Erbzine.com Homepage
Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages in Archive
Volume 7088

 Return of the Sussex Vampire

By John "Bridge" Martin

Chapter 1 -- The Dirt on the Boxes of Dirt 
  John Clayton closed the book suddenly and tossed it onto the end table in the sitting room of Greystoke Castle.

  “Aren't you going to finish reading that?" asked Jane. "It looks like you only have a few chapters to go.”

  "No need to read more," said Clayton. "I'm already familiar with the story of Dracula, and Chapter 20 gave me the specific information I needed."

  "And what's that, dear?" asked Jane.

  "That they didn't find all of Dracula's boxes of Transylvanian dirt," said the Englishman. "By the time they got to Carfax Abbey, they could find just 29. They had pretty much taken care of 20 others and they got No. 50, along with Dracula himself, on the road to his castle. Problem is, there are still another 20 unaccounted for!"

  "How do you know that, John?" asked Jane. "I've read Dracula, too, and it says there were 50 boxes of earth aboard the Demeter, not 70."

  "Aboard the Demeter. That's the key," said Clayton. "Dracula was something of a psycho, but he wasn't fool enough to put all of his eggs in one basket. Just as he thought he'd be safe with 50 makeshift coffins instead of just one, so he thought he'd be safer shipping them on two different ships rather than one, in case one shipwrecked which, of course, is exactly what happened to the Demeter."

  "Yes," said Jane. "But fortunately for Dracula, and unfortunately for poor Lucy, that shipwreck occurred close enough to shore that the boxes were still able to be unloaded and delivered."

  "The other ship," said Clayton, "was the Dementrix, captained by a skipper named Capt. Jack Ferguson. There were 20 boxes aboard that and they were also delivered to Carfax Abbey, meaning a total of 70 were there before Dracula started distributing them to various secure locations. When I visited the abbey as part of the House of Lords tour that the Count offered as a P.R. gesture, there were 70 there."

  "I suppose that means you counted them," said Jane.

  "Yes," said Clayton. "And Paul D'Arnot was with me and he counted them too, so I know the number was accurate. Actually, Dracula seemed to get rather nervous when Paul opened what he thought was a bathroom door but it really showed off the basement, with all those boxes! The Count came up with what I thought at the time was a hasty explanation, saying they were boxes of Transylvanian earth he'd brought to grow herbs and spices that he needs for his peculiar diet."

  "Well," said Jane. "That was true in a sense, The count must have been great at double entendres.  He did have a peculiar diet and he did need the boxes so he could rest on his native soil."

  "Yeah, he's a real card," said Clayton, "and, you'll note, card is Drac spelled backward." Jane rolled her eyes.

  "Anyway," said Clayton, Bram Stoker either was ignorant of the fact that there were 70 boxes originally or he knew it and just ignored it to keep the story simple. After all, Stoker reported that Dracula had been destroyed so, as far as he was concerned, the other 20 boxes were irrelevant anyway."

  Jane, her chin resting on a folded hand, asked, "How do you know all this?"

  "I got the story first from a drunken sailor and then checked it out from the diary of a man long dead," said Clayton. "Ol' Quincy was a brave heart and enduring soul, and he died nobly in the effort to kill off Dracula. He had written so many journals that Stoker couldn't include them all in the book. And also," he added, "I was able to inspect the records of the Colonial Shipping Office, which kept track of the comings and goings of foreign ships like the Russian Demeter and Dementrix."

  "But why worry about the 20 other boxes," said Jane. "Like you said, Dracula was killed and they are of no use to him or anyone else."

  "It would be great," said Clayton, "if they were simply sitting in someone's clammy basement with mold growing inside them, but we have to make sure. Dracula has a way of becoming reactivated, and if any Gypsies or anyone else manages to get hold of any of his dust and dump blood on it, that might be enough to do it! Those boxes of earth must be found," Clayton added, "and destroyed so that his putrid body may never rest upon that tainted dirt again."

“But my dear," said Jane. "Who is going to do it?”

  "I am," said John Clayton, Lord Greystoke.


Chapter 2 -- Business on Baker Street 

    Mrs. Hudson fondled the banknotes which her peculiar tenant, a Mr. Sherlock Holmes, had lavished upon her to pay for his lodgings, her cooking, and her periodic housekeeping duties. Perhaps to compensate her somewhat for his eccentricities, as well as the oddball characters who regularly paid visits to him, he always paid her handsomely, even beyond what was normally required. So it might be said that not only was Sherlock Holmes the world's first consulting detective, but also the first consulting detective who tipped excessively.

  Mrs. Hudson finished counting her latest take and then pulled out the tin box beneath her bed, a place where burglars would never think to look. She removed a pin from her hair and picked the lock so she could add the new bills to her stash.

  Just as she finished, she heard a knock at the door. She wasn't aware that Mr. Holmes was expecting anyone at this late hour and neither was she, so she speculated as she headed to the door and opened it somewhat timidly. Standing without was a tall man clad in dark clothing. His face was grim.

