The woods were dark and silent but for the rustle of the cold wind in the leaves of the trees. The Collins cemetery again knew human life, but the visitors now were engaged in no ceremony. Instead they searched the grave sites for their own gain.
"This is it, right here," one of the two burly men said, pointing to the freshly filled grave. "He's the most recent of 'em to die."
"Yeah, I know, Earl, murder. But there ain't no headstone."
Earl, a shaggy, bearded man dressed in ragged wool clothes, cuffed his shorter but equally scruffy companion on the arm. "Course not, Hatchet. They're probably still havin' it cut, since they buried him so quick."
Knitting his heavy brows, Hatchet, hefted up his shovel. "Wonder why. Guess it don't matter. Makes it easier for us. He won't be stinkin' too bad."
"Yeah, let's get on with it."
In the ground less than six feet below the two men, a still figure lay in a wooden coffin on several layers of padding and satin. He was actually quite comfortable but was little aware of it. Whether it was the dwindling supply of oxygen or the vibrations from the men's feet and shovels through the earth or the pain in his throat that roused him, he never knew. The slow path to consciousness that he took prolonged his lowered heart beat and breath rate, inadvertently and fortunately conserving the stale air.
Carl Collins opened his eyes to darkness, unable to figure out what had happened or where he had last been. But the total blackness was even more confusing. He swallowed painfully and moved his hand upward to touch his bruised throat. His hand met with unexpected resistance in the space above him, and he felt of the smooth, cold cloth, frowning. A faint, slow rhythmic crunching sound impinged on his senses, matching an extremely subtle movement of the bed on which he lay. Another swallow as his hand touched his throat, and he remembered. Everything.
He tried to sit up in panic, and his head hit the wood above him. "Oh, my God!" Carl said, and pushed against the surface above him with his hands. "I'm in a coffin! I'm buried alive!" His voice was a high croak, painful and hysterical. There was insufficient room to really pound on the coffin lid, but he tried frantically till the shortness of breath caught up to him. He panted in exhaustion, feeling the thin air grow humid and stuffier. He realized how cold he was.
The sound of the earth being moved above him suddenly thrust itself on him again. He didn't know if it was getting louder of fainter at first. "Help! I'm not deaaaaaahd!" he cried out, throat hurting.
Above, the two men stopped digging and looked at each other. "You hear somethin'?" Hatchet said.
"I hope not. Come on let's hurry. Somebody may be comin'. Awful lot of queer things been happenin' 'round here lately." He went at the digging with renewed vigor.
Carl could not hear their voices, but he could tell the lull in the movement and forced himself not to scream again. He scarcely had the breath for it anyway. "Please, oh please," he murmured soundlessly as the digging grew louder and he began to feel dizzy. He had no control over the creeping blackness that he could feel on the edges of his awareness. It was the lack of air, he knew, but it robbed him of all impetus to do or say anything. Terror slipped away along with everything else.
"There, I hit the casket," Earl announced, throwing up a shovel load of loose soil.
"'Bout time. Don' never let anybody tell ya graverobbin' is an easy livin'."
They continued to dig until the casket was cleared off enough to open. Earl had made a place to stand by digging the hole wider than necessary. He stood in it and bent down to lift the lid. It had not been nailed shut and opened with relative ease. Dirt from around the edges made it stick a little as it scraped open, and some tumbled in.
The rush of fresh, cold oxygen did not wake the coffin's unconscious occupant. The two graverobbers looked down at him, Hatchet lying on his stomach on the ground and leaning forward over the hole to hold the coffin lid open and Earl squatting down beside it. Light from the half moon and stars provided barely enough for them to see by.
"Look at his hands," Earl said shakily. "How ya reckon they got like that?"
Unnerved also, the other man shook his head. Carl's hands were not folded across his chest, they were caught in the collar of his suit.
Earl's eyes traveled up to the bottom of the lid, but there were no signs of damage to the material lining it.
"Come on, search him, he's bound to have somethin'," Hatchet said in a low voice.
Earl pulled Carl's hands away from his throat, searching for jewelry and finding nothing. "No rings." He began looking in the pockets.
