Some people see things that others cannot. Tales of Mystery and Imagination. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (H.P. Lovecraft).

Lisa Morton: Children of the Long Night

Lisa Morton



Dracula finds himself ever more disgusted with humanity and what it is becoming...

“C’MON, TET, YOU know you can’t spend the night here.”

The ragged man in filthy combat fatigues looked up from under his thin stringy hair. His real name was John Douglas Black, but he’d earned his street name by begging passers-by to “spare some change for a vet, man, I was in the Tet Offensive, had the skin on my back torched by napalm.” Tet didn’t appear to have any war injuries, but, on the other hand, no one had ever seen his back, either.

Tet staggered to his feet, half-leaning against the wall beside him for support. The two beat cops eyed him with a mix of disgust and pity, then the female one leaped forward to steady him when he almost fell.

“You all right, Tet? We can take you to a clinic, get you some help ...”

Tet flinched away from her hand. “Already been. They couldn’t do shit for me.”

The cop reluctantly let her partner lead her back to their car, the game finished for tonight. It was always the same—they knew Tet was one of the harmless ones, didn’t really want to roust him, but if they didn’t some Yuppie on his busy way back from the video store would complain, then they’d have to arrest Tet. It was easier this way for everyone.

Except Tet really did need help. Something was wrong with him. Every morning he awoke feeling weaker, more feverish. He wondered if he’d caught some disease from a rat—there were bite marks on his wrists, small gaping pink spots standing out from the grime.

Tet reached the side street and turned the corner. There was an alley down here that was little more than a walkway and trash storage between buildings. Tet could store himself there with all the rest of the garbage and no one cared.

He stumbled past the first two dumpsters, then let himself collapse. He was almost asleep when he realized he wasn’t alone. He looked up blearily and made out a figure standing over him, a silhouette. Then the blackness was dropping beside Tet, and he heard a noise, a hideous noise like a cross between a guttural laugh and an animal snarl.

He realized he’d been hearing that sound every night for nearly a week.


“Hey man, leave me alone, I got nothin’—”

They were the last words Tet said before his throat was torn out.

~ * ~

It was an evening in early November 1917 as he strode across the French plain. When the war had finally washed up against his Carpathian hillsides a year earlier, the smell of blood had begun to work on him, drawing him down from his eyrie. He had returned to his homeland ten years earlier, disenchanted and dismayed by London society, and had lived in solitude for a decade, content to feed only on the occasional gypsy or stray traveller.

But then, as the war spread and his native soil was seared and smeared with gore, he became aware of his own hungers. And so he finally followed them until they led him here, to the battlefield of Ypres, on this fall night.

He had spent last night and today in an inn a hundred miles away, and had flown here after sunset. He touched down on a small hill on the edge of the conflagration, and was mildly surprised to find himself shocked by the carnage. In his own battles he had seen wholesale slaughter, but never this devastation of the land. He remembered this area from fifty years earlier; it had been thick with vegetation, a dark green that rustled with life in the night breeze. Now he saw only brown mud, broken metal and broken men.

He descended into the foggy yellow hell of mustard gas, unaffected but not unrepulsed. Even so, he was drunk on wafting copper scent and the moans of the dying. He bypassed mounds of corpses until he came to a man still alive, missing a leg, dragging himself through the clutching filth, gas mask making him look like an insect, a carrion fly.

The Transylvanian fell on the man, tearing the gas mask loose to fix on his throat. The soldier clawed feebly as needlepointed teeth slid into his skin, and then he gave in gratefully as death finally overtook him.

And when the Transylvanian had drained the man, he swam to his feet, head reeling, and let his predator’s instincts bring him to the next one ... and the next... and the next, ten years of starvation erased in one night...

Until, in his ecstasy, he did not realize that he had fastened upon a man dying of gas poisoning. And suddenly he was on his knees, vomiting up tainted blood with good, helpless as wave after wave of spasm forced the precious fluid from him, until he lay as weak as one of his victims, as barren as the land. Sunrise found him rolling into a trench and covering himself with corpses to escape the light. And although he survived, undiscovered, to rise again at dusk and flee back to his comfortable coffin . . .

... Something else in him had begun to die.

~ * ~

Jackson didn’t want the job. A bum who’d had his throat ripped out, probably by some other bum’s rabid dog. It could’ve been easily written off, except that the coroner had found the body almost completely drained of blood and ruled it a homicide.

They’d had other cases of homeless death in the last year, and a higher-than-normal percentage had died of blood loss. Some had been found with small animal bites on the throat or wrists, but the M.E. suggested they’d been dying in the alleys for some time, and rats had hastened the process along.

