A Patrick Midnight Tale
Patrick Midnight was in a foul mood by the time he reached the mansion. His much-needed vacation, which had been promised to him after the disastrous affair in Portuguese Guinea, came to an early termination on the orders of the Society of Gentlemen Geographers. Specifically, Graf von Eberling, a claimant to the House of Hohenzollern and an intriguer par excellence, wired Midnight to inform him that he was needed for a job. The Prussian nobleman promised a nice and cozy mission for Midnight. He also said that the secret agent could begin his vacation all over again upon completion. It sounded good, but Midnight was still grumpy.
The one decent thing about the job, Midnight recognized, was that it was in Westchester County. For the first time in over a year, Midnight got to stay stateside. No more ships—on water or in the sky.
The mansion stood on several acres of lush and verdant property. A thick and tall red brick wall encircled the edifice, and a black iron gate barred the entrance to vehicles and pedestrians alike. The house itself stood at an opposing four floors. It had been built in the Dutch Colonial style with a pronounced chimney bisecting the front. On either side of the chimney sat two bay windows that gave the structure the look of a glowering face. The dark green wood and deep blue gambrel roof further added to the foreboding character. The house had been built by an old Knickerbocker family after the War of 1812. Once the family had fallen into genteel poverty, the home had been traded between several hands until it was finally purchased by a shell company owned and operated by the Society. The landlord was none other than Graf von Eberling. Like any good landlord, the Graf tried to make sure that his tenants were happy and comfortable. The problem was that the tenants were far from happy. That’s why Midnight had taken the short train ride down from Providence that morning.
A rail thin and gray butler ushered Midnight into a sitting room. A world of dark wood paneling welcomed him. Several stag heads hung on the walls, and a large fire roared in the hearth despite the relative warmth outside. Seated next to the fire in a large, wingback chair was an elderly woman with iron-colored hair and a face of fierce determination. Miranda Delapore, world-famous author of harrowing mystery novels, stood up and shook Midnight’s hand.
“Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Midnight. The Count von Eberling has told me so much about you.”
“All good things, I hope.”
“But of course. Would you like some coffee?” Midnight agreed. The butler Gregerson was dispatched and promptly returned with a silver tray bearing a large percolator and two cups. Both took it black.
“How much have you heard about our problems here, Mr. Midnight?” Miranda asked.
“First of all, Patrick is fine by me. Second, our mutual noble friend only provided me with a hazy outline.”
“Well, Patrick, does the name Seabury Seward mean anything to you?”
“Sure. Travel writer. Specializes in going places where white men are forbidden. Partakes in voodoo rituals in Santo Domingo, dines with West African cannibals, and shares beer with death row inmates. A kind of yellow journalist that a lot of people love.”
“He’d sue you for slander for calling him a ‘yellow journalist,’” Miranda said. “He always hated that label. Then again, labels often fit.”
“Suppose so. What does Seabury Seward have to do with this house’s problems?”
“Quite a lot. He is my husband. Or was.” The news surprised Midnight so much that he accidentally poured a little too much of the hot liquid down his throat, thereby causing him to choke. Miranda handed him a napkin.
“Yes. We kept it hidden from the newspapers and the neighbors. Larry…his real name was Lawrence. ‘Lawrence Seward’ is no name for an adventurer, so he wrote under Seabury, which was one of his uncles or something like that. Anyway, Larry and I got married when we were both dirt poor wretches struggling to make it out of the literary gutter in the city. He made it out first and brought me along with him. I only started selling after Larry tucked away a nice and tidy sum for us and our progeny. The progeny never materialized, but the money is still here and there in Switzerland and Wall Street. Larry was good about investments. Poor Larry.”
“I cannot help but notice that you speak of him in the past tense,” Midnight said while pouring a second cup.
“He died days ago. Or maybe even before that. I cannot be sure. Still has not made the news. The silence is my doing. You will soon find out why. First, I think I should explain the circumstances of Larry’s death.” Miranda lit up a long cigarette held in a black lacquer holder. Midnight disliked her cold, matter-of-fact manner. She did not play the part of the grieving widow well. If she were a character in one of her own mysteries, she’d be the prime suspect already.
