Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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John "Bridge" Martin, the globe-trotting journalist who covered the life and adventures of the elusive Macho Jungle Guy, has spent a great deal of time in Africa.
While doing research for Tales of the Macho Jungle Guy our intrepid author-explorer encountered a number of reports of "that other jungle fellow". When possible, Bridge took copious notes and interviewed those survivors with first-hand knowledge of these weird rumors. Bridge, however, did not address these other tales as a reporter of facts until after the release of Tales of the Macho Jungle Guy. Martin, freed from that commitment, then embarked on a costly and time consuming adventure to verify what had happened with "that other jungle fellow".
What follows is one of those strange and mysterious reports.
Every word of it is true!
The Greystoke Tales
Return of the Sussex Vampire
Return of the Sussex Vampire
By John "Bridge" Martin
Chapter 1—The Saga of the Seventy
John Clayton closed the book suddenly and tossed it onto the end table in the sitting room of Greystoke Castle in Cumbria.
"Aren't you going to finish reading that?" asked Jane. "It looks like you only have a few chapters to go."
"No need to read more," said Clayton. "I'm already familiar with the story of Dracula, and Chapter 20 gave me the specific information I needed."
"And what's that, dear?" asked Jane.
"That they didn't find all of Dracula's boxes of Transylvanian dirt," said the Englishman. "By the time they got to Carfax Abbey, they could find just 29. They had pretty much taken care of 20 others and they got No. 50, along with Dracula himself, on the road to his castle. Problem is, there are still another 20 unaccounted for!"
"How do you know that, John?" asked Jane. "I've read Dracula, too, and it says there were 50 boxes of earth aboard the Demeter, not 70."
"Aboard the Demeter. That's the key," said Clayton. "Dracula was something of a psycho, but he wasn't fool enough to put all of his eggs in one basket. Just as he thought he'd be safe with multiple makeshift coffins instead of just one, so he thought he'd be safer shipping them on two different ships rather than one, in case one shipwrecked which, of course, is exactly what happened to the Demeter."
"Yes," said Jane. "But fortunately for Dracula, and unfortunately for poor Lucy, that shipwreck occurred close enough to shore that the boxes were still able to be unloaded and delivered."
"The other ship," said Clayton, "was the Dementrix, captained by a skipper named Capt. Jack Ferguson. There were 20 boxes aboard that and they were also delivered to Carfax Abbey, meaning a total of 70 were there before Dracula started distributing them to various secure locations. When I visited the abbey as part of the House of Lords tour that the Count offered as a P.R. gesture, there were 70 there."
"I suppose that means you counted them," said Jane.
"Yes," said Clayton. "And Paul D'Arnot was with me and he counted them too, so I know the number was accurate. Actually, Dracula seemed to get rather nervous when Paul opened what he thought was a bathroom door but it really showed off the basement, with all those boxes! The Count came up with what I thought at the time was a hasty explanation, saying they were boxes of Transylvanian earth he'd brought to grow herbs and spices that he needs for his peculiar diet."
"Well," said Jane. "That was true in a sense, The count must have been a great punster. He did have a peculiar diet and he did need the boxes so he could rest on his native soil."
"Yeah, he's a real card," said Clayton, "and, you'll note, 'card' is 'Drac' spelled backward." Jane rolled her eyes.
"Anyway," said Clayton, "Bram Stoker either was ignorant of the fact that there were 70 boxes originally or he knew it and just ignored it to keep the story simple. After all, Stoker reported that Dracula had been destroyed so, as far as he was concerned, the other 20 boxes were irrelevant anyway."
Jane, her chin resting on a folded hand, asked, "How do you know all this?"
"I got the story first from a drunken sailor and then checked it out from the diary of a man long dead," said Clayton. "Ol' Quincy was a brave heart and enduring soul, and he died nobly in the effort to kill off Dracula. He had written so many journals that Stoker couldn't include them all in the book. And also," he added, "I was able to inspect the records of the Colonial Shipping Office, which kept track of the comings and goings of foreign ships like the Russian Demeter and Dementrix."
"But why worry about the 20 other caskets," said Jane. "Like you said, Dracula was killed and they are of no use to him or anyone else."
