"I don't understand," the Vampire said. "The Hawkes have always put an emphasis on family."
"Maybe they don't believe you. You don't much look like the rest of them."
"I researched the records. They are descendants of my
brother Charles, who favored my mother's family." He paused. "Charles was somewhat frivolous. Charming, but careless."
It paused. "Apparently my son, William, died without issue."
Jamie made no answer. Sometimes, late at night, when he was repairing the staircase, taking measurements for new flooring, the Vampire would stand at the window and gaze out at the town on the other side of the harbor. It would talk then, reminisce. It had been married twice ... the first marriage arranged by the families ... a pleasant girl... they had known each other since childhood ... they had been content, and both doted on the only son, even more so after the twin girls had died of fever at eleven ... and when It had been a widower for several years, It had met his second wife, Sophia Marie ... his dear love...
It surprised him that the Vampire, with Its strong but subtle cruel streak, who at best must have been a stern man, could go all sticky-moony-candy-assed over this long-lost Sophia Marie. Jamie didn't fool himself, that It was taking him into confidence. It would have talked so to a cat.
It had finally listened to reason, about putting in running water, letting Jamie make the pantry into a crude bathroom.
"You just want it for your own convenience," It snapped. "An unnecessary luxury."
"Yeah, I want it for my own convenience, I ain't looking forward to freezing my ass off in the woods, pissing in a bucket, but I've lived rough before. Two things, here—look how much time it takes, heating up water for a bath. There's plenty of other stuff I could be doing."
"Bathing every day is absurd."
"Well, people do it in this century, especially this country. Showers only take five minutes. And one wouldn't hurt you, either."
"What do you mean?"
Jamie looked down, trembling, but muttered, "What'd ya think I mean?"
The Vampire had a sickening smell to It. Not a heavy moist odor like people, but a dry, nasty scent, like old blood.
And, God, Its foul breath could shrivel flies on a shit hill.
"Look," Jamie went on, when It didn't hit him, "you don't like electricity, fine, it's cute, people think you're eccentric— remember, though, normal people can't hear it—I heard you tell your cousin Richard you couldn't stand the way it sounds—but you don't put in a bathroom, people are going to think you're nuts. They'll start wondering about you. Last thing you need, people wondering about you any more than they have to."
"Yes. I see. You may go ahead."
Funny, the things Jamie expected would most amaze It—airplanes, telephones—made little impact.
"Once you understand the principles of aerodynamics, flying is nothing to be amazed about," It said, after reading one of the books Jamie checked out of the library. "And telephones are far too intrusive. I'll not have one in this house.
"But universal suffrage—an idealist's pipe dream in my day— the free education. I suppose even a lout like you could have taken advantage of it? The abundance and variety of food! In every season!" And, "This rate of taxation would have caused another war in my time."
For a rich guy, It was always griping about prices.
It liked the idea of automobiles, though.
Horses were unreliable, It said. Always losing shoes.
Automobiles. Jamie had given It good advice: "See, you need a Mercedes. You're supposed to be a rich guy from overseas? Well, I been in a lot of places, most have Mercedes, it'd be natural to want one here. I can take the bus over to Georgetown and buy you one. And I can be your chauffeur, you won't need to know how to drive."
"Sometimes I see a glimmer of intelligence in your inept logic," It told him. "But I shall learn to drive."
Good thing It caught on quickly; Jamie's heart would have given out before too long. He hadn't realized all the dangers inherent in driving too slow. Fortunately, having somewhat mastered the skill, enough to satisfy Its vanity, the Vampire preferred to be driven.
Jamie took great pride in the Mercedes. None of the other Hawkes had one. He smirked, remembering their reaction. They were still driving Lincolns and Caddies. And none of them used a chauffeur.
Grenville had been pleased, too, by the way Jamie had arranged for a fake passport, although It had mocked him for a criminal.
"It comes in handy, you got to admit," Jamie said.
Sometimes, Jamie thought it was like being in on the biggest scam in the world. Sometimes he couldn't help admiring the mind that could pull this off. If It just didn't have to...
Sometimes Jamie had a faint hope, that It would be grateful enough for his help not to kill him. He fervently desired to please the Vampire.
Jamie desperately needed It to like him.
It had been Jamie's own idea, checking out the books from the library—there was so much history, current events It had to know. Jamie's ignorance in those matters irritated It unbearably. When It had asked who was president after Washington, and Jamie couldn't answer, he'd been knocked flat—out of sheer frustration.
