Blackwood farm, p.20

Blackwood Farm, page 20

 part  #9 of  The Vampire Chronicles Series


Blackwood Farm

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  "IT TOOK three days for me to get the laptop computer. In fact, Nash Penfield, the out-of-town teacher, purchased it when he arrived, and though I wasn't to meet him until more favorable circumstances prevailed -- my decision, not Aunt Queen's -- I was grateful that he had had the wherewithal to get the appropriate machine and a long extension cord.

  "During those three days they ran every conceivable medical test, and at the end of the ordeal it was plainly clear that I had no lesions on the temporal lobe, no indication of epilepsy and no brain tumors.

  "I was not suffering an electrolyte imbalance and I wasn't anemic. I had no circulatory problems and I was clean of all narcotics.

  "I had no thyroid problems or problems with my pituitary gland.

  "The very minor swelling of my brain, as the result of the stranger slamming me at the wall, was quickly stopped. And my headaches vanished.

  "We had a huge debate as to whether a spinal tap should be done, and I finally persuaded them to do it and get it over with. I survived the risk. They found no malignant cells in the fluid.

  "In between my long journeys down the beautifully painted passageways of the hospital labyrinth I told the full story of the violent night to everyone who wanted to hear it.

  "Dr. Winn Mayfair listened quietly and thoughtfully to my descriptions of Goblin and how Goblin had come to my defense, and Aunt Queen, who was in the room, did not interrupt, either to calm me when I became agitated or to add to what I had to say, though she was fast becoming an expert on the whole story.

  "There was something deeply reserved about Dr. Winn. I didn't feel compelled to ask for his approval so much as his expertise, delicate though he was with all his remarks. And I wasn't surprised when he asked me to speak to a small select panel of psychiatrists.

  "I said no. But Aunt Queen changed my mind. She had brought half her entire wardrobe to the hospital and was got up each day in one of her lovely sack-style dresses, with the appropriate cloche hat, and she sat at my bedside holding my hand warmly.

  " 'Don't you see, I have to do this!' she pleaded. 'I have no choice. If I don't insist that you talk to these psychiatrists, we'll stand accused of simple negligence. Think it over, Quinn. We could both be accused. We have to get this out of the way and get back to life the way we want it to be. ¡¯

  " 'And how's that, Aunt Queen? What's to happen with Blackwood Manor? Don't you realize that if you and I leave on one of your exotic junkets, there'll be no Blackwood on the premises? I'll meet this teacher, yes, I told you I would, but not here. I insist that it not be here. ¡¯

  " 'I understand, absolutely,' she said. 'And don't you worry about Nash, he's happily ensconced in the middle guest room at Blackwood Manor, and even if the plan goes south, as they say, he will have had something of a delicious Creole vacation. ¡¯

  " 'You may find this hard to imagine, but I could swear Jasmine is flirting with Nash. Something's come over Jasmine. And it's high time if you ask me. Jasmine was prancing around today in a fancy Chanel suit I gave her two years ago. She used to never wear the truly fine things that I gave her. I think Jasmine sees her destiny. ¡¯

  " 'Which is what?' I asked.

  " 'To run Blackwood Manor in our absence. She's completely capable, and Clem and Big Ramona will fully support her. I mean Jasmine has languished in domestic service all her life and she's sharp and well spoken and can certainly take on the responsibility for a portion of the profit. ¡¯

  " 'I didn't know we made a profit,' I said. 'Pops said we operated at a loss perpetually. ¡¯

  " 'Oh, Pops was pessimistic, bless his soul, and of course he was right. The guests pay for some of the maintenance and upkeep and that's the whole point, to keep Blackwood Manor in existence, isn't it? Maybe I should say earnings instead of profit. How does that sound to you? When Pops' will is read, everything will be easier. ¡¯

  " 'When is that to happen?' I asked.

