Haplessly Ever After

A Method to his Madness

Willie carefully lit the candles, all seven, and arranged them in a semicircle on the tablecloth spread out on the floor. Along the wall he lined up a few gallon jugs of water leading to the corner where canned foodstuffs were piled into a pyramid next to the can opener. He was very pleased with himself to have remembered to bring a can opener.

Maggie looked peaceful as she lay sleeping on a makeshift mattress of pillows, covered in two warm blankets. When everything was arranged as attractively as possible, Willie sat back and waited for his wife to awaken. He took one of the orange pills to stay alert.

She was unconscious all night and possibly part of the next day. Even after awakening, the young woman seemed slightly dazed and disoriented for a while afterwards. At long last, she pushed herself into a sitting position.

"What's going on? Willie, where are we?" Maggie looked around in confusion.

"Secret hidin’ place in a mausoleum. The Bahamas woulda been nicer, but—"

"Wait—how did I get here? I don't remember anything after—after—I was riding in your truck."

"You, uh, kinda fell asleep."

Maggie paused as she thought back to the events of the night before. Her eyes widened as a look of growing suspicion registered on her face.

"Willie Loomis—did you put something in my tea?" He sheepishly held up the bottle of blue pills. "Oh my God! Are you crazy? What were you thinking? Do you have any idea how dangerous that was?"

"I'm sorry, I really am, but ya wouldn't come with me, and we hadda hide. Ya see, they know about you now, so it ain't safe."

By that point Maggie was on her feet. She stalked over to her captor and stared him in the face. "Now you listen to me, and listen good: I don't know what kind of sick, paranoid fantasy you live in, but I am not in any danger, except from you. This is all in your imagination."

Willie smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, I got it all figured out—how I'm gonna take care 'a ya. Everythin' we need's right here."

Maggie struggled to reclaim some measure of composure as she watched the madman neatly place linen napkins beneath each candlestick to catch the dripping wax, mumbling to himself as he went. "Gotta remember to keep the door in my head closed real tight or they might find us. Gotta bolt that sucker…"

At length, she attempted again, speaking to her husband as though he was a simple-minded child.

"You realize, dear, that if you force me to stay here against my will, you will be a kidnapper; do you know what that means?" Willie was familiar with the term. "I'm worried for you, honey. This is a very serious crime and you're going to get into a lot of trouble."

"I been in trouble before." Willie shrugged dismissively.

She tried a different tactic.

"But why do we have to hide? If someone is threatening me, we should just call the police."

"Oh no, that would be like a betrayal, and he don't like that. 'Sides, everybody's gonna believe them, not me," he explained patiently.

"Alright then, you and I will just have to do it ourselves," she attempted to rally his enthusiasm. "We'll just kick their evil butts down the street..."

He chuckled at her naïveté. "C'mon, you know he's got supernatural powers."

"Who?" She cried in frustration. "This makes no sense. Who the heck are you talking about?"

This time it was Willie who looked bewildered. Loomis was the one who was inclined to repress unpleasant memories, not his wife. It was she who said never forget and never forgive. He was hesitant to say it out loud, not after the trouble it caused last time, but she had to know what he was talking about. Why was she playing dumb?

"Certain people," he replied suggestively, but an edge of panic started to creep into his voice. "And when we get outta here, one of 'em may tell you some b-bad things about me, but none of it's true. Don't believe her—or him; they're both damn liars!" He plopped on the floor, hugging his knees. "I didn't mean to do any of that stuff, and it wasn't all my fault."

"Sure, if you say so." Maggie replied, apprehensive at his outburst. "I won't listen to a word they say." The young woman sat on the pillows and pulled Willie's head into her lap, stroking his hair. "I'm sorry if I yelled earlier," she continued calmly. "I was a little upset, but now that you've explained everything, it's okay. It's fine, because you're only trying to protect me."

Finally, she seemed to understand. With a wave of relief, Willie wrapped his arms around her waist and clung tightly.

"Honey," Maggie continued sedately. "We can leave here when it's safe again, right? How long do you think that will be?"

"Hard to say. They gotta lotta other shit goin' on, you know, with dead bodies and stuff, so maybe they'll forget about us in a few days…but I dunno."

"We can't stay here forever," her tones were soothing and soft. "Pop will worry about me, and we'll run out of supplies. Oh, sweetheart, it's so cold and damp here; you wouldn't want to do anything to harm the baby."

Willie's head popped up. Baby? Was there something important that he didn't remember, or was this some sort of clever trick to escape?

Maggie massaged his tensing shoulders. "I know you pretend it isn't so, but you can't stay in denial for much longer; you're going to be a father." She placed his hand on her swollen belly, but he pulled away when something kicked it. "Don't you remember? That's why we got married."

The young man looked at her sadly. "It wasn't 'cause you loved me?"

"Willie, I hardly knew you. That weekend in Bangor should never have happened, but it did, and everything'll work out fine in the end. We'll have a nice little family and you will get psychiatric help."

A day had passed and still Willie refused to release his captive. Maggie lost patience with the disturbed man and stopped trying to cajole or reason with him. She changed from her diner uniform into sweat clothes and parked herself in a corner, plowing through can after can of food. When he tried to speak to her, the girl hollered "Shut up! I hate you!" and turned on the transistor radio, which produced only static in the stone cell, and cranked the volume.

Willie paced their boundaries like a caged animal, worried about the impending danger, worried that his wife would never forgive him, and worried about what was going down outside, especially at the Old House.

