* * *
Doc Underwood got back around 3 p.m. The children all saw him ride into town on his horse and buggy and up the hill to his house. Billy had been napping but heard the sound of hoof beats.
All of the children headed up the hill and by the time they arrived, they found Doc entering his house. He invited them all in for iced tea. He had butterscotch for all of them and they went into the house. They all sat in the parlor where they had been the day before.
Doc Underwood told them he checked at the courthouse and found the Bennett Plantation had been purchased by a Christopher St. Jordan II, who bought it about a week before. Jebidiah said the man sounded rich. Doc said it did and pointed out that if someone was out at the house, they must belong there. Richard asked him if he found any other records of the man but Doc pointed out he had only gone to see who had bought the property. Jebidiah asked if there was any way to find out more about the man but Doc wasnâ€™t sure. He did say heâ€™d asked the clerk and learned the man was not from Alabama.
â€œA Yankee!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œThatâ€™s kind of the impression I got,â€ Doc Underwood said.
â€œI donâ€™t think heâ€™s a Yankee,â€ Richard said.
â€œYou said he talked like a Yankee,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI did not say he talked like a Yankee,â€ Richard said.
â€œHe really didnâ€™t,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œHe just said he talked funny,â€ Michael said.
â€œHe said he talked like someone who talked like this,â€ Teddy said. â€œAnd then he just said the same thing.â€
â€œI think all Yankees talk funny,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWell, I do too,â€ Teddy said.
â€œHe talked like â€¦ I donâ€™t know,â€ Richard said. â€œI forget how he said it.â€
â€œHeâ€™s trying,â€ Teddy said. â€œHeâ€™s trying. Thatâ€™s a good thing, Richard. Itâ€™s good that youâ€™re trying.â€
â€œWell, heâ€™s not from â€¦ anywhere â€¦ from here,â€ Richard said. â€œItâ€™s very distinctive. Itâ€™s not anything Iâ€™ve heard before.â€
â€œThat could anyplace else besides â€¦ within 10 miles,â€ Teddy said. â€œCouldnâ€™t it?â€
â€œNo,â€ Richard said. â€œI donâ€™t think so. Itâ€™s not any voices you hear on the radio.â€
Teddy asked if it sounded like Billy, who was looking out the window as he sat and drank his iced tea. Richard said it wasnâ€™t and it had been unlike anything heâ€™d heard before. Teddy talked a little bit about dialects. Richard was insistent it was not how they talked around there. Jebidiah was of the opinion people who didnâ€™t live in Sanguis wouldnâ€™t want to live there.
â€œThere isnâ€™t much here, is there?â€ Teddy said.
â€œItâ€™s not much of a vacation spot,â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œHow often are houses bought around here?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œThat plantationâ€™s been abandoned for â€¦ how many years?â€ Jebidiah said. â€œHundreds of years?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Michael said.
â€œAbout a hundred years,â€ Doc Underwood said.
They asked Doc Underwood if heâ€™d heard stories about a shadowy man or a tall man. He had heard the same rumors they had, of some tall man and hobos around. Heâ€™d also heard about the dead cattle and the wolves that were supposedly in the area.
He told them the place was owned by someone and advised them to stay away from it unless they wanted to go out and meet the owner. He warned them to be careful of trespassing.
* * *
They met at the tree house an hour later.
â€œWell, this means we have a lead on who our mystery man is,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI feel like that nameâ€™s fake,â€ Richard said.
â€œIâ€™ve never heard a name like it,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œItâ€™s very fancy,â€ Teddy said.
â€œIt sounds like itâ€™s very Christian,â€ Richard said. â€œThey have Christopher and Saint.â€
Michael and Ella-Marie grunted.
â€œIt sounds like theyâ€™re trying too hard, to be honest,â€ Richard said.
Billy pointed out that there was a River Jordan in the Bible. Richard noted the entire name was religious and, when Teddy asked what that meant, Ella-Marie guessed the man had religious parents. Jebidiah pointed out there was another one as the man was the second. Michael asked if a Christian could become a vampire and Teddy told him anyone could once they were bit.
â€œThe only way weâ€™re going to make progress is by going back to that plantation,â€ Michael said.
â€œOr Tommyâ€™s grave but his motherâ€™s out there right now,â€ Richard said.
â€œOr we could try to figure out more about this person but Doc said there wasnâ€™t much â€¦ so â€¦â€ Jebidiah said.
