I heard a voice crying from the deep:

Come join me baby, in my endless sleep.

-  Old rock 'n' roll song

And travelers now within that valley

Through the red-litten windows see

Vast forms that move fantastically

To a discordant melody;

While, like a rapid ghastly river,

Through the pale door,

A hideous throng rush out forever

And laugh - but smile no more.

-  Edgar Allen Poe

The Haunted Palace

Tell you now that the whole town is empty.

-  Bob Dylan

Chapter Fourteen THE LOT (IV)

1

From the Old Farmer's Almanac':

Sunset on Sunday, October 5, 1975, at 7:02 P.M., sunrise on Monday, October 6, 1975, at 6:49 A.M. The period of darkness on Jerusalem's Lot during that particular rotation of the Earth, thirteen days after the vernal equinox, lasted eleven hours and forty-seven minutes. The moon was new. The day's verse from the Old Farmer was: 'See less sun, harvest's nigh done.'

From the Portland Weather Station:

High temperature for the period of darkness was 62, reported at 7:05 P.M. Low temperature was 47, reported at 4:06 A.M. Scattered clouds, precipitation zero. Winds from the northwest at five to ten miles per hour.

From the Cumberland County police blotter:

Nothing.

2

No one pronounced Jerusalem's Lot dead on the morning of October 6; no one knew it was. Like the bodies of previous days, it retained every semblance of life.

Ruthie Crockett, who had lain pale and ill in bed all weekend, was gone on Monday morning. The disappear?ance went unreported. Her mother was down cellar, lying behind her shelves of preserves with a canvas tarpaulin pulled over her body, and Larry Crockett, who woke up very late indeed, simply assumed that his daughter had gotten herself off to school. He decided not to go into the office that day. He felt weak and washed out and lighthearted. Flu, or something. The light hurt his eyes?. He got up and pulled down the shades, yelping once when the sunlight fell directly on his arm. He would have to replace that window some day when he felt better. Defec?tive window glass was no joke. You could come home on a sunshiny day, find your house burning away six licks to the minute, and those insurance pricks in the home office called it spontaneous combustion and wouldn't pay up. When he felt better was time enough. He thought about a cup of coffee and felt sick to his stomach. He wondered vaguely where his wife was, and then the subject slipped out of his mind. He went back to bed, fingering a funny little shaving nick just under his chin, pulled the sheet over his wan cheek, and went back to sleep.

His daughter, meanwhile, slept in enameled darkness within an abandoned freezer close to Dud Rogers - in the night world of her new existence, she found his ad?vances among the heaped mounds of garbage very acceptable.

Loretta Starcher, the town librarian, had also disap?peared, although there was no one in her disconnected spinster's life to remark it. She now resided on the dark and musty third floor of the Jerusalem's Lot Public Library. The third floor was always kept locked (she had the only key, always worn on a chain around her neck) except when some special supplicant could convince her that he was strong enough, intelligent enough, and moral enough to receive a special dispensation.

Now she rested there herself, a first edition of a different kind, as mint as when she had first entered the world. Her binding, so to speak, had never even been cracked.

The disappearance of Virgil Rathbun also went un?noticed. Franklin Boddin woke up at nine o'clock in their shack, noticed vaguely that Virgil's pallet was empty, thought nothing of it, and started to get out of bed and see if there was a beer. He fell back, all rubber-legs and reeling head.

Christ, he thought, drifting into sleep again. What was we in to last night? Sterno?

And beneath the shack, in the cool of twenty seasons' fallen leaves and among a galaxy of rusted beer cans popped down through the gaping floorboards in the front room, Virgil lay waiting for night. In the dark clay of his brain there were perhaps visions of a liquid more fiery than the finest scotch, more quenching than the finest wine.

Eva Miller missed Weasel Craig at breakfast but thought little of it. She was too busy directing the flow to and from the stove as her tenants rustled up their breakfasts and then stumbled forth to look another work week in the eye. Then she was too busy putting things to rights and washing the plates of that damned Grover Verrill and that no good Mickey Sylvester, both of whom had been consistently ignoring the 'Please wash up your dishes' sign taped over the sink for years.

But as the silence crept back into the day and the frantic bulge of breakfast work merged into the steady routine of things to be done, she missed him again. Monday was garbage-collection day on Railroad Street, and Weasel always took the big green bags of rubbish out to the curb for Royal Snow to pick up in his dilapidated old International Harvester truck. Today the green bags were still out on the back steps.

She went to his room and knocked gently. 'Ed?'

There was no response. On another day she would have assumed his drunkenness and simply have put the bags out herself, her lips slightly more compressed than usual. But this morning a faint thread of disquiet wormed into her, and she turned the doorknob and poked her head in. 'Ed?' she called softly.

