Earl Peirce ~ Doom of the House of Duryea

DGG fur DMdJ
Arthur Duryea, a young, handsome man, came to meet his father for the first time in twenty years. As he strode into the hotel lobby—long strides which had the spring of elastic in them—idle eyes lifted to appraise him, for he was an impressive figure, somehow grim with exaltation.

The desk clerk looked up with his habitual smile of expectation; how-do-you-do-Mr.-so-and-so, and his fingers strayed to the green fountain pen which stood in a holder on the desk.

Arthur Duryea cleared his throat, but still his voice was clogged and unsteady. To the clerk he said:

“I’m looking for my father, Doctor Henry Duryea. I understand he is registered here. He has recently arrived from Paris.”

The clerk lowered his glance to a list of names. “Doctor Duryea is in suite 600, sixth floor.” He looked up, his eyebrows arched questioningly. “Are you staying too, sir, Mr. Duryea?”

Arthur took the pen and scribbled his name rapidly. Without a further word, neglecting even to get his key and own room number, he turned and walked to the elevators. Not until he reached his father’s suite on the sixth floor did he make an audible noise, and this was a mere sigh which fell from his lips like a prayer.

The man who opened the door was unusually tall, his slender frame clothed in tight-fitting black. He hardly dared to smile. His clean-shaven face was pale, an almost livid whiteness against the sparkle in his eyes. His jaw had a bluish luster.

“Arthur!” The word was scarcely a whisper. It seemed choked up quietly, as if it had been repeated time and again on his thin lips.

Arthur Duryea felt the kindliness of those eyes go through him, and then he was in his father’s embrace.

Later, when these two grown men had regained their outer calm, they closed the door and went into the drawing-room. The elder Duryea held out a humidor of fine cigars, and his hand shook so hard when he held the match that his son was forced to cup his own hands about the flame. They both had tears in their eyes, but their eyes were smiling.

Henry Duryea placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “This is the happiest day of my life,” he said. “You can never know how much I have longed for this moment.”

Arthur, looking into that glance, realized, with growing pride, that he had loved his father all his life, despite any of those things which had been cursed against him. He sat down on the edge of a chair.

“I—I don’t know how to act,” he confessed. “You surprize me, Dad. You’re so different from what I had expected.”

A cloud came over Doctor Duryea’s features. “What did you expect, Arthur?” he demanded quickly. “An evil eye? A shaven head and knotted jowls?”

“Please, Dad—no!” Arthur’s words clipped short. “I don’t think I ever really visualized you. I knew you would be a splendid man. But I thought you’d look older, more like a man who has really suffered.”

“I have suffered, more than I can ever describe. But seeing you again, and the prospect of spending the rest of my life with you, has more than compensated for my sorrows. Even during the twenty years we were apart I found an ironic joy in learning of your progress in college, and in your American game of football.”

“Then you’ve been following my work?”

“Yes, Arthur; I’ve received monthly reports ever since you left me. From my study in Paris I’ve been really close to you, working out your problems as if they were my own. And now that the twenty years are completed, the ban which kept us apart is lifted for ever. From now on, son, we shall be the closest of companions—unless your Aunt Cecilia has succeeded in her terrible mission.”

The mention of that name caused an unfamiliar chill to come between the two men. It stood for something, in each of them, which gnawed their minds like a malignancy. But to the younger Duryea, in his intense effort to forget the awful past, her name as well as her madness must be forgotten.

He had no wish to carry on this subject of conversation, for it betrayed an internal weakness which he hated. With forced determination, and a ludicrous lift of his eyebrows, he said,

“Cecilia is dead, and her silly superstition is dead also. From now on, Dad, we’re going to enjoy life as we should. Bygones are really bygones in this case.”

Doctor Duryea closed his eyes slowly, as though an exquisite pain had gone through him.

“Then you have no indignation?” he questioned. “You have none of your aunt’s hatred?”

