The worst part of all this nonsense is when you start to make sense of it.
The worst part of all this nonsense is when you start to make sense of it.
It was already twilight when they hopped into Arthur’s police cruiser, making their way up the hill to the cemetery. Mort’s Cadillac was still parked in front of the church when they pulled up. Something smelled strange upon entering the rectory. Father Mendel boiled stew in an enormous tub reserved for church potlucks.
“The ingredients demand five cloves of garlic, ash from a vampire, and holy water boiled and simmered at body temperature,” dictated Mort while reading Undead Fiends.
The priest mixed the ingredients, not noticing the sheriff or Mathew entering the room.
“What are you brewing, Vampire’s Delight?” asked Arthur.
“Oh, hello sheriff, I didn’t see you. I’m glad you found Mathew. This remedy we’re brewing is supposed to counteract petrifaction. However, it’ll be difficult to get ash from a vampire until it’s defeated.”
“Too true, but I’ve already collected some of the creature’s ashes,” said Arthur with a grin.
“How’s that possible? We sent Charlie to look for pieces of its clothing among the graves, but he hasn’t come back.”
“YOU SENT THE BOY INTO THE GRAVEYARD ALONE!” shouted Arthur angrily. “Why would you do something so careless?”
“If he’s petrified, we’ll have the remedy to bring him back to life,” replied Father Mendel arrogantly.
“That’s assuming we can defeat it,” retorted Arthur.
“Oh, I don’t think it should be too difficult. We already know how to slay the creature. You said you brought the vampire’s ashes with you?”
“Only a trivial amount,” said Arthur while pulling the matchbox from his pocket.
“That’s ok; it might be enough for one dose. How did you get it?” asked Father Mendel.
“After the vampire petrified one of the boys, I fired six shots in its direction. I must’ve hit my mark because I found stuffing and black fabric on the ground. Sunlight filtered through the trees, incinerating it within seconds.”
“Which boy was petrified?” Mort asked.
Frank Nebowitz; I need to make a phone call to Hank’s Auto Body Shop so he can bring the boy up to the church. He’s usually discrete and won’t tell the rest of the town. If word gets out that a vampire is petrifying our citizens, we could have a general panic on our hands.”
“Was there anyone else in the woods besides Mathew and Frank?” asked the priest.
“Jackie ran from the scene like grease lightning. Would you like me to pick him up?”
“He won’t be a problem. Jackie has a reputation for telling lies and making up stories. No one will believe a vampire is loose on our town.”
“It’s almost dark and Mathew is safely inside the church. Do you think Drake will strike tonight?” asked Mort.
“Contrary to popular belief, vampires will enter a church. We’ll be safe as long as the lights stay on. I’ve already spoken with the lighthouse keeper about the situation. Jeff and his wife have agreed to keep a sharp lookout for the vampire during the evenings. There’s a lookout observatory in the cathedral if you’d like to come and see.”
Everyone followed the priest up the polished ladder to a dark room with an enormous telescope pointed at the heavens. “I usually use this room for stargazing, but just occasionally it’s fun to watch the town of Washaway Bay. You’d be surprised what people do when they think no one’s watching,” chuckled Father Mendel.
The lighthouse beam burned in the distance, briefly illuminating portions of the dark peninsula before heading out to sea again.
“Mort, would you like to be the first to look through the glass?” asked Father Mendel.
“I’d be delighted.”
Looking through the telescope he saw Washaway Bay cast in shadow.
“There’s the summer camp where the Scouts practice archery. To the south, I can see the generators and the lighthouse. Martha’s Diner is easy to spot. Her light is still on. Wait a second, come quick!”
“What is it, what do you see?” asked the sheriff in a hushed voice.
“BROKEN MIRRORS!” gasped Mort.
“Oh my God, you’re right!” whispered Arthur. “What should we do; what can we do; Father?”
“Sheriff, we’d better take your police cruiser to Martha’s and see if she’s alright. Mort, I want you stand watch with the boys. Lock the trapdoor behind us when we leave. If the vampire knocks, pull out the crucifix so it can’t approach.” Father Mendel handed Mort the silver cross and followed the sheriff to his cruiser in the parking lot.
“What can we do to help?” asked Charlie.
“You heard the priest. We’re to stay here to keep a lookout.”
“Screw that idea!” challenged Mathew. “How are they going to slay the vampire when they find it or it finds them?”
“There’s no reason to get belligerent.” said Mort.
“Like HELL there isn’t. Charlie, are you with me?”
“What do you plan to do?”
“Remember what we read in Undead Fiends? The book suggested the only way to slay a vampire is to lure it into the sunlight or jam a wooden stake through its heart. I had an idea when Mort observed the town through the telescope. We should enlist the Boy Scouts at the archery range. A couple dozen arrows are bound to find their mark.”
“I like your plan. Mort, what do you think?”
But the antique dealer wasn’t listening as he gazed through the telescope. The police cruiser arrived near Martha’s Pancake House. “Boy’s, they’re about to go inside.”
Suddenly, the lights in Washaway Bay went out. The generators near the lighthouse buzzed and crackled. Blue sparks flew from the wires connecting energy to the town.
