This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
“Can I help you, sir?” asked the man behind the bar. He was solidly built, late forties or early fifties and slightly nervous. He was among those who’d reacted to Theodore’s face, among those who knew something about Jimmy.
“Just a mineral water, please. I’m driving.”
“I’m Theodore, by the way.”
The reply was curt but Theodore pressed on. He pulled out a picture of Jimmy.
“I’m hoping you can help me. This is my nephew, Jimmy, and I think he came in here a few weeks ago. We haven’t heard anything from him since then and his parents are desperately worried. Do you recognise him?”
“No, never seen him.”
Another blunt answer. Theodore turned to the other patrons, holding Jimmy’s picture up.
“Has anyone else seen him? Please, we’re desperate to know what happened to him!”
Theodore received a mixture of shaken heads, muttered ‘no’s and blank stares. Several of those who were most vocal couldn’t actually have made out the details on the photo, yet strangely they were sure they hadn’t seen Jimmy. More proof Theodore’s first impression was correct. Many of them recognised Jimmy even though they denied it.
Theodore grabbed Bob’s wrist as he placed the glass of water down. Not enough to be painful but much too tightly to shake off. Theodore stared deeply into Bob’s startled eyes. He spoke in a low voice which still carried to all parts of the pub.
“I know you’re lying, you and many of the others in here. Jimmy is unlucky enough to look very similar to me. When I walked in you were shocked, deeply shocked, as if the impossible had just happened.”
Theodore released his grip and Bob yanked his hand back. Theodore spoke again, steel in his voice this time.
“So I know Jimmy came here, I know you recognise him, and I know something bad happened to him. I’m pretty sure some of your customers were involved. Unless you want the police down here crawling all over your pub, your village and your lives you will tell me what I want to know.”
Bob stared at Theodore resentfully for several seconds, then he almost spat out his words.
“Fine. Yes. We saw him. He drank here one night. Drank too damn much. Then he decided he wanted to leave, to go camp on the hills to the north. We tried to warn him, to tell him of the dangers, but he ignored us. The last I saw of him was when he left the inn that night. He never came back, but we didn’t know if he’d travelled on safely or been attacked by the…”
Bob faltered, not finishing his sentence. He almost looked embarrassed.
“Go on,” Theodore said quietly. “Attacked by the what?”
“By the vampire!” Bob almost shouted.
“A vampire?” Theodore asked in disbelief. “A vampire? Seriously? You’re trying to tell me my nephew was killed by a vampire?”
“You see! That’s the reaction we always get. Your nephew was the same, laughing off our warnings. I think if anything they made him more determined to go. What could we do? Should we have physically restrained him for his own good?”
Theodore looked around the room. The pub was quite full. Thirty or so people, mostly men, nursed a variety of drinks. All had serious faces, some nodded in confirmation and a few looked extremely scared. But still… a vampire? This was two thousand and twelve, not the eighteenth century!
Theodore composed himself with an effort. Either the people in the pub believed what the barkeeper was saying or they were exceptional actors. While a few might be able to keep a straight face while winding up a stranger in their midst there was no way everyone could. Theodore knew he was good at reading people and he saw real fear in some of those faces, serious concern in all of them.
“All right,” he said. “A vampire.”
“You don’t believe us,” Bob said. “Don’t worry, you aren’t the first, nor was your nephew. Mostly we don’t talk about it at all, outsiders always want to prove us wrong. A few even make it back, convinced that means we’re wrong rather than that they got bloody lucky. Here you go.”
He slammed a glass of whisky down on the bar.
“What’s that for?”
“To keep you warm when you go up on the hills. I can tell you’re going to.”
Theodore smiled. “Yes, I am. Thank you, but no. As I said, I’m driving.”
“Go up on those hills and you won’t be driving ever again,” muttered Bob darkly.
“Let’s assume you’ve tried all your arguments and I’m still going to go. My nephew is out there somewhere, how could I not? What’s the best way?”
Sighing Bob grabbed the whisky and knocked it back himself. He fetched a piece of paper and a pen then started to sketch out the route. He said it would take about thirty minutes to get to the area, but warned it could take hours or days to search it all.
