You Say You Want a Resolution
Willie and Jason's ghost entered the Old House, where they first headed for the basement to fetch McGuire's sea chest. The Irishman has entrusted his partner with the extent of his earthly possessions so Willie couldn't leave it behind. Nothing much was in there: some clothes, personal effects, books—oh, and a sizable stash of Collins family jewelry.
Jason discussed each piece with his pupil. After so many years, it was unlikely there would be continuing investigations; the insurance company had paid up and closed the case. Therefore, Jason emphasized, some of the jewelry could be easily disposed of on the open market, while others—unique or engraved items—should probably go through a dear friend of his who was experienced in such matters, otherwise known as a fence.
After Jason's departure, Willie proceeded to the second floor and peeked in the laboratory. Oh yeah, Adam had done a thorough job of trashing the place. The lab assistant kind of wished he had been there to help. The armoire was on its side, but Willie was able to salvage the library books from within, after which he went to his room and packed his duffle bag. When all his belongings were piled neatly in his pickup, Willie lit the parlor candles and swept up the broken glass from the window. Afterwards, he poured himself a small sherry, sat in the remaining wingback chair and awaited the return of Mr. and Mrs. Collins.
"Well, did you do as you were told?" Julia asked as Barnabas removed her wrap and hung it up. He then gestured to the manservant that he should do likewise for his master. Willie folded his arms.
"It's time for us to have a little chat, you guys. First of all, yes, I found Adam; he wasn't dead but he sure is now."
"Did you bring back the body?"
The young man shrugged. "Couldn't. It got barbequed."
"I am waiting for you to take my cloak, boy," Barnabas scowled.
"Yes, you are." The servant poured himself another drink. "Okay, second: since I was only brought back here to babysit your blood bank, it seems I'm out of a job. So, to save you the trouble of firing me, I quit."
Julia smiled condescendingly. "My dear boy, you are a mental patient in my care. You either stay and work here or return to an insane asylum, and I told you, this time it won't be a nice place like Wyndcliff."
"My dear doctor," he returned mockingly. "You presented the hospital with a paper authorizing my release. It said, fully recovered as I recall. Of course, what it didn't say is that I probably never would of have been there to begin with if you hadn't pumped me full of so many different drugs I didn't know what day it was. Maybe I should tell somebody about that, I don't know."
"Are you threatening to blackmail me, young man?" Julia wasn't smiling now.
"Yes," he replied simply. "It's a tactic I know you're familiar with. Just as you—" he nodded toward his former master, "like to use mind games and violence." Willie rose and sauntered to the fireplace, fingering the poker. An idle gesture, but perhaps a defensive one. Heart thumping in his chest, Willie plowed ahead as his voice began to crack slightly with emotion. "It feels messed up to say this, Barnabas, but you're the best thing that ever happened to me. I figure if it weren't for you I'd be dead now or in prison. The really stupid part is I tried to do good, so you would like me, maybe even respect me. But I can't do it no more. Nobody can live like this without going crazy!" He threw the poker into its holder. "One minute you're nice and kind, talk to me like I was your son, then, like some schizo, you turn around and beat the crap out of me and treat me like dirt. If I stay here, I'll never get my self-esteem."
Barnabas, dumbfounded in the doorway, finally found his voice.
"Respect is not an entitlement, boy, it must be earned. And you speak as if the option of leaving my service is within your parameters," the vampire smirked. "You've obviously been tippling my sherry."
"Well, that's another thing, and this might come as a shock to you, mister." Willie shoved his hands in his pockets to stop them from shaking. "I don't belong to you, and I'm not your slave, because this ain't 1795 and you can't own another person. I am also not your pimp or your whipping boy or your pet dog or your chew toy." The servant raised his voice in anger. "What the hell made you think it was okay to treat me or any other human being like that? Adam was not the monster, you're the monsters, both of you!"
The vampire was close to losing his temper when Julia patted her husband's arm.
"Willie, you're being irrational," Dr. Hoffman responded with her unnerving calm. "You can't blame Barnabas for getting antagonized when you constantly provoke him with your foolish actions."