But clearly no mere rat had torn out John Black’s throat, and so now they finally had to accept the possibility of a serial killer. Some nut stealing blood to sell, or experiment with, probably. Jackson didn’t really care—he had more important cases to deal with. A double homicide of a wealthy couple in Hancock Park. A drive-by in Hollywood. A rape-mutilation-murder in Silverlake, a victim who had left behind three young children. Who gave a shit about a fucked-up friendless ex-vet on the streets? He intended to file it in the back of the unsolved cases as quickly as possible.

That is, until she walked in.

It was after eight-thirty on a Tuesday night. She appeared unannounced, asking if he was the one in charge of the John Black case.

He didn’t even think to ask how she’d gotten past the main desk and all the barriers from there to here without anyone notifying him, he was so stunned by her.

She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.

Flawless, gleaming pale skin, a perfectly-sculpted face framed by undulations of auburn hair, a lovely shape draped in leather and jewels.

“Excuse me—are you the one in charge of the John Black case?” she asked again, and he realized she had a British accent, very uppercrust and old-sounding.

“Yes, sorry. Cal Jackson.” He paused, surprised to realize he was nearly speechless in this woman’s presence. “And you are ... ?”

She entered his office, closed the door behind her and seated herself in a guest chair. “You look awfully young to be a homicide detective.”

Jackson blinked, then took his chair. “I’m older than I look.”

For some reason she laughed.

He went on, “I was one of the youngest officers ever promoted. That was four years ago.”

“So you’re good at what you do?”

“Yes,” he answered.

She nodded, considering. Now that the initial shock of her was wearing off, Jackson was becoming impatient. “Do you have some information on the case? I’m frankly surprised anyone even knows about it.”

“Yes,” she smiled slightly, “it was buried in the paper, wasn’t it? Apparently poor Mr Black didn’t rate better. Even though he was drained of blood.”

Now Jackson leaned back, interested. The blood draining wasn’t public knowledge. He picked up a pencil. “Just what do you know about Mr Black?”

She rose to go. “I’ll be back.”

Jackson lurched from his own chair, seeing more than an answer to a case walking from his office. “Wait, I didn’t even get your name!”

“I won’t tell you my married name, Detective Jackson, but you can call me—”

~ * ~

“... Lucy.”

Sometimes the name pushed its way out, torn from somewhere deep inside him even though it meant nothing now. Everything was nothing now. He existed, undead, not living at all; he went on only for the taste of the blood, the rich metallic tang of it, the sweet numbing as it filled him. He did not even bother to disguise his kills any more, as he once had. He had been clever, so clever, at erasing his marks, disposing of bodies, stealing the blood so slowly that doctors called it disease rather than murder.

And he had excelled at murder. As a living prince, he had been a warrior, a great defender of his country and a dispenser of terrible justice. The ground around his castle had run red with the life of his enemies, and his people had named him Dracula—Son of the Dragon. His cruelty—impalings, disembowellings, slow tortures—had become legend.

And yet the pain had been inflicted only on enemies, always in the name of preserving his land.

Wallachia ... another name that sprang unbidden to his lips sometimes. Another name, like Lucy or Mina, that brought him comfort, a minor peace. Sometimes when he woke at sunset, the names were there and for a second he remembered what they were and had meant to him. Then time intruded again, and they were all gone, and only he was left, alone in an era when his name was a Gothic romance and his evil small.

So it was every dusk that his madness returned.

He no longer slept encrypted in a glamorously-ruined abbey or castle. Now his daytimes were spent in the roach-infested attic of an abandoned theatre in a Western city of the New World. Once he had admired the theatre’s crumbling art deco facade, but that had been when he still had enough mind left to admire things. Now he just knew it as the place he returned to each morning, and left each night.

This evening he drifted away from his lair, his form an insubstantial mist carried by a hot Santa Ana wind.

He did not have to search far. A freeway underpass. Three underage addicts handling hypodermic needles with trembling fingers. He waited until they fell back in heavy joy, then took his form. One of the trio saw something, a smoke that became a man, a man dressed in tattered, heavily-stained clothes, with burning eyes and sunken features. He took the first two, then turned to the third, who was so far gone he had not even noticed the deaths of his companions.

The boy wore a Star of David about his neck.

It was gaudy, heavy cheap metal on a thick chain, probably purchased as costume jewellery, but the power of the symbol held nonetheless. Although it was not the symbol of good from the Prince’s mortal religion, and thus held no fear for him, something about it stopped him from attacking the boy. He left him there and floated away, vaguely troubled somewhere in the back of his mind, old memories stirred up that disturbed his dreams all the next day ...

~ * ~

Lucy did come back the following night.

Jackson had spent a sleepless day thinking about her. Trying to sleep, but impossible with her image burned into his mind’s eye. He gave into fantasies, speculations—she murdered her husband she wants a new lover she will seduce me I’ll let her yes.

