I can’t believe I’ve been mispelling Claus von Sebottendorff’s name with only one “F”. I hadn’t noticed in the last installment, and just spotted the mistake in this installment after I pasted it into the text box. Hopefully, I caught all the missing F’s here. Now, I need to fix it in my laptop’s spell checker…
Sebottendorff was wearing a threadbare woolen vest over a shirt that has once been white and crisp, but now appeared like wrinkled parchment. He propped his feet on the counter, shoving a tower of books to the floor with a thud. Mr. Zelinski cowered in a corner, clenching his wounded neck, trying to stymie the blood flow. A blush of life lent Sebottendorff a rosy complexion that would fade in about twenty minutes. His eyes, cold and glassy, scanned the old man.
“I’m glad I never had to be broken like you, Antoni.” Sebottendorff smiled sinisterly, clenching his gloved hands. “I always believed that the body was a temple. Yet, it seems that old age weakens its walls. Even now, I can see your foundation crumbling. Your poor heart cannot take much more, can it?”
“Get out, you monster!” commanded Antoni, soliciting a laugh from the German.
“A monster is an old man. He wears his sagging skin like a poorly fitted suit, while his ears and nose out grow his face. The false, pearly teeth are a vain pretense. His thin hair was a reminder that all glories can fade.” Sebottendorff stood up, his once well shined boots clattering against the dusty wooden floor. Drawing closer to Antoni, he pulled off his gloves. “The old man is an eternal reminder of mortality. The old man is an ever present vision of what is yet to come.”
“You feed off of people! Your own kind.” responded Antoni, knocking over a pillar of books as he struggled to his feet.
“My own kind? Old age hasn’t given you any more wisdom Antoni. You pathetic Slavs are more beast than man; unable to understand the complexities of the modern world, you lock yourself away in this repository of dusty knowledge.”
“I haven’t got the book! I all ready told you. Please, leave.” Antoni’s voice quivered as he begged. He began to formulate a plan; he wondered if he could manage to tip a book case on top of the German. Then, he wondered if Sebottendorff would brush it aside like a curtain.
“You are still afraid of me, aren’t you Antoni? You remember when I came, and it is one of the clearest memories in that feeble mind of yours.” Sebottendorff’s sensitive hearing warned him that someone was approaching. Swiftly, he warned Antoni, saying “I will be back, and we’ll talk more.” Sebottendorff slowly faded from sight as August and Tobias stormed into the book store. Tobias lunged over a bookcase, grasping for the ephemeral, smiling image of the vampire. Landing on the ground, Tobias sneered. The vampire eluded him and he felt waves of anger crashing over him.
August hurled a power that smelled like a musty basement into the air as he unfurled a long piece of parchment. He began to recite the spell, his chant breaking off when Tobias snarled, saying that the vampire was gone. August produced a crystal from his pocket and glanced through one of its facets, then another.
“He’s gone, but his presence still lurks here. I can see traces of it.” August’s glace passed of Antoni. “Mr. Zelinski! Are you okay?” asked August, happy to see his friend alive. He hadn’t noticed the neck wound at first, but once he saw the severity of it, he knew that they were too late.
“I’m fine, just fine.” assured Antoni, waving away August’s concerns. “It is just a bite. I’ve been saying my prayers. God will protect me.”
Tobias was pacing, smelling the air, and complaining about the stench. “Why did you have to use the dust? It smells so pungent, I can’t get a trail.”
“Don’t worry. I have a few more tricks in my pockets, but first, we need to get Mr. Zelinski to the hospital. If that bite gets infected, there will be trouble.” said August. Tobias acquiesced, taking Antoni in his arms. He carried the old man to the station wagon, and then spotted a rat scampering across the small parking lot. He considered giving chase, but instead took a deep whiff of the air, catching its scent. August arrived soon after, mashing parchment into the pocket of his duster.
“I think I can get a trail; the stink of the powder is still in my nose, but I’m pretty sure I have something I can follow.” said Tobias, helping Mr. Zelinski into the car. He glimpsed the bite, his face twisting in repulsion in response to its appearance. It looked as though necrosis had set in, as it had all ready turned stiff and black. The wound seemed to be spreading slowly through a spider web of blackening veins.
“What’s wrong?” asked August, catching the expression on Tobias’ face. Closing the car door in an attempt to isolate Mr. Zelinski from the conversation, Tobias quietly explained what he had seen. “I caught a glimpse of the wound earlier,” responded August, “It didn’t seem that bad. Looks like its going to progress quickly.”
“You take him to the hospital, I’ll track the rat.” announced Tobias.
“I think we’re getting out of our depth here,” confided August drearily, thinking about the conversation he had with Minerva earlier. “We’re looking at a vampire that appears at least a century old. Minnie told me on the phone that Sebottendorf isn’t only a vampire, but also a magician. Further, I’m really worried because I’ve seen him out in daylight. Granted, he had…”
“Let’s get to the hospital!” interrupted Tobias, “You can pontificate on the drive.” He pulled open the rear passenger side door and gingerly slid into the backseat. “You’ll be okay, Mr. Z. Don’t worry, we’ll get you help.” He tried to comfort the old man, but had a hard time saying the words. Tobias could see the black rot creeping along Antoni Zelinski’s wrinkled neck, striving upwards, likely in hope of reaching his brain. Neither he nor August had seen a vampire’s bite yield such gruesome results.
The car rode along a winding back road, bouncing merrily when it struck a pothole and jarring the passengers inside. August focused on the road, trying to keep his mind from wandering. He needed to know if the physicians would be able to do something for his new friend. August had been confident that he would have plenty of chances to learn from Mr. Zelinski, but with each passing second, the old man hovered closer to death, drawn inexorably towards the eternal slumber, like an obedient dog called to heel.