Alf’s farewell letter.
Harry began reading:
“Dear Carlo, we need to talk. Our current situation borders on unbearable, and although I can honestly declare that I have tried several times to explain myself to you, you have been steadfast in avoiding me. I ascribed it to a coincidence at first, but now I am certain that you are avoiding me, avoiding my explanations.
I am left with no other choice than writing this letter.
Carlo, my dear friend, we have known each other since childhood. Our friendship isn’t of a few days duration, and I dread the though of it ending over nothing (I confess the idea of leaving without talking to you has occurred to me).
Let’s not leave anything unsaid, let’s not beat around the bush, I will be the first to say it: you are jealous of me and you fiancé.
Are you insane?
Have you forgotten who I am? A poverty-stricken lab rat, with stern views on women. Do you remember when the entire university was laughing at me?
You are my best friend, my only friend, do you think I will betray all I believe in and try to steal the woman you love, your fiancé?
I’ve analysed my conduct up to this point and I could safely swear that I am not guilty of a singe inappropriate word or an immodest glance towards Rita.
I swear it to you.
But, when I think about it honestly, I cannot blame you either. Rita has changed, and, -forgive me my candour- she has changed for the worse.
When she was ill and you’ve moved her down to the forest house, she was a different woman. The three of us would spend entire days in each other’s company, Rita, poor Lucia and I. We would discuss poetry and reminisce of Italy. The ladies would sing and play the lute. I was telling then about the latest scientific discoveries.
Even the most strict, merciless judge couldn’t have found a single instance with which to reproach us for our conduct.
And you yourself, when you would arrive unannounced, at any given hour, did you see anything hinting at the secret relationship?
I would wage my life you didn’t.
On that horrible day, when Rita fell into stupor so suddenly, we all lost our heads.
She was better in the morning, though she seemed strangely nervous, as if she were waiting for someone. Was it premonition?
I was convinced she was waiting for you, that you both had agreed to meet secretly. But after your bouquet of field flowers had arrived, I became certain that it was something else.
When I was putting the flowers into a silver vase at Rita’s request, I saw tears glistening in her eyes, as she was paging through a small black book on her lap, which I recognised as her Psalter.
Later she complained of tiredness and asked Lucia and me to leave her with Cecilia. We left.
Cecilia joined us few minutes later. Rita sent her away as well:
“Senorita is writing something”, the old nurse told us.
Lucia and I sat in the salon, waiting to be called back. Suddenly we heard a terrible scream. We rushed into Rita’s room, but it was old Cecilia who was screaming.
Rita was lying on her couch; her body ramrod straight, her head thrown back.
I rushed toward her; she opened her eyes, slowly with great effort, closing them again. I though she was feeling ill and got up to fetch water, but the moment I raised her head to give her a drink, she looked at me again and for the first time...I felt something strange in her eyes...I must be honest here...something passionate, lascivious. She whispered in a low, barely audible voice:
Afraid and not thinking, I bent over her and kissed her lips.
In the very same moment, she arched her back exhaling and fell into a stupor, which we all mistook for death.
I bend over her again, and pulled back, frightened. Rita’s face looked evil, her lips parted as if snarling, even her teeth looked animal. It was as if I were looking upon a complete stranger. Soon the expression on her face changed, becoming peaceful again, and this is how you’ve found her.
Do you remember how we, all of us, lost our heads, and this is why I never told you about the kiss before.
Afterwards we were too busy preparing for the funeral; we moved her body to the chapel, your grief, all of it.
Then, according to your wish, we locked her salon forever, forgetting the poor canary bird, and then, her sudden resurrection (I don’t know what to call it), in the middle of the night, during a storm, that terrified all the servants, and- if we were to be honest-, all of us.
After Rita’s “Resurrection” it was impossible for me to tell you about the kiss, and I would have probably forgotten all about it if I didn’t, from time to time, catch Rita looking at me with the same kind of look that preceded the kiss.