“Drake has disabled our power, leaving Father Mendel and Arthur like sitting ducks. Hold on, the lighthouse is flashing. I think its Morse code. The message reads, ‘Vampire Spotted’ STOP, ‘Power generators destroyed,’ STOP, ‘Need assistance at once.’”
“Mort, do you have your car keys on you?” asked Mathew.
“No, they’re in the hearse. Why?”
“Because we need them right NOW!”
Mathew went down the trap door, intending to do something rash.
“I think we’d better follow,” suggested Charlie.
“Oh…ok, but I’m driving!” yelled Mort. The old man really moved when he wanted to. They almost beat Mathew to the car, jumping into the 1959 Cadillac.
“Let’s go recruiting and kill this thing!” shouted Mort. He couldn’t believe he was thrown into another life or death adventure, feeling alive for the first time since he purchased his antique shop. Driving the hearse down the hill at break-neck speed, they passed Martha’s Pancake House in half a second. Nearing the lighthouse, Mort noticed Jeff, the light keeper, petrified in the doorway. “I hope the vampire left the scouts alone,” he whispered.
Parking near the campsite, they moved cautiously toward one of the long barracks near the bay. Mathew held the crucifix in his right hand, ready for the vampire to attack.
A light was on inside. He knocked, opening the door. Most of the scouts were awake; some were playing cards, others were reading Boys Life, and a few were tying knots.
“I need you all to drop what you’re doing and follow me. It may be difficult to believe, but there is a vampire loose in Washaway Bay! Grab your bows and arrows. I need your best marksmanship to drive a stake though the vampire’s heart!” yelled Mort
Every scout snapped to attention. It didn’t matter if the vampire was real or fiction. This was definitely more fun than trying to tie a Bowline Knot. Eight scouts, fully armed, crammed into the back of the old Cadillac. Mort drove to Martha’s Diner as fast as he could. Everyone piled out of the hearse, stringing their bows, waiting for any sign of movement.
A full moon rose above them, illuminating the pancakes speared to the diner’s roof. Mort pulled a flashlight from his pocket, deciding to investigate the dim restaurant. Entering, he shined the light on four statues. Martha and Ted Mulberry were behind the counter. Arthur and Father Mendel had their arms out like they were trying to strangle something.
Mort reassured them, “We’ll brew some holy water once we’ve slain the vampire. Walking out, he was confronted by eight bows and arrows ready to fire. “Any sign of the vampire yet?” he asked.
“Not yet,” whispered Charlie. “We thought you were it for a second.”
Then, from further down the street, a figure approached. It’s long black cloak draped on the asphalt, moving purposely toward the crowd. Drake was not intimidated by the living. Lacking a soul, he was unencumbered by fear.
“READY…AIM…FIRE!” shouted Charlie. Eight arrows pierced the darkness, five finding their mark. “AGAIN, READY…AIM…FIRE!” This time, all eight arrows hit their mark, knocking the vampire onto its back.
“That did him!” shouted Mathew. But the vampire got to its feet, drawing nearer. Drake was covered in quills, looking like a porcupine.
“I don’t understand; there are at least five arrows lodged in its heart,” cried Charlie in bewilderment. “Hey Colman, what are those arrows made of?”
“Graphite, I think.” shouted the Boy Scout.
Charlie wondered if they were really going to die because of his trivial oversight.
Suddenly many scouts were petrified. “I thought I said not to look into its eyes,” yelled Mathew.
“I think we forgot to tell them,” replied Charlie. “Quick, give me a leg up. I have an idea. Mathew cupped his hands so Charlie could climb onto the roof. He ran over to the stack of pancakes impaled on a wooden stake. Pulling on it, the sign wouldn’t move. Kicking it, the sign broke off, falling on the ground.
Drake was nearly in reach of Mathew. The boy held the crucifix in front of him with his eyes closed.
Reaching for the silver cross, the vampire touched his hand. Drake felt as cold as ice, opening its mouth, revealing enormous fangs.
Mort fumbled on the ground for the wooden stake, his nimble fingers finding it and flinging the weapon at the vampire.
The javelin struck, temporarily stunning Drake. Mathew grabbed it, shoving the stake into the vampire’s chest.
A whirlwind wrapped around the creature as it disintegrated from the inside. Skin flaked off the contorting body, becoming ashes in the wind.
“Quick, salvage the skin. We’ll need the ashes to revive those who’ve been petrified!” warned Mort.
Adrenalin pumped through Mathew’s veins. It took him a couple seconds to comprehend the antique dealer. He grabbed a handful of Drake’s ashes, stuffing them into his pockets. Mort and Charlie did the same.
Another life calls to us
when we are getting things done
There is locomotion in the limbs
but the breaks are on
Send the engine off the tracks
Move forward in reverse
Meanwhile, Mathew fished with Jackie and Frank near the lighthouse. Sandy Creek filters into the bay from a tributary near Black Hills Cemetery. They fished the stream all morning and into the late afternoon. Shafts of sunlight sparkled through the green sanctuary.