It was just after ten p.m. when she arrived, as maddeningly beautiful as she’d been the night before. Once again she glided into his office, apparently having been invisible to the desk sergeant and the other homicide detectives.

“Good evening, Detective Jackson.”

“Hello, uh—”

She sighed. “My name is really Lucy MacArthur—Mrs David MacArthur, if you must know.”

Jackson knew the name. “David MacArthur ... some big film guy, right?”

“Music. He runs CM Records.”

Jackson nodded, feeling somehow rejected. Christ, that explains the money, he thought.

“But I’d really like it if you’d call me Lucy. Please.”

He couldn’t help but return her smile. “Okay, Lucy. Now let’s talk about Mr Black.”

“Fine. Surely the word vampire has been suggested in connection with this case.”

“Surely,” Jackson responded. “I’ve heard my share of Count Dracula jokes in the last few days.”

“Well, let me assure you, Detective, that you won’t hear any from me.”

She considered, then rose and turned the blinds down on the glass around his office so it was hidden from view of the rest of the station. He started to rise in protest. “I don’t know what you think—”

He was halfway out of the chair when she looked at him and said, calm yet rockhard resolute, “Sit down.”

Jackson was shocked to discover he was sitting, without remembering moving his legs. She was across the desk from him, watching.

“I’m sorry, but if I try to tell you who you’re seeking—if I try to tell you who I am—you won’t believe me. I must show you.”

“Show me ....?”

Then she moved so fast he didn’t see. He only knew that suddenly she was standing over him, her hands on his shoulders, her exquisite face near his—

—and she was baring a mouthful of fangs at him.

The rational part of Jackson knew he should doubt—plastic fangs, movie props, big deal, he’d seen better in Christopher Lee movies — but somehow he didn’t doubt. He knew they were real. But what that made her -

She closed her mouth and stepped back from him.

“You’re ... why are you showing me this?,” Jackson gasped.

She reseated herself, as if nothing had happened, as if she hadn’t just shattered Jackson’s well-ordered, rational world. “So you’ll believe me. I need you to believe me, because what I intend to do, I can’t do alone.”

“You’re a vampire,” he stated.

“Yes. I’m glad you’re taking it so well.”

Jackson saw his holstered pistol hanging nearby, but knew he could never beat her to it. “That was you who made me sit, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, but please understand—I’m not here to hurt you or control you. I’m here to help.”

“Are you dead?,” he asked, trying to sound reasonable.

“Yes. I died in 1893.”

“And you’ve survived all this time by ...” He couldn’t say it, looking at her, seeing her beauty.

“Drinking blood.”

“I thought you said you were married, to—”

“David. I am. He ... accepts my condition. He provides me with servants, associates, groupies ... I don’t kill, though. They all just think it’s some sort of ... decadent game. Something the rich indulge in.”

“You’ve never killed?,” he asked.

“Not since I left England. That was when I realized it wasn’t necessary.”

“But the man we’re after…”

She looked away, her gaze clouded. “Kills very matter-of-factly—or he did, once. He killed me, in fact, but now ... he doesn’t even know any more. He’s gone quite mad, I think.”

“And he is ... ?”

She took a deep breath, then exhaled it:

“Dracula.”

~ * ~

It was 1943, and the world was at war again.

After the last conflict, he had fled back to the Carpathians, but then had been lured down again by the end of the hostilities and the beginning of a new, more elegant era. It was a time of youthful jazz, new tolerances and free design. He stayed, even after the stock market crash, which he neither understood nor was affected by. He travelled the great European cities, in the company of other royalty, like himself. He watched in mild amusement as a ridiculous little man named Hitler rose to power in Germany; his warrior’s soul admired the new German spirit of patriotic pride and discipline ... but when the German forces began to overrun the land, he felt something curdle within him, a thick gathering of apprehension at the useless losses to come.

For a while he went back to London, but when the bombings began he left; immortal under most circumstances, even he feared the power unleashed by the German planes.

He was heading home, surrounded by a caravan of hired mercenaries, when he was distracted one December night in 1943. The source of the distraction was a noise, coming from the east, a sound vaguely like only one other he had heard centuries ago, when still a mortal prince. It was, in fact, a sound he had inspired then.

It was the sound of many voices wailing in agony.

Intrigued, he became airborne and followed the noise. As he neared it, the air around him changed, thickened until it became almost gritty; it stank, filling him with a sickly sweet disgust. He knew that stench. And when he saw the tall chimney stacks belching fire and ashes into the night sky, he knew the source.

He flew closer, circling unseen over a Hell he soon realized was far beyond any he had ever created.

Trucks were pulling into a courtyard not far from the buildings — the crematoria, he knew them to be—with the flaming chimneys. The trucks were full of women. Even though it was below freezing, the women were naked. They were badly emaciated, some with open sores and wounds, others bearing bruises that attested to beatings. A few had died already.