“Larry had been depressed for years,” she continued. “The war killed Larry’s popularity like it killed millions of young men. Nobody read or purchased his books anymore, so Larry stopped writing them. He went five long years without ever picking up his pen. Those were miserable years, let me tell you. While I busied myself with one potboiler after another, Larry sulked around the house and drank until he was practically pickled. It got to where I couldn’t stand it. Threatened him with divorce. Even then, I think it was something else that drove Larry to that last desperate act. Most likely that creative madness that inspires those of us willing to listen to the muse.
“Larry informed me about a month ago that he was heading off to write a new book. Naturally, I was happy for him. I did not bother to ask questions. I simply wanted Larry to write again, and more importantly, get out this house.” Miranda visibly shivered, as if the house had given her a chill.
“What was Larry’s final book about?” Midnight asked.
“Ghosts. Can you believe it? Larry’s idea was to expose the spiritualists for being frauds. Yes, I know it was far from original, but Larry seemed energized by the idea. The handful of letters that he sent back were so full of life and enthusiasm. The afterlife gave new meaning to his life if you can believe it.”
“I can,” Midnight said with a coy smile. Unbeknownst to Miranda Delapore, Patrick Midnight carried a ghost with him everywhere he went.
“Larry went all over. I received letters from Montreal, London, Paris, and California. It was those latter ones that began to worry me. Apparently, while doing research in San Francisco, he ran afoul of some group that did not take kindly to his meddling. The Lodge of Alukah, he said. Something between a mafia and an occult society. According to one of Larry’s final letters, the Lodge specializes in fleecing widows of their inheritances under cockamamie ruses. Think the usual rot of fortune tellers, clairvoyants, and the like. Ugly business all told, but still understandable crime, if you get my meaning.”
“I think I do,” Midnight said. “These Lodge of Alukah fellows played ghost catcher for money. A lot of smoke and mirrors for simple greed.”
“Yes, but Larry discovered something more. One of his letters from the coast contained a rather long manuscript. I read it here by this fire one morning. I shuddered when I learned that Larry, that old fool, had attempted to take pictures of the members at one of their scam ceremonies. Typical newspaperman behavior, right? Well, the flash from Larry’s camera alerted the men to his presence. They chased him out of San Francisco and began following him across the country. Members that he saw at a séance in San Francisco appeared in Kansas City. One time, while staying at a hotel in Cleveland, Larry swore he saw one member dressed in a black hood, like an executioner, staring at him through his window. And that was not all. They sent him threatening notes emblazoned with a death’s head. They warned him to stay off their trail. Larry did not heed these warnings. Told me that the Lodge’s ‘mumbo-jumbo’ would not work on him. I wish he would have taken those threats more seriously.”
“Did something happen?” Midnight asked.
“Yes. I received a large crate here one morning. Would you care to see it?” Midnight agreed. The pair left the warm sitting room and crossed through the hallways of the dark mansion. Midnight jokingly inquired if the home was haunted. Miranda neither laughed nor replied. She led him down into a frigid basement beneath the home’s enormous kitchen. The basement contained various odds and ends, plus a well-stocked collection of vintage wine bottles. There, between several racks of French and Italian reds, was a shipping crate the size of two men. Miranda moved to the head of the crate, while Midnight took a side. The top was shoved aside. Miranda handed Midnight an electric torch. The powerful yellow-white light illuminated the crate’s contents.
“My God. Is that your husband?” Midnight looked down at a pale, anemic corpse that was as white as milk. Midnight noted the early stages of decomposition, as the skin around the fingernails had retreated, leaving behind noticeably blackened and elongated nails.
“This is the last of Larry,” Miranda said without much emotion.
“Cause of death?”
“Cannot say for sure. The county coroner is a friend of mine. Dr. Tillinghast can not make heads nor tails of it, but he did note that Larry died without a drop of blood in his veins.”
Alarm bells went off in Midnight’s brain. The well-traveled secret agent recalled his time spent in the Balkans and in South America. He did not vocalize his thoughts to Miranda, but Reverend Blackstone, the ancestral spirit possessing him, heard them all.
“More devilish activity, lad,” Blackstone said.
“Maybe,” Midnight replied.
“‘Maybe’ what?” Miranda asked.
“Maybe I know what killed your husband, but I’m not quite sure yet. Who delivered this crate to you?”
“Cannot say for certain, but I would wager that my mailer was the Lodge of Alukah. I’d also wager that they killed my husband.”
“Seems a safe bet. Are they also responsible for the disturbances around the house?”