  " 'Well, Patsy's home, she has been for two days. I imagine we could do it day after tomorrow. ¡¯

  " 'All right,' I said. I was dazed by all this sudden information. I'd been so self-involved, so full of fear and strange dreams of Rebecca and glances from a Technicolor Goblin.

  "This idea of Jasmine running Blackwood Manor began to excite me. It was perfect for Jasmine. Aunt Queen understood Jasmine as no one else did, not even Jasmine.

  "Suddenly, and with surprising verve, I wanted to escape this place. If Jasmine was going to resist her 'destiny,' I wanted a chance to talk to her. The simple fact was that Jasmine did run Blackwood Manor to a large extent, and though I wasn't so all-fired sure of her brother Clem supporting her, he might become a second-string supervisor for the men -- a job that Pops' helper, Allen, had done directly. I wanted desperately to get back.

  "Besides, I wanted to see Jasmine all got up in a Chanel suit.

  "(In my fiendish eighteen-year-old heart, I wanted a second shot at Jasmine. )

  " 'All right, I'll see the panel of doctors,' I said. 'But I want my own clothes. I don't intend to run off. I just want my Armani duds, one of those handmade shirts you keep sending me from Europe, and my lucky Versace tie. Oh yeah, and my Johnston & Murphy shoes. I want to look sane if nothing else. And also Goblin likes those clothes. Whenever I dress up for an event at home, he's delirious. ¡¯

  " 'That's very reassuring,' she said. 'I'll see to it at once. And really you should wear your Church's shoes. And can we expect Goblin to be with you at this meeting?¡¯

  " 'Of course,' I said. 'You think I'd cut him out? Besides, I can't always control what Goblin does. He's been quiet here in this place. He's put up with a great quantity of contemptuous dismissal. ¡¯

  " 'I suppose so,' she said, and I saw that she was staring right at the spot where Goblin stood staring at her in the same cold remote fashion.

  "What I couldn't tell her was that Goblin had been acting strangely throughout the hospital stay. Also his appearance was no longer a duplicate of mine, though it might be when I was outfitted for the psychiatric panel.

  "On the contrary, he didn't wear the hospital gowns or flannel nightshirts that I wore. He wore the jeans and shirts that were back home -- an amazing development.

  "But it was the ever-shifting expressions on his face which most frightened me. I was definitely seeing his entire visage in greater detail. And there was a frigid quality to him and a despairing look at times, and it was rarely if ever a mirror of my feelings.

  "After all, I hadn't felt the usual spells of panic in the hospital. I felt a cowardly sense of safety. There was too much going on, what with Aunt Queen ordering high tea to be served in my room and Big Ramona dropping in with fancy nightshirts for me and Sweetheart's beloved sister, Aunt Ruthie, coming by with gourmet chocolates, and guards poking their heads through the door and various cousins coming to pay their respects, though what they thought had happened to me, I don't know.

  "Anyway, after innumerable delays I had the coveted laptop; I was seated in an easy chair beside the hospital bed and I wanted to draw Goblin out. My mind was a tangle of thoughts about Goblin.

  " 'I need to work now, Aunt Queen,' I said very gently. 'Kiss me and go off to Commander's Palace for dinner. You haven't been there since this started. ¡¯

  "She was suspicious. 'But you've no phone hookup here; what are you planning to do with the laptop? Write a novel?¡¯

  " 'I'm talking to Goblin through it. It's easier for him than telepathy. He feeds off the electricity. He asked for this. ¡¯

  " 'Oh, my darling Quinn,' she said with a flamboyant gesture of confusion and anxiety.

