope. Now, she had seen a ghost. Getting into Quentin's car, she started it mechanically and drove on to Collinwood. As she did, the first streaks of dawn began to lighten the eastern sky.
CHAPTER VI — ACCURSED
It was Julia Hoffman who first heard the deep booming coming from Collinwood's spacious front doors. The wiry doctor leaped from her bed and grabbed up a robe that hung by the door of her guest room. Working her body into it as she descended the staircase, Julia had a presentiment of trouble. Things were happening again, just like the old days. Approaching the front door, Julia could sense the desperation of whoever was working the huge doorknocker. She gripped the brass handle with one slender hand while unlatching the door with the other. With a heave, she flung open the door.
A disheveled Beverly Wentworth stood there.
"Yes?" inquired Julia, eying the girl dubiously.
"Oh — ah — Dr. Hoffman," Beverly began haltingly. "It's Quentin! He's had an attack of some sort and run off. I tried to find him, but I was nearly attacked by a wild beast, and then there was this ghost, and —"
"Please, child, come in," interrupted Julia, waving behind her. "Let's get this story broken down one stage at a time. First, tell me about Quentin."
Beverly did, in short, gasping sentences. Julia sat her down on the sofa, and tried to keep the girl from being hysterical and waking up the rest of the household. Slowly, the entire tale poured out, painted in broad strokes as if Beverly were applying herself to a canvas. Julia's presentiment became a gnawing terror. Deadly forces had once again seized Collinwood and its occupants in their taloned grip. Julia nearly jumped behind the sofa when the front door burst open to reveal an agitated Willie Loomis.
"Doc!" he exclaimed upon recognizing Julia. "Ya gotta come quick over to the Old House. It's Barnabas!" When he saw Beverly Wentworth, Willie suddenly shut up.
"Is he hurt?" Julia asked.
"Ah, yes he is," Willie acknowledged, nodding his head stupidly as he wondered how to explain things in the presence of the stranger.
"I'll get dressed and go right over," Julia promised. "In the meantime, would you drive Miss Wentworth here home and bring the car back?"
"Wait," Beverly broke in, "what about Quentin?"
"We'll find him," Julia assured the girl. "He has had these attacks before, and it nearly drives him insane. You cannot imagine what he goes through. After the attack, though, he is perfectly normal. I am sure he is on his way here now."
"I hope so," Beverly breathed wearily. "Very well, I'll go home, but you must promise to call me the moment he returns."
"We shall," Julia said. "Now, I must see to my patient."
Leaving the girl in Willie's hands, Julia raced back upstairs to hurriedly dress and get her medical bag. Within five minutes, she was down the path to the Old House. By now dawn had bleached out night, and a veil of blue silhouetted the trees about her. The Old House slumbered before her, nestled in its moldering glen. Julia wondered what new horror she would find within. She went in without knocking.
"Barnabas?" she called.
"In here, Julia," came an uncharacteristic croak from the living room.
She found Barnabas in an easy chair, still dressed as he had been when last she saw him. His sunken eyes were fixed upon the portrait of Josette that sat above the mantle. Her trained gaze immediately zeroed in on Barnabas' neck wound.
"Oh, my God," she whispered, going to his side.
"All the terror is back," he rasped. "Roxanne is free and Quentin's curse has returned. We are doomed unless we can find the author of this misery."
"First, we must get your strength back," Julia admonished, rolling up his sleeve. "A vitamin shot will help in that direction."
"Where is Willie?"
"Handling another problem. It seems that Quentin's curse came upon him while he was at dinner with that Wentworth girl. Not understanding, she went looking for him. She found him, and it was almost fatal."
"He was here, also. He saved me from Roxanne." Barnabas did not wince as Julia administered the stimulant.
"In turn, the girl was saved by a spirit that manifested itself by using her energy. It was apparently an ancestor of hers, a phantom priest who drove off Quentin with a silver cross. All sorts of supernatural occurrences are popping up. First, the Sea Wolf, then Roxanne, then Quentin's curse, and now a phantom priest. Something is agitating these unnatural forces."
"Someone," Barnabas corrected. "Roxanne let slip to Willie that she had agreed to kill me. Someone has bargained for my death, Julia."
"You make it sound like a Mafia hit, Barnabas. Who would want to do this, return you to vampirism?"
"Who would, indeed? I have pondered that question ever since the attack occurred. I feel that all these things are tied together, and that Quentin's curse is related to my own agony. We must find Roxanne, and make her reveal her master, or mistress. I cannot discount Angelique."
"But, after what happened in 1840?"
"Precisely because of it!" Barnabas snapped, rising up feverishly, then falling back against the cushioned material. "Look at the chain of events. Angelique died in 1840, then returned in 1897 to find that I had not returned her love, instead, I loathed her. When she reappeared in 1967 as Roger's wife, she found the same result. For her, time progressed in a straight line. For me, the events happened in a different order. Angelique, in a sense, has been scorned twice. How could she not hate me? I had begun to wonder what had happened to her since our return from Parallel Time. This would explain much."
Julia was silent for a time, as she checked Barnabas' blood pressure and other vital signs. She worried over this ex-ªvampire, and understood the meaning of love thrust aside, as her love for this man was so often overlooked. What good would it do for her to dredge up these feelings again? She shook her head wearily and checked the wound on Barnabas' neck. Willie had done a passable job at cleaning and dressing it.
"Luckily, you are in good physical shape," Julia reported. "The amount of blood lost is significant, but not life threatening at this stage. Unfortunately, the vampirism factor has entered your bloodstream. For you to die would mean you would rise again. I suggest you refrain from strenuous activities and drink plenty of liquids."
"How can I rest with her on the loose? She must be found, and staked, before not only I, but others join her as undead. Quentin, what of he?"
"No sign of him yet."
"Have Willie look for him. And call Elliot Stokes. We need all our friends to combat this menace. I will await Willie's return before leaving the house."
"You had better!" Julia scolded imperiously. "I'll take care of everything. Get some rest, and I'll be back with Elliot."
Barnabas felt better, but even with the vitamins, he still fell asleep as soon as Julia closed the door behind her.
It was David who found Quentin.
David was in the kitchen, raiding the refrigerator while waiting for Elizabeth to take him into town for his lessons. A suitable live-in instructor had not yet been found for the precocious boy, now rapidly becoming a young man, and Roger had enrolled him in a private school in the interim. Naturally, David's personal schooling had placed him higher than his schoolmates, earning their envy, while his easy manner deflected their hatred. He would soon be sixteen, and his rebellious nature had not cooled at all. However, his constant brushes with the unknown had matured him in other ways.
While looking for something unhealthy but delicious, David heard a scratching at the back kitchen door. Since it was too early for the cook, David became curious and opened the door. As he did, Quentin's scratched and bruised form slumped within. Nearly naked, Quentin looked as if he had been dragged through brambles. David managed to haul Quentin inside and shut the door with one foot. Quentin groaned weakly and one scarred hand gingerly felt his right shoulder, where David saw a large purple welt, as if a hot brand had been applied there. Not knowing what more he could do for his ailing cousin, David bolted to the front of the mansion.
He ran into Julia Hoffman as she was returning from the Old House. Wide-eyed, he came to an abrupt halt and attempted to make himself plain.
"Quentin!" he blurted, flapping one arm behind him. "The kitchen!"
That was enough for Julia. Brushing past David, she rushed to the kitchen, to find Quentin trying to sit up. Taking in his condition quickly, she turned the tap at the sink for hot water.
"Go to his room, and get him some pants," she told David, who came up behind her. "These are nearly torn to shreds. Only his belt is keeping any modesty attached to him. Then make sure that Elizabeth doesn't come anywhere near here. This is too much for her. Hurry!"
The slapping sound of David's sneakers indicated his compliance with her orders. Most of Quentin's cuts appeared superficial, save for the wound on his shoulder. Feeling a sense of deja vu, Julia applied antiseptics and bandages, including burn ointment to the welt. The stinging antiseptics brought Quentin around to a more rational state. He idly picked leaves from his hair and struggled to a chair.
"It happened again," he muttered, expression dark and angry. "Eighty years, almost, and now its happening all over. God, I thought I'd forgotten how terrible it had been. The worst is not knowing if I've killed someone."
Julia had no answer, something that frustrated her deeply. The Collins family had lived with the supernatural since their arrival in America, and perhaps even before that. Witches, sorcerers, lycanthropes, artificial humans, multi-dimensional beings, walking dead, living dead, and undead; all had invaded the Collinsport area at some time or another. Her own family had been involved in some way or another, considering Barnabas' tale of her gypsy ancestor Magda Racosi. Julia's reverie was broken by David's return. In his slender arms was a bundle of clothing.
Quentin removed his belt from his tattered pants and began to loop it through the pair that David had brought. Deciding to preserve her modesty, Julia left the kitchen to call Professor Stokes. The sooner he was alerted, the sooner this matter could be resolved.
Timothy Elliot Stokes was slowly coming awake as he drove toward Collinwood. Julia's call had gotten him out of bed. He had worked meticulously to arrange his class schedules so that none began before noon, since he worked very late most nights. The news she conveyed in her terse message was disturbing, and Professor Stokes lost no time in getting dressed. He grabbed a cup of coffee at a local convenience store to push him along to total awareness.
He could not help but marvel at how so much evil could be wrought amongst such beautiful surroundings. Trees were beginning to bud along the road through the woods. Then, he was out into the rising land upon which sat Collinwood. Beyond Widow's Hill, the waves glittered and undulated in the bright sunlight. Suddenly, a humped form rose from the gray-green sea. Professor Stokes pulled his car over and stopped, staring in disbelief as a snakelike neck whipped upward and struck into the water. It snapped back again, and this time he could see a triangular head armed with gleaming fangs. Rising to meet this monstrous creature was an equally monstrous challenger.