As the trucks stopped, the women—there must have been seventy-five or eighty crammed into each bed — were herded toward openings to walkways that led below ground level.

The women were wailing.

He watched as the trucks finished unloading, the entrances were sealed, and toxic crystals dropped down through pipes into the ground. He heard the cries of the Damned escalate, then finally fade out and cease altogether. In a few moments, the doors were opened and men in gas masks began carrying bodies out, stacking them for the short trip to the crematorium.

He knew, of course, of the German Konzentrationslager, the “KZ” — everyone in his circles did. But they had been told these were labour camps, to detain the Jews and other “racially-inferior” peoples until they could be relocated. Now, as the truth impacted fully on him, he felt a great rage. He was furious at this squandering of a most delicate resource, the useless waste of blood. He would stop this, make them feel the wrath of a true prince ...

He set foot on the frozen soil and approached the first uniformed man he saw.

“Who is your leader here?”he asked in thickly accented German.

The man drew his pistol before he fell under the power of the vampire’s hypnotic gaze. Then he just used the pistol to point.

“The Hauptsturmfuhrer,” he mumbled.

The Prince turned, to look, and made out buildings, newly added to one of the vast crematoria. Lights flickered within, silhouettes moving in front of them.

He became mist and drifted to the nearest door, moving unheeded past several soldiers. Down a hallway, drawn by voices to a doorway. Inside, the smell was of cleaning fluid and formaldehyde.

Four men were there. The room was a laboratory of some sort, equipped with sinks and cabinets, stainless-steel instruments and gleaming chrome tables. Of the four men, three were in white lab coats; the fourth wore a full-length black leather overcoat, a skullshead-SS cap, and was smoking, listening as one of the other men spoke.

“... extensive ulceration of the small intestine, such as is typical in the third week of typhoid fever. You will also note the swelling of the spleen—”

There were, altogether, ten wheeled tables in the room. All held corpses.

Five pairs of twins.

All children, none older than eight.

All carefully dissected. All had had their eyes removed. One wall held a board to which pairs of human eyes had been pinned, like butterflies, carefully sorted by colour.

The smoking man finished glancing over the report he held in his other hand and looked up, nodding in approval.

“Is the report satisfactory, Hauptsturmfuhrer?”

“Most satisfactory. Invaluable, in fact. I want these—”he gestured at the twins on the nearest table, “—packed carefully and shipped to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. Mark the shipping crates ‘War Materials -Urgent’. Do you understand?”

The men in white coats glanced at each other, then the one in charge answered, “Yes. And the rest?”

The man in leather murmured off-handedly, “Dispose of them.”He was gazing down at the twins, bobbing on his feet excitedly.

The men in the stained lab coats waited nervously.

The mist in the corner was consumed.

Madness.

This place was madness, impure and unsimple, and he gave himself over to it. He congealed in an eyeblink and exploded through the men, hurling them aside easily. The one in leather pulled a gun and fired at him, clumsily killing one of the doctors instead. The Prince barely noticed, so intent was he on the one he held before him, the one who had relayed the “report”.

“Why have you done this?” he snarled.

The man shook violently, barely gasped out, “Please, we had no choice, they would kill us like our brothers if we didn’t—”

“Your brothers?” He nodded at the dissected corpses, “These are your own people?”

The man did not reply. The look in his eyes was his answer.

In two seconds his headless body was flung aside, the Prince holding the head aloft, blood streaming down his chin.

In five seconds the last of the white-coated doctors was dead, his throat gone.

He rounded on the man in leather, who fired his pistol until the hammer clicked on empty chambers. There were shouts and running feet in the hallway outside, but the Prince gestured and the door slammed shut. Then he began to move towards his final victim, savouring the exquisite terror.

“Before I kill you, slowly and painfully, I ask of you one question: Why do you deserve to call yourself human?”

The man reached behind him, seeking a weapon, and the leather coat was tugged open.

There was a cross on his chest.

Even though it was not a true crucifix, the Iron Cross medal held enough of the symbol’s power to repel the vampire. He fell back, averting his gaze, his eyes stinging.

The potential victim hesitated, then laughed as he sensed he was out of danger. “You—you recognized me! You saw my medals and suddenly knew who I was. Now you cower from me, like the rest of your inferior kind!”

The Prince couldn’t face his accuser directly, but he could spit out, “How dare you—”

“I dare,” responded the German, “because your accent marks you as a Slav, and as such second only to the Jews as a degenerate race, although I admit that you have some personal power. You will make a most interesting display for the Institute”

Outside, a shot sounded. The lock exploded and the door burst inwards. The Prince took the first guard through and tore his throat out.

The Nazi watched in horrified fascination. “What are you?”