It read so fast, remembered so well, bluffed so easily.... Oh yeah, the Vampire was goddamn brilliant.
Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe, Hawkes Harbor May 1965
battered body of runaway found in breakers at cliffside
Jamie stared at the headline. He put down his coffee on the counter, before the cup shook out of his hand. He and Grenville had seen her briefly the night before, she was trying to thumb a ride. Of course Jamie knew what happened some nights, when the Vampire's pacing increased, when Its speech became disjointed, Its temper erratic—when It could fight the craving no longer and submitted to the foul, humiliating desire—but It had always ranged far afield, not risking any outcries close to home.
The first time Jamie saw It transform into a bat, he fainted.
And last night marked the longest It had been able to keep a check on the beastly longing—maybe it could whip the addiction, Jamie hoped, It so valued self-control....
Jamie dropped the paper like it was on fire, jumped up; fumbling in his pockets for change, he spilled the coins across the floor. Dismayed, Jamie scrambled after them... the goddamn Thing counted every penny...
A pair of boots stopped near his hand.
Jamie looked up into the cold suspicious stare of Deputy Sheriff Mitch Morgan.
Grenville Hawkes paced the large hall, an ominous sign.
"Why would the authorities question you?"
"I toldja when you ... hired me. I got a bad rep around here. Morgan especially has it in for me. He steps in dog shit he thinks I put it there."
"Stop your sniveling. I'll not stand for it." Its backhanded blow left Jamie sitting, spitting blood.
He cringed when he saw the dark eyes glow red, hastily wiped his face, and looked away.... That first time ... that first time...
"Remember, if we're found out, you'll die the same death I will—with a stake through your heart."
"W-w-what? B-but I ain't like you are...." Jamie thought this the one blessing of his life these days.
"You think they'll quibble over details? Not long before my time innocent people were hung as witches. Trust what I tell you. Human nature has not changed, at all."
Jamie went faint, feeling the stake against his breastbone, being hammered through his heart...
"Can't you try..."
"Try what?" Its head swiveled toward him like a bird of prey's.
"Well, maybe being hypnotized or something? I know a guy that quit smokin'..."
Jamie cowered at the Vampire's explosion of wrath.
"You bumbling cretin! I am cursed! Cursed! A curse that can only be raised by the hand that laid it! Mesmerized out of a curse! You fool!"
Jamie had locked eyes with the Thing, he couldn't look away. He was aware of It sticking a poker in the fire, coming toward him with the glowing brand ... he heard the sizzle ... oh God, Jamie shut his eyes tight. He waited for the searing pain. He felt a cold finger touch his forehead and collapsed into the corner. Shaking, hugging his knees, he looked up.
Grenville's voice was dry. "If power of sugge
stion would work, I assure you I could accomplish it. Spare me your idiotic schemes for my salvation. The longer I exist in this form, the more I see the advantages of it. There are terms to my existence, but there are so to others. The unbearable becomes bearable."
It turned and strode out of the room. Jamie looked toward the fireplace. The poker rested in its usual place, cold, untouched. The Vampire had made him envision the whole thing. He could no longer trust his own mind, his own senses. Reality no longer mattered. It could have made him feel it.
Darkness came early that time of year. At twilight Grenville would rise from his coffin, still safely hidden in the caves, inspect the work being done on his house—the roof repairs had begun immediately, Jamie choosing the contractor with care—the sight of Grenville easily scaling the sides of the three-story structure never failed to turn Jamie's stomach.
Then they would walk to Hawkes Harbor, Grenville seeing no use of wear and tear on the car, especially since Jamie had failed to clear the road to Its satisfaction. Sometimes they stopped at the Lodge on the land bridge.
It had once been a tourist center, they discovered. A gift shop. There had once been tours of Hawkes Hall, the surrounding woods. Then a tourist disappeared ... another suffered some kind of stroke, the tours were disbanded ...
Once again a lodging, it was leased by Dr. Louisa Kahne.
"This must be her," Jamie said. They had paused in front of the town bulletin board. Along with pleas for missing pets, and pleas to take found ones back, BIKE FOR SALE and PTA MEETING, there was a poster for HISTORY OF HAWKES HARBOR—THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MYTH, A LECTURE BY DR. LOUISA KAHNE. FREE. TOWN HALL, JUNE 1, FRIDAY EVENING 7:00.
"At least the price is right," Jamie muttered.
"Truth behind the myth? Ha!" Grenville sneered.
Then Its voice reassumed its deep politeness.