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Friday, 19 January 2018

Vampire Farmer - Penny Farthing Mystery - Chapters Seven and Eight


Life Goes On

The following morning as Kitty stood at the Aga shaking a pan full of sizzling bacon she glanced out of the kitchen window across the farmyard. The cows were back in the pasture after milking. Ben and Young Ted stood heads together, inspecting the tractor engine. She could see their breath rise from their mouth as they spoke to each other. It all looked so normal. Sighing, she knocked hard on the window to attract their attention and let them know breakfast was almost ready.
Ben straightened up, acknowledged his mother with a wave, tossed a spanner into the tool box. ‘Time to eat.’ He hoped blood wasn’t supposed to be a substitute for food especially the cooked breakfasts he loved so much.
‘Aye, I’m starving. Could eat a scabby hos’ and run after the jockey.’ Young Ted looked across to the farmhouse, and sniffed the air. ‘I can smell bacon.’
‘Come on, shift yourself.’
‘Wash your hands and sit yourself down, Ted lad.’ Kitty slid fried eggs sunny side up onto plates loaded with bacon, mushrooms, beans and fried bread.
Ted sat at the table. ‘Thanks, Kitty.’ He grinned up at her. ‘You do look after me.’ He tucked into his breakfast, a small frown on his face as he glanced up at Kitty again. ‘Mind if I say you’re looking a bit peaky today. Are you feeling all right? Ben said you’d not been well.’

‘I’m feeling the cold. It seems to be penetrating my bones and it’s worsened my arthritis pains.’ Kitty rubbed her hands together and splayed her fingers. ‘Even doing that hurts. Not as young as I used to be and I can’t shake this chill.’ She smiled at Ted, reached out and squeezed his shoulder. ‘Thank you for asking, lad. Not many eighteen year olds would even notice.’
‘You’ve always treat me like one of the family, Kitty. I appreciate everything you do for me. You’re like a third Nan.’
‘And we appreciate your help, lad.’
Don walked into the kitchen, sat down at the head of the table, didn’t say a word.
Breakfast over Ted stepped outside for a cigarette.
Ben reached for his jacket. ‘Popping to the vets, Ma, anything you need at the shops?’
‘I have a list.’ Kitty reached into her apron pocket, handed the list to Ben.
Ben glanced at it. ‘Liver. Good. Need all the liver I can get.’ I might even have to eat it raw, he thought, I’d rather do that because Da’s blood doesn’t agree with me.
‘You do, son. Now then—are you applying that cream Doctor Walton gave you?’
‘Day and night, Ma, and in between. Put so much on last night I nearly slid out of bed.’
‘You taking the car?’ Don spoke his first words of the day.
‘Thought I would. I don’t need much, and I can drop Ted off.’
Ben opened the door, bright sunlight hit him full in the face. ‘Bloody hell. It wasn’t this sunny before breakfast,’ he mumbled to himself. Squinting he pulled his shades out of his coat pocket and put them on before stepping outside.
Blood isn’t working yet then, he thought, kicking stones in frustration as he called to Ted to get a move on.
Ben was back in the kitchen within the hour. He wanted to dodge the strong sunlight as fast as possible.
‘I’ll make a stew. Then it’s just to warm up tonight,’ Kitty stood up, wiped her hands on her apron.
‘Thanks, Ma.’ Ben started to put the shopping away.
‘I was thinking…why don’t you take some of them little cakes you made along for your cast?’ Kitty pulled the kettle to one side of the Aga. ‘Give them a treat.’
‘Now that’s a nice thought.’ Ben frowned knowing if he did they entire cast and crew would all fall asleep. Don’s attention was taken by the newspaper and Kitty, still fussing with the kettle, had her back to her son. Quickly Ben gathered his thoughts, ‘Not tonight. I’ll not take the cakes tonight.’
‘That’s not like you, not wanting to show off your baking.’ Kitty turned round.
Ben had to think quick. ‘Another time, as a special treat for when they all know their lines properly.’
‘I might have known you’d have a better idea up your sleeve.’ She smiled fondly at her son.
Ben had a sudden need for fresh air. ‘I’ll just nip out and put the tractor under cover. I won’t be needing it again today. And while I remember, Ted’s coming to do the milking.’ With that he rushed out of the kitchen banging the door hard.
‘What the hell’s up with him?’ Don said.
Kitty shrugged her shoulders. ‘God knows,’ she said. ‘Do you think he’s turning into one of them drama queens? He’s never slammed doors before.’
‘Bloody hell—that’s all we need!’ 


