by Brenda Stephens
After exiting Sara’s bedroom, I carefully closed the door behind me and then threw my bag down to the night-soaked carpet. The hallway was dark, difficult to see. The plush carpet beneath my feet may not have been red, but that’s all I could see. To me, everything was blood red: the carpet, the cherry oak table lined with white lace, the antiqued mercury glass pedestal bowl with various lavender and crème roses, purple hydrangea and chrysanthemums, red orchids, and burgundy dahlias. The sweet smell of flowers was sickening mixed with the smell of blood and death. I grabbed the edge of the oak table and squeezed. It moaned in my grasp, as Sara did when I held her neck mercilessly. The veins in my neck popped and my teeth clenched as I wrenched forward… but then I caught sound of the bedroom door opening.
I turned in solemnness, my hands peacefully folded in front of me. “I was looking at the flowers in the pedestal.”
Mr. Holstadtler’s brow furrowed slightly as he gazed at me strangely. “You wanted a word, sir?”
“Indeed.” I walked over to my bag and took out a small hand-written note on yellow paper. “These are instructions for the burial of your daughter.” Sara’s father took the paper from me slowly but continued to gaze at me as if in disbelief. “Is there a problem, Mr. Holstadtler?”
“Why do we need instructions? Funerals—”
“It’s not about the funeral. They’re literal instructions on how the body must be laid to rest. Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Islamic matters not. As long as you follow these directions – to the letter – all will be saved.”
“And if we don’t?”
“The Master vampire could find your daughter, resurrect her, and plague your family.”
Mr. Holstadtler’s eyes bulged as the bile in his stomach churned. He slapped a hand across his mouth, turned, and then grabbed his stomach with the other hand. I turned my gaze away out of curtesy and wiped the corner of my mouth. For a moment, I just stood there, staring in the dark at nothing, but soon came back to Mr. Holstadtler’s direction. He was now taking deep breaths as he patted his moistened forehead with his handkerchief. I kept watching him without saying a word.
He finally composed himself and we found ourselves eye-to-eye once more.
“Right, so, we’re to follow…” he said, clearing his throat, “to follow the instructions.”
“To the letter.”
“To the letter. Yes, sir.”
“I’ll see myself out.”
I walked down the blackened hall and followed the set of marble winding steps to the first floor. As I descended, light gradually washed over me. In opposition to the second floor, the first was bathed in soft, bright illumination. At the bottom of the stairs, I took a breath and released a long sigh. A small grin cracked the corner of my mouth and my spirit revived, like an old gent after great sex. I was back in my beloved light.
“Mr. Kade!” Mr. Holstadtler stood at the balcony of the staircase on the second floor. “How can we reach you if a problem arises?”
“My number’s on the paper. That’s my cell.”
Mr. Holstadtler checked the paper:
Bury with stake in chest – do NOT take out!
Bless body in family religious convention
Burial ground must be sacred, NO private plots
Plot must be dug to 10 feet – NO less
Do NOT invite any stranger into home for 40 days
Matthias Kade, Vampyre Paladin
“You’re from California, then? What brings you to New York?” Mr. Holstadtler inquired, but I had already begun shutting the door behind me.
I stood on the Holstadtler’s single-step porch, unmoving, as I contemplated what had just happened to their daughter. A beautiful future lost to evil and for what, why? I couldn’t understand it and it tore every fiber of my being apart. I willed the Master to come for her that night, I wanted it. Had the coward shone, his death would have been assured swiftly. Instead, I stood on that porch in vain, and he lived another day to torment yet another innocent.
I walked down the icy driveway with ease and made a right onto the sidewalk beyond the gated yard. As I walked, I thought of the many vampires that I had killed. That night, it wasn’t the killing that bothered me. Oh no! Staking vampires. Killing them. Fighting them. Saving humans from the immortal beasts. That’s what I do. I am a Vampyre Paladin, a protector of humans and champion of justice. However, not all humans can be saved, like the Holstadtler girl. I’ve had to kill newly-turned vampires before, but that girl was just thirteen years old. Too young for most fiends to be interested in. It was curious that she would have garnered any attention at all. What God-forsaken fiend would dear mark her with a tragem? That is what churned my hatred.
I’ve been a Paladin for so long that I’m usually immune to the sensitivity of mourning for lost souls. But for some reason, Sara’s transformation made my blood boil. I wanted the fiend who ruined her life and… I found myself with a desire I hadn’t felt in a long time. The desire to avenge her.
As I walked down Hughes Street, I started making a plan in my head. First, I would backtrack to find where Sara was found or likely bitten. Second, I would talk to the neighboring businesses and families. Third, I’d inhabit the haunts that a fiend might occupy in order to spy on young girls. Fourth, I’d sit and wait for anyone remotely suspicious and especially of Transylvanian breed. Though the weakest of vampires, Transylvanians are the most cunning; they have to be since they have little else to support them. The problem was that a Transylvanian vampire would avoid danger, and I might very well frighten him away. It would be a predicament but one that I needed to worry about when the time came. That night, I just didn’t care.
I rounded the corner onto Piccadilly, a usually busy street that wasn’t much busy at two in the morning. The street lights were on, one every twenty-five feet or so, and the ground still glistened from the rain that fell earlier, but it was the snow that captured my notice. Mounds of snow, from naturally fallen to mechanically plowed, lined the street. The light above gently bathed the snow in yellow hue, creating a majestic, surreal moment that warmed my very soul. I felt like I was at home, in church, wrapped in the Lord’s way. I continued to take in the imagery, my eyes closed, as I began to pray a silent prayer for Sara. After a moment, something cold melted on my forehead, then my cheek and my nose. Opening my eyes, I saw unique crystalized water falling from the sky. The free snowfall in the yellow light calmed me as I stood there, just breathing in the cold air, filling my lungs with the fresh bite of winter. I exhaled a deep sigh of frozen air and the regret I felt for Emily left me. Emily! I suddenly knew why I was so agitated, which meant that I needed to move on.
Though I was wide awake and alert, I decided to go back to my hotel. Check-out was at eleven o’clock and I still had so much to do before going back home. I looked up to the night sky, thanked the Lord for strength, and continued down Piccadilly to the Sentrigard Hotel & Suites.
Who’s Emily – and why does Sarah remind Matthias of her? What’s the regret that haunts the Vampyre Paladin? Be sure to join us again for Chapter 4, coming September 9th, 2022.