Teddy didnâ€™t know where they would look for word on the man, especially if he was from out of town.
â€œWell, we had two options, a while back,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œWeâ€™ve already done one.â€
â€œWe only have one left,â€ Michael said.
â€œLetâ€™s try the other,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s trespassing now,â€ Teddy pointed out. â€œIâ€™m just saying. Iâ€™m just saying. Iâ€™ll go along with whatever you want.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s gonna know weâ€™re out there?â€ Michael said. â€œBesides us?â€
â€œIâ€™m saying if somebodyâ€™s home,â€ Teddy said.
â€œWell, to be honest, Teddy, we were trespassing last time,â€ Richard said.
Teddy shushed him.
â€œCâ€™mon!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWell, if heâ€™s home, couldnâ€™t we talk to him then?â€ Jebidiah said. â€œAnd if he was that man you saw, weâ€™d know?â€
â€œIf heâ€™s home â€¦â€ Michael said.
â€œThat might be even better,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWe could go talk to him,â€ Teddy conceded. â€œIâ€™m just saying, we were trespassing. Donâ€™t tell anybody about that.â€
â€œI wasnâ€™t, but â€¦â€
â€œI know but â€¦ Richard, you talk a lot sometimes about â€¦ stuff.â€
â€œDonâ€™t tell your dad about that.â€
â€œWell, if he asks, I feel like I should.â€
â€œNo no! No! No!â€
All of the children were against that.
â€œAnd donâ€™t tell my dad!â€ Teddy said.
â€œI wonâ€™t tell your dad,â€ Richard said.
â€œI donâ€™t wanna get whipped,â€ Teddy said. â€œIâ€™m not saying we canâ€™t go. Iâ€™m just making sure everybody knows we could get in trouble if we just wander around in somebodyâ€™s house without â€˜em.â€
â€œYes, we know,â€ Michael said.
â€œSo Iâ€™m not saying not to go,â€ Teddy said.
They took account of what they were carrying, including crosses, a clove of garlic, and mirrors. Michael ran back to town for a hammer and a saw. They felt they were pretty thoroughly outfitted.
* * *
It was after 4 p.m. when they returned to the Bennett Farm. Jebidiah carried Teddy again. The plantation house looked exactly as it had when they were there before. The front door was closed and they had left it open when they had been there a few days before. Michael knocked but there was no answer once again.
He pushed the door open. Nothing looked different in the foyer. It was dirty and dusty and awful. They crossed the foyer when they heard a creak of someone on the steps above. Richard darted to the room to the left.
â€œHello?â€ Michael said.
â€œTeddy and I can be the face!â€ Jebidiah said.
Teddy looked confused but nodded.
â€œWhat?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œThe person to talk to,â€ Jebidiah said.
The footsteps came down the steps and a man stepped into view in the stair hall beyond the foyer. He wore a floppy hat and ragged clothing. He was as old as their parents and hadnâ€™t shaved in days, at least. They thought he looked like a hobo. He blinked at the youths in the foyer and frowned in confusion.
â€œWhat are you children doing here?â€ he asked.
His accent was not local.
â€œAre-are you Christopher?â€ Michael said.
â€œWho?â€ the man said.
â€œChristopher,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œHeâ€™s the owner of the home,â€ Michael said. â€œAnd sinceâ”€â€
â€œOh,â€ the man said. â€œNo. No, Iâ€™m not him. I work - I work for him.â€
â€œWell, we just wanted to welcome our new neighbor,â€ Michael said. â€œIs he here?â€
â€œNo. No, heâ€™s not here right now. Heâ€™s â€¦ heâ€™s somewhere else. He left me to watch out. He said â€¦ he thought someone had been in the house. Have you been in the house?â€
â€œNo,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œNo.â€
â€œThis is all new to me,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWe just - we just wanted to come say hello to our new neighbor,â€ Michael said.
â€œYou said you work for him?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYes,â€ the man said. â€œYes, Iâ€™m his - Iâ€™m his servant. I work for him. Keeping up the place. For him.â€
â€œOh, is he rich?â€
â€œYes. Heâ€™s very rich. He â€¦ has very much. Someone was here, just the other day. Someone had come to the house. And â€¦ fiddled. They fiddled. Were you fiddling?â€
â€œIâ€™ve never fiddled,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œDefine fiddling,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œIâ€™ve never played any instruments,â€ Jebidiah said.