The Cemetery

In the village hall Ben was preparing the stage ready for his cast. Colin arrived first. ‘Play’s coming along well,’ he said as he carried a couple of chairs across the room to place in front of the stage.
‘We’re getting there,’ Ben held up a CD, ‘I’ve brought the music I’ve chosen for it tonight.’
‘Good. What have you got?’ Colin pushed the chairs together.
‘I thought Manhattan Transfer, Chanson D’Amour. It can play while the audience are coming in, then again during the interval while folk have a drink and a cake.’
‘Great choice.’ Colin started to whistle and dance to the tune. ‘I think it’ll get everyone in the mood.’
The rest of the cast arrived and dumped their bags on a table at the back of the hall.
‘Hope you’ve all got your lines off,’ Ben called as they stepped on stage.
‘Nearly,’ Mary said as she took out her spectacles. She had a neck cord attached to her specs because she was always losing them. ‘Right, I’m ready.’ She popped the cord around her neck and promptly fell over. The cord had caught on one of the props, she went red in the face.
Choke you bugger, Ben thought to himself, lifting his book to hide his smirk. ‘Are you alright, Mary?’ .
Mary coughed, unable to answer. Someone unhooked the cord, Colin ran to fetch her a glass of water, the rest of the cast fussed over her.
‘Here, drink this.’ Colin thrust the glass into her hand.
Mary spluttered her thanks. ‘Thought I was a gonna there.’
We should be so lucky you old trout, Ben thought. He barely waited for Mary to take a second sip. ‘Drama over. Can we start now, please.’
Mary and Colin turned in unison and walked to the back of the stage. As Mary set the glass of water down on a table she touched Colin’s arm. ‘Colin, there is definitely something not right with Ben.’
‘Indeed! We’ll talk later,’ Colin turned to face their Director and began to speak his character’s lines.
The rehearsal went well. Although the prompt wasn’t idle, overall, Ben was impressed.
Ben drove home. He really could have downed a pint of beer but thoughts of his doctors instructions swirled in his head. Now what did Doctor Walton say? I should have written it down. I think I remember him saying if you fancy a pint of beer drink blood instead. That means tonight I need blood. The very thought of it made him feel sick to the stomach but, he had to follow doctor’s orders.
Before going into the house he nipped into the barn to collect the catheter and needles from its hiding place. He pushed them into his coat pocket for later.
Warmth greeted him along with music from the television. ‘You’re still up then,’ he shouted through to the living room.
‘We are, lad,’ Kitty replied.
‘I’ll bring you a brew then, and some cake.’
‘That’ll be nice. The stew is in the Aga, bottom over, keeping warm.’
Ben carried a tray through to his parents. ‘There you go.’ He set it on the low table in front of them. ‘I’ll have some stew in a minute.’
Ben sat in an armchair. ‘Mary nearly choked herself with her glasses cord tonight.’
‘Did she make a spectacle of herself?’ Don interjected.
’Something like that.’
His parents roared with laughter. Ben watched as his father dozed off, closely followed by his mother. Tranquilliser’s working, he thought, I’ll give them another five minutes to be on the safe side.
Confident both parents were out for the count Ben inserted the needle into Don’s right arm, he’d used the left previously. He watched his father’s blood trickle through the tube dripping into the milk bottle he was holding. He knew it would take ages, but he did not want to suck on the tube to speed up the flow. Aware Don might wake up so he decided a small amount would suffice.
‘You never did give anything away, Da,’ Ben muttered to the sleeping man. It was a slow process, too slow for comfort. Ben started to feel edgy. He couldn’t wait any longer. He removed the needle and pressed a piece of cotton wool to the vein. Marvellous, he breathed out in relief, bleeding had stopped. And no mark. Ben held the bottle up to the light. ‘Thanks Da, this looks good to me.’ He across at his sleeping mother. ‘I’ll not be taking your blood, Ma. It looks to me like you need it more than I do.’
In the kitchen Ben held the milk bottle to his lips and gulped down the warm liquid; he was promptly sick in the kitchen sink. Shaking his head in disbelief, he muttered, ‘Will I ever get used to this?’ Distressed and forgetting to pull on the Marigolds he cleaned the kitchen sink until it sparkled. His hands itched and blood seeped from his skin. He applied a thick coating of ointment to both hands, the soreness eased.
When he returned to the living room with his bowl of stew both Kitty and Don were watching television through half closed eyes.
‘Think we’re ready for bed, lad,’ Kitty said. ‘Come on Don, move yourself.’ She stood up, taking Don’s arm to help him out of his chair.
‘I can manage, woman. I’m not dead yet.’ Don’s bones creaked as he straightened himself. He yawned. ‘My God, I can’t believe how tired I am. I feel like I’ve had all the blood drained out of me.’
Ben gasped, his heart missed a beat. You’ll never know how true that statement is Father, he thought, as he started to plump cushions, ‘Goodnight,’ he said without turning round. In the quiet of the room he sat by the firelight trying to make some sense out of what was happening to him, but it was beyond his understanding. All he achieved was a headache along with a pressing urgency to find a fresh source of blood. No matter what he thought of his father, taking his blood did not sit well with Ben. What if he took all of his Da’s blood and he died. Then what? There had to be another way.
He reached for his laptop and searched for Vampires. Everything he found said blood should be taken from a living person. That didn’t help. He had some thinking to do. The kitten jumped onto the table and looked at the screen. ‘Have you seen this, Fluffy?’ he said the kitten. ‘There’s nowt for a modern day vampire like me, these are all old stories. I’m going to try something different.’
When he was sure Don and Kitty were sound asleep, dressed in warm dark clothing, and wellingtons, Ben left the house. He headed for the cemetery, about a mile as the crow flies, stopping off at the tool shed to collect a shovel. He’d always been a night hawk. Always loved the moonlight. The sky was beautiful tonight, stars glittered and a glorious full moon bathed the world with soft eerie light. Ben could see across the valley and well up the dale.