You have written to me recently about strange changes in Rita’s character, and I am forced to agree. I also see it, and the longer it takes, the stranger the transformation. You are right; she is blossoming physically and, at the same time, descends lower and lower spiritually.
She was so sensitive, so compassionate, and now she is appallingly cold. Nothing, not even the deaths all around her, seem to elicit a single drop empathy. Even Lucia’s tragic end failed to affect her. Her reaction to her canary’s death was disgustingly cold.
She is no longer bothering with her outward appearance, judging from the fact that she ordered for all the mirrors to be covered as a “sign of mourning”, even her own dresser.
There is no more singing or music (I think her lute was also left in the salon). Rita prefers solitude.
Her character also took turn for the worse, here an example.
In the last days before her stupor, she was inseparable from her prayer book, the little black volume we both know so well, and I asked her if I should bring it for her. Rita became terribly angry, her eyes narrowed, she looked positively snarling as she heaped me with abuse.
The other time I handed her a hand mirror, another treasured companion, and she not only threw it on the floor, but broke the glass with the heel of her shoe, without sparing the delicate gold frame.
Despite all this, I, as I’ve told you before, have felt that strange look from Rita, full of desire, passion and...something else. I fear it, and not only because of you. There is something otherworldly, eerie in it.
I was interrupted by a letter from you, inviting me to the castle. How different from our old letters, the official language, cold tone.
I declined, why bother?
Tomorrow, or the day after, I will be out of you way. At the beginning of this letter, I was hoping to clear things up, but now, after thinking long and hard I have decided to leave, without farewells.
I am leaving this letter for you; you will understand that the best solution is for me to go away. Thank you for the love you’ve showed me before and I believe with all my heart that you will show it to me again once more. I am, for my part was and always will be your faithful friend. My regards to Rita, may you both have all the happiness in the world.
A day and the night. A day and the night had passed and yet my whole world has been turned upside down. I still don’t know what happened. I must write all of this down to make sense of things. Usually, jotting down the facts and figures helps me understand, so here it is:
I wrote Carlo a farewell letter and left it in my desk, wanting to add a few more wishes and goodbyes before I left.
I went for a walk in the garden, the night was quiet, the moon bright, and the lake was as smooth as a mirror. Only the air felt heavy, as if before a thunderstorm.
I went to bed with my window open.
In the middle of the night, I felt someone in my room, and something heavy was pressing down on my chest, I’ve opened my eyes...
Holy Virgin Mary, Rita is in my bed, lying upon my chest. What is this? I want to cry out, get up and I cannot...I will defame her! What would people think? What would Carlo say?
Obvious, Rita is ill; otherwise what would she be doing in my room, in the middle of the night? She is either delirious or sleepwalking.
What am I to do? I must not frighten her. The thoughts rush through my mind like a hurricane. My head starts to spin, I feel dizzy. Strange sweet tiredness is invading my body. The room starts to sway before my eyes.
I lose consciousness for the first time in my life.
I open my eyes. I am alone. Everything is silent and the moon is starting to set, I could feel cool predawn breeze on my face. I try to think...and cannot.
Where did she go to? I am sure that she was here; I can still smell her favourite perfume, lavender. What happened to her? Why did she come here?
I didn’t even think that the whole incident may have been a dream; this is how real it was. Suddenly a thought flashed through my mind: maybe something terrible had happened and Rita came to me for help.
I jumped off my bed and was dressed in a few seconds. In my haste I didn’t notice that my bedroom was still locked from the inside, only now, writing this down I remembered.
So, it is one more mystery. I ran around the building, but everything seemed fine, the house dark, quiet, asleep. I rushed into the garden, and lost my footing in the tall grass, falling face down into the rosehip bush, scratching my cheek and hands and piercing my neck with a dry branch so severely that the entire front of my shirt was stained with blood.
When I returned to the house, the servants were already getting up and all of my enquiries if something happened last night were met with blank stares and complete denial.
These are the facts. What are my conclusions?
I am so sure that she was in my room I am prepared to wage my soul on it.
First question: how did she get in?
