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Yay!  Found the password.  Convenient memory, this computer.  Not.

Ok–here’s the chapter.  Please “like”, tweet, add comment, something.  Just so I know I’m not sending this into empty air.  I need to build up some sort of “e-cred”, if you will, so I can get a market going for my books. 

Remember, it’s a horror story.  Just so you know what you’re getting into.

 

CHAPTER 23

 

“There you are, Antoine, mon chèr!”

Annelise flounced over towards him from the doorway, a glass of wine in her hand.  From the look on her face, Antoine could tell that she had been availing herself of his supply for most of the evening. 

As she got closer, he could hear her heartbeat.  It seemed faster than usual, and that both disturbed and excited him.  She had been out all day on “errands”, and now seemed unable to look straight at him.  A smile twitched the side of his mouth as he regarded her with hooded eyes.  What had she been up to, he wondered.

His mistress put an arm around his waist, pushing her body against his.  She reached up to nibble his earlobe, and then bit down hard.

She licked at the droplets of blood as he pushed her gently away, and pouted.

“What, no fun tonight?” she asked in a little-girl voice.

Then she saw the syringe.  Her eyes widened, and her heart hammered in her chest.  Antoine was enjoying its rapid rhythm.

“Oh, not that tonight, please,” she laughed nervously.  “I’m all over holes.  Why, Madame Bertha told me…”

“What??” Antoine interrupted, his face fierce with sudden anger.

Annelise backed away, stammering with equally sudden fear.

“N-nothing, she just saw…”

“WHAT—were—you—doing, seeing that swamp witch?”  Antoine demanded, enunciating each word with dangerous clarity.

“She’s not a witch!  She’s a voodoo priestess!  There’s a big difference!”  Annelise had gone from fearful to indignant in a moment.  She held Madame Bertha in highest regard, and would brook no insults at her expense.

“Answer my question!”  Antoine stepped toward his mistress, who backed away further, trying to negotiate her steps back to the doorway.  She knew how Antoine could get when he was in one of these moods, and it was more than even she could bear.

“I’m…it’s…female problems!  She’s good for that sort of thing!”

In a cold, measured, and frighteningly quiet tone, he asked, “And what did you tell her about those ‘holes’?”

Annelise tried to smile, to reassure him, anything to calm him down.  At the same time, she looked furtively around for something near to hand with which to defend herself if need be. 

“Please, Antoine, don’t be angry.  I told her…I told her I fell into a thorn bush!  She believed me, she truly did!”  Annelise was speaking in a rush, trying to convince herself as well as Antoine.  “She just told me to keep them bathed until they healed!  That’s all! Really!”

Antoine looked at her, pursed his lips in thought, and then smiled.

“Oh, well, all’s right with the world then.”

Annelise smiled back shakily.  She couldn’t really tell if he believed her or not.

Smoothing her
skirts over her hips, she strode briskly toward the door.  “Well, then, I’ll just leave you to…”

In a blink, Antoine was in the doorway, blocking her escape.  A strange, fiery look emanated from his eyes.

“…your…thoughts…” Annelise’s voice trailed off as she stared at him in growing fear.

 

Across the street, a fine cascade of sand and dirt trickled down the side of the earthen dam that kept the impatient water in its place.

 

“But I am enjoying our conversation.  Do let us sit together over here.”  Antoine indicated the loveseat against the far wall, away from the window.

“I really must—no, I must go, Antoine.  I have appointments to keep, and…”

“And you will forget them and stay here.”

He grabbed her elbow and steered her to the loveseat.  She struggled, trying to pull away from his grasp.

“Please let me go!”  She hit him with her free hand, pulled at his fingers, kicked him, but he paid no attention.

“Certainly, my dear,” he laughed, and pushed her onto the cushions.

Annelise cried out when he picked up the syringe.  Her eyes wide, she pleaded, “No, please, not that anymore!  I—it’s just wrong!”

Antoine’s eyebrows raised in mild surprise.

“Well, well.  Are we beginning to have second thoughts about—wait!  What is this?”  He quickly reached down beside her and picked up a folded piece of paper that was lying on the loveseat.  She gasped as she recognized it.

Jumping up, she grabbed at it, but Antoine was much faster.

“Give that to me!” she demanded, her words tinged with fear.  Antoine merely held her back with one arm, holding the other, with the paper, clear out of her reach.

“And what is this, that it is so important that you keep it to yourself?  Come now, we shouldn’t have secrets from each other.”  He chuckled, amused at the efforts Annelise was making to retrieve the paper.

“It’s just…a note from Miss Bertha, telling me how to treat my…female condition!”

Antoine’s teasing smile disappeared.  “Miss Bertha can’t read or write.  You told me that yourself!”  He narrowed his eyes at her, and she shrank in terror from his stare.

“Her…she…I mean, her son can read and write.  She had him write it!”

“You mean, someone ELSE has seen you?

 Annelise fell back onto the sofa, shrinking against it, her arms protecting her from the blows she was certain she was going to receive.