"It would be great," said Clayton, "if they were simply sitting in someone's clammy basement with mold growing inside them, but we have to make sure. Dracula has a way of becoming reactivated, and if any Gypsies or anyone else manages to get hold of any of his dust and dump blood on it, that might be enough to do it! Those boxes of earth must be found," Clayton added, "and destroyed so that his putrid body may never rest upon that tainted dirt again."
"But my dear," said Jane. "Who is going to do it?"
"I am," said John Clayton, Lord Greystoke.
Chapter 2—Business on Baker Street
Mrs. Hudson fondled the banknotes which her peculiar tenant, a Mr. Sherlock Holmes, had lavished upon her to pay for his lodgings, her cooking, and her periodic housekeeping duties. Perhaps to compensate her somewhat for his eccentricities, as well as the oddball characters who regularly called upon him, he always paid her handsomely, even beyond what was normally required. So it might be said that not only was Sherlock Holmes the world's first consulting detective, but also the first consulting detective who tipped excessively.
Mrs. Hudson finished counting her latest take and then pulled out the tin box beneath her bed, a place where burglars would never think to look. She removed a pin from her hair and picked the lock so she could add the new bills to her stash.
Just as she finished, she heard a knock at the door. She wasn't aware that Mr. Holmes was expecting anyone at this late hour and she certainly wasn't, so she speculated as she headed to the door and opened it somewhat timidly. Standing without was a tall man clad in dark clothing. His face was grim.
"Yes," said Mrs. Hudson timorously.
"I would like to see Mr. Holmes," said the stranger with somewhat of an accent. "Will you, of your own free will, allow me to enter?"
Mrs. Hudson had never been addressed in such a way but acquiesced, almost fearing that, should she attempt to keep the stranger out, he would merely put forth his hand and force the door open. So, she gestured for the man to step in and, as he did so, she noted with a chill in her heart that his footsteps made no sound upon the front hallway tile.
Along with her fear, she sensed that she might be in the presence of royalty, perhaps a count or an earl of some sort. "And who shall I say is calling Mr....er....your grace...?"
"John Clayton, Lord Greystoke," said the stranger. "My card, ma'am."
At the mention of the English name and title, Mrs. Hudson breathed a sigh of relief, happy that she was not an enemy of this man. "I'll tell him you're here, Mr. Clayton." She made her way up the stairs and a few moments later was back, indicating to the caller that he might ascend. "He is eager to see you."
Sherlock Holmes had just finished shooting up and had taken off his tourniquet and was unrolling his shirtsleeve as Lord Greystoke entered. "Just taking a little hit for a pick-me-up," explained Holmes. "Sorry I didn't have enough to share. The Baker Street Irregulars haven't been coming through for me as much lately."
"That's all right," said Greystoke. "I never stick sharp things...in my own arm."
"I have received your letter in the morning post," said Holmes, "explaining the singular matter on which you wished to consult me, but I can tell you that I believe the idea of vampires is rubbish. It's literally lunacy to imagine that a dead creature can come to life unless pinned in his coffin by a wooden stake."
"I understand that it is difficult to believe," said Greystoke. "And I can hardly believe it myself. Yet, you did investigate a case of supposed vampirism once in Sussex, and it is concerning that case with which I wish to consult you."
"Ah yes," recalled Holmes, grateful that Clayton had used the magic word, "consult." "The case ended in the restoration of marital bliss and we disproved that vampirism had been involved," he said.
"Doctor. Watson here," said Greystoke, "has been kind enough over the years to keep me supplied with copies of his drafts, so I've had a look at the account he's going to send off to the Strand one of these days. There was the matter of the young man who was the true attacker of the little child. You had recommended that a year at sea might help him to cleanse his mind."
"Yes, Jacky Ferguson," recalled Holmes. "I hear he really took to the sea and eventually rose to the rank of captain on some foreign shipping vessel."
"Indeed," said Greystoke. "I think you have confirmed what I wanted to know. I was wondering if this young man was the same one who had come to be the skipper of the Russian ship Dementrix."
"I believe you are correct," said Holmes. "I often peruse the shipping news to help solve my cases and I've seen his name listed several times. But I must ask, why are you interested in him?"
