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A Tale of Dark Shadows

DESERT RATS

Andy Nunez


(A 1991 series story, during episode 11)


"At last, land!" came the guttural voice from the darkness. "God is good."

Waves crashing along jagged rocks muffled his praise. Overhead was a small sliver of argent moon, insufficient to illuminate the torn coast of ancient Maine. A pale crescent of whitish sand appeared beyond a semicircle of rocks which projected like broken fangs from the seething ocean. Bobbing amid the jagged obelisks of granite was a black rubber raft which offered little protection to its two occupants.

These two were barely visible against the bottom of the raft, since they were also clothed in black "drysuits" which protected them somewhat from the lashing waves that threatened to dash them against the rocks. Some hand guided their mazelike route, however, and they were soon past the barrier and near the beach.

"Allah has provided," quoth the one who had spoken earlier. "This beach is well secluded, and we may make safe our raft."

"Are you certain we are at the right spot?" snarled his other companion as they jumped out and pulled their raft into a shelter of jumbled granite.

"The Yankee criminal assured me this was the beach, and see!" the first motioned, to a spot beyond the cliff that soared above them. "There are the lights of the town, cursed be its unpronounceable Yankee name--"

"Kennebunkport," reminded the second. "I did not trust the Yankee criminal, Tarik. What if he has delivered us into the hands of the evil CIA, may Satan fly away with them?"

"The Yankee was interested in money, Selim, may he perish with it when Mohammed returns to judge the world," said Tarik piously. "He was a dog of the Italian crimelords, and would sell his own mother for a price. He does not like the infidel butcher Bush anymore than we do. Allah has given the Yankee dog into our hands, Selim. We shall now slip into the midst of the Nazarenes and give Bush the vengeance demanded by our beloved President for the destruction of our land. We do not need the cruise missiles and stealth planes to deal death here, only the mantle of Allah!"

So saying, the man called Tarik removed his protective suit to reveal a black uniform made bulky by an underlayer of kevlar. From a waterproof container, he removed a black beret, which he donned, and a harness complete with knives, grenades, and other devices. Finally, he removed an AK-47 assault rifle which he loaded from a bandolier of clips. Selim followed his companion's example. Finally, the two struggled into rugged combat boots. As a pious gesture, they knelt together and prayed toward Mecca. When they had finished, they checked their many accoutrements and climbed a steep path near the cliff, nearly deafened by the roaring and restless sea. As they topped the cliff, lights from a house shone dully through the gloom.

"Allah has again provided," Tarik pointed out. "This house is also secluded, and we may steal upon it and inquire of its occupants the house of the criminal Bush."

"Such a large house!" Selim marvelled. "It must be full of servants and other lackeys."

"Weak Yankee puddings," spat Tarik. Selim thought it imprudent to remind his leader that such puddings had bombed his country unmercifully and destroyed its army from the lowest conscript to the greatest veteran of the Republican Guard. "Beyond is another, greater house. Surely it belongs to the dog Bush, may the ghuls gnaw his bones. Let us go."

As they marched, a dark shape flitted in front of Selim, nearly knocking him down. Briefly silhouetted against the silver moon with its black membranous wings outstretched, the creature disappeared as soundlessly as it came.

"Beard of the prophet!" Selim swore as he tried to compose himself.

"Silence!" hissed Tarik. "Even the dull-witted Yankees will hear us!"

"But, Tarik, a huge bat nearly struck me!"

"Bats are harmless."

Selim shivered, not just from the chill February air of upstate Maine, but from his encounter with the night creature. He felt that this was an ill omen, but refrained from commenting to his partner. The two kept a steady pace toward the ancient house, using the many pines as cover. Their feet glided through the snow with the ease of trained killers. Both were veterans of the war with Iran and had participated in many raids against strategic installations. Now, they were after the biggest prize of all—the President of the United States.

From the concealment of some ill-kept shrubs, the two observed the old house. It looked abandoned, yet there were lights burning. Tarik examined the house with a starlight scope used for night-time targeting. There was evidence of remodelling all about. Ladders, lumber, and paint cans were barely covered by tarpaulins. Apparently, thought Tarik, the Yankee dog was celebrating his victory by spending more of his oppressed people's money on his personal luxury. That would soon end.

He replaced the scope and checked his assault rifle. The automatic weapon was equipped with a laser sight. This little device placed a red dot on his target, making it nearly impossible to miss. Tarik wished to take no chances. The criminal Bush would die. Then, Selim tugged his sleeve. A shape passed before the yellow light from within. It appeared to be a man.