“It seems the Count did tell you a few things.”
Miranda cleared her throat before continuing. “The days are fine. The house is lonely and quiet. It is just me and the two housekeepers.”
“Two?” Midnight exclaimed.
“Yes. Besides Gregerson there is May. May cooks and cleans and tends to me. A woman needs a woman’s touch, don’t you agree? You shall meet May soon enough. But we were talking about the happenings, yes? They happen at night. Always at night. It is hard to categorize every experience, but most are audible only. I hear scratching at my windows. I hear movement along the chimney. I swear that I have even heard the footsteps on the roof. It has gotten to the point where I cannot sleep. I keep having nightmares about black robed men breaking into this house and doing unmentionable things. Horrible things, you understand?”
“That is why I contacted the Count. I need someone to watch this house to prove that I am not crazy.”
“And to possibly remove the issue,” Midnight added.
“That would be greatly appreciated,” Miranda said. “You shall begin your watch this evening. Gregerson and May have prepared everything. You shall not want for food, drink, or creature comforts. I hope that you have considered protection.”
“I go everywhere with a .25 automatic. It’s a personal habit.”
“And that is the personal habit of a dangerous man. You might need to be dangerous if the Lodge are about. As for me, I will be safe in town at the home of Dr. Tillinghast. He has already forewarned the chief of police. They are prepared to aid you if things get well out of hand.”
“Hope they don’t.”
“Yes, let us hope. Now, if you excuse me, I will leave the house under your care. My duty lies elsewhere. Poor Larry’s family would like for him to be buried back in Maryland. The arrangements are mine to make.” Miranda punctuated the statement by pushing the crate’s lid back into place. The late Seabury Seward was once again covered from the world.
“All this because of some photographs,” Midnight said aloud.
“That reminds me.” Miranda led the way back upstairs into the sitting room. There, in a hidden nook in the fireplace, she produced a series of photographs. Midnight examined them and was underwhelmed by their contents. The pictures showed a table half occupied by elderly women dressed in dour finery.
“Larry swore to me that there were others at that séance,” Miranda said. “For some reason, the members of the Lodge of Alukah do not appear on collodion papers.”
It was near dark when Gregerson brought Midnight his dinner. The secret agent thanked his host and inspected the plate. It was a simple meal of chicken thighs with peas and roast potatoes. Midnight sunk his teeth into it with gusto. He washed it all down with more cups of coffee. Midnight continued to drink the black brew until he felt the tremors in his hands. He knew that to be an early sign of an insomniac night, which is what he desired.
As Midnight put away the last morsels of his dinner, May, the female housekeeper, appeared. She was short and slim, and yet her well-rounded shoulders and hands showed the obvious signs of a life of toil. Her hair was a radiant shade of auburn, and her green eyes sat easily in a soft, slightly moon-shaped face. As soon as Midnight saw May, he knew he was in love.
“Hello,” he said with unexpected shyness.
“Hello, Mr. Midnight. How was your dinner?”
“Delicious. Did you cook it?”
May chuckled a little to indicate that she was indeed the chef.
“Where did you learn to cook like that?”
“Back home. I’m originally from the Midwest. Iowa to be exact. Grew up with a lot of brothers, and they all loved to eat. A man has to eat a lot and eat well if he wants to survive on a farm.”
“I guess that is right. Never spent much time on a farm.”
“Where do you come from, Mr. Midnight?” May asked. Midnight could not pull himself away from her eyes, which exuded more warmth than the still-going hearth fire.
“I come from Rhode Island. A small town in Washington County. Ever been there?”
“No. I haven’t even been to the city yet.” May cast her eyes downwards in a show of shame.
“Don’t worry; you’re not missing much,” Midnight said.
“That can’t be true. Why, Miss Miranda speaks of the city with such fondness. Makes it sound like the gayest place on earth.”
“Well, if that were true, then it would be the polar opposite of this home.”
May looked askance at Midnight. For a second, he could see the smallest traces of tears in her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “This home has become a tomb of sorts. Miss Miranda rarely leaves. She has taken to sleeping during the day. Stays up at night in order to protect the house. It has taken such a toll on her. I’ve seen her age years in just a month.”
“What have you experienced, May?”
