part #9 of The Vampire Chronicles Series
"NOW YOU HAVE my story. You know my greatest shame, that I killed the innocent bride. You know how Goblin began his attacks on me.
"You can guess the events that happened after my homecoming. You know from this story how much I love my family. You know how much my life is enmeshed with theirs.
"I felt a great and terrible hatred for Petronia and what she had done to me! With a passion that can only be called vengeance I pitched myself back into my human life, my mortal world, my family existence. I would not have it otherwise, unless proved to me that all suspected me and shunned me. But nothing of that sort happened.
"On the contrary, people needed me and I knew it. My strange disappearance had severely wounded Aunt Queen, Tommy, Jerome, Jasmine and even Clem and Big Ramona. I made amends with my endless apologies, though I couldn't and wouldn't explain how my disappearance had come about.
"All I could do is what I did -- promise that I would never disappear again, that though I had become something of a secretive bachelor and a night creature, and though I might from time to time be off for a night or two or even three, I would always be home afterwards. And no one should ever fear for me.
"And so 'Quinn is going through a phase,' they said with laughter. But Quinn was around a lot.
"I had my room outfitted as you see it, with heavy velvet draperies, so that the light can be shut out, and there's a heavy lock on the door; but usually I spend the daylight hours in the mausoleum on Sugar Devil Island, where I feel completely safe from prying eyes, since I alone can open the crypt with ease, it having taken some five men to open it on the long-ago exciting day when we examined it.
"In a house where Aunt Queen is accustomed to rising at three p. m. and taking her six a. m. constitutional before going to bed, my habits proved normal, and so everyone has come to assume.
"Now, Aunt Queen has admitted that she's actually eighty-five years old, not eighty, a nice little secret she kept from us when we stumbled through the ruins of Pompeii with her, but she's spry and curious and full of the capacity to enjoy life in all its richness, as you saw for yourself, and she holds court in her room every night with Cindy, the nurse, and Jasmine and various other assorted attendants, including me, especially if it's earlier in the evening, as I usually do not disappear on my nightly errands until the stroke of twelve.
"As far as the bed-and-breakfast is concerned, Jasmine was plum tuckered out, as we say around here, and simply did not want to go on with the running of it. And once we gave Tommy one of the bedrooms upstairs, and set up another one for Brittany when she came to visit, and put Nash in Pops' old room, that left only one room for a guest, so it seemed pointless to be renting it.
"And then Patsy, who is on the frail side now, took to staying in that last front bedroom. So the bed-and-breakfast was therefore crowded right out.
"But the parish all around couldn't do without the big Christmas banquet and the Easter buffet and the azalea festival and an occasional wedding, so Jasmine still sees to that with a tremendous amount of pride, though she complains about it as if she were the local saint.
"I was in the background when the carols were sung this last year, not daring to weep, but weeping in my soul as the soprano sang 'O Holy Night' twice just for me.
"Being a madman, I also instigated a midnight dinner on Holy Saturday-Easter Sunday morning, just because I couldn't attend the Easter buffet, and that went splendidly this year, right along with the usual afternoon buffet, drawing a whole different body of after-church guests. And I've been conniving to instigate some other late-night charity affairs and fund-raisers, it's just my brain has been a bit distracted of late.
"Tommy astonished all of us by asking of his own free will to be sent off to boarding school in England, to Eton no less, and Nash took him over and got him established, and when he calls us we all marvel that he is acquiring a British accent, and we are overjoyed. I miss him terribly. He will be coming home for the holidays sometime soon. He's now fourteen and growing tall. He still wants to lead an expedition to find the lost continent of Atlantis. I clip every article I read on the subject and mail it to him. And Nash does the same.
"Terry Sue and her children are doing well. The nanny and the housekeeper have made all the difference in their lives and things run smoothly there. Brittany and the other children are in good schools, and they will have a real chance in life. Terry Sue herself is happy. As soon as she gets her check every two weeks she goes to Wal-Mart to buy clothes and artificial flowers. Her house is absolutely chock-full of artificial flowers. It's a virtual rain forest of artificial flowers. You can't find a spot in her house to put another artificial flower. As soon as you walk in she tries to give you some old artificial flowers so she can get some new artificial flowers. She has had an operation to prevent the birth of any more children. Charlie, her gun-wielding boyfriend, after holding the entire family and the sheriff at bay with a three fifty-seven Magnum, finally shot himself in the head.
"Aunt Queen has decided that she's to be a finishing school for Terry Sue, and about twice a week Terry Sue comes over to discuss clothing purchases with Aunt Queen, and Aunt Queen gives her advice on her nail polish and how to have her hair done. Brittany has also become the pet of Aunt Queen and now has a doll collection as the result of it.
