* * *
Michael reached forward and grabbed Billyâ€™s ear. It hurt. The boy went completely limp and fell to the ground.
â€œIâ€™m staying,â€ he said. â€œWhether you knock me out or not.â€
Michael reached down and lifted the boy, throwing him over his shoulder. Then Billy tried to grab Michaelâ€™s arm, clutching at it and trying to pull it up.
â€œYou can keep trying all you want, Billy,â€ Michael said confidently.
The two struggled as Michael walked towards the cemetery entrance. Ella-Marie tried to grab at Billyâ€™s arms.
â€œI donâ€™t know whatâ€™s wrong with you, but this is for your own good,â€ she said.
Billy kicked Michael hard in the crotch. Michael grunted in terrible pain and tried to slam Billy down to the ground but the two of them ended up both crashing to the ground in a pile, tangled up with each other.
â€œIâ€™m watching Tommyâ€™s grave!â€ Billy yelled.
Michael elbowed at Billyâ€™s face but Billy held off his arm and gut punched him.
â€œWhat is happening over there?â€ Teddy said.
â€œHey!â€ Jebidiah called. â€œWhat if the wolf comes back?â€
â€œHey! Hey!â€ Ella-Marie shouted.
â€œI regret to inform you all but youâ€™re both being very stupid right now!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œTommy couldâ€™ve gotten away and we would never have noticed,â€ Teddy said.
â€œAnd whose fault is that?â€ Billy squeaked.
Ella-Marie grabbed Michael by his shoulders and flung him back off Billy, sending the boy sprawling several feet away from his opponent.
â€œWhat is wrong with you!?!â€ Ella-Marie shouted at Billy. â€œWhy do you want to stay here!?!â€
â€œâ€˜Cause itâ€™s what we set out to do!â€ Billy squeaked.
Over by the grave, Jebidiah noticed a strange mist or fog around the mound.
â€œYes, but â€¦ we donâ€™t know where Richard is!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œWe have to leave and find him!â€
â€œSo why do all of us have to go?â€ Billy squeaked.
â€œWe all have to stick together!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œIt ainâ€™t like those radio shows! You canâ€™t just split up! We have to stick together! Okay?â€
â€œOkay,â€ Billy squeaked. â€œThen two of us stay here.â€
â€œYou okay?â€ Ella-Marie said to Michael.
Jebidiah started to make a strange wailing, hooting noise and pointing at the woods.
â€œWhat is it!?!â€ Ella-Marie called. â€œWhat is it!?!â€
Michael stood up with a groan, holding his crotch.
â€œOh my,â€ Teddy said. â€œLook at that. Oh my.â€
Jebidiah continued to make strange, hooting, distressed noises.
â€œWhat are you saying!?!â€ Ella-Marie called.
Jebidiah said something intelligible in return. Billy got to his feet. All of them saw a low-lying mist near the woods around the edge of the cemetery. It seemed to be blowing away. There was no more mist around the place and it disappeared into the woods.
â€œDid you see that?â€ Billy said. â€œI think you saw that.â€
Jebidiah muttered something unintelligible again.
â€œI wish I hadnâ€™t seen it, actually,â€ he said.
Ella-Marie grabbed Michaelâ€™s arm.
â€œDid it come from Billyâ€™s grave?â€ Billy squeaked. â€œTommyâ€™s grave.â€
â€œItâ€™s about to come from your grave!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œIt looked like it, yeah,â€ Teddy said.
They all looked at each other.
â€œOkay, now we can get outta here,â€ Billy said. â€œTommy is a vampire.â€
Ella-Marie rolled her eyes. Then she felt Michael tense up as the boy went to swing. She tried to stop him but he just pulled her with him. He punched Billy in the face and the boy stumbled to one side.
â€œThatâ€™s for the nut shot,â€ he said.
He walked out of the cemetery, Ella-Marie glaring at him.
â€œWait, theyâ€™re going,â€ Teddy said. â€œLetâ€™s go. Follow them.â€
â€œRichard still isnâ€™t back,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œI think people forgot about him.â€
The youngsters headed up the road and found Billyâ€™s bicycle where the path to the cemetery met the road not far from the Red Bridge. A shovel was on the ground next to it.
â€œOh my Good Lord, heâ€™s died!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œHeâ€™s dead,â€ Teddy agreed. â€œThey got him. They got him! They came and got him while these people were having a rigmarole. Oh. Oh no. Oh no.â€
Michael shined the flashlight on the ground.