The boy squeezed his eyes shut and in his mind unbolted the door and peeked into the telepathic corridor. The vampire's door stood wide open as he relaxed before the fire while Julia sat opposite, serenely smoking a cigarette. Barnabas glanced up, nodded congenially to his servant and returned to his newspaper. Willie stood in the hallway, gaping at the couple. It was as if nothing was amiss. Surely he hadn't imagined the whole thing, like Maggie said, because that would be really embarrassing. He returned to reality, shaking his head.

"Hey, ya know what, maybe we could—" The young woman catapulted a spoonful of SpaghettiOs in his direction, and returned to her meal. Pasta rings and orange sauce dripped down his shirt front. "Okay, I know you're mad, but—" The next glop landed in his hair. "Fine! Be that way. You're not actin' very mature."

Willie slumped into his own corner and pulled out Hamlet, reading loudly.

"What is the reason that you use me thus?
I loved you ever: but it is no matter.
Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day."

With a steely look upon her face, Maggie rose and crossed to her husband, whereupon she dumped the remains of her meal on his head and dropped the can in his lap.

"I'm sick of Shakespeare."

To her surprise, Willie just laughed, "Boy, I never met anyone who likes to throw food around like you." He wiped his face with a tea towel. "I can tell you never went hungry. I know you used to pitch stuff all over back at the Old House, but I thought that was part of a big scam, pretendin' to be Josette. Remember how you used to piss him off? And every mornin' I'd pick up the broken dishes and clean your dinner off the dining room wall."

"I don't know what on earth you're talking about," Maggie responded in a monotone.

"That's 'cause the doctor brainwashed ya to forget everythin', but I told ya all about it later." The young woman shook her head in disbelief. "Maggie…I told you what happened, how you were held prisoner by a vampire—not me, the other vampire—I told you and you believed me; w-why are ya lookin' at me like that?"

"I would never believe anything you said. You're delusional. I should have done something about it sooner, because now it's too late. I'm going to die in here. We're all going to die…"

The following night Maggie did nothing but holler and wail nonstop. It went on for hours. Willie was ready to stuff a sock in her mouth, understanding now how Barnabas had felt when he allowed her to run off, presumably to leap from Widow's Hill.

Overcome with stress and exhaustion, the man eventually zoned out—or passed out, it was hard to tell which—and his head slumped over onto the lumpy duffle bag.

Willie was back in his room at the Old House. Spread before the roaring fire was a similar scene: The blankets, china plates, candles and crystal—a perfect picnic date. They were both feeling pretty tipsy as Willie settled into a cocoon of pillows and Maggie cozied up beside him.

"Do you want to make love?" She whispered.

"No." Willie would not take advantage of this situation. He would stick to the plan, even if it killed him, which it probably would. "You don't want me, you just wanna escape. All ya gotta do is wait for me to fall asleep and take the truck keys. I wasn't supposed to tell you that, 'cause I'll haveta stop ya unless ya trick me."

"That won't be necessary; I have my own plan. This Josette act is all an elaborate con to put Barnabas off his guard. I'm walking out of here today, and I'm taking you with me." Willie started to protest but she put a finger to his lips. "Don't worry; nothing bad will happen ever again, because I'm going to protect you."

"Okay." He wanted to believe her. He wanted to very much.

While he slept, Maggie had methodically made her way around the room, pushing each stone in the wall, searching for the trigger mechanism that open the door and free her. The young man awoke as she approached the entrance and reached for the bottom step.

Willie flew across the room and grabbed her abruptly. As he dragged his wife away from the steps, Maggie's shrieks punished his ear drum until he clamped his hand over her mouth. She bit his hand, chomped on it good and hard, then struggled out of his grasp and shoved the man away.

"Get me out of here! Somebody! Anybody!" The woman shouted at the top of her lungs. Willie backed away, clutching his wounded hand.

"Please, Maggie, don't be mad. I'm just tryin' to—"

"Can anyone hear me! Help! Help! Help! HELP!" She continued to holler.

He sat on the floor, leaning against the cold wall. "Nobody can hear ya, so ya might as well shuddup."

Both heads snapped in the direction of the stone door as it grated against the floor, opening to reveal Barnabas and Julia as they stood at the threshold.

"Mr. Collins, thank God!" Maggie cried, rushing up the steps and into the vampire's arms. "You saved me!"

Barnabas comforted the trembling girl. "It's alright, now. I trust you're not injured." She shook her head as tears streamed down both cheeks. "That's a relief. Go now with Dr. Hoffman. Your father and young Haskell are waiting."

Julia left with the weeping woman and Barnabas entered the secret room, sighing at his blundering manservant who suddenly ducked his head, covering it with both arms.

"We convinced them to remain at the gate. Sam Evans has a firearm and you would not have left here alive. It was fortunate you revealed to me your location, because they were preparing to call in Federal law enforcement."

"I was afraid you were gonna hurt Maggie 'cause a' what I said."

"Wherever did you get that notion? Contrary to what you may think, when there is a dilemma, my first course of action is not to kill the person involved."

He looked up, lowering his arms. "It's not?" That was news to Willie.

"Julia merely paid the good woman a visit the following day and hypnotized her again. This entire venture was reckless, foolhardy and unnecessary."

"Oh, shit. Maggie's really mad at me now."

"That, my boy, is the least of your troubles. Your wife's wrath is nothing compared to that of my wife, and apparently you have disrupted her schedule. Now, blow out the candles and come home with me."

They returned to the Old House in uncomfortable silence, whereupon Barnabas marched Willie to his room and, to prevent further mischief, tied his wrists together to the brass headboard. The vampire then locked the door behind him when he left.

Now everybody was mad at him.

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