I first discovered Justin Gustainis through the now defunct Deadly Vixens blog. Some time later, I found that our library system had one copy of Black Magic Woman. Wow! I found myself just moved by this book. I love the banter so much that I started a list of favorite quips and banters. I'm halfway through the novel only because, for me, this is not a novel to just plow through to the end, oh no, every word must be savored......
When I asked him to blog with us, I had no idea what a treat we were going to be in for. Of all the sites he could have chosen, he chose ours to introduce to the world information he somehow got his hands on!
Without further ado here's what he found:
The following account has been pieced together from several pages of notes and correspondence found in a sealed wooden box marked "Misc. papers" that was sold at auction by the Stoker estate in 1927.
The high bidder, one Mr. Reed Blackstone of Sussex, died shortly after claiming his purchase which, as far as can be determined, he never opened. The box remained sealed until his great-grandson, Mr. Charles Blackstone, opened it in 2004, while sorting through a variety of family heirlooms (in Mr. Blackstone's words: "old junk") prior to selling the family home to a developer.
Having apparently no understanding of what he had discovered, Mr. Blackstone donated the box and its contents to the British Museum, where they were stored with the Stoker papers but remained unexamined until early 2006. The account of how that material fell onto the present author's hands is best left to another time.
Suffice it to say that the box contained a number of unpublished letters, memoranda, and diary extracts relating to certain events discussed in Bram Stoker's famous book Dracula, a work heretofore universally regarded as fiction. These papers shed some light on the 1893 death of Mister Quincey Morris of Laredo, Texas in the Carpathian Mountains, as well as the demise of a certain Transylvanian nobleman.
They also contain a lengthy handwritten letter dated April 30, 1896 and signed "Abraham Van Helsing, M. D., Ph. D., D. Litt., etc.," one paragraph of which is especially telling:
"Friend Bram: I agree that the story of Count Dracula must see the light of day, that the world may learn from those of us who suffered much in his destruction. But the account absolutely must be in the guise of fiction, else no publisher will consider seriously the work of a man, even one as respectable as yourself, whom he believes to have clearly taken leave of his senses."
What follows is based on that material, but using the form of prose fiction. The reader may interpret it as he wishes.
The Carpathian Mountains
November 6, 1893
The sun was low on the horizon now, which lent greater urgency both to the pursuers and their quarry. The two parties were pushing their horses to the limit -- they all knew that once that blood-red orb disappeared below the mountain peaks, continuing the chase would be futile.
The American was at the head of the pursuit. He rode hard and well, bent low over his mount's neck to decrease wind resistance and reduce the blurring of vision caused by the cold air whipping at unprotected eyeballs.
Unlike his companions, the American had some experience taking a horse into battle, although the brightly-dressed gypsies up ahead bore little resemblance to the Apaches he had fought in south Texas as a young man, almost twenty years earlier.
The gypsies' cart was slowing to a halt now, under the rifles of Mina and the Professor, who had been hiding in ambush behind some rocks near the entrance to the castle. But the gypsies, although stymied, showed no inclination to surrender. Dismounting, they produced knives from within their clothing and formed a protective cordon around the cart and the large, rectangular crate that it carried.
The sun had crept lower still.
The American rode up on the scene and was out of the saddle before his mount had stopped completely. He sprinted toward the Gypsies' cart, drawing the huge Bowie from its sheath on his belt. He could see Harker rushing forward from the opposite side, waving that great Kukri knife of his like a scythe.
The two of them attacked without hesitation. There was no time to parley with the Gypsies, even if a common language could somehow be found. There were at most a few minutes of daylight left, and then his time would be on the world again.
The American fought savagely and by instinct, which is the only way to go up against odds with any chance of survival. Slash, parry, thrust, parry, slash, feint, slash, thrust, parry, the big steel blade of the Bowie knife never still, thrust, parry, feint, slash, the left hand working as well, punching, clawing, blocking, pushing, gouging as he surged forward, forward, always forward. He knew nothing of fear, or pain, or mercy, and three Gypsies lay twitching on the ground before the rest of them finally gave way before this madman, a moment after their kinsmen on the other side broke under Harker's equally desperate onslaught.
The two men clawed their way onto the cart's flat bed and immediately assaulted the nailed-down lid of the crate, the refuge and resting-place of the creature they had come so many miles to destroy.
Using their knives as levers, they tore the nails loose, wrenched off the lid and flung it aside -- just as the last rays of the sun disappeared from the western sky.
He was inside, as they had known he would be, to all appearances a corpse but then, as the daylight fled over the horizon, the ancient eyes flew open, the sharp canine teeth suddenly visible as the face twisted in a triumphant smile--a smile that vanished an instant later as the blade of the Bowie slammed into the monster's heart while Harker's Kukri knife bit deep of his throat.
