Sammy took the lead as they walked slowly down the stone block corridor to the light at the other end. There was no detours or safe passages to be considered. They either had to turn around and go back out the door or continue on and face the shadows.
When they reached the end of the corridor, they peaked around the corner. The glow from flaming torches, held in wall sconces around the room, revealed vampires playing with a young woman, her wrists chained. She was being batted around like cats playing with a mouse while they laughed like gleeful drunkards.
Ruby and Sammy were outnumbered and unfit for a fight. Aside from the relic, crucifix, garlic, and holy water—all of which they had no idea if they even worked as any type of defense—they realized they would be hastening their own demise.
Sammy wiped sweat from his brow, agreeing with Ruby’s nod to continue what they had started. He stood in full view and shouted, “Hey, stop that.”
The vampires stopped, giving the woman one last shove to the floor, as they turned to look at Sammy and Ruby. A half-dozen vampires, dressed more like peasants than the royal attire of Draven, walked up to them.
“Well, well, what do we have here?” One of the less elegant vampires said.
“Stop messing with her,” Sammy said, as his lower lip quivered.
“And what are you going to do if we don’t?” the vampire said.
Sammy and Ruby looked at each other, unsure how to answer the question.
One of the vampires walked up to Ruby. “I’ve seen you before. Who are you?”
As she tried not to breathe in the corpse’s foul smelling breath, the feeling of déjà vu came over her again. “I’m looking for my brother Alan and my friend, Patty. Do you know where they’re at?”
The vampire tapped a long jagged fingernail on his chin. “I’m sure I know you. I’ll figure it out.” Then he looked at Sammy. “But you, fat man, I don’t know you.”
In a flash, the vampire—surrounded by his cronies—grabbed Sammy’s neck and began squeezing. Sammy tried to pry the bony yet unusually strong fingers from his throat.
Then, by pure instinct, Ruby thrust her arm against the vampire’s arm, breaking his grasp. Then she jabbed at it neck, punched the ribs, and kicked the stomach, causing it to fall backward.
Everyone, including Sammy, had surprised looks on their faces.
The vampire regained his balance and spoke with a rasp. “Now I know who you are. You are a vampire slayer.”
Another vampire shouted. “Get her.”
Ruby and Sammy were fighting for their lives. While Sammy put up a good fight—including pressing the crucifix against the vampire’s skin—his strength and the crucifix were little match against their foe. But it made little difference because by the time he had fought off just one of the vampires, Ruby had frightened off the gang of them with her expert moves. Within minutes only the three of them were left in the room.
“Shit, Ruby, you’re like Lara Croft. Where did you learn to fight like that?” Sammy said, rubbing his neck.
“I don’t know,” she said, walking up to the woman who had crawled into a corner. “Somehow I just knew how to do it. Kind of like an instinct.”
“Unfortunately, we didn’t kill any of them so they’ll be back,” Sammy said. “And with more forces.”
“What’s your name?” Ruby asked the frail woman.
“Jacklyn,” she whispered, as if it took too much energy to speak.
Sammy began helping her to stand and then hesitated when he saw her bruised neck and bloody collar. “What happened to your neck?”
“The vampires did it,” she said, while Sammy continued lifting her up. “I heard you mention the name, Patty. She’s here, someplace.”
“You saw her?” Ruby said.
“She was in the dungeon with me until they took her away,” the woman said.
“Do you know where they took her?” Ruby said.
The woman shook her head of matted hair.
“How about Alan, do you know anything about him?” Ruby asked.
“No, I don’t remember hearing the name,” the woman said. “The only other names I heard while I was in the dungeon were Draven and Gustave.”
Sammy began walking toward another hallway, practically carrying the woman at his side. “We’d better get out of here, I know they’re coming back.”
At the end of the hallway were stairs that led both up and down.
“Which way?” Sammy said. “If it was up to me, I’d go back the way we came and call the police.”
“We need to find Patty and Alan, first,” Ruby said. “If we went to the police, they wouldn’t believe us anyway.”