"We shall surprise him and make him tell us how to get to Bush," Tarik whispered. "There is a small side door, you see? The lock appears simple. You have the tools?"

Selim nodded and the two left their hiding place. As Tarik assumed, the little side door was secured only by a simple key-type lock, which Selim easily overcame with a tool from his lockpick kit. Quietly, they stole within the house. Tarik produced a small flash and its pencil-thin beam allowed them to pick their way down the corridor to the lighted room.

Once there, Tarik was surprised to see the room lit by elaborate candelabra. Otherwise, the room was decadently well-furnished. A winding staircase flowed away on the opposite side of the room, and the floor was expensively carpeted. Amid the many antique chairs and tables a man worked. He fussed about the woodwork with a bottle of polish and a greasy rag, making the inlays and wainscotting gleam. Occasionally, he would take a drink from a paper bag-encased bottle that sat on a sideboard, then he went back to work.

Excellent, thought Tarik, a wine-bibber. He will put up little resistance. Bringing his weapon up to cover the man, he motioned for Selim to strike. Selim sprang from the dark corridor and put his rifle to the man's ear.

"Do not move or cry out, Yankee dog," Selim hissed in heavily accented English. "I have no fear about killing you."

Startled, the man dropped the bottle of furniture polish, which smashed against the leg of an desk, causing a large stain on the carpeting.

"Oh, jeez," the man stammered. "Barnabas ain't gonna be happy about that."

Selim spun the man around. He was of medium height, rather stringy of body. A worn flannel shirt and jeans covered him, while a battered knit toboggan was snug over his limp hair. The man's face was thin and rat-like, covered with two-days growth of beard. His eyes were large with fear as he realized he was being menaced by a man with a gun.

"Are you alone?" Selim demanded.

"Ah—yeah, right now, I guess," the man gulped. "Everybody's over at the Great House, what with Vicki gone and this other woman that took her place. It was during the seance, y'see and—"

"Shut up," Selim ordered.

Tarik appeared then, his weapon lowered so that the red dot played about his boots. This man was a babbling fool, which meant he would tell everything.

"What is your name?" Tarik asked, waving Selim back. Selim shouldered his weapon and drew forth a wicked-looking combat knife.

"Uh, Willie Loomis," the man answered. "Y'know, you're gonna be in big trouble, busting in here like this."

"You will be the one in big trouble, Willie Loomis, if you do not cooperate," Tarik assured him. "My friend here is very adept at using his knife, and he would not hesitate to remove from you certain parts of your anatomy." Tarik smiled inwardly as he saw Willie shudder visibly. This was almost too easy. "Now, tell me who owns this house."

"This belongs to my boss, Mr. Barnabas Collins," Willie answered. "He don't like people nosing into his business. You better go now, while you can, before he gets back."

"I assure you we can handle your Mr. Barnabas Collins," Tarik stated. "Is he an advisor to Bush?"

"Y'mean the President?" Willie goggled. "No, he don't even know he is president, I don't think."

"You will tell me where Bush lives," Tarik continued.

"He lives in Washington, DC."

Tarik backhanded Willie, causing a bruise to form on his cheek. "I mean here, in town, you fool! Do not make me call on Selim."

"He don't live here. You're thinking of Kennebunkport. That's a ways south of here."

"Allah Akbar!" Selim cursed. "The criminal betrayed us! Obviously this man is a dupe of the CIA. Kill him and let us go back to the launch, Tarik. We have another score to settle."

"Perhaps he lies to protect his leader," Tarik considered. "Dog, you will tell us the truth, or you shall suffer, both now and in the Pit. This is Kennebunkport, and Bush lives near here. Speak!"

"He does not lie," came a deep, resonant voice from the shadows beyond them. Appearing wraithlike from an ill-lit foyer was a tall man, his black hair swept back from his noble forehead. Blazing eyes set off his aquiline features, and the hand which gripped his silver wolf's head cane was criss-crossed with cords of strength. His flesh was pallid against his black redingote and suit, reminding Selim of a corpse.

"Kennebunkport is south of here," the newcomer continued. "You are at Collinsport. I am Barnabas Collins. If the President lives there, I know nothing of it. Apparently you have come to assassinate him."

"Our plans do not concern you." Tarik snarled. "We shall go and find the right town, and kill Bush. First, though, you shall die, infidel."

