The room told of tidiness and singledom, the lonely female kept a neat house and as
Peggy placed her long-nailed-grimy hands nearer the flames, she realised that apart from
the unsightly nose, her dead man would have found a perfect home with the earnest Betty.
The steady ticking of the fancy time-piece on the mantlepiece told the two women that
an early supper could possibly be procured and Peggy Powler was not one to argue with
There were pictures on the wall that implied the illustrator was local and even without a
rendering of scudding clouds and secret markings, Peggy recognised one of the artworks
as of the street outside.
Areas of nearby coutryside adorned the far wall and a framed-sketch of a dark-haired man
hung beside the door that she had just entered. A silent wager was made that Peggy’s current host spent her free time as an artist and that the portrait was of the Vampyre that had left the tiny mark on the doorstep, the ‘X’ with a circle around it.
“Would yer’ like a cup o’ tea…?” Betty inquired and hurried to where a large kettle hung from
a wrought-iron hook in the hearth. “…I was just about to have a brew me’self” she said quickly.
Peggy nodded her consent and watched the woman infuse the leaves with hot water, the whole
process took place with the only sound being the wooden hand-carved clock on the mantlepiece.
The rain tapped on the window as a wind that had tormented Peggy on the moor -reminded her
that it still had some power left. Even if it was only a breeze or two. The Witch ignored the mocking
and gobbled down the large slice of rice-cake that the widow-Boggs had also offered.
As the two females sipped their respective sugared-beverages, Peggy introduced herself and asked what was concerning the young lady. The questions would seem general to a passing-listener, but to the initiated, the answers held all the information that Peggy would need.
That’s if the spirits decided not to turn up.
“What seems to be botherin’ yer’?” the Witch asked calmly as Betty squirmed on the three-legged
stool next to the hanging bellows. The sad-faced girl looked like she was dealing with a rose-hip
burr in an embarrassing part of her body and after another nibble of her fingernails, Betty told the stranger-than-strange her tale.
“It began a few weeks ago…” she said in a whisper and Peggy watched with a puzzled gaze as
Betty’s eyes flicked from the window to the door. “…It had been raining all day here in Solomon’s Pond and as the light faded, I make a custom of sayin’ me-prayers for me-dead husband and retiring early to bed with a mug of hot cocoa”
Peggy sat back in the comfortable armchair and drank her tea. She knew it paid not to interrupt
a customer when they were on a roll and this particular one hinted that she had something
important to say. More Important than she realises -Peggy wagered once more.
“I know yer’ want to see me as a forgotten woman and that’s alright, it’s somethin’ I’ve gotten
used to” Betty continued and after offering a doubtful frown, Peggy shook her head and rolled
a finger for her to go on.
“Don’t get me wrong… I have come to terms that my man has gone over , it’s just that the folk
around here can be a little too… what’s the word?” Betty asked and when her guest interjected
“patronising?” Juno Boggs’ widow agreed that this was the correct word. “Yes…” Betty said “…they see me as somebody seeking sympathy”
With a neatly-chopped log being placed onto the fire, the flinching-girl continued.
“So when ‘he’ stepped from the shadows and asked if he could take a drink, well, I was…
I was dumbfounded” the heavily-breathing girl said and turned to the kettle for a refill.
That was when Peggy saw the the two marks on her host’s neck and knew what the problem
was. The reknown Madam Ruth Powlett had told her daughter of such a creature that left those
Peggy accepted another cup of the sweet-tasting liquid and waited for the restless female to
explain who the stranger was.
“Juno was tall… tall and handsome. I mean, he is at least six foot-three and his hair…?”
Betty seemed to drift away with her private thoughts and with the slight snap-sound from her
closing knees, Peggy knew what the woman was imagining.
“He was a fine man” Betty whispered huskily and hid her face behind the cup.
“I dreamt he was in my room last night” Betty suddely blurted out and with a surge of tears,
she fell to her knees before the flickering flames. Peggy leaned forward and caught the girl in her arms, “Heh me-lass, heh-now” she comforted the sobbing girl and stroked her hair to calm her.
It was around that time that the Witch of Underhill decided to slay the Vampyre of Solomon’s
Pond and save the big-nosed widow that had took her in out of the cold.
Betty’s sleep had settled and the small form in front of the glowing-embers of the fire had
drawn her knees up to her chest in the embryonic position. A babe feeling safe -Peggy
mused from the gloom of one of the room’s corners. The lamp had been dowsed in the
kitchen after Peggy’s rummaging and now all was quiet again.
The kettle sat on the single-stone hearth and apart from the position of the bellows, everything
seemed the same as it was the night before.
The night that the dead man came home.
The lantern on top of the dresser had been extinguished earlier and now among the shadows,
the Witch waited for the appearance of the Vampyre calling itself Juno.
The slight hint of light-on-metal caught Peggy’s eye about half-an-hour later.
The rain had kept coming outside and even though the curtains were drawn, she could hear the drops
tip-tip-tapping on the small glass panes. The whole house was in darkness and apart from the soft snoring from Betty Boggs, all was still.
The glint of light came from the ring on the Vampyre’s finger, he was in the room and standiing
in the opposite corner.
For most folk, the sudden dawning that an undead monster had got the drop on you and had
entered without you knowing, would be enough to find them running from the house with their
hands above their heads and screaming for their mothers.