“Indignation? Hatred?” Arthur laughed aloud. “Ever since I was twelve years old I have disbelieved Cecilia’s stories. I have known that those horrible things were impossible, that they belonged to the ancient category of mythology and tradition. How, then, can I be indignant, and how can I hate you? How can I do anything but recognize Cecilia for what she was—a mean, frustrated woman, cursed with an insane grudge against you and your family? I tell you, Dad, that nothing she has ever said can possibly come between us again.”

Henry Duryea nodded his head. His lips were tight together, and the muscles in his throat held back a cry. In that same soft tone of defense he spoke further, doubting words.

“Are you so sure of your subconscious mind, Arthur? Can you be so certain that you are free from all suspicion, however vague? Is there not a lingering premonition—a premonition which warns of peril?”

“No, Dad—no!” Arthur shot to his feet. “I don’t believe it. I’ve never believed it. I know, as any sane man would know, that you are neither a vampire nor a murderer. You know it, too; and Cecilia knew it, only she was mad.

“That family rot is dispelled, Father. This is a civilized century. Belief in vampirism is sheer lunacy. Wh-why, it’s too absurd even to think about!”

“You have the enthusiasm of youth,” said his father, in a rather tired voice. “But have you not heard the legend?”

Arthur stepped back instinctively. He moistened his lips, for their dryness might crack them. “The—legend?”

He said the word in a curious hush of awed softness, as he had heard his Aunt Cecilia say it many times before.

“That awful legend that you——”

“That I eat my children?”

“Oh, God, Father!” Arthur went to his knees as a cry burst through his lips. “Dad, that—that’s ghastly! We must forget Cecilia’s ravings.”

“You are affected, then?” asked Doctor Duryea bitterly.

“Affected? Certainly I’m affected, but only as I should be at such an accusation. Cecilia was mad, I tell you. Those books she showed me years ago, and those folk-tales of vampires and ghouls—they burned into my infantile mind like acid. They haunted me day and night in my youth, and caused me to hate you worse than death itself.

“But in Heaven’s name, Father, I’ve outgrown those things as I have outgrown my clothes. I’m a man now; do you understand that? A man, with a man’s sense of logic.”

“Yes, I understand.” Henry Duryea threw his cigar into the fireplace, and placed a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“We shall forget Cecilia,” he said. “As I told you in my letter, I have rented a lodge in Maine where we can go to be alone for the rest of the summer. We’ll get in some fishing and hiking and perhaps some hunting. But first, Arthur, I must be sure in my own mind that you are sure in yours. I must be sure you won’t bar your door against me at night, and sleep with a loaded revolver at your elbow. I must be sure that you’re not afraid of going up there alone with me, and dying——”

His voice ended abruptly, as if an age-long dread had taken hold of it. His son’s face was waxen, with sweat standing out like pearls on his brow. He said nothing, but his eyes were filled with questions which his lips could not put into words. His own hand touched his father’s, and tightened over it.

Henry Duryea drew his hand away.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and his eyes looked straight over Arthur’s lowered head. “This thing must be thrashed out now. I believe you when you say that you discredit Cecilia’s stories, but for a sake greater than sanity I must tell you the truth behind the legend—and believe me, Arthur; there is a truth!”

He climbed to his feet and walked to the window which looked out over the street below. For a moment he gazed into space, silent. Then he turned and looked down at his son.

“You have heard only your aunt’s version of the legend, Arthur. Doubtless it was warped into a thing far more hideous than it actually was—if that is possible! Doubtless she spoke to you of the Inquisitorial stake in Carcassonne where one of my ancestors perished. Also she may have mentioned that book, Vampyrs, which a former Duryea is supposed to have written. Then certainly she told you about your two younger brothers—my own poor, motherless children—who were sucked bloodless in their cradles….”

Arthur Duryea passed a hand across his aching eyes. Those words, so often repeated by that witch of an aunt, stirred up the same visions which had made his childhood nights sleepless with terror. He could hardly bear to hear them again—and from the very man to whom they were accredited.