The farm girl from Iowa crossed herself. “Strange things, Mr. Midnight. It started out as small things. Movement in the walls and scratching at the windows. The sort of sounds that you could blame on a mouse or an old house, you know? But then, after Mr. Seward’s body arrived in that awful crate, things got a lot worse. I started to see strange lights out of my bedroom window. Unnatural lights—not quite fires, but fire-like except in color. Green or dark blue instead of orange. I also began to hear voices. The voices would sneak into my ear and get so loud that I couldn’t sleep. I’d wake up and see that my room was empty. That is how my life is inside of this house.”
“What do the voices say?”
“Most of the time they are merely whispers. I cannot make out the words. But, sometimes, I can hear what they say. ‘Let us in. Let us in.’”
“The voices are asking for invitation?”
“Yes,” May said and crossed herself again.
“And this is every night?”
“May, is there any silver in the house, perchance?” The question confused the young woman. She mentioned some jewelry and cutlery. Midnight asked if any of the objects were sharp. May admitted that one or two were indeed sharp.
“Please bring those objects to me,” Midnight said. As May turned to leave the room, Midnight called after her once more. “And please bring us some books for entertainment. It will be a long night.
“Yes, Mr. Midnight,” May called back.
Minutes later and a silver letter opener was placed in Midnight’s hands. He inspected the object with sourness.
“It is not ideal, but it will do. As for this…” Midnight held up the book that May had fetched for him, “It is a jest that I may never get over. Absolutely hilarious.”
“And yet, you’re not laughing,” May said.
“Some jokes are like that,” Midnight said while fingering the book’s cover. It was Dracula by the late Bram Stoker. Midnight looked across the room and saw May’s volume. It said “Miranda Delapore” on the cover.
“Her latest,” May said. “I adore Miss Miranda’s writing.”
“Your loyalty is astounding.” May smiled a little. “Where’s Gregerson?”
“He went to bed an hour ago.” Midnight looked at his wristwatch. It was already thirty minutes past nine o’clock. Dusk had turned to darkness outside. So far, it was a silent night. Midnight hoped that it would stay that way. He opened his book and began to read.
Two hours later, and Midnight had long forgotten the misfortunes of Jonathan Harker. Instead, he had busied himself with finding out as much as possible about May. The young woman proved to be great company, as she readily divulged information about herself: her hobbies, history, and hopes. May spoke with the speed and lucidity of someone starved for recognition. Midnight, who felt a strange stirring in his chest for the first time in his life, was all too happy to give May what she wanted.
“You have yet to ask if she is a Christian woman, lad.” Blackstone bellowed up from somewhere in Midnight’s stomach.
“You are a believer, May?” Midnight’s question was abrupt and temporarily derailed the conversation but May smiled and answered him forthrightly.
“Yes, I am. I was raised in the church. I go as much as I can.”
“Why, the church. There is only one. The true catholic and apostolic church…”
Reverend Blackstone screamed so loudly that Midnight was afraid that May would hear him. Midnight placed his hands on his stomach in order to quiet the specter but May interpreted the movement as a sign of indigestion. Midnight assured her that her cooking was still perfectly fine in his guts.
“Do you go to church, Mr. Midnight?” May’s question set Blackstone into a fit of mocking laughter.
“He’s the Devil’s right son,” the ghost said.
“Unfortunately, not,” Midnight answered. “These days I work more than I rest.”
“You might not believe me when I say that I fear something supernatural is at work here. What I mean is that I think that maybe the incidents in this house are connected to the late Mr. Seward’s research. That, and other things.”
“What other things, May?”
“I really should not be sharing this. A family has its right to privacy, after all. But I was never fond of Mr. Seward’s doings. Miss Miranda told you that he was writing a book on ghosts when he died…”
“Yes, a book about exposing false mediums and the like,” Midnight said.
“That was only part of it. Mr. Seward…well…he actually believed.”
“Believed in ghosts?”
“Ghosts and other things. I caught Mr. Seward one night here in the sitting room. He was naked to the waist. He had painted strange symbols on his body, and he was reading from some book. Occasionally, after intoning a word of two, he’d throw some kind of powder into the fire. The flames would change color, from orange to green and purple. Mr. Seward never saw me, thank God. If he had, he may have throttled me. It was an unclean scene. A part of me thinks that he accidentally invited evil into this house with such practices. That, and all the blasphemous objects he collected over the years. All of them in this one house.”