  "Yes," said Mrs. Hudson timorously.

  "I would like to see Mr. Holmes," said the stranger with somewhat of an accent. "Will you, of your own free will, allow me to enter?"

  Mrs. Hudson had never been addressed in such a way but acquiesced, almost fearing that, should she attempt to keep the stranger out, he would merely put forth his hand and force the door open. So, she gestured for the man to step in and, as he did so, she noted with a chill in  her heart that his footsteps made no sound upon the front hallway tile.

  Along with her fear, she sensed that she might be in the presence of royalty, perhaps a count or an earl of some sort. "And who shall I say is calling Mr....er....your grace...?"

  “John Clayton, Lord Greystoke," said the stranger. "My card, ma'am.”

  At the mention of the English name and title, Mrs. Hudson breathed a sigh of relief. "I'll tell him you're here, Mr. Clayton." She made her way up the stairs and a few moments later was back, indicating to the caller that he might ascend. "He is eager to see you."

  Sherlock Holmes had just finished shooting up and had taken off his tourniquet and was unrolling his shirtsleeve as Lord Greystoke entered. "Just taking a little hit for a pick-me-up," explained Holmes. "Sorry I didn't have enough to share. The Baker Street Irregulars haven't been coming through for me as much lately."

“That's all right," said Greystoke. "I never stick sharp things...in my own arm.”

  "I have received your wire," said Holmes, "explaining the singular matter on which you wished to consult me, but I can tell you that I believe the idea of vampires is rubbish. It's literally lunacy to imagine that a dead creature can come to life unless pinned in his coffin by a wooden stake."

  "I understand that it is difficult to believe," said Greystoke. "And I can hardly believe it myself. Yet, you did investigate a case of supposed vampirism once in Sussex, and it is concerning that case with which I wish to consult you."

  "Ah yes," recalled Holmes. "The case ended in the restoration of marital bliss and we disproved that vampirism had been involved."

  "I just re-read the account that Dr. Watson here wrote for Strand," said Greystoke. "There was the matter of the young man who was the true attacker of the little child. You had recommended that he clear his mind by spending a year at sea."

  "Yes, Jacky Ferguson," recalled Holmes. "I hear he really took to the sea and eventually rose to the rank of captain on some foreign shipping vessel."

  "Indeed," said Greystoke. "I think you have confirmed what I wanted to know. I was wondering if this young man was the same one who had come to be the skipper of the Russian ship Dementrix."

  "I believe you are correct," said Holmes. "I often consult the shipping news to help solve my cases and I've seen his name listed several times. But I must ask, why are you interested in him?"

  "It's his violent past, with wanton disregard for the lives of innocents," said Greystoke. "He took it to a new level a few years ago in aiding a diabolical fiend to turn his evil loose on London."

  “Fiend, eh?" Holmes rasped. "Would that be the vampire of whom you speak?”

  “It just might be," Greystoke replied. "Well, I won't trouble you further. Good day, sir.”

  But Greystoke halted as Dr. Watson stood up and extended his hand with a paper in it. "Oh, I almost forgot about that," he said. "Thanks, Dr. Watson."

  "Uh, aren't you forgetting something else, too?" Holmes asked.

  "Oh, sorry," said Greystoke. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a few notes.

  "Here's your consulting fee, sir."


Chapter 3 -- By Rail to a Rendezvous 

  Greystoke suspected that Capt. Jack Ferguson of the Russian cargo ship, Dementrix, had been responsible for bringing an extra 20 boxes of Dracula's earth into London, and he suspected that Ferguson's role had been more than just happenstance.

  When he was about 15, "Jacky," driven by insane jealousy, had lashed out at a tiny infant, wounding the babe with a curare-tipped arrow in the child's nursery. When the mother had attempted to suck out the poison, she had been mistakenly accused of being a blood-sucking vampire. Fortunately, Sherlock Holmes had been able to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of all.

  To get him out of the way, they had sent Jacky to sea duty, where the lad eventually advanced in rank until, upon retirement from a British company, he had accepted a commission in the Russian shipping service. Sea duty had seemed to suit him well for some time, but apparently his early fascination with neck wounds had turned him into a perverted monster of a man who had actually been of assistance to the vampire, Dracula.

  What was Ferguson up to these days?

  Greystoke knew that Ferguson's father and mother, after reconciling, had lived for many years in Sussex, south of Horsham, but had both recently passed away. That would mean that Jack, along with the child he had once mercilessly attacked, would likely have a co-inheritance of the estate.

  And it might have been a simple matter for Ferguson to have used some ruse in years earlier to allow Dracula to hide the extra 20 wooden boxes of Transylvanian dirt there.

  There was one way to find out.

  The train pulled into the Sussex station and Greystoke emerged, looking much like any other well-dressed English passenger. But a quick walk down a country lane to a secluded glen of trees was all that Greystoke needed to find a place where he could doff the thin veneer of civilization and expose the loin cloth which depended from a leather belt around his waist. He opened his elongated suitcase and withdrew a stout bow and double-checked the quiver of arrows which had sharpened wooden points. The hunting knife of his long dead sire was by his side, its blade smeared with wood putty. He added one more specially designed accoutrement to his ensemble and then was on his way.