Professor Stokes immediately recognized the black and white markings of a killer whale. It reared upward, showing its wide jaws full of wickedly pointed teeth. The two combatants lunged at each other and then were lost amid the churning sea. Professor Stokes watched for some minutes, but neither of the two surfaced again. Putting his car back in gear, he continued on to Collinwood, more shaken than ever. He had seen the Sea Wolf.
Julia picked up his agitation as soon as he entered the foyer.
"What is it, Elliot?" she asked.
"I saw it — that thing, the Sea Wolf!" he half-whispered. "It's out there, beyond Widow's Hill. Quentin was right. You know what that means."
"Evil, for all of Collinwood. Yes, Elliot, I know the lore. In the journals of Amadeus Collins, he mentions the first known sighting of the Sea Wolf. It capsized one of his trading vessels before it could dock. Several crew members were eaten alive. Since then, whenever a great disaster was to occur, it would appear. It's true. Disaster has already occurred. Sit down."
In greater detail, Julia related the entire events of the last twenty-four hours. Fortunately, Elizabeth had left, and Carolyn was still in bed. Julia left out no detail, no matter how trivial it seemed. Near the end of her tale, Quentin came in and sat with them. Shame etched his handsome face.
"What about that poor girl, Beverly Wentworth?" he asked sullenly. "What she must think!"
"You must call her and tell her you are well," Julia advised. "She is very concerned about you, despite her encounter in the woods. I wonder what to make of that?"
"Her ghostly protector can wait until we straighten this matter out," Professor Stokes commented. "Let's go and see Barnabas. You can join us after your call, Quentin." He rose and made for the door. Julia followed him. Quentin stared at the door for several minutes and considered taking a drink. No, it was too early, even for him. He picked up the phone and dialed Beverly's number. She answered on the first ring.
"I'm okay," he said as evenly as possible.
"Oh, my God!" she blurted. "I was so worried. I called the Sheriff's department, I called the hospitals, I even went looking for you."
"I know; Julia told me. It's a disease I have. Periodically, it overtakes me violently. I thought it was under control, but evidently, my treatment seems to have failed." The picture! he thought. Is it safe? Is this some revenge from Petofi, or even Laura? I have to go to the Old House. "At any rate, I am fine. We can continue our discussion another night, if I haven't frightened you off."
"Hardly," she assured him. "I am a difficult woman to brush off. When can we get together again?"
"Tomorrow, perhaps. I have some pressing business today, which may drag into tonight. I'll call you before noon tomorrow and we'll see."
"Fantastic! I'll look forward to it, Quentin. I just hope whatever disease you have is not adversely affected by female companionship."
"Have no fear."
He hung up and went out the door.
CHAPTER VII — BLOOD MOON
By afternoon, frustration had weakened Barnabas Collins almost as much as his loss of blood. Calls to Maryland had confirmed the background of Godfrey's story. The Bowens were an old family, and respected, though a great deal of that respect seemed tinged with fear. Godfrey Collins was the last survivor of the Bowen family, since most of their members had suffered violent deaths over the last century, and Bowen Island itself had washed away in a great storm thirty years ago. It was established that Godfrey Collins, as heir of the Bowens, was extremely wealthy, since they had amassed a fortune on their reclusive isle.
There were some hints that the Bowens had practiced piracy in the early days, converting this cash into schooners that plied the Indies. They had servants, most of them dark Islanders who were hated by the simpler folk of the Eastern Shore. Rumors that the Bowens were Devil-bought, or at least witches, abounded in some of the more fanatical religious testimonies, but no evidence existed. Julia relayed this information after lunch.
Their meeting had been unproductive. Professor Stokes was convinced that either Petofi or Nicholas Blair was involved. Quentin, upon finding his portrait intact, was more baffled than ever. Willie had bought all the garlic in Collinsport, and the Old House reeked of it so badly that the group was glad to get out hunting for Roxanne Drew. It was decided that Quentin should be locked in the secret room of the Old House for his own protection, and that Julia and Professor Stokes should rotate watches with Willie all night long. With so many bad things occurring, concentration of forces seemed the only solution.
Their comings and goings had not taken place without being observed. High in the attic of the McGruder Mansion, Godfrey Collins perched himself upon a stool, his eye firmly pressed against a powerful telescope that was placed so as to command a view of Collinwood. He watched the furtive courses that the Collinses and their friends took with a vulture-like anticipation, not even stopping to eat meals, save for a hurried sandwich or two which he barely tasted as he consumed.
"They think to protect the two first affected," he said to Jaffir, who brought the sandwiches. "We will take care of that. Send Webster and Colbourne to lay in wait for dear cousin Barnabas. When an opportunity presents itself, they are to disable him and bring him to the cellar room. We must make sure that there is no interference tonight. When that is completed, you will make sure that dear cousin Quentin is unbound to cavort about."
Godfrey did not notice the slight shudder that passed through Jaffir's wiry frame. The henchman did not relish the proposition of being so close to a werewolf.
"It will be as you say, master," he said, no trace of fear in his voice. "Your plan is working to perfection. The knowledge you gained of these was very exact."
"Shaw was informative, especially where Barnabas was concerned. As for Quentin's malady, I had an inkling of it from studying Collinsport town records for 1897, but the rest I gained from binding a certain spirit from the infernal regions. You might say he was only too happy to give me a hand."
"Master's humor is dark as usual. I will instruct the others to their task. What of the rest of the Collinses?"
"They die, tonight. I will wait until you all have reported back, then I will set their demises in motion. Roger Collins will immediately return upon learning of their deaths and I will liquidate him then. As I said, within a week, I shall be master of Collinwood. Serve me well, Jaffir, and I shall present you with the Old House, and perhaps you can have that Evans woman for your plaything."
"Master is very generous. She would look well chained to a wall. How I will enjoy parting her soft flesh with my many blades as her screams thrill me to new heights of ecstasy."
Godfrey dismissed the man and returned to studying Collinwood. Sometimes Jaffir's tastes were too bizarre, even for him.
"I can't understand it," Barnabas said to Willie, as they walked past Eagle Hill back toward the Old House. It was only an hour before dark, and they were eager to meet the rest.
"You know, boss, she could be just about anywhere, especially if some spook's got her working for him," Willie commented, his expression gloomy. "Maybe we're looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope."
"Your odd analogy may be correct. Perhaps we are too caught up in the minutiae to see the big picture. Whoever wants me undead has designs against Quentin as well. Since we have not been confronted by them, we must assume that anonymity is critical to their success. That means that it is not only someone known to us, but someone who can be destroyed by mortal means, or they would be bolder. But who? Who could it be?"
"Adam? He's mortal. Or else it's a sorcerer, like Petofi or Blair. They've got powers, but they're mortal — more or less."
"Less, I would say."
Since Barnabas was human, and not possessed of any supernatural enhancements to his senses, he did not hear Godfrey's henchmen as they leaped upon him and Willie from concealment. Barnabas felt a sharp pain at the base of his neck and fell unconscious wondering if Roxanne had attacked him in broad daylight.
By the time Willie had awakened, it was dark.
He tried to get up, felt dizzy, and shook his head. His strength seemed gone, sucked away by whatever had rendered him unconscious. He tried again to rise, and with an effort, he tottered to his feet. Sweat broke out from every pore, and Willie felt it trickle down his back. For a second time he shook his head, and then brushed some of his long straggly locks from in front of his eyes.
He was alone. Groggily, he looked about, but Barnabas was nowhere to be seen. In the light of the rising moon, Willie realized that he was still near the cemetery. Moonrise! Where was Quentin? Fear suddenly galvanized Willie and his weakness dissipated. The unknown enemy had reached out and snatched Barnabas, leaving Willie in darkness, a darkness that he might be sharing with a very lycanthropic Quentin Collins.
Willie staggered forward, his pace smoothing out with each step until he was nearly running by the time he reached the Old House. Arriving there, he was further agitated by its open door, regarding him like the empty eye socket of a discolored skull. Still scared, Willie dithered a bit, but finally decided to go in. After all, it was no safer outside than in. Filtered moonlight gave the interior a gray cast, and Willie became a shadow among shadows as he groped along toward the living room. There, he knew that there was an oil lamp and matches.
As he exited the foyer, he was gripped hard upon his shoulder. Willie gave out an involuntary cry and jumped away, nearly tripping over a low table. Turning, he saw only another shadowy figure. Then, his eyes were dazzled by the sudden ignition of a match. In its yellow glare, he made out the features of Julia Hoffman as she prepared to light an oil lamp.
"Where have you been?" she hissed.
"B-barnabas and I were ambushed by Eagle Hill," he stammered as he tried to calm himself. "I came to, but they had taken him."
"Sorry, Doc. They jumped us from behind. What's the story here?"
Julia's thin face stood out sallowly in the jaundiced radiance. "Quentin is locked below, in the secret room. Professor Stokes went to Collinwood to check on your whereabouts. I don't like this. We are divided and vulnerable. Now they have Barnabas. We don't even know who we're up against!"
"Or what," Willie muttered. "You got a cross on you?"
"Yes." One slim hand removed a silver chain from down the front of her blouse. It held a small, ornate cross that twinkled as it slowly rotated on its clasp.
Suddenly, the air was rent by a high-pitched wail that seemed to come from the direction of Collinwood.
"That sounded like Carolyn!" Willie exclaimed. Without further comment, he bolted past Julia and was out the door.
David Collins was feeling sleepy.
He put aside the science fiction book he was reading and reached over to his bed stand to turn out the light. As he did so, he gaze caught the shining crystal orb that had been a present from his new-found cousin Godfrey. Within was encased the giant desert scorpion, whose dead eyes regarded David's with indifference. What a monster! Though David was beginning to outgrow many of the childish pranks and other juvenile pursuits that had previously made him a holy terror, he still had a fascination for the bizarre.
His fingers twisted the switch and the room was plunged in darkness. Then, in the softly growing moonlight, his eyes again picked out the confining orb. Within its transparent walls, David could barely make out the humped form of the scorpion. David tried to imagine himself in some desert fastness, dressed in Arab robes, commanding his own tribe of fierce Bedouins. He thought of the palms, the oasis, the tents, and most of all, the women of his harem. He was sixteen now, and such thoughts were no longer "yucky".
