More C.P.F. - finally!
The C.P.F. Chapter 11
Not sure why this is coming out the way it is, but I would like to keep my ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties happy for another week. I hope. I always hope.
Biography of Vampire
“I knew her father,” Derek said.
“I had been undead less than ten years by that time and still practiced law.”
“That must have taken your people by surprise,” I said, “considering they buried you over in Section B.”
He frowned. “This was in Massachusetts. I’d traveled there with Belcher and his traveling mission. Like all newborns, I was confused and somewhat of an amnesiac. I followed my maker for several years blindly and stupidly until I realized his terrible purpose.”
“Didn’t you need your coffin and some dirt?”
He waved me into silence. “Yes, yes. Belcher saw that we had both and the transportation. He even set up ‘outposts’ in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Albany. I can still go there whenever I wish, if I dared leave this rabble to themselves. Which I do not, as not one of them has any discretion and all would likely take after Belcher and continue his traitorous work.”
“Which is? Was?”
“Was. This was around 1907. He wanted not merely an army of Christian blood suckers, he wanted the country, then the world. Baptize, then feed and turn them all. ‘Complete conversion,’ that madman called it. I, of course, had scruples. We could not possibly admit them all. Nor should we have done. We were the elite, the chosen. In the beginning, that is. Then, the further we traveled, so many of the sinners he attracted were illiterate, unemployed, immigrants and Jews, for the love of God!”
“Horror of horrors,” I said.
Derek glared at me. I shivered.
“To the point. I had taken on the Sidewick lumberyard as a client in 1906. My clients had plenty to contend with, I can promise you. A madman in the White House screaming business reform, labor unions demanding higher wages and muckrakers demanding safer working conditions As if having forty or fifty a year who were careless enough to be maimed or killed by the saw or rolling logs meant the yard wasn’t safe!” He shook his head.
“That winter, Ambrose appeared in my office one night.”
“He wasn’t surprised you didn’t have office hours during the day?”
“If he was, he had the good manners to keep it to himself. I said it was winter. The sun set early. He sold saw blades at this time, but I gathered he’d sell anything and everything at one point in his life. He had a contract with my client and wanted me to approve it. Old Sidewick was more or less blind and addled as well, but I had trained him not to sign anything without my approval.”
“Do I want to know how you trained him?”
“You have the filthy and violent mind of your race, use your imagination.”
“You are a real bastard, Derek.”
“Do you wish me to continue?” I nodded. “Ambrose Cadwallader stood six feet four inches tall, half that measure wide and had the bright red nose of a drinker. I didn’t care for the terms of the contract, so I offered him the brandy I kept for such visitors. He drank and talked and drank and – “ Derek stopped short. He looked at the cuckoo clock. “He spoke of his piously frigid wife, Sarah Louise, and their newborn daughter. His lovely, blonde-haired daughter whose infant wails matched her mother’s nagging in frequency and timbre. Before he fell off his chair to snore the rest of the night away on my office floor, he invited me to meet them. I rewrote the contract while he slept and sent him hung over back to his employer, who promptly demoted him to the Syracuse area office.
Seven years later, I took my earth and my coffin home again and heard that Ambrose Cadwallader volunteered with the Canadian forces and joined the front lines at Ypres. He never returned.”
To my relief, Derek finally slumped down on the rose sofa. His face went slack and his eyes closed before he spoke again. “I have a long memory. I cannot say what it was that he said that one night in ’07 that formed the glue, but I have to confess, I never forgot his description of his daughter. When I returned I found I was curious. Thus, in the spring of 1923, I visited the faux Tudor home he built for them in Cazenovia one night
He shuddered. “Sarah Louise was indeed a horror. Perhaps she was beautiful in her youth, but she dressed in widow’s black and wore her piety like a tight second skin. The Word of God seemed to be eating her alive. She seemed determined to let It feast on her child as well. I stood at a side window saw an angelic-faced child of sixteen sobbing out Bible verses from the Book of Daniel. Can you imagine? The ones she recited correctly earned nothing more than a grunt from her mother. Incorrect ones brought a long switch down on her delicate hands and legs, sometimes on her graceful and firm buttocks.” I cleared my throat, but he continued, staring ahead of him. “And those eyes, those darling brown eyes so full of fire and tears all at once!” He startled us both by jumping up and slapping his hands together. “How I longed to break into that room and flay the mother with her own switch and then tear out her throat!”
“But you weren’t invited in.”