The room was empty. The window by the head of the bed was open, the curtains fluttering randomly in and out with the vagaries of the light breeze. The bed was wrinkled and she made it without thinking, her hands doing their own work. Stepping over to the other side, her right loafer crunched in something. She looked down and saw Weasel's horn-backed mirror, shattered on the floor. She picked it up and turned it over in her hands, frowning. It had been his mother's, and he had once turned down an antique dealer's offer of ten dollars for it. And that had been after he started drinking.

She got the dustpan from the hall closet and brushed up the glass with slow, thoughtful gestures. She knew Weasel had been sober when he went to bed the night before, and there was no place he could buy beer after nine o'clock, unless he had hitched a ride out to Dell's or into Cumber?land.

She dumped the fragments of broken mirror into Weasel's wastebasket, seeing herself reflected over and over for a brief second. She looked into the wastebasket but saw no empty bottle there. Secret drinking was really not Ed Craig's style, anyway.

Well. He'll turn up.

But going downstairs, the disquiet remained. Without consciously admitting it to herself she knew that her feel?ings for Weasel went a bit deeper than friendly concern.

'Ma'am?'

She started from her thoughts and regarded the stranger in her kitchen. The stranger was a little boy, neatly dressed in corduroy pants and a clean blue T-shirt. Looks like he fell off his bike. He looked familiar, but she couldn't quite pin him down. From one of the new families out on Jointner Avenue, most likely.

'Does Mr Ben Mears live here?'

Eva began to ask why he wasn't in school, then didn't. His expression was very serious, even grave. There were blue hollows under his eyes.

'He's sleeping.'

'May I wait?'

Homer McCaslin ad gone directly from Green's Mortu?ary to the Norton home on Brock Street. It was eleven o'clock by the time he got there. Mrs Norton was in tears, and while Bill Norton seemed calm enough, he was chain smoking and his face looked drawn.

McCaslin agreed to put the girl's description on the wire. Yes, he would call as soon as he heard something. Yes, he would check the hospitals in the area, it was part of the routine (so was the morgue). He privately thought the girl might have gone off in a tiff. The mother admitted they had quarreled and that the girl had been talking of moving out.

Nonetheless, he cruised some of the back roads, one ear comfortably cocked to the crackle of static coming from the radio slung under the dash. At a few minutes past midnight, coming up the Brooks Road toward town, the spotlight he had trained on the soft shoulder of the road glinted off metal - a car parked in the woods.

He stopped, backed up, got out. The car was parked partway up an old disused wood-road. Chevy Vega, light brown, two years old. He pulled his heavy chained note?book out of his back pocket, paged past the interview with Ben and Jimmy, and trained his light on the license number Mrs Norton had given him. It matched. The girl's car, all right. That made things more serious. He laid his hand on the hood. Cool. It had been parked for a while.

'Sheriff?'

A light, carefree voice, like tinkling bells. Why had his hand dropped to the butt of his gun?

He turned and saw the Norton girl, looking incredibly beautiful, walking toward him hand in hand with a stranger - a young man with black hair unfashionably combed straight back from his forehead. McCaslin shone the flash?light at his face and had the oddest impression that the light was shining right through it without illuminating it in the slightest. And although they were walking, they left no tracks in the soft dirt. He felt fear and warning kindle in his nerves, his hand tightened on his revolver . . . and then loosened. He clicked off his flashlight and waited passively.

'Sheriff,' she said, and now her voice was low, caressing.

'How good of you to come,' the stranger said.

They fell on him.

Now his patrol car was parked far out on the rutted and brambled dead end of the Deep Cut Road, with hardly a twinkle of chrome showing through the heavy strands of juniper, bracken, and Loily-come-see-me. McCaslin was curled up in the trunk. The radio called him at regular intervals unheeded.

Later that same morning Susan paid a short visit to her mother but did little damage; like a leech that had fed well on a slow swimmer, she was satisfied. Still, she had been invited in and now she could come and go as she pleased. There would be a new hunger tonight . . . every night.

Charles Griffen had wakened his wife at a little after five on that Monday morning, his face long and chiseled into sardonic lines by his anger. Outside, the cows were bawling unmilked with full udders. He summed up the work of the night in six words: 'Those damned boys have run off.'

But they had not. Danny Glick had found and battened upon Jack Griffen and Jack had gone to his brother Hal's room and had finally ended his worries of school and books and unyielding fathers forever. Now both of them lay in the center of a huge pile of loose hay in the upper mow, with chaff in their hair and sweet motes of pollen dancing in the dark and tideless channels of their noses. An occasional mouse scampered across their faces.