“No!  No—I mean—she just has these papers written up as general instructions.  She has a stack of them…”

 “And do they all read, ‘How to Recognize and Protect Against Vampires and Other Night Monsters’?” he asked all too calmly.

Annelise gasped and, without thinking, put her arms down to stare at Antoine.  He stood over her, the opened flyer in his hand.

“So there’s a meeting tonight, and you were going to go and find out all about how to
keep nightmares from your door.  Very bright of you.”

He continued in a mocking tone, “Yes, you have so much to fear in this world.  With your way of life, Annelise, I should think you would fear more the judgment in the next!”

Annelise flushed, anger emboldening her again.

“You should talk!  The things you do, what you want me to do!  What about your eternal soul?

Antoine laughed humorlessly to himself.  Odd you should ask.  Which one?

He faked an attitude of mild contrition.  “Well, maybe you’re right, dearest.  So—no more syringe, eh?”

Annelise nodded, hardly believing the change that had suddenly come over him.

He looked at the device in his hand, shrugged, and tossed it lightly over his shoulder.  It fell to the floor, the glass tinkling as it broke into a thousand tiny pieces.

 

The grains of dirt continued to trickle from one spot in the levee, until it had made a noticeable pile on the street.  The amount was still not enough to be alarmed about—this sort of thing happened often—but the passersby moved along a little more quickly when they saw it.

 

Antoine sat beside his mistress in silence.  She watched him, unsure of what he would do next.

He finally spoke, quietly but amiably enough.  “So—vampires.  Why the sudden interest?”  He turned to her and leaned his elbow against the back of the seat, head on hand.

“I just found this—actually, some man accosted me on the street and thrust it into my hands.  Oh, Antoine, he looked dreadful!  And the scars on his arms!”

Antoine’s eyes widened, but he said nothing.

“I was going to throw it away, but…”

“Go on.”  Antoine’s voice was just the same, but there was something in it that caused Annelise to be on her guard again.

“It got me thinking…”

It all came out in a rush.  “I’ve never known anyone who keeps a…a coffin!..and doesn’t have someone, well, in it.  And that—when you draw blood—well, it’s just not human!” 

“Oh, is that it, then.”  Antoine exhaled, irritated.  “Well, I am tired of this.”

“Of what?  What did I do?”  Too late, Annelise realized she shouldn’t have been quite so open.

“You ask a lot of questions.  Dangerous questions, if asked to the wrong person.”

Annelise broke out into a cold sweat.  She jumped up from the cushions and lunged across the room, a scream caught in her fear-frozen throat.

He didn’t need to say anything, or explain his behavior.  With sudden terrible clarity, she knew.  She knew!

Once again, her escape was blocked by Antoine, who seemed to fly to the doorway.  She screeched, tried to run the other way.  But he caught her arm and pulled her back.  He laughed as she struggled to get away.

“Oh, Annelise, I can hear your heart hammering frantically, like a small bird caught in a trap.  Now would have been a perfect time to have that syringe.”

He suddenly grabbed her hair, yanking her around to look at him.

Her face went white as she stared at the fangs protruding from his open, hungry mouth.

Antoine laughed.

“I guess I’ll have to come up with some other way!”

 

Water began to seep out of the hole made by the dislodging of the dirt.  The levee groaned, catching the alarmed attention of the residents up and down the street.  Someone tried to shove the mud back where it had come from, but the water pushed it right back out again.  Bags of sand, old planks, bits of rags, everything was tried.  But the flow of water just kept increasing.

 

“No!  Please!  Antoine, don’t!  I—I won’t tell anyone!  If you just…leave…I’ll tell no one.  I’ll…

“Let me go with you!  If you change me into…what…you are, then I’d have to tell no one.  And we could be together always!  Wouldn’t you prefer that?  The fun we could have, think about it!!”  She was desperate.

Antoine gazed at the vein throbbing in her throat.  Annelise’s eyes rolled like a lamb’s before the slaughter.  She tried another tack.

“Those men!  The ones handing out the flyers!  They must know, or guess, you’re here.  You—if you—kill me, they will find out!  Miss Bertha knows—she’ll send them here!”

Annelise gulped.  Miss Bertha!  Why did I say that?

Antoine whispered to her, almost lovingly.  “When I leave here tonight, Miss Annelise, I am taking no one besides myself.”  He was pleased at the trembling and sobbing this information caused her.  “And your Miss Bertha will be the first—oh, my mistake—the second one to meet her Maker tonight.”

Annelise, hysterical by now, squirmed and screamed in terror and desperation.  Antoine pushed her up against the wall, tore her throat from chin to collarbone, and had his first fresh human blood in many years.

 

The seep had become a trickle; the trickle, a small rivulet.  Those closest to the site had run back to their homes, wrinkling their noses in disgust as they heard screams coming from the du Rève house.  It happened so frequently—they paid it no mind, concentrating instead on saving their belongings.

 

Antoine threw Annelise’s corpse onto the loveseat, and strode out of the room.

