Last of the Super Lancers by Desert Sun

Word Count 5,356

Note:  This was written and posted to the Yahoo Lancer groups in October of 2004.  I don’t generally write Halloween stories, but I decided to give it a try that year.  I did quite a bit of revising in October 2014 before adding this to the files of the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook, but the basic story is the same.  I did change the year this takes place so it would happens in a year the moon would have been full or nearly full.

A pale halo surrounded the moon that late October night in the year of 1879.  Jelly Hoskins said it was a sign of doom.  He claimed he could feel it in his bones.

Johnny Lancer chuckled and slapped the shorter man’s back.   “Boy, Jelly, all o’ those ghost stories Scott an’ Murdoch told us at supper sure have you jumpy.  You’re makin’ a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Jelly tucked his thumbs under his suspenders and puffed his chest out like his pet goose often did just before loudly voicing his complaints.  “Go right ahead and laugh.  Ain’t no skin off my nose.”  He pulled one hand free and shook a finger at Johnny.  “But you mark my words.  Lots of strange things happen on Halloween.  Tonight ain’t no time to be scoffin’.  You’re just askin’ for trouble.”  His thumb jabbed at the sky.  “Why, look at that moon.  It’s as red as blood.”

Johnny hid a grin with his fist.  Nobody was more superstitious than Jelly.   It’d be a shame to pass up a chance to poke a little fun at him.  He lowered his hand to his chin and drew his brows together.   “You know . . . it gets that way every time there’s a fire in the mountains.   Most likely it’s from all the smoke in the air.”   He paused and crossed his arms, a grin twitching the corners of his mouth.  “Or do you think its fire an’ brimstone you’ve been smellin’ all day?”

Jelly’s chin rose higher.  “It ain’t nothin’ to joke about.”  He let out a loud huff and strode away, leaving Johnny standing alone in front of the open door at one side of the Lancer hacienda’s main entry hall.

At the far side of the courtyard, Jelly reached for the doorknob to his room.  A dark creature with wings spread wide swooped down and barely missed the top of his head.

Jelly ducked and stumbled to one side.  He quickly straightened, glanced at Johnny, and then hustled inside–the door slamming shut behind him.

Johnny laughed.  Sure didn’t take much to spook Jelly.  Did he think that little ol’ bat was one of those vampires Scott had told them about?

Boney fingers grasped Johnny’s shoulder.  He heart lurched, and he spun to one side.

“What’s so funny?” a soft voice asked.

Johnny looked from the shadow on the walk to the face of his brother who now stood in the open doorway.  “Scott!”   He swallowed–brows pinching.   “Don’tcha know better’n to sneak up on a man like that?”

“Little jumpy aren’t you, Brother?”  Scott’s lips stretched outward and the corners of his eyes wrinkled.  “You didn’t think I was a spook, by any chance, did you?”

With heart thundering in his ears, Johnny glared up at his brother.  “No . . . I didn’t think you was a spook.  I just didn’t hear ya walk up behind me, is all.”

“So . . . what were you laughing about?”

Johnny let out a long, slow breath and did his best to speak in a lazy tone.  “Oh, you know Jelly. His bones are talkin’ to him again.  You know, he’s convinced that red moon is the kiss of doom for Lancer.”  He waved a hand at the auburn circle of light and chuckled.  “I bet we could scare him right out o’ his socks if we made a few eerie noises outside his window.”

Scott’s brows arched.  “He’s that jumpy, huh?”  He rubbed the side of his face and let out a sigh.  “As tempting as that would be, I think we’d best pass on it.  Murdock just retired, and I don’t think he’d appreciate having to calm Jelly down at this late hour.”

“Yeah.”  Johnny wedged the fingers of one hand between the fingers of the other, turned his palms outward, and straightened his arms.  “But ya can’t say it wouldn’t be fun.”