Now the light had spilled across the land, and all evil things slept. It was to be a beautiful autumn day, crisp and clear and filled with sunshine. By and large the town (not knowing it was dead) would go off to their jobs with no inkling of the night's work. According to the Old Farmer, sunset Monday night would come at 7:00 P.M. sharp.

The days shortened, moving toward Halloween, and beyond that, winter.

3

When Ben came downstairs at quarter to nine, Eva Miller said from the sink, 'There's someone waiting to see you on the porch.'

He nodded and went out the back door, still in his slippers, expecting to see either Susan or Sheriff McCaslin. But the visitor was a small, economical boy sitting on the top step of the porch and looking out over the town, which was coming slowly to its Monday morning vitality.

'Hello?' Ben said, and the boy turned around quickly-

They looked at each other for no great space of time, but for Ben the moment seemed to undergo a queer stretching, and a feeling of unreality swept him. The boy reminded him physically of the boy he himself had been, but it was more than that. He seemed to feel a weight settle onto his neck, as if in a curious way he sensed the more-than-chance coming together of their lives. It made him think of the day he had met Susan in the park, and how their light, get-acquainted conversation had seemed queerly heavy and fraught with intimations of the future.

Perhaps the boy felt something similar, for his eyes widened slightly and his hand found the porch railing, as if for support.

'You're Mr Mears,' the boy said, not questioning.

'Yes. You have the advantage, I'm afraid.'

'My name is Mark Petrie,' the boy said. 'I have some bad news for you.'

And I bet he does, too, Ben thought dismally, and tried to tighten his mind against whatever it might be - but when it came, it was a total, shocking surprise.

'Susan Norton is one of them,' the boy said. 'Barlow got her at the house. But I killed Straker. At least, I think I did.'

Ben tried to speak and couldn't. His throat was locked.

The boy nodded, taking charge effortlessly. 'Maybe we could go for a ride in your car and talk. I don't want anyone to see me around. I'm playing hooky and I'm already in dutch with my folks.'

Ben said something - he didn't know what. After the motorcycle accident that had killed Miranda, he had picked himself up off the pavement shaken but unhurt (except for a small scratch across the back of his left hand, mustn't forget that, Purple Hearts had been awarded for less) and the truck driver had walked over to him, casting two shadows in the glow of the streetlight and the head lamps of the truck - he was a big, balding man with a pen in the breast pocket of his white shirt, and stamped in gold letters on the barrel of the pen he could read 'Frank's Mobil Sta' and the rest was hidden by the pocket, but Ben had guessed shrewdly that the final letters were 'tion', elementary, my dear Watson, elementary. The truck driver had said something to Ben, he didn't remember what, and then he took Ben's arm gently, trying to lead him away. He saw one of Miranda's flat-heeled shoes lying near the large rear wheels of the moving van and had shaken the trucker off and started toward it and the trucker had taken two steps after him and said, I wouldn't do that, buddy. And Ben had looked up at him dumbly, unhurt except for the small scratch across the back of his left hand, wanting to tell the trucker that five minutes ago this hadn't happened, wanting to tell the trucker that in some parallel world he and Miranda had taken a left at the corner one block back and were riding into an entirely different future. A crowd was gathering, coming out of a liquor store on one comer and a small milk-and-sandwich bar on the other. And he had begun to feel then what he was feeling now: the complex and awful mental and physical interaction that is the begin?ning of acceptance, and the only counterpart to that feeling is rape. The stomach seems to drop. The lips become numb. A thin foam forms on the roof of the mouth. There is a ringing noise in the ears. The skin on the testicles seems to crawl and tighten. The mind goes through a turning away, a hiding of its face, as from a light too brilliant to bear. He had shaken off the well-meaning truck driver's hands a second time and had walked over to the shoe. He picked it up. He turned it over. He placed his hand inside it, and the insole was still warm from her foot. Carrying it, he had gone two steps further and had seen her sprawled legs under the truck's front wheels, clad in the yellow Wranglers she had pulled on with such careless and laughing ease back at the apartment. It was impossible to believe that the girl who had pulled on those slacks was dead, yet the acceptance was there, in his belly, his mouth, his balls. He had groaned aloud, and that was when the tabloid photographer had snapped his picture for Mabel's paper. One shoe off, one shoe on. People looking at her bare foot as if they had never seen one before. He had taken two steps away and leaned over and  -

?'I'm going to be sick,' he said.

'That's all right.'

Ben stepped behind his Citro?n and doubled over, hold?ing on to the door handle. He closed his eyes, feeling dark?ness wash over him, and in the darkness Susan's face appeared, smiling at him and looking at him with those lovely deep eyes. He opened his eyes again. It occurred to him that the kid might be lying, or mixed up, or an out-and?-out psycho. Yet the thought brought him no hope. The kid was not set up like that. He turned back and looked into the kid's face and read concern there - nothing else.