â€œThereâ€™s no sign of tracks!â€ Teddy said. â€œItâ€™s like something snatched him off the bike and flew away with him!â€
â€œI see something!â€ Michael said. â€œSomebody crashed.â€
â€œOh my God,â€ Ella-Marie said.
Jebidiah looked around but there was nothing around them. Teddy looked really sad.
â€œLetâ€™s go check his house,â€ Michael said. â€œHe might be there.â€
â€œHeâ€™s gone,â€ Teddy said. â€œTommy flew off with him.â€
â€œMaybe he saw something and took chase,â€ Jebidiah stuttered. â€œOr he - or heâ”€â€
â€œOr he fled or something,â€ Michael said. â€œWe donâ€™t know.â€
â€œLetâ€™s stick together,â€ Teddy said.
â€œYes,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œLetâ€™s go back to town and check his house,â€ Michael said.
They walked back to town, Billy biking. They went to Richardâ€™s house and found his bedroom window closed. That was unusual as it was very hot. Michael tapped on the window. They heard a cry from within.
â€œWho is it?â€ it called. â€œGo away.â€
â€œWell, good news heâ€™s here,â€ Michael said.
â€œAsk him how many times he got bit,â€ Teddy said.
â€œOh God!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œDid you get bit, Richard?â€ Michael said.
â€œYouâ€™re not the man,â€ Richard said.
â€œMan?â€ Michael said.
â€œWhat man?â€ Ella-Marie said.
Richardâ€™s window opened and the boy peered out, wide-eyed.
â€œWe saw your bike,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œWhat happened?â€
â€œBillyâ€™s bike,â€ Michael corrected her.
â€œI took the turn too quickly and I crashed,â€ Richard said. â€œWhen I got up, there was a man. Had a weird accent.â€
â€œHow tall was he?â€ Michael asked.
â€œWas he a Yankee?â€ Jebidiah asked.
â€œHe just looked like an adult man,â€ Richard said. â€œHe asked if I needed help and I told him â€˜no.â€™ I got the rifle from my dadâ€™s bedroom and I fell over - fell over - and when I got back up - when I got back up after I fell over, he wasnâ€™t there. And I felt like I was being watched. So I ran back home and, when I got back to my room, he was at my window. I threw a book at him and he didnâ€™t do anything. When I grabbed my helmet, he was gone. Then I closed the window. Iâ€™ve been here ever since.â€
Billy looked around. He saw the silhouette of a tall man standing by a tree not far away, watching them.
â€œItâ€™s okay Richard,â€ Michael said. â€œJust calm down. Weâ€™ll be back in the morning.â€
â€œIâ€™m closing the window when youâ€™re gone,â€ Richard said.
Billy tapped Ella-Marieâ€™s shoulder.
â€œIs that the man?â€ he whispered to her.
â€œOh â€¦â€ she said.
â€œAs long as youâ€™re okay, Richard,â€ Teddy said.
â€œMike,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œItâ€™s a good thing heâ€™s gone and isnâ€™t here anymore,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œMike,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€ Michael said.
When he looked over there, he saw the silhouette of the man. Billy had put his hand in his book bag.
â€œI would say thatâ€™s true too,â€ Teddy said.
â€œLetâ€™s make sure Jebidiah and Teddy get home safe,â€ Michael said. â€œThen letâ€™s head home ourselves.â€
â€œWhy, thatâ€™s very neighborly,â€ Teddy said. â€œThank you so much.â€
â€œThank you,â€ Jebidiah said.
Ella-Marie took out both of her crosses.
â€œThis is a very terrifying night,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI would agree with your interpretation of the eveningâ€™s events, Jebidiah,â€ Teddy said.
â€œThere was - there was a horrible wood monster. There was a spooky fog. My friends tried to kill each other. I thought Richard was dead.â€
â€œAnd Billy. I thought he was dead too.â€â€™
â€œI thought Billy was dead.â€
â€œWe thought you were dead, Billy.â€
â€œWe thought you were dead, Richard.â€
Richard slammed the window shut.
They all headed towards the Teddy and Jebidiahâ€™s houses as the rain started to come down lightly. Billy kept watching the figure in the dark until it was out of sight. He felt like the man had been watching him. They returned Teddy back to his room and then Jebidiah back to his house. The boy just went in the front door. Then the other two escorted Billy home. He also went into his house by the front door. He found his grandfather sleeping in his chair.