Carl was roused by the touch to his hands. The fact that he could breathe now made him want to gulp air. But he was being robbed, he realized and was afraid they would kill him for certain and forced himself not to move. He was good at hiding and being quiet and still, he called upon this skill to serve him now. What a joke this could be, he thought fleetingly.
Stepping down into the coffin to reach him better, Earl found Carl's gold pocket watch and tossed it to his companion. "Bet that's all there is."
"Yeah, too bad, but you didn't look around his neck."
He bent down, reaching to take Carl's collar and loosen it, never noticing the young man take a slow breath.
It was agonizing to breathe so slowly and imperceptibly. But now, while they were looking more or less at his face would be the best opportunity to frighten them away. Carl's eyes flew open dramatically, and his chilled hands reached up toward Earl's throat.
Startled, Hatchet dropped the lid, and it hit Earl's thigh as he was jumping back in shock.
"Leave meeeeee," Carl intoned as best he could with his hoarse, straining voice. "Why have you disturbed my reeeeest?" What he could see of the look on Earl's face was priceless, he thought, sitting up slowly and watching the terrified man scramble out of the grave.
He slowly got to his feet, still holding his arms out for effect. Dizziness washed through him, and he leaned against the side of the hole. The graverobbers were gone, and he dropped his performance to touch his throat. It was miracle he was alive now. And yet he wanted to laughthe look on that man's face! They had saved his life.
He stepped out of the coffin, letting it slam shut and climbed up to the surface of the ground. Carl knew he was still in danger. If Barnabas found out he was alive, he'd kill him again. Again, he laughed to himself and hurried away from his grave and the cemetery. He would have to go back to Collinwood and warn Judith and Edward.
But what if they didn't believe him? He stopped in the woods. Barnabas was sure to find out. What if he was at Collinwood now? And if Quentin found out he was still alive, he'd tell Barnabas. There was no one he could trust. And he didn't even have Pansy now. He would have been with her now, he realized sadly, if he had died.
"Oh, my poor Pansy," he said to himself, despite how it made his throat hurt. "That vampire killed you." How could he leave his family to that danger? Quentin knew and he wouldn't tell them. No one would believe him. Judith would send him away with nothing or have him locked up somewhere.
"But they gotta believe me now! They thought I was dead. If I come back and I'm not dead, they'll know I'm not lying!" He started off toward the great house again.
He was light-headed and thirsty, still chilled from the grave. It crossed his mind that he might really be dead, and no one would see him or hear him. He could be a ghost! But why would his throat hurt so much if he were dead? It was a foolish notion.
He had always been full of foolish, ridiculous notions, he thought. It was hard to be serious sometimes when everything and everyone else was. Edward and Judith with their fighting over the rights to things, their long, unsmiling faces, such scorn in their eyes when they looked at him. And Quentin with his cocksure smirk and condescending gaze. His was the worst of all, and he never let Carl forget what a smooth-talking, handsome rogue he thought he was. When they were children even, he had been the first to laugh at his younger brother, the first to pick on him, push him down and embarrass him. Carl had always tried to fight back and never won, usually ending up with a bloody nose or scrapes and bruises. At least Edward and Judith had a sense of responsibility. They had never picked on him or gone out of their way to hurt him. They simply tolerated him.
Carl trudged toward Collinwood. He hated thinking like this. He didn't want to be like Judith and Edward, always so dour and cheerless. If that's what they meant by being grown up, he didn't want it. It was this fear, he decided, that was making him so gloomy. Barnabas, a vampire. And he and Quentin were in league.
The very thought of the vampire made him shiver. It was not safe to be out here now. Not with all the strange things going on, especially a vampire roaming the grounds. Now that he thought of it, strangulation was not what he had expectedit was having his blood drained from his body slowly in the grip of that monster. . . .
He stopped, nausea rushing up his throat and harsh dizziness assaulting
him. The earth seemed to twist violently to one side, and Carl pitched the
other way, thinking he must have fallen. He crashed against a tree, skinning
his hands and face as he impacted and slid to the ground. Lights flashed in
the bitter darkness, but they were only inside his aching head. He felt the
deepening chill and shut his eyes.
