The first night of the full moon
In the morning, Francis comes downstairs and meets Jimmy; they expect to meet Freddie and go up to the castle. But neither Freddie nor Gilbert is there. According to the innkeeper, Blakely left in the morning with “some men in a car” and Gilbert went after him.
The only trace they have of Freddie is an engraved note that was left at the inn:
_To whom it may concern,
Mr. Blakely is assisting us with certain inquiries. He will be returned to you at their conclusion.
They set out for Castle Plum along with the constable. The sun is just coming over the horizon, a beautiful Irish morning. They pass through a forested copse of trees. In the fields, they see a young woman riding her horse at breakneck speed. Jimmy’s upper class upbringing notices that the horse is running much faster than it normally would even at full gallop. As they watch, the woman tries to jump a fence. At the last moment, her horse bucks and throws her to the ground.
Francis and Jimmy come running up. “Are you all right ma’am?”
“I’m fine,” she says. “Eloise Vane. Who are you?” Her eyes sparkle as she looks over Francis.
“Francis O’Donnell. This is my associate, Jimmy Wright.”
“Hello,” she says to Jimmy curtly and then turns back to Francis. “You’re an American, aren’t you? I do so love Americans. So brash and bold.”
Jimmy leads the horse away. Its eyes are rolling in terror.
“She’s so crazy this morning,” says Eloise. “But this morning I felt really full of energy, you know? Do you have a cigarette. What brings you to Ireland? Oh, you can just take the horse up to the castle,” she says to Jimmy dismissively.
She strokes his hand as he gives her a cigarette. “Would you care to take a walk with me? I could show you the grounds.”
They walk up into the ornamental garden. “Why don’t you sit with me on this bench? I’m so out of breath from the fall.”
“Well, I came to Ireland because it seemed a good opportunity…”
“I think I have something you could help me with…” And she pounces on Francis and begins to kiss him passionately.
Eloise turns out to be surprisingly strong—she knocks him off the bench and rolls on top of him. She begins to unbutton his coat. “This won’t take long,” she murmurs.
As Jimmy reaches the castle, an enormous, greasy-haired man with a heavy beard shadow and a unibrow comes over. “Where is the girl?”
“She’s talking with my associate…name’s Jimmy, by the way.”
“Gévaud. The groundskeeper. I am from Lyon. We will put the horse in the stable and then find her.”
“I was just in Paris, you know.”
“Parisians are all idiots. If you were in Paris, you are a ridiculous person.”
Francis is in the middle of a delicate situation when suddenly he is pulled by his hair away from Eloise. Gévaud drags him by the neck into the sunlight.
“Gévaud, you are a terrible person. Let go of my friend,” says Eloise.
The two of them begin to argue loudly. Francis waits for a moment, and then punches Gévaud hard in the throat.
“I’m going to tear you apart,” he growls. He grabs Francis by the throat again and begins to lift him off the ground.
Francis puts a hard kick into the Frenchman’s groin.
Gévaud drops Francis, and then throws him against a column and begins to pummel him. Eloise smacks him across the face with her riding crop. “Stop it, you idiot!”
Blood drips down Gévaud’s face. He glares at Eloise with a look that Francis recognizes too well—the look of a man who could kill her.
Eloise runs back to the castle.
“Stupid whore,” grumbles Gévaud. “I could kill her. Most of the time she infuriates me. But sometimes…there’s something about her.”
Eventually they enter the main hall of Castle Plum. Eloise meets them and takes Jimmy and Francis to the sitting room, where they are taking breakfast.
“I never!” says Sir Arthur Vane. Lady Jane Vane nearly drops her teacup. Lawrence buries his face in his hands.
“Sir, milady. My name is Francis O’Donnell. I came here so I could help you.”
“I’d say you have to help yourself first,” says Lawrence.
“Gévaud was being an utter prat, mater,” says Eloise.
“Well…uh…have some tea, old man,” says Sir Arthur.