The man stared at him for a moment, his mouth agape.
â€œI used to play,â€ he finally said. â€œNo. No, I didnâ€™t. Iâ€™m watching the place. Iâ€™m here to watch. The masterâ€™s not here right now.â€
â€œWhen do you think heâ€™ll be back?â€ Michael said.
â€œHe might be back tonight,â€ the man said. â€œSometimes he comes in. Heâ€™s a very busy man â€¦ he â€¦ heâ€™s a mortician! He works with coffins â€¦ and â€¦ dead bodies. He â€¦ puts them in the ground. Thatâ€™s what morticians do, you see.â€
Jebidiah thought the man sounded like a Yankee. Michael looked to Teddy, hoping he was checking the man with his mirror but Teddy was staring at the man in terror, obviously fearing getting in some kind of trouble.
â€œHow long have you been working for him?â€ Michael said.
â€œSome time,â€ the man replied. â€œHe â€¦ he hired me â€¦ to â€¦ he wanted me to watch his house and to perform errands for him. He has errands that need performing. And so Iâ€™ve been â€¦ Iâ€™ve been working for him. I have been working for him. Yes. Heâ€™s my employer.â€
â€œHow much does he pay you?â€ Jebidiah asked.
The man looked confused.
â€œUh â€¦ heâ€™s very generous,â€ the man said.
â€œIf heâ€™s very generous, you donâ€™t look like you have much nice clothes on, sir,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œNo,â€ the man said. â€œNo, I â€¦ I â€¦ uh â€¦â€
â€œWhat is your name?â€ Ella-Marie.
â€œUh â€¦ Match,â€ the man said. â€œIâ€™m Harry Match. Yes. Yes. Harry Match.â€
Billy thought something was seriously wrong with the man though he might just have been very drunk.
â€œIf â€¦ if youâ€™d like to â€¦â€ Harry Match said.
Michael walked forward and got into the manâ€™s face.
â€œIs there anything else youâ€™d like to tell us about the master?â€ he growled at the man.
Harry Match cowered, backing away from the boy. Michael followed him while the others looked on, horrified.
â€œThe masterâ€™s the master,â€ Match said. â€œYou â€¦ you donâ€™t â€¦ you â€¦â€
As they reached the base of the stairs, Match grabbed the boy by his shirt with both hands.
â€œGet away!â€ he muttered into the boyâ€™s face. â€œGet away get away get away get away get away get away! Get away!â€
The last was shriek and he shoved Michael away and the bounded up the stairs in panic, screaming. Michael noticed he skipped one of the steps and realized there was no a broken step on the stairwell anymore. The man disappeared above and they all heard his footsteps run to one of the front rooms and a door slam.
â€œMichael!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œYou have got to know when to - when to hold back.â€
â€œWhat made him do that?â€ Billy said.
â€œWell, you see, without him here, we can now continue checking the house,â€ Michael said.
â€œWell thatâ€™s trespass,â€ Teddy said.
â€œHe didnâ€™t seem to mind us being in the house,â€ Michael said.
â€œHe didnâ€™t tell us to leave,â€ Billy said.
â€œBillyâ€™s right,â€ Michael said.
â€œThis man doesnâ€™t seem like heâ€™s in his right mind,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œHe yelled at you to get out.â€
â€œHe did yell for you to get out,â€ Teddy said.
â€œI didnâ€™t see him tell anyone to get out,â€ Billy said.
Teddy looked nervous.
â€œWhat did we come here to do?â€ Ella-Marie said.
Michael headed for the north wing of the house. Ella-Marie followed him.
â€œTeddy, did you think to bring your mirror?â€ Jebidiah asked.
â€œOh yeah,â€ Teddy said.
â€œIf we see that man again, we should check him.â€
â€œI hate to suggest this but maybe we could check him right now. He seems quite disturbed.â€
â€œYou want to follow him?â€
â€œNo. But Billyâ€™s here. If it was just the two of us, Iâ€™d say we should leave right now. But we canâ€™t leave our friends and Billy might, if that man gets violent, he got violent with Michael, didnâ€™t he? If he gets violent again, maybe Billy could help us because Billyâ€™s tough. Or we maybe should get with our friends so Ella-Marie doesnâ€™t get mad for us splitting up.â€
â€œBilly, what do you want to do?â€
â€œIâ€™m with you,â€ Billy squeaked. â€œI mean, we should probably go after the other two.â€
â€œOkay, that sounds like a good idea,â€ Teddy quickly said.