Carl didn't decide not to move. He was in the grip of his injured body and was incapable of it. The pounding in his brain was beat by beat blackening his awareness. He wanted to go home and get in bed. He wanted to be warm and safe. This was a nightmare. He was so cold. . . .
A few minutes later, and he was almost unconscious. But the faintest lilt of a voice came to him from far away. He concentrated on hearing it again, pulling himself out of the black pit of oblivion. It seemed so far away. But it was his mind that created the distance, he found when it suddenly sharpened enough for him to open his eyes.
"Carl, you poor boy. You've 'urt yourself."
He could barely see her standing above him. "Pansy," he whispered, not yet able to force himself to move.
"You've cut your face." She knelt down beside him, dabbing with the hem of her frilly, gaudy dress at the beads of blood around the scrapes on his cheek and temple "You've got to leave, Carl."
The sting of his wounds helped generate a little energy. "Pansy, you're not dead?" he said, almost inaudible but hopeful.
"Sorry, love, bu' I'm dead. I go' you into this mess. I'll ge' you out. I mean, it's my fault 'e tried to kill you. I shouldn'ta led you to 'is secret place." She took him by one arm to pull him up.
Carl sat up with her help. He was muddled and confused. "He killed you, didn't he?"
"Not 'im, Dirk Wilkins. But 'e'll kill you if 'e finds you."
He suddenly realized he was talking with a ghost. And she'd touched him. His face, already pale from shock went even more so with fear. He tried to back away, but his arms failed to hold him up.
"Now, Carl, don't you be gettin' afraid o' me." She looked him in the eyes, more gentle than he remembered her being. "I wan' 'a 'elp you. I mean, it's the least I could do."
He trembled, feeling the cold, the pain in his skull, and the fear. "W-why?"
She smiled at him almost tenderly. "'Cause you loved me. Ain't that reason enough?"
He sighed and remembered. "Yes. B-but, if you're dead, howhow can. . . ."
"I'm a ghost. I know it sounds a little scary, but it's not. Sometimes you can do more than other times. Come on, love, you go' 'a ge' away from 'ere. I only 'ave a little time I can 'elp you." She pulled his arm again, rising to her feet.
Carl managed to stand, but his legs were unsteady, and he swayed and shivered. His head seemed to be spinning. He put a scraped hand to his forehead, leaning on the tree against which he had fallen.
"Must 'a been a nasty knock you took, eh?" She put her arm around him to guide him away.
Carl didn't protest. He felt so awful he didn't care where they went. The chill air now moving against his face revived him and numbed his scratches. He began to grow sentimental and sad about the fact she was dead. He really did feel he loved her. "Pansy?"
"Wha' is it, Carl?"
"I never should've brought you here. I'm sorry."
"Oh, Carl, it doesn't matter now." She hugged him lightly. "It's not your fault. It was what the Fates 'ad in mind for me. We'd never 'ave lasted. I only wanted your money."
Carl stopped and looked at her, a mixture of emotions starting to stir in him. He sensed an imminent painful revelation.
"Your sister was right about me, you know. But that don't mean I don't care about you."
"You didn't really want to marry me?" He wasn't sure he could bear the hurt in his heart if she said yes.
"Well, I did want to marry you." She started him moving again. "An' we 'ad some fun, didn't we?"
Carl felt himself blush in spite of his disillusionment. Judith had been right; Pansy only wanted his money. It had happened before with women, they pretended to love him only because they wanted his family's money. But he loved them. Didn't anyone truly love him? Would a woman ever want him?
His heart sank into a miserable depression, and he didn't answer her. If she hadn't died, Quentin probably would have taken her away from him, he decided.
"Now, Carl, I know what you're thinkin'." She gave a little laugh. "I really do! I mean, I know it, and it's not even my mentalist act."
The cold and his throat and head pain were bothering him too much to make an effort to respond. He concentrated on putting one foot before the other through the uneven thickness of the wooded path.