  " 'Aunt Queen, let me tell you again, he saved my life. That bastard would have killed me!¡¯

  " 'Darling, what would happen if you simply stopped speaking to Goblin altogether? And as for the island, what if we destroy the Hermitage, dismantle the strange mausoleum and move all of its gold panels back to the house and let the wisteria have the place?¡¯<
br />
  " 'You're shocking me,' I said. 'You're hurting me! I want the Hermitage. I've been inspired by that marble desk and golden chair. I want to paint the place, floor it in marble. Look, I know the grief I'm causing you. I know the pain you've been through with Pops' death, and I don't mean for this agony to go on, but I want that place, don't you see, and it belongs to us, not this interloper!¡¯

  "I glanced at Goblin. He was watching Aunt Queen in the most intense manner. And then he looked at me almost listlessly. It was as if he had acquired a taste for boredom. I had to talk to him. I had to make some judgment of what he now knew! I was the only person in the world who understood this problem.

  " 'All right, precious dear,' said my beloved aunt. 'I'm going upstairs for supper. ¡¯

  "She had previously made known to me, more than once, that there were four restaurants in this complex and the finest could rival any restaurant in New Orleans. This was all Rowan Mayfair's idea, to provide varying fare for relatives of the sick and the sick themselves. You could grab a quick meal in the generic cafeteria in the basement or mount to the rooftop Grand Lumini¨¨re for the most succulent choices.

  "Aunt Queen had become a regular at the Grand Lumini¨¨re, and my meals came directly from their kitchen.

  " 'I'm meeting Nash, you know,' she went on to say, 'and if you'd only just --¡¯

  " 'I'll meet him when I'm properly dressed,' I said. 'Not when I'm got up like Wee Willie Winkie. ¡¯

  "She rose to go.

  " 'And there's another thing,' I said.

  " 'Yes?' she asked. She was so polite, standing over me, ready to plant her tender kiss, so solicitous.

  " 'When do I get out of here?¡¯

  "Obviously this was a moment for a decision.

  " 'Tomorrow, perhaps, after you talk to the panel of psychiatrists?' she proposed. 'It's scheduled for four p. m. ¡¯

  "Already arranged, I thought, but I made no remark on it.

  " 'All right,' I said. 'Then suppose you and I and Nash and Goblin have supper in the Grand Lumini¨¨re after the appointment with the panel is over. ¡¯

  " 'That sounds marvelous,' she said. 'You've made me very happy. Oh, so extremely happy. And you should see the restaurant. And you will! And I can't wait to tell Nash. ' And after another wealth of kisses she was off with the fragrance of Lynelle's marvelous perfume lingering behind her.

  "I looked at Goblin. He showed no inclination to move from his lazy position in the corner. He was wearing my lucky Versace tie. It was positively flaunting.

  "I flicked on the computer. 'You haven't talked to me since that first night. ' I said it as I typed it. 'What's up with you? What's the matter? I've told everyone what you did. I've given you credit. ¡¯

  "He was gone, and the fact that he had been so vivid made it all the more startling. The computer keys started to move; he wrote:

  " 'I like being angry. ¡¯

  "I was stunned.

  " 'That's wrong,' I typed as I spoke. 'The man who hurt me was angry. Did you see the bad things he did to me?¡¯

  " 'Use bigger words,' said the computer in a rapid fire of keys. 'I told you I know all the words you ever used on the computer. I listen. I know. I know words and things. And when I was angry it was for you. ¡¯

  " 'I know it was for me,' I replied, speaking and tapping it out. 'Surely you've heard me tell everyone. ¡¯

  " 'Don't you see what is happening to you here?' he asked. The keys were moving at terrific speed. 'They are trying to take me from you. They are trying to divide us and we are Quinn Goblin and they don't understand about us. ¡¯

  " 'It doesn't matter what they think,' I said. I spoke softly. 'I love you. I am loyal to you. They can't part us. It's impossible. But you can't be angry. You can't be violent. If you're angry and violent I can't love you. ¡¯

  " 'Unless it's for you, you mean,' he countered. 'If it's for you, then it's good, isn't it?¡¯

  "He had never phrased anything in this way. It was a tiny yet momentous twist of sophistication.

