Chapter 7: Blinded by the Light
HANNAH Von Port, 113 years old, jogged with deadly purpose. It had been only 15 minutes since the phone conversation with her father, Abraham Van Helsing, who was, apparently, paterfamilias of the last remaining clan of vampires in the Americas. What was it he said? Something about being able to make more vampires any time he wanted? But preferring quality over quantity? She had never thought her father a vain man, in fact she had never met the man in any meaningful way after infancy, but she hoped he was true to his word and this vanity, this quest for purity, meant fewer foes to dispose of.
She was tired of it. Not tired in any physical way; her semi-humanness allowed her to go for weeks without sleep and days without feeling fatigue. It was what allowed her to run at a sprinter’s clip the more than five miles to Cape May Point. She was now less than a mile from the lighthouse as she banked a hard left down Lighthouse Road.
For decades lighthouses had been vampire strongholds for various practical and superstitious reasons. It was the Cape May Lighthouse where she would make her final stand. The plan had played out pretty much exactly as expected. Except for the part about her long-thought-deceased father being their leader. That was a wrinkle. Otherwise, it had gone off almost like clockwork, beginning with her funding of a green initiative to run the lighthouse on solar energy.
She’d always heard her father was a disciplined man, but one who also appreciated a good joke. She hoped he saw the irony in their private lair now being powered by the sun.
It was with this thought that the lighthouse came into sight. Without slowing she approached the entrance doors, fingered loose the blade attached to her thigh, and thought of going only one direction from here: down.
She ran. Predictably, several creatures attacked from the surrounding shrubbery and were neatly dispatched. She wiped the blade across her pant leg and approached the doors; locked. Two seconds later they were open, the jambs shattered from a powerful kick. In the lobby she took quick inventory; where was the door to the lair? It would not be obvious, but it had to be sizeable enough to allow entry to groups of vampires and their prey. She scanned; desk, bathroom, vending machines, supply closet, stairs… supply closet. She smiled. Of course it was the closet. Hadn’t she put all of her own secret entries into closets or pantries? And wasn’t the leader of this clan her father?
She opened it, and after a few seconds of searching, found the device that opened the false door in the back. Genetics are a powerful thing.
Of course there were two guards just inside the entry way, and of course she destroyed them with a few flicks of the wrist. This was all just gamesmanship. These vampires were sheep led to slaughter, a distraction.
She pushed the bodies aside and continued down the dark passage. Small electric sconces lit the way, casting long, weird shadows over the ramped passageway. The electric lights were installed right next to older candle sconces, which were left covered with ancient dripped wax. Again she smiled to herself. They had tapped into the easy, free electrical source above them.
She expected more goons as she descended, but none appeared. Must be saving them for the big finale, she thought.
A minute later she was at the bottom of the winding tunnel, staring at a red metal door. It was unlocked.
She knew whoever headed this clan would prove to be a vain, arrogant man, like most vampires; thinking himself above the rest, thinking humanity incapable of retaliation. But Hannah knew otherwise. She had them on the run. And even though she was only semi-human, she counted herself among the mortals. She knew this vanity and arrogance would prove their undoing.
She kicked the door open. The other side was pitch.
“Welcome, Hannah,” came Abraham’s voice from the dark.
Slowly, she edged into the room. From the echoing sound of the voice, it was cavernous, and pitched her into a brief moment of bewilderment.
“It is a difficult room to get used to,” Abraham continued, a fleck of German still haunting his voice. “I will give you a moment.”
“I don’t need a moment,” she replied and drew a second blade from her pack. “A moment means a moment longer with you in the world. I’d rather not wait.”
Abraham chuckled and it bounced all around her. “Just like your mother; strong-willed, defiant. It was a shame I had to destroy her…”
Hannah flinched. “This all ends tonight.”
“Indeed it does,” Abraham answered and the room suddenly filled with bright light. “For one, or all of us.”
Hannah was blind, but in the first instant of light made out the multiple figures approaching her. She twirled, swung, danced a deadly ballet as sparks shot through her eyes. Not all of her blows landed, but enough to know she was dealing death.
“Enough!” Abraham cried and the fluttering movement around her ceased.
Then her eyes were well-enough adjusted to make out the room; it was indeed a cavern, carved out of the rock and sand of the Point. It was obvious many years of hard work went into it. The walls and supporting beams were plain at first sight, but a lingering look revealed ornate carvings, similar to the ones on the sheath of Hannah’s blade.
“Familiar, no?” Abraham said.
“Yes,” Hannah said, and finally laid eyes upon him. He looked like his pictures, and the pictures were not flattering. An inkling of the man he was once was still existed, but he had been hollowed out, body and soul. This was not the first vampire she had seen; the shock of their sallow complexion and sagging skin had long since worn off for her. But this was the first vampire she had ever seen that was her father. She wept.