"Come on, Carl. Don't be sad. You'll find a nice girl somewhere. It's this place. It ain' good for you."
"It's my home." Bitterness crept into his hoarse voice.
"It's your death."
He looked at her in the dim light of the stars and half moon filtering down through the tree tops. "It might be my family's death if I don't warn them." He tried to swallow the bruises in his throat that made it so hard from him to talk. "What kind of man would I be if I let that vampire kill them?"
"'E's not gonna kill 'em. Trust me, I know. 'E's got some purpose for bein' 'ere. It 'as somethin' to do with your brother. But 'e will kill you if 'e finds you. And if 'e doesn't, it'll 'appen another way. I've seen it."
"I've got to warn them." Carl didn't know if he believed her any more. She'd lied about loving him, hadn't she? But she was different now, not concerned about the material things in his life the way she had been.
"Carl, you'll be killed. I don't want that. I do love you, and I don't want to see you 'urt. And if I can convince you to leave, I'll be able to rest in peace. But if you get killed, I'll be roamin' the earth till your murderer dies. An' if you know anything about vampires, you know they can't diethey're already dead."
He looked at her steadily. "I haven't any money, and I've no place to go." The charm that had so attracted him to her had worn off. "I don't want to leave my home."
"I know you don't, love. But it's your only chance." She seemed to shiver and glanced around nervously. "I don't 'ave much time. We've got to 'urry."
Carl couldn't make up his mind whether or not to believe her; so he allowed her to lead him on. They were still within the boundaries of the Collins estate, he realized because they hadn't crossed any of the stone, wooden, or wire fences that encircled the property.
Fatigue and the biting air gnawed at him. This traipsing through the woods was not helping. "Pansy, stop." He looked her in the eyes, breathing hard. "I'm cold and tired and thirsty. I want to go home and go to bed. I'm not leaving; I have a right to live here."
The firmness of her hand that had been on his arm seemed to fade, and her eyes looked on him with sadness. "No, Carl, you'll be killed." Even her voice seemed to lose substance.
"Then I. . . ." She seemed to be disappearing. "Pansy, wait. Don't leave me." He knew he was still in love with her. And he believed what she said. Well, if Barnabas killed him, then he could roam the earth with her.
"I've failed," she said. "Oh, Carl, I'm sorry." She stepped back away from him. "I'll be with you. If I can 'elp you, I will."
Her lips moved as she became transparent, but he could no longer hear her. "Pansy! Wait! Don't go! Please!" He reached for her, but she had completely vanished.
Carl stood in silence, feeling certain doom hovering over him. He was alone and afraid. He would have to find his way home through the dark woods. Or go into town and try to leave. No, he thought, that was a coward's way out.
He turned around, having no idea where he was. It was dark and gloomy, and what he could see all looked the same. His head ached terribly, and he felt he was dying of thirst. Having trouble thinking of what to do, he finally ended up making himself just start walking. He assumed Pansy had been leading him toward town. If so, he would eventually come to the fence which he could follow as far as the road, then head back up to the main house.
The woods themselves were full of noise most of which was made by the wind in the trees. A rustle from anywhere above did not startle him as much as sounds from the undergrowth. Carl ran into countless limbs which scratched and tore at his hands, face, and clothes. Dehydration and exhaustion slowed him to a stagger. When he finally stumbled out onto the road, it was with relief he spread his hands, looking up to thank God.
He wove down the road, almost at the end of his endurance. He forgot he
needed to hide. He was just so cold-soaked and physically and mentally miserable.
A sound above him brought him to a halt, his exhausted mind wearily regaining
a measure of alertness. He moved off the road and walked along within the
fringe of the wood on one side.
Carl decided he would tell them nothing about what happened to him until they asked. A smile curved his lips. Their expressions when they saw him would almost be worth all this. It was the first pleasant thing he had thought of in what seemed an endless night.
A crunching sound behind him almost made him stop. He increased his pace as fear made his heart pound and adrenaline gave him energy. He nearly broke into a run, but it was too dark to see well enough. And whoever or whatever was following him was not slowing down.