â€œAll right,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œLetâ€™s do that.â€
* * *
Michael found Richard in the room with the first coffin. Ella-Marie and then the others joined them shortly. Teddy looked nervously at Ella-Marie, a little worried she would be upset they split up briefly.
The room looked exactly the same as the day before. Michael took out the hammer heâ€™d brought from home.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s going to be vandalism,â€ Teddy muttered.
â€œAre you sure you wanna do this with that man in the house?â€ Jebidiah said. â€œHe can hear!â€
â€œHe doesnâ€™t seem like heâ€™ll remember anything by tomorrow,â€ Michael said.
â€œIâ€™m pretty nervous about this though,â€ Jebidiah said.
Michael started beating on the coffin with the hammer. It took him about 10 minutes to break a hole about a foot across. It was very dark in the coffin and he used the other end of the hammerhead to rip back some cloth inside. Billy took out a flashlight.
â€œItâ€™s weird that that hole just appeared there,â€ he said. â€œI guess Iâ€™ll look in it.â€
Michael covered the hole with his hands as Billy approached.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing in there,â€ Billy said.
â€œBilly,â€ Michael said.
â€œCâ€™mon yâ€™all,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYou gotta get over this now,â€ Michael said.
â€œYouâ€™re blocking the hole,â€ Teddy said.
He turned to Jebidiah.
â€œThis seems aggressive,â€ he said. â€œDoes this seem aggressive to you?â€
â€œWe know youâ€™ve got a grudge,â€ Richard said to Michael.
â€œHeâ€™s the one with a grudge!â€ Michael said.
â€œYouâ€™re the one that put your hand over it!â€ Richard said.
â€œI donâ€™t want to settle this right here,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI donâ€™t want to either,â€ Teddy muttered.
â€œLook, pull your hands back,â€ Richard said. â€œWe can solve this later.â€
â€œLooks pretty empty,â€ Billy said again.
Michael moved his hands away and Billy peeked into the coffin.
â€œItâ€™s empty,â€ Billy said. â€œThereâ€™s some dirt in there. Donâ€™t the vampires need to be in their graves?â€
â€œThey need grave dirt, yes,â€ Teddy said.
â€œLetâ€™s go to another room and check another coffin,â€ Michael said.
â€œIâ€™m kind of nervous about this yâ€™all,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œEspecially if thereâ€™s nothing in there. If thereâ€™s just dirt. Teddy, what do you think?â€
â€œWell, I think â€¦ I think â€¦ I donâ€™t wanna go to jail,â€ Teddy said.
â€œWhat if we find dirt in all of these coffins?â€ Ella-Marie asked. â€œWhat does that leave us?â€
â€œIf we open up all of these coffins that man is gonna know and theyâ€™ll know exactly who showed up here,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œHe can identify us,â€ Teddy said.
â€œExcept me,â€ Richard said.
Teddy glared at him.
â€œYeah, except for Richard,â€ Teddy said. â€œâ€˜Cause Richard was smart and ran away. Thatâ€™s what I always do.â€
â€œBut what good police officerâ€™s going to trust a crazy man?â€ Michael said.
â€œThe crazy man thatâ€™s the help at the house that it happened?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œHave you been hanging out with Billyâ€™s friends?â€ Teddy asked.
â€œNo,â€ Michael said.
â€œHm,â€ Teddy said.
â€œTeddy, do you want to wait outside and â€¦ well, I guess that wouldnâ€™t really help,â€ Jebidiah said.,
â€œHow about this?â€ Michael said. â€œIf he tells the police, Iâ€™ll take the blame.â€
They all looked at him.
â€œDonâ€™t do that Michael,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œYouâ€™ve been in enough trouble.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s some more?â€ Michael said.
â€œHe has?â€ Teddy said.
â€œQuiet, Teddy,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI mean, you got a gonad kicked just the other night and that looked pretty brutal,â€ Jebidiah said.
They looked at each other in silence.
â€œCanâ€™t we all just get along?â€ Teddy said.
â€œI mean, the thing Iâ€™m most worried about is not that we get in trouble, but that we get in trouble and we get nothing out of it if theyâ€™re all just empty coffins full of dirt,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œOne of â€˜emâ€™s gotta have him,â€ Michael said.