“Have you caught anything yet?” asked Jackie.
“I’ve caught nothing but a couple swollen cans of liverwurst and an old shoe; how about you?”
“Still nothing; Frank, have you caught anything?”
But there was no any answer.
“FRANK…FRANK…I think he must be lost again. I swear it happens every time we come down here.” Jackie walked up and down the stream looking for his friend, but there was not even a footprint.
Mathew pulled the silver crucifix out of his pocket, looking at the foreign words engraved on the back. “I wish I’d taken World Languages last year. The writing may be Latin. I wonder if the cross can lure fish.” He tied it to the end of his pole and cast it into the stream.
Slowly, footsteps approached. A figure moved through the shadows, avoiding brittle sticks. It moved near Mathew, with arms outstretched.
The hair on Mathew’s neck stood on end. Swiveling, he brandished a hunting knife.
It was the sheriff. “You’d better put your knife away if you know what’s best for you.”
“Sorry sheriff, I didn’t mean anything personal, just keeping my guard up.”
“Smart lad,” replied Arthur with a smile. “I know things have been tough for you this summer. Your dad hasn’t been around much, travels, doesn’t he?”
“That’s right. He’s a deliveryman for the Sears Company.”
“Well, I made a point of coming down here to warn you of something that’s been happening in town. There’s no easy way to say this so I’ll speak plainly. Your mother’s been petrified, by what, we’re not sure, but we suspect it could be a vampire. I know you’ve been taught in school to believe nothing like that exists, but only a vampire could’ve unearthed the graves in Black Forest Cemetery last night and petrified your mother. Now, I want to ask you a serious question. You won’t get in trouble if you answer honestly. “Did you steal anything from Mort’s Curiosities yesterday?”
Thinking it was a trick, Mathew lied. “Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s nothing in his junk heap I’d want.”
“Just to be sure, I want to ask you one more time; your life could depend on it. Did you take anything? Maybe you swiped an antique for a joke because one of your friends dared you to.”
Mathew shook his head, “No sir.”
A high pitched scream came from beyond the creek. “SOMETHING’S HAPPENED TO FRANK. HE’S TURNED GREY AND WON’T MOVE!” shouted Jackie.
“Mathew, I hope you told me the truth, but in case you haven’t, I’d advise you to stick close to me. If you see a black cloak, avert your gaze or the vampire will petrify you with its stare.”
Jackie ran toward them at full speed and kept going.
“I didn’t know he could run so fast,” mentioned Arthur. He should join the track team.” They turned around to face their adversary, but none came.
“Better stand behind me,” murmured Arthur. Walking toward Frank’s petrified body; the sheriff drew his .357 Magnum. He pointed it at the trees, waiting to shoot anything that moved.
They found Frank with a startled expression on his petrified features.
“It looks like he saw the Vampire from the east,” commented Mathew.
Arthur tried to look from the boy’s vantage point, when he saw it. A wisp of smoke mingled with a tall cloak stepped behind a tree. In the next moment, the peaceful air was broken by six gun shots.
The sheriff emptied his revolver into the phantasm, enveloping Mathew and himself in blue smoke.
“I think I hit him!” shouted Arthur. Let’s go check it out. They walked across the shallow creek to the other side, noticing a few scraps of stuffing and fabric lying on the ground. Suddenly, sunlight struck it, smoldering the vampire’s remains into ashes.
Quickly, the sheriff leaned down and scooped the evidence into a small match box. “You never know when something trivial may become useful,” he said. I’m afraid bullets won’t do any good against a vampire. No more bullshit kid. Did you take the crucifix?”
Mathew handed the cross to Arthur.
“I don’t want to give you nightmares, but the vampire will hunt you until it tastes your blood. The Latin engraving on the necklace means…
The one who breaks this chain will take my place.
“The vampire wants to make you its own.”
Mathew thought he was going to be sick.
“I’ll take you to Holy Sacrament Catholic Church. You can see your mother and we’ll talk to the priest. Father Mendel is a clever man. I’m sure he’ll find a cure for her petrifaction. We’d better send Hank down here with his tow truck to hoist Frank out of the woods. It’ll take a good four wheel drive and a hefty winch to move his body.”
Somedays our brains are foggy
and sometimes we can’t get out of bed
There is nothing out there in the world
regardless of what anyone else has said
I know that I am supposed to put my life in order
and achieve great things
but the best days are when I am lying in bed
not doing anything
I know that time doesn’t stop
but it feels like it does
I’m not bored and I’m not busy
That is the greatest feeling
At sunrise, Mort woke up and walked downstairs. He opened the brass till, counting his money from the previous day. Walking over to the door, he flipped the sign to Open, beginning to clean the display window. As he scrubbed, salty air filtered through the glass.
Then he realized the invisible figure in the window, cleanly cut without any shards of glass on the floor.
“Curious,” he whispered. “Quite curious; how could someone cut a figure into my window without waking me up?” He was stumped until he turned around, noticing the missing vampire.
Mort looked at the vacant display. “How…how could Drake have walked off his pedestal?” Then he noticed a silver chain lying on the floor.