The last two walked carefully home without incident.
* * *
Billy didnâ€™t go to sleep that night. He sat in the dark and watched the window until the rosy light of dawn let him know the terrible night was over.
Most of the other children closed or merely cracked their windows. Jebidiah slept with his cross.
* * *
Thursday, June 20, 1929, was another hot Alabama summer day. The children who had closed their windows woke up stifling in the heat. When Jebidiah woke up, he was terrified to find the cross was gone. He found it on the floor next to his bed and guessed he had dropped it in his sleep.
The thunderstorm from the night before had left a heavy fog that burned off by midmorning.
* * *
Richardâ€™s father was running late. He complained he had trouble sleeping the night before as he dreamt someone was in the room. His mother was busy cleaning the house. Neither noticed the young boyâ€™s thousand yard stare. His sheets had been bloody where his scraped leg had bled after he went to bed.
After breakfast, he headed out to Michael and Ella-Marieâ€™s house. Teddy and Jebidiah showed up shortly after that. There was no sign of Billy.
They saw Doc Underwood leaving his house with his horse and buggy and heading off that morning as well.
â€œAre you okay?â€ Ella-Marie asked Richard.
The boy had scabs running down the left side of his leg where heâ€™d fallen the day before.
â€œYou might need to see the doctor,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œYou might need stitches.â€
â€œI think Iâ€™m physically fine,â€ Richard said. â€œI donâ€™t know about mentally.â€
â€œIâ€™ve had some leg injuries,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYou didnâ€™t see the fog,â€ Teddy said.
â€œFog?â€ Richard said.
â€œThere was fog,â€ Teddy said.
â€œThatâ€™s true,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œWe should all recount what happened last night so we are all â€¦ in the know.â€
â€œThere was a terrible fight,â€ Teddy said.
â€œExcept Billy,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œWho isnâ€™t here.â€
â€œFire?â€ Richard said.
â€œFight,â€ Teddy said. â€œThere was a terrible fight.â€
â€œOh,â€ Richard said. â€œI was confused for a second.â€
Teddy pointed at Michael.
â€œAnd Billy,â€ Teddy said.
â€œWhy?â€ Richard said.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ Teddy said. â€œWe donâ€™t know. Why were you fighting?â€
â€œBilly didnâ€™t want to leave the graveyard,â€ Michael said, matter-of-factly. â€œHe wanted to stay there by himself. I wasnâ€™t going to let him do that.â€
â€œYes, but it looks like you kicked the hell out of each other in the process,â€ Richard said.
â€œYeah,â€ he said.
â€œWhile they were fighting, there was a big fog,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œYou saw it the dog-thing, right?â€
â€œDog?â€ Richard said.
â€œThere was a dog,â€ Teddy said. â€œHe didnâ€™t know about the dog.â€
â€œYeah, there was some kind of coyote,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œThere was a wolf or some kind of coyote,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œThere ainâ€™t no wolves around here,â€ Teddy said.
â€œYou said vampires can be wolves.â€
â€œIt was an awful big dog.â€
â€œIt wouldnâ€™t move!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI fired at it,â€ Michael said.
â€œIt disappeared like everything else weâ€™ve been seeing,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI thought something attacked you, so I got my Springfield,â€ Richard said. â€œWell, dadâ€™s Springfield.â€
â€œWhat do we do?â€ Teddy asked. â€œWell â€¦ what do yâ€™all do?â€
â€œThe man you saw, did you recognize his voice or face?â€ Jebidiah asked.
â€œNo, he sounded like â€¦ he was â€¦ not from here,â€ Richard said.
â€œWas he a Yankee?â€ Jebidiah asked.
â€œWell â€¦â€ Richard said.
â€œHow could you tell that!?!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œFrom the voice,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWell, they talk different,â€ Teddy said.
â€œHe had â€¦â€ Richard said.
â€œThey talk like â€¦ oh!â€ Teddy said. â€œLike Billy tries to talk. But better.â€
â€œYes, they talk like â€˜Hi. My nameâ€™s Michael. Iâ€™m from Vermont,â€™â€ Jebidiah said. â€œThey talk like that.â€
â€œYou should be on a radio show,â€ Teddy said. â€œYou do that really well.â€
â€œThat is a lot better than Billy,â€ Ella-Marie said.