â€œI think we should get the dirt,â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œWe canâ€™t go through all of â€˜em without encountering that man again,â€ Jebidiah said.
Teddy wondered if Tommyâ€™s coffin might have been in the house but Jebidiah was worried about checking through the whole house if someone was there. When he admitted to being a coward, Teddy told him he was very brave, pointing out he was carrying him.
â€œA stiff wind could put me into the grave,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œThatâ€™s what my mother always said.â€
â€œI say we look around, see if thereâ€™s a childâ€™s coffin in the house,â€ Michael said.
â€œI say we look around, see if thereâ€™s a childâ€™s coffin in the house,â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œOkay, fine,â€ Ella-Marie said.
They looked through the north wing but didnâ€™t see any sign of a childâ€™s coffin. The south wing was likewise unchanged. They went up to the second floor, Richard noting which step was dangerous so they could all avoid it. They found the two front bedroom doors closed there.
â€œNow, watch out for the man,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œMake sure he doesnâ€™t spook us.â€
Ella-Marie went to the closed door on the right. Richard borrowed Teddyâ€™s compact. Billy looked in the back bedrooms to check the coffins there. Michael followed his sister.
Harry Match was in the room. He looked startled when the door opened and he looked at Michael, terrified. Richard peeked at the man in the compact and could see his reflection.
â€œUh â€¦ youâ€™re not supposed to be here,â€ Match said. â€œI thought I asked you to leave. Youâ€™re not supposed to be here. The master will not be pleased.â€
â€œWe know somethingâ€™s going on here,â€ Ella-Marie said.
Match picked up a clay jug from the floor, uncorked it, drank from it, and closed it back up.
â€œCan we help you at all?â€ Richard said.
â€œNo,â€ Match said. â€œYou have to go. I said to go and you should go. Itâ€™s not safe here for children.â€
â€œYou donâ€™t seem toâ”€â€
â€œYou need to go. Children. You should go. You should go. Just go. Itâ€™ll be the â€¦ he already knows about you. You should go before he â€¦ donâ€™t anger him.â€
â€œChristopher?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œIf you anger him, then - then â€¦â€ Match said.
â€œWhatâ€™s your masterâ€™s name?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œUh â€¦ um â€¦ itâ€™s â€¦ itâ€™s â€¦ no â€¦ donâ€™t make me say it â€¦â€ Match said. â€œHe â€¦ he â€¦ heâ€™s a mortician. And thatâ€™s why he has the coffinsâ”€â€
â€œBut whatâ€™s his name?â€
â€œSt. Jordan! He is St. Jordan. St. Jordan. Christopher St. Jordan II. And he owns this house and he said you would come back. He said they always come back. You canâ€™t stay here.â€
He looked towards the window.
â€œItâ€™s going to be dark soon,â€ he said. â€œAnd heâ€™s gonna come back and you donâ€™t want to be here when he comes â€¦ he doesnâ€™t like trespassers. He doesnâ€™t like visitors.â€
â€œWhere does he go during the day?â€ Michael growled.
â€œI donâ€™t know!â€ Match said. â€œNot here! Heâ€™s hidden away. Heâ€™s hidden himself away. And he took the keys. And he buried them so that no one could get in. And so, heâ€™s hiddenâ”€â€
â€œWhereâ€™d he bury them?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Match said.
â€œIf you know what happened to Tommy, you have to tell us!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI donâ€™t know who Tommy is,â€ Match said.
â€œDid he bring anyone back last night?â€ Michael growled.
â€œNo!â€ Match said. â€œHe wasnâ€™t here long enoughâ”€â€
â€œDid he come from the train?â€ Billy squeaked.
Match looked terrified when he said that and gasped.
â€œThereâ€™s â€¦ he â€¦ he found me and he gave me a job,â€ he said. â€œAnd Iâ€™m working for him and you have to get out! You have to get out!â€
â€œSo, he came from the train?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œStop saying that!â€
Match put his head in his hands and covered his eyes. Michael pulled out the handle heâ€™d found on the tracks.
â€œYou have to go,â€ Match said through his hands. â€œYou have to go before itâ€™s dark. You have to go before itâ€™s dark.â€
â€œDo you recognize this?â€ Michael said.
The man looked up and then looked away.
â€œThat was on the table,â€ he said. â€œI donâ€™t know why he saved it.â€
â€œThis one was from the train tracks,â€ Michael said.