The young man stood his ground. "You can’t make this my fault. Nobody deserves to be treated bad."
"You've forgotten that Barnabas kept you out of jail when you kidnapped your wife and paid the medical bills for three years after you tried to kill yourself. You were absolutely right when you said if it weren't for Barnabas you would be dead or in prison."
"Either one would be better than this. You know, I had a chance for a happy, normal life with Maggie, but you took that away. I didn't even mind being at Wyndcliff, but you took that away too."
"Are you going to take my cloak or not?" Barnabas demanded.
"Oh my God, give me your fuckin’ coat." Willie snatched the master's outerwear and flung it on the floor. "Do you have any idea how ridiculous you look in that thing? It's summertime, for crissake."
The vampire could tolerate such insolence no longer and raised his walking stick, prepared to strike. Willie held his breath and clenched his jaw but he did not flinch.
"Brother, stop that right now! You must not harm my friend."
Julia backed away, gasping hoarsely as the translucent visage of little Sarah Collins floated in through the broken window.
"Sister!" Barnabas turned, his cane suspended in midair, as she approached him, her hand outstretched. The vampire relinquished his walking stick, whereupon the little girl whacked him across the knees with it.
"Hitting is bad, Barnabas."
Willie summoned every ounce of self-control to keep from laughing out loud.
"I'm—overwhelmed that you have finally appeared to me," the vampire replied, wincing.
"I did not choose to before, and I will tell you why. Sit." The vampire dropped obediently into the nearest chair. "I was very, very angry with you. You were hateful to my friends, the pretty lady—"
"She means Maggie," Willie interpreted.
"Yes, and Willie," the ghost continued.
"But my dear," Barnabas bemoaned. "I am the master of this house. He is a servant to whom I pay an exorbitant salary and am repaid with defiance and deceit."
"If Willie does not please you, then you must dismiss him as he requested. Only then will I return to this house."
"But, child, you don't understand. I have special needs; he is vital to my existence."
"Nah, Barnabas," Willie chimed in. "It just means you'd have to get your own dinner. I'd go back to the Vampire Club if I was you. You'll be very popular there, you got voluntary victims, no more plastic bags and nobody gets killed. Right, kid?"
Sarah nodded in agreement.
"Or just maybe," Willie continued sarcastically, "Dr. Hoffman could do the honors. Sounds crazy but you know what, lady? You married a vampire and that's what vampires do. If he could have his own wife, maybe he wouldn't be bothering other people." Willie got in her face. "You're the one Barnabas wants, not me or anybody else. It's always been you."
That was a bullshit line and Willie knew it. She was at the end of the line after Josette, Maggie, Vicki, and probably several others. But it was something she would want to hear. After all, Barnabas and Julia were good for each other, needed each other, and, as a team, only occasionally dangerous to society.
Julia looked away blushing. "I didn't think…"
"You think too much, doctor. Why don't you and the bloodsucker try talking to each other once in a while? I bet there's a lot of stuff you'll find out."
"When Julia and I are in need of counsel from the likes of you, it will be a sorry day," Barnabas scoffed as he retrieved his coat from the floor. "Go, then. Get out of my house, you ungrateful reprobate. I am well rid of you. You have always been impudent, thoughtless and vulgar. I should have killed you long ago."
"Brother!" Sarah admonished him. "What is the saying you taught me?" The vampire looked away sullenly. "Well?"
"Don't make me recite that ridiculous rhyme." The spirit just folded her arms. "I don't recall the exact words. Something to the effect of wicked people are punished."
"So you must be good," Sarah concluded.
Willie regarded his corporeal bosses and the spectral sister. "Goodbye, Julia," he said. Dr. Hoffman patted his shoulder and then actually embraced him—briefly.
"Goodbye, Barnabas." The vampire gazed into the fireplace, sulking. Dejected, Willie turned and walked out of the Old House, never to return.
He was at the foot of the steps when Barnabas appeared on the porch.