The door is locked. I have the key. She could have used another key, a specially made one, which hints at premeditation. And the window? It is not high off the ground and I’ve left it open last night. Still premeditation.
Second question: why did she come here?
Damn it, I just felt a wave of cold sweat rush over me, maybe Carlo is right and she loves me, loves me enough to throw all caution to the wind. Was I too blind to notice this passion? And my sudden fainting came in at the worst possible moment. What is she thinking of me now? She is probably despising me right now.
Third question: what am I to do?
Flee; I must flee as soon as possible. But what if she loves me, truly loves me? Well, she will get sad than get over it. But then not everyone can forget one’s love...
I will never forget her.
Do I have the right to go now? She disgraced herself. Even if no one were ever to find out, she herself knows. A young woman, beautiful and engaged to be married was alone in the bedroom of another young man...yes I am still young. Lay on his bed, on his chest. Wouldn’t she be raked with guilt?
Isn’t it my duty to remain?
No, no and no, don’t try to turn this around, Alf. This love is not for you. While you have any decency left, you must flee.
I will not go up to the castle but will make my way straight for the city and get horses there, leaving in the evening.
It is decided.
Here I am again. As the old saying goes: Men tracht und Gott lacht “man makes plans, but God laughs”, but God, I am sure had very little to do with all of this.
I prayed badly, believed even less and tonight He left me.
Right now, I am calm, as calm as a condemned man, awaiting his executioner.
The horror of the unbelievable truth, the hopelessness of my own situation, all of it has passed. Fear of death and longing to live, all of it burned itself out within me and the only thing that has remained is my duty to warn Carlo.
I cannot do it in person; “she” will not allow it.
Let these notes open his eyes to the horrible reality. To save them from the “it” I will leave them inside the bible. There will be an investigation of my sudden death, I am sure, the room will be searched, the notes found and given to Carlo.
To make it easier for him to understand I will continue with my story:
I decided to leave, leaving for the city on horseback. In the forest, when I was approaching a sharp turn my horse buckled and stalled. Neither a whip, nor spurs could help. I wondered if my trembling, sweating horse had sensed a wolf hiding in the bushes.
Confused, I dismounted and went on foot, dragging the reluctant animal behind me.
I made a turn and froze. Rita was sitting on the tree stump. In the first second, I was suddenly as afraid of her as my horse was of the wolf.
Then it passed. I walked up to her, trying to look as casual as possible and greeted her as if nothing happened.
Yet one look from her told me that she remembered everything and could see right through my pathetic attempts at evasion.
I lost my composure for a moment and the horse broke free and galloped away.
Rita was staring at me, unblinking and I felt my head starting to spin. Suddenly ill, I sank to the ground.
Rita leaned close to my face, whispering:
“Why do you run? Don’t you see, feel that I love you?”
I wanted to say something.
“Leave it, be quiet. I know what you want to say” she continued “but why should we concern ourselves with Carlo, with the mortal world? You will be happy, eternally happy! You will be immortal; I will give you an eternal life, there with me, where no one else can go... Carlo cannot be there, cannot belong to me. He is “protected”, she said with a twisted smile.
“Agree to love me and will tell you the mysteries that no living man can know. I will take you far away, the moonlight will be our roadway and when the hour of peace comes, we will sleep together, side by side.
Do you know what pleasure it is to taste warm blood, drinking the eternal life with it!” she continued.
I pulled away, horrified.
Even from the moment she started to speak, I sensed something odd in her words and promises, and now, to my horror I came face to face with the very thing I didn’t want to believe in.
After I received your letter saying that, according to your old family doctor, your mother was a vampire, I became fascinated by this ancient believe and bought an antique Latin book dealing with Lamias or the “Undead”. After flipping through it, I tossed it aside. How could I have believed in this rubbish?
And the eccentricities of your old doctor, reinforced by my conversations with him, only confirmed my belief in his insanity. I was convinced that the vampires were a figment of his delirium. And now this delirium was staring me in the face, with all the horrors that came with it!
