The last shivers of light from the setting sun slid behind the copious spread of trees about his mansion, settling his attic bedroom in a comfortable radiance of darkness. While vampires are immune to the effects of sunlight, they don't prefer it, instead preferring the more gentle light of the moon. As he slept upside down, his bare feet clinging to his favorite bed rafter, his eyelids slowly phased open, allowing more and more light to caress the weariness of the day before.
Dying to the Light
A Sherlock Holmes Story
By John Pirillo
Its tracks were as plain to see as if one had held a lantern up to a wall streaked with mud all over it. He could smell it as well. It stank of death and dying. Of fear and horror. Of an ending to what might have been longer, but now would never be.
He touched very carefully the beginning of a spot on the rug, then traced it with his carefully manicured nail until it stopped about eight feet above the floorboards, the beautiful tapestry of the wall paper, the molded window frame, the silver backed glass, the embroidered flags that countered each side of the window, and resting just below the ceiling, where the reddish ooze had begun to drip.
"Definitely here." He told his companion.
The man stood in the shadows of the bedroom, examining the body that they had discovered only minutes ago, purely thanks to the very excellent nostrils of Count Dracula.
Sherlock hammered his chin with his right index fingernail over and over as he pondered the juxtaposition of the dead woman and the spots of blood on the pink carpet beside the bed, and the spots on the floor beside the ornately designed window where Count Dracula had seen and smelled the initial impurities of death and blood from outside.
"Perhaps." Sherlock said, not so sure himself.
He raised his eyes from the pallid figure on the bed, whose throat had been torn open by brute force, allowing a secondary flow of blood to light up the pure white silk sheets it lay upon. Her eyes stared up at him, as if accusing him of not being there sooner, as if saying, why you allowed this. That look always haunted him, though he never spoke of it. Perhaps that was why the original allure of the opiates had been so strong in him at one time. Over the years he had diminished that, suppressing that futile urge and replacing it instead with a sharp insight honed by clinical knowledge and experience.
Forensics was still a new science in Queen Mary's Victorian England, but one that was gaining more and more proponents, thanks to his and Watson's work. His and that of the Baker Street Team, that is.
"I'm afraid we shall have to call off the opera tonight." Sherlock finally said.
Count Dracula said nothing. What was there to say? He was a patient man when it came to facts, and the facts were obvious. Someone or something with very sharp teeth and an enormous amount of strength had destroyed this person.
Personally, he found no attraction to these men who deigned to dress like the opposite sex, and pretend to be women, but he also had no particular distaste for them either. People had choices they had to live or die by. This one had chosen to live under a different sky, and their sky had collapsed and fallen upon them for whatever the reason. Perhaps lust, perhaps the thrill of dangerous liaisons, who could tell? Surely not Dame Evans who lay on her regal throne of a bed, her...or rather his...life stricken from him in one horrid, vampiric moment.
"Watson, come here, we need you!" Sherlock remarked loudly.
They both heard a thumping from overhead, as if a horrible monster were awoken from its repose and was storming for the exit to attend to the intruders below who had disturbed it. The noise grew louder and louder, and Count Dracula tensed, not sure if he was hearing Watson, or something worse.
Then Watson rushed into the room, but without a sound.
Count Dracula, without speaking a word, flung himself out the right half of the window, which lay open and soared upwards like a swift, dark arrow.
"I say, Sherlock, whatever got into him?"
"Anything?" Sherlock demanded, not commenting on Watson's remark.
"The body definitely perished here in this room, and I cannot for the world of me decide how the blood could possibly have flowed upwards into the room above. It's just an attic, devoid of windows, chimney or any exit but that which I entered and left but moments ago."
Sherlock went to the open portion of the double glassed window and gazed at the lawn below. They were two stories up. The attic on the third. He turned slightly to peer at the gabled roof. Searching for the minutest traces of clues that could be there, but found nothing.
"It would seem our murderer either had wings, or another method of entering and exiting this home." Sherlock decided.
Watson gently shut the eyes of Dame Evans, shuddering, not because of what she was, but what she might have been... a soul with great potential. Dame Evans had been on the brink of a great discovery, one that could have revolutionized the tech industry that had been blossoming under Tesla and Edison.
"Always." Sherlock joined in, sighing.
He steepled his fingers beneath his chin, then sighed again and headed for the exit. "We must let the Inspector attend to this now; we have done all we can."
"He's going to be disappointed we waited so long to contact him."
Sherlock gave Watson an amused smile. "Usually, it is he who wakes us. Turnabout is only fair, wouldn't you say, Watson?"
