Jeremy's vampire hunting benefits from "constructive" criticism - Quotation Inspiration.
|Sir Jeremy Arkwright stepped back to avoid Mrs. Marsden’s garlic breath as the stocky farmer’s wife pointed out the two puncture marks on her husband’s neck. “She's a demon, Magistrate. A blood-sucking fiend. This ain’t the first time, neither.”
Mr. Marsden cowered behind her in their farmhouse kitchen.
Jeremy's friend, Stephen, leaned close and whispered, “He's the third victim we’ve seen. Do you believe me now?”
He scratched his beard. Vampires shouldn't exist, but he couldn’t ignore the mounting evidence. He dug into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out his watch. Its inscription prompted bittersweet memories: “To my beloved son, happy twenty-first birthday”. His father gave him it ten years ago on the eve of the Battle of the Somme—the last time Jeremy saw him alive. “Two hours until dawn,” he told Stephen and turned to Mr. Marsden. “Where did this happen?”
The farmer shifted his feet. “The kissing gate.”
Stephen stifled a chuckle and twirled his mustache like the villain in a motion picture.
“The gate into Thornthorpe Wood?” Jeremy clarified.
Mr. Marsden nodded.
“Leave it with me.”
Stephen and he lit their lanterns; Thornthorpe was a small, rural parish with no street lighting. They donned their coats, collected their bags, and exited onto the snow-dusted cobblestones of Thornthorpe Lane.
“Where now?” asked Stephen.
“The kissing gate.”
Stephen halted and grabbed Jeremy’s arm. “You want to catch it?”
“We should contact the authorities.”
He resumed walking. “I am the authorities.”
Stephen caught up with him. “You’re the local magistrate. You deal with drunkards and burglars, not demons.”
“Who do you suggest I approach?”
Stephen ran a hand through his hair. “The Army?”
“I tried. I called a friend in Military Intelligence.”
“What did he say?”
“As soon as I mentioned vampires, he laughed, told me to call back on the first of April, and put the phone down.”
A few scattered trees appeared to their right, growing more numerous ahead as farmer's fields segued into Thornthorpe Wood.
“I also approached the Chief Constable,” continued Jeremy. “He said I wasn’t the only gentleman who returned from the war confused and recommended I seek medical assistance.”
“What about the Church? They excommunicate demons.”
“Exorcise, you mean.”
“Yes, that as well. The Vicar can perform an exorcism.”
“I approached the Vicar yesterday.”
“Good. Should we expect him soon?”
“He refuses to believe God allows soulless creatures to live. He suggested I spend less time listening to housewives’ tittle-tattle and more studying the Scriptures.”
Stephen laughed. “With your Oxford theology degree, you know the Bible well enough.”
The kissing gate came into view—a wooden gateway designed to allow only one person past at a time. Jeremy passed through, then his friend followed. They entered the wood and found a log hidden behind a nearby bush. There, they sat and doused their lanterns.
“What are we doing?” asked Stephen.
“Since Mr. Marsden was bitten shortly after sunrise, the creature’s lair is nearby. If it passes on return, we’ll follow.”
“This is dangerous. I wouldn’t risk more lives.”
Stephen's eyes widened. “You'd risk me.”
“You’re a trained soldier.”
“Ex-soldier,” he mumbled.
They settled down to wait, shivering. After some time, Stephen said, “So, it’s Valentine’s Day soon. Expecting cards?”
Jeremy scowled. Since he inherited Thornthorpe Hall and his family’s wealth, he’d received interest from many women. Most were flappers—foolish girls with short hair and even shorter dresses who drank and smoked too much. Whatever happened to female charm and grace?
A lady came in sight, skipping through the trees, swinging a lantern. Her low-cut, Regency dress emphasized her feminine curves. Black hair cascaded across her slender shoulders, and her heart-shaped face belonged to a goddess. She was perfect.