I understood that Rita loves me and is pushed by this love to reveal things to me that cannot be told to a living soul. Or maybe she is so confident in her possession of me that she lost all of her hesitation.
She is a vampire and she was destroyed, or as she puts it “given eternal life” by the old Count Dracula.
“He rests in the stone coffin, he waited for her for so long...and finally she came and raised him from his grave with the touch of her young fragrant body”
But to be given an eternal life one has to die to this world.
And this is how it happened. And on the second night, Dracula bade her to rise and live among the living as if nothing had happened.
She was talking so much about the pleasures of vampire’s life that my brain started to go numb and I felt dizzy once more.
“This is how I will reach my first degree of power”, she finished.
As if in a dream, I remembered that the old book said that a vampire casts no shadow, neither eats nor drinks, hates mirrors, sleeps at sunset. And, to my horror, I noticed all of this signs in Rita. I either saw them myself or heard about them from Carlo.
My strength left me.
“You agree, my darling, give yourself to me, do not fear”, she whispered, “I rest in my coffin and I will order Carlo to put yours next to me”.
When I heard this, I leaped to my feet:
“No, I don’t want to!” I shouted without thinking.
She laughed mockingly:
“Too bad for you. You cannot go back. Do not imagine that the wounds on your neck came from a dry branch, oh no, I lay my seal on you last night. You are finished. You only have one choice left: death, real death with warms, maggots and the earth of the grave, or the eternal life I offer you. I am giving you until tonight to decide. Tonight I will come. You cannot hide, cannot leave me,-don’t bother trying. Choose both my love and immortality or picture yourself in the near future as a skeleton with rotted eyes and a hole for a nose”.
Suddenly I heard voices and saw several servants, sent by Carlo to find Rita.
I had nothing left to do, but take her hand and walk back with her. I was looking at Rita at every opportune moment, trying to see a shadow, hoping against all hope.
There was no shade.
Up in the castle I spend several indescribable hours. “It”, Rita, wouldn’t let me out of its sight, Carlo was beside himself with jealousy, and I didn’t know what to do, how to save myself, my thoughts jumbled, I tried to pray but could not find words.
My whole life was flashing before me, it seemed so wonderful ... and the future?
Interesting work that could have awaited me, new discoveries, and maybe love, but not this tainted, cursed one, but pure and sacred...
I was ready to cry, but Carlo was near me with his harsh words and Rita was looking at me, as if saying: “You are mine, there is no escape”.
Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer and I ran, forgetting my hat, gloves and even my riding crop.
So here I am, writing this in my haste to fulfil my last duty, to warn Carlo, open his eyes and what would happen then...May God have mercy on my soul.
I have chosen to die; I will not become a vampire. It is close to midnight and the moon is bright.
My sweet mother, bless me and help me not to be weak and betray everything in the lasts moments of my life, agreeing on the disgusting existence of a vampire”.
Harry finished reading and lit up a cigar, puffing furiously. No one spoke for a while, until James couldn’t take it any longer and broke the silence:
“Gentlemen, If any of you still had doubts, I am sure that after reading this letter, they are gone”
Doctor nodded his head in agreement:
“If we are to analyze all of the written material and compare it with our present troubles, then you are right, Jamie. I am forced to believe in vampires, and in the fact that they are living alongside us”
“And that they are my dear relatives”, mumbled Harry.
“They like to keep it in the family”, joked Doctor.
“Enough, gentlemen, lets get to business at hand” said Wright irritably.
“You are right, let’s get to business. James, since you were the one who started it, it is only fit that you should continue”.
James blushed with pleasure:
“Smith, please check that no one is listening and come back”, ordered Harry.
“I am not going to repeat” started James “neither the facts of the present, nor conclusions reached by reading these documents of the past, but will start by stating that all of us had accepted the existence of vampires and agreed to either destroy them or return them to a sleeping state, as they were before our arrival.
Now for the questions that still remain to be answered. How many of them are out there, where they hide and what can we do.