Richard tried to mimic the manâ€™s accent.
â€œThat sounds just like your regular voice,â€ Teddy said.
â€œYeah, just a little bit,â€ Michael said.
â€œLetâ€™s just â€¦ not,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œIf you have to pick one of us out of the group that sounds most like him,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œMaybe you,â€ Richard said.
â€œOh God!â€ Jebidiah said.
Teddy pulled the compact out his pocket and looked at Jebidiahâ€™s reflection in the mirror.
â€œTeddy, I swear!â€ Jebidiah said. â€œTeddy!â€
â€œNo, youâ€™re good,â€ Teddy said. â€œYouâ€™re good. See. Can you see yourself?â€
â€œSee, I see you. You see me?â€
Richard said he thought the man was wearing a cloak and described it as going over the shoulder and almost down to the ground.
â€œWell, that should be easy to remember,â€ Teddy said.
â€œIt just doesnâ€™t make sense for a man to be out in the woods in the middle of the night,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI would think he would have a terrible problem with sweat,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œNot if he was dead,â€ Teddy muttered.
â€œDo dead people sweat?â€ Ella-Marie asked.
â€œI would say â€˜no,â€™â€ Teddy said.
â€œTeddy, can we still go check his grave?â€ Richard said.
â€œDonâ€™t vampires come back to their graves every night.â€
â€œTraditionally they return to wherever they were placed in the ground, yes.â€
â€œI think Teddy said if we want to definitively know, we need to dig it up,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œThis time, weâ€™re gonna bring shovels!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYou really want to do this then?â€
â€œLike I said: â€˜How else?â€™â€
â€œIf we get caught, you realize thatâ€™s against the law,â€ Teddy said.
â€œNo oneâ€™s out there, is there?â€ Richard said.
They realized the trees were thin enough on the river side of the graveyard that someone from the road on the other side could see the site of Tommyâ€™s grave.
â€œWell, weâ€™d have to do it at night or when nobodyâ€™s looking or â€¦â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œIf you do it at night, he wonâ€™t be in there,â€ Teddy said.
â€œAh,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œYou donâ€™t know that!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œWe donâ€™t know if any of this is true. We donâ€™t know what weâ€™ve been seeing.â€
â€œSheâ€™s right,â€ Teddy said. â€œItâ€™s been very strange. But, Iâ€™m just pointing it out because â€¦â€
â€œSomeone should keep watch and have a signal if someone comes by,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œAnd they just see a giant hole in the dirt and us standing by it, twiddling our thumbs and whistling?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWhy no,â€ Teddy said. â€œThatâ€™s when you â€˜cheese it.â€™ That means you run away. So the signal comes and we run away.â€
â€œExactly!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œBut Teddy, youâ€™re in a wheelchair,â€ Richard said.
â€œWell, Iâ€™ll have to roll away,â€ Teddy said. â€œHopefully yâ€™all will help me get away quickly. Or I can just say I was visiting the grave and I saw somebody, a tall man, digging up the grave. Theyâ€™re not gonna think I was digging up the grave. I mean, look at me.â€
â€œThatâ€™s very true,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYou could be the scout,â€ Richard suggested.
They discussed it for a little while until someone asked where Billy was.
â€œI think Billyâ€™s angry at Michael,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œTheyâ€™ve had a feud.â€
â€œThey had a fight,â€ Teddy said. â€œIt was quite disturbing.â€
â€œMichael, I realize you werenâ€™t â€¦ malicious â€¦ in your intent, but I feel like, at some point, you might want to apologize to Billy,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œThat might be a good idea, Michael,â€ Teddy said. â€œBilly holds a grudge.â€
â€œI wouldnâ€™t want Billy to have a grudge on me,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œYouâ€™ve seen the people he hangs out with,â€ Richard said.
â€œI heard it skips rocks at the old train station!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œYou donâ€™t wanna be on Billyâ€™s bad side for long,â€ Teddy said. â€œNot when we go back to school. â€˜Cause his friends are crazy! His friends there are so crazy!â€
â€œAll right!â€ Michael said. â€œAll right.â€
â€œI saw â€˜em beat up a four-year-old one time!â€ Teddy said.
â€œCâ€™mon, yâ€™all are friends,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œMaybe he was just small,â€ Teddy said.
