Armitage - Chapter 10 - Madeline's Mistake (Part 1 of 3)
‘Is that…?’ asked Madeline, indicating the small vial that Sebastian held in his grubby hand. He nodded as Madeline continued to stare at the water-like concoction, but as she did her brow furrowed, a question forming in her mind. ‘But if Mason wanted you to research this compound how come you have it and not him?’
‘Because he does not know that I have it,’ said Sebastian, a slight smile playing across his weathered lips.
‘As far as he knows the research was unsuccessful. As I began to regain a sense of who I once was the disgust and horror of what I had become and the actions I had undertaken overwhelmed me so, and when I was restored enough to start working on the compound I had resigned myself that if there were such an elixir that could rid the world of our dreaded kind I would do everything in my power to keep it out of his evil hands. If he gained possession of it he could work on a potential antidote, destroying what little shred of hope I have left in finally ending his centuries long rampage of murder and deception.’
‘Does this compound really work?’ asked Madeline, carefully taking the ornate glass container from Sebastian and inspecting its contents.
‘It does now, I have been working on its completion for many years but only recently have I managed to perfect the mixture.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘While I was working under the watchful eye of Mason I had access to all the necessary equipment, but after I was finally able to get away from him my resources very quickly evaporated. I had to rely on what little time I could snatch in laboratories and institutions.’
‘How did you manage that?’ asked Madeline, wondering how a man dressed as Sebastian could gain permitted entry into anywhere, let alone chemistry labs where there would no doubt be high security.
‘I snuck in at night or whenever the places were empty,’ he answered.
‘And you never got caught?’
‘Not once. You see, although I hated with the deepest passion what I had become I found that some of my newfound talents could be put to my advantage.’
‘Where do you think I went after you found me in your room? You only looked away for a second, did you not?’
‘Yes,’ said Madeline uncertainly, wondering what Sebastian could be driving at.
‘Well, where do you think I could have gone in that second where you were not looking at me?’
‘You…turned yourself invisible?’ Madeline felt stupid just saying the words, but a more rational explanation she could not find.
‘In a manner of speaking,’ smiled Sebastian. ‘I merely made it so that you could not see me.’
‘But isn’t that the same thing?’ asked Madeline, somewhat confused.
‘Not exactly. I was there; I just blended myself in with the general background of your room, so to speak. Believe me, had your brother a dog with him when he came it would have seen me.’
‘Dogs can see you? I mean, even when you’re trying to not to be seen?’
‘Most animals, yes,’ said Sebastian, a wistful look coming across his face. ‘I learned that lesson the hard way, and trust me when I say that guard dogs bite hard.’
‘I thought you said you never got caught,’ said Madeline, still hoping that she wasn’t being taken in by an elaborate scam.
‘Oh I never did, but that does not mean that I did not find myself on occasion in a place that was patrolled by dogs. Another setback, if you will.’
‘So the compound is ready now?’ asked Madeline hopefully.
‘Yes, I scraped what time I could in the various laboratories that I came across in my travels. I have even been using your university’s Chemistry Department for a short while, but I conducted the final test recently and the compound is indeed ready.’
‘But if you’ve been on campus so much how has Mason not known? Can’t he sense you or something?’
‘Mason is nothing if not arrogant,’ said Sebastian bitterly. ‘He may have been able to sense my presence if he thought it worth doing so, but I am sure that his confidence that he dealt with me the last time we met meant that I was able to slip by unnoticed, simply because he did not think to look for me.’ Madeline looked nervously at her hands as Sebastian spoke, realising that she may have alerted Mason to his presence.
‘Sebastian I’m sorry but I think I…’
‘Told Mason about me, yes I know.’ Madeline looked up in shock but saw that Sebastian’s face wore an expression of understanding and not anger or annoyance.
‘How did you know?’ she asked, feeling relieved that he didn’t seem to mind but curious of how he could know.
‘I have been keeping tabs on you shall we say for a while now, I knew Mason had chosen you so I knew I had to find out what kind of person you were. I cannot tell you how relieved I was when I saw that you are a sensible and level headed woman.’
‘Thank you,’ said Madeline, feeling slightly embarrassed.
‘I mean no offence to women but some of the flighty little things that caught his eye were utterly useless, and I could not get them to listen to me for love nor money.’
‘And they died because they didn’t listen to you?’ asked Madeline gravely.
‘I am afraid so.’ Sebastian went quiet for a moment, remembering all the times that, in his mind, he had failed in stopping Mason.
‘You mentioned meeting Mason before, and him thinking that you’d been dealt with,’ said Madeline after a few seconds silence. ‘What did you mean?’
‘Well as I said, I have been trying for some time to put a stop to his demonic pastimes, and on one such occasion things came to a head.’
‘It was sometime in between the World Wars, and I had tracked Mason to a small town in Northern France, some eighty or so miles from Paris. He had set his sights on a local maiden, the Mayor’s daughter in fact, and I tried in vain to speak with her of the danger that she was in.’
‘Wouldn’t she listen to you?’
‘I am afraid not, for you see Mason had twisted this poor girl so wholly and completely to his will that she had fallen in love with him.’