A large hand caught his shoulder, and he screamed. He was pulled backwards into the woods away from the road, tripping over fallen limbs and brambles.
When his abductor stopped and let go of him, Carl slowly rose to his feet and turned around. His voice was barely audible he was so stricken with fear. "No!"
"What are you doing, Carl?" Barnabas said coldly, his stare leaving no doubt in Carl's mind that he could see him clearly in the dark.
He trembled, panting and looking up at the vampire who stood a few feet away. "Nothing," he said in a small squeak.
"I thought I killed you." He did not seem pleased he had failed.
"I-I wasn't dead." His hands went to his throat protectively.
"You soon will be." He moved toward him, and Carl backed away, holding out a hand in a supplicating gesture.
"Don't kill me," he croaked. "Please, I won't tell anyone."
"You don't expect me to believe that, do you? You've already told Trask. I'm sure Judith and Edward are next."
"I can't trust you, Carl."
"Don't kill me!" He struggled against Barnabas whose hands held his shoulders in a crushing grip. The vampire seemed to notice suddenly the blood on his face from his earlier fall and flight through the woods.
"How did you escape?"
"Graverobbers," he whispered. "I-I w-was buried alive." Perhaps he would feel sympathy, having met a similar fate at one time, Carl thought wildly.
Barnabas seemed undecided. He could sense Carl's physical discomfort. "I don't want to kill you, Carl, but you seriously jeopardize my plans. I can't have you around, and I can't let you return to Collinwood now. They would want to know what happened, and you would tell them."
"No, I wouldn't!"
"Of course you would. Whatever you may be, you're a Collins. You would tell them."
He shook his head, looking into the dark, burning eyes. He was so close he could see them too clearly. He put a hand to his throat. "Youyou won't hurt them, will you?"
"No. I'm here, in fact, to help them." He frowned. It seemed Carl had resigned himself and was concerned about his siblings. "Obviously you care more for them than they care for you."
Carl wasn't expecting the familiar sting that brought on. "Not Quentin." He hated Quentin in that moment, hated him for everything that had happened to him.
Barnabas was apparently reluctant to kill Carl. The young man had beaten incredible odds. But he was supposed to be dead. Carl Collins was not in the history books beyond 1897. And he could ruin everything. "I cannot afford to have you around, Carl. And I cannot trust you to leave and remain away."
Carl's face trembled, and he bit his lip in despair. "I'll go. Pansy wanted me to go away," he said, wistful under his hoarseness.
"Pansy? She's dead, Carl. And I did not kill her."
"I know. She told me."
"You saw her?"
"Yes. And. . . ." It seemed ridiculous to tell the man about to kill him that Judith had been right about her.
"Nothing. It doesn't matter." Barnabas shook him, and Carl noticed how much his head hurt.
"She wanted me to leave, that's all."
Barnabas stared hard at him for a moment. "There is only one way to insure your absence besides killing you."
Carl looked at him in terror, not knowing what would happen. His hands were entwined in the material of Barnabas' coat where he had attempted to push him away. Now he tried again in vain. His stomach knotted up, his head pounded fiercely. "No. . . ."
Barnabas walked him backwards to and then up against a tree. He removed one hand from his shoulder and pulled at Carl's collar. The younger man's hands quickly moved to protect his throat, but to little avail.
"No," Carl pleaded as the other tore his hands down. "Don't. . . ." he whispered.
Barnabas stared at the bruises made by his own hands. He put one of them around Carl's throat, pressing close to him and looking down into his terrified eyes.
Trying to pull the hand from his neck, Carl squirmed under the vampire's gaze. "What . . . what're you going to do to me?" he creaked in a high, tremulous voice. He watched in horror as Barnabas raised his upper lip, revealing two long, sharp canine teeth.
"You will know soon enough," he said.
"No! Oh, no!" Carl struggled frantically to free himself. "Don't! No!"
The cruel nature of the vampire enjoyed his fearful cries and struggles, but Barnabas had more control over it than in the past. "Carl!" he commanded, using the hypnotic power in his voice.