The Prince threw the soldier’s drained body aside and stood in the doorway. “I am,” he answered, “by comparison, a very small nightmare”

With that his form altered, becoming a winged creature of the night, and he left the accursed place.

Three years after the war had ended and the German horrors had been disclosed, he saw a picture in a newspaper of an escaped war criminal. He recognized him from that night, the blandly handsome features, the gap in the front teeth, the Cross pinned to the chest (the most ironic and perverted use of that symbol imaginable). Now the monster had a name:

Dr Josef Mengele.

Mengele escaped, but the Prince, ageless and deathless, was not so fortunate. He was captured and cruelly taunted by what Mengele had unleashed at the place known as Auschwitz.

~ * ~

She’d left last night, after revealing the name to him. Now she was back, and Jackson looked up without surprise from the cheap paperback novel he was reading.

She saw the cover and smiled wryly. “Obviously you believed me.”

He closed the book and gestured with it. “You know, Lucy dies in this.”

She smiled again and sat, not in the chair but on a corner of Jackson’s desk near him, her crossed legs brushing his. “Staked through the heart. Ouch.”

“Then you aren’t this Lucy.”

“Oh, yes I am,” she began, “but that book... a ridiculous collection of half-truths, a Victorian fiction at best.”

He waited, and after a moment she went on. “In the book I have three suitors. Very nattering, but not very true. There was only one. His name was Bram Stoker.”

Jackson blinked in surprise. “Stoker?”

“Yes. That night, in the crypt with that terrible old man, Van Helsing ... Bram sent the professor outside, claiming he wanted to be alone. The professor left, Bram raised the stake—and then couldn’t do it. He was a coward, my dear Bram was. I heard him, as I lay helpless in the coffin, tell the old man that the deed was done.”

“And Van Helsing believed him?”

“No. I’m sure he intended to come back and finish me alone after they were done with the Count, but the Professor did not survive the encounter.”

“Dracula killed him?”



“He didn’t get the chance—heart attack.”



Jackson considered, then asked, “So why did Stoker rewrite the truth so heavily?”



“Isn’t it obvious? Bram’s entire reason for writing his quaint book was to expunge his guilt.”



“So Dracula drank your blood and you became like him.”



“It isn’t that easy, Detective, I assure you. He drained me to the point of death, then made me drink of his blood. You needn’t worry about his victims—they won’t be coming back unless he transformed them, and frankly vampires don’t like the competition.”



“But he turned you.”



“Yes,” she said, and for the first time Jackson saw her jaded irony fail, “I suppose he loved me.”



Jackson looked closely at her, her legs sliding from under the folds of the silk skirt, then forced his gaze up to meet hers. “In the book you were feeding on children.”



She did look away, with a shame that actually surprised him. “I was ... you have to understand that I was like a newborn myself, cast into a strange new life without guidance. Dracula was being pursued then and couldn’t help me. After, though, he did come back. He gave up on Mina and came back to me. He taught me how to use my new gifts, and made me remember who I’d been. He took me to London. We even become part of society…but then he left. He grew tired of the people, the cities. He was homesick. So he left and I stayed. We haven’t been together since.”



“Why do you think this,” Jackson gestured at the files on the desk, “is him?”



“I did see him two months ago,” she began, her voice barely above a whisper. “He must have found out I was married to David, a mention in a magazine perhaps. One night he appeared outside my bedroom window. He was half-formed, hovering, just... watching. He didn’t come in, or speak. After a while he just ... drifted away. He was very lost.”



Jackson waited until she could look at him again before saying, “Even if it is him ... what do you want? Do you think you can save him?”

“Oh no, Detective. I want you to help me kill him.”

Before Jackson could react, she was bending over him, one hand gliding down his shoulder. “Why aren’t you married, Detective Jackson?”

His shoulder jerked away from her touch. “Who said I’m not?”

She picked up his left hand, held it up between them. “No ring.”

He had to admit, “Okay, I’m not. But you are.”

She was pulling him out of the chair now, to his feet, her arms going around his waist. “I’ve been married eight times this century. It’s a convenient cover for the way I have to live, and provides me with income.”

“And that’s all?” he asked, as her hands moved up his back.

“Let’s just say I... do seek my pleasures elsewhere.”

A few seconds later, when her teeth slid easily into his throbbing neck, it was the greatest moment of Jackson’s life.

Another sunup ... another sundown ...

Even though he had fed the night before—completely drained two of them—he hungered again. Maybe it was the drugs he had ingested with last night’s blood, or, more likely, the blood itself was the drug. Only when he was taking in the sweet, rich essence did the pictures in his mind fade. Only then could he rest in peace.

He left his sanctuary and let the night wind take him.

A third floor window in a downtown hotel. One of those to which the government housing programme paid $400 a night to shelter its indigent.