As he pondered his Eastern fantasy, David suddenly felt a vibration, as if the air had been strummed by an invisible bow. His eyes were still fixed on the orb, and to his amazement, it disappeared. Shocked, he snapped the light back on. Where once had sat the scorpion in its sphere, no lay a pile of fragmented crystal!
The scorpion was nowhere in evidence. David crawled to the edge of his bed, thinking that it might have tumbled to the floor. He was disappointed, however, as only a few shards of crystal glittered in the carpeting. Climbing down, David knelt down and thrust back the edge of his covers where they draped over the bottom of the bed. It was only the quickness of his youth that saved him from a painful death.
Tail erect, the giant scorpion charged out as David lifted the covers. Its formerly dull gaze now glittered with malevolent life. David got his feet beneath him and sprang backward, impacting against the bedroom door. His antagonist slowed its attack for a bit, then gathered itself and charged again, cruel pincers thrust out before it. David edged back, wincing as his bare foot dragged across a piece of crystal.
His outstretched hand found the side of his bookcase. Giving it a glance, he searched for a weapon. Except for his books, nothing presented itself as the gap narrowed between himself and his murderous foe. He decided on a book, and hefted out a large copy of the collected works of H.P. Lovecraft. Commanding himself to be patient, David waited until the scorpion was nearly upon him before slamming down the heavy volume. With a large smacking noise, it struck true. Not content with such a good shot, David placed one foot atop the book and bore down on it with all his weight. Black, shiny legs projected outward from the book's periphery. They wriggled for a bit, then lay still.
How could something encased in glass come alive? he asked himself, breath coming harsh into his lungs. He had little time to ponder the mystery, however, as Carolyn's scream cascaded into the atmosphere of Collinwood and sent him out in her direction, oblivious to the wet, red trail he left.
Carolyn Stoddard (technically Carolyn Stoddard Hawkes) sat in front of her flourescent-lit vanity mirror and combed out her long blonde hair. By the bed, her transistor radio softly played a tune by Three Dog Night. Carolyn thought about Jeb Hawkes, then about Sebastian Shaw, and finally about her new cousin Godfrey. Glancing down, she saw that her strange gift was still dangling between her breasts from its chain. Cousin Godfrey was a strange man, but then so were all the Collinses, with the exception of Uncle Roger and Cousin David. She thought about leaving Collinwood, of going to New York or Los Angeles where life was much different.
Then, she felt a vibrating in the air, and it seemed like her necklace disintegrated. She was tickled by crystal fragments tumbling down her flat, trim stomach, and she got up to shake them out of her nightgown. The shards fell into a glittering heap between her slender feet, but the painted spider was not in evidence. Gingerly, Carolyn took her forefinger and pulled out the front of her gown. There, in the creamy valley of her bosom lay the spider, clinging to her flesh as if it were alive. Another glance showed its furry mandibles working rhythmically. Carolyn screamed, afraid to move.
A furious pounding burst upon her door. She still refused to move, staring fixedly at the hideous arachnid. She remembered what Godfrey had said about painted spiders being quite deadly. This was unreal! The spider should have been long dead, suffocated in its sealed crystal, but it was alive, malevolently alive. The pounding without became a heavy thudding, and with a splintering crash, her door flew open. From the corner of her eye, Carolyn saw Professor Stokes lumber in, closely followed by David.
"Carolyn!" Professor Stokes exclaimed. "What is it?"
"S-spider!" she wailed. "It's down my nightgown front."
"What kind of spider?" David demanded.
"The one in the necklace! It's alive!"
"Damn!" Stokes cast about the room, finally stopping before the vanity. His large hand swept aside the orderly row of perfumes and snatched up a can of hair spray. "Hold very still and close you eyes," he ordered calmly. "Keep your finger holding your gown open."
Even in her terror, Carolyn managed to blush. "Really, Professor!"
"Hang it, girl, this is no time for modesty!" he rumbled as he approached her. Moving behind her, he peered over her shoulder at the deadly creature. Its black eyes twinkled back at him. Without hesitation, Stokes aimed the spray and depressed its trigger. A whitish stream shot forth and engulfed the spider. Its reaction was to curl up and drop straight down where it fell to the floor in a writhing heap. Stokes planted a heavy shoe on it and ground the spider to pulp. As if a string had been cut, Carolyn collapsed and David had to catch her. With Stokes' help he placed her on the bed.
"Same thing happened to me," David confided to the professor. "I felt this vibration, and the glass holding the scorpion that Cousin Godfrey gave me shattered. I squashed it with a book, though."
"Good lad!" Stokes commented. "Well, it seems clear that these creatures were held in some sort of suspended animation until being released. The vibration you felt was no doubt some sonic signal that trembled the crystals to shards. The same signal probably also awakened the arthropods to life. Deuced clever, since the sonic signal must have been precisely tuned for that particular crystalline structure. Otherwise every window around here would have been shattered. Whoever planned this wanted to make it as unobtrusive as possible. You say that Godfrey gave you these things?"
"That's right; you remember. He gave Barnabas the book on bats, Quentin the belt, me the scorpion, and Carolyn and Aunt Elizabeth got the spider pendants."
"Elizabeth!" Stokes blurted. "She might already have been bitten! Come on!"
He thundered out into the hallway, just in time to see Julia Hoffman and Willie Loomis charging up the stairs. He waved them to Elizabeth's door.
"Julia, it seems that some sonic signal has released the creatures in Godfrey's strange gifts," Professor Stokes explained rapidly. "The spiders and scorpions were let loose to murder Carolyn and David, but they were fortunate to escape. Elizabeth must be warned, if it is not too late."
He knocked heavily upon Elizabeth's door. There was no immediate response. Julia grasped the brass doorknob but it did not turn. Stokes nodded to Willie and the two men stood away from the door in preparation to smash it down. Before they could begin their rush, Elizabeth's door swung open to reveal her enrobed form, blinking sleepily.
"What's wrong?" she demanded. "I was listening to some music through my stereo headphones. The only reason I got up was I noticed my door vibrating as if somebody was knocking. You all look very upset. Ah, David, your foot is bleeding! Dr. Hoffman, don't just stand there, bandage the poor boy."
Elizabeth's almost ludicrous response broke the tension for a moment. Dr. Hoffman bent to examine David's foot. A long, shallow slash furrowed its sole. It appeared superficial, but gave Professor Stokes a chance to dip into Elizabeth's room.
"You know, I must see that pendant that Godfrey gave you," he said to Elizabeth. "Do you have it on?"
"No, it's in my jewelry box," she replied offhandedly as she observed Dr. Hoffman's ministrations. "On the dresser."
Stokes disappeared within. Several seconds later there was a tinkling sound. The good professor returned momentarily, his face chagrined.
"I'm sorry, Elizabeth," he intoned deeply. "I was examining that lovely necklace when it slipped through my clumsy fingers and smashed on the floor. I promise to replace it."
"Never mind, Elliot," Elizabeth commented. "The thing was hideous anyway. Now I have an excuse not to wear it."
"David will be fine, Liz," Julia pronounced. "We really must be going now. I'll clean his cut downstairs. Good night."
Rapidly, they went downstairs where Julia finished with David's cut, all the while conferring with Professor Stokes.
"This implicates Godfrey Collins rather clearly," she said. "He is not only the perpetrator of this bizarre scheme, but I wager he is behind Quentin and Barnabas' problems."
"Oh, undoubtedly," Stokes agreed. "He probably has kidnaped Barnabas. No telling where he is, though."
"He must be near!" Willie blurted. "It must be some place where he can watch us and keep Roxanne Drew safe."
"Any one of a dozen places," Stokes grunted. "Caretaker's cottages, boathouses, the old McGruder place, any of them."
"We must search them all," Julia decided. "Together, no splitting up."
"Me, too!" David piped up.
"Not on your life!" Stokes rumbled. "You will stay right here."
"No way!" David continued. "I can shoot! Besides, if you don't take me, I'll tell Aunt Elizabeth about the spider in her necklace."
"You little extortionist!" the Professor seethed.
"He's got us there," Julia agreed. "Besides, we do need all the help we can get. If Godfrey comes here, David will be useless by himself anyway. Very well, sneak upstairs and get dressed. I just hope Quentin will be safe by himself."
As David turned to go, he was frozen in his tracks by the chilling sound of a wolf howling in triumph. They all stared at each other in consternation as that savage cry undulated through the night.
CHAPTER VIII — THE SORCERER UNMASKS
Barnabas Collins awoke in darkness. For one fear-crazed instant, he believed himself to be back inside the Trask Memorial Chapel, sealed behind a wall of brick, much as he had sealed the first Reverend Trask nearly two hundred years ago. Then, as his drug-induced lethargy began to fade under the influx of adrenalin, Barnabas recalled exactly which predicament he was in. The air about him felt damp, and he thought faintly he could hear the sea.
"Considering Roxanne's pronouncement on my fate, this is hardly the River Styx," he thought to himself. Barnabas examined his clothing, discovering to his chagrin that his crucifix had been removed, as well as his house keys. The unknown enemy now had access to Quentin. This enemy wanted the wolf free to cause terror, and ultimately be killed. Barnabas considered that fact for a moment, and was again sure that revenge was the motive of the foe. Further fired by these revelations, Barnabas tried to rise and get some bearing on his location. His hands encountered rough stone, and pebbles scattered under his boots, some splashing into water.
Then, a hand touched him, and he nearly screamed.
The hand caressed him, and Barnabas felt it cool and soft against his cheek. Another hand joined it, and Barnabas nearly protested against the unknown's intimacy, but he knew almost instinctively who the hands belonged to.
"Roxanne . . ." he groaned.
"How strange," came her husky voice. Now Barnabas began to see a pair of reddish spots in the darkness, and they increased in intensity as the detached ministrations continued. "How strange that you and I have traded places these hundred twenty odd years. When first we met, I was the vulnerable mortal, open to the undeniable power that you possessed. You leeched out my love, made me a slave to your vampiric lust. Now, it is you who are helpless before me."