Inspector Bloodstone exited the Constabulary Wagon alongside Constable Evans, cursing lightly and rubbing his bloodshot eyes, until he spotted Sherlock and Watson waiting for him at the doorway of the three story mansion that had once been the home of Dame Evans.
Several older men of a colorful nature stood around them, chattering obsessively, wiping at their eyes.
"Oh great!" He muttered, cursing the hour and the time of this death.
"Why is it always at night this happens, Constable Evans?"
Constable Evans gave his father an amused look. He said nothing. He knew better. He rubbed his own eyes, which had barely closed yet, and smiled. Tomorrow should test them both. But tomorrow was tomorrow. Almost as if reading his mind, Sherlock looked over and locked onto his eyes for a moment, his hawk like stare unnerving to most, but to Constable Evans only a sigh of the certainty of the man's giant intellect.
"Where?" Inspector Bloodstone demanded.
"Watson, please do the honors."
Watson nodded and headed inside, followed by the Inspector.
Constable Evans gave the three men about Sherlock a penetrating stare.
The tallest of the three, dressed in all yellow, and with long hair that was braided like a pirates, painted nails and red lipstick, stepped forward and extended his hand. "I am Harold Pinter. A friend of the late Dame Evans."
The second man snickered. "And lover."
"Please." Sherlock demanded. Both men shut up and stood back. The third watched silently, no words upon his lips.
Sherlock gestured to Constable Evans. "Let's take a walk."
Sherlock didn't answer. Instead he stepped down from the high porch, which was laden with ornamental flowers and guardian angels, and led Constable Evans about the mansion, his eyes tracing something along their path only he could see. Finally, he stopped.
When he did a dark form descended from above and lit beside them.
Count Dracula eyed the startled Constable, who was reaching for his weapon. "My apologies, Constable, I had forgotten you are a bit nervous about us."
Constable Evans eyes narrowed. "The woman I loved was drained dry of her life by one such as you." He accused.
"Not one like I, but one whose thirst went above and beyond the mortal boundaries of dignity. I apologize once more for your loss and offer my condolences."
He gave a regal bow, his eyes filled with true apology and a touch of sadness. He felt that way because he never drank human blood, nor ever would. But there were rogues in his life stream, who might and did.
Constable Evans looked to Sherlock. "So why are we here?"
"Did you notice anything special about any of the men on the porch?"
"Three men of a different taste."
Constable Evans raised an eyebrow.
Sherlock pointed to the roof. "Our friend here, Count Dracula, found a forced entrance upon the roof."
Constable Evans gave Sherlock a puzzled look. "But why would they enter that way? Why go to all that effort?"
"Why indeed?" Sherlock asked.
He plucked from his cloak something heavy and handed it to the Constable. "When I give the word you are to stab that immediately into the heart of the man I urge you to. You must not hesitate or he will flee."
"Because the Count would give himself away and because I have another mission. Will you do so, or not?"
"What of Watson?"
"Again. Another mission."
Constable Evans sighed and hefted the small, but quite heavy silver knife.
Count Dracula shuddered at its shape and its deadliness. One of the few things a mortal man could use upon him with success.
"Follow me." Sherlock said. "Count."
The Count flew upwards, vanishing into the shadows of the roof.
Sherlock led Constable Evans to the porch where the three men still stood. He stepped up the steps, followed by Constable Evans, whose right hand was out of sight in the pocket of his trousers.
"I know who murdered Dame Evans."
The two men beside Harold Pinter both headed down the steps, one to the right and one to the left. "We'll see you later, Harold." One said. "Later!" Said the other.
But as they strode onto the pavement of the sidewalk Watson stepped into view from the right and Inspector Bloodstone from the left.
"What's the meaning of this?" Harold Pinter demanded, his eyes blazing with anger. "Just because we are different is no reason to treat us so unmanly!"
"Now!" Sherlock hammered Constable Evans with his voice.
Constable Evans pulled out his silver knife and plunged it into the heart of Harold Pinter.
The two men on the sidewalk tried to rush back to help him, but were blocked by Watson and Inspector Bloodstone.
Harold Pinter screamed like a banshee, his voice so horrible that the air was shattered by the terror and anger of it.
He grabbed for Constable Evans.
Sherlock immediately threw a rope of silver about his hands, and then pulled him face down onto the flat of the porch.
Count Dracula descended from above and stood on Harold's back. "Do not move if you value your life, scourge of the night!"
"I shall kill you all!" Harold cried out, frothing blood from his mouth.
From inside the home a horrible cry broke forth, then a second and a third. A horrible sound like a monster descending from inside erupted, and then Dame Evans stepped forth from inside, his body no longer resembling that of a mortally wounded human, but instead something worse. Something from a nightmare.