Her rosebud mouth opened in song. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…”
As she passed, he admired her graceful movements and pondered what kind of creature she was. Alone and without a coat, this must be the vampire. But why would a demon sing hymns? She passed through the kissing gate and continued toward the village. He remained frozen until he saw nothing of her except the light of her lantern, then stood.
Stephen caught his arm. “Are you insane?”
He pulled his friend to his feet. “If we follow discreetly, we'll be fine.”
An aroma of rose petals lingered in the air. He wondered if vampires wore scent to mask the stench of dead flesh. As she neared the village, lights appeared in windows. He was shocked when a farmer stopped her to speak. It was too far to discern, but he feared she feasted.
“Why isn’t he screaming?” he muttered.
“She’s obviously controlling his mind.”
After finishing with the farmer, she waltzed through the churchyard gates.
“What the deuce?” he exclaimed. “How can she enter hallowed ground?”
She danced between the graves, not affected by proximity to the church, and dropped into the ground beneath its wall.
“Where did she go?” asked Stephen.
“The de Ville crypt.”
“The de Villes owned Thornthorpe Hall until their line became extinct a century ago. They were customarily interred beneath this church.”
He led his friend into the churchyard and to the top of the steps that descended into the crypt. “We’ll wait until dawn, then act.”
“By Jove, Jeremy. Have you got a death wish?”
Once the sun cleared the horizon, they descended and found a door. Jeremy opened his bag and took out a revolver, mallet, and sharpened stake. Stephen produced a pistol, crucifix, and holy water.
“You forgot the garlic,” said Stephen. “Your forgetfulness will kill us both.”
“Don't worry. We’re sufficiently well armed.”
Stephen tried the door. “It’s locked. Maybe we should come back another day.”
“Good God, man. Where’s your courage?” He took a crowbar from his bag and forced the door.
“You damaged church property!”
“God will forgive me.”
Jeremy peered inside, but it was too dark. He lit his lantern, and Stephen followed suit. The light illuminated dust, cobwebs, and a row of limestone sarcophagi, one with a misaligned lid. He tiptoed over and read the carved name: Susan de Ville, 1775-1799. “She died young,” he mumbled. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the lid, which slid aside with surprising ease to reveal the beautiful lady from the wood lying peacefully with her eyes closed. He positioned his stake between her breasts, trying to ignore how plump and pretty they looked.
“Isn’t the heart higher?” whispered Stephen.
Jeremy shook his head.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” he hissed.
“If you say so.”
He raised the mallet ready to ram the stake home.
“Make sure you give it a good whack.”
Jeremy glared at his friend, tempted to whack him instead. He returned his attention to the stake. A sparkle in the vampire’s cleavage caught his eye. Was that a cross? He withdrew the stake to check. Yes. A small crucifix.
“What’s the delay?” asked Stephen.
“Susan is wearing a cross.”
Jeremy stepped away from the sarcophagus. “How could a demon wear that?”
“Why ask me? I’m an atheist.”
“Says the man holding a cross and holy water.” He put down the stake. “Perhaps the legends are wrong. Pass the bottle, please.” Jeremy approached the sarcophagus and dribbled some holy water onto her hand. Why wasn’t her skin burning? Once again, he retreated to ponder his discovery.
“Come on, Jeremy. You’re wasting time.”
“Am I? When somebody enters my courtroom and claims they’ve been wronged, I don’t immediately believe them. The defendant must be allowed to argue their case.”
Stephen’s eyes widened. “You can’t suggest we wake the monster and permit it to talk.”
“That seems fair.”
“It'll use its powers to force you to do its evil bidding.”
“No, I won’t,” declared a melodious, female voice.
Jeremy stumbled, and the bottle slipped from his hand to shatter on the floor. “Y-you’re—”
“Awake,” she supplied. “I couldn’t sleep with the light in my eyes and you two squabbling like an old married couple.” She climbed out of her sarcophagus.
