October 31, 1937:
I hang up the phone after talking to Nathaniel Dusk. It seems he has located a Mrs. Sally Bartram at the East Peak Sanitarium near Pleasantville. After comparing Mrs. Bartram to a picture of Mrs. Bartholomew, he’s certain he has found our woman. Within thirty minutes, we are on the road out of town.
Nathaniel meets us in the parking area, certain that he has, indeed, found the woman we are looking for. After meeting with her briefly, he is not convinced that she belongs here.
“I’ve looked into her eyes as she speaks,” he says, “and I see no signs of madness. If anything, she appears to be the most sane person I’ve ever met.”
“Then why is she here?” Rose asks.
“After you hear her story, then you can tell me,” Nathaniel replies.
We find Mrs. Bartram awaiting our arrival. Her greeting is one of both warmth and relief.
My first question is, “Are you, in truth, Mrs. Sally Bartholomew?”
“I am.” Her acknowledgement is the only proof I need to agree with Nathaniel’s assessment of her mental state.
“Why are you here?” The response I receive is enough to convince me that what I have begun to surmise is even more accurate than I could have hoped.
“My dearest Jay, God rest his soul, sent me here for my own protection,” she says. “Several years ago, I, like many of my contemporaries, dabbled in spiritualism — it was all the rage. Every week, it seemed like someone was hosting a séance. At one of these séances, we had the privilege of meeting Madam Lizza Rerrune, a medium from Eastern Europe.
“My encounter with the woman had a most profound effect on me, to say the least. During the séance, I was seated directly to her left — I remember the feel of her warm, leathery hand in mine, even now. I forget the spirit we contacted that evening, but I remember what she told me afterwards.
“After the passing of many years, the night shall visit upon you a great terror that will bring immense sorrow. Shortly before this event begins, my own spirit shall seek out your dreams to revive the memory of the warning I give you now.
“True to her prediction, the years passed, and Madam Rerrune’s words became little more than a faint memory. That is, until six months ago. I awoke on the morning of April 30th plagued by a horrendous headache that felt as if it threatened to split my skull open. Jay called for our physician to come to the house, but all he did was prescribe continual doses of BC Powder.
“Near midnight, the pain subsided enough that I finally managed to drift off to sleep. It seemed that my eyes had scarcely closed when Madam Rerrune appeared by my bedside. I knew, somehow, that I was dreaming, and the memory of our long-past conversation came flooding back. Taking my dream-self by the hand, the medium led me to a full-length mirror and drew me into it.
“We walked through a world separated from our own by a thin veil of shadow. Madam Rerrune explained to me that what we saw was a world not bound by the effects constraints of time; the events that would unfold would be, to me, a glimpse of the future. What I saw in those glimpses was a future so horrible that I feared I would go mad.”
A nurse interrupts the story at this point to inform us that visiting hours are drawing to a close. Mrs. Bartholomew has a short, private conversation with the woman who then informs us that we may remain until we are ready to leave.
“It is amazing what the promise of a substantial donation can do,” Mrs. Bartholomew says.
I reply, “Indeed.”
Without further hesitation, the woman continues her story.
“I found myself looking through a window into a room that looked strangely familiar. It took a moment for me to realize that this room was a combination of not only our dining room, but also the dining rooms of both the Ashworths and the Vanderpelts as well. I seemed to be observing a great feast, though I recognized none of those present.
“I appeared to be observing a feast, but the revelers acted as if they were more animal than man. Something about the whole scene was revolting. Screams, the voices frighteningly familiar, rose and fell. Torrents of crimson spattered the walls with each hand — no, not hands, claws — tore chunks of raw meat from the main course. It wasn’t until the diners had completely gorged themselves on the feast and parted from the table that I saw what my mind refused to accept. The bodiless heads, with eyes wide open and mouths agape in their final screams, of my dearest Jay, Linus Vanderpelt, and Warren Ashworth lay on the table like discarded trophies.
“If not for the spirit of Madam Rerrune, I fear that my mind would have shut down at that very instant. She led me back to wakefulness, my headache mysteriously gone.”