He entered. Two men were passed out drunk on cots in the first room. He took them both without a sound and moved on. In the next room a woman saw him and started to scream—until he ripped her throat out. A third man there. On to the next room ... and the next...

He came to a family, parents and three young children, all sleeping in two beds, only a curtain separating them. He took the parents silently, then tore the curtain aside and faced the children.

~ * ~

The children ...

The world in 1969 had belonged to the children.

Dracula had finally forsaken his dreary, war-torn homeland for the New World. That had been in the fifties, a time he had found depressingly dull and spiritless. But his financial fortunes had multiplied enough to keep him there.

And then times had changed again, as they always did, and he felt reborn. It was summer 1969, the City of Angels. He was now fabulously rich, constantly surrounded by gorgeous young people dressed in flamboyant clothing. It amused him that their colours were DayGlo. He loved the lively music, the open sexuality, the intense communal gathering that took place on the Sunset Strip every Saturday night. He owned movie studios, record companies, apartment buildings and one old art deco theatre, which he planned to renovate soon. He dressed in velvets and silk brocades, frequented the Whisky and the Velvet Turtle, and his head reeled with LSD-laced blood. He became a figure of mystery and intense speculation among the Strip’s habitues, and so was very popular.

All in all, it was a great time to be undead.

It was late on one of those same Saturday nights when he smelled something wafting down from the hills above and to the west. It was something that cut through the haze of marijuana smoke, something he had not smelled since the last war: blood, newly spilled, a great quantity. It was nearly four in the morning. He was just leaving his last club of the night, accompanied by two staggering youthful companions. He planned to invite them to his limo, ply them with hashish, then taste them both, taking only a little, leaving them to spend the rest of the evening passed out in the rear seat while he flew home just before sunrise. His chauffeur, whom he liked to call “Renfield”, was exceedingly discreet.

But the scent, impossible for mortal senses to define, tugged at him, a pull as old and natural as the killer instinct. He halfheartedly excused himself from his prey, moved like a sleepwalker to a dark corner, and there transformed.

On batwings he followed the aroma north, past the Strip, into the hills. Over the sprawling mansions of Beverly Hills, past the winding Coldwater Canyon, up to a place where Christmas tree lights twinkled incongruously in the warm night. He set down nearby, on an expanse of lawn, nearly swooning from the proximity of the scent.

It did not take him long to find the source. There were two bodies on the front lawn, one man and one woman. They had been stabbed, butchered. In a car in the driveway, a third corpse reposed over the steering wheel, bullet holes a testament to his life’s end.

But the inside of the house was where the strongest smells were emanating from, and, in a daze of lust and repulsion, Dracula followed the bloodscent.

There was gore everywhere, on walls, on floors, on furnishings. He turned off a short entryway into a living room, and saw another man and woman. They, like the two outside on the grass, had been savaged, mindlessly stabbed over and over, obviously within the last hour or two. The length of rope connecting them, each end knotted around their necks, showed they had also been hanged. An American flag was draped over the back of the couch.

Dracula ignored the masked body of the man and moved to kneel by the woman. He looked at her face, heartrendingly beautiful even in death, and thought: I know her.

It took a moment for his mind—a mind filled with thousands of faces, collected over centuries — to process her image. Then it came to him.

Of course. He had seen her two years earlier, in a film. A vampire film. An absurd film, but well crafted and not without its merits. He had thought her beautiful even then.

Now she lay at his feet, victim of a slaughter so terrible it left even him, history’s great parasite, sickened.

As he looked down, he realized something else: she had been pregnant, quite far along. And the child within her ...

No!

It had been, astonishingly, untouched by the attack, and was moving feebly. He let his fingers rest on her swollen, scarlet side, while emotions he had not felt in over twenty-five years flooded to the surface: hatred, compassion, disgust, but mostly rage. Rage. Rage.

The child stopped moving.

The first light of false dawn was glowing in the sky outside as he staggered up, the night over. He left the house the way he had come, out the front door. It was only then that he saw the message scrawled there, scrawled in blood which his senses told him belonged to the exquisite corpse within:

PIG

It rang in his head as he found his way home.

PIG

All that warm, rich life reduced to a word, a word describing a filthy farm animal.

PIG

When he took to his coffin, it was still there. And during the day that followed,

PIG

It became the axe that found the cracks already widened in his carefully kept sanity, and five centuries were shattered with the final stroke.

~ * ~

“You’re sure this is it?”

Jackson shone his flashlight around the interior of the deserted theatre, seeing only splintering wood and peeling plaster.

Lucy came up behind, entwining herself around him. “Yes, but don’t worry—he’s not here right now.”

Jackson had spent the rest of last night and today in a drained, rapturous haze. He kept recalling the rush that had filled him as she’d taken him, like an orgasm igniting every cell of his body. She hadn’t taken that much, not even enough to cause him to lose consciousness.

