One With The Night
Atlas Mountains, Morocco, 1819
There was no denying her. She ran her long-nailed fingers
through his hair as he sat, naked, beside the chaise on which she lay draped.
His hair was as dark as hers. But her eyes were almost black, while his were light
gray-green, his skin fair against her golden glow. She had chosen him for his
coloring. How long would he pay for the sins of some French and English crusaders
long dead? Until he died. He had prayed for death so often. Blood oozed from various
cuts and punctures in his body, but she was careful not to kill him.
Heat poured from a dozen braziers and a low fire in the center of her
tent. She liked heat. His skin was damp with sweat. He fixed his gaze on the intricate
carpet, trying to avoid what would come. But she willed him to raise his gaze.
For the thousandth time he struggled. He clenched his fists and grunted, panting.
Her laughter tinkled over him like shards of broken glass.
"You know you can not win out, English." He wasn't really English. She twisted
his head up by his hair and showered compulsion over him. The need to obey her
surge through him. His gaze jerked to her face.
glowed with more than firelight as she chuckled. How could laughter frighten him
so? His chest heaved from the effort to resist her. The fine skin between her
breasts gleamed with perspiration. Her nipples peaked under the diaphanous fabric
of her burgundy gown. He found his own desire rising, whether he would or no.
His stomach clenched in despair as he lifted his chin
to bare his throat to her. She would use him to slake several thirsts tonight.
She was always thirsty.
She bent to his throat. He shuddered
at the familiar twin pains just under his jaw. She stroked his nipple as she sucked
at his neck and then slid down onto the rug beside him so she could grasp his
"You still resist me," she whispered inside
his mind. "How can I make you truly mine?"
against him, her breasts pressed to his chest. He moaned, partly with desire,
partly in dread. He didn't want to know the answer to that question. * * *
The busy tavern came into
focus around him with a shudder. Raucous laughter punctuated the hum of a dozen
conversations. The smell of unwashed bodies, cooked cabbage, yeasty ale and smoky
whiskey cascaded over him. It had been two years since he escaped her. He was
in Edinburgh, on an entirely different continent than the desert mountains where
he'd suffered at her hands. Yet still she haunted him. She had made him a monster
in so many ways. He downed his whiskey and slapped a gold coin on the shadowed
table. Too much for the bottle, but he never cared about that these days. He pushed
himself up. He had hope now. All activity in the tavern stopped as thirty pairs
of eyes followed him to the door. They felt the energy that vibrated around him.
He had a long journey ahead of him. But now he had the information he needed.
Time to run the good doctor to earth.
A scream rent the Highland spring night. Jane
Blundell was just climbing into the gig in the village nestled on the shore of
Loch Ness, ready to head back to the house she and her father had taken up the
Urquhart River valley from the loch. Jane had spent too many years as a midwife
among the poor of London not to recognize that scream. A woman was in labor and
it was not going well. The sound died away into a moan. It was coming from that
tiny stone cottage just off the lane that meandered through the village. She scrambled
down. Papa could wait for his supplies. Figures congregated in the tiny front
garden. The sun had set more than an hour ago, but Jane saw extremely well in
the dark these days.
The villagers wouldn't welcome her help.
She and her father were pariahs ever since he offered to pay for blood donations,
ostensibly to be used in his experiments. The words "unholy" and "sacrilegious"
and "English monsters" were the ones most often bandied about when the newest
occupants of Muir Farm were mentioned. The villagers were closer to the truth
than they knew. The blood wasn't for her father's experiments. It was for her.
Ever since she'd been infected, she had needed human blood to survive. And now,
with her source gone, the hunger that horrified her scratched along her veins.
Her father had offered to bleed himself for her. She couldn't allow that, of course,
but what was she to do? She might resort to God knew what if the dreadful hunger
got any worse.
She tried to put away panic. She couldn't think
of that now. The cottage window revealed substantial silhouettes holding something
down. In a village this small and remote they probably weren't even midwives.
