Willie spent the next several hours hunting for what must be a way out of this room—and this nightmare. Systematically, he pushed each stone on the wall and the floor, felt under the coffin, rotated the sconces— nothing worked. He was about to examine the steps to the entrance when the door began to open.
The young man froze as he heard the slow grind of stone against stone. Oh shit, it's back. He scurried across the room and hid crouched in the shadow of the far side of the coffin, from where again was heard the sound of stone moving as the slab closed. When he looked up, the vampire was peering down at him.
"Ah, there you are." The monster smiled. "I apologize for leaving you alone, but there were things which had to be tended to."
Willie observed that the vampire was no longer wearing decayed and tattered velvets and lace, but sported a dark gray suit and carried a caped overcoat and an elegant, slender walking stick topped with the head of a wolf. He placed the cane and cloak on the coffin and extended his hand. Hesitantly, Willie accepted it and stood.
"I am so pleased to meet you in person. You have done me a great service, Willie. That is your name, I believe. For many years I have observed and attempted to communicate with the living through my portrait, but you were the first person with the insight to notice."
Drunken stupidity, more like it.
"No doubt you are correct." Barnabas replied to the young man's unspoken statement.
Willie stared at him, speechless. The vampire was a tall, broad-shouldered figure of a man with dark features and high cheekbones. He would have been handsome but for his pale skin and sunken eyes that smiled and burned through you at the same time. Despite his imposing stature, he moved with grace and confidence, like a demonic panther.
"I will take my rest now," the vampire stated, settling into the casket. "I suggest you do the same. Tomorrow evening will bring new adventures, will they not?" Barnabas complacently folded his hands as his new associate continued to gape at the dead man lying there—until it said, "Close the lid, boy," without opening his eyes.
Willie did as he was told and then sat in the corner, but he couldn't sleep. Shivering in the damp cold, famished, exhausted and still a little woozy, he stared into space, considering whether or not to blow out the candle and save it for later. But he didn't want to be in the dark, not with that thing in the room.
Okay, so it did come back, but it didn't kill him; didn't even threaten to kill him. It actually seemed kind of nice—well, after the initial encounter when it had smashed its liberator against the stone wall and chomped into him with such veracity. Willie rubbed his head. He could feel the wounds on his neck; they itched a little but didn't really hurt; he had had hickeys that were more painful. His back, however, still ached from the body slam and he might have a concussion. But it could just be the beginnings of a monster hangover.
Maybe he could leave tomorrow. The thing wouldn't keep him locked in there forever. It would know that humans needed food and water and sleep. Food. Water. Sleep. Food. Water. Sleep. Food. Water. Sleep. Willie closed his eyes and tried to imagine himself in another place, one with a soft bed and a big, downy comforter. He was startled back to reality only when the last remnant of candle wick fell into hot liquid wax and extinguished itself with a sizzle.
During what one could only assume were the daylight hours, Willie sat in his corner, rocking back and forth in the dark, listening to thunder and rain pelting the roof. He ate the tobacco in his cigarettes, and the nicotine rush made him light headed and nauseated, and more dehydrated. The boy wondered if he would have the nerve to drink his own urine, but there was nothing to use for a container, and he was too dried out to squeeze a drop.
Willie entertained himself by inventing the Chilly Willie Radio Hour wherein he recited dialogue from his favorite movie and played all the roles.
"Do you think I care if there was just beer in that keg? I know what's in it, Tom. I know what you've been doing all this time, how you got those clothes and those new cars. You murderer! There's not only beer in that jug. There's beer and blood—blood of men!"
Then, in a high pitched tone: "I know, Tom, but I-I wish that..."
"There you go with that wishin' stuff again. I wish you was a wishing well. So that I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya." He pushed an imaginary grapefruit half into his invisible acting partner's face.
"Why that dirty, no good, yellow-bellied stool. I'm gonna give it to him right in the head the first time I see him. Pow pow!" He punched the air with a double jab. (1)
He sang every song he ever remembered hearing on the radio or Denny Malone's record player, often misinterpreting the tune or lyrics, but there was no one to criticize.
"Every time I thought I'd got it made, it seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me, but I never caught a glimpse
Of how others must see the faker—I'm much too fast to take that test
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – turn and face the strain – ch-ch-changes
Don't wanna be a richer man
Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes – Just gonna have to be a diff'rent man
Time may change me
But I can't change time. (2)
The solitary figure flicked his Bic on and off, or held it aloft.