Willie froze. The vampire must have changed his mind. He was only a few feet from the pickup truck and contemplated the odds of making a run for it.
"Willie!" The young man turned to see the little ghost push her brother onto to porch. The vampire stood among the pillars as his handyman trudged back up the steps, not quite to the top. "Where are you going?" Barnabas demanded, looking down at him.
"Please, I have to do this—"
"I merely inquired as to your plans. People will ask and I do not intend to appear foolish."
And so Willie told him. Not everything, for the boss would mock such lofty ambitions, but enough to satisfy the vampire's curiosity. Barnabas pulled out his billfold and handed the man a $100 bill.
"Your week's wages. I will not have you besmirching my name as a swindler."
"I have no doubt this course of action has been poorly planned. What possible capital is at your disposal?"
"You mean money? I got savings in the bank."
"That will hardly be adequate, I'm sure." Barnabas pulled four more C notes from his wallet and thrust them at the young man. "How will it reflect upon me in the village when my former servant is seen to be in dire straits?"
Willie suppressed a smile. "I'm sorry, sir. Thank you."
"Therefore you will maintain proper care of yourself, am I understood?"
"Yessir, I will."
"Do not abandon your reading."
The master looked into the face of his hapless servant.
To thine own self be true.
Barnabas reached out to pat Willie's head, but the servant ducked away and held out his hand instead. Begrudgingly the vampire accepted it.
"May good fortune attend your endeavors," were the young man's parting words, after which he strode to the dirty white pickup in his most dignified manner.
Willie checked back into his room at the Collinsport Inn and crossed off the first item on his list. Then the young man telephoned his girlfriend to say that he was thinking about her. She offered to join him, but Willie begged off. He had much to do in the morning and needed a good night's rest.
An hour later, there was a knock at the door. Willie hesitantly peeked out to discover Carolyn standing at his threshold with a bag of take-out Chinese food and an overnight valise.
"Hi, I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop by. Hope you're hungry." The blonde bounced into his room.
"Do you always get everything you want?" Willie stood in the doorway.
"Let's find out. I want you to give me a big kiss and say thank you for bringing this delicious Chinese food."
Willie took the girl into his arms and gave her a big kiss. "Thank you for bringing this delicious Chinese food. Wait, it depends on what you got."
"Happy Family, extra spicy with triple noodles."
"Okay, I officially love you now."
The young woman smiled. "That's all I wanted to hear."
Dinner, however, remained in the bag while Carolyn and her boyfriend made love. The couple then enjoyed a respite of Asian cuisine before indulging in a second round in the sack.
That night the former vampire slave did not have his usual nightmare. He dreamt that he and his lovely blonde wife and daughter were frolicking at the beach, surrounded by his favorite people, living and dead.
The following day, Willie kissed his girl goodbye and visited the bank, the barbershop, the high school, a preschool and the used bookstore. At the library, he returned all the books, paying a hefty overdue fine. While he was there, the young man perused the want ads in the Collinsport Star. Later, he stopped by the law office of Anthony Peterson where the attorney invited him in with a pleasant smile and handshake. Carolyn Stoddard had phoned ahead to say he was coming.
The second day, Willie drove to Bangor where he had an appointment at Central Maine Auction Center, an establishment with an exceptional reputation for handling estate jewelry. Previous to their meeting, he had patronized a men's clothing store, where he purchased a dark gray suit, white shirt and tie. A red tie like Barnabas owned. Next he invested in shiny black shoes, a tan trench coat and a cowhide briefcase. Outside on the sidewalk, Willie tossed his torn leather jacket into the nearest trashcan.
On the day after that, Willie drove to Wyndcliff Asylum in response to the help-wanted ad and filled out an application for employment. At the opposite end of the reception area a leggy lady had her nose buried in a bridal magazine. She looked up. He looked up. They regarded each other for a moment with looks of slight bewilderment.
The two dropped their things and crashed into each other for a bear hug.
"You got all better. What happened?" Willie was delighted to see his friend smiling and confident once more.