The brothers shared a hearty laugh.  When the sound of their mirth had faded into silence, Scott yawned.  “Well, Brother, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired.”  He glanced around the courtyard as he continued to speak.  “I think I’ll follow Murdoch’s lead, say good night, and go to bed.”

Johnny slapped his brother’s shoulder as the other man turned toward the house.  “Goodnight, Scott.”

As Scott walked away, Johnny had a fleeting thought that there was something not quite right about his brother’s manner.  Why the sudden hurry to leave and the need to look away?  Was he up to something?

Johnny scolded himself for letting his imagination run wild.  He tipped his head and gazed up at the moon for a while.  The murky-red ball, still surrounded by a shimmering glow, had risen higher in the east and was now peeking through the skeleton like branches of a tall oak.  It did look a bit spooky.

Black wings crossed paths with the bare limbs of the tree as a bat passed in front of the face of the moon. 

A shiver raced up Johnny’s spine.  He turned toward the house.  He was getting as jumpy as Jelly.  Maybe it was time to get some sleep and clear his mind.  Some of the stories Scott and Murdoch had told had been enough to raise the hair on the back of grizzly bear’s neck.

Johnny wasn’t about to admit to anyone that he was the least bit afraid of those stories.  He had a reputation to uphold.  It wouldn’t do for word to get out that Johnny Madrid Lancer was frightened by a few silly Halloween tales.


Before settling into bed, Johnny went to the window, pulled back the thick curtain, and looked out.  Something dark crossed the courtyard below.  A man?  That was a ridiculous thought.  Jelly was the only one using a room that opened on that side.  Who would be visiting him this time of night?  Scott and Murdoch were both in bed.  Nobody else would have a reason to call on him.

Johnny let loose of the curtain.  His imagination was running as wild as Jelly’s.  He walked over to the bedside table, lit the candle that was beside the framed picture of his mother.  Then he turned out the flame in the oil lamp.

As he gazed at into his mother’s eyes, Johnny gently traced a finger down her cheek and whispered.  “I miss you, Mama.”   He made the sign of the cross over his heart, said a brief prayer for his mother’s peace and happiness, and got ready for bed.

Johnny slipped the watch that his father had given him out of his pocket and laid his pants over a chair.  He tossed his shirt on the seat.  Then he went over and sat on the bed again.

He flipped open the cover on the watch and checked the time.  A little past nine.  Why had Scott been in such a hurry to get to bed?  It wasn’t all that late, yet.

Johnny laid the watch down beside his mother’s picture and settled into bed.  Sleep refused to come.  Thoughts of his mother tracked through his mind until they were crowded out by visions of the strange creatures that some people claimed roamed the earth on Halloween night.   What was it Murdoch and Scott had called them?  Werewolves and vampires.  How did people come up with such silly notions?

With eyes closed to hide the faint light of the candle, Johnny let his mind wander to the Scottish legend that his father had talked about that evening.  In the late seventeen hundreds, a branch of the Lancer family had moved into a castle inhabited by a vampire.

Johnny let an audible “pfft”.  It was all a bunch of nonsense.  All that stuff about people getting bitten and turning into beings with strange powers and a thirst for blood.  His old man’s grandfather was probably pulling his leg, hoping to scare the pants off him with that tale about having to drive wooden stakes through the hearts of vampires on Halloween–that being the only way to kill them. 

He smiled and rolled onto his side.  Super Lancers.  Huh.  There probably wasn’t a word of truth to the whole story.

Johnny remembered saying that to his father and seeing something odd in the way Murdoch and Scott looked at each other.  He scowled.  What had that been about?  A shared joke of some kind?  Surely they didn’t believe there was a vampire running around looking for Lancer blood.

A voice in the back of Johnny’s head reminded him it wasn’t just any Lancer blood the vampire was after.  It was his blood.

“Hog wash!”  Johnny clapped his hand over his mouth and chuckled.  Not only was he thinking like Jelly, he was talking like him, too.