“Listen, Arthur,” the elder Duryea went on quickly, his voice low with the pain it gave him. “You must know that true basis to your aunt’s hatred. You must know of that curse—that curse of vampirism which is supposed to have followed the Duryeas through five centuries of French history, but which we can dispel as pure superstition, so often connected with ancient families. But I must tell you that this part of the legend is true:

“Your two young brothers actually died in their cradles, bloodless. And I stood trial in France for their murder, and my name was smirched throughout all of Europe with such an inhuman damnation that it drove your aunt and you to America, and has left me childless, hated, and ostracized from society the world over.

“I must tell you that on that terrible night in Duryea Castle I had been working late on historic volumes of Crespet and Prinn, and on that loathsome tome, Vampyrs. I must tell you of the soreness that was in my throat and of the heaviness of the blood which coursed through my veins…. And of that presence, which was neither man nor animal, but which I knew was some place near me, yet neither within the castle nor outside of it, and which was closer to me than my heart and more terrible to me than the touch of the grave….

“I was at the desk in my library, my head swimming in a delirium which left me senseless until dawn. There were nightmares that frightened me—frightened me, Arthur, a grown man who had dissected countless cadavers in morgues and medical schools. I know that my tongue was swollen in my mouth and that brine moistened my lips, and that a rottenness pervaded my body like a fever.

“I can make no recollection of sanity or of consciousness. That night remains vivid, unforgettable, yet somehow completely in shadows. When I had fallen asleep—if in God’s name it was sleep—I was slumped across my desk. But when I awoke in the morning I was lying face down on my couch. So you see, Arthur, I had moved during that night, and I had never known it!

“What I’d done and where I’d gone during those dark hours will always remain an impenetrable mystery. But I do know this. On the morrow I was torn from my sleep by the shrieks of maids and butlers, and by that mad wailing of your aunt. I stumbled through the open door of my study, and in the nursery I saw those two babies there—lifeless, white and dry like mummies, and with twin holes in their necks that were caked black with their own blood….

“Oh, I don’t blame you for your incredulousness, Arthur. I cannot believe it yet myself, nor shall I ever believe it. The belief of it would drive me to suicide; and still the doubting of it drives me mad with horror.

“All of France was doubtful, and even the savants who defended my name at the trial found that they could not explain it nor disbelieve it. The case was quieted by the Republic, for it might have shaken science to its very foundation and split the pedestals of religion and logic. I was released from the charge of murder; but the actual murder has hung about me like a stench.

“The coroners who examined those tiny cadavers found them both dry of all their blood, but could find no blood on the floor of the nursery nor in the cradles. Something from hell stalked the halls of Duryea that night—and I should blow my brains out if I dared to think deeply of who that was. You, too, my son, would have been dead and bloodless if you hadn’t been sleeping in a separate room with your door barred on the inside.

“You were a timid child, Arthur. You were only seven years old, but you were filled with the folk-lore of those mad Lombards and the decadent poetry of your aunt. On that same night, while I was some place between heaven and hell, you, also, heard the padded footsteps on the stone corridor and heard the tugging at your door handle, for in the morning you complained of a chill and of terrible nightmares which frightened you in your sleep…. I only thank God that your door was barred!”

Henry Duryea’s voice choked into a sob which brought the stinging tears back into his eyes. He paused to wipe his face, and to dig his fingers into his palm.

“You understand, Arthur, that for twenty years, under my sworn oath at the Palace of Justice, I could neither see you nor write to you. Twenty years, my son, while all of that time you had grown to hate me and to spit at my name. Not until your aunt’s death have you called yourself a Duryea…. And now you come to me at my bidding, and say you love me as a son should love his father.

“Perhaps it is God’s forgiveness for everything. Now, at last, we shall be together, and that terrible, unexplainable past will be buried for ever….”