Here we enter the realm of assumptions and guessing.
The first of the “undead” is the ‘Old Grandfather’, Count Dracula, who came back from America. His portrait is at the Hunting Lodge. Since we were never able to find his coffin, we don’t know the place where he hides during his ‘sleep’.
We haven’t seen him during our stay here, but then, since he is, undoubtedly, very old and clever vampire, we can assume that he could hide his crimes well. With the exception of the village woman yesterday who screamed that she saw ‘a man dressed in velvet’, we were only dealing with females up to this point.
The second vampire is Maria Dracula, a young woman dressed in white with long blonde hair, often adorned with nenufares. Her coffin was in the vault under the goddess statue. It is now in the common crypt. Smith knows where to find it.
The third one is Rita, Carlo’s Italian fiancée. Her portrait hangs in the family gallery. We know her as a dark haired beauty in the blue dress. Her empty coffin was discovered in the chapel. It had been lowered into the crypt. Smith also knows where it is.
So far, we haven’t heard of any other “undead” and for now can hope that there no more to deal with.
Now for the difficult question: what can we do?
We can only act during the sunset and sunrise hours, I mean during the hours when our enemies are helpless. Besides the time constraint, we are forced to act as quietly, and as secretively as possible as not to alarm the servants.
Tomorrow, after the formal breakfast we will give most of them day off and send them to celebrate in the village. While the servants are away, we will go down into the crypt and open Rita and Maria’s coffins.
As for old Dracula, we will have to catch him, and for this, we will need to take turns watching the crypt. The volunteers will have to spend the entire night down there. Captain Wright wants to take the first watch and I will accompany him.” finished James.
“Agreed” said Harry, “I will take the next shift. I hope that Karl Ivanovich, as an elderly man, would be excused from the watchman duty”
The mass and the formal breakfast had the desired effect. The villagers enjoyed the feast and drank endless toasts to Harry and his friends. And once the host announced his charity contributions, the toasts and praises were redoubled with even more enthusiasm
Harry and his friends didn’t participate in drinking, all realised that they would need a clear head later.
They weren’t facing danger for the first time.
At sunset, led by James, they descended the chapel’s inner staircase into the crypt.
It was decided beforehand to open Rita’s coffin first.
Smith unlocked the heavy door. It opened with an unpleasant sound. The crypt smelled of damp earth, with faint odour of decomposition lingering in the stale air.
It was pitch black, and the lamps failed to dispel the darkness. With every downward step the stench increased. Though it was all to be expected, even the bravest among the company felt a strange eerie feeling.
Stumbling over the monuments and tripping over coffins, they made their way to the wall, where Smith remembered lowering the empty coffin found in the chapel.
Here it is.
Beautiful white fabric has grown mouldy and dark. Friends dragged to coffin to the middle of the crypt, gathering around it.
James armed himself with his aspen stake and Wright got a hammer ready. Smith started to undo the heavy bolts that were holding the lid down, and Harry and Doctor held the torches. All the men wore pentagram pendants around their necks. Everything is ready. Doctor pulled out his watch and announced amid the silence:
“It is sunset”
The lid is pushed aside. Unbearable stench of decomposing flesh forced everyone to take a step back.
The casket is empty.
For a moment no one moved, they were expecting every other imaginable outcome, but this.
It was James who came first to his senses. He took Harry’s torch and bend over the coffin examining it. White atlas pillow still retained the shape of the head. The lace was crumpled and stained with drops of blood.
“She was here, no doubt”, said James “and if she comes here, we will catch her sooner or later”, he added to encourage his friends.
“Now, Mr Smith, show us where are the other coffins”
Nearby two coffins were sticking out of the niche, one on top of the other. Friends pulled one of them out and stood puzzled trying to remember which coffin belonged to Count and which to Countess.
When asked, Smith shrugged his shoulders and admitted that he couldn’t remember which one of the coffins was found in the lower niche in the garden crypt.
“No problem, we will open the one we’ve already have”, ordered James.