The sudden blast of energy from the crate knocked the two men onto their backs, their knives clattering loose against the crude wood of the cart. A terrible sound filled the air around them, an immense bellow that somehow combined a screech of pain, a scream of fear and, strongest of all, an animal howl of rage. It lasted only a few seconds, but when the two men regained their feet and peered inside the makeshift coffin, there was nothing left but dust, a few scraps of cloth and a half-dozen gold buttons, each inscribed with a stylized letter "D."
The surviving Gypsies had also observed their master's dissolution. Responding to a shouted order from their clan leader, they took to horse and fled, leaving their dead behind. As the sound of hoof beats faded into the distance, an unearthly quiet settled over this impromptu battlefield, a silence broken only by the wind and the far-off howling of wolves.
It was only then that someone noticed that the American was bleeding.
Both Seward and Van Helsing were physicians, but there was little they could do. One of the Gypsy blades had found a major artery, and the hastily-applied pressure bandages could not stem the flow of bright-red blood.
Mina Harker knelt beside the American, taking one of his hands in her own. She wept softly, and he turned his head toward her, probably with the intent of saying something manly and consoling. Suddenly his eyes widened. With an effort, he raised one unsteady hand, pointing at Mina's forehead. "Look!" he croaked. "It's gone! The scar. . . ."
They looked, all of them: Harker, his hands still red from the Count's blood; Jack Seward, moustache quivering with emotion; Lord Godalming, the noble profile barely visible in the gloom; and Van Helsing, their leader, whose wise old face went from exhaustion to elation in the space of an indrawn breath.
Mina Harker's forehead, which had been scarred weeks earlier by the touch of a wafer of Holy Eucharist, was now utterly smooth. "God be praised!" Van Helsing said reverently. "Her brow is rendered clean as the virgin snow -- the curse is lifted, by the death of the devil that inflicted it!"
One by one, the men knelt on the ground, in respect for the miracle they had just witnessed.
It was sometime during that interval that Quincey Morris, of Laredo, Texas and many points east, lay back, closed his eyes, and quietly died.
Some time later, they loaded Morris's body onto the back of the cart that the gypsies had abandoned. "Should we put him in the coffin, Professor?" Godalming asked.
Van Helsing shook his head adamantly. "We should not the remains of our friend defile with the unholy resting-place of such foulness. He deserves better of us, I think."
In the end, they took coats and jackets from several dead gypsies and fashioned them into a semblance of a shroud. The gypsies themselves they buried in a common grave. While the Harkers and Lord Godalming labored at this, Seward and Van Helsing stood off a little way, talking quietly. "We shall have to make arrangements to have Quincey's body shipped back to Texas for burial," Seward said. "He would want that, you know."
The old man nodded. "He said so to me once, years ago."
"We should telegraph his family, as well. It wouldn't do to have the coffin simply arrive there unannounced."
Van Helsing sighed. "You are quite right. I will the telegram send from Bistritz. His family must learn the news, tragic though it be. We should also write at length, each of us, so they may know the true heroic end of him who they consign to the earth."
"Both his parents are still alive, I believe."
"Yes, and one child, also."
"Child! You mean Quince was married?" Seward's voice betrayed his shock. "But . . . but he sought Lucy's hand, just as Godalming and I did!"
The old Dutchman laid a gentle hand on Seward's arm. "Do not have distress, friend John. Quincey was married once, true. But his wife died, in childbirth. It has been, now. . ." Van Helsing calculated briefly. ". . . about four years since. So, fear not. Our American friend was a gentleman. He was free to marry Miss Lucy, if she would have him. But, as matters developed. . . ."
"Yes, quite." Seward closed his eyes tightly for a moment. The fate of Lucy Westenra was a wound on his soul that would need a long time to heal, perhaps a lifetime. "But the baby lived, you say."
"Yes -- lived, and is now in the care of Quincey's parents on their ranch, or so he did tell to me some months past." Van Helsing saw that the others were done with Morris's body and preparing to leave. As the two men walked toward their horses, Seward asked, "Is Quincey's child a boy or girl? You didn't say."
"A boy. Strong and healthy, by all accounts." Van Helsing swung into the saddle. "We should pray that the son grow to be as brave and steadfast as was the father."
"Yes, we should," Seward said. "The world needs such men."
They turned their horses and joined the others on the road that would take them to Bistritz, and, in time, back to England. Behind them they left nothing but a ruined castle, a few gold buttons, and a handful of rags that were already scattering in the cold, Carpathian wind.