“I think I’m going to need something stiffer than coffee if I am to make it the rest of this night.” As soon as Midnight stood up, a heavy thud reverberated from upstairs. The noise was followed by the sound of upturned furniture. A flurry of footsteps descended the main stairs, and after a few uttered oaths, a harried and frightened Gregerson entered the sitting room.
“What the devil is going on, Gregerson?”
“It’s those blasted voices, Mr. Midnight. They will not let my old bones rest.”
“You hear them too?” asked May.
“Goodness, yes. I hear them still!” Gregerson placed his hands to ears and pressed them close. He squeezed until his face turned red. May placed a calming hand on his shoulder, but it had no effect.
“Damn you, devils. If you want to come in so badly, then stop torturing me and come in!”
“No!” Midnight shouted. The effects of Gregerson’s invitation were immediate. All at once, like a great strike of lightning, the windows to the mansion exploded. The sea of glass nicked all three, with Midnight receiving the worst. The copper-y smell of blood blossomed in the air, and so too did the strange aroma of damp earth and cold stone. It was a graveyard smell. Midnight grabbed May by the arm and pulled her close to him.
“Stay close to me, no matter what happens,” he said.
“But what is happening?”
A flurry of black shapes flooded the room. The figures moved with an unnatural speed that caused the electric lights to flicker and then expire. Midnight reached into his coat and struck a series of matches. The small glow gave him just enough light to witness Gregerson’s final moments. The aged butler was lifted off his feet by a set of pale hands that grasped his shoulders. Another set of hands grabbed him by his legs. Although Midnight could not see the feeding, he and May heard the loud eating and drinking sounds of the creatures as they consumed Gregerson in seconds.
May screamed. Midnight pulled her close to his chest and whispered in her ear. “Do you have a cross in your room?” She murmured something in the affirmative, so Midnight grabbed her hand and pulled her away. The pair crossed into the kitchen in an attempt to circle back up to the main stairway. However, in the dimly lit kitchen, one of the creatures cornered them. The figure wore a black hooded cloak that covered everything but its face and hands. Both were deathly pale, but still human, or rather human-like. The only obvious difference between a mortal man and the creature were its sharp fangs.
Midnight pulled out his .25 automatic. He let loose two consecutive rounds that struck the creature at center mass. The bullets did next to nothing.
“The knife, you fool! Silver.” Reverend Blackstone left his resting place inside of Midnight’s body and floated orb-like next to him. The semi-translucent ghost unsheathed his rapier, which had served him well in life as a militia captain during King Philip’s War. Midnight did as instructed and raised the silver letter opener. The creature leaped towards him with its fingers outstretched. The sharp nails tore into Midnight’s face and caused small ripples of blood to pour from his cheek to his throat. The creature opened its jaws in hunger. Midnight responded by jamming the blunt letter opener into the fiend’s eye. A terrific wail of pain pierced the room. The creature ceased its attack on Midnight and focused all its energy on removing the object from its eye. Realizing this, Blackstone ran the creature through with his rapier, striking it in the heart.
“Garlic, m’lady. Where is the garlic?” May was too dumbstruck to answer. Midnight repeated the question. May answered by scrambling to a pantry door and pulling out a wicker basket containing several bulbs of fresh garlic. Midnight grabbed a few bulbs and shoved them into the creature’s mouth. Blood and bile began streaming out of the find’s nostrils, ears, and eyes. The obscene liquids did not stop flowing until the creature was nothing but a wet heap on the kitchen floor. Midnight examined the mess whilst May crossed herself.
“There is no time to waste, you lot,” Blackstone barked. “There are more unholy demons in the house.”
“The cross,” Midnight remembered.
“Aye, get the cross. I shall stand tall down here and cover ye both.” Midnight grabbed the rest of the garlic and pulled May with him as they found the stairs. Midnight looked back once to see Blackstone corner a pair of black-robbed creatures as they devoured what was left of Gregerson.
“Back to hell with ye accursed dogs,” Blackstone roared as he smote one with a decapitating blow.
“Who is that?” May asked as they raced for her room.
“It would take too long to tell you, and now is not the time,” Midnight said.
“I pray that there will be a time after tonight,” May said.
They found the room. May pulled open a desk drawer on the table nearest her bed. Inside was a rosary and a small Bible. Midnight took the rosary and left the Good Book to May.