Theodore checked his watch. Half past nine. If he really pushed himself he could leave returning to his van for another seven or eight hours. It would be hard on him but he could do it. He took the roughly sketched map, thanked Bob and turned for the exit. He felt the eyes of everyone in the pub on him as he left. Spooky. Very spooky.
Theodore turned left and set off down the road. A footpath a little way ahead marked the start of his route. He had only gone a few dozen yards when he heard running footsteps behind him. Turning he found himself facing a young woman, probably early twenties, with short bleached blond hair. She stared at him for a long moment. Theodore could tell from the stare that she was seeing Jimmy, not him.
“Can I help you, my dear?” he asked.
“No. Yes. I mean… look, please don’t do it. Don’t go up to the hills. It’s my fault Jimmy went up there. He was really nice. We got talking and he bought me a drink. We ended up chatting for a couple of hours. He’d been to so many places, seen so many amazing things, I wanted to impress him with something. So I mentioned the vampire. We never do normally. Bob was right. It makes outsiders more likely to go up there, not less.”
“I didn’t see you in the bar,” Theodore said, raising an eyebrow.
“No. I was listening from the hall. That doesn’t matter, though. Please, please don’t go.”
She grabbed his arm, staring into his eyes, clearly trying to convince him. This time Theodore was certain… she clearly believed in the vampire, and believed it had killed Jimmy. Carefully he prised her hands from his arm.
“What’s your name, my dear?”
“Kelly. It’s Kelly.”
“Well Kelly, I am touched by your concern, really I am, but I have to go up there. I do it of my own free will.”
“Then wait till the morning! Go when it’s safe!”
“That isn’t possible, I’m afraid. I need to do this now. Jimmy might be hurt and need help straight away. Thank you though. I mean that.”
She raised her hands again, tears in her eyes, but he shook his head and she dropped them once more. On a whim Theodore grabbed one of her hands and kissed the back of it before letting it fall. It broke the dam. She broke down sobbing. Fighting the urge to comfort her, Theodore turned and continued on his way. He found the footpath and turned onto it.
* * *
Bob’s estimate was somewhat out. Even with the bright LED torch he always carried Theodore found it slow going. The route was easy to find but the footing was treacherous in places. Slowly he made his way up to the hills.
It occurred to him, as his path looped its way up, that there were probably much more direct routes, but only a local would have any chance of finding them. The path he walked was criss-crossed by other routes, some little more than rabbit paths, but without a guide he would soon have been hopelessly lost so he stuck to the route on the sketched map.
Finally he reached the top of the first hill, finding a dense set of woods with a narrow path through it. He followed the path — the alternative would be to wander off through the densely packed trees which was a sure way to get lost at night.
As he walked through the trees thoughts of the vampire returned. Was there really something out there in the darkness? It was close to being terrifying, walking through the dark with only the small puddle of torchlight to illuminate his way.
He found himself twisting around to shine the light behind him more and more. To the sides too. Every now and then an animal would rustle in the undergrowth or an owl would hoot, startling Theodore. The further in he went the more he felt on edge, certain that someone or something was waiting for him. His heart started to beat faster and his palms became sweaty.
The path suddenly gave way to a large clearing. Theodore stumbled to a halt, shining the torch around. It barely lit the trees on the far side. He slowly started to walk across the large space, then froze at the sound of something moving ahead. His hands were shaking now, making the torch’s beam dance around. More sounds, like something large pushing through the trees. Something much larger than the mice or rabbits he’d been hearing before. Then silence.
Theodore stood, frozen in place, straining to hear any more sounds. He considered turning the torch off but couldn’t do it, couldn’t face the darkness knowing something might be approaching. Had it gone silent because it no longer moved? Or had it sensed him? Was it even now closing on him?
Then he heard the sound again, closer this time. He focused intently on where the sound seemed to be coming from, slowly moving the torch beam from side to side. Still he couldn’t see what was causing the noise.