Outside, several men milled around a young man, who paced and ran his hands through
his hair in distraction. Jane knew better than to approach the women.
is wrong?" she asked one of the men.
"Saw the monster, she did,"
the man said in that thick Scots burr she could hardly make out yet. "Put her
right inta birthin' pains."
the man had realized who she was. "Get back, witch! Ye will no' hex this babe!"
Another scream tore through the night. In late March it was still
cold in the Highlands, and the men's breath was clearly visible. The scream made
the pacing young man moan in distress and look around wildly "Evie," he cried.
"Dinnae die, Evie!"
Jane pushed through the men. This was
the father, surely. "Is she early?" she shouted, almost in his face.
looked at her with frightened eyes and nodded, swallowing. Inside the cottage
the women encouraged the girl to bear down and push. Jane grabbed the young husband
by both biceps and shook him. "I'm a midwife, boy. And I tell you that if they
make Evie push when she's not ready, the babe will break blood vessels and your
wife will die."
The father, who looked absurdly young, blinked
"Leave th' lad alone." A hand grabbed her shoulder and
tried to pull her away.
"Ye've no business here, English," another
Jane twisted away and stood her ground. "I've delivered
a hundred babies, boy," she said, staring right at the husband. "I know what I'm
saying. You can make them let me look at her."
"Me? I can
no' do anythin'!" he wailed.
"She's a Sassanach, Jamie," an older
"You're her husband. You vowed to protect her, didn't
you? It's up to you." Jane laid a hand on his shoulder. It was thin under his
rough flaxen shirt.
He looked into her eyes. She willed him to
let her into the house. She felt a thrill along her veins, the thrill that had
frightened her so since her sickness six months ago.
he said at last. His voice was strangely calm.
She nodded curtly
and took his arm.
"Jamie, what are ye doin'? Ye can no' let an
English witch into Evie's childbed!"
Jamie pulled away from
the hands that tried to stop him. "Get back, MacDougal! All o' ye. Even ye, Da.
If this woman can help my Evie, I'm bound ta let her."
and Jamie pushed into the tiny cottage just as another scream made Jamie wince.
"What's she doin' here?" one of the women accused. "And ye, Jamie
Campbell! We can no' ha' men here."
Jamie straightened his
shoulders. "She's a midwife and she's goin' ta look at Evie," he said firmly.
Jane was proud of him. "I am her husband. It is my bairn and it is up ta me."
Jane didn't wait for more authority. She pushed through to the
woman with the distended belly writhing on the bed. She was hardly more than a
child. She was sweating and heaving breath, her knees raised, plainly frightened.
"Now, my dear," Jane soothed. "Let me just see how you're doing." Jane gently
felt the distended belly under a sheet that covered the girl's spread knees. "I've
attended more than a hundred births you know." She smiled. "You had a shock?"
The girl nodded. "I seen th' monster! I seen Nessie," she gasped,
her eyes round.
"Well, never mind that now. You must breathe,
slowly and deliberately. No pushing. We want that baby of yours to take his own
sweet time." The child was in breech position. Jane moved to lift the sheet so
she could see how far the womb had opened.
"What are ye doin'?"
a woman screeched. "There's a man in the room!"
this man is already familiar with his wife," Jane remarked. "We must suppose he
got the child on her." She smiled sweetly. "Unless you believe a stork brings
"It is no' proper," one said, shaking a finger at
Jane turned on the three women. "Enough!" They frowned
at her, fists on their hips, looking ready for a fight. "Jamie, could you escort
these ladies from the room? They're upsetting Evie." With relief she saw Jamie
set his jaw and herd the women, protesting, from the room, looking for all the
world like ruffled, clucking hens.
"Jamie, why don't you pull
up a stool and just hold Evie's hand? I'm sure your strength would be a comfort
Jamie grew taller by several inches. He pulled a
stool under himself and grabbed his young wife's hand. "You're goin' ta be all
right, Evie," he said with a voice almost sure of itself. Sure enough, at least,
to fool Evie.