Derek sat down again. “No. I was not. I acted the coward and fled. I hid among those I had initiated here in Sayresville and, in time, thought myself the squire of this expanse of the dead.
“Years passed and one night in 1930, I chanced across a stock broker’s widow come to see her husband’s grave by night. Madge Seamsby, her name was.” Derek grinned up at me. “Red hair, green eyes and a blazing hot desire so unbecoming a woman! I took her on her husband’s grave.” He held up a long-fingered hand. “No, I did not kill her. I took her.”
“She knew you were – “
“She knew and was deviant enough to enjoy it. I drank her a little, but only enough to pleasure her as well.” He grinned at me, sharp fangs and all. “After all those years of plowing a wife who lay like a corpse under me, it was…rejuvenating. To feel that urge again and have a woman willing, nay, eager to sweep down her undergarments and up her skirt to offer – “
“I get the picture,” I said. My books upstairs told me more than enough to know the desire. But Derek had the release I never had.”
He reveled in my discomfort for a moment. “To the matter, then. Madge ran her husband’s shipping business in Cazenovia. We used her office, her home, an hotel, anywhere she chose for our trysts. Sometimes, she brought one of her young secretaries and we both had the youngster until we were sated.”
“They didn’t mind.”
He shrugged. “All but one must have because they left her employ shortly afterwards. I cannot say if it was my ardor or Madge’s that dismayed them.”
“And the one?”
He waved the memory off. “She died. I might have drank too much from her. Madge was annoyed, but I paid for the funeral.
“Then, one night in 1932, I think it was the night another Roosevelt was elected President, she brought me her new secretary. Madge described her as a business genius, but socially and sexually inhibited.
“We met in a darkened café near the lake. Madge brought her in, took the secretary’s hat off.” His voice grew husky. “She brought me Ambr’. Twenty-five years old, swan-necked, doe-eyed, beautiful Ambr’.” He sighed. “And you two ‘took’ her?” I said.
He smiled. “No. I did what I had wanted to do nine years before: I drained her sweet blood. Right away, without question. And she wept in my arms. From joy, I know it was joy. Then she fed on Madge and slept on my shoulder there in the café.
“We left Madge’s body in the café and I brought her to my grave here, where the authorities found the supposedly dead body of Ambr’ Cadwallader in the shade of her father’s mausoleum the next morning. She rose three nights later and has done since then.”
“So you did make her. Does that make her your child?”
He stood up, stiff again. “Hardly. I wanted that neck, her lovely blood. I took what I wanted.” He looked out the front window. “The truth, Farmer, is that she moved me but not in the way Madge moved me. Nor would Ambr’ ever strip herself and spread her legs with that kind of abandon. Not even now. But what she does demand, well, it is simply too much.
“I made her and, if she continues to disobey, I may well end her.” He pulled at his suit coat sleeves, then turned his head sending his black locks into a wave. “So now you know.”
And he was gone.
So now I knew. And it made me ill.
I got up and hurtled myself down the hill, eyes down and watching the gravel spit out from under my feet towards the northernmost pole light that signaled a right turn into my driveway.
This trajectory took me head first into Charlie down by the light.
With only the briefest thought that I’d get another smack or be shoved back so hard I fell over the Garlick family’s graves (seven bodies, dead from a house fire), I threw my arms around his waist and buried my face in his shirt front. He hesitated before he surrendered enough to put his arms around me. Adjusting to the idea after a few moments, he pulled me in a little closer. I turned my head to the side and breathed in his scent. Charlie smelled of cardboard and Irish Spring and something I had very little experience smelling, but that I liked. I sank into his embrace and hoped. Would there be soft, caressing words murmured into my hair? A hand taken away from my shoulders to tip my face up for a smile and perhaps finally that kiss?
And where the hell was that orchestral swell to heighten the emotion?
Charlie stroked my hair for a little while. Then he said, “C’mon, I’m hungry.”
He made us sandwiches.
They were good sandwiches, each cut into four triangles so we could share, and I think he was pleased when I did not ask to have the crusts cut off. But, other than ask if I wanted grape jelly or strawberry jam with my peanut butter and tell me he would make both, we did not speak before we ate. Charlie put a whole grape jelly triangle in his mouth, chewed and swallowed without taking his eyes off my face. I focused on the striped pattern of the sandwich to calm my thoughts: white bread, shining tan. And bloody red strawberries oozing into another shroud of white.