'Come on,' he said.

The boy got in the car and they drove off. Eva Miller watched them go from the kitchen window, her brow creased. Something bad was happening. She felt it, was filled with it, the same way she had been filled with an obscure and cloudy dread on the day her husband died.

She got up and dialed Loretta Starcher. The phone rang over and over without answer until she put it back in the cradle. Where could she be? Certainly not at the library. It was closed Mondays.

She sat, looking pensively at the telephone. She felt that some great disaster was in the wind - perhaps something as terrible as the fire of '51.

At last she picked up the phone again and called Mabel Werts, who was filled with the gossip of the hour and eager for more. The town hadn't known such a weekend in years.

4

Ben drove aimlessly and without direction as Mark told his story. He told it well, beginning with the night Danny Glick had come to his window and ending with his noctur?nal visitor early this morning.

'Are you sure it was Susan?' he asked. Mark Petrie nodded.

Ben pulled an abrupt U-turn and accelerated back up Jointner Avenue.

'Where are you going? To the - '

'Not there. Not yet.

5

'Wait. Stop.'

Ben pulled over and they got-out together. They had been driving slowly down the Brooks Road, at the bottom of Marsten's Hill. The wood-road where Homer McCaslin had spotted Susan's Vega. They had both caught the glint of sun on metal. They walked up the disused road together, not speaking. There were deep and dusty wheel ruts, and the grass grew high between them. A bird twitted somewhere.

They found the car shortly.

Ben hesitated, then halted. He felt sick to his stomach again. The sweat on his arms was old.

'Go look,' he said.

Mark went down to the car and leaned in the driver's side window. 'Keys are in it,' he called back.  

Ben began to walk toward the car and his foot kicked something. He looked down and saw a .38 revolver lying in the dust. He kicked it up and turned it over in his hands. It looked very much like a police issue revolver.

'Whose gun?' Mark asked, walking toward him. He had Susan's keys in his hand.

'I don't know.' He checked the safety to be sure it was on, and then put the gun in his pocket.

Mark offered him the keys and Ben took them and walked toward the Vega, feeling like a man in a dream. His hands were shaking and he had to poke twice before he could get the right key into the trunk slot. He twisted it and pulled the back deck up without allowing himself to think.

They looked in together. The trunk held a spare tire, a jack, and nothing else. Ben felt his breath come out in a rush.

'Now?' Mark asked.

Ben didn't answer for a moment. When he felt that his voice would be under control, he said, 'We're going to see a friend of mine named Matt Burke, who is in the hospital. He's been researching vampires.'

The urgency in the boy's gaze remained. 'Do you believe me?'

'Yes,' Ben said, and hearing the word on the air seemed to confirm it and give it weight. It was beyond recall. 'Yes, I believe you.'

'Mr Burke is from the high school, isn't he? Does he know about this?'

'Yes. So does his doctor.'

'Dr Cody?'

'Yes.'

They were both looking at the car as they spoke, as if it were a relic of some dark, lost race which they had dis?covered in these sunny woods to the west of town. The trunk gaped open like a mouth, and as Ben slammed it shut, the dull thud of its latching echoed in his heart.

'And after we talk,' he said, 'we're going up to the Marsten House and get the son of a bitch who did this.' Mark looked at him without moving. 'It may not be as easy as you think. She will be there, too. She's his now.'

'He is going to wish he never saw 'salem's Lot,' he said softly. 'Come on.'

6

They arrived at the hospital at nine-thirty, and Jimmy Cody was in Matt's room. He looked at Ben, unsmiling, and then his eyes flicked to Mark Petrie with curiosity.

'I've got some bad news for you, Ben. Sue Norton has disappeared.'

'She's a vampire,' Ben said flatly, and Matt grunted from his bed.

'Are you sure of that?' Jimmy asked sharply.

Ben cocked his thumb at Mark Petrie and introduced him. 'Mark here had a little visit from Danny Glick on Saturday night. He can tell you the rest.'

Mark told it from beginning to end, just as he had told Ben earlier.

Matt spoke first when he had finished. 'Ben, there are no words to say how sorry I am.'

'I can give you something if you need it,' Jimmy said.

'I know what medicine I need, Jimmy. I want to move against this Barlow today. Now. Before dark.'

'All right,' Jimmy said. 'I've canceled all my calls. And I phoned the county sheriff s office. McCaslin is gone, too.'

'Maybe that explains this,' Ben said, and took the pistol out of his pocket and dropped it onto Matt's bedside table. It looked strange and out of place in the hospital room.