  It was no longer the genteel and proper Lord Greystoke who moved through the night; it was Tarzan of the Apes.


Chapter 4 -- Showdown at Sussex 

  Tarzan had memorized the map given to him by Doctor Watson and easily made his way to the old Ferguson residence, where he saw a light burning in a lower story window. Tarzan stepped up to the window and gazed within at a scene that made even the jungle-inured ape-man almost retch with disgust. On the floor lay a young man of about 30, possibly he who had been the young baby that had once been tortured by Jacky Ferguson. Standing over him, a look of maniacal satisfaction on his face and blood dripping from his fanged mouth, was a human-shaped creature that Tarzan could only compare to a demon of Hell. It was rubbing its hands together in devlish glee, making it easy for Tarzan to observe the improbably long fingers ending in pointed nails. Its eyes seemed to glow as if on fire. And then, Tarzan realized that the eyes were looking at him.

  With Tarzan of the Apes, to think was to act, and it was time for action. Before the ghastly creature could exercise any hypnotic powers over Tarzan, the ape-man grasped the hilt of his hunting knife and used it to break the window. Then, he loosed a shaft from the bow directly at the heart of the loathsome creature. It would have struck true and ended the reign of the vampire, but fate in the form of Jack Ferguson intervened. The man, obviously under the mental control of the vampire, came from a corner of the room and had gotten between Tarzan and the creature just as Tarzan had twanged the arrow. The missile struck Ferguson instead of the vampire.

  The good part was that there was one less foe, but the one remaining had the strength and fury of 10. Tarzan, quick as Ara the Lightning, had already fitted a second arrow to his bow and let it fly across the room. The vampire, though, with supernatural power, was quick too. Tarzan thought at first that he had simply ducked the arrow but, in reailty, he had transformed himself into such a hound of Hell as had never been seen. The Baskervillean beast leaped across the intervening space and hit the ape-man with the force of a cannonball in the chest, knocking him flat on his back and forcing all of the air out of Tarzan's lungs. As the ape-man struggled to regain his breath, the wolf opened its slavering jaws and closed them on the exposed throat of his intended victim.

  Tarzan, however, managed a grim smile. He had anticipated the possibility of just such a thing, although he had prepared for an attack by a vampire in human form rather than a wolf. But his defensive measure, the extra bit of apparel donned when he changed to his jungle outfit, was working, nonetheless. Tarzan had formed the hide of Bara the deer into a tough leather collar which, while not providing permanent protection to the soft flesh protecting his jugular vein,  slowed the creature's jaws  down just enough to give the ape-man the edge he needed. And that edge came in the form of the hunting knife of his long-dead sire which the ape-man, having caught his breath, was able to extract from its scabbard and plunge into the stomach of the wolf. That was not sufficient to kill it, for it was a vampire wolf, but it brought from the beast a howl of pain and rage, discomfiting it just enough to allow the ape-man to move into his favorite position. Tarzan grabbed handfuls of wolf hair and wrenched the thing's body onto its back, bringing it up against his chest and stomach. He then encircled the animal's neck with his left arm and, holding the knife in his right, plunged it again and again into the thing's horrific heart.

  At last the animal lay still, but Tarzan was not finished. He severed the beast's head and, reaching into the small pouch he always carried, grabbed a handful of wilted garlic and stuffed it into the beasts's gaping maw. Then, holding the head high for Goro the Moon to clearly see, he placed one foot on the carcass of the wolf and gave voice to the victory cry of the bull ape.


EPILOGUE 

  Tarzan could not save the young man inside. In the event the man had been infected with the vampiric virus and was destined to rise again at the next full moon, the ape-man took the steps that were necessary to be sure that the man would rest in peace. Then, he explored the Ferguson home, beginning with the basement, where he was not surprised to find several boxes of Earth.

  Tarzan recognized the wooden boxes as the same type he had seen at Carfax Abbey among those he and D'Arnot had counted, it appeared as if his hunt was over. Since he had been able to secure a dispensation, just as Van Helsing had years earlier, he opened the pouch full of consecrated bread and laid a wafer in each crate. For good measure, he also brought out a jar of garlic powder that Jane had sacrificed from her kitchen cabinet, and gave the dirt in each box a good dusting.

  The vampire he had killed: Was it Dracula himself, come back to life? No matter. Dracula's supply of extra coffins was made useless and at least one more creature of the night had been destroyed. London was safe until the advent of the next demonic villain bent on achieving unlimited power at the expense of others.

  But one thing still bothered Tarzan. In the basement of the Sussex home, he had counted just 17 boxes of Earth.
  What had happened to the other three?

The End


THE TRILOGY IS NOW COMPLETE
1. Greystoke's Guest
2. Return of the Sussex Vampire
3. Tarzan Switches Blades/The Tusks of Tantor


BILL HILLMAN
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2019 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.