Blackwood farm, p.15

Blackwood Farm, page 15

 part  #9 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


Blackwood Farm

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  "ON THE FOLLOWING MORNING, Sugar Devil Island, which had always been the biggest secret of Blackwood Farm, became host to a dozen crime fighters, including not only the sheriff of Ruby River Parish and his deputies but two private investigators hired directly by Aunt Queen, two private laboratory technicians and two gentlemen from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  "In this way, the Hermitage became public knowledge. And as I stood there on the banks, directing people to the locality where I saw the bodies dumped in the open swamp, I was treated to the semi-welcome sight of people trooping all over Manfred's sacred retreat.

  "Pops had had real bad indigestion after breakfast and said that he just couldn't go with us. It made him feel really bad, but he just wasn't up to it.

  "Aunt Queen, of course, could not be expected to make such a journey, but she did, handsomely turned out in khaki sportswear, which made her look like a nineteenth-century archaeologist. (I had forgotten that she had been to the Amazon only the year before for a retreat in the jungle. )

  "And of course Jasmine was with us, in blue jeans, which she never wore, breasts poking through one of my hand-me-down checkered shirts, smoking Camel cigarettes and eyeing everybody with suspicion if not downright scorn.

  "And I stood there, listening for anything that would lessen my feelings of being isolated and ridiculed.

  "Of course, dead bodies in the swamp were nowhere to be found.

  "But probing some six to ten feet of soft-bottomed muck was no easy task, and the alligators surrounding the island were particularly obtrusive and 'friendly,' which to me meant only one thing: they were expecting to be fed and they had probably just been fed on the bodies I'd seen given over to them.

  "As for the remains, or the second-floor 'residue,' as it became officially called, a good sample of it was removed from the premises by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and by laboratory technicians from the private laboratory of Mayfair Medical, the giant private establishment only recently built by the famous Mayfair family of New Orleans, the family of which Fr. Kevin Mayfair was a Yankee member -- which I've mentioned to you before.

  "The FBI was there because they had the wherewithal to collect and test the residue, and because they had extensive files on missing persons which might just provide a DNA match to seal the story for some miserable victim's family.

  "Mayfair Medical was there because they too had a state-of-the-art laboratory, and Aunt Queen had hired them to do the test on our behalf, the Hermitage being a dwelling on our property.

  "The sheriff was there to traffic in platitudes and truisms and puffed-up stories about the practical jokes he played on his friends, and in general to be a source of comic relief.

  "As for the letter which the mysterious stranger had given me, this had not been given to the FBI as I had requested, but to Mayfair Medical. Would that destroy a 'chain of evidence' if DNA from recent missing persons was found in the Hermitage? No. Because nothing linked the letter to the Hermitage except my meager testimony.

  "Or so I understood the situation to be on the morning of this wholesale melee in which interstate officialdom and southern recalcitrance met head-on in a dense and reeking bog full of reptiles and insects.

  "The men from the FBI were respectable and respecting, which is probably why the sheriff and his men would hardly acknowledge their existence. I gave my full statement to anyone who asked, and that included the technicians from Mayfair Medical, both of whom were tremendously curious about the task at hand, i. e. , the collection of the data.

  "Nobody fingerprinted the mysterious marble desk and Roman chair, but just about everybody sooner or later touched it.

  "Everybody -- even the sheriff -- was impressed with the gold mausoleum, if that was what it was, and repeated efforts by various parties failed to discover any way to open it. The gold plates (the sheriff insisted they were brass), I repeat, the gold plates were so securely fitted into the granite framework that only a very destructive crowbar might have managed to loosen them, which we, the proud owners of the mausoleum, refused to allow.

  "Finally, at midafternoon it was decided to call off the search for remains and the sheriff and his men made their way out, cursing their little pirogues and their poles and the cypress trees with their outrageous roots and knees, the wisteria and the blackberries and the heat and the mosquitoes. The FBI gentlemen went the same route, behaving altogether in a more reserved manner, as our local handyman, Jackson, was steering their boat and it did not seem to be the FBI style to curse at things.

  "Aunt Queen, Jasmine and I, along with our Shed Men, Clem and Felix (both Jasmine's brothers, and one Aunt Queen's oftentimes chauffeur), not wishing to remain on the island alone -- Jasmine had seen the letter -- hurried behind the FBI right back to the landing.

  "Once safe within the orbit of Blackwood Manor I told Clem and Felix that I wanted to wire the Hermitage for electricity in the near future, and to please not forget where they had just been. Aunt Queen gave her consent and so they paid attention to me.

  "Also they were too kind to snicker. Also they were tired, and I gave them both a cash bonus, of which Jasmine expressed a certain refined jealousy. So I gave her a cash bonus too, which I was positive she wouldn't accept but she did, conspicuously stuffing it into her brassiere and winking at me.

  "On that account I grabbed her and bent her way back and kissed her hard, to which she said in a whisper: 'Once you go black, you never go back. ' And I nearly died laughing.

  " 'Where did you hear that?' I asked.

  " 'Forever and a long time ago,' she said. 'I'm surprised you never heard it. Watch your step, Little Boss. ' Off she went, helping Aunt Queen up the slope, the two of them whispering suspiciously together.

  "I don't know why I was so afraid. Everybody knew I'd told the truth about the existence of the island. Everybody had seen the marble desk and the golden chair. Everybody had seen the strange inscription on the mausoleum.

  "Had I not gloried in those first few moments this morning when the chain of little pirogues came within sight of the island? Yes, I had! And had I not gloried in the moment of shock when everyone crowded onto the second floor of the Hermitage to see the evil rusted chains and the blackened morass on the floor? Yes, I had.