â€œHe told me he was very angry,â€ Match said. â€œWhen it was gone, he said that it â€¦ it â€¦ â€˜it was goneâ€™ he said. â€˜Who was here?â€™ And I said â€˜I was doing your bidding.â€™ And he was very angry. You donâ€™t want to see him when heâ€™s angry. You donâ€™t want to. He gets very angry. You should all go. Go home and just â€¦ just go home. Thereâ€™s nothing for you here. Thereâ€™s nothing you can do. Itâ€™s too late.â€
â€œMind if we see whatâ€™s in that jug?â€ Michael said.
Matchâ€™s eyes opened wide.
â€œNo, this is mine!â€ he said. â€œNo. This is mine. Itâ€™s mine.â€
â€œYeah, what is it?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œWhat is it?â€
â€œYou canâ€™t have it.â€
â€œWhat is it?â€
â€œYou canâ€™t have it. Whatâ€™s wrong with your voice?â€
Michael went to the man and ripped the jug from his hands.
â€œNooooo!â€ Match screamed. â€œItâ€™s all I have!â€
Michael popped the cork and sniffed. The stink of corn whiskey almost knocked him over. He almost choked on the smell.
â€œYou can have that back,â€ he said.
Match grabbed the jug with both hands, scuttling to the corner and crouching there, glaring at the boy.
Ella-Marie described Tommy to Match, asking if heâ€™d seen the boy.
â€œI ainâ€™t seen any children except for you,â€ Match said. â€œAnd you shouldnâ€™t be here. Heâ€™ll be here soon.
â€œDoes the master have any other servants?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Match said. â€œNot that I know of.â€
Richard looked at his watch. It was nearly suppertime.
â€œWe need to get going,â€ Billy squeaked. â€œWe only got two hours.â€
â€œLetâ€™s head back home,â€ Michael said.
â€œYeah, we do need to make it to dinner before people are worried,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œDonâ€™t come back!â€ Match said. â€œDonâ€™t come back! Heâ€™ll know! Heâ€™ll know you by your smell! He knows. He knows. He knows you! He knows you!â€
Ella-Marie turned and pushed the others out of the room. She closed the door behind her, looking back only long enough to see the man still in the corner, sobbing.
â€œThis might have been controlled,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œSomethingâ€™s wrong with him,â€ Teddy said.
â€œHe seems like that Renfield person you talked about,â€ Michael said.
â€œThat Renfield, he was crazy too,â€ Teddy said.
He had told them a little about Renfield and his flies and spiders earlier that day.
â€œI didnâ€™t see any flies,â€ he said.
â€œI think we should watch out of our windows at night and make sure nothing comes for us,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œIf he said, heâ€™ll know by our smell â€¦â€
â€œI say we go back to the graveyard tonight,â€ Michael said.
Teddy went pale.
â€œI donâ€™t think digging it up at night will be helpful,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œItâ€™s the only time we can,â€ Michael said.
â€œLetâ€™s go to supper first and talk about it later,â€ Jebidiah said.
They returned to their homes
* * *
Richard went by the Hills before he met with the others after supper.
â€œHow was your visit, Mrs. Hill?â€ he asked her.
â€œVery lonely,â€ she said.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™ll get better.â€
â€œYouâ€™re a good boy, Richard,â€ she said. â€œDonâ€™t go near the tracks.â€
* * *
When they got together after supper, Ella-Marie asked Teddy if there was any coming back from being a vampire. He told her that, according to Dracula, once a person was turned into a vampire, they were just a dead body walking around. Jebidiah asked about Dracula controlling people and Teddy told him Renfield was controlled by the vampire and was crazy. He pointed out that there was a girl who hadnâ€™t died yet in the book they kept giving transfusions. He said Dracula had left a note saying he was going back to Transylvania but when she did eventually die, he could raise her back up as a vampire, having bit her and having fed her some of his blood, tainting her. However, he never read about anyone coming back.
Richard asked if vampires lost their personality and he pointed out Lucy seemed to turn into someone else. She didnâ€™t act like a person: drinking blood and attacking children.
Richard noted Mrs. Hill was home and Michael suggested they go and see if something showed up.
â€œNo, weâ€™re not going to wait to see if something shows up,â€ Richard said. â€œWeâ€™re going to dig up that coffin and weâ€™re going to see if heâ€™s still in there. Before the sun goes down.â€
He was concerned if there was dirt in the coffins, the vampires might have moved their bodies between locations. Teddy told him that Dracula had gone from Europe to England so he guessed vampires could move. Michael mentioned Jebidiah seeing mist around the grave. He also wondered if Tommy went to Jillâ€™s house instead of his mom.
