From the Diary of Doctor J. Watson
I write these lines from the surprising comfort of Castle Dracula. Mary and I found ourselves billeted in one of the upper storeys in the west wing overlooking the village. As expected, we have not yet met the Count, as he is apparently away on ‘business’. However, thus far, we have no complaints and the food is extraordinarily good. If it weren’t for our apprehension at the imminent arrival of our host, I’m certain our stay here would be quite relaxing.
This morning, Count Alucard’s coachman arrived at the inn to collect us as per our itinerary. Holmes supervised loading luggage onto the carriage, while I settled the bill with the landlady. The old woman seemed a little concerned about our welfare and glanced over my shoulder several times at the jet-black coach outside:
“I zink you very zilly to go to zer Castle, Doktor. Vould you like I should give you zum prophylactic?”
I blinked rapidly several times. “Excuse me?”
The woman’s husband nudged her and whispered in her ear. She giggled. “I zorry, I mean – vould you like zum protection?”
“Oh, protection? What did you have in mind?”
She reached under her apron and pulled out a huge pistol. “Zis sort.” She waved the gun around under my nose.
“No thank you, madam,” I said, carefully pushing the pistol away from my face. “In fact I have my own trusty weapon right here.” I patted my trousers.
She shrugged. “I don’t know if zat vill help you very much. Vell, don’t zay I did not varn you.” She reached under her apron again and produced a paper bag. “Take zees. If not for you, for your darling wife.”
I took the bag of garlic and thanked her, though she had achieved nothing apart from increasing my sense of dread at the prospect of meeting the Count. Making my way outside, I stood for a moment gazing up at the huge slate-black coach and four enormous stallions. The hunchbacked coachman sat resolutely at the reins, staring down grimly at his passengers.
“Ah, there you are Watson,” said Holmes offering me a hand up. “You sit in here with Mary – I shall keep the driver company.” He hauled me up into the coach then climbed over and slid onto the seat with the sullen-faced coachman.
“What was the landlady saying to you, dear,” said Mary as I snuggled up beside her.
“Oh, er, nothing much.”
“So she didn’t trot out one of those peasant-like warnings about how we oughtn’t to go anywhere near Castle Dracula if we valued our lives etc etc?”
“No, not as such. Why?”
“So you don’t think we’ll need these, then?” And with that, she reached into her handbag and pulled out a beautifully carved set of wooden stakes and a small mallet.
“Oh. What are those for?”
Mary inclined her head and gazed at me with those wonky eyes of hers. “Really, Johnny, I know I’m only a woman, but I can deal with the truth, you know?”
“Ah.” I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. “Holmes told you about what we saw last night?”
“Of course. Though I think he imagined the idea of meeting a vampire who might kill us, or at the very least, turn us into the undead, would scare me off and I’d run away back to England and leave you and he to tackle the dreaded fiend alone.”
I patted her leg. “You’re a brick, Mary.”
My wife’s brow creased in bewilderment, before a wide grin spread across her features. “For a moment there, I thought you were calling me a rude name.” She guffawed loudly and I noted the hee-haw element that had been absent from her laughter these last few weeks, had crept back in with a vengeance. I smiled back at her and took out my diary.