IN THIS EPISODE: … Victoria dallies with Paul and plots her next murder…
Welcome to another chapter of Dr. Cushing’s Chamber of Horrors! By pledging, you support the stories and help determine what I’ll write next. Can you spare a buck or two to keep the monsters marauding? Please join my patrons today!
CHAPTER 26 – Lifeblood
Victoria Duprix – 1951 Fisher St.
The Evening of the First Quarter Moon
“Are you leaving already?” Victoria asked from her bed. She lay on her belly, enjoying the afterglow of lovemaking. She liked being taken from behind, sometimes, and this had been one of those times. She’d really thrown herself into the passion, and it felt better than it had since she’d been much younger, perhaps since even her college days, decades past.
Can I really become that young again? she wondered. Certainly, she felt more youthful, and even her traitorous husband had remarked about the lack of grey in her hair. But she wasn’t there yet, and that vexed her, as did the impending precipitous departure of her new lover.
“I have to get back to work,” Paul said, pulling on his trousers. “There’s a lot to do.”
“But you work for me,” she replied.
“Which makes what we’re doing an even worse idea.”
A cold fist formed in Victoria’s chest, and she fought to keep from grinding her teeth. Shaw was temperamental, prone to mood swings and melancholy. Her becoming angry didn’t work with him; she had to use “honey.”
Victoria rolled onto her back, showing all her goods, and gazed wantonly at him.
“Are you saying you don’t find me attractive, Paul?”
He stopped dressing, unable to keep from looking at her.
“I may not have the body of a teenager,” she said, “but I like to think I more than make up for that with experience—and enthusiasm.” She licked her lips—and then silently cursed her own stupidity.
Why had she mentioned teenagers?! That was sure to make him think of the Cushing girls, so near at hand. It was bad enough having to compete with the brats for Paul’s favors without calling attention to them.
“You certainly are enthusiastic,” he said, turning away once more. He rubbed the red mark on his shoulder where she’d nipped him during the preamble to their lovemaking. “And your body’s just fine, too.” He began buttoning his shirt.
She didn’t believe him. If he was telling the truth, why had he turned away? Why was he dressing once more?
She need to be younger, more attractive. Experience and zest in lovemaking wasn’t enough to ensnare—and keep—a decent man these days. Not that this handsome drifter was so terribly decent.
Or was he?
Victoria suddenly realized that though he’d been working for her nearly a month, and sharing her bed (or rather, stolen moments wherever she could corner him) for more than a week, she didn’t really know much of anything about the mysterious Mr. Shaw.
Certainly, he was handy enough around the museum, but his hands were surprisingly soft (her body had quite a bit of experience with feeling them now), not callused like the paws of a common laborer.
Could he be harboring some kind of dark secret? Had he been born rich and squandered his money on gambling and women? Had he killed a man in a card game and been forced to flee from America? Certainly, Shaw sometimes harbored a fugitive look in his steely grey eyes.
How thrilling to think she might be bedding a criminal!
“Tell me about yourself, Paul,” she cooed, still displaying all her feminine charms. “Where do you come from? What did you do before you became my… handyman, here?”
He spared her only a momentary glance, as he sat and donned his socks and shoes. (If not for what they’d just been doing, she might have thought he didn’t like women!)
“We don’t have time for that now,” he insisted. “Your husband won’t be gone long, you know.”
“The supply shop he’s visiting is eccentric—only open nights, or so he tells me—and it’s clear across town.” She almost purred the words. “My philandering spouse will be gone long enough for us to partake in one more round, I’m sure.”
As he stood, she rose from the bed, put her arms around him, and pressed her naked body up against his chest. “There’s plenty of time,” she insisted, and then kissed him.
He barely kissed back and quickly disentangled himself from her arms.
“No,” he said. “No, there’s not. I have to leave soon. I’ve stayed too long as it is.”
“Afraid the authorities will catch up with you?” she ventured.
For a moment, he froze. “No. That’s not it. What made you say that?”
