DOWNTON ABBEY MEETS LOVECRAFT MEETS NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in Deadtown Abbey.
It is a world few of us have ever known. A world of masters and servants, where everyone knows one’s place. A world of newfangled technology like telephones and motorcars. A world of vampires, werewolves, zombies, and monsters of the deep. At the center of his necropolis estate lives the Earl of Monroe, who must hold the family he loves and the servants he trusts together against the eldritch onslaught of this rapidly changing world.
After he heard the last of the party turn in to their beds, Kasztelan Tarboosh slipped on his robe and glided down the hall to the doorway of the room of Lady Maureen, a most fetching creature. She had made eyes at him all night, and he couldn’t say he was sorry for the attention. Now it was time to see if his mesmeric sexual powers were still as potent as he hoped. He tapped at her door.
No answer, so he tapped again. “The Lady Maureen?” he whispered.
“Yes, who is it?”
He cracked the door open and insinuated himself through the space. “It is I, Tarboosh,” he said quietly, but with a rogue’s grin.
Lady Maureen gasped, “You can’t be in here, sir! I-I’ll—”
“You will what? Give up the chance for an evening of Turkish delight?”
Her eyes narrowed. “I thought you were Romanian.”
“Yes, certainly. Whatever I am, I am yours … I am …” His speech broke off as he ran a hand over the back of his neck, pulling the robe off his skin.
Even from across the room, Maureen could see that his skin was becoming discolored and that several boils had cropped up where the neck of the robe had been resting on his skin. “Mister Tarboosh, are you in distress?”
Now the sub-ambassador’s hands went to his neck, and it was obvious that he was choking. His face began to color—which didn’t take much, as the man was as pale as the Elgin marbles—and he staggered towards her. Just as he got to the foot of her bed, he reached a hand out to her … and then collapsed onto the covers and moved no more.
She slowly got out of bed and inched around it to approach the satin-covered foreigner. When she got to him, she poked him with a finger. “Mister Tarboosh?” Maureen called hopefully. But the man stayed where he was, not breathing, not moving. Kasztelan Tarboosh was dead. Lying on her bed.
And for some reason, he reeked of garlic.
* * *
“Sarah, wake up. I need your help,” a whispering voice called to the head housemaid. Sarah rose to the surface of her consciousness slowly, then opened her eyes to see the face of Lady Maureen.
“Come with me,” Maureen said.
They tiptoed up the stairs and down the hall to Lady Maureen’s room, where she showed Sarah what there was to see on her bed. “Ye gods,” Sarah gasped. “What happened to him?”
Maureen swallowed and said, “Mister Tarboosh came to see me in my bedroom, and I … I suppose he became overexcited and died. Of a heart attack?”
Sarah nodded, but all she could think was how casually Lady Maureen said that he came to see me in my bedroom. It was not her place to be shocked, but she was utterly scandalized that a woman of quality would allow a creature of the night into her boudoir unless she planned to … the head housemaid shook the disloyal thought out of her head.
Focusing on the problem at hand, Sarah quickly noticed the scent of garlic and the horribly irritated skin around the dead man’s neck. She ran her fingers along the inside of the neck of his robe and gave them a sniff when Lady Maureen’s back was turned.
It was as she thought. Miss O’Dea must have coated the inside of the vampire’s robe with crushed cloves of garlic. And now he was dead.
“Milady, may I ask what you think about the existence of vampires?”
Despite the grim situation, Maureen couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “Vampires? What in the name of Yog-Sothoth made you think to ask that right now? The garlic smell? You know how these Eastern European peoples are, Sarah—it’s not food unless it has enough odor to seep through their pores!”
Sarah made herself laugh at Her Ladyship’s comment. But it was peculiar.
“But what are we going to do? We can’t very well have the world thinking that a man was killed during a peccadillo with me. By Azathoth, what would they say? I would die a spinster, and it’s obvious the man had a serious garlic allergy! Perhaps he was knocking on my door for help as he was being stricken.”
“Of course, milady,” Sarah said, thinking. Was Her Ladyship not curious about, if Mister Tarboosh did have a fatal allergy to garlic, why he had it rubbed all over the inside of the collar of his robe? The vampire had bitten her, then, before the garlic seeped into his system and killed him. Lady Maureen wasn’t thinking straight, as of course one wouldn’t after being bitten, even by a dying vampire. This was much worse than losing one’s virginity outside of marriage—this was a person’s immortal soul at stake. “Emm … perhaps we could move him to his own guest room.”
“Do you know where that is? I’m not even sure.”
“I can find out, milady.”
“Please run and do so then, Sarah. I will wait for you,” Maureen said, and fixed her gaze on the head housemaid. “And Sarah?”
She stopped. “Milady?”
* * *
Mister Bubb lay asleep in his narrow bed, a hand as always in contact with his leg made of silver alloy. He could have a blade out of it in less than a second, fast enough to end the career of most werewolves. But as a tapping came at his door, his eyes popped open and he was fully awake. He went to the door.
“What is it?”
“Mister Bubb, it’s Sarah. I—”
No more words were needed to entice him to open his door, as he—a war hero and committed lifelong bachelor—had fallen hard for Sarah the first time they had laid eyes on one another. Some might say that such a romance was only infatuation, but his instincts had gotten him through the Second Boer War against the forces of the underworld, and he trusted them. The door open, Bubb took one look at his beloved and said, “Sarah, goodness, what’s happened?”