'Where did you get this?' Jimmy asked, picking it up.

'Out by Susan's car.'

'Then I can guess. McCaslin went to the Norton house sometime after he left us. He got the story on Susan, including the make, model, and license number of her car. Went out cruising some of the back roads, just on the off-chance. And - '

Broken silence in the room. None of them needed it filled.

'Foreman's is still closed,' Jimmy said. 'And a lot of the old men who hang around Crossen's have been complain?ing about the dump. No one has seen Dud Rogers for a week.'

They looked at each other bleakly.

'I spoke with Father Callahan last night,' Matt said. 'He has agreed to go along, providing you two - plus Mark, of course - will stop at this new shop and talk to Straker first.'

'I don't think he'll be talking to anyone today,' Mark said quietly.

'What did you find out about them?' Jimmy asked Matt.

'Anything useful?'

'Well, I think I've put some of the pieces together. Straker must be this thing's human watchdog and body?guard . . . a kind of human familiar. He must have been in town long before Barlow appeared. There were certain rites to be performed, in propitiation of the Dark Father. Even Barlow has his Master, you see.' He looked at them somberly. 'I rather suspect no one will ever find a trace of Ralphie Glick. I think he was Barlow's ticket of admission. Straker took him and sacrificed him.'

'Bastard,' Jimmy said distantly.

'And Danny Glick?' Ben asked.

'Straker bled him first,' Matt said. 'His Master's gift. First blood for the faithful servant. Later, Barlow would have taken over that job himself. But Straker performed another service for his Master before Barlow ever arrived. Do any of you know what?'

For a moment there was silence, and then Mark said quite distinctly, 'The dog that man found on the cemetery gate.'

'What?' Jimmy said. 'Why? Why would he do that?'

'The white eyes,' Mark said, and then looked questioningly at Matt, who was nodding with some surprise.

'All last night I nodded over these books, not knowing we had a scholar in our midst.' The boy blushed a little. 'What Mark says is exactly right. According to several of the standard references on folklore and the supernatural, one way to frighten a vampire away is to paint white 'angel eyes' over the real eyes of a black dog. Win's Doc was all black except for two white patches. Win used to call them his headlights - they were directly over his eyes. He let the dog run at night. Straker must have spotted it, killed it, and then hung it on the cemetery gate.'

'And how about this Barlow?' Jimmy asked. 'How did he get to town?'

Matt shrugged. 'I have no way of telling. I think that we must assume, in line with the legends, that he is old . . . very old. He may have changed his name a dozen times, or a thousand. He may have been a native of almost every country in the world at one time or another, although I suspect his origins may have been Romanian or Magyar or Hungarian. It doesn't really matter how he got to town anyway . . . although I wouldn't be surprised to find out Larry Crockett had a hand in it. He's here. That's the important thing.

'Now, here is what you must do: Take a stake when you go. And a gun, in case Straker is still alive. Sheriff McCaslin's revolver will serve the purpose. The stake must pierce the heart or the vampire may rise again. Jimmy, you can check that. When you have staked him you must cut off his head, stuff the mouth with garlic, and turn it face down in the coffin. In most vampire fiction, Hollywood and otherwise, the staked vampire mortifies almost in?stantly into dust. This may not happen in real life. If it doesn't, you must weight the coffin and throw it into ?running water. I would suggest the Royal River. Do you have questions?'

There were none.

'Good. You must each carry a vial of holy water and a bit of the Host. And you must each have Father Callahan hear your confession before you go.'

'I don't think any of us are Catholic,' Ben said.

'I am,' Jimmy said. 'Nonpracticing.'

'Nonetheless, you will make a confession and an act of contrition. Then you go pure, washed in Christ's blood . . . clean blood, not tainted.'

'All right,' Ben said.

'Ben, had you slept with Susan? Forgive me, but - '

'Yes,' he said.

'Then you must pound the stake - first into Barlow, then into her. You are the only person in this little party who has been hurt personally. You will act as her husband. And you mustn't falter. You'll be releasing her.'

'All right,' he said again.

'Above all' - his glance swept all of them - 'you must not look in his eyes! If you do, he'll catch you and turn you against the others, even at the expense of your own life.

Remember Floyd Tibbits! That makes it dangerous to carry a gun, even if it's necessary. Jimmy, you take it, and hang back a little. If you have to examine either Barlow or Susan, give it to Mark.'

'Understood,' Jimmy said.

'Remember to buy garlic. And roses, if you can. Is that little flower shop in Cumberland still open, Jimmy?'