"Where is he?" He demanded.
Sherlock very calmly blocked the path of Dame Evans.
The monster ground its enormous teeth in his face a moment, then his horrid shape began to dissolve into that they had seen laying upon the bed. He broke into tears and wept like a woman. Sherlock did a very peculiar thing for him, and put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her.
Harold Pinter and the other two men were led into the back of the Constabulary Wagon, all three chained in silver. Several Constables herded them inside, and then climbed in to guard them.
Inspector Bloodstone eyed Sherlock. "How did you know it was them?"
Sherlock smiled. "A little birdy told me."
Watson laughed. "Inspector, all three men had bird droppings on their shoes. The only way they could have gotten that..."
"Was from the rooftop." Count Dracula added with a smirk. "This is why I flew there."
Sherlock nodded. "You see, these three men are part of a variety of vampires that can only extend their family by ingesting the blood of one such as Dame Evans, a man deluded into thinking he was different from humanity, because of his sexual preferences."
"And he wasn't."
"Isn't, my dear Inspector. You see each of us has the same Divine Spark and Dame Evans' only problem was his overwhelming desire to belong somewhere he was loved, even if it meant dying to our world to joint theirs."
Dame Evans stood on the porch watching the door of the Wagon closed. "But what now? Constable Evans demanded. "He is one of them. Just look at him. More alone than ever before."
"Yes. But now, he knows them for what they are. For their intent was not to convert him to their cause, but to take his life. Had you not stabbed Harold in the heart as you did, the unholy bond they had forged upon him would never have been broken, and he would've awoken..."
"As an Undead Monster." Count Dracula said, shivering with the idea. "Such monsters are the slaves of men like these. Preying upon the innocent."
"And helping them to accumulate wealth." Watson added.
"Yes, Watson. Even monsters have sometimes...peculiar mortal needs."
They all turned to look as the Constable Wagon drove off.
Behind them Dame Evans wept softly.
Sherlock sad sadly. "What is sad is that he thought he was being born anew, but in fact he was dying to the Light. Better to learn how to love ourselves as God created us"
He smiled at Watson. "We must rejoice in what we have, not curse that which we do not."
"I could use a raspberry scone right about now." Watson muttered with a yawn.
Everyone broke into laughter. It had been a long night.
The Legions of Tomorrow
His swarthy complexion always confused anyone who first met him, as they always assumed that the undead were...undead looking. He would take their stares with good grace and let them off easy with the words..."I do not drink...blood!" A direct contradiction to those who had seen the once famous Bela Lugosi movies that had been perpetrated on the masses to scare and frighten them. The aging actor had been a distant cousin of the Count and had to apologize to him for the bad press, but he needed the work at the time and the Count had encouraged him to take the work. He didn't care about superstitious people's beliefs. Everyone knew there were good and bad in anything, good wolves bad, bad wolves; good vampires, bad vampires; ghosts that meant well, ghosts that had no such intention of every doing anything well for anyone. Demons who rocked the foundations of the earth to destroy it and demons who were working on getting their angel wings.
So what others believed...he really didn't care or mind. Take your pick. Had he been featured in a vampire movie, he would be more like that famous Latin actor who had made Dracula a dancing hero. He also loved to dance, thought at this particular moment, as he hung upside down from his bedroom beam, thinking about what he had in store for the morrow, he had no particular juice on any kind of dancing, except dancing to the bathroom as soon as possible. He had drunk a lot of blueberry wine the last night and his bladders...yes, he had two...his bladders, as strong as they were were screaming to be emptied.
So he dropped from the beam, flipping over nimbly midflight, and landed lightly on his feet. He yawned, then stretched and stumbled. Yes, even vampires wake up slowly and sluggishly. He stumbled into the lavatory to relieve his bladders. His eyes felt like they were going to pop until he was able to empty them. So many there was some truth to the eyes floating in...well, you know.
He took out his favorite razor, lathered it with a fine soap he had imported from the India Isles, and began drawing it delicately across his chin, then throat, until the fine mist of hair he was growing had been mown down like a savage forest trying to overtake a city.
He yawned again, revealing his two largish front incisors, which had given him and his father their legendary appearance in most modern horror tales of fanged monsters. The fangs could indeed suck blood through them, but never by force, always by free will. They never took what wasn't freely offered, and many friends would offer them a drink in exchange for the favors done for them, not because the Count or his father demanded them, but as a showing of appreciation and gratitude.
"Now what?" He thought as the huge bat knocker on his front door clanged loudly, making a shrieking noise up and down the hallways of his two story mansion. He smiled. Any guests were always startled by the joke he had installed, but after another visit or two caught onto his sense of humor and came to appreciate it.