"You need not finish this," Barnabas pointed out. "Together we can defeat the mastermind behind this. We can both be free."
"To what end? That you chain me once more? No, dear Barnabas, this one offers me freedom, as well as sanctuary. I can roam the world once more, knowing that I have a haven. The price is small — your life. Who knows, perhaps this man has plans for you as well, when you rise to join me?"
"A man, is he?" Barnabas inquired. "Not Angelique, then. Judah Zachary, perhaps, or Petofi? Perhaps Nicholas Blair?"
"Your probing is futile, because you cannot guess. Even I do not know his identity. It is of no interest to me. He rescued me from your trap, and your life is my thanks."
"Can you trust him? How do you know that he will keep his bargain? After all, do you think he would really allow you to remain loose, knowing what you know?"
"He would be a fool not to release me. For all his powers, he is only human. As are you, but not for much longer. I am trying to make this pleasurable for you, since I harbor no real ill will against you."
"We loved each other for a time," Barnabas reminded her. "Does not some shred of that love remain?"
"It has taken one hundred and thirty-four years to extinguish what remained of our so-called love," she snapped, and her eyes glowed incandescently in the blackness. It was a love without consummation, without true passion. It is too late now for any of those things which normal humans enjoy. I must feast, and you will return to what you were. Who knows, perhaps we may travel together? In undeath we may become closer than we ever were before."
"Travesty," Barnabas moaned. "It would be a travesty. Kill me if you must, Roxanne, but do not trust your master. Never trust him!"
"Relax," Roxanne coaxed, erasing his mental turmoil with her hypnotic powers. "You and I shall share that special intimacy that we had decades ago, that strange perversion of human consummation. I shall become all women, all pleasures, and you shall become my goblet, my nectar. Relax, and enter oblivion."
In that Stygian blackness, pain became ecstasy.
Jaffir, that soulless henchman of Godfrey Collins, pursued his master's bidding as soon as the Old House cleared of its occupants. He counted them to make sure, but they all left, even that lackey, Willie Loomis. The house waited, a shawl of blackness drawn close about it. Jaffir hefted the ring of keys his assistants had taken from Barnabas Collins, and they made a musical tinkling sound. Though the night was cool, sweat oozed from Jaffir's pores, making his coarse features glisten in the phosphorescent moonlight.
Quietly, Jaffir rose from his concealment and padded quietly to the front door of the Old House. He tried one key, and then another, until finally the lock turned and the door gave inward. Producing a flashlight, Jaffir thumbed it to life and pushed the panel further. His yellow beam showed an empty house. He took little notice of the elaborate fixtures and ancient furnishings, but strode in quickly. He knew the layout of the house, having been present when Roxanne Drew's coffin had been spirited.
Unerringly, Jaffir had found his way downstairs, and stood at the secret door to the coffin room. Pressing an ear to the door, he heard what appeared to be a faint snuffling sound. Considering a plan of action, Jaffir decided to unlatch the secret door and then spring up the stairs and lock himself in a room. The werewolf would no doubt immediately quit the confines of the house and seek prey in the outdoors. That was the best and safest course. As quietly as possible, Jaffir turned the secret latch and tensed himself to spring.
The instant the latch clicked, Jaffir was knocked backward as the secret door flew open, smashing him against the far wall. He staggered about in a dazed state, when he suddenly realized that the beast within had been waiting for him to unlatch the door, and had acted with diabolical intelligence to keep him from escaping. Worse, Jaffir realized that he was now alone with the beast, and no escape remained. His mind collapsed in concert with his bodily functions, and the beast found him no fit prey.
Quentin Collins II, now transformed into that which he hated, the werewolf, vented his rage upon the unconscious Jaffir, destroying him with superhuman strength until all that remained was a mass of steaming flesh. However, this pitiful creature could not quell Quentin's unnatural lust for destruction, and he shambled up the stairs and rushed into the moonlight.
Events coursed through the beast's mind in jagged, chain-lightening flashes, pushing and driving him in search of more prey. His thoughts pulsed in strange patterns, some human, some lupine. Down the hill from Collinwood lay the woods, and Quentin scampered for it as best he could in his half-human, half-wolf form. Once inside its dark fastness, he crept along cautiously, but his unnaturally keen hearing told him that birds and animals quickly fled at his approach. Then the trees broke and he found himself by the road that bisected the woods.
Quentin stopped there to sniff the air. Many things drifted to his wolfish snout: the stink of car emissions, the smells of plants, smoke from fireplaces. Two odors came to him that intrigued him. One was a fishy smell, drifting from the sea, but it carried a unique scent, a scent of the supernatural. Quentin's dual mind was both fascinated and unconcerned, since battling such a creature was beyond his scope. Still, he felt a kinship to it. The other odor was of blood, faint, billowing as it did from nearly the same quarter. That was enough to interest both entities, so Quentin made off toward Widow's Hill and the sea.
Moonlight glazed the ocean's surface, and its roar and pulse became a soothing rhythm to Quentin's tormented soul. For an instant he forgot his bloodlust and watched the curl and crash of the waves. The scent of blood came from below him, and now Quentin could feel it was mixed with a dankness as if from a cavern. Then, the other odor suddenly overpowered his hypersensitive nostrils, causing the man-beast some consternation. Quentin looked out over the rumpled seascape, and then he saw it.
Jetting to the surface amid a geyser of glittering spray came a serpentine neck, topped by a flat, diamond-shaped head. A barrel-shaped body followed, and Quentin found himself staring into dull red eyes, that even at this distance, seemed huge and menacing. The man-thoughts within Quentin's malformed head were memories of this creature snatching away a crewman from the "Maine Belle". The beast-thoughts were strongly sympathetic. Quentin sensed a great deal of loneliness in the creature's demeanor, something in which he shared. These two outcasts faced each other with a sense of kinship, as brethren of the fang.
Quentin reared back his wolfish head and howled out a long and mournful howl. Understanding, the Sea Wolf emitted a steam-whistle shriek. Then, nodding as if in salute, it dove back beneath the waves, leaving Quentin alone among the weathered rocks of Widow's Hill. His beast mind forgetting the incident, Quentin turned and fled back down the hill, prey once again uppermost in his mind. He crashed through the undergrowth and again emerged at the road leading to Collinwood.
Unexpectedly, a car roared around a sharp curve in the roadway. Its dazzling headlights caught Quentin totally by surprise, since its beast-form had been dormant for nearly a century and was ignorant of cars. Dismayed by this new creature, Quentin did not move, and was flung headlong as the fender of the car struck him obliquely amid the ear-piercing scream of locked brakes on pavement.
Beverly Wentworth was agitated.
All day long she had heard no word of Quentin's condition or whereabouts. Phone calls to the sheriff's department had proven fruitless. After dinner, she tried calling the Collins estate, but strangely got no answer. Finally unable to sit still any longer, she snatched up her purse and got into her own car. The Chevy Nova's 350 engine started flawlessly, and she sped off toward Collinwood.
Beverly's mind was loaded with chaos. Her traumatic experience the night before had remained unresolved. Her attempts at sleep had been nearly fruitless, punctuated by horrible dreams of wolf-beasts and glowing-eyed men in black suits. Finally, Beverly had awakened, showered, and began her calling. This led her to where she was now, behind the wheel of a steel juggernaut, unmindful of her speed. Her mind was still bursting with uncertainties when she entered the woods before Collinwood and encountered the were-beast again.
She screamed as its shaggy form was illuminated by the car's headlights. She got a glimpse of the tortured, snouted face before her foot jammed the brake pedal to the floor. The car slid sideways, and her scream mingled with the shriek of skidding tires as she felt a thud mark her collision with the beast. Fighting the steering wheel, Beverly brought the car back under control and it eventually came to a stop some hundred yards from where she had struck the beast. She made a quick U-turn and brought the headlights to bear on the road.
Lying in the ditch was the creature. Beverly's fear of it melted as she viewed it. In its spread-eagled state, it looked so human that she wondered if it were not some man reduced to living in the forest out of madness. Moving the car until it was but fifty feet from the creature, she got out and rummaged in her trunk for a blanket she kept for emergencies. Finding it, Beverly went about and stood at the ditch bank in wonder.
No, it was not human, but then, it was not quite beast, either. It wore clothes, or parts of clothes. She unrolled the blanket and stood for a moment trying to decide if she was strong enough to pull it out of the ditch. As she did so, its red-rimmed eyes suddenly snapped open and it snarled, revealing its yellowed, canine tusks. Beverly froze, unable to decide what to do next.
The possession/leeching came upon her at that instant, and she nearly fainted as the energy went out of her. In a swirling of black and silver, the mysterious ghost was beside her, in his long-fingered hands the ornate cross he had left as her talisman. Beverly did feel that her fear had issued out with the energy it took to make the ghost corporeal. The ghost looked down upon the prostrate beast, and he held forth his cross to keep it at bay.
"What is it?" Beverly managed.
The spirit turned its noble head slightly to take her in with its burning gaze, then spoke in its resonant voice that Beverly remembered from the night before. "It is a werewolf, a man who can turn to something part human, part wolf, all devil-bought. My descendant faced this creature, and I thought it destroyed, but it lives again."
"How can such a thing exist?"
"The beast was cursed by a gypsy witch, but was cured. I perceive it now gains its powers through a magic belt. Remove the belt, and the thing will become a man again."
"Shall I? Will it attack me?"
"You vehicle has damaged it, and though the creature heals itself magically when in this state, between its hurt and my silver cross, the monster will not harm you. I warn you, though, you may not wish its identity revealed."
"I cannot leave the poor soul as a monster!" Beverly exclaimed. "Whoever it is does not deserve such a fate! I will take off the belt."
Carefully, she knelt over Quentin. His pain was ebbing, but the proximity of silver kept him still. His man brain struggled with the beast to remain quiet and allow her to remove the belt, and this battle of wills allowed her to unclasp the belt and draw it through its loops. Beverly stood back, as if she expected an explosion.