'The Northern Belle? I think so. '

'A white rose for each of you. Tie them in your hair or around your neck. And I'll repeat myself - don't look in his eyes! I could keep you here and tell you a hundred other things, but you better go along. It's ten o'clock already, and Father Callahan may be having second thoughts. My best wishes and my prayers go with you. Praying is quite a trick for an old agnostic like me, too. But I don't think I'm as agnostic as I once was. Was it Carlyle who said that if a man dethrones God in his heart, then Satan must ascend to His position?'

No one answered, and Matt sighed. 'Jimmy, I want a closer look at your neck.'

Jimmy stepped to the bedside and lifted his chin. The wounds were obviously punctures, but they had both scabbed over and seemed to be healing nicely.

'Any pain? Itching?' Matt asked.

'No.'

'You were very lucky,' he said, looking at Jimmy soberly.

'I'm starting to think I was luckier than I'II ever know.' Matt leaned back in his bed. His face looked drawn, the eyes deeply socketed. 'I will take the pill Ben refused, if you please.'

'I'll tell one of the nurses.'

'I'll sleep while you go about your work,' Matt said. 'Later there is another matter . . . well, enough of that.' His eyes shifted to Mark. 'You did a remarkable thing yesterday, boy. Foolish and reckless, but remarkable.'

'She paid for it,' Mark said quietly, and clasped his hands together in front of him. They were trembling.

'Yes, and you may have to pay again. Any of you, or all of you. Don't underestimate him' And now, if you don't mind, I'm very tired. I was reading most of the night. Call me the very minute the work is done.'

They left. In the hall Ben looked at Jimmy and said, 'Did be remind you of anyone?'

'Yes,' Jimmy said. 'Van Helsing.'

7

At quarter past  ten, Eva Miller went down cellar to get two jars of corn to take to Mrs Norton who, according to Mabel Werts, was in bed. Eva had spent most of September in a steamy kitchen, toiling over her canning operations, blanching vegetables and putting them up, putting paraffin plugs in the tops of Ball jars to cover homemade jelly. There were well over two hundred glass jars neatly shelved in her spick-and-span dirt-floored basement - canning was one of her great joys. Later in the year, as fall drifted into winter and the holidays neared, she would add mincemeat.

The smell struck her as soon as she opened the cellar door. 'Gosh'n fishes,' she muttered under her breath, and went down gingerly, as if wading into a polluted pool. Her husband had built the cellar himself, rock-walling it for coolness. Every now and then a muskrat or woodchuck or mink would crawl into one of the wide chinks and die there. That was what must have happened, although she could never recall a stink this strong.

She reached the lower floor and went along the walls, squinting in the faint overhead glow of the two fifty-watt bulbs. Those should be replaced with seventy-fives, she thought. She got her preserves, neatly labeled CORN in her own careful blue script (a slice of red pepper on the top of every one), and continued her inspection, even squeezing into the space behind the huge, multi-duct furnace. Nothing.

She arrived back at the steps leading up to her kitchen and stared around, frowning, hands on hips. The large cellar was much neater since she had hired two of Larry Crockett's boys to build a tool shed behind her house two years ago. There was the furnace, looking like an Impressionist sculpture of the goddess Kali with its score of pipes twisting off in all directions; the storm windows that she would have to get on soon now that October had come and heating was so dear; the tarpaulin-covered pool table that had been Ralph's. She had the felt carefully vacuumed each May, although no one had played on it since Ralph had died in 1959. Nothing much else down here now. A box of paperbacks she had collected for the Cumberland Hospital, a snow shovel with a broken handle, a pegboard with some of Ralph's old tools hanging from it, a trunk containing drapes that were probably all mil?dewed by now.

Still, the stink persisted.

Her eyes fixed on the small half-door that led down to the root cellar, but she wasn't going down there, not today. Besides, the walls of the root cellar were solid concrete. Unlikely that an animal could have gotten in there. Still  -

?'Ed?' she called suddenly, for no reason at all. The flat sound of her voice scared her.

The word died in the dimly lit cellar. Now, why had she done that? What in God's name would Ed Craig be doing down here, even if there was a place to hide? Drinking? Offhand, she couldn't think of a more depressing place in town to drink than here in her cellar. More likely he was off in the woods with that good-for-nothing friend of his, Virge Rathbun, guzzling someone's dividend.

Yet she lingered a moment longer, sweeping her gaze around. The rotten stink was awful, just awful. She hoped she wouldn't have to have the place fumigated.

With a last glance at the root cellar door, she went back upstairs.

8

Father Callahan heard them out, all three, and by the time he was brought up to date, it was a little after eleven-thirty.

