Chapter 25: Martha (I)
Copyright © 2013 by Brian Bixby.
Someone calls my name.
I hear it again.
I don’t feel like waking up. My head’s still pounding from what the cops did.
Damn! What the hell was that? It hurt!
I open my eyes. Takes me several seconds to focus. There’s a woman standing over me. She’s got a stake positioned right over my heart. I just felt its point on my skin through my blouse. It’s drawn blood.
Instinctively I move to grab it, but she yells, “Stop or I’ll kill you!” I stop.
My head hurts. Hades, it’s morning. The sun is up, I can feel it. I feel miserable. And there’s a woman standing over me with a stake pointing at my heart.
I can’t think straight.
How the hell did this woman get in here? My barriers are still up.
She doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to kill me, and I doubt I could stop her if she tried. Time to talk. So I ask, “Are you actually planning to kill me and just want to prolong my misery, or do you have something you want from me?”
Caucasian, fair skin, dark hair, triangular face. Damn, she looks familiar. She’s frowning at me as she replies, “You’re a cool one.”
She wants something from me, then. “I just got beaten up by the cops last night. It’s daylight and I’m a vampire. I’m in no shape to put up a fight. What do you want?” It’s easy to play pathetic when you really feel that way.
She smiles. It is not a friendly smile. “You’re not just a vampire, Martha Fokker. You’re a sorceress. And unless you agree to be bound to me, you will —”
Bound. No! Never again! I panic, grab for the stake, get it from her before she can pierce my breastbone, fling it away and grab for her. And there’s nothing there!
There’s nothing there! What the hell is going on?
I’m sitting up. I realize that magical forces are coming at me, and barely have time to protect myself with a spell before all six of my stakes come out of nowhere and try to kill me. They bounce off my barrier and fall to the floor.
“Cut it out, damn it!” I yell. “You want to talk, talk. Or else I’ll kill you, whatever you are.”
She takes the hint and stops attacking me. What the hell is she? I put my hands right through her, I think. I’m not sure, I still feel like crap. I stand up and step out of my coffin to face her.
Standing up gets my blood stirring. The cobwebs start clearing a bit out of my head, though it still hurts. I realize what my assailant has to be: a ghost. Not just that, but a ghost sorceress. Damn my luck. And I’ve seen her before, I know it.
We’re facing each other. She’s taller than me. Who isn’t? Damn, she looks familiar. I must have met her a long time ago, when she was alive, but I can’t place her. She doesn’t seem to know what to do next, so I prod her, “You wanted to bind me to you. What for? Maybe we can come to some sort of agreement.”
Her shoulders drop a bit. Good, she’s going to talk. I am really in no shape for a fight. She says to me, “Thanks to you, two people have been destroyed. You owe me their lives.”
Whatever that means. I want to go back to my coffin, not deal with this shit. I ask the obvious, “Vampires?”
She nods again.
Great, my children are involved. Well, I created them. I’m responsible for them, at least partly. Time to find out what mischief they’ve been up to. “Then take me to them, and I’ll see what I can do.”
The vampires, according to this ghost sorceress, are in Chicago. Daytime travel being highly inadvisable for vampires, I get her to agree that I’ll teleport there, even offer to include her in the spell. She demurs, and walks out the door. Apparently she doesn’t want me to realize she’s a ghost. Tough, I know already. Not that it does me a world of good, just yet. There are things such as ghost traps I could use on her, if I could remember how to construct them.
I debate chucking the whole matter as soon as she’s gone, taking off for other parts. I decide to go through with the business, whatever it is. I don’t want a ghost sorceress hunting me down, and if my offspring are up to more trouble than usual, I should take care of it. I always clean up my own messes.
I materialize in a cement basement in Chicago three hours later, having botched the teleportation spell repeatedly in my muddle-headed state. There’s one naked bulb illuminating the room. The ghost sorceress is there. So are two coffins. Wordlessly, she points to one of them. I walk over and open it up.
I see a severely mutilated body. It’s a recent kill, and it’s going to rise as a vampire tonight. It is too disturbing to look at in any detail. But I know it can’t be one of my offspring. I haven’t created a vampire in months. I close the lid immediately. I look over to the ghost. “This one isn’t mine. Is the other one the same way?”
She glares at me. “No, the other is your offspring, the one who did that.”
No way. Well, maybe. So far as I know, my only children in Chicago are the cops I’ve made over the last year, but some of the cops were kind of violent types. So I walk over to the other coffin and lift up the lid. This guy’s intact, sure enough. It takes me a few seconds to recognize Sherlock Kammen, I’d had him for so little time, maybe a year ago.
It’s a surprise, but not a major one. Kammen had been an odd one, suggesting torture every time I hurt him. I’d wondered if he was a ripper, but he seemed more controlled than any ripper I’d ever met. Guess I was wrong. I pull a dagger from my vest.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the ghost cries.