â€œYâ€™all should know better!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œSmaller than Billy?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWasnâ€™t smaller than Billy,â€ Teddy said. â€œBilly wasnâ€™t fighting. Billy was watching. I think heâ€™s fallen in with a bad crowd.â€
â€œFine,â€ Michael said.
â€œI worry about Billy.â€
â€œDidnâ€™t he say he was going to spend some time sweeping up his grandpaâ€™s shop the other day?â€™
â€œHe always says that.â€
â€œDo you really color Billy as the trustworthy type?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œAll right, itâ€™s day,â€ Teddy said. â€œWe split up and we look everywhere.â€
â€œWell, itâ€™s day. Weâ€™ll meet back at the post office when we find Billy.â€
They split up, heading in all different directions, each of them getting a place to look at Teddyâ€™s direction.
â€œI took command,â€ Teddy said quietly to Jebidiah. â€œDid you see that?â€
â€œYeah,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œDonâ€™t get used to it,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI didnâ€™t know you were still here,â€ Teddy muttered.
â€œCanâ€™t you see? Whatever.â€
â€œThatâ€™s the problem with taking command. You gotta pay attention afterwards.â€
* * *
Michael was the one who found Billy. The boy had just finished sweeping the pharmacy and his grandfather patted him on the back and told Randall Spearman behind the soda fountain to give a Pepsi-Cola. Billy had a nasty-looking bruise on his face.
â€œHey Billy,â€ Michael said.
Billy just stared into his soda. Michael ordered a root-beer float from Randall.
â€œBilly,â€ Michael said. â€œIâ€™d like to sit down and have a talk about what happened last night.â€
â€œYeah, I wanted to sit down and have a talk last night,â€ Billy said.
â€œExcept you werenâ€™t sayinâ€™ nothing.â€
â€œI mean, before you punched me, I did.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t punch you.â€
â€œOnly after you kicked me in the groin.â€
â€œI was going to buy you a soda but, seeing as you already got one â€¦â€
Billy just looked into his soda.
â€œWhat can I try to do to make this right with you?â€ Michael said.
Billy just stared into his soda as he drank it.
â€œWell â€¦ weâ€™re all gonna meet up at the post office after â€¦ we found you,â€ Michael said. â€œIf you want to meet us there, you can. I ainâ€™t gonna force you.â€
Billy just sipped at his Pepsi-Cola.
â€œHere ya go!â€ Randall said.
He handed over root-beer float and Michael quickly drank it down.
â€œNow Billy,â€ Michael said.
He put two quarters down on the counter in front of the boy and then walked out.
Billy looked at the money and then finished his Pepsi-Cola. He pocketed the coins and looked around to see if there were any mirrors in the pharmacy. There werenâ€™t so he left the place and headed for the grocery store. There, he purchased a hand mirror and looked at the Albrightâ€™s in it. Then he went looking for Vanzant.
* * *
All of the children met at the post office.
â€œAre yâ€™all friends again?â€ Teddy said.
â€œI dunno,â€ Michael said.
â€œDid you apologize?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYeah!â€ Michael said.
â€œWhatâ€™d he say?â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œUm â€¦ he didnâ€™t say much,â€ Michael said. â€œHe â€¦ uh â€¦ just kept sipping at his soda. I gave him fifty cents and then I left.â€
The children looked at the boy like he was crazy.
â€œYou gave him fifty cents!?!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œFifty cents!?!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œHe kicked you in the balls!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œYeah,â€ Michael said.
â€œYou trying to buy his friendship?â€ Teddy said quietly.
â€œNo, Iâ€™m trying to make things rightâ€ Michael said.
â€œIâ€™d be friends with anybody for fifty cents,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWell, you know Billy,â€ Teddy said.
â€œIâ€™m just hoping that it could start to repair â€¦â€ Michael said. â€œBut he didnâ€™t want to talk at the moment.â€
â€œYou never gave me fifty cents.â€
â€œI never fought you.â€
â€œYou never beat me up, either. So I appreciate that.â€
â€œWhatâ€™re we going to do tonight?â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œDo we have a plan â€¦ this time? To bring shovels, at least.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t want to dig him up at night,â€ Teddy said. â€œHeâ€™ll come at us, wonâ€™t he?â€
â€œWell, when else!?! We canâ€™t just dig him up in the frickinâ€™ daytime!â€
â€œWell, you-you had a plan to have a watch and see if you can see.â€
â€œWas that in the day?â€
â€œYeah. We donâ€™t need a watch at night â€˜cause no one can see us in the graveyard.â€
Ella-Marie just shook her head.