Mrs. Bartholomew accepts a glass of water from Nathaniel.
Rose asks, “So, your husband had you committed because he thought you were insane?”
“Oh, no,” the socialite replies. “Jay believed every word. He sent me here for my own protection. That is why I was admitted under a false name.”
I ask, “What do you know about Mr. Ashworth’s family?”
“Warren had no other family once Lucille died,” she replies. “Mr. Dusk mentioned the people who contacted him, but I can tell you with full certainty that they are of no relation to Warren.”
“I suspected as much,” I say. “I believe, in fact, that they are the ones who murdered your husband and his friends. I also believe that you are their next intended victim.”
As if on cue, a window shatters, coving us in shards of broken glass, and six large bats fly into the room. They become something close to human as their feet touch the floor.
“You must be Mr. Dusk,” one of the creatures says, looking at Nathaniel. “You ruined everything by not being arrested for the murder of that fool, Ashworth. No matter, we will dispose of you and Mrs. Bartholomew now. Then, the inheritance of all three families will belong to us.”
“I don’t think so,” Nathaniel says. Drawing a revolver from his pocket, he aims it at the nearest vampire.
“Do you truly think we fear mere bullets?” the vampire asks.
“You should,” Nathaniel says. “These bullets have been blessed by the church.”
Pandemonium erupts as he pulls the trigger. The lead bores a whole deep into the brain of the vampire, and it falls to the floor, its unholy existence ended forever.
I pull a bottle of holy water from my own pocket and, removing the cork, toss it into face of a second vampire. With unnatural speed, a third vampire knocks me to the floor in an attempt to prevent me from retrieving a second bottle.
The fourth vampire leaps at Rose. She, too, falls to the ground, but not before slamming a silver crucifix into her attacker’s face. The creature screams as the cross burns into its flesh. It claws its own eyes out in an attempt to remove the crucifix.
Mrs. Bartholomew, too, is holding a crucifix in an attempt to keep her attacker at bay.
The final vampire rushes Nathaniel, knocking his pistol away in the process.
I catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye and see Rose climb to her feet and approach my opponent from behind. She is removing her scarf. I allow myself to go limp for just a moment, letting the vampire think it has won. It raises its head to screech out its triumph, and Rose makes her move. Throwing her scarf around the creature’s throat, she begins to twist it tighter. It is the same blessed cloth that Father Stephen gave me. I take advantage of the vampire’s agony and remove a wooden stake from my pocket and plunge it into the creature’s heart.
I notice that Nathaniel has three long scratches down his left cheek. Grabbing his foe from behind, I toss the detective a wooden stake. Caught off-guard by the attack, the vampire tries to turn and face me. Nathaniel takes advantage of the situation and drives the stake in under its armpit. The tip penetrates the heart, and the creature falls.
Rose pounces on the vampire that I had tossed the holy water at. She wraps her scarf around the creature’s face. She manages to get it tied before the vampire backhands her and sends her crashing into the wall. Unable to breathe through the blessed cloth, it tries to tear it from its face. Smoke is rising from beneath the cloth, and because of the holy touching the unholy, it bursts into flame. In unimaginable torment, the vampire leaps through the broken window and tries to flee. It will not get far before it succumbs to its injuries.
The vampire Rose faced with the crucifix also leaps toward the window. The purifying flame consumes it before it reaches its destination. We turn our attention to Mrs. Bartholomew, who is sporting several scratches of her own. The remaining vampire lashes out at her, and she falls. A wicked grin appears on its face as it moves to stand over the fallen woman. The grin vanishes when she rolls over and looks up. She is holding Nathaniel’s pistol.
There are two shots, and the vampire falls, struck once through the heart, and once through the neck.
Nathaniel helps the socialite to her feet, and she returns his pistol to him. Amidst the carnage and smoldering bodies, Mrs. Bartholomew begins to laugh; it is a laugh filled with both sorrow and relief.
“Perhaps now,” she says, “I can bid my husband and friends farewell and get a good night’s sleep.”
I see the ghostly outline of an old woman appear at her side. She nods.
“I’m sure you will,” I say. “I’m sure you will.”