He leaped from the second floor landing to the floor below, ignoring the beautifully carpeted steps and opened the front door. His good friend, and servant, Charlie Fritz, was not in the house at that time. He had been given leave and a good sum of money to fly back to Rome in one of the new fangled Tesla dirigibles to stay with his family for a month. The Count was not afraid of a little housework and since he only needed a few hours a night or day to refresh himself, he never had too little time to take care of the details of household chores.
"Ah!" He said as he looked at Sherlock, resplendent in a tux with Watson next to him, and James Moriarity, their mutual friend.
"Come in! Come in!" He said, motioning them inside. He glanced outside. It was a full moon. He expected more guests and one in particular.
"I've had the table prepared since this morning for our repast. I hope you don't mind Charlie not being here. I shall happily serve you just as well. Or at least as well as I am capable."
Sherlock smiled. "It is not the service we have come to visit, my dear Count."
He stepped inside, throw his over cloak onto a hanger by the door, allowing Watson to do the same and they headed into the dining room.
"Good doctor, how's your fiancée?"
"Marvelous. She sends her regrets for not coming, but was struck by one of those obnoxious colds that strike this time of year. I prescribed some sleeping potion to help her rest. By this time she should be comfortably between her sheets and covers and resting well."
"Very good. This way." The Count said, guiding them the rest of the way into the dining room. Inside was a very large table that shone like glass with settings for twelve.
"When will the others be coming?" Sherlock asked, seating himself at the near end of the table.
Watson sat on the corner near him and looked at the Count.
"I would imagine they'll all trickle in as usual."
The door bat slammed home again, sending shrieks through the home.
"Excuse me. I think we have more guests."
He went to the door and let in Lord Graystone and Lady Shareen, who were followed by Professor Challenger and Conan.
"Harry's on his way with Tesla and Edison." Conan explained as he and Challenger set their hats and cloaks on the hanger by the door.
"Very good." The Count said, then led them into the dining room.
He began bringing out food and drink for everyone, who all insisted that he wait for the others, but he insisted he had more than enough for everyone several times over and they shouldn't wait for one more minute.
Watson and Challenger tucked in immediately, their bellies almost screaming for food, they were such stout men.
James went into the kitchen with the Count and helped him bring more food out.
"You look good, James. The sea life must have agreed with you."
"Very much so."
He helped the Count set out the last of the food and drink as the Count went to answer the next shriek of the Bat ringer.
Tesla, Harry and Edison came in chatting up a storm.
Everyone sat down and after hurried greetings began eating.
Sherlock looked up. "We're missing a guest."
The Count looked at the empty chair. "I suspect there's a good reason."
A loud bang came from the door.
The Count smiled. "I think our guest has arrived."
He sniffed the air, then smiled.
He went to the door and opened it. Larry was there, his hat in hand. "I hope I didn't keep you. The moon has made me miserable. It's almost full."
"Don't worry, I have a nice room for you to stay in if you want to wait for the moon to pass."
"Thank you, Count. You're a great host. As always."
After everyone had eaten to their heart's content, the Count rose and held up his glass. "A toast to our brotherhood. To each other, our friends, and to those whom we serve."
"Here, here!" They all joined and drank their toasts.
They set down their glasses and looked at him expectantly.
"The reason why I've invited you all here this evening is not only for the companionship we all enjoy and share with each other, but to give you warning."
Sherlock tensed for a moment, then relaxed.
Conan cocked an eye on the Count.
Watson shook his head. "Always something to sour the milk, isn't there Holmes."
James leaned over and whispered into Watson's ear. "No one drinks milk here."
"I do." Watson declared.
Everyone broke into laughter.
The Count waited for the laughter to subside, then spoke again. "We all know that the Hollow Man for quite some time now has been amassing an army."
Lord Greystone nodded. "I spotted some of his forces on my last patrol of the Isles of the Behemoth."
"Aye." James agreed. "Captain Nemo has spotted them as well."
"The Count nodded, then eyed his friends.
"My warning is the Legions of Tomorrow are on their way!"
The room became deathly silent.
"Have Wells and Verne confirmed this?"Sherlock demanded.
"Yes. And it's a very real threat. But that threat is still some time away. For tonight..." He said, raising his glass again in a toast. "Let us rejoice in our friendship and pray that we can continue to protect the innocent from the hordes that surely will soon be storming our gates."
"Here, here!" Everyone said and joined in the new toast.
Their jollity filled the ancient hallways of Count Dracula's home, but coming nearer and more near were the hordes. The Legions of Tomorrow, who had a more deadly agenda in mind.