“Do you believe in vampires, Mister Bubb?”
A strange question for the middle of the night, indeed! But Bubb reminded himself that he was employed by his old comrade in arms against the undead, George Shambley, and he was living and working at Deadtown Abbey. “I don’t have to believe in them,” he said after a moment to gauge her seriousness. “I’ve fought against them.”
Sarah’s eyes flashed, and if he hadn’t already been madly in love with her, Bubb would have fallen right then. “There’s a dead one upstairs. Tried to attack Lady Maureen.”
“Tried to attack her, or did attack her?”
“I didn’t check her neck, Mister Bubb—please come and help! You know the layout of Monroeville Hall, yes?”
“I’ve only been here one day, Sarah dear,” he said, venturing the term of endearment to measure her reaction.
She reddened a bit and said, “So you don’t know what guest room Mister Tarboosh might have been staying in?”
Tarboosh! Bubb noticed as much as anyone did how cadaverous was the man from Romania, but he thought he looked too obviously a creature of the night and that it must have been an affectation. But no, the man was a vampire after all. And he had gone after Lady Maureen! It was absolutely galling.
“Do you, Mister Bubb?”
“I do, as His Lordship asked me to provide some men’s toilet accessories and bring them to Tarboosh’s room,” he said, and stopped to consider. “Why do you need to know the location of his room?”
“Why, to move his body there, of course! This could make for a scandal!” she cried, lowering her voice halfway through as she realized how loud she was being. A head housemaid could stir up a scandal among her peers by visiting a man’s bedroom at night, too.
Bubb furrowed his brow. “There’s a body?”
“Yes! It’s horrible, the boils ringing around his neck—”
“When vampires die, there’s usually just a pile of dust left behind. The sunlight hits them or the stake goes through the heart, and poof! Call in the chambermaid.” He smiled as he said this, and Sarah returned it warmly. He hoped vampires died in the house regularly, if it meant he would receive such a visitor each time.
“This was garlic, Mister Bubb. Maybe that’s why.”
“Will you come, then? Lady Maureen is in a state.”
“Of course!” he said and followed her out, making quite sure to lock his bedroom door before heading down the hallway.
* * *
“Someone knew about his terrible garlic allergy and killed him!” Lady Maureen said urgently as soon as Sarah and Bubb entered her room. “They rubbed at least two whole cloves inside his collar. Look!”
They did look, as she turned over the back of the robe worn by the dead man face-down on the bed. There were indeed the crumbled and pilled remnants of a great deal of garlic on the inside collar, where it would touch his skin.
Bubb didn’t understand why the vampire didn’t sense the garlic immediately. Perhaps the creature was in a state of rut, ready to partake of the virgin blood of Lady Maureen? Some forms of the undead such as vampires were as capable as any living creature of obsession leading to tunnel vision. And a prize like the fair Maureen, his comrade’s daughter … Tarboosh must have been half-mad with desire.
Bubb knew at first hand that the undead could be distracted long enough to be put at a fatal disadvantage. He and George Shambley had run such an attack repeatedly in the late war. George was amazingly good at looking helpless and terrified, but they had also switched roles many times and George lay in waiting to ambush the creature while Bubb played the injured rabbit. They had done it so many times, in fact, that all it took was for both of them to see what tack the monster was taking and they would each assume the best role, bait or hunter, for the particular vampire or werewolf or zombie in question to fall prey to the living men’s attack.
“Hmm? Oh, yes! I was lost in my thoughts for a moment there. We must move him.”
“Yes, exactly, thank you, Mister Bubb. Perhaps I could take the feet—”
Sarah said, “Your Ladyship, we can’t expect you to carry a dead monst—a dead man through the house. What if you were to be seen?”
“But Mister Bubb is working with only one leg!”
“It is strong, I assure you,” Bubb said. “You might not believe how strong.”
Maureen considered this, then nodded. “Very well, then. I shall leave the late Mister Tarboosh in your capable hands. Thank you, both of you.”
“Of course, milady,” Bubb said, and took the heavier front end by hooking his arms under Tarboosh’s armpits. Sarah took the feet, and they very gently but quickly carried the body out through the door Lady Maureen held open for them, then shut quietly behind them.
“This way,” Bubb said, and marched backwards, looking behind himself to see the way.
“I couldn’t see if she had a bite on her neck, Mister Bubb.”
“Neither could I. But it is enough that he might have used his powers to ensnare her as his just by being alone in the room with her. Now that he is dead, the spell cannot be broken. She will always be unclean, even without having been bitten.”
“But a moment ago, she didn’t even seem to know he was a vampire at all. How could that be?”
“Perhaps his enchantment of our poor Maureen has removed her concept of ‘vampire,’ so that her enslavement could never be spoken of?”
“Point well made,” Sarah said, and flashed him one of those disarming smiles again, this time making him almost forget the way to the guest room of the unfortunate Mister Tarboosh.
* * *
A pair of eyes, shrouded behind the darkened door that led down to the servants’ quarters, watched the housemaid and valet carry the vampire’s body down the hall. It was the Romanian, no doubt about it. The vampire was dead.
But not before he had bitten Lady Maureen. She was one of them.
Filled with such dark knowledge that her heart thrilled, Lady Eleanor allowed the staircase door to close and returned to her bed.
NEXT WEEK: PART 6 — A BODY IS DISCOVERED