Disclaimer- The characters and situations in "Heartbeat" are original.
The moon shone slightly through the window pane as Tom Crow carefully and silently made his way down the spiral staircase which led to the basement of the Lansing Mansion. He had hoped that things would go easily. He had never dreamed that they would go this easily.
Clutching a wooden stake in one hand and a hammer in the other, Crow stepped off of the stairs and to the side of the room. He crouched behind a bookcase, and scanned the room. Yes, this had been way too easy.
True, getting past Fernando, the loyal servant, had been…interesting, to say the least. A well placed blow to the head had ended that mess, though. And the hounds were not something that he had particularly wanted to tangle with. Several silver bullets had put those dogs to their eternal sleep.
And that had been it?
Here he was, in the mansion of one of the most evil creatures ever to roam the earth, and he had broken through his security with one karate chop and six shots? Tom heard a wolf howl as he sat musing on the events of the day. The howl was enough to remove him from his day-dream and place his thoughts back into his current situation.
There was no light anywhere in the basement, except for four candles burning at each end of the room. The moonlight had faded by the time he had reached the middle of the stairs. He now had enough light to see where he was going. And he had enough light to see the resting place of his prey.
After scanning the room for signs of any further threats, Tom stepped out from behind the bookcase, and crept over to a nightstand. Leaning on its oak surface for comfort, Tom checked once more behind him to make sure that old Fernando had not magically revived and followed him. The stake and hammer were temporarily placed on the nightstand as Tom tried to sum up the courage for his next move. Only five feet lay between him and the casket.
Sean Van Lansing, the Count of Elba. The last time that place had been of note, it had failed to contain Napoleon Bonaparte. This time, the island had let go of something much more treacherous, something much darker. And if this latest Elba cast-off was allowed to roam free, there would soon be fewer men left than had composed the army that stopped Bonaparte at Waterloo.
Tom's eyes stayed fixated on the casket. One man, he thought. No, not a man. A monster. Just one of his kind comes to our village, and suddenly I am the only remaining member of my family. And I'm not the only one who's tried to stop him.
No, Tom had not been the only one that had tried to end the evil of Count Van Lansing. Three other men had all come together to this mansion approximately one year ago to try to stop the madness. All three had been buried outside of the town by Tom. The only clue to their death lay in a journal that one of the men had kept, describing the task that they had undertaken.
Tom had been the town's main undertaker for quite some time. And make no mistake, business was booming, particularly since Count Van Lansing moved into town. But Tom almost could not bring himself to bury these men. The gruesome condition of the bodies had almost been too much.
Clutching at his chest with one hand and stroking his hair with the other, Tom remembered how no one had believed his story. He remembered how the bodies had mysteriously been removed from their graves. And Tom remembered when the murders had resumed.
The one who wrote the journal had been right. A haze, or something of the sort, had fallen on the whole town. No one believed me. Or no one wanted to.
So here he was now. If things had been as easy for the three men at first, then why had they failed? Had they managed to wipe out enough of the other "security" dogs and whatever else there had been?
Just what was waiting for him in the five feet between the nightstand and the coffin? Reaching for the hammer and stake, he cautiously began his final approach toward the casket. It had been a long time since Tom had taken baby steps. But they were needed now.
Tom screamed and retreated to the nightstand. That stupid wolf!! He's next if I ever make it out of this!
He crouched down once more, checking to see if his outburst had… awoken. . . anything.
Surprised, but relieved that nothing seemed to be amiss, Tom crawled to the spot where he had been seconds earlier, and picked his stake and hammer back up off of the ground. Three feet to go.
When he knelt down to get his tools, he stayed on the ground for caution's sake. He crawled along at this point. Two feet left to go.
Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb. . . . Oh, come now, Tom, how could you have forgotten the words? Singing had always been a refuge for Tom Crow, and, unfortunately, he could not even recall that little nursery rhyme at the moment. One foot left.
He stood up at the base of the casket, and walked to the side where it could be opened. His hands trembling, he reached to touch the lid. This was it.
Summing up all of the courage that he had left, Tom lifted the lid all the way up. Yes, all was as it should be. The Count of Elba was still resting as peacefully as Tom supposed that vampires could rest. Even in sleep, the Count retained the look of elegance that had tricked everyone in town, and a look of power that made Tom even more weak in the knees.
Making sure that the lid was securely locked in place, he grabbed the stake with his left hand one final time. Clutching the hammer tightly in his right hand, Tom lifted the stake over the body of the Count. This, unfortunately, was going to require more speed and action than Tom felt that he could muster at the moment.
In one swift move, Tom placed the stake over where he knew the Count's heart would be, and where he knew that he could end this madness once and for all. A thousand images flashed through his mind at the same time. His mother, father, sister, and two brothers had all been slain by the creature that was now at his mercy.