Barnabas Collins then moved, and the cape of his redingote billowed like the bat-wings Selim recalled with terror. He approached Selim, who was closer. Selim struck out with his knife, but Barnabas Collins was faster. The cane swept out and smashed against Selim's arm, sending the knife flying. Then Barnabas Collins grabbed the unfortunate Selim by the throat and hurled him headlong across the room, where he landed headfirst with a sickening crack and lay on the carpet, twitching spasmodically.

This gave Tarik time to bring up his AK-47. Willie prudently ducked behind a large secretary. Barnabas Collins paused an instant as he regarded Tarik. Tarik aimed the red dot of the laser sight at Barnabas' chest. Without hesitation, he set the assault rifle on full auto and fired. The fifteen round clip was soon exhausted and Barnabas Collins stood wreathed in a blue-gray haze of gunsmoke.

Tarik could not believe his eyes. Except for a series of ragged holes in his clothing, Barnabas Collins seemed unharmed. Worse, he was coming forward. Tarik clubbed his rifle, but Barnabas Collins twisted it out of his hands as if he were a child. The face of Barnabas Collins was terrible to behold, as if transformed into the visage of a beast. His eyes now glowed red like burning coals, and his lips were pulled back in a snarl that revealed sharp, gleaming fangs. Mercifully, the prophet covered Tarik with the cloak of unconsciousness about that time.


Something slithered over Tarik's foot, causing him to awaken. He kicked out, and the something was launched into the darkness where it landed with a thump and a high-pitched squeak. Tarik realized that he was in darkness, hanging by his arms. He tried to move, but his efforts only brought the rattle of chains to his ears as manacles bit into the flesh of his wrists.

His last recollections came slowly to him, and he tried to figure out how he had gotten in this black hole. He had shot the Yankee Barnabas Collins, but the man had not fallen.

He must have knocked me out in his death-throes, reasoned Tarik. Yes, that is it, and his lackey turned me over to the demonic CIA and their evil toadies.

He tugged at the chains again, but they were firmly attached somewhere above him. Listening, he heard only the faint drip of water and the rustle of vermin. Tarik decided that he was in an underground room, one that had been little used, no doubt a CIA torture chamber of some sort. Well, he would die before revealing any secrets. Allah would be proud.

Selim! he thought suddenly. His companion was no doubt dead, from the sound of his impact with the floor. The Yankee was stronger than any man Tarik had known, to throw Selim like a doll. The bullets had to have killed him. They had to! No man could live after such a barrage. Then, a muffled noise made him stop all thoughts and strain his ears. A key rattled in a lock and soon he heard ill-used hinges screech in protest.

A rectangle of light appeared, and framed in it was a man with a torch. In disbelief Tarik recognized the man he thought he had gunned down—Barnabas Collins! Now wearing a black shirt and pants, the man placed the torch in a rusted stanchion and approached Tarik. With the room illuminated, Tarik could see that he was in a small room of roughly dressed stone, adorned with rings from which depended pitted and oxidized chains. On the floor were damp piles of moldy straw and the littered bones of small animals. Barnabas Collins stood before Tarik with hands on hips, a cruel twist to his lips.

"Where is Selim?" Tarik demanded, drawing himself up as best he could.

"In the ocean," Barnabas replied coldly. "A few rocks tied to his ankles will keep him there."

"I do not fear you, infidel," Tarik snapped. "Do your worst to me, I defy you. You are a Yankee dog, the by-blow of a jackal and a vulture!"

"Your words cannot anger me," Barnabas Collins assured him. "I have been called worse, and it has all been true." Tarik despaired at this, but maintained his arrogant facade.

The master of Collinswood approached the assassin. "You have come with death as your master, and you will return to him. Even though I cannot be a part of the world of the living, I still feel strongly about my country. When I lived, it was young and vibrant, and even now deserves better than to have knaves like you creeping around and murdering its leaders. This is not France and the Terror, by God!"

"Kill me then," Tarik challenged. "You will find I die like a true son of Allah."

"In time, when you have served me. Your Allah and your prophet cannot save you from this. I condemn you to be my drinking fountain, until such time as I am free of my curse or your vile flesh no longer holds a drop of your stinking blood. Your sentence begins immediately."

With that, his cruelly sensuous lips pulled back to reveal monstrous fangs, and the eyes of Barnabas Collins began to glow as fired by an internal furnace. His long-fingered hands gripped Tarik's head and forced it back, exposing his bronze neck. Tarik had time for one scream before the fangs sank into his throat and turned that terrified shriek into a bubbling gurgle.