Instead, she saw a horrific transformation, as the hairy wolf-creature melted and reformed into a truly human shape.
"My work for now is done," the spirit commented, lowering its cross, "but, if you are again threatened by the unknown, if you are within the confines of my old parish, Collinsport, I will return to you. As long as my blood continues, that is my curse."
"Who am I, then, to be your blood?"
"You are my great-granddaughter's granddaughter."
"And your name, my family name?" Beverly had never known her real parents. It had never mattered, until now.
"I am Trask. Your grandmother was the last to bear the Trask name. She was Charity Trask. Now, I must go, for I feel you will need the strength that maintains me. Farewell."
His dark form disintegrated, and Beverly felt her strength return. Staring down into the ditch, she stumbled backward in surprise. Covered in mire was a disheveled Quentin Collins! He groaned in pain, and struggled to rise. Bracing herself, she reached out a hand to pull him out. Slowly, and with great embarrassment, he made it up and onto the road. Beverly threw the blanket about his broad shoulders and led him to her waiting car. Silently, he got inside, and she went around and slid beneath the wheel.
"There is no way that I can get a grip on any shred of reality here," Beverly said as she put her car in gear. "I hit something that looks like a wolf, or wolf-man, I am sort of possessed by the ghost of my ancestor, or so he claims, and then, by removing a belt from a beast, it turns into a man. I am an artist, and I have an artist's imagination, but this begins to strain it considerably." She then turned to stare hard at Quentin, who leaned forward and appeared contrite. "You realize this, don't you?"
"You are taking it well," he rumbled, voice low and pained. "What do you wish of me?"
"Some truth, perhaps. Did the ghost speak the truth? Are you cursed? Can you become a werewolf? Am I really a Trask?"
He stared at her with new interest. Most women would be hysterical. Beverly, on the other hand, was acting more angry than afraid. Her gaze was steady and grip upon the steering wheel firm. The truth came hard to his tongue, now that the decades of lies had cracked.
"I am cursed," he admitted. "I was cursed by a gypsy woman because of my treatment of her sister. I was able to obviate the curse because of a special painting that acts as a neutralizing agent. Why that has failed is difficult to figure. The ghost of Reverend Trask said it was the belt. And, yes, if Trask's spirit said you were his blood, then you are. That Trask was not prone to lying, though his descendant, Gregory was the devil's own spawn. Back to the belt, though. I was led to understand that certain ointments could bring on the curse, as well as a belt of wolf skin. This appears to be an ordinary belt, though a plump one."
"Plump?" Beverly queried. She was approaching Collinwood. Parking before the front door, she flipped on her car's dome light. The belt, though muddy, was lying between them. Beverly had dropped it there after removing it. Quentin picked it up and felt the material.
"Plump," he repeated. "It feels almost padded."
"There are some X-acto knives in the glove compartment that I use for printmaking. Do you mind cutting into the belt?"
"Hardly." He opened the glove compartment and withdrew one of the stainless steel handled knives. Its triangular blade was razor sharp. Carefully, Quentin made an incision near the stitching, down the entire length of one side, and across the tip. Then he pulled the belt apart. Revealed was an inner lining of shaggy gray hair. "Wolf. I'd stake my life on it. So, the belt was calculated to curse the wearer. Very clever, and very diabolical. This is the belt I got from Godfrey! Could he have known?"
"How do we find out?" Beverly asked.
"By finding him!" Quentin snarled, and Beverly was reminded of the wolf-man. "I'm going to wake up Dr. Hoffman. She should have some inkling of this. What if his other presents were loaded as well?"
"I'll wait for you," she said. "No, I'll go with you. The last time I let you out of my sight, you wrecked a bathroom."
He smiled, and she returned it. They stared at each other for a long second, and then, they embraced, quickly and savagely. She sought out his lips and crushed her own against them. They clung to each other as two castaways to a piece of flotsam, and then they separated and left the car. Quentin found his key still in a pocket of his shredded pants. Inside, the house was quiet. Stealthily, they padded upstairs to Dr. Hoffman's room. It was ajar. Peering in, Quentin found it empty. A check of David's room found it empty as well, except for the shattered glass, fallen book with its grisly victim, and an ominous brown smear nearby. Caroline was apparently asleep in her room, but the smashed pendant and crushed spider were mute testimony to what had transpired.
"Evidently they are in search of Godfrey," Quentin whispered. "I'll need some things from my room."
She waited in the hall as he changed. The sight of his powerful body was almost enough to make her forget her past ordeal. Quentin changed into a leather biker jacket and heavy boots. Rummaging around in a drawer, he removed a pair of crucifixes, one of which he gave to Beverly, and then produced a heavy service revolver, which he stuck into the waistband of his trousers, this pair held up by another belt.
"My clothing bill will be outrageous this month," he quipped to her as he exited his room. "You know, we have one problem. We don't know where to look for Godfrey."
"He didn't tell anybody?"
"No." Quentin paused at the bottom of the spacious staircase and thought a moment. His memories of his time while in werewolf form were blurred, but he recalled the frightful majesty of the Sea Wolf and another thing — the smell of blood. He remembered it distinctly. The odor of human blood, wafting up from the cliffs below Widow's Hill.
"I smelled blood coming up from the base of Widow's Hill," he related to Beverly as they continued on out the front door. "It was fresh. You know, there are tunnels below Widow's Hill, one of which leads to the Old House, I think, and I'm not sure of the others."
"Let me get my flashlight from the car," Beverly suggested. "Do we have to climb down the cliff?"
"No," Quentin assured her. "There is a path that leads from the rear of the house here. You know, that man is deadly. I can't ask you to walk into his lair like this."
"You are positively Victorian at times, Quentin Collins. You could almost convince me that you were from the 1870's, not the 1970's."
Quentin answered her only with a brief smile. It was bad enough for her to know of his curse. What would she think if he told her that he was a product of the 1800's? As he watched her looking in her car trunk, he felt a profound sadness, but it was not a new sensation. The girl certainly had her attractions. She was intelligent, talented, and certainly beautiful. She was mortal, however, and would age, while he would continue to remain about 30 years old. Indisputably, though, this curse was preferable to that of the werewolf, since at least he was in some control of his destiny.
Beverly's flashlight blazed into life, and Quentin led her around the stately edifice of Collinwood. Beverly felt no fear, knowing that no red-eyed beast lurked behind every tree bole or hedge. She was unsure, however, of her feelings for her companion. She was definitely infatuated; it would be virtually impossible not to be. The strong hand which guided her elbow gave her a sense of safety. Still, behind Quentin's handsome facade, deep within his core, lurked the wolf, ready to spring if released.
How he must have suffered, she thought, carefully balancing herself as the path turned downward and became laced with rocks and loose stones. To live with the knowledge that you had no control over your actions, and that you would wantonly kill for no reason other than a lust for blood, how could Quentin have stood it and not gone mad? Beverly found herself the more drawn to him with this realization. More than ever, she was determined to help him bring down the most recent author of his torment.
Against the waning moon's glow jutted Widow's Hill, while before them was spread a white semicircle of beach. Any attempt at conversation was useless, though, as farther along the surf crashed against a jumble of eroded rocks at the base of Widow's Hill. Quentin knew instinctively how to thread his way through the maze of boulders, some of them the size of Cadillacs. Beverly kept up with him, shivering as each wave deposited its shower of spray against the cliffs. Her flashlight seemed so small, so useless, but she continued.
"Quick, give me the light!" Quentin suddenly barked as they entered a cleft where part of the cliff face had separated into a series of fang-like projections.
Beverly obeyed, and looked in amazement as Quentin played the yellowish light over a gleaming, cylindrical surface that rode low in the surging waters. Near the far end was a rounded projection, equally metallic looking. Beverly blinked, then looked again. It was a submarine!
"A sub," mused Quentin. "I remember when these things were invented — never mind. This appears to be some sort of surplus coastal model. Who would have a submarine here? And why? This must be some of Godfrey's doings. Aha!"
He played Beverly's flash against the shore beside the sub. The muddy bank revealed footprints leading into the depths of the cliff. The flash revealed a triangular opening in the naked granite.
"That's their hole," he decided, heading toward it. "I suspect that at the other end we'll get some answers."
Webster was brief.
"The `lady' wishes a word with you," he snarled, his cold sea-green eyes fixed on Godfrey's.
"Where is she?" Godfrey demanded. "More to the point, where is Jaffir? He should be back by now. If he decided to flay one of those Collinses alive, I'll feed him piecemeal to some creature from the pit. My plans are too delicate for him to allow his baser desires to come out."
"I haven't seen him," Webster stated. "The `lady' is below, in the process of relocating her accommodations."
"Moving her coffin, eh? Alert Colbourne and be ready. I suppose it's time to reward Miss Drew for her work. Go!"
He waved his long-fingered hand imperiously and Webster leaped to obey. Godfrey collected about his person various magical items, then went over to a communications set he had installed in an ancient roll-top desk. Absently, he keyed the microphone.
"August," he spoke, "secure the grounds. Nobody enters or leaves without my authority. It has begun. The submarine is ready?"
"Jawohl, Herr Meister Magister," came the crackling reply.
"Excellent. Carry on."
He replaced the desktop and rubbed his pale hands together. Soon, everything would be in readiness. He would be master of Collinwood, and together with his submarine and arcane powers, he would control Collinsport and all access to it. The world had nearly passed the sleepy little seacoast town by, but soon, he would make it a place of infamy. As soon, that is, as he had dealt with the Collinses. One must have their priorities, Godfrey thought. First revenge, and then absolute power.
He met Webster and Colbourne at the entrance to the basement and noticed that they carried crucifixes.
"Put those things away!" he snapped. "Do you want the lady to think that we mean her harm?"
