Vampire Wake (Page 18)

Passing the front gate to the manor, I could see that the drawbridge was up. Glancing through the iron bars of the gate, I could just make out the moat. The water looked dark and choppy. I wondered how deep it was, and whether my phone lay at the bottom of it. In the distance I could just see the sun setting low over the moors and it looked like a thin strip of silver ribbon on the horizon.

Turning away, I crossed the wide, graveled drive and approached the door to the gatehouse. It was a single story building constructed out of black slate, with a thatched roof that looked as if it could do with some urgent repairs before winter arrived. There was a stone chimney and a column of black smoke spiraled up into the sky. The door was made of wood, which had faded almost to grey and was warped at the bottom.

Clenching my fist, I rapped on the door with my knuckles. There was no answer or sound from inside.

"Marshal?" I caled out, knocking on the door again.


Looking over my shoulder at the manor way off in the distance, I gently pushed the door with my shoulder and to my surprise, it swung open. Making sure that I wasn't being watched, I slipped inside, closing the door behind me. There was one main room, and two smaler ones that led off it. One of these was a kitchen and the other, a poky-looking bathroom. Making sure that the gatehouse was deserted I said, "Marshal, are you here?"

The only sound was a fire snapping and crackling in the fireplace that was set into the wal. Crossing the room, I held my hands out and warmed them over the flames. Peering around the room, I could see that it was sparsely furnished with a worn-out sofa that had the stuffing sticking out of it like a string of spongy guts.

There was a smal cabinet and on this there was a lamp which hadn't yet been lit, even though the day had been grey and overcast. There was a table which was cluttered with what looked like nothing more than junk.

Turning my back on the fireplace, I began to rummage around the stuff that had been strewn across the table.

Snatching my hand away almost at once, I grimaced at the dirty bandages that had been left there. Picking up a pair of scissors which lay amongst the mess, I used them to turn the bandages over. Apart from being grey and dirty looking, I could see no signs of blood on them. But there was something. Holding the bandage towards the light from the fire, I used the scissors like a pair of tweezers to remove several hairs that seemed to be stuck to it. The hairs, if that's what they were, appeared to be made of some man-made fibre, similar to acrylic.

Placing these fibres on the table, I inspected the bandage again and noticed that parts of it were covered in a yelow gum that had crystalised. Turning-up my nose, I sniffed the filthy-looking bandage. The yelow crystals smelt of solvent - like some kind of glue.

Putting the bandage to one side, I rummaged through the other clutter on the table and found a smal bottle of liquid latex. Turing it over in my hands I read the label on the front.

Great for Halloween make-ups Scare all your friends! Beneath the writing there was a picture of some kid whose face had been covered in a load of fake scares and cuts.

"What the hel is going on here?" I whispered to myself. Placing the bottle back on the table, I found a false beard and a smal bottle of Spirit gum to attach it with and a case containing blue-coloured contact lenses. Looking around the room in disbelief, I noticed what appeared to be a dead snake hanging from the back of the front door. Snatching it from the hook it had been hung from, I inspected it. The snake was nothing more than a woman's stocking that had been stuffed with torn-up pieces of cloth and knotted at both ends.

Realising what it had been used for, I slung it over my shoulder and tied both ends of the stocking beneath my arm. Looking back over my shoulder, it appeared that I now had a hump. If I covered it with a jacket and lent forward, anyone would believe that I had a twisted spine - just like Marshal was supposed to have.

Taking off the fake hump, I looked at the make-up, fake beard, and contact lenses and knew that Marshal - if that realy was his name - was trying to hide his true identity. But why? Who was realy hiding beneath that disguise? And what did they have to hide?

Then I remembered what Kayla had told me yesterday as we sat on the wal together. Kayla said she had once met Luke and that his face was disfigured. It had looked scarred as if he had been in some kind of accident.

"Marshal is Luke!" I said aloud as if I'd just struck gold.

Realising who Marshal realy was, I didn't know if I should feel angry or relieved. But everything seemed to be fitting into place. He had tricked me into coming to the manor so he could protect me - that's why he was on my balcony - he had come to make sure that I was safe. Then wanting to kick myself for not seeing it before, I said aloud, "That's how he disappeared so quickly - he flew from my balcony!"

But why the disguise? I wondered. Then I thought again about his disfigurement. Perhaps he wasn't ready for me to see him like that. Did he realy believe that I would be so shalow as to run from him? Be scared by him? There was only one way to find out his true reasons and that was to ask him.

"What are you doing in here," a gruff-sounding voice said from behind me.

Spinning around, I gasped as I saw Marshal standing in the open doorway. He stood, stooped slightly forward, one blue eye staring back at me from behind the grubby bandages.

With my heart racing in my chest, I said, "You don't have to hide from me any longer."

"I don't know what you're talking about, copper"

he said back in that gruff voice.

Moving slowly towards him, I trembled and said, "I don't care what you look like under those bandages.

You're stil the same person that I met in The Ragged Cove."

Holding his hand out as if to stop me from coming any closer, he turned his head away and said, "Don't come near me."

Taking his hands in mine, I could feel that they weren't the hands of a workman - they were strong - but soft. He almost seemed to flinch at my touch. So wrapping my arm about his shoulder, I puled him close to me and said, "I've missed you." Then gently turning his head to face me, I lent forward and kissed him gently on the mouth. My heart was racing so hard and fast, I wondered whether Kayla could hear it in her room back at the manor.

He didn't respond to my first kiss, so I kissed him again, this time alowing my lips to linger over his. Then without warning, he was kissing me back, his strong arms wrapping themselves around me and puling me against him. He smothered my lips with his and just like the kiss we had shared outside the Crescent Moon Inn al those months ago, they were frenzied - almost hungry. I matched his keenness, entwining my fingers in his hair as he ran his hands down my back. Without our mouths parting, he eased me down onto the crumpled sofa and ran his hands up my legs where they came to rest on my hips.

Being with him like this released al those feelings that I'd bottled up since leaving The Ragged Cove. It was like we had never been apart. And like they had been in the Cove, my feelings and senses seemed to be ablaze when with him. He kissed my face and neck, his hands running over me and puling at my clothes. In an attempt to match his passion, I wanted to kiss his face, I wanted to show him however scarred or disfigured he may be under those bandages, I didn't care - my feelings wouldn't change for him.

So working the tips of my fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck, I found the knot that held his mask together, and puled it free. The bandage fel away, revealing his face beneath it.

Staring wide eyed up at him, I screamed, "Oh my god! You disgusting pig!"