Eloise begins to plow into some blood sausage. “I’m so hungry today,” she says. “Mater, pater, Francis and Jimmy are going to stay with us tonight, aren’t they?”
“I SAID THEY WERE GOING TO STAY HERE!”
“All right, dear,” says Sir Arthur. “We’d be delighted to have you. Lawrence will give you the tour, won’t you son?”
“Overjoyed,” says Larry, with clenched jaw.
Sir Arthur takes Lady Vane, who looks very pale, up to her room. “Make yourself…at home,” he says.
“Look, I know I’ve stepped into a mess here,” says Francis.
“You’ve definitely stepped in it, old man.”
“Well, I just want you to know I’m trustworthy. I’ve helped people out of troubles before.”
“Some troubles, old man…our family has problems that you can’t help with.”
“Jimmy, why don’t you help get our stuff?” says Francis. As Jimmy starts to leave, Francis grabs his arm. “Find out what you can in town, and look into the priest,” he whispers.
Back at the pub, the locals are in an uproar about a sheep that was torn to pieces the night before. “’Tis the Divil Dog!” they say.
Jimmy takes a walk out on the moors. Soon he comes across a clump of people gathered around the body of the sheep. He doesn’t recognize the tracks around the corpse, but it does look like the sheep was killed by some kind of large predator.
“Pretty gruesome, huh?” says Jimmy.
“’Twas the Divil Dog!” says one of the bystanders.
“Go on, yer mad,” says another.
“Nay, I saw it!” says a third.
“You saw it?” says Jimmy.
“Saw something. A huge dark shadow on the moors.”
“Go on,” say the others.
“What about Tom Cordy and his daughter?” insists the man who “saw” the Devil Dog.
“Ah, he’s in the sauce half the time, isna he?” the crowd responds.
Jimmy resolves to go to the church and talk to the priest.
Father O’Leary lives in the rectory of the church. Jimmy knocks on the door.
“Can I help ye?” says the Father’s housekeeper, a pleasant-looking, middle-aged woman.
“Top o’ the morning. You do say that, don’t you?”
“Er…sometimes we do.”
“I’m here to see the Father.”
“An’ what’s the nature of yer visit?”
“Confessions are later in the day…but…oh, if it’s a matter of deep conscience…”
She takes him in to the sitting room. Father O’Leary eventually enters. Deep bags are under his eyes, and Jimmy thinks he is losing his hair. “How can I help ye, me son?”
“You don’t look so good, Father.”
“Ah, well…we all must wrestle with our own demons. Even those of us who take the cloth must do battle with Satan.”
“Sometimes it seems those demons are really present with us.”
“That’s a…strange way of puttin’ it. Not too many in this scientific age would credit such an idea. But I think that traces of the elder world hang around us. May I say, you don’t look Catholic.”
“Was raised Protestant.”
“Well, we all have our own moral failings. Now, is there something in particular I can help you with? Otherwise, I have to be gettin’ back to my work…and oh God, I have a sermon to write for tomorrow…”
Jimmy explains to the priest that he has heard about how he locks himself up at night, and the concerns about his health. And also, the rumors of dogs on the moor.
“Certainly there are strange events…I believe God is testing us…He tests all of us in different ways…and sometimes he tests families…you don’t speak Greek, d’ye?”
Father O’Leary tells Jimmy that he found a journal from one of his predecessors, part of which was written in Greek. He began to translate it…but the things he read were very disturbing. He also recommends that Jimmy not go out when the moon is full, and avoid Castle Plum.
“What do you think of the daughter?” asks Jimmy.
“I think sometimes God damns people even if they haven’t done something themselves…that girl’s lost. And there’s nothing I can do for her.”
Jimmy begs for a look at the book, but the Father refuses, claiming it’s too dangerous. Jimmy notices that poor man can’t help but glance back at his desk when he talks about the book.
Jimmy politely takes his leave. He notes that there will be a vespers Mass that evening.
