He glared at the painting. He stood up and turned to face the mirror, then stepped toward it until he could see the painting’s reflection. Fingers twitching at his sides, he watched for any sign of the vampire’s appearance; there was none. The painting was—for the first time since Victor had entered the mansion—just a painting. He turned and looked up at it.
“How about that?” he said with a wondering smile. “No more vampire. But how?”
He turned to where he had earlier bowled over the bloodthirsty menace in a fit of terror. He squinted at the floor, and then stepped over to where what looked like two miniature elephant tusks were sticking up. Kneeling down, he yanked the tusks from the timber and held them in his hand.
“Fangs,” he said, rolling them across his palm with his finger. The three-inch long ivory daggers deteriorated to dust. “Huh. Knocked his teeth out. So that’s how you kill a vampire. Apparently.” He stood, brushed the dust from his hands and looked up at the portrait. “Good riddance.”
Victor strolled across the room and entered the dining room. The half-eaten bowl of honey was on the table where he had left it. He counted six ants drowning in it. Through the dining room and into the kitchen, he took the serving bowl he had left on the bench, and then returned the way he came. As he crossed the fireplace room, smiling at the yellow flames swaying in the firebox, a mighty knock, like a giant’s footstep, thundered from upstairs and shook the house. The shock spilled the bowl from Victor’s hand. As it hit the floor, a second earthshaking thud boomed above, drowning out the clang of the metal bowl’s collision with the hardwood boards. With lighting reflexes, he snatched up the bowl and clutched it to his chest as a third and final knock pealed. Frozen with dread, he remained holding the bowl while the last ominous echoes and shudders dissipated from the room. His unblinking eyes fixed on the top of the stairs.
Minutes passed and the mansion offered no explanation for the three battering ram thuds. Victor breathed easier and relaxed his stance. With one last look to the top of the staircase, he left the room, stepping lightly and easing the door shut behind him.
Back in the bedroom, Victor cleared the desk and some of the surrounding mess, and set the bowl down on the floor beside it. Removing his jacket and tossing it to the end of the bed, his eyes searched the floor.
“I saw it here somewhere.”
On his hands and knees he sifted through the books and random junk until he found a wooden-handled pocket knife by the foot of the bed. With some effort he pried the short blade out and held it up for inspection. Only a couple of spots of rust. It was a quality knife, still sharp. He placed it on the desk and then began gathering all the pastel pencils from the floor. Once he had them lined up on the desk, he pulled up the stool and sat down. He bit his lip as he surveyed the narrow spectrum of drawing materials before him.
“Twelve,” he said. “Not as many as I’d like. Oh well, let’s see how we go.”
He rolled his sleeves up to his elbows. He took a pencil in one hand and the knife in the other, blew an unenthusiastic breath at the task ahead of him, and began whittling. Over and over again, with short, grating strokes, he shaved slivers from the pencil; pastel crumbs began to accumulate, a tiny pile of blue dandruff on the desk. After nine tedious minutes, Victor had reduced the first pencil to a pretty mound of wood shavings and blue flakes. He raised the rim of the serving bowl level with the desk and swept the pile in. Peering into the bowl, he shook it a little to spread out its contents. He looked at the remaining pencils on the desk.
“Hope it’s enough,” he said.
After setting the bowl back down, he opened and clenched his hands a few times, then gave them a loose shake. Leaning back on the stool, he twisted his upper body from side to side, and then stretched his arms outward. He took a long breath in and out, staring at the desk, then nodded. He picked up the knife again and another pencil, and resumed work.
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