The attack caught him completely by surprise. Something large crashed into him from behind, shoving him down to the grass and sending his torch flying. His attacker was heavy, pinning him to the ground for a few seconds while he desperately tried to throw the assailant off. Then he felt hands grabbing his arms and legs, pinning them to the ground. At least three or four people were holding him down now. He couldn’t move at all. His face was pressed into the grass making it hard to breathe. He felt his mind start to tumble towards the darkness but he resisted, clinging to consciousness, refusing to give in.
Now his arms were pulled back and tied together, the bonds cutting deeply into his wrists. His legs received the same treatment, then he was pulled into the air and placed on his feet. He couldn’t move at all, in fact would have fallen over if his captors weren’t holding him up. He tried to turn his head and received a savage punch to the side of his head. For a moment lights flashed in his vision and darkness threatened to engulf him. Once again he fought back from the brink.
As his eyes began to adjust he became aware of several slight glows. He realised that while he’d been using his torch it had destroyed his night sight. His captors had relied on much dimmer lights and so had easily got the drop on him. As the others drew near, forming a rough circle around Theodore, one of them broke a glow stick and threw it down. It was green, giving the faces of those who’d captured him a sickly glow. Theodore recognised one face immediately — Bob, the barkeeper. He recognised most of the other men too, from the pub, though a few he hadn’t seen before. With those holding him up he counted sixteen or seventeen people.
“Why hello, Theodore. Fancy meeting you here.” Bob took the lead, a fake look of concern on his face. “You really should have listened to us, you know. These hills are a terribly dangerous place for strangers at night. You wouldn’t believe how many have died up here down the years. All of them screaming in pain, till we cut their tongues out anyway. You’d be amazed at how long the body can keep going if you’re careful where you cut.”
“You killed Jimmy? You tortured him?”
Theodore was trembling, fighting the desire to simply give in and fall into darkness. To make all this go away. It would be so easy, but he hung on. He had to know.
“Ah yes, Jimmy. The smug git who’d been everywhere, seen everything. And who thought he could waltz into our village and start talking to our daughters, leading them astray.”
Bob was nearly shouting by the end. He took a deep breath, calmed himself down.
“Yes, we tortured your nephew. You should have heard him squeal by the end. He was a tough one, wasn’t he lads? Lasted a long time he did. Nearly till sunrise. Great sport!”
This was greeted with chuckles and cheers from the others. Bob slipped a rucksack off his back. Several others followed suit. They opened their bags and started pulling out knives, hacksaws, pliers and other tools, all gleaming brightly. Looking at them Theodore realised Bob and the others were deadly serious. Despite gleaming so brightly the tools all carried a dark tarnish, a sense of the uses they’d been put to.
The trembling was growing worse, tremors running through his body. The thought of what they had done to Jimmy made him sick to his core. His nephew must have suffered incredible agony before he died. And now Theodore faced the same.
Unlike Jimmy, and their other victims, Theodore had a choice. He could suffer the agony of torture, feel his body being ripped and torn, or he could give in. Slip into the darkness. Take the release that his illness offered and he fought against every day. As well as sparing him the agony Bob and the others had planned it would spoil their fun, would give Theodore victory over them. The desire to let go was almost overwhelming but he held on grimly, forcing out one more question.
“No wooden stake? Aren’t you afraid of the vampire?”
Bob stood up holding a viciously sharp scalpel, moving it close to Theodore’s eyes. He grinned for a few seconds then spoke.
“Sorry, Theodore, we aren’t scared of the vampire. That’s just a legend we made up. There are no vampires here.”
“I beg to differ!” Theodore said, letting himself fall into the darkness that always lurked within his soul.
* * *
Bob started to laugh at Theodore’s ridiculous statement. The vampire story had been a great cover over the years. Bob and the others even referred to themselves as the vampire brotherhood now. The laugh died in his throat as Theodore’s eyes suddenly changed. His eyes were replaced by a fierce burning red colour. Bob felt himself sinking into the eyes, unable to move or speak, and not wishing to. He was vaguely aware of a tearing sound, then the two men who had been holding Theodore up went flying away to each side. Theodore shook his arms, shaking off the last of his bonds. Then with another ripping sound he tore his legs free.
Theodore stood for a moment as the shocked circle of the brotherhood struggled to cope with what they were seeing. Then he grinned, lifted one leg and kicked forwards twice, almost too fast to see. Bob collapsed to the ground in agony, both kneecaps smashed.