He had almost left his store when he noticed the broken mirrors. Suspecting the worst, he doubted whether anyone would believe him. Mort knew he needed to talk with the sheriff. Driving along a lonely road, he thought about the consequences. “I should’ve kept it out of sight, locked in the Egyptian Sarcophagus.”
If the vampire has come to life, it will only be able to move at night. It’ll need to find a place to rest during the day. If I was a vampire, where would I go to patiently wait out the daylight hours?” The old man was so lost in thought that he nearly hit Mrs. Bailey and her cat crossing the street. She was sweet, somewhat eccentric, and the mother of a hoodlum son. She wasn’t moving and appeared to be petrified. Her tabby was on a leash. “What the devil?” Mort muttered as he got out of his car. He walked over to Mrs. Bailey, giving her a hesitant poke with one of his fingers. She was ice cold. “I can’t leave her in the middle of the street.” He got into the hearse, backed it up, and loaded her body into the trunk, along with her petrified cat.
Mort knew he had to warn the town. He neared the sheriff’s station along Edgecomb Road. Squealing into the gravel driveway, he hopped out with the engine running.
“Sheriff…sheriff!” yelled Mort. He banged on the door, but there wasn’t any answer. “It’s nearly 11 o’clock; the only other place he could be is Martha’s Pancake House,” he thought out loud.
It was only five minutes down the street, but it seemed like an eternity as Mort gripped the steering wheel and gunned the engine. The diner came into view and sure enough, Arthur’s police cruiser was parked in front with half a dozen other vehicles. Mort tried to remain calm as he got out of his car and walked inside.
Mr. Reynolds and Hank the auto mechanic were laughing at one of Arthur’s jokes while Martha refilled their coffee.
“You should put that one in The Washaway Gazette,” laughed Hank.
“Hey Mort, it’s not like you to take breakfast here. I’m glad you joined us,” smiled the sheriff. His expression quickly changed when he realized the old man was serious.
“Arthur, I need to speak to you outside, if you don’t mind.” The squat sheriff set down his coffee. “Excuse me gents. I’m sure Mrs. Bailey’s cat is caught in a tree or some other nonsense.”
There was no easy way to break the news, so Mort motioned for the sheriff to walk back to his hearse.
“I found them in the street this morning, only a couple miles from your office.” He opened the trunk, revealing Mrs. Bailey and her petrified cat.
Immediately, Arthur drew his .357 Magnum, pointing it at Mort. “What’ve you done?” he demanded.
“Look here sheriff, they’re not dead. I think they’ve been petrified.” Mort gazed down the long gun barrel.
Arthur kept one eye on him, shifting his glance to the bodies. Sure enough, there was something odd about their appearance, uncharacteristic of rigor mortis. “Any ideas?” he asked.
“About the bodies or how they were petrified?” asked Mort.
“Maybe we should drive back to my antique store.”
“You didn’t accidently paralyze one of your customers with a rare artifact, did you?” asked Arthur with his eyebrows raised. “I’ll follow you, but don’t try to lose me. My police cruiser has twice the power as your hearse.”
Speeding away, the folks in Martha’s diner couldn’t figure-out what happened. If something out of the ordinary occurred in their small town, rumors got started quickly.
Upon entering Mort’s Curiosities the antique dealer spoke to Arthur, “Do you notice anything unusual?”
The sheriff looked around. “I think that’s the wrong question for your store Mort.”
“What I mean is do you notice anything out of the ordinary?”
Arthur gave the shop one more glance. “By Jove, I do see something unusual!” He walked over to the window, examining the missing glass.
“Look at the shape,” whispered Mort.
“It looks like the outline of a man. You don’t suppose someone broke in here last night to steal rare artifacts, got spooked, and jumped out the window?
“If they did, wouldn’t there be broken glass?” asked Mort.
“Too true; hey, why didn’t you become a detective? You would’ve made a good one. So, you didn’t clean up any mess?”
“Everything is exactly how I left it.”
The sheriff examined the edges of the missing window. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” He walked over to the door. “No sign of forced entry. It’s almost as if the thief broke out of the store from the inside. You don’t suppose they hid in your antique shop until you closed, then grabbed some valuables, and jumped out the window? Is there anything missing?”
“There’s only one item that’s been taken; it stood over there.” Mort pointed to the vacant space in the corner.
“Was it something valuable?” asked Arthur.
“A one-of-a-kind vampire doll I picked up on my travels in Hungary.”
They walked over to the empty pedestal. An outline remained in the dust where the vampire had stood.
“Hold on,” Mort picked up a broken chain lying on the ground. “This hung from the vampire’s neck.”
“Was there anything attached to it?” asked the sheriff.
“A crucifix with a red stone in the center; a dealer from Hungary told me never to take the chain off. I thought Drake looked more dignified with the cross, so I left it on.”
“Interesting, and the chain, have you ever looked at it closely?”
“I can’t say I have. Each one of the links looks like a letter.”
“I wonder if it’s Hungarian.” suggested Arthur.
“You know what, there’s someone in town who could probably read this language.”
“Who do you think?”