â€œSheâ€™s concerned about her brother,â€ Teddy said to Jebidiah. â€œI am too.â€
â€œWell, we can try to wait to see what Doc says,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œHeâ€™s going out of town today.â€
Teddy reminded him that Doc was going to see who was living at the plantation and might return with the sheriff. Michael thought the man wouldnâ€™t be back until the next day but Teddy noted he was to be back that day. Jebidiah again suggested they wait for him.
â€œAs long as we donâ€™t get caught,â€ Teddy said. â€œMy dad would kill me. I mean literally.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve only seen one man going around the town and following Richard and at the edge of the woods when Billy saw him,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œBut there are all those coffins at the mansionâ”€â€
â€œWait,â€ Teddy said. â€œWhat man? I didnâ€™t see no man.â€
There was some confusion about the man who was stalking the town and Jebidiah noted there was only one man who had been seen but there were many coffins at the mansion. Michael suggested the coffins might not yet be in use. Jebidiah wondered if anyone was in them and, when Michael talked about breaking the locks, he suggested breaking through the wood of the coffins. Richard pointed out if they broke the coffins they would open; they wouldnâ€™t be able to reseal them. Teddy pointed out if they broke off the locks, they wouldnâ€™t be able to put them back on.
â€œThen we could close it at least,â€ Richard said quietly.
Michael was of the opinion they should break open the coffins and see what was in them.
â€œAre we talking about in the daytime?â€ Ella-Marie asked.
They nodded at her.
Jebidiah pointed out if they went back in the daytime, they could break them open and see if the vampires were in them. If so, then they could stake them. Teddy noted they would need a lot more stakes. There was some question about daylight hurting vampires but Teddy didnâ€™t think it would. He even pointed out that in Dracula, Dracula walked around in the daylight, which Teddy didnâ€™t like at all. They realized they had not seen any other strangers in Sanguis.
Michael again voted to break into the coffins. Richard asked if staking them when the vampires were corpses would kill them and Teddy assured him it would. Teddy pointed out if one chopped off a vampireâ€™s head and filled the mouth with garlic or burned the body, or both, it could be assured they were destroyed at least according to folklore. Ella-Marie didnâ€™t seem to like that. There was some talk of burning the vampires, Teddy noting the plantation would go up like a tinderbox if a fire was lit there. Richard suggested dragging the body out into the forest before lighting it on fire.
Jebidiah thought they should listen to what Doc learned before returning to the plantation. Richard agreed with him. Michael pointed out by that time, Doc would be getting the sheriff involved.
â€œIf nobody owns the place,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œHowever, if the place is owned, that might explain our mystery person.â€
â€œAnd if the sheriff is involved, isnâ€™t that how it should be?â€ Teddy said. â€œBecause they can â€¦â€
â€œBurn the bodies,â€ Richard said.
â€œWe donâ€™t want to go burning the house if we donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going on!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œExactly!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œArson is against the law as well,â€ Teddy said. â€œI donâ€™t to go to the penitentiary.â€
â€œWeâ€™re already digging up a body,â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œWe donâ€™t want to make it worse for us.â€
â€œWho would be able to tell it was us?â€ Michael said.
â€œWho else would it be?â€ Teddy said.
Richard was under some confusion about burning vampires. When Teddy tried to explain, he had more questions. Teddy told him heâ€™d just read stories but he didnâ€™t know. Richard didnâ€™t think they should be burning bodies if they didnâ€™t have to. He asked about mist and the mist rising from Tommyâ€™s grave.
They saw Billy walking around with a hand mirror. He went into the post office without a word. They saw him talking to Tim Bowman, the postmaster, and holding up the mirror.
â€œDonâ€™t I look good?â€ they heard him say to the man, who just laughed.
The children realized he was using the mirror to look at Bowman.
â€œHey look, Michael, heâ€™s already spent those 50 cents,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œGood for him,â€ Michael said.
Billy left the post office.
â€œHi Teddy,â€ he said. â€œHi Jebidiah. Hi Ella. Hi Richard.â€
He walked on by.
