"Good evening, Mrs. Garvey." Grenville tipped Its hat as a townswoman passed by.
"Hello, Mr. Hawkes, Jamie." She smiled as she hurried by.
Jamie's heart stopped for a moment, as it did each time Grenville took notice of a human.
Just as his calluses did him no good against physical pain anymore, his soul had been stripped of all the protective coat he had developed. The thought of this Thing, this monster he had released, harming someone ... if anyone else had to undergo what he had ... Jamie had never felt such sympathy for humanity as he did now, when he was exiled from it.
"She's a nice w-w-woman." Jamie swallowed. Shortly after his arrival in Hawkes Harbor, he'd been caught red-handed, stealing tackle from her husband's hardware store. She'd asked Mr. Garvey not to report it, to give the young man another chance....
"Here." Jamie stopped outside the closed gas station. "See? This is a pop machine. You put in a dime, then you open the door and pull out a Coke or whatever."
Grenville took the offered bottle, and a tentative taste, and hastily handed it back.
"Vile! My God, to drink that instead of ale!"
"Yeah," Jamie said. "I'd rather have ale, too."
Jamie jumped, spilling the Coke. He turned to Katie Roddendem, all speech choked in his throat.
Dressed in rolled-up jeans and a man's white shirt, she still sparkled like sunlight on whitecaps.
"We've missed you at the boardinghouse. The kids want to know when you can visit. Or maybe visit you?"
"No!" Jamie said violently, before he could help himself. Katie blinked and Grenville turned to him with apparent concern. After a moment Grenville said: "Since Jamie has failed to introduce us, I shall introduce myself. Grenville Hawkes."
"Katherine Roddendem." She smiled, holding out her hand. "It's like seeing a god come down from Mount Olympus, having a real Hawkes visit our village. The rest of your family goes the city."
"Their loss." Grenville took the hand and lightly kissed it. "A European custom. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all!" She laughed. "That's a first for me."
"The kids can't come to visit," Jamie said abruptly. "There's a lot of work going on. Too dangerous."
"Well," Katie said doubtfully, "come by and see us. Mama misses you. She said so."
"I'm p-pretty busy these days."
"Come now, Jamie, Miss Roddendem will think me a harsh taskmaster. If he is remiss with his visits, Katherine, I shall call with his apologies myself."
Grenville bowed slightly, and Katie laughed as she went on her way.
"What a charming young lady."
"S-s-she's engaged to the deputy sheriff," Jamie said anxiously, as Grenville's eyes followed the girl down the streets.
He didn't seem to hear the remark, and Jamie went dizzy with cold.
Grenville said, "So very full of ... life."
Hawkes Harbor, Delaware July 1965
"But I don't get it."
"It is not imperative that you 'get it,'" Grenville said. "Follow my orders. That should suffice."
"But why Katie?" If Jamie had thought crawling would do any good, he would have crawled, begged, wept, kissed the black boots Grenville wore. But the only effect that would have would be to enrage the Vampire further.
And Jamie had thought everything might turn out okay, after all.... Dr. Kahne had made some progress. Apparently "lifted by the hand that placed it" could have various interpretations. And Jamie would never forget the shock of the evening when Grenville had introduced him to a very old Comoke Indian.
"This is my great-great-great-greatgrandson, Jamie. He will assist Dr. Kahne and me in our labors."
Grenville had seemed as close to happy as Jamie had ever seen It. Maybe that had given Jamie the courage to stammer, "B-b-but I thought W-W-William didn't have any kids."
William, Grenville's son. You think It'd sired Jesus Christ, the way Grenville went on about the guy sometimes. For some inexplicable reason, the mention of William always grated on Jamie's nerves. And since Dr. Kahne's research had shown William had died a hero on the battlefield during the Revolution, Grenville carried on about him even more than ever.
("I never really thought William had the makings of a soldier. I thought him soft, like his mother. It was the worst of him."
"Oh yeah? He's the one that chained you in the coffin, ain't he? How soft is that?"
"I instructed him to stake me." Jamie was silenced.)
"Martin is my descendant from a different liaison."
The old Indian gave him a toothless grin, and Jamie thought: Fuck. One more person to give me the creeps. Then: So ol' Grenville was messing with an Indian chick.... I'd like to know that story....
But creepy old Indians were bearable, if it would help with lifting the curse.
But then, it seemed the more progress they made the more nervous Grenville got about it. Like It was changing Its mind about getting uncursed. "Scared" was not a word Jamie could associate with Grenville, but sometimes, you could almost swear...
Grenville didn't answer the last question, and Jamie asked again, "Why Katie?"
The Vampire whirled to face him. The eyes were not yet glowing red, yet fierce enough to make Jamie's heart leap, thud against his chest.
"Surely you know," the low growl asked, "that this house is haunted?"
"Hell yeah, I know it's haunted!" Jamie wanted to scream, but only nodded. I'm not that dumb, he thought. There were at least a couple of ghosts, three if you could call that fog of despair by the attic window a spirit. Jamie wanted to put a noose around his neck and jump out every time he passed it.
And whatever clawed and scratched at the cellar walls scared Jamie so badly he'd barely been able to finish the plumbing, ended up doing a shoddy job he was ashamed of.
And one night, when he lay facedown on his bed, wishing he had the strength to cry or the guts to kill himself, he'd felt someone sit on the bed next to him, someone softly stroke his hair, and he was too frightened to look because he knew no one was there....
Grenville said, "Sophia Marie haunts this house. She swore death could not part us, and it has not. If she ... could inhabit a living body ..."
Jamie clutched his head. I am going fucking nuts, he thought. This is almost making sense....
"Why Katie?" he whispered. "She's a nice girl. She never did nothing to you."
"There is a slight but definite resemblance to Sophia Marie."
Jamie stared at Grenville. Sophia Marie, his second wife. It had been middle-aged when It had met her; Jamie had always assumed she had been, too.
The Vampire nodded.
"Yes, there was some twenty years difference in our ages." Grenville resumed his pacing. "But never a thought, a feeling, deeper than the width of paper came between us. It was a love few ever experience.... When she discovered what... I'd become, she offered to share the depths of hell with me, as we had always shared our heaven ... three times she came to me, begging to become as I was ... I could not bear the purity of her soul to be threatened ... when she came to me the third time, I felt myself weakening. I strangled her, rather than have her join me in my shame."
Killed her. To save her. I can't go crazy now. Not yet. I can't let this happen to Katie.... Absently, he began to hum....
"But now," Grenville went on, "when I see eternity stretch before me, no one to share my torment, my destiny, I have regrets ... perhaps we could achieve a semblance of what we once had.... She will possess the young woman and I shall make her as I am.... She has held true to her word, that she would remain with me ... death has not parted us."
"Okay," Jamie said. "You bring Katie here, Sophia Marie takes over, you bite her and you guys live sucking blood happily ever after...."
Jamie knew he'd gone too far, but the Vampire was watching him with interest, eyes crinkling, to see how close he'd skirt the edge of danger. It was much more apt to be enraged by cr
inging than by defiance, though both courted punishments swift and sometimes severe....
Jamie swallowed and went on, "Then what happens to Katie?" The Vampire held his gaze. "I don't know."
The tone of voice said plainly, "And I do not care."
"I won't help you." The words stuck in Jamie's throat and died unuttered. Later that night he sobbed them into his pillow, over and over, as if seeking a summons for courage. But no courage came.