"There's a light—over at the Frankenstein Place . . ." (3)
After several hours, the lighter died, leaving him again in total darkness.
Willie figured the sun must have gone down outside when he heard the coffin lid creak open and the vampire rise unaided from his coffin, grumbling that the young man's incoherent ramblings had kept him awake most of the day.
"Why are you in the dark? Light a candle, boy," the monster said congenially. "I have no need of it, but of course you do." Willie rose to his feet and groped the air like a blind man. "Please. Allow me to assist."
But, instead of handing him the taper, it seized his arm. The other man struggled in the blackness, but Barnabas had the advantage. Ripping the shirt sleeve, the vampire sunk his teeth into the young man's wrist. Willie yanked and yelled, but the predator pulled him close in a vice-like embrace until his body went limp and again, he lost consciousness.
The candle stood flickering in its holder as Willie woke up, lying in the open coffin where the vampire had placed him. Shit, no. The young man sprang up, flung his legs over the side and fell with a thud to the floor. Barnabas sat on the entrance steps, with a slightly amused look, reading the local newspaper. The stone door behind him was open.
"Good, you're awake." he folded the paper and stood, "I have an errand for you. Come." He helped the young man get up on his wobbly legs and lent support as he led him out the door while delivering instructions. Then the gentleman bid Willie farewell to return, he said, to his chronicle of current events and, perhaps, a little quiet solitude.
Willie walked through the iron scroll gate of the tomb and stood temporarily disoriented in the moonlit cemetery.
A cow? Where the fuck am I supposed to get a cow?
The old caretaker approached, holding a battery-powered lantern to his face. "This graveyard closes at sundown. What are you doing here?" He pointed a quivering, arthritic finger at Willie. "You must not disturb the dead. They will not rest in peace."
"Please. No spooky talk right now, okay? I gotta find a cow."
The caretaker dropped his haunted old man act, which he had created mostly for bothersome teenagers who climbed the fence at night. "Then you're in the wrong place, Jack. This ain't a pet cemetery."
"What? No—look, where's the nearest farm? Like, one with cows?"
The old man scratched his head. "Guessin' that would be Tanner's Dairy Farm down on Alms-House Road." He pointed south and Willie walked away, dragging his feet on the ground. "Kids nowadays. I don't get it." The groundskeeper headed back to his cottage, shaking his head.
It took a while for Willie to remember on which back street he had hidden the pickup truck. Once inside, he gunned the engine so the heat would kick in a little faster while scavenging through the glove compartment for sustenance. The litter on the floor yielded nothing but a petrified sliver of what was once a French fry and the congealed remains of a half empty ketchup packet.
The young man uncrumpled a wad of waxed paper with the intention of licking off greasy residue when he caught his reflection in the rearview mirror. It was probably the pale dashboard light, but the kid didn't think his color looked so good. There was also a faded bruise on his cheek from Burke Devlin's punch, but the wounds on his neck had almost completely healed, and most recent the ones on his wrist were already scabbing. There were dark, blotchy circles under his eyes and scratchy stubble on his chin, like some bum on a bender. Willie looked away in disgust.
Stop gawkin' at yerself and let's go. Gotta find a shit-kickin' cow.
Wait—why was he even thinking about cows? Willie was sprung—he was out of that horrible room! The young man hit the interior light and grabbed the map to ascertain his location.
Don't ya worry, Mr. Devlin, I am leavin' town right now. Forget the duffle, screw the money, just start drivin'. Find the first road outta here and don't stop. He threw the clutch into second gear and ripped down the street. Don't stop for nothin'.
He stopped on Alms-House Road in front of Tanner's Farm.
Willie sat in his truck in stunned silence, then suddenly began to yell and beat the steering wheel with his fists in frustration. That's why Barnabas had let him go—because there was no risk of flight. The vampire had control of his mind.
Well, you finally figured that out. Now stop tarrying. I do not like to be kept waiting.
Shit. "I hear ya." Don't want to piss off the vampire.
He climbed out of the cab and rummaged though his possessions in the truck bed for a length of rope and another flashlight.