He put his handkerchief back into his pocket and walked slowly to his son. He dropped to one knee, and his hands gripped Arthur’s arms.

“My son, I can say no more to you. I have told you the truth as I alone know it. I may be, by all accounts, some ghoulish creation of Satan on earth. I may be a child-killer, a vampire, some morbidly diseased specimen of vrykolakas—things which science cannot explain.

“Perhaps the dreaded legend of the Duryeas is true. Autiel Duryea was convicted of murdering his brother in that same monstrous fashion in the year 1576, and he died in flames at the stake. François Duryea, in 1802, blew his head apart with a blunderbuss on the morning after his youngest son was found dead, apparently from anemia. And there are others, of whom I cannot bear to speak, that would chill your soul if you were to hear them.

“So you see, Arthur, there is a hellish tradition behind our family. There is a heritage which no sane God would ever have allowed. The future of the Duryeas lies in you, for you are the last of the race. I pray with all of my heart that providence will permit you to live your full share of years, and to leave other Duryeas behind you. And so if ever again I feel that presence as I did in Duryea Castle, I am going to die as François Duryea died, over a hundred years ago….”

He stood up, and his son stood up at his side.

“If you are willing to forget, Arthur, we shall go up to that lodge in Maine. There is a life we’ve never known awaiting us. We must find that life, and we must find the happiness which a curious fate snatched from us on those Lombard sourlands, twenty years ago….”

2

Henry Duryea’s tall stature, coupled with a slenderness of frame and a sleekness of muscle, gave him an appearance that was unusually gaunt. His son couldn’t help but think of that word as he sat on the rustic porch of the lodge, watching his father sunning himself at the lake’s edge.

Henry Duryea had a kindliness in his face, at times an almost sublime kindliness which great prophets often possess. But when his face was partly in shadows, particularly about his brow, there was a frightening tone which came into his features; for it was a tone of farness, of mysticism and conjuration. Somehow, in the late evenings, he assumed the unapproachable mantle of a dreamer and sat silently before the fire, his mind ever off in unknown places.

In that little lodge there was no electricity, and the glow of the oil lamps played curious tricks with the human expression which frequently resulted in something unhuman. It may have been the dusk of night, the flickering of the lamps, but Arthur Duryea had certainly noticed how his father’s eyes had sunken further into his head, and how his cheeks were tighter, and the outline of his teeth pressed into the skin about his lips.

It was nearing sundown on the second day of their stay at Timber Lake. Six miles away the dirt road wound on toward Houtlon, near the Canadian border. So it was lonely there, on a solitary little lake hemmed in closely with dark evergreens and a sky which drooped low over dusty-summited mountains.

Within the lodge was a homy fireplace, and a glossy elk’s-head which peered out above the mantel. There were guns and fishing-tackle on the walls, shelves of reliable American fiction—Mark Twain, Melville, Stockton, and a well-worn edition of Bret Harte.

A fully supplied kitchen and a wood stove furnished them with hearty meals which were welcome after a whole day’s tramp in the woods. On that evening Henry Duryea prepared a select French stew out of every available vegetable, and a can of soup. They ate well, then stretched out before the fire for a smoke. They were outlining a trip to the Orient together, when the back door blew open with a terrific bang, and a wind swept into the lodge with a coldness which chilled them both.

“A storm,” Henry Duryea said, rising to his feet. “Sometimes they have them up here, and they’re pretty bad. The roof might leak over your bedroom. Perhaps you’d like to sleep down here with me.” His fingers strayed playfully over his son’s head as he went out into the kitchen to bar the swinging door.

Arthur’s room was upstairs, next to a spare room filled with extra furniture. He’d chosen it because he liked the altitude, and because the only other bedroom was occupied….

He went upstairs swiftly and silently. His roof didn’t leak; it was absurd even to think it might. It had been his father again, suggesting that they sleep together. He had done it before, in a jesting, whispering way—as if to challenge them both if they dared to sleep together.