Back at Castle Plum, Larry gives Francis a reluctant tour. Francis tries to feel him out for any tells that Lawrence might give off. He notices two things: there’s another floor above the guest floor that Lawrence won’t take him, and his tour of the wine cellar is a bit forced. Lawrence off-handedly mentions that there used to be another cellar that was used in the old days. Francis suspects that there is another exit in the wine cellar.
When they reach the parlor, Eloise stops Francis.
“Hello, Lady Eloise,” says Francis.
“Oh, I’m not a lady. Is your room comfortable?”
“Quite. Lawrence was about to show me the grounds?”
“Oh, I could do that.”
Lawrence’s face is draining of blood. “Dearest, Gévaud is working outside. Perhaps you’ll want to wait?”
“Well, Francis, you could at least come take tea in my apartment.”
“There’s nothing I could refuse you.”
Eloise heads back up to the family wing. Lawrence speaks softly to Francis: “Listen old man, if you know what’s good for you you’ll stay far away from her right now. She’s not herself—you know how women get,” he ends rather unconvincingly.
Francis bows to him.
Lighting a cigarette with shaking hands, Lawrence says, “I’ll tell you one thing. Don’t drink the wine tonight.”
Jimmy waits until he sees Father O’Leary walking to the church. He slips around behind the rectory. The priest’s housekeeper is inside, tidying the tea service. Jimmy creeps to the pantry, slides open a window, and steps inside.
He pulls out a small skeleton key stamped “Property of F. O’Donnell” and unlocks the rolltop desk. Inside is a battered leatherbound journal.
Part of the journal is in English, but there is a lengthy section in Greek. And then Jimmy finds a hand-drawn picture of a huge wolf attacking someone. The Greek text gets extremely haphazard at this point.
In the back of the book is a cheat sheet that O’Leary has been compiling to help with his translation. There’s an entry for “Vane family” on it. When Jimmy looks at the page with the picture of the wolf, he sees those characters everywhere on the page.
As he slides back out the window, Jimmy knocks over a lamp. The housekeeper calls out “Who’s there?” as he flees back into town.
When he gets back to the pub, he finds a card inviting him to dinner. There’s also a note from Francis telling him to not drink the wine if he comes to dinner.
The constable enters. “Mr. Wright, I have to ask a few questions. Can ye give your whereabouts around 5 pm?”
“Oh…I was…over here, talking with my friend the publican.”
“Ah…that’s right, constable. Jimmy was here the whole time, tellin’ me about America,” says the publican.
“All right. I’ll have to keep looking. Do you know where Mr. O’Donnell was?”
“Up at the castle.”
“Well, I’ll have to keep looking. We’ve got someone around who’d steal from a priest, and that’s a pretty low person.”
After the constable leaves, Jimmy explains to the astonished bartender that the priest knows something about what has been going on with the Devil Dog—nothing untoward, but something that has frightened the poor man. Jimmy lifted the journal to help him out.
“The less you know, the better off you are,” says Jimmy.
Dinner is held rather early (more of a late tea) but they still dress for it—even Jimmy, who arrives freshly scrubbed and stuffed into his best tuxedo. Francis makes sure to strap on his backup piece in an ankle holster.
Jimmy of course takes his little spy-model camera and tucks it into the small of his back.
As Francis makes his way to the dining room, Eloise grabs him. “I’ve had this horrible feeling all day…like something awful is going to happen. And…I get these blackouts sometimes…”
“Why is your family so afraid of you?”
“Well, I suppose it’s because they can’t deal with a modern liberated woman. But sometimes…I think it’s more than that. I get so temperamental sometimes…just watch over me, and make sure that nothing happens to me.”
“You have my word.”
Jimmy shows Francis the journal. As he pages through the journal, O’Donnell notices that the writing seems to get more and more disturbed over time. The dates of the entries are in the 1770s.
“Just because there was a wolf creature a hundred and fifty years ago doesn’t mean anything today,” says Francis.
“The horse was terrified of her!” says Jimmy.
“Right, because horses are elegant creatures who are never frightened of anything,” says Francis. “They’re just stoic.”
“It got calmer the further we moved from her!”