That’s for most people. For Peggy Powler, she knew that it was a talent that she could be taught
and in the moments when she eased her breathing back down to a soft seething of air, she reckoned that Juno -with the right motivation, could teach her the trick.
The dull-glint came again.
When Madam Ruth Powler had informed her only daughter of the existence of Vampyres and
the-like, the reknowned Fortune Teller had spoken about the ring that the fiends carry.
To those ‘in-the-know’ the ring is something that the deceased were buried with.
On some coffins, there is a small brass-tube that is sometimes fixed onto the upper-centre on the
inside of the lid. It is generally added at the request of the bereaved for a single rose to be inserted
through it and supposed to show an eternal love that will remain in the earth with the dead person.
The flower sits in the two-inch tube and tube sits in a round bracket, the bracket’s ends are two
spikes that the Undertaker uses to tap it into the wood with a mallet.
So now, the person in the coffin can have a fragrant flower to accompany their passage to the
They charge a lot for the custom and saving on screws is another way to be frugal and it’s this
‘ring’ that Vampyres use to obtain the blood for their unnatural thirst. There’s no long-teeth, that’s
just in fairytales.
Hence the glint of metal.
Peggy steadied herself and slipped her hand back out from under her poncho, the clipped-toenails
that Betty had kindly provided earlier dug into the skin of her clenched-fingers. Betty’s shoes rested
near the owner’s sleeping-body and the Seer chanced a small-smile at how many knots she’d put
in the string-laces.
“Yer’ fella’s is a phantom and it’d be wrong of yer’ to keep him here because of yer’ love” Peggy
had strongly imparted earlier to the young lass with the quivering lower-lip.
If yer’ truly believe in the Big Fella in heaven, then yer’ll let me despatch yer’ man’s spirit to it’s
righful place” she’d added as she patted Betty’s bent and sobbing head.
The two puncture wounds on the side of the widow’s neck appeared again as Peggy’s host fell
forward and collapsed at the Witch’s bare feet.
The potion had done it’s job.
Juno hadn’t moved and hadn’t spoken, so there was a slim-chance that the Vampyre hadn’t seen her,
but Peggy didn’t rely on ‘maybes’ -especially when one is dealing with this kind of monster and so, she waited for him to make the first move.
The clock ticked towards one o’clock in the morning and the Witch knew that even the moths would
be asleep now. ‘Nobody up but me and my shadow’ -Peggy thought wickedly.
“I know you’re there” Juno whispered into the darkness of the far-corner and two-whole seconds
passed before Peggy whispered back in her best confident voice “and ah’ know you’re there”
The movement of the ring came again and the pair of watchers waited for the next move.
“You honestly think that wrapping all those knots will play to my compulsive nature…?” the shadow
in the shadows asked softly. “…You don’t know much about Vampyres” he hissed with a soft chuckle.
“Ah’ still know yer’ there” Peggy whispered and narrowed her eyes in cunning. Never interact in their
games was another piece of advice from her Mother.
“Betty loves me in, you know…? it’s not like I’m trespassing” Juno submitted in an honest tone
and a faint movement of reflected-light from the window showed Peggy that this Vampyre was
licking his lips.
Hungry or anxious?
“You can learn many things from me, woman…” the voice whispered again “…And I from you” Juno
added and Peggy would swear to Herne the Woodsman that there was a hint of nervousness
floating round the words.
“Ah’m gonna get yer'” was all Juno received for his invite.
“If you’ll allow me, I will step forward in a more agreeable manner and we can talk… is that okay?”
Juno said with a deeper tone in his voice and without a response, a dark-garbed leg moved from the
corner and that was when the Vampyre stood on the bellows.
Peggy pulled the knife, threw the toenails and dived onto the creature staring at the glass beads that
had spurted from the leathery bag. “Count ’em’ all” Peggy hissed as she grabbed the stinking coat that Juno had been buried in.
Betty Boggs awoke from her sleep feeling invigorated and ready to face the new day.
Ignoring the remains of the powder that stained the bottom of her teacup, she went to the kitchen to set about breakfast. It was only when she looked out of the window into the rain-grey yard, did she remember that she had a Fortune Teller visit her last night.
And that Fortune Teller was now in that yard and busy chopping wood for the fire.
The meal of eggs, bacon and toast was welcoming and Peggy ate heartily as the blood began to
pulse in her hands again. She had enjoyed the task of cutting four cords of wood for her breakfast
and she deemed the debt paid.
Also, the axe now looked clean again.
Accepting that history had repeated itself and yet, the talent of being able to ‘dissolve’ in plain-sight
had been acquired, Peggy Powler felt -that at least, something positive had come from the slaying.
The exposed heap of soil at the rear of Betty’s home would hopefully be covered with foliage
by the time Summer came around -Peggy reckoned and now, with another steaming cup of sweet
tea in her warming-hands, she laid one-more bet on her recent activities.
Betty would now move on with her life.
Juno had given up his talent only as the skinny necromancer in the green poncho had castrated
him and it was only after her promise to dismembered-Vampyre that she would bless his remains
after she’d beheaded him, that he’d told Peggy about the other secret.
But that’s a tale for another time.
With a bundle of bread and cheese from the confused and grateful woman of Hobbs Lane, the Witch
of Underhill left the small village of Solomon’s Pond as the weather eased and to be honest, Peggy
Powler was glad to be on her way.