A Midsummer Night's Scheme
Willie smiled, his eyes gleaming in the candlelight as he fingered the loot in Barnabas' jewelry case. Rings and things the vampire never wore, tie pins and cuff links in platinum, gold and every kind of precious stone.
"Were my instructions too difficult?" Barnabas was waiting for his accessories.
"No, no, sorry." Willie fetched the diamond stud cuff links as he glanced at the mantle clock. "You don't want to be late to your party."
"Which is what will happen if you don't stop daydreaming."
"There. You're all set." Willie handed Dr. Hoffman a pair of long, white gloves and her clutch. "Have fun."
Dressed in formal attire, Barnabas and Julia were attending the annual Midsummer Eve's ball at Collinwood. Elizabeth prepared to celebrate her return to the land of the living and the sudden, unexplained disappearance of Roger's wicked wife. Roger prepared to get plastered. From what Willie gathered from his bosses' conversation, it had not been a successful union, which came as no surprise. He surmised the woman had married for money and had been disappointed at the outcome. Or maybe she was just nuts; she had those crazy eyes. But the gossip and intrigue surrounding the Collins clan didn't concern the lowly servant, especially anything going on up at the great house.
For some reason, Barnabas would get that enraged expression and start slamming things whenever the name Cassandra Collins was mentioned. Then Dr. Hoffman would change the subject.
Julia, usually associated with slacks or severe skirts, looked quite elegant in a flowing, amber gown, but the sight of Barnabas in full-dress tuxedo with tails was a bit unnerving. All he needed to complete the scenario was a black cape and Transylvanian accent.
Willie got the couple loaded in Julia's sedan and waited until they drove away. Then he sprinted up the stairs to his room where the first order of business was to lose that long-sleeve button-down shirt that the boss insisted he wear, no matter how hot it was. He pulled on a white tee shirt, grabbed a bundle which had been stashed in his dresser drawer, and proceeded to the lab.
"Wake up, pal," Willie called, switching on the lights. "It's dress-up time."
"Well, actually they're Stanley's pajamas, no, his roommate who died, but seems he was also a pretty big fella. I know, 'cause I wore these for a long while before Vicki Winters brought my clothes. We got some elastic-waist pants and the world's largest tee shirt." Willie detached the tubes and helped the creature into clothing for the first time. The outfit was far from perfect but serviceable, especially in light of the evening's pleasant weather conditions. "Barnabas and Julia will be out for a good, long while, and everybody is at the party, except ole Willie and his big buddy—so you and me are going for a walk outside to look at the ocean."
Adam stood beaming at the mirror Willie held up, but then a cloud of concern spread over his face as the monster began to touch his scars.
"Don't worry about them, everybody's got scars. See?" Willie held out his arm. "On some people, they're invisible but they all got them. Besides, I think you look real handsome, just like you was going to the ball too." Adam continued to stare at his reflection. "Candle's burning, big guy. Do you want to stand there all night gawking at yourself or go walk outside?"
Adam turned away. "Walk with Willie."
"Holy crap on a cracker." The duo stared down from the top of the stairs with apprehension. "Are you sure you still wanna do this?" Adam nodded emphatically. "Then, here we go. Oh Christ, be careful; this is scary."
Willie demonstrated by going first. He gripped the banister with both hands and slowly descended one step at a time. Adam followed suit and their plan was successful until the giant missed a step and lost his footing. He crashed into Willie and the two tumbled down the last six steps.
"Shit, shit, shit." Willie scrambled out from beneath the tangle of limbs and immediately checked under his charge's shirt to ensure the bags taped there had not dislodged. Adam began to sob. "Don't you cry. Look, I'm not crying, am I? And I'm the one you landed on."
He helped the giant to his feet and they cautiously made their way out to Willie's pickup. Adam stood just outside the front door, marveling at the night sky. He touched a pillar and started to head towards a tree.
"Wait, hold on," his caregiver intercepted. "You got some more steps to go—and no railing. Damn." Then he struck upon a solution. "Sit down, like this," Willie demonstrated on the top step. "And just scoot down. That way you won't fall."
Adam navigated the steps with no further difficulty. He began to walk towards the woods.
"Where the hell do you think you're going?" Willie caught up with his charge as he stroked the tree bark.
"This is tree." Adam presented the discovery to his teacher. "This is tree!"
"Yeah, but we ain't hugging trees tonight. Do you want to go away or not?"