Johnny let out a grunt and propped himself up on one elbow.  He punched his pillow into a mound, settled back down, and pulled the blankets over his head.

He still couldn’t sleep.  The name of Octavian Lancer kept running through his mind.   Last of the Super Lancers.  Hundred year vow of vengeance.  Sworn to seek the blood of the youngest son of all future descendants of Murdoch’s grandfather.

Johnny clenched his eyelids closed.  Octavian was a myth.

What if . . . ?  The question seemed to glide through the room on a whisper of wind.

Johnny shivered again.  He checked the cartridges in the spare revolver he kept behind the headboard of his bed and glanced over at his mother’s picture.  “You know I ain’t doin’ this because I believe all that falderal.  I just don’t believe in takin’ chances.  That’s all.”

When he was satisfied the pistol was properly loaded, Johnny tucked it beneath his pillow and again tried to sleep.  The presence of the gun brought a sense of control that eased his mind and gave him peace.  Slowly he became oblivious to his surroundings.

 Johnny awakened with a start, eyes open and heart thumping like the hind leg of a dog getting its ears scratched.  He listened for some sound that would explain his fear at being pulled from a sound sleep.  Silence met his ears.

As he continued to peer through the dim fog that filled his familiar room with unknown shadows, Johnny chided himself for being worse than Jelly.  A lot of things could have jerked him awake.

Johnny looked toward the window.  The red moon had turned into a yellow wedge in the upper-left corner.  He figured it had to be close to midnight.  Or just past.  That would explain why he was awake.  He’d probably heard the chiming of the grandfather clock down in the parlor.

Johnny closed his eyes.  If his old man wasn’t so attached to that blasted thing, he’d find a way to make it disappear.  This wasn’t the first time it had disturbed his sleep.

Another shiver ran through Johnny and he looked around.  Something wasn’t quite right, but he couldn’t think what it could be.  He slid his hand under his pillow.  The revolver was still there, right where he’d put it.  He rested his fingers on the smooth, comforting handle and tried to go back to sleep.

Scrrritch!

“Who’s there?”  Johnny tightened his grip on the revolver.

Silence answered him.

“Scott?”

More silence.

“Murdoch?”

Still no answer.

Johnny willed the throbbing in his chest to slow down.  The wind was probably rattling that loose shutter he hadn’t gotten around to fixing.  It wouldn’t hurt to take another glance around his room, though, just to ease his mind.

The chair in the darkest corner caught Johnny’s eye.  He told himself it was nothing to be worried about.  It was empty.

With a huff of disgust, Johnny pulled the blankets over his head.  He wiggled into a comfortable position on his side and breathed in and out in long, slow breaths.  There was nothing to fear.

Squeak.

It’s nothing.

Thump. Thump.

Ignore it and go to sleep.

“Jaw . . . knee.”

Johnny fought the urge to sit up.  It was just the wind, howling through the bare branches of the tree outside the window.  The tree had probably made those other scratching and thumping noises, too.

“Ooh . . . Jaw . . . knee.”

“Alright!  Enough of this.”   Johnny sat up, opened his eyes, and slowly checked out the deep shadows of his room again.  “See . . . nothing,” he grumbled aloud.

“Are you sure?” the wind whined.

Johnny jerked the revolver from beneath his pillow and gazed into the darkness.  Realization hit him.  The candle had gone out–had been out all along.  And the curtain had been closed when he went to bed.   He gulped.  “Who said that?”

“I . . . did.”  A hoarse voice drew the words out.

Johnny searched the shadows but the faint light of the moon failed to show anything to be alarmed about.  Still, fear gripped his chest.   “Where are you?”

“Over here-er.”

Slowly the chair in the corner nearest the window grew.  Its dark form stretched upward as two large wings unfolded and spread outward.

Terror rose in Johnny’s throat.  He gulped.   “I’ve got a gun and I’ll shoot.”