Jane wasn't so certain. She'd seen breech births
come out well, but the combination of a breech position and the early onslaught
of labor, made worse by those stupid women urging Evie to push, might spell disaster.
Should she try to turn the babe? If she left the child as it was, the sac might
break too early and suffocate the child — if she turned it the babe might
break the mother's blood vessels as it came too quickly. Even if the child lived,
Evie would likely die. But if Evie's contractions were so strong already that
Jane couldn't get the baby turned one way or another, no birth was possible
and Evie and baby both would die a painful death over many hours.
to relax, Evie," she murmured as she removed the sheet and looked at Evie's womb.
Not open enough yet for the head of a babe. Behind her, the door creaked.
Jamie's reedy voice had iron in it. "If' ye've come ta help ye're welcome. Other
ways, ye kin go."
Jane glanced back to see a rugged-looking
man who was probably only forty-five, though work and a hard life made him look
sixty. His face was deeply lined, his hair a shock of gray. He shared Jamie's
prominent nose and pale blue eyes. Jane turned back to her patient. "I must feel
if the babe is in the birth canal, Jamie," she muttered. "If you care to help,
Mr. Campbell, you can sit at Evie's other side." She glanced to both men. "I'll
need her still." They got the point. The older man looked grim as he sat down
wordlessly with a hand on Evie's shoulder.
Jane examined her hands
carefully. Any cuts or scrapes would heal almost instantly, but one must be sure.
If even a molecule of her blood got into Evie's, she'd infect the girl.
contraction came. "Don't push, Evie," Jane said as the girl wailed. "Just breathe."
The girl gasped and shrieked, but the contractions had moderated a bit. When at
last she went limp, moaning, Jane looked again at the birth canal. "Evie," she
said, "I'm going to feel exactly where the babe is." She smiled reassuringly and
the girl managed a tremulous half-smile in return. Jane put her hand up the birth
canal. The men looked appalled as they held Evie down.
All done." Jane smiled again. Well, it wasn't the worst news. The babe wasn't
cross ways. Its feet were well into the canal. Birth was possible, but it would
be wrong end round. It was still unlikely she could save the child. The sac would
break and the babe would doubtless suffocate. All she could hope was to slow the
birth enough to save the mother.
"Mr. Campbell." Rising, she motioned
to the older man. He followed her into the corner of the tiny room. He was a tall
man and his head nearly touched the low ceiling. "She's going to bleed Mr. Campbell.
The baby is feet first."
His face went white. "Ye're sure?"
She nodded. "I can't turn it now. She pushed too hard, too early."
She didn't blame. She didn't have to. Mr. Campbell set his jaw. He knew.
waste wi' grief if she passes," his father fretted. "Can ye no' save her?" His
eyes held simple pleading. He had gone from distrust to faith in the last minutes.
Perhaps he was responding to the life that seemed to throb in Jane since her infection.
It made her seem … attractive to others on some level they didn't even perceive.
That's what her father told her. And that attraction generated either fear or
faith. Mr. Campbell had decided on faith.
"I'm not sure," she
said bluntly. "But there is a chance. Can you go for my father?"
he said, his mouth a grim line. "I'll go."
"Tell him to bring
"Inpeller," he repeated. It was close enough.
Her father would know. Now if Mr. Campbell could pry him out of his laboratory…once
he was embroiled in an experiment he had a remarkable ability to ignore the needs
of others. Mr. Campbell nodded once and pushed out under the low lintel of the
door. He looked like a man who wouldn't be denied.
Jamie said, "Another one's coming, Miss!" and Evie wailed.
Edinburgh, March, 1821
Is there someplace ye can go?" he asked
the group of absurdly young girls who clustered in the dingy hall, whimpering.