Arthur came back downstairs dressed in his bath-robe and slippers. He stood on the fifth stair, rubbing a two-day’s growth of beard. “I think I’ll shave tonight,” he said to his father. “May I use your razor?”

Henry Duryea, draped in a black raincoat and with his face haloed in the brim of a rain-hat, looked up from the hall. A frown glided obscurely from his features. “Not at all, son. Sleeping upstairs?”

Arthur nodded, and quickly said, “Are you—going out?”

“Yes, I’m going to tie the boats up tighter. I’m afraid the lake will rough it up a bit.”

Duryea jerked back the door and stepped outside. The door slammed shut, and his footsteps sounded on the wood flooring of the porch.

Arthur came slowly down the remaining steps. He saw his father’s figure pass across the dark rectangle of a window, saw the flash of lightning that suddenly printed his grim silhouette against the glass.

He sighed deeply, a sigh which burned in his throat; for his throat was sore and aching. Then he went into the bedroom, found the razor lying in plain view on a birch table-top.

As he reached for it, his glance fell upon his father’s open Gladstone bag which rested at the foot of the bed. There was a book resting there, half hidden by a gray flannel shirt. It was a narrow, yellow-bound book, oddly out of place.

Frowning, he bent down and lifted it from the bag. It was surprizingly heavy in his hands, and he noticed a faintly sickening odor of decay which drifted from it like a perfume. The title of the volume had been thumbed away into an indecipherable blur of gold letters. But pasted across the front cover was a white strip of paper, on which was typewritten the word—INFANTIPHAGI.

He flipped back the cover and ran his eyes over the title-page. The book was printed in French—an early French—yet to him wholly comprehensible. The publication date was 1580, in Caen.

Breathlessly he turned back a second page, saw a chapter headed, Vampires.

He slumped to one elbow across the bed. His eyes were four inches from those mildewed pages, his nostrils reeked with the stench of them.

He skipped long paragraphs of pedantic jargon on theology, he scanned brief accounts of strange, blood-eating monsters, vrykolakes, and leprechauns. He read of Jeanne d’Arc, of Ludvig Prinn, and muttered aloud the Latin snatches from Episcopi.

He passed pages in quick succession, his fingers shaking with the fear of it and his eyes hanging heavily in their sockets. He saw vague reference to “Enoch,” and saw the terrible drawings by an ancient Dominican of Rome….

Paragraph after paragraph he read: the horror-striking testimony of Nider’s Ant-Hill, the testimony of people who died shrieking at the stake; the recitals of grave-tenders, of jurists and hang-men. Then unexpectedly, among all of this monumental vestige, there appeared before his eyes the name of—Autiel Duryea; and he stopped reading as though invisibly struck.

Thunder clapped near the lodge and rattled the window-panes. The deep rolling of bursting clouds echoed over the valley. But he heard none of it. His eyes were on those two short sentences which his father—someone—had underlined with dark red crayon.

… The execution, four years ago, of Autiel Duryea does not end the Duryea controversy. Time alone can decide whether the Demon has claimed that family from its beginning to its end….

Arthur read on about the trial of Autiel Duryea before Veniti, the Carcassonnean Inquisitor-General; read, with mounting horror, the evidence which had sent that far-gone Duryea to the pillar—the evidence of a bloodless corpse who had been Autiel Duryea’s young brother.

Unmindful now of the tremendous storm which had centered over Timber Lake, unheeding the clatter of windows and the swish of pines on the roof—even of his father who worked down at the lake’s edge in a drenching rain—Arthur fastened his glance to the blurred print of those pages, sinking deeper and deeper into the garbled legends of a dark age….

On the last page of the chapter he again saw the name of his ancestor, Autiel Duryea. He traced a shaking finger over the narrow lines of words, and when he finished reading them he rolled sideways on the bed, and from his lips came a sobbing, mumbling prayer.

“God, oh God in Heaven protect me….”