What he’d lost was his soul.

He could think of nothing but her. And a part of him hated her for that.

He’d received the call about the massacre at the shelter early, not long after he’d arrived home. It looked like the skid row killer—Dracula, he forced himself to think the name—had gone mad, killing ten adults and one toddler, and injuring two children. Jackson had gone to the hospital to question the tiny victims, but they were in critical condition, comatose, probably dying.

And all he’d thought about was her.

She’d come to him as usual, except this time there were no words. An embrace, a long kiss, the slick warmth of her tongue on his, her teeth at his neck, then in…

Later, she told him they would kill Dracula tonight.

He drove her unquestioningly to the theatre. He didn’t even feel astonishment when she lifted him in her arms so they could enter over the ten-foot boards blocking the entrance.

Her plan was to locate Dracula’s coffin, hide until he had returned and dawn was at hand, then open the shopping bag she had brought along, remove from it a wooden stake, and drive it through Dracula’s heart. Then, to be sure, they would drag his body into morning sunlight, and Jackson would hold it there until the remains were completely obliterated.

When Jackson objected—“But the sun”—Lucy had assured him that she had no intention of sacrificing herself. She would occupy Dracula’s coffin, safe from the light, watched over by Jackson, until the next dusk.

Now they stood in the vast, echoing space that was the old theatre, Jackson’s senses afire where she touched him, desolate when she removed herself.

“The coffin is somewhere above us. I can smell it.”

The scent led them back into the lobby, through a door on which fading letters read PRIVATE, and up stairs to a long corridor. Offices, rehearsal rooms and tech booths lined the hall; a door at the end opened onto a large storage space for set pieces, flats and props. Jackson saw a black square overhead, and nodded at it.

“A painted-over skylight. That’s good for us.”

Lucy barely acknowledged him, then fixed her attention on something else.

“There it is.”

She pushed past cobwebbed couches and coatracks, rusted lamps and shattered mirrors, to where a coffin rested in a far corner.

It was hardly what Jackson had expected. An ebony box that had once been highly-polished, but was now as tarnished as the dilapidated pieces around it. No family crest or crouched gargoyle marked it. It looked as if it belonged here, a simple prop that could have graced any number of plays, but now lay dusty and forgotten.

Lucy opened it and turned away, flinching. Even Jackson gagged at the stench.

The inside of the coffin was painted brown with layers of dried blood.

“God,” Lucy muttered, stepping back, “he has become a monster.”

She sagged into a chair that barely supported her weight. She covered her face with one hand and looked away from him.

Jackson realized she was sobbing.

“Lucy ... what...”

He knelt by her, caressing a leg.

“Seeing him this way, what’s become of him ... I knew it would be bad, but this ....”

“Then we’re doing the right thing.”

Lucy tried to look up, nodding. “We are, but... it’s still hard for me. I loved him so.”

Jackson pulled back from her as if she had struck him. “You ... loved him? But he—”

She cut him off, almost irritated. “Yes, I loved him. He’s the only one I’ve ever really loved. He gave me my life, how could I not love him? No one could ever mean to me what he does. All the rest, they’re just... ghosts.”

“Including me?”

Lucy stood, realizing her mistake, turning to him with a poor attempt at a smile. She put her arms around him, but he was stiff. “It’ll be different when I’m free of him ... and you’ll be the one who’s there when that happens.”

Jackson let himself be drawn into her embrace, gave his senses over to her ... but his mind was replaying what she’d said, and weighing chances.

~ * ~

For the first time since his resurrection, he had no desire to feed.

He floated, insubstantial, over the city, dimly aware that he was searching for something. Whatever it was—romance, reason, adventure, simplicity — it was not to be found, not in this place or time. His ways were completely dead, and not even blood would comfort him now.

When the horizon began to pale, he saw the colours there preceding the coming of the sun, and made his first truly conscious decision in days, maybe years:

I will greet the light this morning.

But, as the sky turned pink and gold around him, it was his unconscious instincts that took over, the primordial will to survive that told humans to breathe and his kind to flee the day. And so it was, with an inward scream of disappointment, that he realized he was once again in his coffin prison, the lid closing over him, sealing him away from the release promised by the light.

~ * ~

They had watched silently as Dracula had entered the room, mist seeping through a ceiling vent into the coffin, then coalescing into a gaunt figure who reached a hand up to pull the lid shut.

Now Lucy handed a stake and mallet to Jackson; he took them, half-numb with the sudden realization that she had always meant for him to do this. She crept up to the coffin now and paused there, her face unreadable. Then, finally, she laid her fingers on the lid, looked to Jackson and mouthed two words:

The heart.

Jackson nodded, then tightened his grip on the arcane tools and waited.

She flung the lid back.

Jackson looked down and froze.