Carl stopped his helpless moving much to his own dismay. His mind seemed suddenly to be caught in an invisible grip. He stared into his captor's eyes, his own full of fear.
Barnabas' icy hand on Carl's throat pushed his head slowly to the side, exposing the side of his neck. His hard breathing made his chest rise and fall noticeably, driving the visible pulse in his throat.
The fear was nearly enough to snap Carl's trance-like immobility. He felt Barnabas pinning him against the tree, his cold hand pulling Carl's collar further down from his neck. At the touch of the vampire's mouth on his flesh, Carl tried to scream. His muscles came to life, and he flailed wildly at his attacker.
"Carl!" Barnabas roared at him, grabbing his arms and holding him against the tree. "Carl Collins," he said more quietly, employing his hypnotic tone.
Carl trembled but stopped struggling. "No, please," he whispered. He didn't move as the other released his arms and again took him by the shoulder and neck. He tensed but could not make his body respond to commands from his brain. He thought he would die of fear if he couldn't at least move.
The fangs of his attacker lightly raked his neck before settling in one place and exerting unbearable pressure. Barnabas had been on his way to feed when he had seen Carl. It was almost convenient, even if biting a bruised throat was distasteful.
Carl clutched the other's coat again but could not affect a real struggle. The pounding ache of his head made the pressure of the vampire's mouth more noticeable. He felt the brief, sharp pain of his skin being punctured and more pressure until he was almost ready to burst.
All at once the headache was gone, his tension eased somewhat. An insidious burning sensation entered his body through the throbbing place on his neck where the blood was very slowly being drained out. The sensation reached his brain quickly, and Carl suddenly felt exposed. His thoughts and feelings were laid bare before the ominous presence which he saw mentally as Barnabas' eyes in his mind. He wanted to fight and flee but could not. The eyes pinned him down, glaring with malice till he cringed down inside himself.
Barnabas oppressed him, using his supernatural mental powers to break Carl's will. He pressed hard, crushing all resistance and forcing his mind to cower away. He had done this to others during the time he had been a vampire: Nathan Forbes, Willie, Sandor. Forbes had crumbled immediately, Sandor's Gypsy background had prepared him, he had not resisted; and Willie had fought him every step of the way, but he had succumbed eventually. Carl's fear and shock were foremost in his mind.
He pressed in harder than he had on anyone else. Relentlessly slashing into his thoughts, scattering them and shattering him. He felt Carl feebly pushing against him, tasted blood that he took so slowly to prolong this contact with his mind, long enough to destroy it.
Carl felt the invasion like some vicious tempest in his head. He squeezed his eyes shut, grimacing as every coherent thought was ripped in half. A grey emptiness seemed to fill the rents left by the attack. Everything else seemed to flow out of him with the blood from his throat. To try to hold on to anything brought a swift end to it. He made one last instinctive attempt to shove the vampire away before his mind went completely blank.
Rising up, Barnabas let his victim slide to the ground. His eyes, glassy and staring, seemed to see nothing. A tear had flowed from each, leaving a streak of hot then cold as the air hit it on either side of his face. "Who are you?" Barnabas asked him.
The question echoed in the emptiness in his mind. The question was repeated more forcefully, and a name slowly formed.
"Do you know who you are?" Barnabas said.
"Carl Collins," he answered softly, the sound of it filling his head pleasantly, forcing back some of the frightening darkness.
"That's right, Carl. And you have been lost in the woods." Barnabas had already decided how he was going to handle this situation. He had now only to fill Carl's pliant and blank mind with a feasible story that would send him away permanently. Memories of his previous life would likely never return. "You fell and hit your head, and now you are having trouble remembering."
"I-I don't remember. . . ." he said distantly.
"You were visiting your cousins here in Collinsport. And now you must return home.
Carl drank in the information. "Home. . . ? I don't know where it is. . . ."
Where would be a good, far away place to send him? Barnabas thought. Some place from which he would not likely find his way back to Collinsport. "Your home is in Sacramento, California."
"I don't remember. . . ."