She shrugged her shoulders and turned away, sashaying back toward the bed. “Always in a hurry…” she said, giving him a perfect view of her rump. “…Always looking like you’ve been caught with your hand in the cookie jar.”
“I don’t want to get caught…” Paul began.
And a little thrill shot through Victoria. Was her lover truly a murderer as well? Could that be more than just fancy, on her part. If so, they were destined to be together.
“…by your husband,” he finished, and her heart sank. “That’s just one more reason I need to get the work done and get out of here. I’ve stayed longer than I meant to, anyway. In two more weeks…” He stopped midsentence.
“In two more weeks, what?” she asked, perching herself on the edge of the bed and trying to lure him back with her eyes.
Shaw squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. “No… Not two weeks… One… At most. That’s all I can possibly give you. I don’t care what you or the Cushings think I might owe. I’ve done enough… more than enough. I need to get out of here—back on the road.”
“Why? Why do you need to get out of here? What are you running from?”
“I’m not running from anything,” he insisted, heading for the door. “This affair has been a mistake, and both of us know it. I won’t compound it by staying longer than I have to.”
She sprang to her feet, and if she could have cut him to ribbons with her glare, she would have.
“A mistake?! Why you ungrateful… miserable… wretch! I took you in! I’ve given you food, lodging… my body! You’ll stay here as long as I want you to—until I say your work is finished!”
She walked toward him, seething, not sure if she wanted to strangle him, rip him to pieces, or throw him to the floor and take him again, forcibly this time.
“I’ll stay until the work I promised to finish is done,” he said, apparently not intimidated by the furious nude woman coming toward him. “That shouldn’t take more than two or three days—four at the most.”
“A moment ago, you said a week!”
“I did. Then I came to my senses.”
Before she could pounce on him, he exited the door and closed it behind him.
Victoria stood alone in her room, naked, furious.
How dare he…!
Someone calling? …Paul?
Was he coming back realizing he’d been a fool to leave?
The voice sounded very far away…
Not Paul. Erzsebet, the woman in the mirror—Victoria’s one true friend.
The sun must have set.
Victoria had noticed that Erzsebet seldom appeared during daylight hours, but since it was now twilight…
She locked the door, lest Paul should return, and then hurried to her mirror—that blessed mirror that would help her regain her youth.
Victoria gazed at her reflection, evaluating her figure, her breasts, the down of her womanhood, the sheen of her dark hair… still with a hint of grey in places.
She muttered a curse. “I’m not young enough yet!” Even looking as good as she did now, how could she expect to compete with those delectable Cushing waifs for Paul’s attention—or that of any other man?
She’d tricked Paul into bedding her, but to keep him as a plaything, he’d have to do better.
“Sssoon you will be younger.”
The voice in her head sounded as though it were right next to her; it startled Victoria, almost made her jump.
Erzsebet emerged from the darkness that always seemed to cling to the edge of Bathory’s mirror, and where the mysterious woman walked, the surface turned black, as if Victoria were peering into the darkest pit of some distant dungeon.
“Sssoon you will reclaim all the lovelinesss that you posssesssed in your youth,” Erzsebet whispered seductively.
“How soon?” Victoria asked. “You said I must bring the next victim to you, so you could show me—but that’s impossible. I can’t smuggle outsiders in here. My husband—or one of those dratted Cushings would notice. It’s too great a risk.”
“What you want requiresss sssacrificssse.”
“Yes, sacrifice, but not foolhardiness! What good is it to have eternal life, eternal youth, if I must spend it behind bars?”
This notion seemed to take Erzsebet by surprised, as if the idea of getting caught committing murder had never occurred to her.
“Perhapsss more caussstion is needed,” Erzsebet agreed.
“Good,” said Victoria. “Then what more must I do before you fulfill your promise?”
A predatory smile crept over the face of the woman in the mirror:
Just after Four A.M.
Victoria stood in front of Erzsebet Bathory’s mirror and let her trench coat fall to the floor.
She looked as though she had been painted blood red from her collarbones right down to her garters. But it wasn’t paint; it was real blood.