They'd just watched him throw the master of this brothel and several brutal customers
out a third story window and yell to the street that the place was closed permanently.
They'd probably seen his red eyes as well.
The oldest turned to
Callan, mastering her fear. "Thankee fer wot ye did. But we'll likely end in another
set o' rooms doin' pretty much th' same."
Callan fished in the
pocket of his coat. "Money creates possibilities." He handed her the fat purse.
She looked up at him, unbelieving, then untied the leather string and pulled out
a winking gold coin. The other girls actually gasped.
"Buy a house,"
he growled. "Buy a shop. Yer bodies are no' all ye ha' anymore."
ye doin this fer us?" the leader whispered, her eyes intent on his face.
shrugged. He couldn't tell them that. He turned to go.
Let us take care o' yer wounds."
"No need." That at least was
true. "Mere scratches."
"Then let us repay you in our own way."
The girl stepped up and ran a hand up to the nape of his neck. "Ye smell … like
cinnamon. And ye ha' lovely blue eyes." His eyes weren't blue, but no one ever
noticed that. Her breasts pressed against his chest. Another girl took his hand.
Callan's member hardened. It was always ready these days.
his head and put the girl gently from him. "I'd be as bad as they are, then. Ye
should save that for th' ones ye care for, in any case."
no one cares about us but ye." One girl smiled through her split lip.
"Ye'll be surprised, I think."
The oldest girl took a breath and
held out her hand. "Alice. And ye are?"
He was a monster, unless
the good doctor could cure him. "Does no' matter." He pushed past her, but turned
back. "Dinnae hate all men, just ta' spite these, Alice." He plunged down the
creaking stairs. These were useless gestures, like bailing the sea with a tin
cup. He did these things to keep his sanity. Was that sane?
Drumnadrochit, March, 1821
Jane ran her forearm across her
forehead to wipe away the sweat and sat back. Where was Campbell with her father
and his equipment? The babe would come with the next contraction, no matter what
she did. She wasn't' sure it would be alive. The feet had probably broken the
sac by now and it had suffocated. Evie lay, half-conscious, soaked with sweat.
"Almost over," she whispered to Jamie. "Next one."
it….? Will she…?"
"I don't know."
"She's in God's
hands now." But he looked frightened.
"Well," she smiled wryly,
"let's give God a little help tonight." Actually she hoped some God somewhere
was taking an interest. Evie was fading because she was bleeding inside. The night
had taken a toll on Jane as well. The unnatural hunger that plagued her itched
at her veins. She could smell Evie's blood. Jane's body, with its new and dreadful
illness, was shouting at her, distracting her from the work at hand.
moaned. Jane readied herself. The girl was fully dilated. Her moan cycled up into
a scream, not as powerful as it had been earlier but still gut-wrenching for Jamie.
He talked softly to her, trying to sooth her. Jane saw the tiny feet appear, slick
with blood. This was it. She took hold, as gently as she could but firmly, and
pulled. Nothing. Evie shrieked even louder.
"Miss Blundell," Jamie
It all happened quickly, just as it always did.
One minute Jane was tugging, trying not to break tiny limbs and the next minute,
the babe just slid into her lap, a wizened, bloody mess. He was followed by a
gush of blood. The smell assaulted Jane. But she had to focus on the baby. He
was so still, so tiny. Jane held him up and opened the tiny mouth with her finger,
scraping out the slime and fluid. Still nothing. Evie had gone silent. Jane could
feel Jamie holding his breath. Jane wasn't breathing either. She held the baby
upside down by his feet and patted his back.
The tiny, sputtering
cough was deafening in the silence.
The door burst open behind
them just as Jamie's son started to wail.
"Get me the knife,"
Jane cried, as her father and Mr. Campbell strode into the room. Jamie jumped
for the knife Jane had made him sterilize in the fire.