"Jasmine, after a knock-down drag-out fight, allowed me to give Jerome my name, and even to have him call me Dad, but she wasn't happy about it. And then she gave in on having him driven every day into New Orleans to go to Trinity School. Jerome is very bright. Aunt Queen loves to read to him. Nash spent considerable time tutoring him. He's already making up stories of his own, which he dictates into a little tape recorder. He does it like a radio broadcast with all the sound effects.
"It deeply moves me that he's my son, and the only one I'll ever have, but I also feel a similar affection for Tommy, and I think back to what Petronia said to me in Napoli, that I could do honorable or decent things. I don't know whether or not she was thinking of such things as being the patron of mortals, but I think of it, and I feel that my work is just begun. I dream of being the patron of a pianist -- you know, buying him sheet music, and paying for his records, and helping with his tuition and lessons, and things of this sort. It's a dream, but I think I can do it. I don't see why not.
"But I'm becoming distracted. Let me continue. The epilogue, yes.
"For nine months, Nash and I read Dickens together. We spent the early part of every evening at it, before I went to hunt, and while I was still safe from Goblin's attacks. We occupied the two chairs by the fireplace in Nash's room and traded off reading out loud to one another. We went back through Great Expectations, David Copperfield and The Old Curiosity Shop. We also read Hamlet, which set me to secretly weeping about Mona, and Macbeth, King Lear and Othello. We usually parted company by eleven p. m. and on those few days when Aunt Queen forced herself to endure daylight in order to shop for cameos or clothes, Nash accompanied her.
"Other nights Nash watched films with Aunt Queen, Jasmine, and Cindy, the nurse, and other assorted folks. Even Big Ramona got into the spirit of it.
"Then Nash went back out to California to finish his Ph. D. and when he returns he'll be Aunt Queen's escort again. She sorely misses him, and, as she's told you herself, she has no one just now and it hurts her.
"Patsy is doing well on the drug cocktail they're giving her for AIDS and she's been able to do a little work with her band. We settled out of court with Seymour for a huge sum of money, but he died shortly after receiving it. Patsy's sworn she doesn't infect people. Two more lawsuits have been brought against her by former members of her band.
"All this has worn out Patsy. She likes being in the big house in the front bedroom across the hall. I don't talk to her very much because every time that I come up those steps I have the overpowering urge to kill her. Every night. I can read her mind without wanting to, and I know she has negligently run the
"But let me go on.
"From the first night of my return, I have tried to increase my skill and learn my powers.
"I control my telepathy around my family, and around everyone but my victims, really, because it feels obscene to me, and also it feels like noise.
"I have traveled through the air, I have practiced speed. I have come and gone from the Hermitage to far-flung taverns and highway beer joints to hunt for drifters and Evil Doers, or to make a staple of the Little Drink, and I've been successful. Even when I've drunk my fill I've almost always left the victim alive. I've learned, as Arion said, to go with the evil, to make it part of myself for those important moments.
"I never go to hunt before midnight, and of course Goblin always attacks right afterwards. I usually don't come back to the house until his attack is over. I don't want the family in any way disturbed by what Goblin means to do. But sometimes I miscalculate.
"There have been no moral blunders on my part until tonight when I almost killed Stirling Oliver.
"But Goblin's attacks have grown ever more virulent, and as for communication with him, it is nil. He will say nothing to me. He seems to feel that in becoming what I am I have in some massive way betrayed him, and he will take from me what he wants -- the blood. And no affection or conversation is needed.
"Of course, he may also feel that he was betrayed by my long absence in Europe.
"I've tried to talk to him, but to no avail. He seldom appears. He is present only right after I feed.
"And during this last year, as I proved to myself that I could hunt, that I could survive, that I could live with Aunt Queen and Nash and with Jasmine, that I could be with my son, that I could sneak into the human world every night of my life and then pass out of it into my grave, Goblin has grown far stronger and far more vicious, and so at last I've come to you to beg your help, and I think I've come to you out of loneliness.
"As I believe I've indicated, I know how to go back to Petronia but I don't want to do it. I don't want her sneering coldness. I don't want even the softer indifference of Arion. As for the Old Man, though he would open his heart to me, he seems locked in his dotage. What do any of them know of a spirit like Goblin? I've come to you to help me. You've been with the spirits. I risked my life to do it.
"I believe that Goblin is a menace not only to me but to others, and one characteristic is now certain -- that he can travel with me wherever I go, no matter how far it is from Blackwood Farm.
"He is attached to me in some new way, and perhaps it has to do with the Blood. In fact, I'm sure it has to do with the Blood. The Blood has given him a link to me that is stronger than his link to this place.
"There very well may be a limit to the distance he can travel, but I myself can't give up Blackwood Farm, that's the rub. I can't be away from those who need me. I don't want to be away from them. And as a consequence I must battle Goblin here for my home, and for my life, if I'm to live it.
"And I feel a great responsibility for Goblin. I feel that I created Goblin and that I nourished him and made him what he is. What if he should hurt someone else?