I don’t even bother to glance at her. “He’s gone ripper. Rippers must die.” I lift up the dagger. The ghost strikes at me with a spell, catching me off guard, causing me to drop the dagger. I turn on her. “What is your problem? Didn’t you hear me? This one’s turned into a ripper.”
She looks at me scornfully. “And what does that make you? I know about what you did in London.”
Sheesh, bring that business up. I was out of my head then. And where the hell did you find that out? “That was a long time ago. I haven’t butchered anyone like that,” and I point at the other coffin, “well, not since London.” Lame, Martha, lame.
The sorceress grows sad. “Nor would Shylock have, if he hadn’t been fouled up by your friend who calls herself Make Love Not War.”
Oh, and what charming thing has she done? Dismembered someone? Not Love’s style. Screw them into a heart attack is more her style. I pick up the dagger, stick it back in my jacket, and sit down on the floor beside Kammen’s coffin. “I have a feeling this is going to be a long story. What happened, and why is Love responsible?”
So she tells me. She does more than that, she goes into Kammen’s history, how she had shaped him, and how that had come unglued. It takes her an hour and more. I note she is very careful never to use her own name. But she keeps calling Kammen “Shylock.” Sort of the anti-Shylock, if you ask me: blood, not the flesh. Could have sworn his name was “Sherlock.” Oh, well.
What she had done, I realize, is quite incredible. She had taken a boy who probably would have grown up to be the human equivalent of a ripper, a serial killer, and civilized him. And she’d done it well enough, even though she was not able to complete the process, that he had managed to function as a vampire without turning ripper until he encountered Love and Jenny.
Unfortunately, what she’d done could not be done again, now that Kammen was a vampire. The appetites are different, the psychology’s different, the physiology’s different. Whoever she is, she’s smart enough to know that. But she doesn’t know enough to go about fixing him in his current state. Whereas I probably do.
I stand up at the end of her story, look into Kammen’s coffin. I can see she has a spell keeping him in some sort of stasis. “Pull your spell off of him,” I order.
She stands there, irresolute. I repeat, “Pull your spell off. Damn it, you want my help, and I’m going to try. But I can’t do it with whatever you’ve got on him.”
That does it. She dissolves her spell. Kammen immediately begins thrashing in his coffin. Cripes, he must be in a bad way, to be thrashing around like that without even being awake, in the daytime at that. I’m going to have to practice some serious sorcery to work on him.
I prepare myself, and go into his mind. Kammen likes to hurt people, a lot, a lot. He doesn’t want to hurt people, but he wants to hurt them a lot. I feel what he wants to do to people. It’s wonderful. To hell with him for the moment. I want to go hurt people. I go over to the other coffin, to see the dismembered corpse, to enjoy looking at our handiwork. I open it up.
This time, I recognize it. It’s Jenny from the commune, all right. Stupid girl, always wanting to be bitten. Well, we bit her, didn’t we? We gagged her and bound her and tortured her and dismembered her and at the very last moment we sank our fangs into her heart and drained her for good. And when she rises, she won’t be able to go out and feed, and we can torment her until she starves to death.
I do not do things like that. I do not do things like that. I do not do things like that. Keep saying it to yourself, Martha. That’s Kammen, not me, that did that. Must control myself. How the hell am I supposed to control myself looking at this? Look at it clinically, critically, that’s what you do. Yeah. Just look at the mess Kammen made. He was a bloody amateur. I could have done a better job of torturing her, dragging it out much longer, making it much more painful.
I catch myself again. Damn this city. And damn Kammen, too. I’m here for only an hour or two and already I’m contemplating torture. I close the lid on Jenny, walk back over to see Kammen. All right, you bastard, you’ve just done a number on me. Well, I am going to do a number on you. Let’s see what you’ve got.
I channel my lust for violence into ripping through Kammen’s mind, taking it apart, seeing how it ticks. He thrashes even more in his coffin, but I don’t care. It’s poetic justice: he’s making me more violent, I’m turning it against him. I see you now, you misbegotten creature. Ivy did a good job on you. You just slaughtered a girl, and you are so horrified at yourself, so hate yourself, that you can’t see how to live with yourself anymore. Well, guess what, kiddo, I’m about to change that. I let all the violence in me pour into my face. I force Kammen awake, force open his eyes, make him look right at me, see me looking as vicious as I can. I boast to him, “See me, Kammen. See the person who turned you into a vampire. See the person who turned you into a murderer. I laugh at your misery. You’re an amateur at torture compared to me. Wait ’til you see what I do to Sally.” He thrashes even harder, enraged that I would torture his woman right in front of him. I laugh at him. Then I spell him to shut down his body, but not his mind.
Unexpectedly, all the strength drains out of me and I fall.
End of chapter twenty-five