He lifted the hammer into the air and watched in terror as the Count awoke and grabbed the stake. Without thinking, Tom instinctively brought the hammer down onto the stake as hard as he knew how. The Count released his grip and screamed in a pitch that Tom had never heard from any creature before- man or beast. Ignoring the pain now surging through his ears from the scream, Tom pounded the stake again, and again, and again, until finally the screaming ended, and the body of the bloodied Count relaxed as if he were asleep once more.
Tom stepped back, perfectly willing to leave the stake in the body of the Count. He dropped his hammer and then fell to the ground himself. The emotions that he had denied the entire day were now freely flowing through him. Wanting to cry, scream, laugh, crawl and run all at once, Tom closed his eyes and relaxed his head against the cool concrete wall.
When Tom awoke, he noticed that the candles had begun to go dim. Without Fernando around to keep them going, they would soon be out completely. To Tom, this meant that it was about time that he made his way out of the mansion.
He had begun his walk toward the stairs when he heard a noise. It was low at first, and seemed like the chuckle of a child. As the seconds passed, the noise increased until it reached the sound of a full, booming laugh. Then that laughter stopped, and a voice spoke out.
Tom turned at the sound of the cool, calculating voice, and felt his legs collapse underneath him as he saw a hand grip the side of the casket. The Count's hand. The emotions came flooding through his body once more, but Tom could pay none of them any heed at this time. He remained on the ground, too frozen by fear to move.
An arm soon appeared in his sight, and Tom watched as the Count's back came up in full view. The creature climbed out of the coffin, and Tom found himself staring once more at the Count of Elba. The stake was still noticeably lodged in the Count's chest.
"I am somewhat… surprised at your courage, though a bit disappointed in your sense of ingenuity. However, your attempt was not bad for being an undertaker's son. Many that came before you were already dead at this point. Not bad at all."
Still clutching his hammer out of some false sense of security, Tom tried to speak, but could not find the words. He tried to stand, but his legs seemed paralyzed. Finally, Tom managed one word. "H-h-h-hooo-how?"
"I see that you also retain your capacity for speech. Interesting. Most of those that have tried what you have tonight also seemed to lose that ability rather quickly. You are an amazing specimen, Tom. You force me to acknowledge that much."
The Count paused for a brief moment as he removed the stake from his chest. "I really am growing quite tired of playing this little game with your kind. Is there nothing else? You forgot your crucifix, perhaps? Or maybe the garlic? Where have you hidden that?"
Tom could not reply to these questions, but instead managed only to say the one word that he had whispered before. "H-h-how?" The Count frowned at this.
"Very well then. Since you have succeeded in impressing me tonight, I will give you the privilege of learning why you have failed, instead of just slaughtering you outright as is my usual practice." The Count began to move closer to Tom, shortening the already much too small gap between them.
"What I hold in my hand here is a fine example of carving. Cedar, perhaps. Maple, maybe? I suppose you would not be in the spirit to fill me in on this? I did not think so. Well, I could make an educated guess on a subject such as the origin of a stake, because I have seen so many of them, and have personally been the object of their. . . affection. . . more than once. Such is the sentence of my kind, to be constantly striving to avoid a tip such as this. I notice that you made this one especially sharp!"
"I do assume that you noticed my lack of security, a lack of… insurance, if you will. I also make the assumption that you have killed Fernando and my guard dogs. I applaud you for this, though they were not exactly the best in their fields. My lack of protection ties in with the reason why I survived your assault."
Tom stared at the wound in the Count's chest, or at least at the spot where the wound should have been. It had healed this quickly? Tom's eyes were drawn back to those of the Count as he continued his explanation.
"To make an already tedious story short, Tom, I lack proper protection since I do not really require it. The special circumstance that I have found myself in is of itself protection enough. This circumstance allowed me to survive the feeble assault of those three men from the village earlier this year, which prompted me to return to the village and extract a small portion of revenge for the dog that they took from me. I apologize that that vengeance claimed your family and some of their friends. Believe me when I say that that was not personal."
The Count stepped closer and closer to Tom, until he was directly in front of him. Tom's mind screamed for him to move, to attack, to do anything, but the rest of his body refused to cooperate. He sat mesmerized by Van Lansing.
"You see, Tom, I am one of just a handful of people who live. . . ah, slip of the tongue. I'm sure you'll forgive me? I am one of a handful of people who reside on this earth who have a heart lodged someplace slightly different."
"Unlike you and most others, Tom, my heart is on the right side of my body."
"Of course, this is why you clearly missed your intended target. Pity. Now, on to more pressing business."
Hearing this, Tom's thoughts switched immediately to the village. Who would ever think that there could be such a vampire? Would anyone ever be able to stop him?
Tom snapped out of his hypnotic state to see the Count blow out seven of the eight candles. After doing that, the Count stood over Tom and stared down at him, his vampire teeth almost glistening. Tom would have screamed if he still possessed the ability, but fear stopped him once more.
Count Sean Van Lansing of Elba blew out the last candle, and he laughed in the darkness.