â€œWhat is up with you today?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œI believe he might be holding a grudge,â€ Teddy said. â€œI donâ€™t think 50 cents was enough, Michael.â€
â€œI think if you start giving Billy any more money, though, he might take you out of house and home,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œBefore he likes you again.â€
â€œHe ainâ€™t getting a dime outta me anymore,â€ Michael said.
Richard was still of the opinion they should dig up Tommyâ€™s grave as he was a vampire. Ella-Marie pointed out they didnâ€™t know he was. Teddy noted Jebidiah had said they should wait for Doc Underwood to see what he said. Jebidiah, saying it was a democracy, thought they should reformulate a plan once they saw what Doc said. Richard pointed out that meant wasting the whole day. Teddy thought they should vote on it. When Michael asked for options, Ella-Marie told him they would decide right then what they were going to do.
â€œMan, I wonder how Mrs. Hillâ€™s doing!?!â€ Billy shouted as he walked away.
â€œI know what he means!â€ Teddy said. â€œWho else would Tommy go for if he comes in the night? His mom.â€
Jebidiah physically shook with terror.
Richard suggested he go check on Mrs. Hill and ask if she let anyone in who looked odd.
â€œWell, youâ€™re not going by yourself!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œWell, itâ€™s the middle of the day!â€ Richard said.
â€œHow about this?â€ Jebidiah said. â€œWeâ€™ll go check on Mrs. Hill and then weâ€™ll wait for Doc and, once he has the information, weâ€™ll make a plan. Thatâ€™s what I nominate.â€
â€œYouâ€™re such a leader Jebidiah,â€ Teddy said.
â€œOh, Iâ€™m not!â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œOh, sometimes the meekest people â€¦even Franklin Delano Rooseveltâ€™s a governor,â€ Teddy said. â€œAnd heâ€™s a cripple like me. At least itâ€™s a plan. Is that plan okay with everybody?â€
They called for a vote and Michael suggested they see what was in the coffins at the plantation while they waited for Doc. There was some discussion of that and Jebidiah pointed out if the plantation was owned, they could get in a lot of trouble for doing such. Teddy pointed out such trouble might include trespass, destruction of private property, and vandalism, just for a start. He noted if there were just squatters there, they could uphold the law at citizens.
â€œI doubt a vampire is going to go through the legal process of purchasing a home,â€ Michael said.
â€œWell, Dracula did,â€ Teddy pointed out. â€œHe bought the monastery next to the asylum and he was going to live there. He had Jonathan Harker as his attorney and he arranged everything.â€
â€œThey donâ€™t age, do they?â€ Richard said.
â€œThey do age, but the blood can make â€˜em young again,â€ Teddy said. â€œThatâ€™s what happened to Dracula.â€
Richard noted the vampire had all the time in the world to secure the house. Jebidiah wanted to put it to a vote on going to the plantation. Michael and Ella-Marie were in favor of going to the plantation before Doc got back. Jebidiah, Teddy, and Richard voted to wait until the man returned.
â€œThis is getting us nowhere!â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œThen weâ€™ll check back when we have our information,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œWait!â€ Michael said.
â€œI have another motion,â€ Richard said.
â€œBilly hasnâ€™t voted,â€ Michael said.
â€œYou voted for the â€¦â€ Teddy said to Richard. Then he looked at Michael. â€œWhy donâ€™t you ask Billy what he wants to do? But tell him what you want to do first, â€˜cause I think that will have some influence on Billy.â€
â€œSure,â€ Michael said.
â€œI propose we go see Mrs. Hill and ask her â€¦â€ Richard said.
â€œI thought we were in agreement on that,â€ Jebidiah said.
Michael and Ella-Marie went to look for Billy again while the rest of them went to the Hillâ€™s house.
* * *
Before they got to the house, Jebidiah had a plan.
â€œI donâ€™t think we should ask any questions that could spook her or be confusing,â€ he said. â€œI think we should just how she reacts.â€
â€œOh!â€ Teddy said. â€œSo just tell her were here to see how sheâ€™s doing?â€
â€œBecause if she â€¦ if she has seen Billy coming back, she might not feel bad, but if we ask, she might think sheâ€™s going crazy or she might think we think sheâ€™s crazy,â€ Jebidiah said.
â€œI was thinking I was going to ask her if she saw anyone around town,â€ Richard said.
â€œYou can do that,â€ Jebidiah said. â€œBut I donâ€™t think we should ask her anything about Tommy unless we get suspicious.â€
â€œMaybe we can ask if sheâ€™s been having dreams about Tommy,â€ Teddy said.