Ben was on a mission. There had been a funeral the previous day and his intention was to find the grave. An owl screeched in his ear. ‘Hell’s bells,’ he gasped, ‘this would be a proper hoot if it wasn’t so serious.’ A bat dive-bombed him. ‘Hope you’re not Dracula,’ he giggled, ‘only room for one vampire in this cemetery.’ He raised his hand to deter the bat and slipped on the newly mown grass. ‘It takes weeks to get volunteers to cut the grass and some clever sod had to cut it today.’ He moved on. His shovel, now over his shoulder, clanged off a yew tree almost knocking him off his feet. ‘Who put that tree there? Frighten the life out of somebody.’
It was easy to find the fresh grave in the little cemetery. Ben stood looking down at it for a while before moving the flowers to one side. He started to dig. His mind a blank. The only sound his spade disturbing the earth. He stopped digging. ‘What the hell was that?’ Put his hand to his ear. Voices. He dropped to his knees, peeped over the nearest headstone to see who it was. It was too dark. He crawled to the side of the graveyard, and merged with the shadows and trees.
He counted  three people walking between the headstones, wearing black caped overcoats, carrying bulky equipment. They stopped. Their voices were mumbled, but one voice stood out. Ben’s ears strained to hear. The man spoke with lisp. Ben’s heart raced. That’s Tom Twatters, Ben thought. It has to be him. He’s been getting himself a new set of dentures. But what the hell’s he doing here? And who are the other two?

The hair on the back of Ben’s neck stood on end. He was petrified. He crouched behind one of the tallest gravestones willing his heart to slow down. He began to sweat, he lifted his arm and sniffed his armpit it was damp and smelly. ‘Yuk.’ Every noise sounded louder, more exaggerated. The moon slipped behind clouds as Ben peered from behind the gravestone. A midge was feeding off him, but he couldn’t do anything about it.
One of the group struck a match and lit an oil lamp. Then silence. They stood in the darkness. Ben stifled a tickle in his throat. He gulped the air. Panic almost making him run for his life. He thought he couldn’t hang on a second longer. He put a hand over his mouth, he felt as though his eyes bulged out of their sockets. He heard digging followed by what he thought was plastic rustling and he could have sworn he heard a zipper being pulled. Then relief. The group was leaving carrying something between them.
Ben sat back against the gravestone. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow, took his cap off, and put it on again. The moon came out from behind the cloud. It was now at the far side of the cemetery. What the hell was going on here? Might they come back? He remembered he needed to get blood. Whatever he’d just witnessed would have to wait, he would think about that later. Time to dig.
After a while there was a thud. ‘That’s it, I’ve hit the coffin at last.’ He undid the screws and used his shovel to ease the lid open. He looked down on the body of a woman, her eyes shut, she was wearing full make-up.
He wasn’t a religious man, but felt the need to cross himself before he spoke to the body. ‘Sorry Mrs, but I need your blood.’ He took his catheter out of his pocket, and tried to insert the needle into her arm. ‘Skins a bit tough, Mrs. Nearly broke the needle.’
He tried all ways to get blood to run through the tube. Nothing. Sweating profusely Ben muttered, ‘I’ll have to suck it through.’ He hated what he was doing. Felt terrible. But how else would he get human blood without taking it from a live person? He sucked. Then spat. ‘What in God’s name is that? That’s not blood.’ Then it hit him. ‘It must be embalming fluid. You trying to poison me?’ He shut the lid; filled in the grave, replaced the flowers and headed home. He needed a Plan B.

Reverend Marjorie Dore opened her eyes, she was shivering. Blood trickled down her face. She sat up, reached into her pocket for a tissue. Her head hurt; not much blood. She felt her body; no broken bones. What happened? Then it all came back to her.
She had been running through the cemetery. She lost her balance, stumbled. Her head connected with a gravestone. How long have I been unconscious? she wondered. She looked at her watch; it was too dark to see the pointers. She held her head in her hands, took a deep breath and attempted to stand. She struggled as headstones swam before her eyes. Who were they? She had to get home, phone the police. Her hand reached in the direction of a tree, everything went black.

                          HIS                                                                                           HERS

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