This time old rusted bolts refused to budge. Finally, after a long struggle the lid came off.
Inside the casket was a skeleton covered with few scraps of cloth that tore at the first touch. Empty eye socket stared at the ceiling, teeth were bared in fleshless grin and the lower jaw drooped to one side in a complete picture of human mortality.
While the finger bones of one hand remained intact and lay across the man’s chest, those of the other broke apart and lay in the coffin. The clothing was so decayed, it barely covered the bones.
Judging by his short grey hair the skeleton belonged to man.
Everyone bared their heads and crossed themselves.
“Rest in peace”, said James replacing the lid.
“Hurry up, get the other coffin”, said Doctor “the time is almost up and she will escape”
Friends pulled out second coffin and hurriedly undid the bolts, pushing the lid off.
The involuntary cry of disappointment disturbed the stale air. This casket was also empty.
In the same moment, strange, malicious laughter rang through the crypt. Friends exchanged looks; it could not have been an echo.
Before anyone could speak, a gust of wind blew in the darkness, the flames flickered and died; something howled and crashed to the floor. Without thinking friends rushed to the steps and, tripping, ran upstairs into the chapel. Behind them from the darkness came another burst of laughter.
Once upstairs, in the great hall, the friends calmed down.
“Damn”, whizzed Doctor.
Smith was as white as a sheet, Karl Ivanovich’s teeth chattered, Harry was chewing on his dead cigar and Wright motioned the servant and shouted:
“Rum and glasses”
The failure affected James worst of all, he suddenly looked thinner and older, as if he had aged several years in these few hours.
First bottle of rum was followed by second and then, third.
Servants exchanged surprised looks among themselves,- the gentlemen were sitting in a tight circle, pale and silent, emptying one glass after another.
Suddenly always calm Wright smashed his fist into the table and bellowed:
“I’ll get him! The world is too small for us both. “Undead”, is he? I will show him what it means to be dead!”
Wright got up, and headed back towards the chapel when James stopped him and with great difficulty convinced him to go to bed.
The next morning, before dawn two of the guards came to Smith asking for their pay, saying that they “cannot work in the house ruled by unclean spirits”, complaining that “the dead in the crypt where howling, laughing and breaking things all night”.
Soon their tales began to worry the rest of the staff.
Smith accused them of drinking too much at the village party and dismissed them immediately.
In the morning news arrived from the village that two more men were found dead last night. But since both were well known drunks, the villagers decided that they had a little too much of last evening’s free beer.
In contrast, the owner of the castle and his friends seemed to be more upset by these deaths than the rest of the populace.
Karl Ivanovich and James spend the entire day attempting to interpret unclear passages in James’ book about vampires, calling on Doctor to help, but to no avail.
Wright kept insisting that, come darkness, he is going back down to the crypt, and James couldn’t think of letting him go alone.
Karl Ivanovich examined the strength of the silver pentagram chains that James and Wright wore around their necks and, despite Wright’s grumbling, filled his and James’ pockets with garlic cloves, even attaching a handful of the plant’s flowers to their hats.
At sunset Wright and James descended the staircase, their friends seeing them off with heavy hearts.
The crypt was as dark and damp as yesterday...holding their lamps high Wright and James made their way to the opposite wall and stopped at the door which led to the garden.
They moved to opposite sides and positioned themselves in such way that they could see each other clearly.
Wright put his lamp on the broad arm of a tall cross and sat on the ground leaning his back against it.
James chose to keep his lamp close to himself on the marble slab. “Wright’s position looks way too comfortable...he could fall asleep without knowing it. Besides, it is better to keep the lamp nearby, even though I have another, pocket torch with me”, he thought to himself.
James sat down and looked around. All around him, he could see crosses, urns and tombstones barely visible in the darkness. There was no uniform burial arrangement. Some of the coffins stood on pedestals, while others were lowered in the ground and marked by tombstones.
In the dense darkness, James couldn’t see the far walls of the crypt. The air was thick and stale.