They knocked and Mrs. Hill answered. Her eyes were red as if she had been crying. Richard told her they were stopping by to see how she was doing. Teddy had slipped the compact out of his pocket and peeked at the womanâ€™s reflection in it. Then he gave them a wink and a thumbs up.
â€œWe just came to check on you,â€ Richard said again. â€œI know itâ€™s been hard. Itâ€™s been hard on us too.â€
â€œYes, yes it has,â€ Mrs. Hill said. â€œI know you children are having a hard time. Iâ€™m having a hard time too.â€
â€œIs there anything we can do for you.â€
â€œNo, but I thank you for coming by and looking in. If you ever want to put flowers on Tommyâ€™s grave, Iâ€™m gonna go up there this afternoon, so â€¦â€
Tears rolled down her fact again. Jebidiah thought the woman, wracked with grief, would probably be in a better mood if Tommy had come to her in the night. He felt confident nothing was odd or off about the woman.
Richard asked if sheâ€™d seen anyone non-local around town lately. When she said she hadnâ€™t, he told her heâ€™d seen a man outside his window the night before and it gave him a bad fright. She said it was probably just a bad dream and she had bad dreams. She started crying again and he apologized.
Richard told her heâ€™d keep in mind her going to the graveyard as they might join her.
â€œThank you,â€ she said. â€œYou boys are so good. Youâ€™re so good.â€
She patted one of them on the shoulder and they left.
* * *
Billy had found Vanzant at Mrs. Pines house, standing in the shade of the trees near the river and whitewashing her picket fence. He looked at Vanzant in the mirror and was relieved he could see him. The man didnâ€™t appear to be whitewashing with much effort and Billy guessed he was drunk or something.
Ella-Marie and Michael found the boy shortly after that.
â€œYou really are suspicious of everyone, arenâ€™t you?â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œOh, hi Ella,â€ Billy said. â€œYâ€™all check on Mrs. Hill?â€
â€œNo, we didnâ€™t go over there. We came to sort out yâ€™all.â€
â€œDid someone check on Mrs. Hill?â€
â€œYes, Michael said.
â€œOkay, thatâ€™s good,â€ Billy said.
â€œJebidiah, Teddy, and Richard,â€ Michael said.
â€œA lot of people,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œOh, okay,â€ Billy said.
â€œBilly, what can I do to make this right between us?â€ Michael said.
Billy just looked at Ella-Marie.
â€œWell, thatâ€™s good that yâ€™all checked up on her,â€ Billy said to Ella-Marie.
â€œCâ€™mon!â€ Ella-Marie said. â€œHeâ€™s right here. Look at him. Please. Talk to him. Yâ€™all are friends!â€
â€œYou see what I mean?â€ Michael said. â€œHe didnâ€™t want to talk.â€
â€œI sure hope Doc Underwood gets back soon,â€ Billy said to Ella-Marie. â€œIâ€™m curious to see what he says.â€
â€œWell, if youâ€™re going to be like this, thatâ€™s one less person we have to worry about,â€ Ella-Marie said.
â€œOh, did someone die?â€ Billy said.
â€œYeah, Tommy,â€ Michael said.
â€œNot yet,â€ Ella-Marie muttered under her breath.
â€œIâ€™m gonna head on home,â€ Billy said. â€œIâ€™m a little tired. Iâ€™m gonna eat some lunch.â€
â€œOkay fine,â€ she said. â€œFine. If youâ€™re going to do what youâ€™re going to do â€¦ whatever.â€
She turned to her brother as Billy walked away.
â€œLook, we tried coming, talking some sense into him â€¦â€ she said.
â€œI told you,â€ Michael said. â€œJust â€¦ heâ€™s a sour grape.â€
Ella-Marie shook her head.
â€œHeâ€™ll get over it,â€ she said to Michael.
â€œProbably,â€ Michael said. â€œNow, whoever said we had to keep our promise to follow the democracy? Iâ€™m just saying we could go check out the plantation ourselves without them.â€
â€œNo, I donâ€™t want to split up. I mean, heâ€™s off doing whatever heâ€™s going to do â€¦ thatâ€™s on him. But for us, just trying to figure out what the hellâ€™s going on? We gotta stick together. Thatâ€™s what the majority voted. We canâ€™t go back.â€
â€œI guess youâ€™re right.â€
* * *