"It's his violent past, with wanton disregard for the lives of innocents," said Greystoke. "He took it to a new level a few years ago in aiding a diabolical fiend to turn his evil loose on London."
"Fiend, eh?" Holmes rasped. "Would that be the vampire of whom you speak?"
"It just might be," Greystoke replied. "I will know better after I visit the old Ferguson home at Sussex. Perhaps the good doctor could supply me with directions."
"Here you are, good fellow," said the physician. "I anticipated your request and have prepared this map."
"Thank you," said Greystoke. Then, turning to Holmes, added, "Well, I won't trouble you further. Good day, sir."
"Uh, aren't you forgetting something?" Holmes asked.
"Oh, sorry," said Greystoke. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few notes.
"Here's your consulting fee, sir."
Chapter 3—Back to the Basics
John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, had satisfied himself that Capt. Jack Ferguson of the Russian cargo ship, Dementrix, had been responsible for bringing an extra 20 boxes of Dracula's earth into London, and he suspected that Ferguson's role had been more than just happenstance.
When he was about 15, "Jacky," driven by insane jealousy, had lashed out at a tiny infant, wounding the babe at least twice with a curare-tipped arrow in the child's nursery. When the mother had attempted to suck the poison from the neck wound, she had been mistakenly accused of being a blood-sucking vampire. Fortunately, Sherlock Holmes had been able to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all.
To get him out of the way, they had sent Jacky to sea duty. It was to be for a term of one year, but the lad took to his marine duties to the point where he stayed on, and began to advance in rank. He had eventually left his employment with a British company, and had accepted a commission in the Russian shipping service. Although sea duty gave him purpose in life, it did not take away his early fascination with the infliction of fatal wounds and, had the recently formed Interpol organization begun an investigation of Jack the Ripper-style killings of prostitutes in certain European seaports, it might have ended the pursuit of Captain Ferguson's pastime long before he entered the service of Dracula.
With the vampire having been destroyed, what was Ferguson up to these days?
Greystoke's investigation made him aware that Ferguson's parents, after reconciling, had lived for many years in Sussex, south of Horsham, but had both recently passed away. That would mean that Jack, along with the child he had once mercilessly attacked, would likely be co-inheritors of the estate.
And perhaps Captain Ferguson had visited the home while his parents were alive and, on some ruse, gained permission to store "his boxes" in the basement of the ancestral home.
It was the best lead Greystoke had and there was one way to find out if those missing boxes of Transylvanian dirt were located somewhere on the Ferguson property.
The train glided to a perfect stop beside the Sussex station and Greystoke emerged from his compartment, looking much like any other well-dressed English traveler. But a quick walk down a country lane to a secluded glen of trees was all that the distinguished gentleman needed to find a place where he could doff the thin veneer of civilization and expose the loin cloth which depended from a leather belt around his waist. He opened his elongated suitcase and withdrew a stout bow and double-checked the quiver of arrows which had sharpened wooden points. The hunting knife of his long dead sire was by his side, Greystoke recalling how Dracula himself had been dispatched with such knives instead of the traditional wooden stake. He added one more specially designed accoutrement to his ensemble, then packed his street clothes in the weapons case and hid it in a hedgerow before continuing his mission.
Now it was no longer the genteel and proper Lord Greystoke who moved through the night; it was Tarzan of the Apes.
Chapter 4—Showdown at Sussex
In addition to the advice he had gotten from the world's first consulting detective, Tarzan's fee had also covered the cost of a map made for him by Dr. Watson. Having memorized the map, the ape man easily made his way to the old Ferguson residence, and guided by a light burning in a lower story window, he crept silently across the lawn, which appeared to be less well-maintained since the deaths of the senior Fergusons.
Tarzan stepped up to the window, partially clouded with accumulated grime, and gazed within at a scene that made even the jungle-inured ape-man almost want to retch with disgust. On the floor lay a man of about 30, possibly he who had been the young baby that had once been tortured by Jacky Ferguson. Standing over him, a look of maniacal satisfaction on his face and blood dripping from his fanged jaws, was a human-shaped creature that Tarzan could only compare to a demon of Hell. It was rubbing its hands together in devlish glee, making it easy for Tarzan to observe the improbably long fingers which ended in thick, pointed nails. Its eyes seemed to glow as if backlit by unholy flames. And as Tarzan took in the scene, the creature turned and aimed those eyes to the window with a gaze that could be felt, the eyes seeming to burn to Tarzan's very soul.