“It is okay, my dear. It is to be expected. Every girl needs her daddy.”
She stopped weeping, her eyes now full of fury. Her grieving was done.
“Where is he?” she asked.
“We shall get right to it then? Fine. Your lover is here.”
“He’s not…” she started to protest, but as they wheeled him out on the cart she realized that she was indeed in love with him.
“Q…” she gasped.
He couldn’t answer. His mouth, face, his entire body was covered in engorged ticks.
Hannah was speechless. The remaining vampires surrounded him like hungry dogs. They pulled the bugs off him and popped them in their mouths like black and gray jelly beans. Each time the did a guttural moan came from his throat. He was not conscious, just awake enough to feel the pain.
Abraham said, “I’m afraid, for you, that he will not last the hour. We have been… indulging ourselves a bit, I’m afraid. Irish blood is the sweetest, after all.”
Hannah sheathed her blades. She watched in silent horror as the beasts continued to pull the bugs off of BQ, each one trailing behind it chuck of flesh or string of blood. She was horrified, but focused.
“You were right my dear, it ends tonight. And I’m afraid it is you that will be ending.”
She sensed movement behind and around her.
“It is a shame that we cannot work together, father and daughter. We could do wonderful things. And I miss you so.”
More figures crowded behind her, Abraham was obviously making his big play now. Good.
“But you refuse to listen to reason, so…”
Abraham clicked a device in his hand and the lights went out. All was blackness.
The next bit happened very quickly, but very slowly for Hannah. The figures around her lunged to the center of the room where she stood. The creatures feeding off of BQ remained where they were, unwilling to leave the feast. Hannah rolled forward and removed her pack. She unzipped it and grabbed two holy water grenades, like the one she’d used at the Beach Theater.
She flipped the pins off with her thumbs and sent one towards BQ and the other into the crowd of massing vampires. The grenades exploded, filling the room with orange light. Then it was silent. The lights came back on. The room was full of the ash and the limbs of disintegrated vampires. BQ kept moaning.
“You are…” Abraham said slowly, “quite good at this. We shall meet again.”
And up he rose into a ventilation shaft.
“No, we won’t,” she said to herself and flew across the room. BQ moaned. Her heart ached, but there was nothing she could do at the moment. Up the passage she went, into the lobby. A skittering from above. She took the lighthouse steps three at a time, and there he was, perched on the railing, ready to make his escape.
He saw her and turned in the moonlight. “Hannah…”
A dagger thunked into his abdomen.
“Hannah, you cannot win.”
Another dagger hit his thigh.
“Your aim is terrible.”
“I hit exactly what I aimed for,” she replied.
“So what do we do now, Hannah? A fight to the death?”
“Something like that. But first you need to know something,” she jammed a gear handle and the light tower, which had been cycling lazily, stopped; it shone directly on Abraham.
“Hannah, if your big plan was to kill me with light powered from a solar battery, you are about to find out this was a terrible mistake.”
She thought of the powered lights in the tunnel below.
“This light shines through a UV filter. Solar light contains high levels of solar radiation. It has to be watered down for those that work with it daily, like the people at this lighthouse.”
This got Abraham’s attention. Hannah pulled a glass tube from the back of the light.
“I,” she said and smashed the glass on the floor, “have just removed that filter. You have three seconds to live.”
A third dagger pinned his coat to the wall, trapping him. It took a moment for him to free himself, but that was enough.
In a panic he ripped at the coat and threw his arms over his face, trapped in the light. The hairs on his face and hands sizzled, but he was neither bursting into flame nor collapsing into dust. This light was only slightly stronger than filtered light.
He smiled. Hannah’s plan had failed.
“It looks as though you have overplayed your hand, Hannah,” he said, squinting. He could not see her in the brightness.
“No,” she said from behind him and jammed the old blade through his back and into his heart. “I have played my hand perfectly. Goodbye father.”
Stunned, he turned. He flailed at the blade but could not reach it. Panic swept over him, then resignation.
“Good girl,” he said and collapsed to the ground. A blue mist rose off of him. In a few minutes there would be nothing left to mark his passing but a small puddle of brackish water.
Less than 30 seconds later she was at BQ’s side. She could not tell if he recognized her; he was busy suffering. She pulled handfuls of the nasty insects from the hollow of his neck.
“Here goes,” she said.
She closed her eyes. Her incisors grew long and sharp. She sank them in his jugular, drew several draughts, and released.
“Is that…” he whispered, “going to work?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. I’ve never… loved anyone enough before.”
He coughed a nearly imperceptible laugh.
“I just know I want to be with you for a very long time.”
“You…” he hissed, “just want… my body…”
She sniffed away a tear.
For several long minutes nothing happened.
Then a tick fell dead from his cheek.