"That is because you hurt your head. You do not like Collinsport, Carl. It holds bad memories. But you can't remember them. You will not remember me, nor our conversation tonight."
"Collinsport? I don't know. . . ?"
"You want to return to Sacramento, Carl. You will find a new job for yourself there, and you will be happy there."
"Yes, I want to be happy." His hollow eyes looked up at Barnabas. "My head hurts." He touched his temple and flinched at the sting. "I want to go home."
"Sacramento." His face took on a consternated frown. "I don't remember it."
"It's all right, Carl." He went down on one knee, looking Carl in the eyes, hypnotizing him. "You will be happy there. Your one main desire is to return there. You feel you will find answers and happiness there. It is Collinsport you will not remember well. Do you understand?"
"I will help you. And when I snap my fingers three times, you will not remember me. All will be as I have told you. You will be on your way home. Do you understand?"
"On my way home," Carl said wistfully. He wanted to be home. He was cold, tired, and thirsty, and his head hurt.
"Do you understand, Carl?"
"Yes." There were no memories in his mind. Nothing but what he had just learned. Trying to remember made his head ache more. This bewildering lack of knowledge frightened him. And there was something else in his mind that frightened him. A presence was there, and it was this man's face, especially his eyes. Yet it was almost a comfort, too, because he felt so empty.
Barnabas hoped what he had told the man would stick. After what he had done to his mind, he was fairly certain it would. It was not totally different from what Julia had done with Maggie's mind, yet this was more drastic and would alter Carl's personality permanently. He did not think he would ever remember much of his past, but he hoped he would be able to function normally.
What he had to do now was arrange transportation and get some of Carl's things. But where could he take him in the meantime? He needed to make him look presentable at least. He could trust no one with the knowledge Carl was not dead. This was going to be more trouble than it was worth.
"Carl, come with me. I'm going to help you get ready to go home." He had to help him to his feet and support him as he led the way to the Old House.
Carl hated the darkness because it was frightening to him. He felt he had been in a dark pit and was still in danger of falling back in. The sight of the Old House stirred nothing in him except the desire for physical comfort. Barnabas led him through a back door into the kitchen. Carl welcomed the light, dim though it was, as a lost friend. He sank into a chair in exhaustion and basked in the warmth as Barnabas disappeared for a while.
When he returned, he found Carl with his head on his arms, asleep at the large wooden table. "Carl, wake up." He shook him roughly, anxiously looking into the nearly blank blue-grey eyes that met his groggily. "Here," he handed him a small towel. "Wash your face and hands."
Barnabas had provided a bowl of warm water for him. It reminded Carl of his thirst. "May I have something to drink? Some water?"
"Of course." He pointed to a cabinet. "Glasses are in there. And there is running water. I have arrangements to make for you. You will not leave this room. Do you understand?"
"Yes." Carl nodded. He knew it was very important for him to obey, though he didn't know why.
"And don't let anyone see you. If you hear someone coming, hide in the pantry; it's empty."
"No one should come, but I want you to understand this. Do not question me."
"I won't." He was afraid of the tall man now.
"Good. I will return as soon as I can. It may be over an hour. Wait here quietly."
Carl nodded and watched him leave. He forced himself to get up and find a drinking glass. He gulped down two glasses of water and filled a third, taking it over to the table. The warm water stung his scratched hands and face as he washed with the towel, but it revived him and made him feel better. He gingerly touched his injured temple, unable to make himself press hard enough with the towel to wash all the blood away.
He sat back down, bone-weary and aching all over. He wanted to get into bed and sleep. Any bed, anywhere. He lay his head again down on his arms on the table and shut his eyes. Yes, he wanted to go home.
"Carl. Carl, wake up." Barnabas shook him.
He didn't want to wake. He was so tired.
"Carl!" Barnabas hauled him up, commanding. "Get up." He noticed he had done a poor job of washing his cuts. Well, it was too late now to worry about it. He draped Carl's plaid Inverness cloak over his shoulders. "Come on. I have a coach waiting." He had to steer him toward to the door to get him moving.