Had Tarzan been a lesser man, he could easily have surrendered control of his mind to the hypnotic stare, but even as the thing had turned its head toward him, the jungle lord was in action. As the ghastly creature sought to increase the intensity of its gaze, Tarzan was using his knife to break a window pane with one sharp rap and immediately he loosed an arrow straight to the heart of the thing. It would have struck true and ended the reign of the vampire, but fate in the form of Jack Ferguson intervened. The man, obviously under the mental control of the vampire, came from a corner of the room and moved between Tarzan and the creature just as Tarzan had twanged the bow. The missile struck Ferguson instead of the vampire and he dropped to the floor, grasping feebly at the solidly wedged shaft.
Tarzan, quick as Ara the Lightning, had already fitted a second arrow to his bow and let it fly across the room. The vampire, with its supernatural power, was quick, too. Tarzan thought for a moment that he had simply ducked the arrow but, in reality, he had mutated into such a hound of Hell as had never been imagined. The Baskervillean beast leaped across the intervening space and hit the ape-man with the force of a cannonball in the chest, knocking him flat on his back and forcing all of the air out of Tarzan's lungs. As the ape man was catching his breath, the wolf opened its slavering jaws and closed them on the throat of his intended victim.
Tarzan, however, managed a grim smile. He had anticipated the possibility of just such a thing, although the wardrobe addition was intended for an attack by a vampire in human form rather than by a wolf. But his defense was working, nonetheless. Back in the glen, Tarzan had armored his neck with a tough leather collar made from the hide of Bara the deer which, while not providing invulnerability to the soft flesh protecting his jugular vein, did slow the attacker down just enough to give the ape man the edge he needed.
With the hunting knife, he stabbed the behemoth to the hilt in its stomach. That was not sufficient to kill it, but it brought from the beast a howl of pain and rage, distracting it just enough to allow Tarzan to move into his favorite position. He grabbed handfuls of wolf hair and wrenched the thing's body onto its back, bringing it up against Tarzan's chest and stomach. He then snagged the animal with one arm beneath its left foreleg and around its neck and, holding the knife in his right fist, plunged it again and again into the thing's hideous heart.
At last the animal lay still, but Tarzan was not finished. He severed the beast's head and, reaching into the small pouch he carried, grabbed a handful of wilted garlic and stuffed it into the thing's gaping maw. Then, holding the head high for Goro the Moon to clearly see, he placed one foot on the carcass of the wolf and gave voice to the victory cry of the bull ape.
Ferguson was dead, and Tarzan could not save the young man inside. In the event the man had been infected with the vampiric virus and was destined to rise again at the next full moon, the ape-man took the steps that were necessary to be sure that the man would rest in peace. Then, he explored the Ferguson home, beginning with the basement, where he was not surprised to find a cache of boxes of earth.
Tarzan recognized the wooden boxes as the same type he had seen at Carfax Abbey when he and D'Arnot had done a quick count. It appeared as if his hunt was over. Since he had been able to secure a dispensation, just as Van Helsing had, he opened a packet full of consecrated bread and laid a wafer in each crate. For good measure, he also brought out a jar of garlic powder that Jane had sacrificed from her kitchen cabinet, and gave the dirt in each box a generous sprinkle.
The vampire he had killed: Was it Dracula himself, come back to life? No matter. Almost all of Dracula's supply of extra coffins was made useless and at least one more creature of the night had been destroyed. London was safe, at least until the advent of the next demonic villain bent on achieving unlimited power at the expense of others.
There was just one thing that nagged at Tarzan.
He had found just 17 boxes of dirt in the Sussex home of the Fergusons, not the 20 he was seeking. It was possible that someone had miscounted along the way as various stashes of boxes were searched out by Harker, Van Helsing and the others, and summarily destroyed.
Or, were there three boxes of dirt remaining?