“Shoot at what.  A cape?”   The eerie voice came out of the corner by the door to Johnny’s left.  It was followed by a cackling laugh.

Johnny swung the revolver around.  He squinted and searched the darkness.

“Over here, John.”

Johnny shifted his eyes back toward the far corner.  The giant bat now stood in front of the window.  Its wings blocked off what little light the moon had shed into the room.

Again Johnny pointed his gun at the creature.  He didn’t need any light.  Not with a target that large.  He promptly told his visitor this.

“And what of your father and brother.  What will you tell them when you have nothing to show them, but a broken window or a wall full of holes?”  The words warbled as though blown by the wind.

Johnny laughed.  “I can’t miss.”   He said it more to bolster his own courage.

“Are you sure?” the voice by the door asked.

“Who are you?”  Johnny  peered into the darkness.  It’d sure be easier to see something if the candle hadn’t gone out.

Nothing moved so Johnny turned his head toward the window again.  The caped shadow had moved closer to the foot of the bed.

Johnny felt like someone had a noose pulled tight around his chest.  He did his best to sound gruff.   “Who are you?  Speak up, or I’ll blast a hole as big as Texas through ya.”

“Octavian Lancer.  Hasn’t your father told you anything about your ancestors?”

There was something familiar about the upward pitches in the voice.  Johnny decided to play along.  “He’s told me some.”

“Did he tell you the legend of Vanishing Heights Castle, and how it rises up from the middle of Vampire Marsh in the very heart of Scotland on Halloween night?”

Now that his visitor was farther away from the window and no longer blocking the light of the moon, Johnny was able to see the shadowy creatures face.  He scowled.  Maybe this was a rat not a bat.  That long, straight nose could belong to his brother.

 “Well . . . did he?”

The sound of the voice made Johnny’s skin crawl.  He shrugged and did his best to sound unconcerned.  “No . . . don’t believe I do.”   It was a lie, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep stringing his visitor along.  “Mind tellin’ me what that has to do with you?”

A whoosh of breath came from the creature’s mouth.  “So . . . the mighty Murdoch Lancer is afraid to tell his sons about the Super Lancers, is he?”

“Super Lancers, huh?”   Johnny stifled a laugh.  This was getting ridiculous.  It had to be a joke cooked up between Scott and Murdoch.   Despite this thought, he couldn’t help buckling his knees to get his feet farther away from the foot of the bed as he spoke.  “Maybe my old man don’t believe that wild tale.”

Dark wings billowed then folded across the bat-man’s chest.  “Ooh . . . Johnny Boy, he believes all right.  He believes.”  The creature stepped closer.  “Why else leave behind a fortune in gold to carve an empire out of this wilderness?” 

While scooting up to sit with his back against the headboard of the bed, Johnny kept the revolver aimed at the creature’s body.  “So,  Oc . . . Octavian, ain’t it?  Mind tellin’ me what you’re doin’ here?”

The creature spoke in a sinister tone.  “Don’t you know?”

More chills ran up Johnny’s back.  He clamped his elbow to his side to steady his gun hand.  This game was getting old.  It was time to put an end to it.

Johnny spoke slowly in hopes of hiding his impatience.  “Just humor me and tell me what you want.  All right?  ”  

“Blood.”  The creature drew the word out.  “Fresh, young Lancer blood.”  The hooded face turned one way and the other, revealing a long, curved tooth hanging from each corner of its mouth.

Johnny swallowed.   He tried to convince himself that he was talking to brother, but his voice hitched up anyway.  “Blood?”    

One wing stretched toward Johnny.  “Just a little sip.  You won’t even miss it . . . and you’ll be giving to a good cause.”

“Yeah?”   The word came out in a squeak.  Johnny drew in a long breath and tried to steady his voice.  “What cause?”