When he got downstairs, he was met with a sharp-toothed attack from Annelise’s little poodle.  He swept it up off the floor and tore into it, killing it instantly.

Stupid little cur.  He’d always hated it.

Now to ready Annelise’s final resting place…

He walked to the room in the back of the house where he kept the coffin, occasionally taking sips from the dog as if it was a bottle.  Opening the door, he looked in and remembered the debauchery that had been so enjoyable in this room.

He had spared no expense—the coffin was made of imported mahogany with Chinese silk lining the interior.  Too bad he wouldn’t be able to use it during the day, but with those men around, who he was sure were Hunters, he had to leave again.

Absently, he brought the dog to his lips again.  Then he threw the corpse into a corner.  There were bigger bodies to ravage tonight!

 

The water now spurted from the levee, making a small stream that grew larger by the minute.  The citizens were near panic, shoving sheets and curtains into the gaping hole.

Suddenly someone shouted, pointing at what was now a small river.

It seemed a miracle, or perhaps a judgment – the water was flowing straight across the street, into the yard of Maison du Rève!

 

Antoine turned to go retrieve Annelise, but stopped suddenly at the vision before him.

 A Being, dressed in a military-style form of clothing, stood in the doorway.

“Antoine du Rève,” it said.  “Or should I say, Vlad Tepes?  Ian Hamilton?  Cain?  Judas?  Which one of you is currently in charge?”  The being solidified into the image of a young man, golden-haired, regal in his countenance and bearing.

Antoine looked coolly at this stranger.

“Who are you, to come into my house without so much as a knock at the door?  You, sir, are trespassing—“

“All things are God’s, and I have permission from Him to be here,” the young newcomer answered.

“What are you raving about?  Madman!  Get out now!” Antoine roared.

“I will leave when I have performed the duty I came to do.”

Antoine crossed his arms over his chest and stared defiantly at this nuisance.  “And what, pray tell, might that be?”

The being gazed levelly at Antoine.

“Your time here is finished, Vlad Tepes.  Your soul is required.”

Antoine’s eyes went wide.  He backed up warily, readying himself to disappear, as he had often done in the past.

But—he couldn’t do it!  For some reason, he was powerless before this—

“Who are you, I ask again,” Antoine demanded.

“I am Gabriel, who stands at God’s left, and I have been commanded by my Master to relieve this body of its cruelest burden.”  Saying this, he produced a small piece of ancient wood.

Antoine gasped, holding his hands over his face, his arms crossed over his chest.

The angel advanced on him, growing larger and more frightening with every step.  Antoine had no power to fight him.  Gabriel tore Antoine’s arms away from their protective embrace, and quickly thrust the stake into Antoine’s heart.

The vampire gave a scream of rage and despair, and slumped to the ground.  The black soul that was Vlad Tepes writhed from the body and hovered over it.  His evil laugh was cut short by a pair of shadows that seeped forth from the ground and pulled him back down with them.  He screamed in terror, and then all was silent.

Gabriel turned back to the body, and pulled the wood from its heart.  At once the monster awoke again, its visage taking the form of Judas’,  so long gone from the surface.

He pleaded with the angel, “Please, put the stake back!  Plunge it in!  Let us out too, so we can be free of this existence!”

Gabriel looked at the duo with pity.

“You two were too prideful before to acknowledge the Master as Lord of all.  You refused to even try to love Him, to see Him as your heart’s desire.  Has that changed, or does your hear
t still hold its proud disobedience?”

“We have no master!” both shouted, an odd sound coming from a single mouth.

Gabriel shook his head.

“Not ‘Master’—that is the name we angels give Him.  Only—‘Father’.  ‘Lord.’  ‘King.’  How hard can it be?”

Judas/Cain snorted.

“You were created to obey God without question.  How would you know what we’ve been through?  And why we cannot—will not—go to your Master on our knees, nor bow our head to Him.”

“Very well.  As you wish.”  The angel turned to go.  The monster stared in disbelief.

“So—that’s it?  We’re—still free to go?”

Gabriel whirled in the doorway.

“I did not say that.”  He looked at the door, and it slammed shut.  Then he faded through the door himself.

Cain/Judas tried to do the same, but Gabriel had caused a seal of some kind.  The monster peered through the keyhole, and was surprised to find something blocking it from the other side.  He tried to push the object, but screeched in pain when he touched the blockage.

Gabriel’s voice came through the door.  “It is the wood I impaled you with earlier.  You will not be able to touch it.”  Then a pause, as if he was listening for something.

“Ah—it begins.”

The house shook as if it were being jostled by a giant.  Then Judas/Cain felt the entire structure begin to move—downwards.

 

The neighbors watched in amazement as a gigantic hole formed around the du Rève house.  Minutes later, there was a rumbling and a wet squelching sound, and the awestruck onlookers watched as the building sank into the hole, mud and water swirling over it.  At the same time, the water stopped gushing from the hole in the levee, the stream flowing across the street dried up, and all was normal again.

Except for the gap between the houses where the du Rève house had stood.

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