That broke the spell affecting not just Bob but the others. With screams of anger the brotherhood charged in, wielding knives and clubs, pitchforks and hammers. Occasionally a victim they stalked avoided the initial ambush and had to be chased down. This was the first time someone had escaped once caught, but he was still one man against their many. He had no chance.
Bob didn’t see much of what happened next, it was simply too fast. One moment the brotherhood were converging on Theodore, the next he was dancing between them leaving fallen men in his wake. Probably half were down in the first few seconds, several more fell before anyone started to run. The few that did run didn’t get far. Theodore was superhumanly fast.
Bob could tell that several of the others were dead. No one with a head at the angle Jake’s was could possibly be alive. If Thomas was still alive with his heart laying on the grass next to him then he’d be making medical history. Others were groaning in pain, but not for long. Theodore was working his way through them. He would bend over each in turn and they would go deathly quiet. A minute or two later he stood, then moved on to the next.
Bob knew he was going to die. He couldn’t move at all, his smashed knees made even crawling away impossible — the pain was too great. After so many decades of leading the hunt, expanding from a couple of friends with a similar hatred of outsiders to what had become the brotherhood, he couldn’t quite believe it was all over.
The only consolation was that it would be quick. For a moment he had worried Theodore would seek to torture the brotherhood, in particular would seek to torture him. He had seen too many men weeping and screaming to ever want to be on the receiving end of that. In fact he still had the scalpel in his hand. If necessary he would end his own life. For the moment he couldn’t find the courage to, though.
And then Theodore was leaning over him, blood red eyes boring into Bob’s soul, and any hope of taking action evaporated. He could no more move than a stone could fly. He could still think though, and feel. He comforted himself with the thought that it would soon be all over. A minute, two at most. It could have been so much worse.
Then Theodore moved, bringing his mouth to Bob’s neck and plunging in his incisors, starting to drain both Bob’s blood and his life force, his very soul. At that moment Bob found that pain exists which makes physical torture pale into insignificance. He quickly discovered that when your soul is being stripped from your body in waves of unimaginable pain a minute stretches into eternity. His soul died in torment that his many victims had never approached, over what felt like years.
* * *
Theodore slowly felt his mind returning, clawing its way clear of the darkness. As his thoughts returned he blinked slowly, taking in the scene around him. He knew what to expect, had seen it enough times before, but still let out a deep sigh as he took in the mangled corpses and the desiccated husks which had been drained of all life. He had no doubt those killed in the initial fight had been the lucky ones, their souls had simply departed their bodies, rather than being ripped from them then torn apart.
He regretted what had happened. Not the fate of those that had been killed, but the fact he had needed to let loose the beast inside. He’d managed to keep it under control for decades this time. It couldn’t be helped, though, and he had to admit a sense of satisfaction at the many drained husks he saw — especially that of Bob who seemed to have been the ringleader. They deserved what they got, and more, for their torture of Jimmy. At least Theodore could give Jimmy’s parents closure, both on Jimmy’s fate and that of his murderers.
Recovering his flashlight Theodore walked from the clearing, thinking about Jimmy. Jimmy wasn’t actually his nephew, of course, not his brother Joseph’s son. Not even his brother’s grandson. Theodore had stopped bothering to count the number of greats involved in the relationships now. He kept a loose eye out for a few of his so distant relatives, in particular those who reminded him of Joseph. While Jimmy had looked similar to Theodore he had been almost a spitting image of Joseph. Losing Jimmy hurt Theodore badly, made him feel the loss of his brother keenly despite the centuries that had passed.
Finally Theodore walked clear of the woods. Someone would come looking for the dead men tomorrow, he was sure, then they would call in the police. Searches would be made of the area to find the man seen talking to them in the pub. They wouldn’t find Theodore, though. His specially modified van, where he would sleep away the daylight hours, was parked a long way away. Far too far for anyone to walk in a night, but only thirty miles as the bat flies. Pocketing his flashlight Theodore flung himself into the air and began the flight back, knowing he’d be safely resting long before sunrise.