  "But what did it mean now?

  "It was four o'clock. The sun was lowering. The property, for all its vain magnificence, looked forlorn.

  "I went low, very low.

  "I stood out front, beyond Pops' close and beautiful flower beds, staring at the big columns of the house until Aunt Queen came out on the front porch and told me she'd been looking for me everywhere. I knew I ought to answer her but it seemed difficult for me to break the silence that surrounded me.

  "I knew on some level that her genial, sweet face was just what I needed in my selfish little soul, but I couldn't speak. I thought of the mysterious stranger, I thought of the bodies slipping into the muck. I saw the moonlight as if it were shining on me now. I saw the dim figure who had stood at my bedroom fireplace. Glint of light on hand, on forehead, on cheek. Terror. I felt mystery, yes, but cold panic.

  "Aunt Queen came near to me. She said words but I didn't hear them. Then out of the silence I heard her voice. . . something about men being on the property to guard it. Men paid from an agency in New Orleans, excellent security men.

  "Cerebrally I knew these words meant something. They meant something good, and I formed mental images of these men -- of their being at the doors, and sitting in the parlor, the kitchen, the dining room. I pictured. When I can't think or register, I picture. I listened.

  "But nothing could touch the cold panic I felt, and my only recourse seemed a motionlessness.

  " 'Quinn!' she said. She put her hand on my neck, and I looked at her and I thought, How long will it be before she dies? And my throat was so tight I couldn't speak.

  "Finally I came to the surface. I took her hand and
kissed it, and I said, 'Let me help you up the steps, you always wear these impossible shoes, look at you, and what if you fall and you break a hip, what then, my beloved aunt, you won't be able to go to Katmandu or Timbuktu or Iceland. ¡¯

  "She took my arm and into the house we went, and after seeing her to her room, and nodding to the security guard who sat in the far corner of the dining room, I went up the stairs.

  "This memory's etched: but what isn't?

  "The panic was still on me. Would it be washed away? I went into the bathroom, stripped off the dirty swamp clothes and stepped into the shower.

  "I let the warm water splash over me, praying, if I was capable of praying, that this feeling of despair, this awful despair, would leave me. I tried to reach back to the excitement I'd felt when I first came upon the island. I tried to feel anything that would lift the awful despair from me. But excitement had turned to dread, and I was an expert on dread. Now it had other springs to feed it.

  "I must have had my eyes closed. Because quite suddenly I realized Goblin was in the shower with me. And then I opened my eyes and saw him right in front of me.

  "He was solid, so solid that the water washed over him, over his hair and his face and his shoulders. He was staring at me with big vital eyes.

  " 'Go away, Goblin,' I said, which was what I always said when he came to interfere with my taking a bath or shower.

  "But he showed no signs of backing off, and as I looked into his eyes I realized he was obdurately maintaining his stand and that the water was making him tremendously strong. I also realized that I had never seen the water washing down over him like this before. The water had at other times passed through him. He had volume here; he had new power.

  "A sudden fear of him infected me. It was like the moment in the church at Lynelle's Memorial Mass, when he had knelt so very close to me after Communion.

  "His cock was erect. So was mine.

  "Never taking his eyes from mine for a moment, he reached for the soap on the small porcelain shelf, and he took this into his hands, and he lathered his hands thickly.

  "But how is this possible? I thought. But he was doing it, he was holding the bar of soap, and as he put the soap back he reached under my scrotum and cupped it in his left hand and then put his right hand around my cock.

  " 'No, don't do it, stop it, what are you doing?' I asked. But I was too far gone, and the motion of his right hand became rhythmical and my cock grew harder and harder and my willpower vanished.

  "As I came he put his left arm tight around me and held me, and I felt his cock next to mine and I held his neck, unable to stand for a moment.

  "When it was over, I rested back against the warm tiles, still savoring the pleasure, weak all over from the pleasure, the water softly thundering down, staring questioningly at him. His image -- if I even thought of it as an image -- was more vivid than ever.

  "I closed my eyes. I was filled with both love and hatred. Most of all I was full of shame, and I thought of how all the world would say I had done this to myself, only making up the story of Goblin; but he had done it and I knew that he could do it again anytime that I wanted it. Or anytime that he wanted it. Again. Yes, again, forever. Me and Goblin forever.

  "When I opened my eyes he was still grotesquely close to me, his eyes gleaming, his lips smiling. Am I this handsome? I thought. No. Something else shines from my eyes.

  " 'Get away now!' I whispered furiously.

  "He put his lips to my ear. I heard his telepathic voice in my head, a thin ribbon of words under the thunder of the shower:

  "Again I felt his left arm around my shoulder, and when he drew back I kissed him openmouthed and lusty and closer to him than to any living thing, and then I shuddered.

  "I pushed him with all my strength and of course my mental strength went behind that physical push, and he dissolved, and to my faint horror steam rose where he had been, as if a fissure had been opened in the floor to emit that steam, and then there was nothing.

  "There came a pounding on the door. I heard Big Ramona say,

  " 'Tarquin Blackwood, come out of there!¡¯

  "She knows, I thought, the whole world knows. Angry, I toweled dry and opened the door for her because she wouldn't stop pounding.

  " 'Good Heavens,' I said. 'Is this house on fire again?¡¯

  "Then I saw the tears on her cheeks.

  " 'It's Pops,' she said. 'He's been fighting with Patsy, out yonder by the gates. That damned Patsy. Come on, son! Come on, you're the man of the house now, they need you!' "
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