They hurriedly obeyed, and Godfrey opened the secret panel that led below. He found an interesting tableau awaiting him. Roxanne Drew had entered the magic circle and was lifting her coffin effortlessly. Godfrey could not help but chuckle at this. After all, the casket had taken six men to carry down the stairs. She was manipulating it as if it were a purse. He planted himself in front of her before she could quit the circle he had drawn to inhibit her transformations. Every advantage would be necessary if problems arose.
"Departing so soon?" Godfrey inquired. "This means that you have fulfilled your end of the bargain."
"I have done what you asked," Roxanne replied, her face a carved mask of cold beauty. "Barnabas Collins is dead and your price has been paid. I have thought over your offer of protection and must respectfully decline it. Too many people here know my secret, so I am moving on. I suppose there is no chance of your releasing Sebastian back to me?"
"I fear his knowledge of events rather compromises my safety," Godfrey explained. "Besides, he is tainted by his love for Miss Evans there. No, I promised the girl to Jaffir, and Mr. Shaw is rather expendable. I wish you would reconsider my offer."
"No, I am resigned. I will hide my coffin in cemeteries by day, until I find a new servant. May I now pass? If I do not establish a new lair soon, it will be too late."
Godfrey did not answer, but instead used his eyes to motion his awaiting henchmen. They began to circle Roxanne warily.
"So, Barnabas was right," Roxanne observed. "You intend to make an end to me also. Very well, let us contest then. You will not find me easy game, circle or no circle."
"I am surprised that you finished him, having such doubts," Godfrey remarked, fumbling in his labcoat pockets for a bottle of holy water he had stolen from a church.
"I keep my word, Godfrey Collins, and contrary to our earlier conversations, I will return for him, after I finish you!"
With that, she hurled her coffin underhandedly directly at him. Her action was too fast for him to dodge, and he fell sprawling as the lacquered casket impacted his shoulder. The full weight of the coffin landed in a pile of cleaning equipment, where brooms and mops snapped in half like twigs.
"Hold her in the circle!" he bellowed hoarsely as he rolled dazedly along the floor.
Colbourne and Webster, like the good lackeys they were, moved to obey, but they were slow in removing their crosses from concealment. Leaping like a great cat, Roxanne cleared the circle and caught them both in a sweeping embrace. Gripping them with her unnaturally strong talons, she smashed them together like a pair of eggs. They met with a dull cracking sound. She released them and they dropped to the stone in two quivering heaps.
Having downed her opponents, Roxanne turned to the twin glass encasements that held Maggie Evans and Sebastian Shaw. Sebastian was pointing excitedly to the bank of controls to her right. Roxanne ran to them, looking with bewilderment at the maze of switches and dials. Though she had gone through 130 years of experience since 1840, such things as complex mechanical controls had eluded her. She focused her attention on trying to find the most likely controls, and it was in that instant that Godfrey Collins struck.
He had snatched up a shattered broom handle with a jagged end. Hurtling forward, he drove the wooden pole directly into Roxanne's back just below her left shoulder blade. The force of his impact drove the sharp point out between her breasts, showering the control panel with blood. She whipped about and backhanded Godfrey, sending him flying. He landed atop her coffin, cheek smashed, and blood pouring from his nose and mouth.
She knew instinctively, though, that it was too late for her. Pain overwhelmed her, and her brain swirled with images of her former days: her beloved brother, Barnabas Collins, Lamar Trask, Sebastian Shaw, and others encountered in over a century of wandering. Though dying, she knew that she must try to thwart Godfrey Collins, but how? She wanted to free Sebastian, and her painful shrieks gave her the answer.
In a supreme effort of will, Roxanne, partially transformed herself into bat-form. The result was that her head changed into that of a giant bat. Grotesque in her agony, she forced herself to emit one massive bellow in the high-pitched siren of a bat. It buffeted the room like a wave, causing Godfrey to hold his ears in pain. The two glass jars quivered as if struck with a tuning fork, and Maggie Evans sank to her knees as her brain was lashed with sonic agony.
The two jars exploded, sending glass fragments across the room like glittering shrapnel. Shaw and Maggie were scored with tiny cuts, but escaped serious injury. Godfrey rolled to the other side of Roxanne's coffin, while the wave of shards ripped a cross-hatch pattern in the casket's lacquered top. Roxanne was oblivious to the deadly rain, as her energy was expended in that last act, and she crumpled to the floor.
Sebastian Shaw stood up and shook glass fragments from his shirt and hair. He bent to examine Maggie and found her to be conscious, but slightly disoriented.
"Get to the stairs!" he yelled at her. This seemed to snap her out of her lethargy and she took a few hesitant steps forward, muscles in agony from disuse.
Sebastian then examined Roxanne. Her head had resumed its natural shape, and Sebastian thought that she had never looked more beautiful than at that moment. It was the finale of her career as a vampire. He thought her dead, but her eyelids fluttered amid the dusting of glass particles.
"Barnabas, you are avenged," she whispered. "I pray that I have gained some atonement, and that my coming journey will not be too unpleasant."
"Relax," Sebastian told her, some forced humor in his expressive eyes, "there are only 13 types of eternal torment."
She gave a languorous nod, and then said no more.
Godfrey was screaming.
"Guards!" he yelled. "The prisoners are escaping! I am injured! Protect your master!"
Sebastian went to Godfrey, who was painfully rising. They stared at each other across the battered coffin top. Sebastian felt Godfrey's will, and knew that the sorcerer was attempting to subvert him mentally. The cold blue eyes seemed to glow in Godfrey's sallow face.
"You cannot resist," the wizard murmured. "You will be my pawn, as you were once hers. Go and bring the Evans woman to me."
Sebastian struggled, his brain seeming to expand in its casing, but ultimately it was of no use. He half-turned to obey Godfrey when a shot rang out, muffled, as if it came from below them. This sound snapped the ex-astrologer out of his trance, and with a quick motion, he flipped open the coffin lid. It sprang away, catching Godfrey in the forehead and sending him down in a heap amid the mops and buckets. Not waiting to see further results, Sebastian turned and fled up the stairs, hoping to intercept any guards who might be chasing Maggie.
CHAPTER IX — THE SORCERER AT BAY
Quentin found it unfortunate that the guard he had spent so much effort sneaking up on had his finger tight about the trigger of his automatic pistol. As the butt of Quentin's revolver smashed upon the man's skull, his finger jerked tight and one flat crack broke the silence. The bullet ricocheted against the damp granite walls, spalling chips in every direction. Beverly ducked, but was unharmed. Quentin searched the unconscious man and was rewarded by finding a ring of keys. He handed the automatic to Beverly.
"Can you use that?" he whispered while searching the key ring.
"You point it and pull the trigger, right?" she returned.
"That's the general idea."
Farther along the worn tunnel was a steel-sheathed door. Quentin unlocked it and swung the door open cautiously. No shots or guards appeared. Quentin then waited, listening intently for any sound that might betray an ambush. None resulted, so he used Beverly's flash to illuminate the room. It appeared to be like the rest of the tunnel, a worn, dripping, granite tube. Farther on was another door, this one old and made of heavy timbers banded with black iron. Near that door, Quentin's flash picked up a hunched object lying on the damp stone floor.
He walked over and examined it, then was shocked to realize that it was a human body lying there. Kneeling down, Quentin gently turned the body up so that he could see its face. His former shock was forgotten when he recognized his own cousin, Barnabas Collins!
"Damn it!" Quentin swore. "We're too late! She's gotten to him!"
Quentin tore at Barnabas's collar, only to have his worst fears confirmed. Two ragged bite marks stood out lividly against Barnabas' pallid neck. Distraught, Quentin felt for a pulse, but there was none. Rage built up within him, a red rage that brought out the beast. He felt the creature deep within his breast, but now Charles Tate's portrait held sway, and the wolf stayed locked on the inside. Still, it did not stop the beast from expressing its anger.
"I will bring this place down around Roxanne Drew, and seal her inside forever, if that is what it takes!" he roared, rising, but continuing to stare at Barnabas' pitiful corpse. "And Godfrey — no power on earth or in the pit will stay my hand from your throat, this I swear!"
"Swear to something more achievable," came a voice from behind him.
Quentin whirled. Framed in the other doorway was a man dressed in black, as had been the guard Quentin ambushed. Only the oval of the man's face was visible. In his gloved fists rested a gleaming MP-40 submachine gun, its barrel pointing at Quentin's midriff. Quentin knew enough about modern weapons to know that the submachine gun could stitch him with bullets before he could fire one shot from his revolver.
"Drop that rod, Jack!" snarled the guard. "You too, sister, or I plug your sweetie."
They complied, and the two pistols hit the stone with hollow thuds. The guard waved his machine gun to indicate that Beverly should join Quentin. Quentin burned to act, but knew that even his abilities could not match the speed of a bullet.
"Who are you?" the guard demanded.
"I am Quentin Collins," Quentin replied.
"Should have figured you was a Collins. Well, you can join your cousin. He's kinda drained after his date with the vampire."
The guard's face twisted with humor after his feeble attempt at a joke. Quentin merely scowled. He wanted to smash the guard in the jaw, but he waited. He hoped that an opening would come. Then, he felt a movement at his feet. Trying not to betray surprise, he listened. What had brushed against his trouser cuff? Was his assessment of Barnabas premature? If so, what good could a man half-dead be?
"You serve something dredged up from the primordial ooze, little man," Quentin spat out, his gaze locked into that of the guard's. "You must have no soul, to serve such a thing."
"I have been promised a kingdom," the guard answered, sneering. "The Master will rule this part of the world, and we shall all share in its bounty. Perhaps I will be given this girl, even. Nothing's beyond the Master. Now, prepare to die, scum. You'll make a good pair with your cousin there, and —"
The look on the guard's face made Quentin follow his gaze. Barnabas's corpse was gone! Quentin noticed a fine swirl of mist that wafted around their feet, then nothing.
"What the hell happened?" the guard demanded. "Where did he go?"
"Behind you," came a deep voice from the darkness.