It all felt like a dream. He stumbled outside and let Barnabas guide him to where a horse drawn coach was waiting. He never gave it any thought as to how much it must have cost to hire one to travel at this time of night.
He climbed in, followed by the other man. It was too dark to see him well, but he didn't need to. The driver started them forward on a signal from Barnabas.
"Now, Carl, I want you to listen to me very carefully." Barnabas spoke with power but in a low monotone. He concentrated on the other's mind.
"Yes," Carl answered, trance-like.
"You are going home to Sacramento, California." He paused, and Carl repeated his words. "I have given you enough money to get you there. You will take the train from Bangor."
"I'll take the train from Bangor."
"You will have to ask at the train station about the rest of the ride. I don't know what kind of connections you need to make. You must ask."
"I must ask how to get to Sacramento."
"That's correct. Remember, you want to go home more than anything."
"Yes," he almost smiled in the dark. "I want to go home."
"Good, Carl. You have a bag with your clothes up on top of the carriage. Do not forget it." Carl assured him he wouldn't. Barnabas was not sure what all of the contents of the suitcase weresomeone had already packed up most of Carl's thingshe just opened it long enough to see that it contained clothing and a shaving kit. There had been a trunk as well, but the contents were a host of miscellaneous items from clothes to gags for pulling practical jokes.
He made Carl repeat his instructions and gave him a list of warnings about not trusting anyone with his money.
"And don't let anyone see how much you have, or you'll be robbed and never make it home. And you want to go home."
Carl nodded. "I'll be careful."
He was like a child, Barnabas thought. He looked out the window. They had passed through Collinsport already. "I've already paid the driver, Carl. It'll be daylight by the time you arrive in Bangor." He made him repeat his instructions again and all of the background he had given him, then rapped on the roof of the cab with his cane.
The carriage stopped. "Carl, you will not remember me. My instructions are what you were planning to do. You will not remember anything of Collinsport except that you came here."
"I understand." Carl was too much in his power to feel the aloneness he was about to experience when Barnabas left him.
"When I snap my fingers three times, you will continue on your way, knowing only what I've told you. And you will be going home." He climbed out of the cab.
"Very well. Goodbye, Carl." Barnabas snapped his fingers three times in rapid succession and signaled the driver to continue on.
Carl settled back, tired and sleepy, wishing his journey home was mostly over instead of just beginning. At least the train would afford a more comfortable ride. Thank God he was going home.
Outside, hidden within the fringe trees by the road, the ghost of Pansy
Faye watched the cab pull away. She turned her eyes to the figure of the vampire
who also watched. He had killed Carl as surely as if he had strangled him.
His body wasn't dead, but the Carl she knew was. She mourned him now. She
would have no rest.
A subtle tension he had not known he was feeling until it left him, made Carl glad to be home. His mind was full of recent memories and experiences gathered on his long journey. He had talked with numerous people, himself remaining almost quiet, eager to listen to them, to fill the void in his mind. He had little to say, nothing to tell. This caused him to feel a terrible loneliness, so he sought the company of others. And now he even had a job lined up. A man on the train needed another employee at his bank. Hiring an amnesiac was a risk, but he told him he trusted Carl's open, honest face.
Carl stepped down from the train car, suitcase in hand. He was disappointed nothing really looked or felt familiar. And finding a place to stay within walking distance of the bank where he was to be employed did not jar his memory either. The frustration nearly brought him to despair. And when he settled into a small, quiet boarding house, he had to force himself not to let anyone know of his loss of memory. He wanted answers, not sympathy and intrusions.
For the quiet young man with the sometimes hollow blue-grey eyes, and soft, distant frown, life had an unreal quality like a dream. And the reality of his dreams sometimes left him terrified but did not reveal enough to trigger his memory. Immediate concerns gradually became more important to him. He gave up his despair eventually and stopped searching for answers he knew he would never find. His wounded psyche recovered. And other things came to him. Love found him after a few years of shy loneliness. And when he let go enough to accept it, he found the most contentment he would ever find. She was the daughter of one of the bank's vice presidents. Her name was Margaret, and they named their first child Pansy. . . .