They were sitting in the cool and spacious sitting room of the rectory, and the sun flooded in the large front windows in bars that looked thick enough to slice. Watching the dust motes that danced dreamily in the sun shafts, Callahan was reminded of an old cartoon he had seen somewhere. Cleaning woman with a broom is staring in surprise down at the floor; she has swept away part of her shadow. He felt a little like that now. For the second time in twenty-four hours he had been confronted with a stark impossibility - only now the impossibility had corroboration from a writer, a seemingly levelheaded little boy, and a doctor whom the town respected. Still, an impossibility was an impossibility.You couldn't sweep away your own shadow. Except that it seemed to have happened.

'This would be much easier to accept if you could have arranged for a thunderstorm and a power failure,' he said.

'It's quite true,' Jimmy said. 'I assure you.' His hand went to his neck.

Father Callahan got up and pulled something out of Jimmy's black bag - two truncated baseball bats with sharpened points. He turned one of them over in his hands and said, 'Just a moment, Mrs Smith. This won't hurt a bit.'

No one laughed.

Callahan put the stakes back, went to the window, and looked out at Jointner Avenue. 'You are all very persuasive,' he said. 'And I suppose I must add one little piece which you now do not have in your possession.' He turned back to them.

'There is a sign in the window of the Barlow and Straker Furniture Shop,' he said. 'It says, "Closed Until Further Notice." I went down this morning myself promptly at nine o'clock to discuss Mr Burke's allegations with your mysterious Mr Straker. The shop is locked, front and back.'

'You have to admit that jibes with what Mark says,' Ben remarked.

'Perhaps. And perhaps it's only chance. Let me ask you again: Are you sure you must have the Catholic Church in this?'

'Yes,' Ben said. 'But we'll proceed without you if we have to. If it comes to that, I'll go alone.'

'No need of that,' Father Callahan said, rising. 'Follow me across to the church, gentlemen, and I will hear your confessions.'

9

Ben knelt awkwardly  in the darkness of the confessional, his mind whirling, his thoughts inchoate. Flicking through them was a succession of surreal images: Susan in the park; Mrs Glick backing away from the makeshift tongue-depressor cross, her mouth an open, writhing wound; Floyd Tibbits coming out of his car in a lurch, dressed like a scarecrow, charging him; Mark Petrie leaning in the window of Susan's car. For the first and only time, the possibility that all of this might be a dream occurred to him, and his tired mind clutched at it eagerly.

His eye fell on something in the corner of the con?fessional, and he picked it up curiously. It was an empty Junior Mints box, fallen from the pocket of some little boy, perhaps. A touch of reality that was undeniable. The cardboard was real and tangible under his fingers. This nightmare was real.

The little sliding door opened. He looked at it but could see nothing beyond. There was a heavy screen in the opening.

'What should I do?' He asked the screen.

'Say, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned."'

'Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,' Ben said his voice sounding strange and heavy in the enclosed space.

'Now tell me your sins.'

'All of them?' Ben asked, appalled.

'Try to be representative,' Callahan said, his voice dry. 'I know we have something to do before dark.'

Thinking hard and trying to keep the Ten Command?ments before him as a kind of sorting screen, Ben began. It didn't become easier as he went along. There was no sense of catharsis - only the dull embarrassment that went with telling a stranger the mean secrets of his life. Yet he could see how this ritual could become compulsive: as bitterly compelling as strained rubbing alcohol for the chronic drinker or the pictures behind the loose board in the bathroom for an adolescent boy. There was something medieval about it, something accursed - a ritual act of regurgitation. He found himself remembering a scene from the Bergman picture The Seventh Seal, where a crowd of ragged penitents proceeds through a town stricken with the black plague. The penitents were scourging themselves with birch branches, making themselves bleed. The hate?fulness of baring himself this way (and perversely, he would not allow himself to lie, although he could have done so quite convincingly) made the day's purpose real in the final sense, and he could almost see the word 'vampire' printed on the black screen of his mind, not in scare movie-poster print, but in small, economical letters that were made to be a woodcut or scratched on a scroll. He felt helpless in the grip of this alien ritual, out of joint with his time. The confessional might have been a direct pipeline to the days when werewolves and incubi and witches were an accepted part of the outer darkness and the church the only beacon of light. For the first time in his life he felt the slow, terrible beat and swell of the ages and saw his life as a dim and glimmering spark in an edifice which, if seen clearly, might drive all men mad. Matt had not told them of Father Callaban's conception of his church as a Force, but Ben would have understood that now. He could feel the Force in this fetid little box, beating in on him, leaving him naked and contemptible. He felt it as no Catholic, raised to con?fession since earliest childhood, could have.

When he stepped out, the fresh air from the open doors struck him thankfully. He wiped at his neck with the palm of his hand and it came away sweaty.

Callahan stepped out. 'You're not done yet,' he said.

Wordlessly, Ben stepped back inside, but did not kneel. Callahan gave him an act of contrition - ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys.