The Tanner Family house was a good distance away atop a hill so Willie climbed the fence unobserved and headed across the pasture toward what had to be the barn. Inside were rows of stalls filled with dozing cattle. They were standing up and lying down, mostly facing the wall. It smelled like, well, a barn. Willie had a recollection of running drunk down the streets of Pamplona in Spain, chased by stampeding bulls. There were no males here, though; this must be the girls' dorm.
He entertained the notion of getting some milk, but Willie was a city boy who had never before seen one of these big-ass creatures up close, unless it was on a bun with onions, but he remembered the procedure performed many times in cartoons. There were no buckets in sight; this farm used metal milking machines attached to a big rubber hose which ran the length of the barn. The kid dropped to all fours and peeked uncertainly at a cow's swollen udder and long, floppy teats. The old girl kicked him in the head with a muddy hoof.
Focus on your task, boy!
Willie stood in the middle of the room, considering the logistics of the situation. Even if he could get one of these heifers out the door and across the field, he'd have to lift it over the fence and get it into the back of the truck. Never mind securing it back there, driving through town and delivering it unnoticed to the mausoleum. The whole idea was bat-shit crazy.
It was going to have to be a little one. The smallest calf in the place still weighed more than what Willie could comfortably carry, even on a good day. Nevertheless, he pushed the baby bovine to a standing position, tied the rope around its neck like a leash, and attempted to lead it out of the stall. Its mother mooed and, lifting her rear leg, kicked Willie with a double jab, sending him onto the straw covered floor. The older cow continued to moo and cry out and she was soon joined by the others.
Damn, this is going to bring Farmer Jones running in here with a pitchfork—Farmer Tanner, whatever.
He attempted to pick up the calf to carry him out, but mother cow turned around in her stall and head butted him into the straw and mud. No, wait, that wasn't mud. Shit.
Willie grabbed the rope and headed out, the calf trotting fearfully beside him. He slammed the door shut just as the cow chorus reached a crescendo. Willie yanked the animal across the pasture while looking for an exit strategy, but it was frightened and resisted. He pulled and pushed it until at last they reached the fence. However, no gate could be found. Willie wrapped his arms around the calf's legs and attempted to lift it, but the beast was too heavy, and the man's strength was sapped. He fell backward and the cow landed on top of him.
The little calf dug in his hooves as it scrambled to its feet while Willie lay there in the dirt and grass. The baby backed away and cried.
"I know how ya feel, but ya can't do that." Willie pulled himself to his knees and looked into the cow's face. "Crying is for pussies." It looked back with a whimper, its eyes wide with terror. The boy put his arms around its neck and hugged. "It's gonna be okay, little guy. . . I hope." He dropped back on his heels in despair and, with no idea of what to do next, stroked the little calf until its quaking subsided.
"There was a dusky Eurasian maid
In old Karate she plied her trade
And in Calcutta and in Madras
And by special request up the Khyber Pass"(4)
"Are you singing to that cow?" Barnabas was standing beside him. "I had no idea you would find my simple instructions so difficult. I told you to bring me the animal, not befriend it."
Both man and beast were startled by the vampire's sudden presence. "I-I d-d-don—" Willie stammered.
The vampire held up his hand. "Please. Our time is short. Sit over there and think about what you want to say, and I will tend to this business."
"Sit." Willie plopped down by the fence. "Stay."
Barnabas turned his attention to the cow. Willie was gripped with an instinct to run. Climb the fence and run like hell while the vampire was otherwise occupied. But as he started to rise, his eyes latched onto two shiny black shoes, flecked with blood. Standing directly overhead was a policeman, holding a billy club in one hand and handcuffs in the other. His face was a grinning death mask. Willie squeezed his eyes shut and clutched the wooden post in terror, finally realizing there was no escape from the vampire. It knew his every future thought and past memory. It was as if the monster had reached in and tore out his soul.
"You, boy." He opened his eyes. The apparition had vanished and the cow's carcass lay on the grass. "Return to the mausoleum and—oh dear, what have you gotten yourself into? That odor is most unpleasant." Barnabas disappeared and a bat flew away into the night.
Willie looked sadly at the cow's corpse before standing up to brush the dirt from his pants. "Must be a king," he said to the cadaver, climbing back over the fence to his truck. "How can ya tell? He hasn't got shit all over him." (5)