"Adam go away! Go away!" Willie led his jubilant monster to the truck and helped him in the passenger side.
"You will keep your butt planted in that seat 'til we get there. It's just a little time."
Willie rolled down the windows and cranked the radio as he headed his vehicle towards the cliff. Adam thrust his head and right arm out the window, delighted to feel the passing breeze. It was only a short walk to Widows’ Hill, but more than the caregiver thought Adam could handle. Besides, Willie smiled to himself, monster boy was having a blast cruising in the pickup.
The creature and his consort stood holding hands at the precipice of Widows’ Hill. They gazed into the horizon and the expanse of ocean below them. By the light of a full moon, they watched in the distance as a whale erupted from the water to crash playfully into the surf. On the shore below some folks had built a huge bonfire, and it seemed to be quite a gathering. With an ethereal quality, the beachcombers reveled among the rocks and around the flames.
Willie dismissed the group as drunken teens at first, then did a double take and squinted as he peered over the edge at the crowd. One of them was wearing a trench coat. Another was a little girl in a long dress.
"Come on!" the man shouted, yanking Adam away. "We're joining the party!"
The truck skidded around the hill to the beach and Willie leaped from the driver's seat. "Wait here!" he called to his companion and ran towards the group.
"Sarah!" Willie shouted as he scooped her up. The child wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek.
"I missed you, Willie. Why did you go away?"
"I was sick for a long time. Then when I got back, I couldn't find you."
"You disappeared from that mausoleum and that was the end of it," the Irishman came up behind him with a pat on the back. "Like that time you skipped off to prison for a spell. It's good to have you back, lad."
"Jason, I'm awful glad to see you. What's with all these ghosts?"
"'Tis midsummer's eve and the spirits will frolic. We gather here many a' night." Jason then directed his partner's attention to the pickup. "Your passenger is lookin' a wee bit anxious."
Adam, unable to operate the door knob, was attempting to climb through the truck window.
"Oh, crap." Willie released the little girl who skipped off to resume her dance. "I brought a friend. He's, uh, a little strange."
Adam joined the gang and, with his buddy, was introduced to some of the spirits of Collinsport. There was a stalwart looking, bearded gentleman with a look of the sea (and seaweed) about him.
The two shook hands.
"Do you know Elizabeth Stoddard? How is she?" the ghost inquired.
"Better, I hear. She's not gonna die."
"Why would you say that?"
"Last time I saw Mrs. Stoddard she was in a loony bin saying she was going to die." The ghost frowned at this unwelcome news. "But she's all better now. She's having a big party tonight."
"That's the Midsummer Eve ball, I reckon."
"Whatever. I wasn't on the guest list."
There was that doctor who had set the bone when Jason broke Willie's finger, and a big, burly guy who grunted and ambled away. And—Oh no, walking towards Willie was the specter of Jane Ackerman, a girl Barnabas had murdered and forced him to bury in the woods. He tried to avoid her, but to no avail. Her skin was a bloodless blue and dirt streaked her hair and clothing.
"I've been looking for you."
"I-I'm sorry, I mean, I—"
"I wanted to say thank you," she smiled, taking his hand. "For saying a prayer at my grave."
There were men in frock coats and cutaways, and ladies in long gowns and bonnets elaborate and simple. A tall, rogue of a man with muttonchops and piercing eyes, laughed heartily as he waltzed with his statuesque, Victorian girlfriend. Three whiny widows huddled near a rock. By the fire a Colonial dude sat in quiet conversation with a lady wearing her wedding dress and veil. A flirtatious floozy entertained the ensemble with songs and dance, and an irritating joker practically scared the brown bag out of Adam by appearing behind them to shout "Boo!"
Some snacks or beer would have topped it off, but overall, Willie thought it was a pretty damn good get-together. Probably better than that stupid dress-up ball. Adam thought so too. He had been given strict orders to not go near the fire, but was permitted to collect some shells from the beach. The creature got a little testy when told it was time to leave, but Willie knew you have to be tough with these monsters, or they'll walk all over you.
"Adam wish to party," he pouted, turning away.
"Adam is gonna get real sick if he don't get back on that hookup soon. I told you this was just for a little time." The giant dug his clamshell into the sand. "If you give me a hard time, we ain't going to do this again, you hear?"
"Again? Adam go away again?" The giant's face brightened.
Willie shrugged. "Maybe. If we get another chance, why not? These are my friends."