"I have one last detail and my story is closed.
"I have seen Petronia once since I left Naples. I was sitting in the Hermitage, amid all the shining marble and torch¨¨res, dreaming, thinking, brooding, I don't know what exactly, feeling my unhappiness in a sort of spectacular way, when she came up the stairs, all dressed in a white three-piece suit with her hair loose and flying and full of chains of diamonds, and she gave me your books, which she had in a little dark green velvet sack.
" 'These are the Vampire Chronicles,' she said. 'You need to read these and know these. We told you about them, but we don't know if you listened. Remember. Don't hunt New Orleans. ¡¯
" 'Get out of here, I loathe and detest you,' I said to her. 'I told you our bargain is off. This place is mine!' I stood up and ran at her and struck her hard across the face before she could get her wits about her. The blood flowed from her mouth where her fangs had cut her lip, and it soiled her white vest and she was furious. She slapped me hard this way and that before I could get back and be ready for it, and then she knocked me down and went to her trick of kicking me.
" 'What a charming greeting,' she said, ramming the toe of her boot over and over right between my ribs. 'You are the epitome of the grateful child. ¡¯
"I climbed to my knees, pretending to stagger and to be hurt, and then rose up and grabbed her hair and hung on to a hank of it with both hands so that she couldn't shake me off, cursing her all the while. 'Some night, I'll make you pay,' I said. 'I'll make you suffer for all your hateful blows, for the way that you did it, for the way you brought this curse on me. ¡¯
"She clawed at me as I pulled her hair with both hands; she clawed at my head and dragged me off herself, so that I had hair in my fingers, and then she slammed me down on the floor and she kicked me across the room and against the wall. Then she sat down at the desk and with her face in her hands she sobbed. She sobbed and sobbed.
"I climbed to my feet and slowly made my way towards her. I felt that tingling in all my limbs that meant the bruises she'd inflicted were healing. I saw bits and pieces of the diamond chains from her hair on the floor, and I gathered them all up, and I came to the desk where she cried and I laid them down where she might see them.
"She had her face buried in her hands, and her hands were stained with blood.
" 'I'm sorry,' I said.
"She took her handkerchief out and wiped her face and her hands. Then she looked up at me, prettily.
" 'Why should you be sorry?' she asked. 'It's only natural for you to hate a creature like me. Why shouldn't you?¡¯
" 'How so?' I asked. I expected her at any moment to fly at me again.
" 'Who should be made into creatures like us?' she asked. 'The wounded, the slave, the destitute, the dying. But you were a prince, a mortal prince. And I didn't think twice about it. ¡¯
" 'That's true,' I said.
" 'And so you. . . you fool the fools?' she asked gesturing with her right hand in a roving motion. 'You live with your mortals lovingly around you?¡¯
" 'Yes, for now,' I said.
" 'Don't be tempted to bring them over,' she said.
" 'I'm not tempted,' I said. 'I'd rather go straight to Hell than do it that way. ¡¯
"She looked at the diamonds. I didn't know what to do about them. I looked around. I had gotten them all. She picked up the strands and put them in one of her pockets. Her hair was mussed. I took out my comb. I gestured, Would she let me comb it? She said Yes, and so I did it. Her hair was thick and silky.
"Finally she stood up to go. She took me in her arms and she kissed me.
" 'Don't run afoul of the Vampire Lestat,' she said. 'He won't think twice about burning you to a cinder. And then I'd have to fight him and I'm not strong enough. ¡¯
" 'That's really true?¡¯
" 'I told you in Napoli to read the books,' she said. 'He's drunk the blood of the Mother. He lay in the sands of the Gobi Desert for three days. Nothing can kill him. It wouldn't even be fun to fight him. But just stay out of New Orleans and you don't need to worry about him. There's something ignoble about one as powerful as Lestat picking on one as young as you. He won't come here to do it. ¡¯
" 'Thank you,' I said.
"She walked towards the door as though she was making a graceful exit. I didn't know whether or not she knew there was blood on her clothing. I didn't know whether or not to tell her. Finally I did.
" 'On your suit,' I said, 'blood. ¡¯
" 'You just can't resist white clothes, can you?' she asked, but she didn't seem angry. 'Let me ask you something. And answer me truthfully or not at all. Why did you leave us?¡¯
"I thought for a long moment
" 'But weren't we interesting to you?' she asked. 'After all, you might have asked me to bring you home now and then. Surely you know my powers are very great. ¡¯
"I shook my head.
" 'I don't blame you for turning your back on me,' she said, 'but to turn your back on one as wise as Arion? That seems rash to me. ¡¯
" 'You're probably right, but for now I have to be here. Then later perhaps I can bring my suit to Arion. ¡¯
"She smiled. She shrugged. 'Very well. I leave you the Hermitage, my boy,' she said. And she was gone just as if she had vanished. And so our one brief visit ended.
"And so my story is at an end. "