Jane!" her father exclaimed. "I'm surprised you managed that. This good man said
it was early and breech and the local women were making her push."
nodded. He was always surprised at any of her successes. This time even she was
surprised. She took the knife from Jamie and cut the umbilical cord. "Now we have
another problem," she said quietly, nodding to the barely-conscious Evie. All
three men stared at the blood soaking the quilt and the bed.
father looked grim. His groundbreaking research into transfusion had been inspired
by all the women he saw die from hemorrhaging. As a well-known obstetrician of
nearly thirty years, Papa didn't like to fail. Jane knew this would be upsetting
to him. Especially since he had not yet solved the issue of why some blood seemed
to do a patient good when transfused, and some seemed only to make the patient
sicker. There was only one person's blood which seemed to work universally. Her
father rolled up his sleeve. So far only his blood was a sure thing. But Evie
was hemorrhaging so badly the blood her father could give might not be enough.
Then it was Evie's gamble whether blood from anyone else would heal her or kill
"Jane, you take care of Mr. Campbell's son." He turned to
the men. "This woman will die without blood from someone else to replace the blood
she is losing."
"What're ye goin' ta do?" Jamie asked, white-faced.
Jane wiped the boy and tied the umbilical knot. Her father was
busy setting up his equipment: a telescoping stand, some rubber tubing and a squeeze
bulb. The huge needles glinted in the candlelight as he laid them on the bedside
table. "I'm going to suck blood out of the vein in my arm and push it into the
vein in your wife's arm with this device. I call it the Impellor."
banished women peeked in at the cottage door. "Against God's will," one muttered.
"The Sassanach'll be struck dead for tryin' to cheat Him," another
Mr. Campbell looked uncertain, suddenly. It was the
equipment, so metallic and rubber; out-of-place in the tiny stone cottage on the
edge of a lake where dwelt monsters.
"This can work," Jane said
urgently as she cradled the crying infant against her breast. "I have seen it.
There are no guarantees, but she has no chance without it."
stood, toppling his stool. He was trembling. "Get out o' here, ye two-faced bitches,"
he cried to the apparitions at the doorway. "I'm goin' ta try everathin' ta save
my Evie, if it goes against God or no'!" He turned to Jane's father. "Doctor,
do what ye can."
The women in the doorway fussed as they withdrew.
"If that child lives, it'll belong to Satan himself," one muttered.
patted the tiny back and mourned the burden of suspicion just created for this
small bit of life that would follow him as long as he lived in the village.
give the child to his father. I need you to place the needle in my arm. Boy, your
blood is next after mine, and then yours Mr. Campbell." Jane was exempt, of course.
If only her father's blood was certain to help Evie, only Jane's was certain to
kill her or worse.
Jamie paled, but took the now-silent bundle
awkwardly. "I'll lend my blood if it will save Evie," he said. There was only
a slight quaver in his voice.
Jane wondered if she could bear
the sight of blood right now. She picked up the needle.
work was over at the little cottage. The last two hours had been a torment for
Jane. The smell of fresh blood when she was so hungry for it was excruciating.
That something in her blood rose up and demanded, and it was all she could to
do concentrate on her work. Her father had given Evie blood and cauterized the
vessels that were broken. He decided to chance using Jamie's blood, since Evie
had lost so much. Jane was forced to leave the cottage. She set the needle and
retreated to the cold night air to steady her nerves and escape the smell of blood.
Thank God Evie had experienced no reaction to Jamie's blood. Only she and her
father knew how lucky that was. Jane was shaking now with need, unsure how she
would live through next hours without losing what sanity remained to her. When
she returned to the room, Evie lay sleeping, her face once more blushing, while
a pale Jamie cradled his child.
Her father rose. "I think she'll
be fine, Mr. Campbell, perhaps a little weak for the next week. Be sure to make
her drink some good dark ale so she'll have milk for the child."