“Father Mendel. I know his catholic mission has taken him to Hungary more than once. This may be a regional dialect. We can take the bodies to the church for safe keeping and ask the priest about the necklace. I doubt there’ll be anymore break-ins while were gone. Just in case, it might be wise to stretch tape across the display window.”
After the job, both of them drove in separate cars to Black Hills Cemetery and Holy Sacrament Catholic Church.
Arthur parked in front of the cathedral, getting out of his police cruiser first. “Mort, I think it would be better for me to discuss what’s happened before you show Father Mendel the chain. The priest is used to dealing with unusual matters, but your story could overwhelm him. We don’t know for certain what happened.”
Mort agreed, bringing the chain with him. He followed Arthur through the thick wooden doors into the foyer. There were folks praying in the sanctuary, but the priest wasn’t in sight.
“We might have better luck trying his office,” suggested Arthur. They walked across the foyer, through the narrow hall until they reached the rectory. The sheriff knocked on the door, left ajar. It opened, but nobody greeted them in the cramped office. Apparently, Father Mendel was a naturalist in his spare time. Exotic bugs and butterflies were mounted in a narrow corridor, leading into a small study and personal library.
Following the bookshelves, they abruptly stopped at a polished wooden ladder leading up into a large observatory
“I say, is there anyone up there?” Mort shouted! His voice echoed into the old bell tower, but no one replied. “I guess there isn’t anyone here,” he sighed. “I don’t feel right looking through the priest’s personal possessions, even though they are quite interesting.”
“Look at this,” suggested Arthur, reading a note stuck to the front door. “We knocked and didn’t realize the priest left correspondence…
Digging in Black Forest Cemetery. Be back at lunch time.
“I wonder who died. We’d better see Father Mendel immediately,” Mort whispered.
Arthur took the note, rushing out the main doors to the graveyard.
Black Forest Cemetery was a burial ground in the woods. A narrow cobblestone path led into the forest until it reached a clearing. Normally, the rusty iron gates were securely locked. Today, they were bent, ripped from their hinges, lying on the ground.
“Who could’ve done this?” pondered Arthur.
“If it indeed was a who,” corrected Mort.
An enormous rock wall surrounded the perimeter of the old graveyard. A monument of stone stood close to the gates commemorating the men who lost their lives at sea.
An overgrown path led them among the weathered headstones covered in moss until they reached a sloping hill near the heart of the graveyard. Father Mendel was covered with dirt and sweat, looking like he’d been digging all morning. Charlie was there, helping him shovel rich soil into several unearthed graves.
“How many people died last night?” asked Mort.
The priest smiled at the newcomers. “No one died, but several graves were robbed. I just don’t understand it. I can’t remember anything of value buried in these plots. The ancient tombs were left untouched, but every burial within the last fifty years was exhumed. My predecessor did the ceremonies for most of the people unearthed last night. I can’t figure-out why someone would do it.”
“It could’ve been kids playing a joke,” suggested Arthur.
“Some joke; you know, I don’t understand how a group of kids could bend and rip the hinges off iron gates.”
“Maybe they used a vehicle, pulling the gates apart with a chain like in Westerns.” suggested Charlie.
“Thing is, it would’ve needed to be an extremely thick chain. I didn’t see or hear any vehicles last night. It’s at least a hundred yard into the cemetery from the parking lot. I don’t think a team of football players could’ve hoisted a chain big enough nor long enough to pull the hinges off.”
“Why would a group of kids rip the gates apart in the first place?” They could just as easily have used a ladder,” suggested Mort.
“Have you snuck into a graveyard before?” laughed the priest. “Oh, I forgot; there must be something you fellows came to talk to me about?”
In light of recent events, both of them completely forgot their reason for visiting Father Mendel.
“This isn’t the only strange occurrence that’s happened around here in the last twenty-four hours. My antique shop was broken into last night and only one thing was taken.”
“And what was that…what did they steal?” asked Father Mendel.
“They took a stuffed vampire I keep in the dim corner of my curiosity shop. We were hoping you could read the chain they left behind. I bought Drake from a traveling bazaar in Hungary several years ago. When I purchased him, he wore a crucifix around his neck. Drake looked so dignified I couldn’t bear to take it off. Plus, I was told by the auctioneer I should never remove the cross for fear of terrible things happening. At first, I thought the owner was trying to scare me with his superstition, but his words were spoken with true conviction; I didn’t really know what to believe. Since I’ve owned Mort’s Curiosities, Drake was never bought by a customer. Some showed interest in him, but never considered purchasing the vampire. I don’t know why someone decided to steal Drake last night.”
The priest was lost in thought after listening to the antique dealer. “Was there anything else missing or vandalized?”
“All of the mirrors in my store were broken and a figure was cut out of the display window.”
“What do you mean by ‘cut out of your display window?’” asked Father Mendel.
“It’s almost like someone walked through the glass without breaking it, leaving their silhouette behind. The edges around the six foot figure appear to be melted.”
“Is there something else you’re not telling me,” asked the priest, surveying the antique dealer with penetrating eyes.