James looked at Wright, who sat motionless. Only the red glow of his cigar indicated that he was awake.
Everything was eerily quiet.
James’ head began to fill with images of his past: his childhood, youth and life filled with adventures, interesting people and his friendship with Wright. He remembered both of them out hunting with a large party in the Amazon. On the third day of the hunt they managed to find their prey and become so engrossed in it’s pursuit that they separated from the main body of hunters and entered deep into the unknown territory when they realised that the sun was setting and they were both miles from camp.
The idea of spending the night out in the open didn’t frighten them. A flask of wine, water, warm blankets, a bag of rusks and a large supply of meat from their kill promised for a comfortable stay.
James and Wright unsaddled their horses and started a fire. After a good supper, they decided to take turns sleeping, though everything around them seemed peaceful.
This decision saved their lives.
In the middle of the night, a group of hostile Indians approached them, attracted by the fire. They were also hunting nearby and wouldn’t have passed a chance to add two more heads to their trophy bag.
For the whole week, James and Wright were hiding in the tall grasses, avoiding the Indian warriors. When they returned to their camp, both knew each other’s worth and became best friends.
James was so absorbed in his thoughts that he lost track of time. Suddenly he shook himself awake.
Everything was still quiet only the dense clouds of cigar smoke, surrounding Wright indicated the passage of time.
James imagines that something is moving in the dark.
He leans forward, looking.
He is right; an outline of a human head emerges from the darkness, white face with glistering eyes. Soon a hand emerges next to it; thin long fingers grip the edge of the tombstone. Another hand appears, the nails scrape against the marble, straining, pulling the body out of the grave with immense effort.
Quietly, the “undead” rises from his sleep, hauling his body out of the coffin.
James has no doubts that it is old Dracula himself. The vampire walks over to Wright and knocks his lamp down. The light dies.
He starts circling Wright, the circles growing smaller and smaller.
James wants to move, but cannot. His body refuses to obey his will.
Two beautiful women emerge from the darkness. They come close to the Captain and stretch out their arms to him, their bodies swaying, as if trying to hypnotise him, to cast an invisible net around him.
With superhuman strength of will, James breaks through his stupor and, grabbing his revolver, shoots at the old vampire.
His lamp dies and the sound of the gunshot echoes across the crypt. In the darkness, strong gust of hurricane-like wind pushes James forward, and before he could right himself, something shoves him to his knees.
At the same time the door leading to the garden opens, people with lamps rush into the crypt, and from the other side James could hear the voices of Doctor Weiss and Karl Ivanovich as they run down the steps.
Wright and James are taken outside. Both are fine. In the fresh air of the garden Wright comes around and tells his friends, that he remembers nothing. His head feels heavy, as if his brain had been turned to lead. James got away even more lightly, with a small scrape to his knee.
Upstairs in the living room Wright and James were greeted by the news that late in the evening an old man, dressed in the monk’s robe, arrived at the castle seeking shelter. After a while, he asked to see the owner. Harry agreed and they went to his cabinet, locking the door.
Two hours had passed and Smith was getting worried.
Even though it was late, nobody thought of sleep. Another hour passed and Smith’s worry spread to others. Even the servants, sensing the tension, didn’t retire and the lights burned in almost every room.
Suddenly a faint sound of a church bell was heard in the clear night air. The guests looked at each other, puzzled. The bell rang again, undoubtedly a warning. Could it be fire?
Everyone rushed to the windows.
The village itself was dark but a large mob carrying torches was moving slowly in the direction of the castle.
The mob was still far, but in the flashes of fire, the men saw that it was armed with pitchforks, scythes and even rifles.
There is no doubt, where the mob is heading, they are moving towards the castle and their intentions are hostile.
Moments later the doors opened and several pale servants rushed into the great hall with the news that there were two more deaths in the village and that the mob is marching towards the castle, threatening to kill the owner and his guests.
“Lock the main gates as well as every available entrance. And post sentries”, ordered Wright.
The servants looked at each other, hesitant.