Campbell was a simple man, not used to expressing emotion. But his eyes were full
as he said, "I'll live in yer debt and that of yer daughter 'til the end o' my
days, sir, and Jamie too. I know right well Evie and the boy would no' ha' lived
"I'll stop back by tomorrow and check in on them,"
Jane said, knowing her father would not want to take time away from his experiments.
He gathered up his equipment. Mr. Campbell helped them take it out to the gig.
"So this is what ye're doin' with th' blood?" Campbell asked,
speculation in his voice, "practicin' how ta pass it, one ta th' other?"
father nodded, though it was not quite true. Papa apparently didn't have as much
trouble with lying as Jane did. Or maybe he was just distracted. He often didn't
listen to those around him if they weren't saying something he cared to hear.
Campbell nodded brusquely and handed Jane into gig. It was late
and perhaps three miles up the Urquhart Valley to Muir Farm. Jane still smelled
blood. The thick, rich scent seemed to follow her. She pressed a palm to her forehead.
Her hunger ramped up almost into pain.
Campbell nodded to himself.
"If ye can save lives like ye saved Evie's, then it's God's work ye do, no' matter
what those biddies say. I'll get donations fer ye, Doctor. Evera man in th' village
owes me a boon."
Jane leaned over and took his large, work-worn
hand. "Thank you, Mr. Campbell." Some would call feeding a monster the devil's
work. Perhaps it was. She shook the reins and the gig rolled out of the village.
Mr. Campbell didn't know he was doing the devil's work, so perhaps he would escape
blame in his Creator's eyes. But what if it took Campbell several days to convince
his friends to donate? Could she last?
The smell of blood made
her giddy with emptiness. She could sense the pounding of her father's heart that
sent his blood careering through his body. She breathed and pushed down the thing
in her blood that was so joyous at the scent. The mountains on each side of Urquhart
Valley loomed up around her. She could see each brown bracken fern sending out
green shoots from its root, and shale poking through the vegetation to make you
realize the spine of the world lurked just below the surface. It was a sere land,
the Highlands, a land she could not love. Even the softer valley, with its grass
for grazing and the pines around the house at Muir Farm was not soft like England
was. It was not a land you could call beautiful.
have tried to deliver that baby." Her father's admonition broke into her thoughts.
"You should have called me immediately. That was work for a doctor, not a girl
who's watched some crones catch a few babies."
He didn't think
her capable. It hurt, as always. The irritation in her blood wound its way up
into anger. "I've birthed a hundred babies myself, Papa. And some of them were
"You!" her father scoffed. "Where would you have gotten
such experience? Don't lie to make yourself seem more important than you are,
Jane. It doesn't become you."
That was too much. "I got that experience
in the slums of Whitechapel and Bethnal Green, Papa, while you thought I was embroidering
pillow covers and gossiping with silly girls." She should have said "other silly
girls," since he obviously thought she was silly, too.
knit his brows. "Those are not places for someone like you, Jane. That was dangerous,
reckless behavior. Why would you do that?"
She sighed. He couldn't
help the fact that he would always see her as a little girl. Or how disappointed
he was at that. She was tired, all of a sudden. "Because they couldn't afford
an obstetrician like you, Papa. Someone like me was all they had."
will not expose yourself to such riff-raff again, Jane. I expressly forbid
She hoped someday to get back to her work. But she wouldn't
say that. She'd already snapped at him. And first she had to get back to daylight,
and normal living. "No, Papa."
"Do you want it now?"
"The blood I took from Campbell. It's in the canteen under the
seat. Can't have you getting wild. It's been a fortnight."
mastered herself, and managed a smile. "I shall wait and sip it from a china cup
as I always do." She squeezed his arm. "Even a vampire can be civil."
take that mocking tone with me, young lady," he said severely.
willed herself to silence, thinking about the horrible things she had discovered
about herself ever since she had been infected. It wasn't only the blood. There
were the…urges in her body that were almost uncontrollable, and the fact that
sunlight burned her. She lived in dread of discovering some new effect.
vampires could be civil. At least I hope so, she thought.