Mort continued, “After the break in, I went to see the sheriff. On my way, I noticed Mrs. Bailey walking her cat across the street. I slowed down because she was in the middle of the road. When I got out of the car and touched her skin, she was ice cold. I put her and the tabby cat into my hearse and drove to Martha’s Diner where I found the sheriff.”
“I see,” mumbled Father Mendel. Let me have a closer look at the vampire’s chain.”
“If you notice, each link is a letter of the alphabet. Do you know what language it is?” asked Mort curiously.
“Why of course; this is Latin. Every priest had to learn it in conjunction with their doctoral studies. Let me see if I can roughly translate it. I’ll put the chain back together so we can read the inscription as intended. It’s difficult to know where to start because the letters are strung together without any spaces and we don’t know where the sentence begins. Roughly translated it says…
“Ok, maybe if we space out the words and start the sentence in a new spot,” suggested Mort.
“Oh, I can read it,” offered Charlie. “You read the second part first. It should say…
The one who breaks this chain will take my place.
“Ominous inscription, I wonder what it means?” asked the sheriff.
“If my reasoning is correct, it can only mean one thing,” replied Father Mendel. “There is a vampire loose in Washaway Bay.”
“You can’t honestly believe that?” asked Arthur.
“In my line of work, I’ve encountered stranger phenomena from the dark forces in our world. Please follow me to my office where we can consult my books on the supernatural.”
Charlie stuck his shovel in the nearest pile of earth and followed the gentlemen to the rectory.
It didn’t take Father Mendel long to thumb through his dusty volumes on the shelves and find the book he was looking for. It was stuck between Monsters and their Metamorphosis and The Dwarf’s Dilemma. Father Mendel read the title to his companions, Undead Fiends, written and published by a survivor.
He thumbed through the chapters on zombies, ghosts, and banshees until he reached the chapter dedicated to the tale of the vampire. “It says here that the only solace from the undead is hallowed ground where one’s ancestors have been buried. Washaway Bay is a relatively modern town, built on the ruins of Norse Men who used it as a shipping port. If my theory is correct, only a vampire could’ve bent and torn those iron gates from their hinges. The creature only unearthed the graves belonging to the citizenry of our town. The vampire’s motive is becoming clearer. By stealing skeletons from every tomb, there will be no safe place to stand in Washaway Bay.”
Mort thought Father Mendel’s assertions were probably accurate.
Does the book give any more clues to confirm we’re dealing with a vampire?” asked Arthur.
“It says vampires don’t reflect. Our friend is probably self-conscious, so he smashed the mirrors in your store last night.”
“Shouldn’t someone ask how we can kill this creature?” recommended Charlie.
“The boy has a point. Father Mendel, what does your book say about slaying a vampire?” asked Mort.
“It’s easier said than done. First, a vampire is already dead so killing it is out of the question. Vampires have a host of supernatural powers. They can vanish in a cloud of smoke, jump vast distances, climb faster than a cat, and paralyze with their eyes. Finally, if someone is bitten by a vampire, their soul will expire, turning their body into an empty husk. If my calculations are correct, we haven’t asked the right question. Can you guess what it is?”
They turned, looking at each other, rattled with anticipation. “Don’t keep us guessing!” demanded Arthur.
“The question we should’ve been asking is who stole the Crucifix?”
“Well, who did steal the crucifix?” asked Arthur, turning to Mort.
The antique dealer tried to think about his short list of customers from the previous day. “Well, I remember Martha Mulberry came in looking for a present. She chose a rabbit you can pull out of a hat. It squeaks, providing lots of laughs.”
“And was there anyone else?” asked Father Mendel impatiently.
“Mr. Reynolds delivered the newspaper and Hank worked on my Cadillac, but neither of them came inside. Of course, I remember you, sheriff. Oh, and I almost forgot; Mathew Bailey and his gang of cronies looked at some items late in the afternoon. They didn’t buy anything though.”
“I think you’ve struck it!” shouted Arthur enthusiastically. “There’ve been a series of break-in these last few weeks. I’ve suspected Mathew’s gang for awhile, but I didn’t know for sure until now. Father, is there anything else we should know about the vampire before trying to find the boys who stole the crucifix?”
There’s one important detail I’d like to leave you with. Vampires stay out of the light because they burn in the sun. We’ll be protected as long as we’re in direct sunlight. In the shadows, we won’t be so lucky. The forest isn’t safe during daylight hours. Charlie, promise me you won’t go fishing until we kill the creature?”
Fishing was Charlie’s favorite hobby. He reluctantly agreed. “Ok, we’d better kill this thing before I have to go back to school.”
“Father, is there somewhere we can store Mrs. Bailey and her cat while we look for Mathew?” Arthur asked.
“Behind the curtain of the baptismal would be ok until we discover how to treat her petrifaction.”
The next morning, Mort slept in. Charlie was already at the front door knocking.
The antique dealer walked down the stairs mumbling, “I thought I told him to be here at 10.”
“It’s nearly 10:30!” yelled Charlie.
Mort looked at his clocks in the corner, sure enough, they all pointed past ten. “Hold on, I’m coming. Good morning Charles. How are you doing?”