  " 'That's true,' I said. 'I do want you to protect me. Protect Blackwood Manor. Protect all those I love. ¡¯

  " 'You make me laugh,' he wrote.

  " 'Why's that?' I asked with belligerent innocence.

  "The computer was pushed out of my lap to the floor. Before I could rise from the chair he was beside me, fully realized, and he kissed me on the lips. Then he drew back until he was no more than a foot from me, and his arms slipped around me and they gripped me.

  "He moved his lips, and for the first time I heard a true voice come out of him, slow, masculine in tone and without inflection.

  " 'You're afraid of me now,' he said, his lips moving sluggishly.

  " 'Is that what you want?' I asked.

  "I was terrified. Never once in my brawl with the stranger had I felt this kind of fear.

  " 'You want me to be afraid?' I asked. 'I can't love you and be afraid of you. I'll come to hate you if I'm afraid. Did you see how I hated the stranger? Make a choice. ¡¯

  "Again, he came in for the kiss, and I felt his lips on mine, just as firmly as I had felt Jasmine's kisses. His hand went down between my legs. He ran his hand under my nightshirt.

  " 'No, not here,' I said. 'Be patient. ¡¯

  "Again he spoke to me. He spoke.

  " 'But when you feel it, I feel it. I want it. ¡¯

  "I felt his hand on my cock, and I gave in. I gave in quickly, and it was over within seconds.

  "I sat back in the easy chair and closed my eyes. My body was lulled and humming. There was a time of silence. Perhaps five or more minutes. But he was still there. He was kneeling right beside me, but I couldn't look at him.

  " 'Who was the stranger?' I asked. I opened my eyes. 'I've asked you over and over. Who was he?¡¯

  " 'I don't know,' he responded. The sound of the monotone voice was literally dreadful.

  " 'Where is the stranger?' I asked.

  " 'I don't know,' he responded again. 'If I knew, I would find him and hurt him. I don't know everything. ' On it went, flat and low. 'I know lots more than you think I do. ¡¯

  "I said nothing. I was too afraid. I tried to feel love, not because I wanted to love him but because I was going mad. By tomorrow I might be roaring mad.

  " 'I want you to leave me now,' I said. I looked into his eyes. 'I want you to leave me to think, you understand me?¡¯

  " 'You think you can command me,' came that monotone voice. The lips were slightly disconnected from it. 'You can't command me,' he said. 'But for love, I'll leave you alone. Beware of what they do to you here. ¡¯

  " 'Don't frighten me anymore,' I said.

  " 'I don't want to frighten you,' said the voice. 'But you must understand they want to change you. They want to make you so you can't see or hear me. ¡¯

  " 'That can't be done,' I whispered. 'Go now. I must be alone. Don't you ever want to be alone?¡¯

  "No answer.

  " 'Where do you go when you're not with me?' I asked.

  "No answer.

  " 'Tell me,' I said. 'Where do you go when you leave? Or do you stay with me, invisible, just watching and learning?¡¯

  "No answer.

  "I felt him leave. I felt a change of temperature in the room. I heard things stirring, the paper tissue ruffled in its box, the creak of the bed, the faint rattle of the Venetian blinds, then nothing.

  "I made the Sign of the Cross. What was I going to do? Where was I going to go to find someone who would understand this? Hell, I needed someone to tell me what to do.

  "I went into the bathroom and washed the slimy semen off my legs. I washed my hands. Then I came back, and I took my rosary out of the nightstand. Big Ramona had found it for me. It was a garnet rosary from my First Communion. Lynelle's gift. I started to say it.

  "But I couldn't meditate on the mysteries. I thought of the stranger. What if he came back to Blackwood Manor? If the Hermitage was destroyed, what would he do? I pictured h
im, those fiery dark eyes. How perfectly furious he had been, pivoting wild as a dervish as the broken glass assaulted him.

  "And if I went to sleep, I'd dream of Rebecca. "
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