“Why . . . the preservation of the Super Lancers.”  The outstretched wing folded back against the creature’s chest.  “I am the last, you know?  The others are all gone.”  There was a mournful groan.  “Not a pretty sight.  Some with stakes driven through their hearts.  Others simply faded into oblivion for lack of new blood.  You wouldn’t want that to happen to me . . . now would you?”

Oh, wouldn’t he?   Johnny stifled a laugh.  That had to be Scott.  He might as well see what the jokester has in mind.  “And if I oblige ya, what’s in for me?”   I become like you?”   He did his best to sound sarcastic.  Two could play this game

The creature slid its wings down and out while gliding around the corner of the bed.  “Would that be so bad?”

Johnny followed every move with his revolver.   “Stop!  I’ll shoot.”  There probably wasn’t any such thing as a vampire, but he wasn’t taking any chances, either.

“Go ahead.  I won’t feel a thing.”  The creature took another swishing step.

Johnny pulled the trigger.

Click.

He tried again.

 Click-click-click.

The creature took another step.  “I warned you it wouldn’t do you any good.  Didn’t I, Johnny Boy?”

Johnny’s heart raced–an icy feeling creeping into the back of his skull.  All he’d intended to do was throw a little scare into Scott with a few near misses.  But who emptied the gun?  He’d checked it just before going to sleep.  Could his visitor be someone other than his brother?

Fear surged through Johnny.  He threw back the blankets and scrambled to his knees — revolver slung backward as he raised it to shoulder height.   “You stay away from me.” 

The vampire made a tsking sound.  “Don’t be such a baby, Johnny Boy.  I already told you, you wouldn’t feel a thing.”

“I ain’t givin’ you one drop of my blood.  Now . . . or ever!”

“Oh, won’t you?”  This came from the direction of the door.

Johnny turned his head to look.

A hot breath brushed the back of his neck.  Johnny yelled as he dove for the end of the bed.   “Get away from me.”

 Something like a hand clamped around Johnny’s leg.  He kicked as hard as he could with his other foot.   Someone, or something, grunted and the fingers lost their grip.

Johnny made a desperate roll, cleared the end of the bed, and hit the floor with a loud thump.  Pain shot through his shoulder.  He ignored it and scrambled to get his feet under him.

Long fingers wrapped around Johnny’s shoulders and shoved him down.  “I’m not losing you now.”

Johnny twisted and turned–his arms and legs thrashing wildly.  Something tangled around his arm and his back hit the floor.  He bucked and dug his fingers into the hands that gripped him, but he couldn’t break free.

The straining face above Johnny tipped to one side.  The mouth opened.  Long, ivory teeth descended.

“You’re ain’t gettin’ none o’ my blood.”  Johnny tightened his grip on the revolver in his right hand and swung it toward the leering face.

There was a thunk followed by a yelp.

Johnny arched his back and threw his hips to one side.

The weight on Johnny’s shoulders eased.  Hope surged.  Then more hands gripped him.  The room turned to darkness, and he felt like he was being suffocated by more than one pair of giant wings.

Johnny jerked one arm free.  He jabbed and punched at his attackers.

Something wrapped around Johnny–pinning his arms to his sides, while a rope bit into his ankles.  His feet were pulled off the floor.  The pressure increased against his arms, his body folded at the waist, and he felt his bottom burning against the floor as he was spun around and around.

Johnny thought his stomach was going to climb into his throat.  Just when he was sure he would be sick, the pressure around his arms vanished.  He braced his hands flat against the floor.  His heart thundered in his chest and his breaths came in gasps.  With eyes closed, he waited for the spinning inside of his head to stop.

When the wave of dizziness ended, Johnny opened his eyes and searched the dimly lit corners of his room.  No one was there.  Whoever had attacked him seemed to have vanished.

Soft light from the candle on the bedside table shimmered against the wall.  Johnny stared with lower jaw sagging.  Who had lit it?  When?

Johnny swallowed and crawled forward.  His bare toe bumped something and he looked behind him.