‘Yes, his forms of sick amusement took many forms, but they all ended in the same gruesome way, which was why I was determined to make this girl realise the mistake she was making.’
‘So what happened?’ asked Madeline, feeling like she was being the told the plot to some kind of film rather than events that were supposed to have happened.
‘No matter what I tried I could not get through to the girl, so smitten was she with Mason’s cruel charm that I decided to try her father, the Mayor.’
‘What did he have to say?’
‘Unfortunately, I had not anticipated that Mason had woven his evil magic on both the girl and her father, so my pleas once again fell on deaf ears.’
‘And did Mason find out what you were doing?’
‘Regrettably so,’ said Sebastian quietly.
‘He and his man cornered me in an abandoned barn that I had been staying in.’
‘How did you escape?’ asked Madeline, feeling strangely enthralled by the tale.
‘My interference in Mason’s plans meant that he was forced to move on, find another town somewhere that he could ply his despicable trade, but so as not to arouse suspicion about being the same man decade after decade and not ageing, he always made sure that his exits were, shall we say, grand.’
‘He liked a good fire,’ said Sebastian, sighing as he spoke. ‘It gave the locals a show and removed any evidence that he wanted left behind. It just so happened that this particular time I was amongst that evidence.’
‘He left you to die in a burning barn?’
‘He did.’ Sebastian looked for a moment at Madeline before continuing. ‘As far as he was concerned I was dead and gone, literally this time.’
‘So how did you escape?’ asked Madeline, repeating her question.
‘They had left me beaten and bruised and tied by my leg to a support beam, they thought I was as good as dead.’
‘What did you do?’
‘It was merely a matter of patience. The fire of course engulfed the barn and I just had to wait until the structure had weakened enough for me to be able to break the beam that I was lashed to. Once I had managed that all I had to do was find a nearby stream to put myself out in.’
‘You were on fire?’ said Madeline, her eyes widening in shock.
‘Considerably so, yes, but your average vampire, I have found, can sustain fire for a lot longer than a mortal, unless of course it’s fire brought on by sunlight, but you’ve seen a sample of what that can do.’
‘I’m sorry about that,’ began Madeline.
‘It’s quite alright,’ said Sebastian, smiling. ‘It was not pleasant to do, I will not lie to you, but I knew it was the only way to make you believe.’
‘So Mason didn’t think to look for you because he thought you were dead?’
‘Then I’m so sorry I told him about you, I’ve put you in such danger.’
‘I would have been in danger anyway,’ said Sebastian reassuringly. ‘I had ascertained that you were a sensible enough woman who would hopefully at least listen to me. I even tried to sneak the note I gave you into your room sooner than I did.’
‘One of the ways I can, as you say, become invisible, is to blend with the shadows when it is dark. I become one with them, you might say.’
‘So why didn’t you leave me that note the first time you tried?’ asked Madeline, wondering just how much of her recent life Sebastian had seen.
‘Your radio alarm went off and you woke up.’
‘You were watching me sleep?’
‘Not exactly,’ said Sebastian, looking uncomfortable.
‘Just how often have you been spying on me?’ Madeline began to feel like her privacy had been violated and she didn’t like it.
‘I have not been watching you shower or anything like that, if that is what you are worried about. I have been watching you, yes, but from a respectable distance, so to speak.’ Madeline’s rising indignation deflated somewhat when she saw the genuine look in Sebastian’s eyes, he seemed to be telling the truth so she decided to drop the matter.
‘Okay, about this compound,’ she said.
‘You said once you’d become yourself again you’d decided to keep the compound out of Mason’s hands, if it existed. How did you manage that?’
‘Mason sired me for one purpose and one purpose only,’ said Sebastian resentfully. ‘To work on the compound. Feeding my wife and daughter to me while I was nothing but a bestial shell was his way of ensuring that once I regained my sentience I would be broken enough to bend to his will, but it just strengthened my resolve to get away from him as soon as I possibly could.’
‘How did you do that?’
‘Well, even though my research began to show fruit I never let on to Mason, whenever he demanded to see my work I would always show him false notes and as time wore on he became increasingly frustrated with my seeming lack of progress. I realised after a time that whatever he had heard about this mysterious compound was indeed true, but I knew that I could not finalise the formula while still under his dubious employ, there was too much of a chance that he would discover my deception and force me to complete the compound correctly. I therefore decided to halt my work and continue to concentrate on the falsified research.'
‘After what I deemed to be a suitable length of time I gave my final report, lying that such a compound did not exist. His relief at my untruth was outweighed by his irritation that he had seemingly sired me for nothing, and in a fit of anger he banished me from his sight, unknowingly granting me the freedom I needed in order to complete the compound.’
‘But wait, I’m confused,’ said Madeline, holding up her hand to stop the conversation. ‘In the book you said Mason was able to play with people’s minds, make them think things they normally wouldn’t. How come he didn’t know you were lying?’
‘Mason can manipulate people’s minds but he cannot read them, I was very careful to find that out before I began showing him the false notes.’
‘But now that you’ve finished the compound what’s to stop you using it on him?’