Richard went to check on Jill.
* * *
The Spearmans were sitting on their front porch, enjoying what little breeze there was.
â€œDo you still have those handles?â€ Richard asked Jill Spearman.
â€œYes, I still have those handles!â€ Jill said. â€œYou canâ€™t have them back.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want â€˜em,â€
â€œYou gave them to me!â€
â€œI donâ€™t want â€˜em. Okay. Thatâ€™s all I wanted to know.â€
â€œYou are so weird Richard!â€
â€œDonâ€™t you come around here no more!â€
â€œI gave you those two handles! You should be thankful!â€
â€œOh my God! Thatâ€™s just like a man! Just like a man!â€
She stomped into the house.
* * *
Richard returned to the others. He still thought they should go to the grave. Michael was in agreement. Jebidiah asked Billy what he thought they should do and the boy squeaked that he was going to go scout himself. They discussed Teddy going with them and how to move him quickly if the rest of them had their bicycles. Teddy was willing to do whatever they needed. He didnâ€™t want to get in the way.
â€œIf you donâ€™t want me with you, I understand,â€ Teddy said. â€œItâ€™s just like my dad. He doesnâ€™t want me around either.â€
â€œI donâ€™t feel that way about you, Teddy,â€ Richard said.
â€œItâ€™s all right,â€ Teddy said.
â€œMaybe thereâ€™s something me and Teddy can do to help without being part of it,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œBecause Iâ€™ll get winded, digging this grave.â€
He suggested they be the ones that keep watch to make sure no one came around.
They all headed to the graveyard after leaving Teddy to watch the road where the graveyard path met it. The others went on to the cemetery and Jebidiah continued on into the forest about a hundred feet further on from the cemetery where he could see the road. Both boys planned on hollering if they saw someone come down the road.
The other four children dug up the grave with the shovels they had brought. They didnâ€™t make as fast a progress as they hoped as they had trouble all working in the small space together. The sun was setting before they heard the scrape of a shovel against the hollow-sounding pine box of Tommy Hillâ€™s coffin. They threw their shovels up and out of the grave and shoved the remaining dirt aside, Billy getting his cross in his hand as they did so.
The last rays of the setting sun glinted across the treetops above. Michael pulled the coffin lid open as they all scrambled to find their footing. Billy looked at the corpse in the mirror.
Tommy Hill lay in his small coffin, his eyes open. Michael found himself looking directly into Tommyâ€™s eyes. For a moment, the blue of the childâ€™s eyes seem to engulf him and he felt like he was falling.
Tommy Hill smiled, opening his mouth. There was blood on his lips. Billy saw only an empty coffin in the mirror in his hand. He was horrified to see Tommy in the coffin when he looked.
â€œYouâ€™re here to save me!â€ he said. â€œThank you for saving me!â€
Ella-Marie was shocked and hesitated, unable to even react. Tommy jumped up and looked at Billy, who held a mirror in one hand and a crucifix in the other. Tommy squinted at the crucifix and then leapt up, out of the hole, and landed lightly on the rim near the temporary wooden tombstone. He backed away, not looking at Billy or his crucifix.
â€œYâ€™all!â€ he whined. â€œPut that away! That hurts! No! Thatâ€™s not right!â€
Ella-Marie lunged forward and tried to stab Tommy in the foot with one of her sharpened crosses but fell short, the little makeshift wooden cross digging into the ground. Richard, behind her, struggled to get out of the deep grave.
â€œBilly â€¦â€ Michael said.
He squatted slightly and held his hands together, offering a leg up. Billy ignored him, tucking the cross into the back of his pants.
â€œHey Tommy,â€ he said. â€œHow are you?â€
â€œI would be better if yâ€™all werenâ€™t being so mean to me,â€ Tommy said.
â€œI put it away,â€ Billy said.
Tommy backed away and out of sight of the children stuck in the open grave. Ella-Marie looked back and saw Michael, still waiting to give someone a leg up. She put her foot in his hands and he helped heave her out of the grave. Tommy was out there, kicking stones in the graveyard and looking bored.
â€œTommy!â€ she said.
He turned to her.
â€œHey Ella-Marie,â€ he said in a low voice.