Charlie had sweat pouring from his forehead. He had a fishing pole in one hand and three trout in the other. “I’ve been fishing in Sandy Creek. Didn’t catch any frogs, but was able to snag some trout.”
“That’s just dandy,” Mort replied. “I have a frying pan and a stove in back. I’ll fry the fish if you’ll move some boxes into storage.”
Charlie found that most of the boxes were full of manikins and dolls. “Talk about creepy.”
They sat down to eat their fish when another customer entered. It was the sheriff of Washaway Bay.
“How’re you doing gents? I’m just checking in. It seems we’ve had some break-ins and robberies this past weekend. Nothing really valuable has been taken; people suspect it’s just kids, but I wanted to let you know.”
“Thanks for the warning Arthur,” smiled Mort. “I guess if kids are stealing for thrills, what better place than an antique shop? I’ll keep a sharp lookout.”
The sheriff was short, fat, and always wore the same cowboy hat. He had one of Martha’s doughnuts in hand and a cup of coffee in the other. His green uniform burst at the seams as he waddled back to his police car.
Most people who didn’t know him thought he was a lazy waste of the taxpayers’ dollar.
Mort observed him with kinder eyes. “Don’t be fooled Charles. Arthur has more guts than anyone else in town. Once, I saw him round up two fugitives. He drove by their stolen car, pretended to be lost, asked for directions, and handcuffed them before they knew what happened. Yep, Arthur is an honest to god hero.”
Charlie liked to listen to the old man, but it was past time for him to head home. His mother wanted him to clean the chicken coup, wash the car, and have the grass mowed before dinner. It was only him and his mother now. His father left home for pack of cigarettes three years ago and never came back. Dianne said his father was never any good, but he missed playing catch with his dad on hot summer days.
“I’ll see yah tomorrow Mort. You want to go fishing?”
“Ah kid, I’m too old for that.”
“Getting out of your dusty shop might do you some good.”
Mort waved goodbye to Charlie, knowing he’d made a friend.
In the next hour, not much happened. Mr. Reynolds delivered the newspaper later than usual. Martha stopped by to find a birthday present for her niece. And the roadside auto mechanic offered to tune Mort’s 1959 Cadillac Hearse he’d owned since being a school teacher. The kids always wanted to peek inside to see if there were any dead bodies.
Mort decided the summer afternoon was an excellent time to blend a pitcher of margaritas. He sipped the cool umbrella drink under a much larger one in front of his shop. Living in Washaway Bay was perfect. It was a small town with only a few places of business, one school, and an old Catholic Church. Many folks were Protestant, but congregated in the same building. Only one road snaked through the coastal peninsula until it reached Lookout Point. The rocks stretched a hundred yards into the bay with a lighthouse near the end. Not too many people fished anymore, but the old salts still gathered at the wharf to tell stories of whimpering banshees leading fishing trawlers off course.
It was getting into the late afternoon when three boys on bicycles rode up to Mort’s Curiosities. They were about Charlie’s age and didn’t look friendly. Mathew Bailey wore a black leather jacket, blue jeans, and penny loafers. He was a well built kid with blonde hair and good looks. His buddy Jackie had black hair greased into a 1950s hairstyle, was skinny, wore a white t-shirt, and had yellow teeth like a rat. Frank was the muscle. His chambray shirt was loosely tucked into his husky jeans. Everything about him was slovenly. He had a five o’clock shadow on his pudgy face and two fists that looked like they pounded raw meat twice a day.
The bicycle gang skidded to a halt in front of the antique dealer who calmly sipped his drink.
“Hey old man, do you sell cigarettes or beer?” asked Mathew.
Mort wondered how the boy could’ve gotten the idea he sold concessions. “I haven’t any alcohol or tobacco; just some novelty items and old trinkets for enthusiasts who enjoy collecting.”
Jackie snickered, “What a load of malarkey. It’s just a store filled with useless junk.”
The boys walked inside and Mort sauntered behind his brass till. Frank eyed the female manikins dressed in women’s clothing, secretly wanting to take one home. Jackie swiped a deck of playing cards, and Mathew eyed Drake in the corner.
Something about the vampire attracted him. He walked closer, noticing the silver crucifix hanging around its neck. He swiped the cross when Mort wasn’t looking and left the antique store as fast as he could. His cronies followed him, picking up their bicycles, and waving crude hand gestures as they rode away. It was nearly time to close, so Mort flipped the Open sign to Were Closed and went to bed early.
At midnight, fire returned to the vampire’s eyes. Drake surveyed the gloomy curiosity shop, slumped off its pedestal, and rose to natural height; moving through the store, it past antique mirrors that didn’t reflect. Upon reaching the display window, the vampire noticed a street light a mile down the road. It moved through the glass, melting its silhouette into the window. Drake’s departure was as silent as the wind as he moved up the street, carefully evading any lights on the warm summer evening.