“You see the cross on the cover? Make sure that it is always facing forward,” Midnight told her.
“Are we to go back down there and….face those things?”
“We have no choice. We either eradicate them or they eradicate us.”
“Tell me: what are they?” May’s eyes grew big and pleading. Midnight felt the pangs of desire once again. He placed his hand on her hair and stroked it as if she were his housecat.
“Like in Dracula?”
“And these items of faith will hurt them?”
“Only way to be sure is to go back down there and face them again.”
“Oh, please God, no.” May crossed herself again. Midnight saw the absolute terror in her eyes. Rather than subject her to more horror, he told her to lock herself in her room.
“Do not open unless you hear my voice. Keep the Bible close and remember to keep the door locked.”
“But couldn’t they just smash the door down?” she asked.
“Place whatever heavy objects you have behind it. And pray that I get them before they can even try to enter here.”
“Patrick,” May held his hand and looked into his eyes. For the first time in his life, Midnight felt feminine warmth. He felt the sensation of being loved by another. May planted a soft kiss on his cheek. Hot blood suffused Midnight’s body, but he had to temper his emotions. He promised May that he would return soon enough.
Midnight left the room and took the stairs two at a time. He found the house still dark but full of sounds. Blackstone’s strained grunts led him into a back room on the ground floor. Midnight switched on the electric light, which lit up a massive library decorated from floor to ceiling with books as well as exotic masks and weapons from various locales. The room was menace personified, even without the presence of two vampires attempting to steal Blackstone’s rapier from his ghostly hands. For the first time ever, Midnight could see that his ancestor was in distress and at the end of his strength.
Midnight grabbed one of the vampires by the shoulders and pulled him down. He wrapped his legs around the creature’s waist and locked it into place. Then, with his hands, he pried open the fiend’s jaws and forced it to swallow the rosary. Before he could shake the creature off of him, the vampire vaporized and became a wet, miasmic fog that coated Midnight in an unknown substance. The horrendous smell caused him to gag.
“Light a match, lad,” Blackstone yelled. Through tear-streaked eyes, Midnight created a small flame and set it to the hem of the vampire’s cloak. The fabric caught fire quickly, causing the vampire to panic. Blackstone used the panic to swiftly detach the creature’s head from its shoulders. The pale head hit the carpet, made one sound, and then turned to ash before disappearing altogether.
“That’s almost all of them, lad,” Blackstone winced as he took a seat.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m already dead, lad, so the pain will not kill me. But it is pain nonetheless.”
“Never tangled with vampires before. Hope to never do so again,” Midnight said.
“They are fearsome demons, yes. Motivated they are by hunger, and they are unquenchable savages.”
“In this case, also motivated by keeping their secrets. They’re all members of some half-cooked exploitation cult. Seward found out that they were vampires, so they besieged his home to find the evidence. What they did not plan on was us.”
“Aye, lad. Soldiers of God, even if you are mostly a faithless cur.”
“Will you stop it,” Midnight begged with semi-seriousness. He leaned back in one of Seward’s leather chairs and closed his eyes.
“Do not rest yet, lad, for there is one more.”
“Aye. Seward himself. The collector of all the blasphemies in this room was delivered bloodless, no? And what infernal creature leaves corpses drained of their vitality?”
“Vampires,” Midnight said.
“Vampires,” Blackstone affirmed.
Both men picked up their wearied bodies and limped down to the mansion’s cellar. Midnight stopped off in the kitchen to grab the last of the garlic. Blackstone handed him a large knife meant for meat cutting.
“‘Tis not silver, but will slice a throat all the same,” he said. Midnight took the blade and kept it tight in his fist. Now armed, Midnight led the way down into the bowels of the mansion. The air felt colder with each step until, upon reaching the bottom, Midnight could see his breath. He grabbed one of the wine bottles and prepared to drink. He made a half-hearted toast to warmth until Blackstone stopped him.
“Look, lad.” Blackstone’s outstretched finger pointed to the crate that had previously contained Seward’s corpse. The crate looked disturbed, and Midnight’s heart sank when he saw that it was empty.
“May!” Midnight bellowed as he bolted back upstairs. Blackstone struggled to keep pace. When they arrived at the door to May’s room, they found the wood splintered and cracked. Midnight shouted her name again.
“In here, Patrick. Please help!”