Wright raised his arm ready to strike the nearest man:
“I am ordering you to lock the gates and post sentries,” he shouted and the men vanished instantly.
As soon as they were gone, Wright walked over to the door of Harry’s cabinet and knocked loudly.
The door opened and Harry came out, followed by a tall old man, leaning on a wooden staff. His face was weathered yet bore a calm and confident expression.
His long white beard, reaching all the way to his waist gave him appearance of a Biblical patriarch. Though he was dressed in a simple robe of a monk, his every gesture betrayed aristocratic origin.
“Harry, the villagers have revolted. They are armed and heading here”, said Wright.
“I know,” said Harry “we must leave at once”
“How can we, since we are responsible for all the chaos in the first place?” protested James.
Wright nodded his head in agreement:
“Have you lost your mind, Harry?”
“Hell, I’d rather die here. Death is better than running away like a damned coward,” said James angrily.
Harry held up both his hands:
“Enough, friends, calm down. Did you really think I was going to abandon the villagers to save my own hide?”
He pointed to the old monk:
“Let me introduce you to Carlo, Count Dracula, the previous owner of this castle.
Everyone bowed politely.
“The Count and I discussed our situation at length and came to a decision. I was hoping to tell you about it tonight and move out by tomorrow evening. But, as you can see, the events have taken a different turn. We must leave right away. And so, I ask you to go to your bedrooms and gather whatever is necessary. And please do it quietly, without servants seeing you.”
He turned to Smith:
“Please warn Sabo, Joe and the rest of our American staff. We will all meet in half an hour in the hall downstairs”
“And what about Count Carlo? Who is going to deal with the vampires?” asked James.
“Gentlemen, you do not need to fear for my safety. The mob will not hurt me”, replied the old man, his voice calm “as for the vampires, I have already given my word to Mr Cardie that I will do all I can. I give the same oath to you. Neither you nor I can destroy them right now. But I know how to put them into a harmless state again. I will confine the females this castle, since Mr Cardie assures me that it will remain vacant, and as for the ‘Old Man’...I will bind him so securely, he will wish he was never born...It is impossible to destroy him now, his hour hasn’t arrived yet... But the “Destroyer” is already born and soon his child’s hand would be that of a man and then...beware, “Old Devil”!
Old man straightened his back, his eyes shining with conviction; he raised a clenched first as if cursing his unseen foe.
Everybody looked at him with reverence, utterly convinced in the truth of his words.
“Now, go on your way with God’s blessing. Get the horses”, he finished.
The men hurried to their bedrooms and started to pack, but before they could finish the castle was surrounded by the screaming, cursing mob. The first wave of running villagers crashed against the closed gates, battering the wood and screaming for entry.
How long could the gates hold? The guests gathered downstairs not sure of what to do next.
“Can we make it through the mob without losing anyone? Or harming the villagers?”
“We won’t make through the gate. We must leave the horses and go on foot”, decided Harry, “the castle is surrounded, most of the men are breaking down the gates, and we must risk it, and climb down the wall at the back”
Carlo interrupted him:
“The wall is too steep. You will not make it. However, I have a better idea.” He turned to Smith: “The old dry well, the one close to the castle wall does it still exist?”
“Yes, but it is covered with planks”
“But not filled in?” asked Carlo, his voice betraying his worry.
“Praise God. The well is an entrance to a secret escape route. It will take you out to the foot of the mountain, near the lake. Get the ladder or rope, hurry!”
His last words were drowned out by the deafening ringing of the bell. The sound was so loud that for a second no one realised that it was coming from the castle itself. The bell rang again and again, drowning out the shouts of the mob. Carlo paled as he looked at the men around him. They all understood. The servants have joined the rebels and now the alarm was sounding within the castle itself.
The gates swung open and the mob rushed in, smashing their way into the hall.
“Follow me to the cellars”, ordered Carlo, “Smith, get pickaxes, crowbars, anything”, he shouted above the roar of the mob, “one of the sides of the well is connected to the castle wall, and we will break through it!”