Stephen raised his crucifix. “Back, vile demon spawn!”
She raised an eyebrow. “I thought you were an atheist?”
Stephen dropped the useless cross and drew his pistol.
She returned her attention to Jeremy, and he squared his shoulders. “There have been accusations, Miss de Ville.”
Her lips curled into an impish smile. “Really? What did I do?”
“Y-you drank Mr. Marsden’s blood. Twice!”
“No, I didn’t.”
He gazed at her in confusion. “Er…you didn’t?”
“Not twice. I drank it at least a hundred times.”
“Condemned by her own words,” yelled Stephen. “Stake her!”
Jeremy considered her admission. “You’re not ashamed?”
She shrugged. “Should I be? It’s mutually beneficial.”
Susan stepped closer and brushed a cobweb off his shoulder. “Consider leeches. Doctors once used them because they introduce substances into the bloodstream that ease pain and improve blood flow. Vampires are similar. In return for a little blood, we provide natural chemicals that improve strength and stamina as well as stimulating pleasure.”
He gazed into her green eyes and sensed her innocence. He believed her actions harmed nobody. On the contrary, Susan helped people.
She adjusted his coat’s lapels. “But there’s one thing I’m ashamed of…”
He licked his lips. “What’s that?”
“What I've wanted to do since first seeing you.” She grabbed his shoulders.
His heart leaped. He struggled to escape, but she was stronger. He tensed, expecting pain as her mouth drew close. She bypassed his neck and landed her lips firmly on his own. As she deepened the kiss, he discovered she tasted of strawberries. His own passion ignited, and he stopped struggling. God help him, he was snogging a soulless beast!
Behind her, Stephen raised his pistol. Instinctively, Jeremy spun Susan around to shield her. A gunshot echoed through the crypt. Pain ripped through his torso. Blood splattered across her dress. Was she hit? She screamed as he toppled and hit the floor. She leaned over him, apparently uninjured, thank God.
Stephen crouched beside her, anguish in his eyes. “He needs a doctor.”
“No time.” She pressed her wrist to her teeth then placed it over his lips. Warm, coppery liquid filled his mouth. His vision blurred, then everything faded to black.
Jeremy opened his eyes. He’d had the strangest dream. He blinked. He lay in bed, but this wasn’t his bedchamber.
“You’re awake,” said a familiar, kindly voice.
“Vicar?” He attempted to sit but felt too weak. “Where am I?”
The elderly clergyman appeared at his bedside. “My spare bedroom. Don’t worry, you’ll soon feel stronger.”
“What am I doing here?”
“Your friend shot you.”
Stephen materialized next to the vicar with a sheepish expression. “I’m frightfully sorry for killing you, old chap. That was beastly of me.”
He was obviously still asleep. What a peculiar dream. He really shouldn't eat cheese right before bedtime.
A third person came into view.
She took his hand. “I’m so pleased you survived the turn.”
“Yes. You’re like me now.”
Strange. He didn’t feel evil. Jeremy turned to the vicar. “Why aren't you exorcizing me?”
“I told you, there are no soulless monsters roaming the Earth. Vampires are just…different.”
“Mrs. Marsden said Susan was evil.”
“Like other farmer's wives in Thornthorpe, she grew understandably jealous because her husband experienced something she couldn't.”
Susan wrung her hands. “Lady vampires usually bite men and vice versa. I bit a girl once, but I didn’t like it.”
The vicar winked. “That will no longer be a problem.”
“How come?” asked Jeremy.
“Now you're here, the wives can share in their husbands’ pleasure.”
“Oh.” Something else puzzled him. “How long have you known Susan?”
“Thirty years. Sunrise permitting, she never misses the early service on Sundays.”
He turned to Susan. “You’re a Christian vampire?”
She nodded. “And single.”
He placed his hand over hers. “Then I look forward to getting to know you better.”
She beamed. “Eternity has never looked more appealing.”
WORD COUNT: 2000
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