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The Woman in White Marble

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Kenton Crowther

 

 Kenton Crowther is a British author who has written several ebooks which are available from Amazon. These include the vampire novel Easy Blood. This book is set in an alternative, Victorian-style England where the monarch is Leonard VIII. It deals with the attempts of a bloodsucker called Eric Vauclare to use a pseudo-Christian cult called the Supreme Godhead Outreach Church to take over England and then the world.

The story As Far as the Purple Door is a new short story about the main character in Easy Blood.

Go to www.kentoncrowther.com for all things Crowther.
To connect with Kenton on Twitter click here.
To visit Kenton’s Facebook Page click here

Monday
Aug152016

As Far as the Purple Door

There was a mixture of ordinary citizens and vampire residents at the boarding house, but for now Eric Vauclare, the newly reincarnated King Bat, had been socialising with neither type.

It was however a convenient base where he could spend a few days getting used to being around humans again, and sizing up the town of Harefield.

From some second-hand clothing his landlord, Grant Appleton, had obtained, Vauclare had chosen loose-fitting trousers, a shirt and jacket which were also loose-fitting, black boots, and a broad-brimmed hat.

He admired his new human shape in the mirror. He was happy with the prominent chin he had shaved that morning, and the thick iron-grey hair which he wore brushed back. This was the type of face to inspire confidence in a human, particularly one in a skirt.

“You look like a friggin’ pirate, Eric,” said his landlord, who had known him in many different incarnations.

“One of the local pimps said much the same,” replied Vauclare smoothly. He did not add that he had ended up feeding off this individual and discarding his corpse amidst a stand of trees.

“If it comes to that, you, Grant, look like nothing so much as a pork butcher. You’re getting too close to home there, old boy. We don’t want to give the game away.”

Appleton did not laugh. He ran his hand through his thinning hair and pulled his stomach in. 

Although he himself was around six feet and wiry and cat-like, Vauclare knew he would have a hard time of it if he ever took on his landlord in a fight.

“Where are you headed?” asked Appleton.

“Well, in my wanderings among the cafés and restaurants I’ve heard a lot about one of these night clubs. Purple Door this, Purple Door that.”

Pausing in the hallway, Vauclare squinted at a picture of King Albert III of England which hung on the wall. This print, taken from a portrait by one of the artistic masters of the Middle Ages, showed the monarch with feet planted wide, glaring out at the spectator. The focal point was a steel codpiece, made in sections which held together like the scales of a dragon.

The whole picture centred on this item, as if to imply that state, crown, and possibly church revolved around it and its needs.

At least old Albert was no hypocrite, he knew what was what, thought Vauclare. He himself would see about getting a few things revolving before long, because there were more pleasures in life than simply feeding, no matter how lustily the blood spurted under your fangs. Though not a man, he was one of those vampires who had a man’s needs.

He went out the door and down the steps into the pulsating evening light of Harefield town.

Five or six ragamuffins were pushing past the steps that led up to Parkside’s front door. They stood back as the stranger emerged.

Vauclare only wished he had a walking stick to twirl; instead he inclined his head and smiled at them. They scattered like sparrows. The instinct of self-preservation is strong in a guttersnipe and this toe rag had the larger-than-life demeanour of a vicious pimp. 

Vauclare shrugged and kept walking.

An urchin stepped out from a gateway with a folded scrap of paper.

“What’s this?” said Vauclare as he took the paper, but the boy turned on his heel and disappeared.

Hey, Mr Manly Man,” it said, “I thought you might have stopped for a cup of rosie yesterday.

There was a sketch of a smiling female face and the note was signed “One of Your Admirers.”

Vauclare stuffed the paper into his pocket.

A wench had been standing in one of the open doorways along here in Renfrew Street the night before, he recalled, and she had nodded at him mysteriously.

That house was behind him by now and he didn’t wish to retrace his steps, but he glanced back at the doorway.

* * *

Up under the roof of one of the buildings across the street was a window through which a grey-suited man had been watching Vauclare ever since he descended the steps of Parkside.

“He took the note,” he said to the man beside him.