So much for calm.
“You really shouldn’t go wandering through the cemetery at night if it’s going to bother you,” Charlie said.
I thought of saying that we would not have met had I not wandered the cemetery at night, but that sort of flirting would go right over his head. “The mowers came today and knocked some headstones loose. I had to put some of the old ghosts back to bed.”
He made a humphing sound, half-laugh, half-dismissal. “What’s bothering you, Grace?”
Do you mean besides the fact that most couples by this time in a relationship would have stripped off and fondled or at least kissed with optional tongue? I wanted to scream at him, but that would have been only half the truth. Well, three-quarters of the truth. “I think there’s going to be trouble with the vampires.”
Charlie laughed again, spewing bread crumbs. “Sorry. What else is new? Aren’t they always trouble? You know, killing people, then turning on each other?”
“You forgot boring everybody living and dead with long, whining speeches. My God, do you really read the crap you pack up to ship? There’s maybe one author in the last century that got them right!” I threw my last triangle down on my plate. “Whatever they were in life, they are as undead. Good, bad, feral or whiny, egotistical, delusional and sometimes, only sometimes, they do the living one better and think about someone other than themselves!”
Charlie studied me for a long minute. “Should I take that personally?”
What is it about loving someone that allows you to simultaneously adore him and also wish him to take a comment he’s made and shove it up his ass?
I set the rest of my sandwich down, careful not to slam it down or hurl it across the table at him. “Ambr’s up to something to get Derek’s attenion and I don’t mean plucking teeny-boppers off the streets and feeding on them. Although she’s doing that, too, in the neighborhood, which has Derek pissed to begin with. She’s also got something going on at a church around here. In the basement,” I added before Charlie came up with yet another comment from the wholly inaccurate “common knowledge.”
“Something’s brewing with her and it’s going to boil over into one hell of a mess. Then Derek will have to kill Ambr’ and he’ll order the rest of those bloodsuckers to kill off the church ladies so they don’t come looking for Ambr’ and that level of mass murder will get into all the newspapers across the country, which will bring all the Van Helsing-wannabes in state and out-of-state. Maybe international. The media will go wild for a whole week.” I swiped jelly and tears off my face. “And I will be losing my job and my home!”
“I thought you and Ambr’ hated each other.”
I fought the urge to hurl sandwich and plate at his head. “Were you listening to me?”
The dancing light in his eyes told me he was; the smile confirmed it. I wished I could share his amusement. “I think what we need to do is put you to bed.”
It is truly a sad state of affairs that left me too emotionally strung out to respond, “Alone?”
Charlie retrieved the black duffle bag he’d left by the back door. He had never before come up to the second floor of the house, let alone seen my room. I should have been nervous, excited, something. What I was, was weary. To his credit, Charlie complimented the décor of my bedroom first. Then he went first to my romance books to “browse” while I snagged a decent tee-shirt, clean underwear and dodged him to get into the bathroom for my shower.
He’d found one of faintly green chair by the time I had washed and brushed my teeth. The lamp directed light onto the open book he held on his lap. He’d read perhaps twenty pages while I showered. The look he gave me raised the hairs on the back of my neck, especially when he closed the book almost tenderly and set it on the end table.
“Which side do you sleep on?” he asked. He stood up. I moved to “my” side.
“My grandmother said sleeping on your left side is good for the digestion.”
“Grandmothers always say that.” He paused. “Window open or closed?”
I wondered if it would have killed him to ask instead, “Clothes on or off?” but he didn’t. I shrugged. “Open a little. It’s a nice night and I haven’t turned the A/C on yet.”
“Little miser.” He raised the window about four inches. “Well, come on, get in.”
My face burned with all the color of those lamps in Ambr’s crypt. “I have to pray first.”
He made a noise I took to be impatience. “Of course you do.” And he sat down next to me.
Grandma Rose scolded me often for letting my attention wander while we recited the Shema at night. “You mouth the words and not the prayer!” she’d say and then pinch my arm. I kept my eyes on my knees at the edge of the bed. However, I would have sworn then, and will swear now, that, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Charlie mouthing the words along with me.
He pulled me to my feet and yanked back the covers. “Go on, get in now!” I obeyed and had sheet, blanket and bedspread dropped over me. Then Charlie went around the other side of the bed to lie down behind me, his arm across my waist. His head lay so close to mine, his breathing stirred my hair.
I would be sweating bullets in a few minutes, but I truly did not care.