Instantly, Erzsebet swirled into existence out of the mirror’s darkness. She looked more vivid, more lifelike, than Victoria had ever seen her before. In fact, it looked so much like she was in the third-floor bedroom that Victoria had to glance over her shoulder to make sure Bathory wasn’t standing behind her.
But no. Erzsebet Bathory remained only in the mirror.
Victoria felt glad of that fact, too, because the mysterious woman licked her lips as she prowled around behind Victoria, seeming to look her protégé up and down, the way a hungry cat eyes a caged bird. And for just a moment, Victoria glimpsed the gleam of sharp, white teeth between Erzsebet’s blood-red lips.
“How do you feel?” Erzsebet asked, dark brown eyes sparkling.
How did Victoria feel?
When she’d stalked this victim—a slattern barmaid named Eve Leon—she’d been tense, even a bit fearful.
That had passed, though, as the drunken little tart had closed up the bar and retired to her small apartment above the pub, retired with one of the patrons, as it turned out (much to Victoria’s chagrin). Would Victoria have to wait another night to take her revenge on this particular former paramour of her husband?
Victoria had waited impatiently in the alley below the apartment’s back stairs, which debouched onto a deserted Soho backstreet. The alleyway afforded Victoria plenty of shadows to hide in. And, garbed in trench coat and hat, there had been little chance of her being seen, never mind recognized.
Fortunately, Eve’s little tryst—though loud and enthusiastic—had lasted no more than fifteen minutes. Then the girl’s patron/paramour trundled down the stairs and staggered back to wherever he’d come from (home and a wife, to judge by the wedding ring on his finger).
Slut! Victoria had thought, images of Eve dallying with Vincent running through her mind.
Swiftly and silently she’d moved up the stairs. The flat’s door was unlocked, and she’d rushed inside, surprising the girl on her shoddy mattress.
Before the drunken, half-dressed barmaid could even scream, Victoria’s stiletto had found her left eye socket and the soft, greyish brain beyond.
Then came the fun part…
“…I feel, exhilarated!” Victoria told Erzsebet.
“Do you feel… younger?”
“Yes!” Victoria declared. And she did, young and full of life—the life of her husband’s former lover.
She’d dragged the girl’s still-twitching body to the flat’s bathroom, cut her throat, filled the tub with her blood and then… bathed in it.
Immersing herself in the warm liquid had caused Victoria’s skin to tingle as though it were on fire, and the sensation still remained, close to an hour later. The trip home via two cabs and on foot had been perilous, but having cleaned her arms and legs, the disguised Victoria made it home without incident.
Even through the crusty sheen of dried blood, Victoria thought she looked younger as well. She could hardly wait to wash off the gore to be sure.
“Is this it, now?” she asked. “Will I remain young forever?”
Erzsebet’s low, amused laugh echoed in Victoria’s mind.
“No, my dear,” the woman in the mirror said. “Thessse effectsss are transssitory.”
“How can I make them last longer, then? You said I could become young and stay that way.”
“Yesss, my dear.”
“Well? What must I do?”
“Jussst what you have done. But the efectsss will lassst longer if you use the bathtub that I have ssspecsssially prepared.”
“The tub… your tub? The one that’s downstairs in the Cushing exhibit?” Victoria asked.
“Jussst so. Bathe in the blood of your nexxxt victim in my tub on the night of the full moon, and your immortality isss asssured.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do,” Victoria said, licking her lips.
“Choossse your victim well,” Erzsebet advised. “Not jussst any will do.”
“I already have some ideas in mind,” Victoria said.
Should it be one of the twins… or both…?
Or perhaps… her husband…?
As the mirror image of Erzsebet Bathory licked the blood off her protégé’s neck, Victoria Duprix smiled.
TO BE CONTINUED…!
Extra-special thanks to these wonderful patrons at Credit Creature level and above:
Shawn P. Conlin – Wolvesbane Academy
David Lars Chamberlain
Rich Chamberlain – Monster Movie Kid
Amy Frushour Kelly – AFK Photography
…And all the rest of you, too! Keep sharing the story links!