There is nothing more redeeming than when you redeem your own time. How many of us can say that we enjoyed our day and got something done? If I were to give any advice, it would be to do the thing that allows you to be lazy and successful at the same time. Now, most people will deny that this exists, but most valuable philosophies are those that only apply to a few. Beat the System. This is my philosophy and what it represents is my own magic. When I get closer to my magic I have incredible power. A philosophy must be put into action and it must work for you. It is the guiding force that will take care of you in tough times. It is even more than that. It will give you a reason to exist. It is an intoxicating way to view the world because you don’t know what will happen next.
Mort looked at his antiques in the quiet summer evening. His shop was no longer a favorite haunt for tourists because he refused to sell fancy doodads or memorabilia. The truth was he couldn’t part with many of his treasures. Most of his ancient artifacts were too creepy for the average Joe.
In his younger years, Mort taught children for a living and traveled to faraway places. He was quite skilled at getting rare artifacts through customs, preferring passage by ship because he could off-load some of his illegal finds without too many questions.
Mort was becoming like his antiques, lonely and stale. He lay on a sofa thinking about his world of artifacts.
His life-size doll of Count Dracula stooped in the corner, covered in dust. He bought it from a roadside auctioneer in Hungary.
Each day, Mort woke from his slumber, preparing a pot of tea. He walked down creaking stairs to the center of his store where he read the newspaper.
Mort knew most stores used computers to legitimize transactions, but he preferred a brass till he discovered at a travelling bazaar.
The seller was a motorcycle enthusiast with long white hair, a grey beard, leather chaps, tattoos, and a purple vest.
Mort bought the brass till because he thought it would add to the atmosphere of his antique shop. It never made him rich and the controls were so difficult to operate that even his most patient customers became angry.
The sign above his lonely store read, Mort’s Curiosities in green lettering.
On a bright Sunday morning, Mort reclined in his rocking chair, reading the Times. He didn’t expect customers to call until 10 o’clock, but he unlocked his door promptly at 8 anyway, switching his Were Closed sign to Open.
He had just sat down when the bell jingled. Looking up, he expected to see a nosy antique troll or a diehard tourist, but not a teenager.
“This is a nice place you have here,” observed the dark haired boy. He wore blue jeans and a grey t-shirt.
“Oh, thank you. Is there something I can help you with?” asked the old man.
“I was wondering if you need some help during the summer with loading and unloading antiques.”
“Honesty, I don’t usually have customers this early. I lose money on this store and if I didn’t sleep upstairs and live off my teacher’s pension, I’d have to close.
Mort thought the kid must be smart and wondered why he came to his shop. “Are you about 13 years of age?” he asked.
“Yeah, I graduated seventh grade last year.”
The shop owner remembered his first summer job working in a bookstore. “I couldn’t pay you and the work around here would be infrequent. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come back tomorrow at 10:00 and I’ll have some boxes for you to move.”
“Sound’s great mister.”
“Mort’s the name and what to people call you?”
“Then I’ll call you Charles, if you don’t mind?”
“That’s fine. May I look around a bit longer?”
“Take all the time you need.”
Charlie walked around the store, looking at rare items. Antique pocket watches hung on a corner wall, ticking in unison. A Schwinn bicycle leaned against a row of first edition books written by authors he’d never heard of.
In another corner hung a collection of frightening East African masks, a mounted monkey head, white rabbit taxidermies, and some rare butterflies from the Congo.
Charlie knew there were interesting stories behind every item, but he didn’t want to disturb the shop keeper who continued reading his newspaper.
Soon Charlie reached the darkest corner of the store, furthest away from the display window. A life-size vampire stooped in the shadows with a pale face, cold stare, and its arms outstretched.
He knew it was sewn together with fabric and stuffing, but it looked real. Reaching out, he almost touched it.
“DON’T TOUCH DRAKE!” yelled the shop keeper.
Charlie nearly went through his skin. At first, he thought the vampire spoke to him. Then he turned around, realizing it was Mort.
“You can look and touch the rare artifacts, but I ask you leave Drake alone.” Mort pointed to the vampire in the corner. “I’m afraid the sewing is fragile and his stuffing might come out.”
Charlie looked at the vampire again. He swore Drake looked at him differently this time and for a second, he thought he saw a red gleam in the glass eyes.
“You’d best run along now,” suggested Mort.
The hairs on Charlie’s neck were still on end when he turned to leave. “I’ll see you tomorrow at 10.”
“Until then,” Mort said with a wave goodbye.
The old curiosity dealer gave a stern look at the stuffed vampire in the corner. Drake looked the same as he always had, stooped over; dressed in a pinstriped suit, with a red tie, black cloak, and white gloves.
The shop owner walked over to the vampire to make sure the crucifix still hung around its neck. The silver cross was nearly six inches long, with a red stone at its center. Retiring for the evening, he went to bed thinking about his boyhood.
Mort was startled awake in the middle of the night; he grabbed his spectacles from his night stand, peering downstairs. The room was mixed with creepy shadows, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. He couldn’t figure-out what CRASHED and woke him up. Maybe it was just a dream.
I know why poets lose their minds
and singers sing to themselves
I know why leaders take the lead
impossible to count
Every man has his time
before the sun sets
He must do what is best
and ignore the rest
The dust calls to us