For he had read:

As in the case of Autiel Duryea we observe that this specimen of vrykolakas preys only upon the blood in its own family. It possesses none of the characteristics of the undead vampire, being usually a living male person of otherwise normal appearances, unsuspecting its inherent demonism.

But this vrykolakas cannot act according to its demoniacal possession unless it is in the presence of a second member of the same family, who acts as a medium between the man and its demon. This medium has none of the traits of the vampire, but it senses the being of this creature (when the metamorphosis is about to occur) by reason of intense pains in the head and throat. Both the vampire and the medium undergo similar reactions, involving nausea, nocturnal visions, and physical disquietude.

When these two outcasts are within a certain distance of each other, the coalescence of inherent demonism is completed, and the vampire is subject to its attacks, demanding blood for its sustenance. No member of the family is safe at these times, for the vrykolakas, acting in its true agency on earth, will unerringly seek out the blood. In rare cases, where other victims are unavailable, the vampire will even take the blood from the very medium which made it possible.

This vampire is born into certain aged families, and naught but death can destroy it. It is not conscious of its blood-madness, and acts only in a psychic state. The medium, also, is unaware of its terrible rôle; and when these two are together, despite any lapse of years, the fusion of inheritance is so violent that no power known on earth can turn it back.

3

The lodge door slammed shut with a sudden, interrupting bang. The lock grated, and Henry Duryea’s footsteps sounded on the planked floor.

Arthur shook himself from the bed. He had only time to fling that haunting book into the Gladstone bag before he sensed his father standing in the doorway.

“You—you’re not shaving, Arthur.” Duryea’s words, spliced hesitantly, were toneless. He glanced from the table-top to the Gladstone, and to his son. He said nothing for a moment, his glance inscrutable. Then,

“It’s blowing up quite a storm outside.”

Arthur swallowed the first words which had come into his throat, nodded quickly. “Yes, isn’t it? Quite a storm.” He met his father’s gaze, his face burning. “I—I don’t think I’ll shave, Dad. My head aches.”

Duryea came swiftly into the room and pinned Arthur’s arms in his grasp. “What do you mean—your head aches? How? Does your throat——”

“No!” Arthur jerked himself away. He laughed. “It’s that French stew of yours! It’s hit me in the stomach!” He stepped past his father and started up the stairs.

“The stew?” Duryea pivoted on his heel. “Possibly. I think I feel it myself.”

Arthur stopped, his face suddenly white. “You—too?”

The words were hardly audible. Their glances met—clashed like dueling-swords.

For ten seconds neither of them said a word or moved a muscle: Arthur, from the stairs, looking down; his father below, gazing up at him. In Henry Duryea the blood drained slowly from his face and left a purple etching across the bridge of his nose and above his eyes. He looked like a death’s-head.

Arthur winced at the sight and twisted his eyes away. He turned to go up the remaining stairs.

“Son!”

He stopped again; his hand tightened on the banister.

“Yes, Dad?”

Duryea put his foot on the first stair, “I want you to lock your door tonight. The wind would keep it banging!”

“Yes,” breathed Arthur, and pushed up the stairs to his room.

Doctor Duryea’s hollow footsteps sounded in steady, unhesitant beats across the floor of Timber Lake Lodge. Sometimes they stopped, and the crackling hiss of a sulfur match took their place, then perhaps a distended sigh, and, again, footsteps….

Arthur crouched at the open door of his room. His head was cocked for those noises from below. In his hands was a double-barrel shotgun of violent gage.

… thud … thud … thud….

Then a pause, the clinking of a glass and the gurgling of liquid. The sigh, the tread of his feet over the floor….

“He’s thirsty,” Arthur thought—Thirsty!

Outside, the storm had grown into fury. Lightning zigzagged between the mountains, filling the valley with weird phosphorescence. Thunder, like drums, rolled incessantly.

