evening, and I’m not sure why or how.”
“It has you exhausted,” he said considerately. “Are you sure you don’t want to rest?”
“No, I need to talk to you,” I said. And so I began by describing our meeting in the café, and all that had passed between us, including my memories of the child Merrick from years ago.
I NDEED I TOLD HIM everything which I have told you so far.
I described even my scant memories of my first meeting with the girl Merrick, and my repressed fear when I was quite certain that the ancestors in the daguerreotypes had been passing approval on Aaron and me.
He was very startled when I laid down this part of the story, but wouldn’t have me pause just yet but encouraged me to go on.
I told him briefly of how the meeting had triggered other, more erotic memories of Merrick, but that Merrick had not refused his request.
Merrick had seen him, I explained to him, and she knew who he was and what he was long before any intelligence on the vampires had been given to her by the Talamasca. In fact, to the best of my knowledge
information on the vampires had
been given to Merrick.
“I remember more than one encounter with her,” he said. “I should have told you, but by now you must know my manner.”
“How do you mean?”
“I tell only what’s necessary,” he said with a little sigh. “I want to believe in what I say, but it’s hard. Well, in truth I did have an encounter with Merrick. That’s true. And yes, she did fling a curse at me. It was more than sufficient for me to turn away from her. However, I wasn’t afraid. I’d misunderstood something about her altogether. If I could read minds as you can read them, the misunderstanding would never have occurred.”
“But you must explain this to me,” I said.
“It was in a back street, rather dangerous,” he said. “I thought she wanted to die. She was walking alone in utter darkness, and when she heard my deliberate footfall behind her, she didn’t even bother to glance over her shoulder or speed her pace. It was very reckless behavior and unusual for any woman of any sort at all. I thought she was weary of life.”
“I understand you.”
“But then, when I drew close to her,” he said, “her eyes flashed on me violently, and she sent out a warning that I heard as distinctly as a spoken voice: ‘Touch me and I’ll shatter you.’ That’s about the best translation of it from the French that I can make. She uttered other curses, names, I’m not sure what they meant. I didn’t withdraw from her in fear. I simply didn’t challenge her. I had been drawn to her in my thirst because I thought she wanted death.”
“I see,” I said. “It checks with what she told me. Other times, I believe she’s seen you from afar.”
He pondered this for a moment. “There was an old woman, a very powerful old woman.”
“Then you knew of her.”
“David, when I came to you to ask you to speak with Merrick, I knew something of her, yes. But that was a while ago that the old woman was alive, and the old woman did sometimes see me, most definitely, and the old woman knew what I was.” He paused for a moment, then resumed. “Way back before the turn of the last century, there were Voodooiennes about who always knew us. But we were quite safe because no one believed what they said.”
“Of course,” I responded.
“But you see, I never much believed in those women. When I encountered Merrick, well, I sensed something immensely powerful and alien to my understanding. Now, please, do go on. Tell me what happened tonight.”
I recounted how I’d taken Merrick back to the Windsor Court Hotel, and how the spell had then descended upon me with numerous apparitions, the most unwholesome and frightening of which was most definitely that of the dead grandmother, Great Nananne.
“If you could have seen the two figures speaking to one another in the carriageway, if you could have seen their absorbed and somewhat