His gun!  Johnny grabbed it, staggered to his feet, and looked into the shadowy corners of the room.  When he was sure he was alone, he moved closer to the table.

“Are you all right?”

Johnny spun toward the door.

Scott stood with one hand on the knob of the open door.

Johnny’s shoulders sagged, and a blast of air escaped from his mouth.  He eyed his yawning brother.  “Yeah.   I . . . I’m fine.”

“I thought I heard you yell.”

“Oh?”

A deeper voice spoke as a tall form loomed behind Scott.  “Is anything wrong?” 

“Uh . . . no, Murdoch.  Nothing.”  Johnny shook his head as he spoke.  He wasn’t about to tell anyone about his visitor.  Not before he was sure it hadn’t all be a prank, anyhow.

Another form crowded into the doorway and a more musical voice spoke.   “Is something wrong with Johnny?”

“No, Teresa, nothing is wrong with Johnny.”  Johnny couldn’t keep from sounding cranky.  Why all of this sudden interest in his welfare.  If they hadn’t been a party to the nightmare he’d just gone through, then how had they all known to come rushing to his room?

“Are you sure?”  Teresa looked worried.

Still gripping the pistol, Johnny rubbed the back of his hand across his mouth.  She sure seemed convincing.  Too convincing.

Teresa pointed at something beyond Johnny.  “How’d your blankets get on the floor?”

Johnny turned to look and let out a sigh.  As if she didn’t know.  He bit his tongue to keep speaking his mind.  When he had his thoughts under control, he shrugged.  “Oh, that?  I had a bad dream and uh . . . fell out of bed.”  He grinned.  “Guess I made a bit of noise, huh?”

Teresa pushed past Scott.  “Must’ve been some nightmare?”  She lifted the top blanket from the heap, shook her head, and set about putting the covers back on Johnny’s bed.

Johnny swiped a hand in front of his eyes as though brushing away cobwebs.  “Sorry I, uh . . . disrupted everyone’s sleep,”

Scott waved one hand.  “No need to apologize.  We’re just glad you’re all right.”  He looked up at the tall man at his side.  “Aren’t we, Murdoch?”

Murdoch ran a finger down one side of his nose and shifted his eyes downward.  “Yeah.”

Johnny choked back a snort.  He just bet they were.  If he didn’t miss his guess, they were behind this whole thing.  Well let them think what they liked.  He wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction of knowing how scared he’d been.  They’d never let him live it down.  And Heaven forbid Jelly ever getting wind of what had happened.  Every man, woman, and child in the valley would know he’d fallen for their trap.

“There.”  Teresa turned away from the bed.  The blankets were neatly tucked in place, top edge turned down to expose the newly fluffed pillow.

“Thanks.”  Johnny gave her a grateful smile.  Maybe he had been hasty in thinking she had anything to do with any of this.

Scott cleared his throat.  “Well, I think I’ll turn in . . . now that everything seems to be in order here.”  He slapped Johnny on the arm.  “Daylight does come early, and I’ve already lost close to half an hour of sleep.”

Johnny wanted to laugh.  His brother sure was putting his all into that act.  To hide his true thoughts, he scowled.  “Don’t blame me for keepin’ ya up.  I told ya I was fine when ya first come in here.”

After a round of “good nights” was said, Johnny ushered the others out of his room.  He stood in his doorway and watched until Scott and Teresa vanished behind the closed doors of their rooms and Murdoch’s head disappear down the stairs at the end of the hallway.

The lamp on the wall outside Johnny’s room cast a pale glow the length of the hall.  He thought about turning it out, but decided not to.  Instead he went back into to his room and left the door slightly open.

Johnny sat on the edge of his bed.  He laid the revolver beside his mother’s picture and picked up the pocket watch he’d laid there earlier that night.   One o’clock.  What had Scott said about vampires?  They only came out at midnight on Halloween night when the moon was full.  Didn’t they have exactly one hour to find and conquer their victim?