“How about calling nine-one-one?”
Ruby took the phone from her pocket and tapped the emergency number. “It’s not getting a signal.”
“You’ll probably find Patty by going down,” the woman said.
Ruby used her phone for light as they walked down the steps. They were descending into the bowels of the gothic structure. When they reached the bottom, a stench filled the air.
“There’s a dead animal down here,” Sammy said.
“Not a dead animal,” the woman said, pointing toward a pile of bodies and several open coffins. “Dead people.”
“This just keeps getting weirder,” Sammy said.
Ruby walked up to the pile of people and shined the light over their faces. “What happened to them?”
“They were used as food for the vampires,” the woman said. “I guess when they died they just discarded their bodies here.”
Sammy and the woman kept their distance from the corpses while Ruby looked at their tortured faces and twisted limbs. Then she winced. “Patty, I found Patty.”
“Don’t touch her,” Sammy said. “She might be turning into a vampire and grab you.”
Ruby did not listen. She reached into the heap of bodies and felt Patty’s neck for a pulse. “She’s dead.”
“No shit,” Sammy said.
With the calmness of a seasoned detective, Ruby looked into the open coffins. “There are people in these, but they look like people from the island, not like the vampires and goths we’ve been seeing.” Ruby backed away and began to open one of the closed coffins.
“What are you doing?” Sammy said. “We found Patty, let’s get out of here.”
“We haven’t found Alan,” Ruby said, lifting the lid enough to shine her light inside. Then she moved on to the next one and did the same to all of them. “Alan’s not here.”
“The one’s in the coffins are in transition,” the woman said.
“Wait a minute,” Sammy said, looking at the woman still in his clutch as if she were a leper. “You said transition. What exactly does that mean?”
“I don’t know exactly, but some people are chosen to become vampires while others are fed on until they die,” Jacklyn said. “I think it has something to do with the saliva they secrete when they puncture a vessel with their fangs.”
Ruby closed the lid on the last dead body. “It wouldn’t surprise me if vampires have the ability to secrete a liquid from a special gland in their mouth that makes the victim’s body die in such a way that it transforms into a walking corpse.”
“Those other ones.” the woman said, pointing to the pile of bodies. “Are fed on until they’re almost dead. They’re kept alive so that their bodies are able to make more blood. I’m sure they draw from them over and over again. Kind of like milking a cow.”
“I’m never drinking milk again,” Sammy said.
“Let’s keep moving,” Ruby said.
“I don’t know how you’re staying so calm,” Sammy said. He looked at the woman he was still supporting. “How can you tell if someone is food or is transforming?”
Ruby looked at the woman and then at Sammy. “I’m not sure. But do stay alert.”
Sammy looked at the weary woman. “Are you able to walk on your own? I mean, I’m not saying I don’t trust you but . . .”
“I’ll try,” she said.
Sammy let go and she kept her balance as she wobbled toward Ruby. Sammy walked close behind her, ready to catch her body if she was to fall, while still keeping his distance from the potential threat of transitioning.
“Ruby,” Sammy said. “I don’t know how you’re staying so calm, I’m a nervous wreck.”
Ruby did not answer. She continued leading them up a set of stairs, down another corridor, and up another set of stairs while Sammy assisted Jacklyn up the steps so that they would not get too far behind Ruby.
As they got closer to the top, the sound of people celebrating grew louder. There were laughter, glasses clinking, distant voices, and the unexpected sound of wings flapping.
When they reached the top landing, they stopped; they knew they had reached the hornet’s nest. With great trepidation, Ruby and Sammy looked through the door to see where they had arrived. It was the main body of the cathedral and there was indeed a party going on.
The cathedral was breathtaking. Even though it was in disrepair, shafts swept unbroken from floor to ceiling where they met the ribs of the vault where it spread out like tree branches. The nave was so tall it had no difficulty accommodating the creatures flying and swooping in the open space above.
“I hope you’re not planning on going in there,” Sammy said, helping the woman to set on the floor.
“Maybe,” Ruby said.