'I don't know that one,' Ben said.

'I'll give you a card with the prayer written on it,' the voice on the other side of the screen said. 'You can say them to yourself while we ride over to Cumberland.'

Ben hesitated a moment. 'Matt was right, you know. When he said it was going to be harder than we thought. We're going to sweat blood before this is over.'

'Yes?' Callahan said - polite or just dubious? Ben couldn't tell. He looked down and saw he was still holding the Junior Mints box. He had crushed it to a shapeless pulp with the convulsive squeezing of his right hand.

10

It was nearing one o'clock when they all got in Jimmy Cody's large Buick and set off. None of them spoke. Father Donald Callahan was wearing his full gown, a surplice, and a white stole bordered with purple. He had given them each a small tube of water from the Holy Font, and had blessed them each with the sign of the cross. He held a small silver pyx on his lap which contained several pieces of the Host.

They stopped at Jimmy's Cumberland office first, and Jimmy left the motor idling while he went inside. When he came out, he was wearing a baggy sport coat that concealed the bulge of McCaslin's revolver and carrying an ordinary Craftsman hammer in his right hand.

Ben looked at it with some fascination and saw from the tail of his eye that Mark and Callahan were also staring. The hammer had a blue steel head and a perforated rubber handgrip.

'Ugly, isn't it?' Jimmy remarked.

Ben thought of using that hammer on Susan, using it to ram a stake between her breasts, and felt his stomach flip over slowly, like an airplane doing a slow roll.

'Yes,' he said, and moistened his lips. 'It's ugly, all right.'

They drove to the Cumberland Stop and Shop. Ben and Jimmy went into the supermarket and picked up all the garlic that was displayed along the vegetable counter - ?twelve boxes of the whitish-gray bulbs. The check-out girl raised her eyebrows and said, 'Glad I ain't going on a long ride with you boys t'night.'

Going out, Ben said idly, 'I wonder what the basis of garlic's effectiveness against them is? Something in the Bible, or an ancient curse, or - '

'I suspect it's an allergy,' Jimmy said.

'Allergy?'

Callahan caught the last of it and asked for a repetition as they drove toward the Northern Belle Flower Shop.

'Oh yes, I agree with Dr Cody,' he said. 'Probably is an allergy . . . if it works as a deterrent at all. Remember, that's not proved yet.'

'That's a funny idea for a priest,' Mark said.

'Why? If I must accept the existence of vampires (and; it seems I must, at least for the time being), must I also accept them as creatures beyond the bounds of all natural laws? Some, certainly. Folklore says they can't be seen in mirrors, that they can transform themselves into bats or wolves or birds - the so-called psychopompos - that they can narrow their bodies and slip through the tiniest cracks. Yet we know they see, and hear, and speak . . . and they most certainly taste. Perhaps they also know discomfort, pain - '

'And love?' Ben asked, looking straight ahead.

'No,' Jimmy answered. 'I suspect that love is beyond them.' He pulled into a small parking lot beside an L-shaped flower shop with an attached greenhouse.

A small bell tinkled over the door when they went in, and the heavy aroma of flowers struck them. Ben felt sickened by the cloying heaviness of their mixed perfumes, and was reminded of funeral parlors.

'Hi there.' A tall man in a canvas apron came toward them, holding an earthen flowerpot in one hand.

Ben had only started to explain what they wanted when the man in the apron shook his head and interrupted.

'You're late, I'm afraid. A man came in last Friday and bought every rose I had in stock - red, white, and yellow. I'll have no more until Wednesday at least. If you'd care to order - '

'What did this man look like?'

'Very striking,' the proprietor said, putting his poi down. 'Tall, totally bald. Piercing eyes. Smoked foreign ciga?rettes, by the smell. He had to take the flowers out in three armloads. He put them in the back of a very old car, a Dodge, I think - '

'Packard,' Ben said. 'A black Packard.'

'You know him, then.'

'In a manner of speaking.'

'He paid cash. Very unusual, considering the size of the order. But perhaps if you get in touch with him, he would sell you -  '

'Perhaps,' Ben said.

In the car again, they talked it over.

'There's a shop in Falmouth - ' Father Callahan began doubtfully.

'No!' Ben said. 'No!' And the raw edge of hysteria in his voice made them all look around. 'And when we got to Falmouth and found that Straker had been there, too? What then? Portland? Kittery? Boston? Don't you realize what's happening? He's foreseen us! He's leading us by the nose!'

'Ben, be reasonable,' Jimmy said. 'Don't you think we ought to at least - '

'Don't you remember what Matt said? "You mustn't go into this feeling that because he can't rise in the daytime he can't harm you." Look at your watch, Jimmy.'