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
“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.
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
“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
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
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
“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,”
“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
“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
“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
After the job, both of
them drove in separate cars to Black Hills Cemetery and Holy Sacrament Catholic
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
“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
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…
in Black Forest Cemetery. Be back at lunch time.
wonder who died. We’d better see Father Mendel immediately,” Mort whispered.
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?”
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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…
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
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
“The question we
should’ve been asking is who stole
“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?”
“Behind the curtain of
the baptismal would be ok until we discover how to treat her petrifaction.”