Richard next took advantage of Michael offering a leg up and pulled himself out of the hole. He saw Tommy, who was looking at Ella-Marie.
â€œTommy?â€ he said.
The boy ignored him, looking at Ella-Marie with a sly smile.
Michael climbed out of the grave, kicking down a good deal of dirt. He turned and offered Billy his hand to help him out. Billy ignored him and climbed out of the hole on his own.
â€œHey Tommy, we found your treasure,â€ he said.
Ella-Marie felt herself falling into the little boys eyes as they seemed to engulf the entire world. She felt like she was falling into a void. Then she shook her head and felt in control of herself again.
â€œTommy?â€ she said again. â€œWhat happened to you?â€
â€œI always liked you Ella-Marie,â€ Tommy said quietly, looking down at his hands.
Richard and Michael slow approached Tommy, who was still staring at Ella-Marie. Both of them were empty-handed.
â€œHey Tommy, did you find them treasures I gave you?â€ Billy squeaked. â€œIn your coffin?â€
Tommy held out his hand. There were two flattened pennies there.
â€œIâ€™ll bring â€˜em back to you soon, Billy,â€ Tommy said.
â€œYou can keep â€˜em,â€ Billy said, suddenly uneasy.
â€œIâ€™ll talk to all yâ€™all very soon,â€ Tommy said. â€œWatch this.â€
Tommyâ€™s body seemed to become compact, the arms and legs drawing in unnaturally, as he turned into a bat and flew up into the purple sky. They saw him head towards town.
â€œWait, who would he have drunk from?â€ Michael asked. â€œBecause he had blood on his lips.â€
â€œTommy is alive and on the run!â€ Billy yelled as loud as he could.
â€œGuys!â€ Ella-Marie yelled.
Jebidiah awkwardly ran into the cemetery, breathing heavily. He stopped to lean on a gravestone.
* * *
Teddy, who was still watching, was getting nervous.
â€œItâ€™s awful dark out here,â€ he muttered to himself. â€œIs that a bat? Thatâ€™s a bat. Wait a minute â€¦â€
The bat flew over his head in the general direction of town.
* * *
â€œDoes destroying his coffin do anything?â€ Richard asked.
â€œThe expertâ€™s not here,â€ Michael said.
Billy ran towards town, as Jebidiah caught his breath. The others got their bicycles.
â€œGotta go!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œTommyâ€™s back,â€ Michael said.
â€œHeading to town,â€ Richard said.
â€œI â€¦ heard,â€ Jebidiah gasped.
â€œTake Billyâ€™s bike!â€ Michael said.
â€œHold on,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œWhat about Teddy?â€
Ella-Marie tried to push Jebidiah onto her bike.
â€œTeddy!â€ Jebidiah gasped.
â€œCâ€™mon, letâ€™s go!â€ Ella-Marie said.
* * *
â€œItâ€™s dark,â€ Teddy said when he saw Billy running up. â€œDid you kill it?â€
â€œTommyâ€™s back!â€ Billy said. â€œHeâ€™s a bat!â€
Teddy went pale and pointed up at the sky.
â€œYou mightâ€™ve seen him,â€ Billy said. â€œLetâ€™s get going.â€
He pushed Teddy back toward the cemetery as fast as he could, handing off his mirror to the boy. They arrived as the others were getting their bicycles around. Jebidiah went to Teddy and offered to push the wheelchair. Billy ran to his bike. While Michael, Ella-Marie, and Richard rode ahead, Billy hung back with the other two boys.
* * *
When Michael, Ella-Marie, and Richard got to town, it looked normal. Richard peeled off and headed for the Spearmanâ€™s house, going straight up the road, while Michael turned right at the train station, heading down the road there with Ella-Marie close behind.
They stopped in front of the Hillâ€™s house.
â€œMike!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œMike! What are you thinking!?! We canâ€™t say anything to her!â€
â€œI was just seeing if maybe he would show up here,â€ Michael said.
â€œWhat do we do? We didnâ€™t really see where he went.â€
â€œHe sorta just flew off.â€
* * *
â€œDid you see anything?â€ Teddy asked as Jebidiah pushed him pushed him up the road. â€œDid you see him? I saw a bat.â€
â€œNo, I didnâ€™t see anything!â€ Jebidiah gasped.
â€œBilly says the bat was him!â€
â€œI didnâ€™t see anything!â€
Billy rode in silence.
* * *