Within the lodge the heat of the fireplace piled the atmosphere thick with stagnation. All the doors and windows were locked shut, the oil-lamps glowed weakly—a pale, anemic light.

Henry Duryea walked to the foot of the stairs and stood looking up.

Arthur sensed his movements and ducked back into his room, the gun gripped in his shaking fingers.

Then Henry Duryea’s footstep sounded on the first stair.

Arthur slumped to one knee. He buckled a fist against his teeth as a prayer tumbled through them.

Duryea climbed a second step … and another … and still one more. On the fourth stair he stopped.

“Arthur!” His voice cut into the silence like the crack of a whip. “Arthur! Will you come down here?”

“Yes, Dad.” Bedraggled, his body hanging like cloth, young Duryea took five steps to the landing.

“We can’t be zanies!” cried Henry Duryea. “My soul is sick with dread. Tomorrow we’re going back to New York. I’m going to get the first boat to open sea…. Please come down here.” He turned about and descended the stairs to his room.

Arthur choked back the words which had lumped in his mouth. Half dazed, he followed….

In the bedroom he saw his father stretched face-up along the bed. He saw a pile of rope at his father’s feet.

“Tie me to the bedposts, Arthur,” came the command. “Tie both my hands and both my feet.”

Arthur stood gaping.

“Do as I tell you!”

“Dad, what hor——”

“Don’t be a fool! You read that book! You know what relation you are to me! I’d always hoped it was Cecilia, but now I know it’s you. I should have known it on that night twenty years ago when you complained of a headache and nightmares…. Quickly, my head rocks with pain. Tie me!”

Speechless, his own pain piercing him with agony, Arthur fell to that grisly task. Both hands he tied—and both feet … tied them so firmly to the iron posts that his father could not lift himself an inch off the bed.

Then he blew out the lamps, and without a further glance at that Prometheus, he reascended the stairs to his room, and slammed and locked his door behind him.

He looked once at the breech of his gun, and set it against a chair by his bed. He flung off his robe and slippers, and within five minutes he was senseless in slumber.

4

He slept late, and when he awakened his muscles were as stiff as boards, and the lingering visions of a nightmare clung before his eyes. He pushed his way out of bed, stood dazedly on the floor.

A dull, numbing cruciation circulated through his head. He felt bloated … coarse and running with internal mucus. His mouth was dry, his gums sore and stinging.

He tightened his hands as he lunged for the door. “Dad,” he cried, and he heard his voice breaking in his throat.

Sunlight filtered through the window at the top of the stairs. The air was hot and dry, and carried in it a mild odor of decay.

Arthur suddenly drew back at that odor—drew back with a gasp of awful fear. For he recognized it—that stench, the heaviness of his blood, the rawness of his tongue and gums…. Age-long it seemed, yet rising like a spirit in his memory. All of these things he had known and felt before.

He leaned against the banister, and half slid, half stumbled down the stairs….

His father had died during the night. He lay like a waxen figure tied to his bed, his face done up in knots.

Arthur stood dumbly at the foot of the bed for only a few seconds; then he went back upstairs to his room.

Almost immediately he emptied both barrels of the shotgun into his head.

The tragedy at Timber Lake was discovered accidentally three days later. A party of fishermen, upon finding the two bodies, notified state authorities, and an investigation was directly under way.

Arthur Duryea had undoubtedly met death at his own hands. The condition of his wounds, and the manner with which he held the lethal weapon, at once foreclosed the suspicion of any foul play.

But the death of Doctor Henry Duryea confronted the police with an inexplicable mystery; for his trussed-up body, unscathed except for two jagged holes over the jugular vein, had been drained of all its blood.

The autopsy protocol of Henry Duryea laid death to “undetermined causes,” and it was not until the yellow tabloids commenced an investigation into the Duryea family history that the incredible and fantastic explanations were offered to the public.

Obviously such talk was held in popular contempt; yet in view of the controversial war which followed, the authorities considered it expedient to consign both Duryeas to the crematory….

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