This individual, the tenant of the shabby room, gave out a booming laugh. This noise often caused surprise, issuing as it did from a puny frame wrapped in cheap, ill-fitting clothes.

“Yes, Dougie my boy, Phyllis has set her trap, and from the grin on that bloodsucker’s face when he read his correspondence, I don’t think it’ll be too long before he plunges into it.”

“He thinks he’s onto some easy pickings, eh?” said Dougie.

“Yeah, he just wants a little something cuddly-like first, and then he’ll sink his teeth, right?”

“That’s what he thinks, Tony,” rasped the little man. “He don’t know that our brotherhood has been waiting for his arrival for some time.”

“Yes, it’s all working out. But with these blasted bats you can never say. So let’s not get complacent.”

“Complacent? No way. But when it comes to claw and fang I don’t think our brotherhood stacks up so bad against him and his likes, what?” said the runt.

“I don’t want to brag and I’d hate to let over-confidence bring bad luck, but if I get one good swipe at this Mr Vauclare he’ll fly into ten thousand smithereens.”

The very fact of discussing battle was enough to ruffle the hide of these individuals. The grey-suited fellow began to salivate. A long tongue appeared from between a set of canines bulging out of a long, stiff jaw rippling with muscles. His suit too was straining at the seams to accommodate what looked like the formidable limbs and sturdy spine of a timber wolf.

The smaller man altered likewise, whether in sympathy at seeing his companion carried away by thoughts of rending living flesh, or because he was afraid. He resembled a yapping Jack Russell equipped with the pimpled snout and jaws of a crocodile.

Lightning-like, the pair snapped and swiped at each other. 

Any spectator at this scene would have been convinced that the fight was in earnest, and that the smaller beast would be ripped into scraps and giblets.

In fact, the skirmish was nothing but a letting-off of steam at the imagined downfall of one of their traditional enemies, a gore-soaked vampire.

Conscious that they were making too much noise with their frolicking, the pair broke off and, twitching and stretching obscenely, returned to human shape.

The taller man went back to the window, to see Vauclare approaching the corner of Lennigan Drive.

* * *

Unaware of the jubilation back along the road at the thought of his downfall, Eric Vauclare looked about him approvingly as he stepped through the dusky light slashed with neon.

Lennigan Drive was well-supplied with bars, clubs and brothels. Tonight, with the come-hither note of an Admirer in his pocket, it seemed as if his luck was already in.

All kinds of men and women were passing through the entrance of the Corn Exchange in search of forgetfulness, paradise, or whatever trifle might lighten their boredom, and Vauclare got in among them.

He went to the lounge just beyond the foyer, got a glass of wine and sank onto a couch to watch the people going by. Some slight changes in the wardrobe department and these could have been passing strangers in Baghdad or Bordeaux. The charms of the Purple Door could wait.

He never tired of watching humans. Here they were in their leisure hours, and this lot had plenty to be grateful for. Hadn’t his landlord, Grant Appleton, told him a night or two back that in England as it was now, you got food and rent money for merely existing and stating that you were ready for work?

Few humans appreciated the miracles that surrounded them every day and everywhere, with Dole or without.

It was Vauclare’s triumph, but also a consuming regret, that though he had far more strength and a longer life span than anyone in this crowd, he had long ago, in order to slake his taste for hot blood, given up his right to die and enter the stream of existence anew.

The place was filling up and the tables were soon occupied. One had been claimed by half-a-dozen students who had just left one of the screening rooms and were discussing the film they had seen.

With no thought of sizing up a victim, the vampire was content to sit back and listen to the students’ knowing comments. They were evidently well used to destroying the claims of celebrated film directors, and confident that, given the same opportunities, they could astound the whole world.

Vauclare was on his second glass of red when things eased up and the crowd thinned out. There was a concert on, and a lot of drinkers had been visiting the lounge during the interval. Now they were returning to their seats. Also, two or three screening rooms were in operation, absorbing more of the clientele.

So it was that he saw the two shape shifters he might otherwise have missed. In a crowd their musky odour might have gone undetected amongst the smell of soap, perfume and sweat.

There was a man in an elegant grey suit and a short fellow who, but for his untidy, dirty look, might have been his servant.