The thing in the coffin was neither the handsome vampire prince of cinema nor the rat-faced historical Vlad. No, what Jackson saw was a hollow-eyed and stained spectre, past all delusions of vanity or care, clad in clothing so old and stained it was impossible to identify either colour or style. Dracula exuded neither menace nor allure, just great age and sad, apathetic madness.

A cry of dismay escaped Lucy.

Dracula’s eyes opened. They fixed on Lucy’s.

“My Prince,” she breathed.

There was no response. Without breaking her gaze, Lucy ordered Jackson: “Do it.”

Jackson moved the tip of the stake over Dracula’s chest, guessing where the heart would be. He settled the point and raised the mallet, gathering force for the blow.

Dracula’s features clouded over, and he spoke one word.

“Lucy.”

Lucy cried out again, and saw Jackson swinging the mallet. “Wait—!”

She was too late. The mallet struck the wooden stake with enough force to drive it all the way through Dracula’s body. Cold blood splattered Jackson’s hands and arms, but he pounded the stake a second time, to be sure.

A long hiss was the only sound. Then even that was gone.

Lucy stared, aghast. Jackson dropped the mallet and started to reach for her, but pulled back, seeing his gore-covered fingers. Instead he moved up to her, so close he could feel her trembling.

“Lucy,” he said softly, “you know it had to be done.”

She wouldn’t look at him.

He bent to pull the body from the coffin, to let the sun send it to its final rest, but Lucy suddenly turned on him, pushing him away so roughly he staggered. “No! I won’t let you touch him!”

She closed the lid gently.

“What about you? The coffin…”

“I don’t need it,” she answered in a voice as cold as his blood had been. “There’s an old trunk in the corner. I’ll use that.”

She kissed the ebony surface gently, let her fingers rest there for a moment, then crossed to the trunk.

“You won’t touch him,” was all she said.

Jackson nodded, and she lowered herself in, closing the darkness around her. He waited a few moments, to be sure day had painted the world outside, then he hefted the coatrack up. A few thrusts shattered the black-coated glass overhead, and rich morning sunlight streamed into the room.

He walked back to the trunk and positioned himself at the far end. He pushed until it lay full under the sun, and then he opened it.

Lucy barely had time to scream before the burning began.

When she sprang halfway up, he pushed her back down and held her there while she writhed beneath him. When her struggles began to weaken, she looked up at him, her skin black and blistering, and asked why.

A thousand reasons flooded Jackson’s mind:

Because you’d have come to hate me for what I did today

Because I’m just a ghost

Because you used me

Because you didn’t love me

Because you’re a monster, just like he was

Because you don’t belong here

But he said nothing.

When it was over, he turned to the coffin and scraped it across the floorboards a few feet at a time, his muscles straining. Once gold pooled over it, he flung the lid open, ready for anything, except what he saw:

The coffin was empty, nothing left of the vampire prince but the dried blood and the stake.

Jackson stared for a long time. He disintegrated from the staking. It had to be true. He was so old there was nothing remaining, not even ash.

After a time, Jackson convinced himself. His mind moved onto other matters and he left. There was, after all, still something to be done.

~ * ~

He spent the next day checking on all of Dracula’s known victims over the last two years. All from Tet back had been cremated. One of the young junkies had been given over to his parents for burial, but that had been after three days spent in the county morgue. The victims from the shelter massacre had likewise been cremated by the county. He crossed them all off.

Next he drove to a costume shop, purchased a wig, moustache, and dark glasses. A thrift store provided a long coat. He managed to check out a car being held in connection with an armed robbery.

Then he drove to the hospital.

The two young survivors of the shelter massacre were still unconscious, in critical condition. In his disguise, Jackson slipped easily into their room, unseen.

He had already examined them, noted how they had been left strangely untouched, compared to their elders. Even the child who had died had not been torn apart, but had succumbed to shock. The only mark these two bore were tiny pinpricks on their necks.

It was possible that even Dracula had been incapable of mutilating a child ... or perhaps he had appropriately applied the ancient urge to procreate to children.

Jackson wasn’t taking any chances. He could not suffer a possible monster to live ... and so he removed the two stakes from beneath the long coat.

It was done quickly and quietly, then he was gone before anyone knew. He realized he hadn’t needed the borrowed car after all, but then again, if nothing else, Lucy had taught him not to risk unnecessary self-sacrifice.

He thought it was done now. He didn’t even mind that no one else would ever know what a hero he’d been, how he’d driven the shadows out. Even if the children had been untainted, Jackson could rationalize that survival would only have meant lives of poverty and misery, ever-increasing violence and tragedy. And if Dracula had escaped (it isn’t possible), he was hopelessly mad, in a world of madness.

Jackson, on the other hand, would face that world and, if he had to, meet it every step of the way.

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