Midnight crossed the threshold and found May backed into a corner with her Bible outstretched. The simple gold cross on the cover glowed in the dim room. There, just a few feet from May, stood the reanimated corpse of Seabury Seward. His pale skin had a bluish tint, and his once blue eyes had turned black as coal. Seward hissed at Midnight. The secret agent lifted the knife and swung at the vampire. He missed, which allowed Seward to strike him with his razor-sharp fingernails. Fresh blood covered Midnight’s face and clouded his vision. He attempted to stab Seward again but failed a second time.
Blackstone proved a better swordsman, as his rapier pierced the vampire’s shoulder. This caused Seward to hiss with unbridled anger. After releasing his spit, Seward unleashed a series of strange chants in an unknown tongue. The words, or maybe the blood loss, caused Midnight to feel drowsy. His eyelids drooped with something more powerful than sleep.
“Do not succumb to the Devil’s slumber, lad,” Blackstone said.
“Keep awake, Patrick,” pleaded May.
Seward continued his chant until Blackstone cut him across the chest. Forgetting his original target (May), Seward leaped at the Puritan ghost in front of him. The specter and the vampire locked arms in a death’s embrace, as each fought to vanquish the other. Using the last reserves of his strength, Midnight got back to his feet. He leaped behind Seward and rubbed garlic over his face as a diversion. When the vampire howled in pain, Midnight used the knife to saw at the creature’s throat. The rending of skin, tendon, and bone lasted for as long as Midnight could stand it. Midnight’s exhausted body hit the floor at the same time as Seward’s head.
Hours later, and Midnight awoke to the smell of burning wood. After a few groggy looks, Midnight realized that he was outside. The mansion was ablaze, and neither Blackstone nor May seemed in any hurry to put out the fire.
“What happened?” Midnight asked after wiping away dried blood from his brow.
“I set the fire,” May said. “He told me to.”
“Aye, indeed I did.”
“I discovered unnamable things in that library. Evil is not the word for it. The late Mr. Seward had diabolical plans for his wife. Aye, he had diabolical plans for the entire household.”
“We found his notes hidden in a book in the library,” May said. “He had volunteered to become a vampire. He had secretly joined the Lodge of Alukah. Everything that he had said to Miss Miranda had been a lie. Best to let everything burn. Miss Miranda is insured, I think.”
“I hope,” Midnight said.
“She will be helped by Dr. Tillinghast, no doubt.” May’s words had a second meaning which Midnight caught. He moved to ask a question but thought better of it. May busied herself with crying, but not for Miss Miranda or the house. Instead, she wept for her old friend Gregerson.
Miranda Delapore did not take too kindly to the destruction of her house. She attempted to bring a lawsuit against Midnight but was quietly dissuaded from the idea by Graf von Eberling. Miranda was ultimately mollified by a new mansion in Saratoga Springs. She was even happier to learn that the home’s owner was someone other than von Eberling. Unbeknownst to her, the home’s owner was also a member of the Society of Gentlemen Geographers.
As for Midnight, he spent a few days recuperating in New York City before returning to his family’s historical estate in Rhode Island. His report to von Eberling was promptly answered by a telegram sent from the Society’s European headquarters in Vienna.
Evidence that Seward communicated with occult societies in North America and Europe. Stop. Goals unknown but probable goal of creating a brood of his own in Westchester. Stop. Other agents found a storage facility in Baltimore, not far from Seward family residence. Stop. Requisitioned several artifacts. Stop. Thank you for your service.
Midnight filed the telegram away and never looked at it again. He spent the mornings and afternoons of his vacation penning love letters to May. All went unanswered. On the last day of his vacation, when Midnight received his latest mission brief from the Society over the telephone, Midnight quietly gave up the idea of ever seeing May again. The woman who made him feel love for the first time also made him feel heartbreak. Midnight placed his memory of May far back in his mind and never touched it again until one fateful day, not long after the inauguration of President Roosevelt, which cemented the end of Midnight’s career as a secret agent, he saw a woman in a New York City crowd with beautiful auburn hair and sparkling green eyes. Next to the woman stood two adolescent children and a man, presumably her husband. Midnight did not recognize him, but he recognized May. The romantic parts of him wanted to greet her, but, now older and more tired than ever, Midnight thought better of it and walked alone to his train.
— Arbogast is a poet with a blog. He is the author of, most recently, The Shanghai Horror.