Though the smaller man held his eye for a moment, Vauclare dismissed these two from his mind. You often saw shape shifters amongst a human crowd. It was one of those things.

Then he overheard the wife of a man next to the students’ table say, “There’s that woman we saw at the Purple Door earlier.”

She was coming towards him, the Salome of the doorway, the scribbler of notes.

Her elaborate dress of white, red and purple did not make her seem out of place. Her eyes were like those of a fairground Cleopatra, one of those temptresses stuck in front of a papier-mâché pyramid and a pipe-fed Nile.

She stopped beside him.

“Thank you for your message, I shall certainly be taking you up on your offer of a cup of tea,” he said, getting to his feet. “But as they serve such marvellous vino here, perhaps you will take a glass of this?”

“Wonderful,” she replied, sliding onto Vauclare’s couch.

“Well, it was wonderful of you to write a note,” he said. “I’m Eric.”

“Phyllis,” she said, reaching out a tiny hand, which he squeezed.

They finished a fresh bottle of red, then ordered a pot of coffee and a plate of cookies.

Even in the dim light of the Corn Exchange bar it was clear that she was older than she dressed. Hazel eyes, shapely lips and thick, honey-blonde hair. She had a charming rustic accent.

“I’ve been hearing about this Purple Door night club,” said Vauclare, “and was wondering if it’s worth a look. Do you know the place?”

“I … well, I was there earlier tonight, actually, but I don’t mind another visit. They’ve got a chap who sings and plays the piano.”

He got up and reached for her hand.

“All right, the Purple Door. Let’s give it a look.”

They glided through the brightly-lit plate-glass foyer and down into the street and, being respected, well-paying patrons, got a nod from a man in black with gold braid on his cap.

“It’s quicker along here,” she said, indicating an alleyway to the left of the massive council building. This led past the inconspicuous door of Betty’s Bar, one of the town’s gay hang-outs. Beyond, in the murk, was a narrow track that wound along zig-zag, surrounded by piled-up carts and trolleys at the back of a row of high street shops.

Further along where the track came to an end the sign of the Purple Door was visible just where the neon of the high street filtered through between the buildings.

She took her hand out from his and Vauclare turned.

Following them were the shape-shifting fellows he had seen earlier: the tall one and the scruffy short one. Members of the lycan fraternity.

The little guy came on fast while with a squeal the Jezebel ran away.

Had she led him into this, or was she just an innocent tea-server?

The small one crouched as he came in. A bushy, rigid tail stuck out behind him as he concentrated his rage onto the solitary vampire.

The force of the brute’s charge sent Vauclare reeling back.

It was as if a wall had collapsed on him. And this was the smaller of the two?

The other still remained in man shape, looking around him, ready to jump in if necessary.

To take on a werewolf was a serious proposition. But to beat this one and then take on another?

Vauclare parried the wolf’s blows and struck out at the beast with his fists and feet.

The vampire growled now, showing fangs like glittering hooks, keen to taste the hot, red stuff.

From the corner of his eye he saw the taller figure suddenly knocked down by a dark shape that had caught him off-guard. Once on the ground, the fellow was subjected to what sounded like a succession of axe blows, though in truth he was merely feeling the weight of the two iron-like claws of a bat in human shape. It was the end of him. Blood and stringy tissue splashed onto the ground. 

This assault was enough to cause the wolf Vauclare was tackling to hesitate and then take an enormous leap away into the midst of the carts and trolleys, sending two or three of them spinning as he vanished into the darkness.

“We’ll leave someone else to clean up our mess,” said Grant Appleton, licking blood from his claws which were slowly retracting.

“Did someone put you onto these sods?” Vauclare asked his landlord.

“The little lad who delivered your message earlier warned me. He’s one of my scouts … As soon as I saw the tart leading you down here I knew what would happen.”

“I didn’t come to Harefield expecting to fall amongst a pack of werewolves,” said Vauclare.

“I thought I’d told you. There’s quite a community of the pests around Harefield. The estuary woods are their playground during the full moon. They have learned to live in peace alongside the humans, but not us.”

THE END

Copyright © Kenton Crowther 2016