The guard turned on his heel, thrusting out his MP-40. Barnabas Collins stood there, pale as cold death. His piercing eyes radiated menace as they bored into the guard's. The guard gave a broken shriek and squeezed the trigger on his submachine gun. There was a staccato roar and the cavern was lit with ragged flashes as the 9mm slugs spat and sang in every direction. Barnabas Collins was wreathed in smoke, but was unaffected by the lead barrage.
Without waiting further, Barnabas grasped the man by his throat and squeezed until he heard a dull cracking noise. The guard's eyes bulged, and then went glassy. Satisfied, Barnabas flung the guard's body to one side with a careless gesture. Beverly was paralyzed with shock over what she had witnessed. Were all the men of Collinwood monsters? She peered into the gloom for a hint of blood amid the tattered clothes Barnabas wore, but found none.
"Godfrey has won this round," Barnabas uttered sadly. "He has returned me to what I once was. I will repay him, I think. Have you seen him this night?"
"No," Quentin replied, his own voice full of remorse. "We can find a cure for you, Barnabas. You gained freedom before; it can be had again."
"Perhaps," Barnabas commented. "If not, there is always the stake. Already I feel the urge for blood singing in my veins. Your companion's neck looks so inviting. The curse has me within its toils, Quentin. Angelique's final gesture of love has been unraveled. Well, there is work to be done, and — someone is coming! We must hide!"
As he spoke, the sound of a key in the old lock was distinctly heard.
August found the youth wandering aimlessly up the path toward the Master's house. The boy was fair and slender, and August wondered why he was about this late at night. No matter, the Master's orders were plain. There were to be no intruders. Drawing his stiletto, he broke from the darkness of his hiding place and intercepted the boy.
"What are you doing here, boy?" he demanded, planting himself before the youth.
David Collins was startled, but he remembered his coaching from Elliot Stokes and tried to look as innocent and angelic as possible. The man was a head taller than he, and was dressed in forbidding black. The stiletto in the man's right fist did not help either.
"I'm David Collins, mister," David explained. "I've come to see my cousin Godfrey. Is he at home?"
David had no idea if he was at the right place or not, but Professor Stokes had reasoned that Godfrey's whereabouts had to be somewhere nearby, since nobody in town had seen him. The old McGruder place was an obvious choice, given its proximity to Collinwood. Now, he had only to get past this man who did not look passable.
"You had best go, mach schnell!" August snapped. The boy was so handsome, so slender; he would hate to have to kill him. Still, there was always later, before the body had cooled.
"I want to see cousin Godfrey!" David repeated, trying to look upset over the prospect of being turned away. "Please?"
"Come back tomorrow," August muttered, torn between his Master's orders and other urges. "It is too late now."
August then became aware of the shapes looming up behind the boy. Two men and a woman stood there.
"Thanks for the info, creep," Willie Loomis said. "Now, why dontcha go looking for your lost marbles while we pay a call on old Godfrey?"
August's reply was to lunge at David with his stiletto. The sharp blade passed within inches of David's throat as the boy flung himself backwards. Willie stepped past and faced August. He knew about knife fighting, but he also knew how rusty he was. The last person he had dueled had been Burke Devlin, and the results had not been good for Willie. Now, though, he was fighting for his life. Elliot and Julia were useless in this situation. It required skill and speed.
August checked his stance and reappraised his opposition. The boy was no fighter, at best inexperienced. The fat man looked too slow, and the woman too weak. That left the rat-faced man. He moved as if he had faced the blade before. August nodded in appreciation. This would be a good fight. Too bad the other was unarmed, then it would be a true test. Well, I have a job to do, he thought. Without warning, he slashed at Willie's chest.
Willie danced back, and the needle-like tip barely grazed his jacket. Still, it left a precise gap. Willie didn't want to think about what would have happened if he had been slower. His opponent did not let up, boring in and snapping the stiletto toward Willie's nose. He nearly stumbled as his neck muscles acted. Pressure on his nerves made him dizzy, and Willie knew that defensive actions were not going to carry him through. He needed to even the odds, and since he couldn't acquire a knife, he had to remove the enemy's. He remembered a trick from prison, that an ex-Green Beret had taught him. Six years had passed, and he knew of no other chance.
Willie backpedaled, then set himself. August lunged, high, aiming for Willie's throat. Willie sidestepped, then spun his body around on one foot. His other foot snapped out and up, to intersect August's thrust. His instep caught August at the inside of his elbow, sending a shockwave through August's forearm that made the stiletto go flying in a glittering cartwheel that disappeared into darkness.
"Sehr gut," August barked, letting the feeling return to his arm. "I have a worthy opponent. Let us finish our contest then, as equals. I have not been picked to guard the Master's gate for nothing. Seventeen men have I killed since entering his service, each more violently than the last. Now, it is your turn."
Willie was chilled by those harsh words. He had faced men in prison, and worse since coming to Collinsport, but this man sounded fanatical. He had to end the fight quickly and decisively. Only one weapon presented itself, and that was the heavy brass belt buckle at his waist. While August got himself together, Willie unclasped the belt's tang and whipped it through the loops of his jeans. He coiled the leather end around his left hand once and waited. He knew he had one chance.
August moved like lightning, his hands stiff and chopping in like ax-heads. Willie caught one blow on his shoulder and winced with pain. He kicked out and caught August in the solar plexus, nearly doubling him over. Using this opening, Willie snapped the belt upward, and its brass end struck like a pit viper. Blood spurted from a ragged gash above August's left eye, obscuring his vision. Willie whipped the belt around again, its buckle slamming against August's clenched teeth amid a shower of enamel.
This was Willie's chance. He stamped his left heel against August's instep and slugged the wounded guard directly under his good eye. The double effect straightened August up, giving Willie an unobstructed path to pound several more rights into the man's mid-section. August went down, snarling and blood-drenched. Willie planted a boot against the guard's head, and the man lay still.
"Wow, Willie, I didn't know you could fight like that!" David exclaimed admiringly.
"I useta have to fight a lot in prison," Willie rasped as he tried to get his breath back. "This guy was just tougher than most, that's all. We better get going. No telling who else is spookin' around here."
"Or what," Stokes added soberly. "I retrieved that tough's knife. Here, Willie."
Willie accepted the stiletto in silence and they turned back toward the McGruder Mansion. As they approached, they heard shots, faintly.
"Trouble in paradise?" Stokes whispered, close to Willie's ear. "This may be the time to strike."
"Catch 'em with their pants down," Willie agreed. "You and I hit the front door, and then we see what's what. Whatever you do, Prof, don't stop for nothing. Barnabas must be in there somewhere."
"I'll give it all I've got," Stokes assured him.
There had been a guard on the porch, but at the sound of shooting, he turned and went inside. Not waiting, the four rushed the porch as fast as they could. Willie and Elliot slammed their shoulders against the front door and it gave with a splintering groan. As their momentum carried them forward, Stokes got tangled in the hall carpet and went down in a heap. His misfortune saved his life.
A guard with a Luger P-08 was half in the far doorway. He whirled and shot from the hip, his shot burying itself in the doorway not a foot above Elliot's head. Willie gathered up a bench as he hurtled forward and flung it awkwardly at the guard. It caught him crosswise across his chest and sent the Luger tumbling. David was in next and dived over Stokes. He scooped up the heavy German automatic and held it steady on the guard.
"Boy, you wouldn't dare," the guard hissed, drawing forth a Bowie knife from a sheath at his hip. The massive blade gleamed wickedly in the lamplight. David hesitated for an instant, then for some reason remembered Jim Hawkins who found himself in a similar situation against the Pirate Israel Hands. David grasped the Luger tightly in both hands and pulled the trigger.
The explosion sounded like a cannon shot to him. The guard reeled backward, crimson blossoming on his breast. He staggered for a bit, dropping the giant knife, then collapsed. David's grip became palsied in the aftermath, and he was only too happy to have Elliot Stokes pluck the pistol from his grasp. He had killed a man.
"He woulda done the same to you," Willie said, gathering up the Bowie knife to add to their growing arsenal. "Now, to find Barnabas."
They flung open the doors to the living room only to be greeted by a disheveled Maggie Evans. Gaunt, stumbling, but alive, she fell into Julia's arms gratefully.
"Sebastian's down there with that wizard," she gasped out. "Roxanne saved us, but she's dead. You must help him."
Julia caressed her brunette locks and helped her to a chair. "We'll get him out. What of Barnabas?"
"She got him." Maggie felt the realization of what she said fall upon her, and she was suddenly racked with sobs. Willie motioned to Stokes, and they went to the next door. Opening it, they found the stairs that led down. Scampering up them was Sebastian Shaw, looking more wild-eyed and manic than ever.
"Where's Maggie?" he demanded.
"In the living room," Stokes informed him. "What of Godfrey?"
"He's down there, and I'd leave him there," Shaw remarked, dodging past him. "When he recovers, he'll be likely to destroy us all."
"I say we go down and plug him," Willie suggested.
"He's too dangerous to be left alive," Stokes agreed. "Let's go. Shaw and David can protect the women."
They started to descend, but were frozen by a chorus of screams, two of which sounded much like Barnabas and Quentin.
CHAPTER X — THE BEAST UNCHAINED
Godfrey Collins stood framed in the doorway as the heavy wooden door swung inward. He was no longer wearing the demure tweeds, but was now cloaked in a robe of flowing black satin, against which his pallid skin burned like witch-fire. Blood forked here and there across his face, and his cheek was puffed into an angry purple knot. These wounds did not dim the hatred that raged in his electric blue eyes.
"I wish that I could express my pleasure at this reunion," he hissed. "Things have not gone quite as I had hoped, however. I was caught off-guard, and so events have forced my departure. Happily, though, I will be able to gain some satisfaction with your demise, dear cousins."
"What did you hope to gain?" Quentin demanded. "You could have been a welcome addition to our family."