"Someone decided dear old Dr. Ned was not qualified to make any recommendation concerning my treatment. My evaluation was completed and they released me back into the unsuspecting world."
"Then why are you here?"
"Picking up my sweetie for dinner. That son of a bitch Mark dumped me, and took the dog, but I got me a better deal."
"Unhand my woman!" A booming bass voice rang out. Willie spun around to see a grinning Leroi in his civilian clothing, standing in the doorway. "And you, miss, stop flirting with every handsome guy you see."
"Now, I was just sitting here waiting for you to get off duty," Jackie smacked him playfully. "I can't help it if no man can resist my honey."
Willie whispered to Jacqueline as her boyfriend signed out at the desk.
"So, did you finally do it? Get your sex change operation, I mean?"
"Why don't you take a peek and see for yourself."
"Uh, that's okay. I know better than to disrespect Leroi." The large black man laughed. "Now you finally got a girlfriend tall enough for even you."
Willie declined their invitation to join the couple for dinner but took a rain check. He had a job interview to attend.
Willie sat in the guest chair opposite the hospital administrator's desk as Dr. Gordon perused his application.
"I'm glad to see you doing so well, Mr. Loomis. You look more like a businessman than a custodian, which is our only opening at present. May I ask why you're no longer with Mr. Collins?"
"I want to expand my horizons, and Barnabas and Julia thought it was a grand idea; they both wrote me really nice letters of recommendation, which I got right here." Willie had prepared that response. "I can do this, sir. I know my work history isn't much, but I know all about plumbing and I was a machinist on several ships. I can fix anything."
"Perhaps you should set yourself a higher goal."
"Oh, I got one of those too. You see, this is just the first step. I want to work here during the day and go back to school at night to get that thing that's like graduating from high school. Then I hope you'll consider—my proposal."
"Really?" The doctor smiled. "And what is that?"
"I got it all written down." He pulled a paper with neat printing from his briefcase. "I want to be a therapist. There's patients here who don't know how to read or write very good and I could teach them. And there could be a session in the library for book discussions. Only (look where I put a note there) no Stephen King or Shakespeare books. There's way too much violence and I don't think some of the patients could handle it. You see, I thought of that."
Willie had the doctor's attention and continued. He was on a roll, and willed his left leg to stop bouncing.
"Another idea is a woodworking class. I apprenticed onboard ship with a master carpenter named Otto Zimmerman and I'm pretty good. Now I know you don't want these folks handing tools, but I think they could, some of them, in A Ward maybe. They might like to carve, plane, sand and stain. It's very therapeutic."
"I'm not sure the board would go along with that one; they have a pretty strict policy about tools." Willie looked crestfallen. "May I keep this?"
"Yessir. I thought someday I could talk to patients who were abuse victims and suicide survivors. People with Stockholm Syndrome and PTSD. Do you have to go to college to do that?"
"Most of our therapists have masters' degrees but we also hire assistants with as little as a two-year associate diploma."
Willie frowned. "There goes that idea. I'm not even sure I can handle this high school stuff."
"If you were bright enough to pull some of the antics you did as a patient here, I think you'll do fine. Why don't you just take it one step at a time?" Willie nodded as the administrator stood and extended his hand to shake. "Welcome back to Wyndcliff."
"Just one thing." The new employee was hesitant to make a negative comment at this juncture but felt he had no choice. "Dr. Ned and me don't get along, and I don't want to cause any trouble."
"Ah, yes. Well, Ned Stuart is no longer with us. The directors asked for his resignation some time ago. The board received a letter—from Barnabas Collins in fact—that sparked an investigation into some questionable practices."
"Oh, yeah. I remember that letter. I mailed it for him," Willie responded, wondering if the doctor suspected the truth, which was that his former patient had forged the document.
"It was a very strange letter. Is Mr. Collins somewhat—eccentric?"
Willie made a drinking gesture to imply that his former employer had a problem with alcohol.
"But don't say anything. Dr. Julia is real sensitive about it."