“Rubbish,” he mumbled and nearly snorted.  He peered into every corner of his room, crawled into bed, and looked over at the bedside table.

Several cartridges were lying behind the candle.

Johnny sat up, collected the cartridges, and slipped them into the empty chambers of his revolver.  He tried to tell himself that he had only thought he had loaded the gun before going to bed.  He knew better, and fear gripped his insides.  How could Murdoch or Scott have gotten the gun out from under his head, unloaded it, and put it back without him catching them.  They both knew he wasn’t that sound of a sleeper.

Once he was satisfied the revolver was loaded, Johnny picked up his pillow and went out into the hallway.  He sat down near the head of stairs where he could see the bedroom doors of every member of his family, stuffed the pillow behind his back, and slouched against the wall.  With the pistol cradled in his lap, he kept watch until the pink light of dawn chased the shadows from the hall. Then, and only then, did he return to his bed and crawl between the sheets.


At the breakfast table, Johnny noticed right off that Scott had a nick on the edge of his jawbone near his left ear.  He grinned and pointed at the tiny wound.  “Cut yourself shaving?”

Scott’s finger went to the scab and his eyes didn’t quite meet Johnny’s.  “Yes.  Rather careless of me, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, it was.”  Johnny wondered if the sight on the barrel of his revolver hadn’t been what had really taken the nick out of Scott’s skin.  He was about to say something about the lack of blood, when a whiskered man came banging through the outside door of the kitchen.

Jelly Hoskins slid into the chair at the end of the table.  “You all right, Johnny?”

“Yeah . . . why?”

“Oh, nothin’.”

Impatience crept into Johnny’s voice.  “Come on Jelly.  Out with it.  You wouldn’t have brought it up if it was nothing.”

“Well.”  Jelly squirmed.  “It’s just.  Well, I could’ve sworn I saw a monstrous bat fly out your window durin’ the night.”

Johnny had a feeling Jelly was fishing for something he knew more about than he was letting on.  He chuckled.  “Jelly, your eyes could turn a kitten into a mountain lion when the moon’s just right.  Now do I look like I had a run in with a vampire?  See.”  Johnny pulled his shirt collar down far enough to expose his neck.  “No teeth marks, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Jelly got huffy–his chest poking out.  “Well, maybe, somethin’ scared him off before he got that far.”

A guarded glance passed between Scott and Murdoch.  Johnny wondered if they thought Jelly had been seeing things, or if they were enjoying his attempt to help cover their trail.  He looked over at the whiskered man and shrugged.  “Could be, but I never saw him.  And I doubt you did either.   You would’ve woke up the dead if ya had.”

Jelly huh-rumphed, gave Johnny an injured glare, and then remained silent for some time.

Johnny hid a smile behind a glass full of milk.  This wasn’t like Jelly at all.  If he was in the right, he wouldn’t shut up until he had everyone else convinced, too.

A few more references to vampires were made during breakfast.  Johnny never did tell his family about doing battle with one, and neither Scott nor Murdoch ever admitted they had been playing a trick on him.  Whatever had been the truth of the previous night went to the grave with them all.

Although Johnny refused to believe that Octavian Lancer was real, he took no chances.   From that year on, Halloween night found him awake and sitting someplace where he could keep a watchful eye on his family.

Octavian Lancer never did put in another appearance during Johnny’s lifetime.  Johnny couldn’t be sure whether it was because the vampire had never existed in the first place or because Octavian had failed to collect the blood of the youngest Lancer son that eerie night in 1879 and so had faded into oblivion until some future time.  In any case, on his death bed, Johnny called in his last born son and instructed him to continue the annual vigils.

And so it is that to this very day, the youngest son of each new generation of Lancers spends Halloween night watching over his family.  No one ever knows that he doesn’t close his eyes in sleep until the dawn chases away the darkness.  His is a lonely and secret mission–sacred and never to be told to a single soul other than the son who will take his place.

The end

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