"You and Edward saw to that seventy-five years ago," Godfrey continued, and his long hangman's hands seemed to increase in their glowing whiteness. "You looked surprised. Did you think that you and your blood-sucking cousin there had a monopoly on immortality? I gained mine as well, though it was through knowledge, rather than curses. The Bowens had their histories of arcane lore, as well as contacts beyond these shores. I went to Europe in my early days, and discovered there was much more sorcery in those old civilizations.
"I am sure you both remember your old acquaintance Andre Petofi? I studied with him for a time, and I even pointed him in your direction, after my rebuff by Edward. His downfall gave me pause in my own plans for revenge, so I waited all these years, honing my powers until I could strike and take from you what you had denied me."
"We denied you nothing," Quentin interrupted. "We had no proof that you were Tad's son. When Great-uncle Quentin took you in, we thought that the matter had been settled."
"Yes," Godfrey snapped. "You thought that I had been relegated to obscurity. I gained some knowledge from his books, as well. It was from his journals that I learned of Roxanne Drew, and of Barnabas Collins. How delighted I was to learn that both had survived to this century. I used every resource to try to cause your destruction. Even those trinkets I gave the others were deadly. Both the glass and the creatures were tuned to a special frequency, which would free them and revive them."
"They failed," Quentin assured him.
"Ah, well, then with the two of you I shall not fail. You were my insurance policies. I expected Quentin to go on a rampage and be destroyed, the same with Barnabas. At the very least, you would be forced to leave Collinwood, and I would remain, its new master. Well, that's in ruins now. Shaw and the girl have escaped, no doubt to bring the police, so I must now exit. Since you three will no doubt attempt to impede me, then you must be dealt with. First you, Quentin. Your curse can be brought on by many things, by the curse of that gypsy woman, by wearing a belt of wolfskin, as I employed, or by a deal with the powers of darkness. I am sure that you will not make a deal, so I have bound a few demons until they gave me the secret of employing the curse myself. It will be of limited duration, but during that time, you will be the werewolf again. Thusly!"
He stretched forth his hands and the white glow shot from them, to envelop Quentin in its glare. Quentin staggered back as if he had been struck, then he fell to the ground writhing in pain.
"It's true, I feel the curse!" Quentin gasped. "Shoot him! Shoot him Beverly!"
Beverly pointed her pistol at Godfrey, but he waved one hand and a ruby ball flashed out to envelop the weapon. It suddenly became unbearably hot and she dropped it to the floor, where it melted to a puddle of steel that gave off several explosions when the gunpowder went off. Beverly was splattered with hot metal, and she was immediately covered by Barnabas.
"What will you do with me, trickster?" he demanded.
"Ah, what, indeed, dear cousin Barnabas?" Godfrey chuckled. "For you, something equally painful."
His hands twisted out once more, and Barnabas was suddenly surrounded by a ring of flames. The flames separated into pillars of orange fire, unnaturally forming cross-shapes as they danced about Barnabas.
"Beautiful, are they not?" Godfrey mocked. "They will slowly hem you in, and then, poof! The girl will be just an incidental. I would like to have you suffer, but I must be gone before Quentin's transformation is complete. So, now, eh — ?"
Voices were filtering down, and Barnabas recognized Willie's, as well as Elliot Stokes'. His agony was increasing, and he could see no way out. It was just as well, he thought. At least this way, his torment would be at an end. He would be free.
"Bah, more fools!" Godfrey snarled. "You are fortunate, Barnabas. I have no time to concentrate on finishing you with them arriving to interrupt me. I will leave the spell to dissipate naturally, but mark you, I shall return to finish you. That is, if the peasants don't finish you first. Farewell!"
Godfrey dodged past the fiery ring, and went through the far door. Barnabas seethed with rage at not being able to gain his revenge. Godfrey had destroyed what little reason he had for a hopeful future. For that alone, Barnabas felt the old urging come on him, the urge to tear out Godfrey's throat and drink his blood.
"Willie!" he called. "Stay out of here! Quentin is changing to his werewolf form! Wait until I tell you it is safe."
"What about you?" Willie yelled from above.
"He cannot harm me, or this girl with me. We are surrounded by fire."
Barnabas watched in agony as Quentin once more assumed the malformed image of the werewolf. With a beastly fear of fire, the shaggy figure darted off in the direction Godfrey had taken. Would he be in time? Barnabas waited, and then the flames began to dissipate. He called to Willie and down came his faithful servant, followed by the rotund Professor Stokes.
"Quentin has pursued Godfrey," Barnabas explained. "You must see to the girl. Godfrey has powers that would nearly rival Angelique's. Still, he must be stopped."
"I'm glad you're ok, boss," Willie assured him.
"I'm far from that, Willie."
Barnabas dashed off. As soon as he had passed through the steel doorway and out of sight, he traded in his human form for that of a bat. This gave him extra speed, and soon he had navigated the labyrinthine tunnel. He caught a glimpse of a metal object slipping beneath the waves, leaving a still lupine Quentin Collins howling in rage at a dock. Barnabas assumed this was Godfrey's submarine, and that he was off to perpetrate more evil. He further surmised that the sub would find its way through an underground channel, and from there, to the Atlantic. Quentin shambled off outside, and Barnabas discretely followed him.
Once among the rocks below Widow's Hill, Quentin peered out until his sharp eyes spotted the periscope of Godfrey's submarine. His submerged humanity connected the slender metal rod with the sorcerer, and Quentin raged anew. Then, his bestial memory was stirred by recent events. He recalled another meeting earlier on this beach. Sitting back on his half-human haunches, Quentin let forth an eerie howl. The chilling sound gave Barnabas pause, and he perched at the cave's mouth to await events.
He did not wait long. A strange, piercing ululation answered the wolf's call. Amazed, Barnabas saw a whipping, snakelike neck silhouetted against the faintly phosphorescent waves. The two creatures hooted to each other solemnly, as if some understanding passed between them. Then, the sea-monster dove, seemingly in pursuit of the escaping submarine. This prompted Barnabas to alight from his vantage point and flit out to sea.
Once over water, he clearly saw the submarine's cigar shape as it tried to make for open seas. Barnabas knew that there was a drop-off not far away, and Godfrey would be lost to him. He was surprised, however, to see the bulk of the Sea Wolf, for now he realized what it was, heading to intercept Godfrey. Both sub and creature were threading themselves between a host of loose boulders washed away from the coast. Heedless of injury, the Sea Wolf dashed its gray body against the sub, sending it against a pile of boulders. It then struck at the diving planes, taking a control fin in its mouth and twisting hard.
Out of control, the sub scraped against the rocks, and Barnabas noticed an increasing stream of bubbles rising from its location. Then, it reached the drop-off and was lost to sight, plunging like a rock into the depths. Barnabas knew little of subs, but he reasoned that in its damaged condition, the sub might not survive a deep dive. His deduction was verified not many minutes later, when a giant gout of bubbles and debris suddenly broke the surface.
Satisfied that the Atlantic was now Godfrey's grave, Barnabas turned and flapped shoreward. He knew better than to seek out the Sea Wolf. Its work done, it would return to the depths that spawned it. The moon was going down, and with its waning, the spell transforming Quentin also diminished, and he returned to human shape once more. Barnabas also returned to human form and stood beside his cousin.
"It's over," he explained to Quentin, who stood grimly at the water's edge, looking out to sea. "You called to the Sea Wolf, and it seemed to understand you. It damaged Godfrey's sub. The sea has claimed him."
"I sensed its loneliness," Quentin related. "It was cursed, as was I. We had that bond. Now, what?"
"It's gone back to the depths. Perhaps we shall never see it again. It is ironic that Godfrey tried to control Collinwood, yet all the elements, including the Sea Wolf, strove against him. Well, Collinwood is safe, but he has doomed me."
"You were cured once, you can be cured again," Quentin assured him. "Godfrey may have left some information in the McGruder Mansion about your condition. It is not hopeless."
"We shall see. Very well. The moon is down now, so dawn cannot be far behind. I must return to the Old House. Please explain to Willie what has happened. The former days have returned, old friend."
"We'll meet them together, as always."
The two cousins clasped hands, and then Barnabas shrank back into bat form and flew off toward the Old House. Quentin watched for a time until the little fluttering form was lost in darkness. Then, he returned his attention to the restless sea, pondering the bizarre events of the past few days. He heard his name called. Turning, he saw Beverly Wentworth standing there amid the jumble of rocks at the base of Widow's Hill. She was dirty and disheveled, but at that moment Quentin found her quite lovely.
"You're safe," she began, picking her way down the rocks toward him. "I was afraid to hope, but not afraid to come and find out."
"Trask's ghost would have protected you," Quentin told her once she was beside him. "It's over now. Godfrey is no more."
"We can resume our lives, then," she murmured, eyes locked into Quentin's. "I have a commission to paint a family portrait."
"Can you, knowing what you do about me?"
"I cannot fear the wolf, now that I have come to love the man."
"It's more than that," Quentin snapped, turning away bitterly. "How can I give in to such feelings, when I must also watch you wither and die while I do not age?" Without further hesitation, he blurted out his entire story, since he felt he owed her the truth for her loyalty.
"I am young, yet," she told him. "You can't predict the future. Things may change. Look at me, Quentin. I said look at me!"
She grasped his arm and yanked him about to face her. They stared at each other for a long moment, then fell into each other's embrace.
"Okay, then," Quentin agreed. "No predictions. But, no promises, either."
Still embracing, they watched the dawn wash out the dark.
The evil machinations of Godfrey Collins had a deep effect on all the inhabitants of Collinwood. Carolyn and Elizabeth evidenced a profound fear of spiders for some months. David became more reserved, and everybody thought that he had matured rapidly due to his experiences. Quentin and Beverly became quite close. Sebastian and Maggie also remained close, but they agreed that their destinies lay outside of Collinsport, so they went away to Boston. A search was made by the authorities for Godfrey's sub, but only some scattered wreckage was found.
As for Barnabas Collins, his life had returned to its former state of torment. His world again became one of slumber by day, and unquenchable thirst by night. He remembered Quentin's words, and so did not completely give up hope, but nightly he despaired, and for a time remained a dweller in darkness.