“Or a beetle. Look, she’s frightened of something, and darn it, I’m going to help her.” Privately, Francis believes that Eloise is a manic-depressive.
Dinner goes perfectly calmly for the first several courses, until the roast is served.
Eloise throws her plate on the floor. “This is horribly overcooked!”
Jimmy looks at his slice—it’s perfectly done, just a little pink in the middle.
“We should have fired cook years ago!” snarls Eloise. “I don’t know how you can eat this!”
She takes a huge swig of wine from her glass. For a moment she looks confused.
Then she faints, collapsing back into her chair.
Sir Arthur and Lawrence immediately stand up. “You’d best go off to your rooms,” says Larry. “We’ll take care of Eloise. She’s a bit sick, you must have noticed her acting strangely.”
Jimmy examines Eloise, checking her pupils and her breathing. He quickly concludes that she has been drugged.
Lawrence and Sir Arthur start to pick up Eloise. “You should head back to your rooms, we’ll send food if you’re hungry.”
“Eloise came to me,” says Francis, “and said she was in distress.”
“She is in distress old man. She’s a very sick girl.”
“Then why does she have free reign over the castle? Why has she put the fear of God into you?”
Lady Vane begins to cry.
“Listen old man,” says Lawrence, “this is a family matter. And if you have a problem with that, I invite you to leave.”
“I’d happily leave, if I didn’t think you meant harm to her.”
“We don’t mean her any harm. She’s very ill, and we’re taking her to her room.”
“Sir Arthur,” says Francis, “Let me help. There’s many things I can do, I see you’re in peril—”
“Please don’t make this any harder on me,” says Lady Vane, clutching Francis’ arm. “I know you mean well, but this is just making it worse!”
Jimmy begins to feel ill, suddenly. The room begins to go woozy.
He sits down hard on a chair. Francis suddenly feels just as bad. He grabs the back of a chair, fighting to stay conscious.
“I was about to leave quietly,” says Francis.
“You’ll leave quietly now, old man,” says Larry with a smirk, as servants drag Francis and Jimmy upstairs to their room.
Time passes. Jimmy’s bed seems to swing through three axes. A few times he tries to stand up but the effort is beyond him.
Jimmy listens carefully. The howling seems to be coming from inside the castle.
On the other side of the building, Francis drags himself to his suitcase and fumbles inside until he finds some smelling salts.
This howling comes from outside the castle. Francis looks out the window but sees nothing on the moonlight moors.
As he dresses and puts on his pistol holster, Francis hears footsteps coming from the locked third floor. Voices murmur for a moment on the landing, and then there are more footsteps as the people descend the stairs.
Francis creeps to Jimmy’s door. “Jimmy, it’s Francis.”
“How do I know it’s you?”
“Open the [censored] door!”
Jimmy opens the door. “She’s a wolf! She’s going to eat us!”
“She’s not a monster! We’re going to find her and protect her!” says Francis. He gives Jimmy his holdout piece. “They must have drugged the tea,” he says as they head to Eloise’s room.
“I thought there was too much clove! Anyway, we should get out here! This is like one of those Gothic novels!”
“No, it’s Conan Doyle,” whispers Francis. They pass Sir and Lady Vane’s apartment. A woman is crying inside, and they can hear Sir Arthur comforting her.
Eloises’ room is vacant. They quietly search the room. Francis finds Eloise’s journal. He quickly checks to see how her entries coordinate with the full moon. In every case he checks, the entries get more and more disorganized right before the full moon. Then several days are missing; when the journal entries resume, the writing seems very depressed.
Behind a dresser, Jimmy finds a single sheet from a letter. There’s a number on it, as if was part of a sequence:
_My dearest Eloise,
I think of you constantly. I wish I didn’t have to be so far away…_
He skips to the end, where it is signed, “Love, E.”
Internal evidence from the letter suggests that it was written by somebody local, from the village…someone who is no longer there…
Jimmy and Francis descend to the wine cellar. They find a door concealed behind one wine rack. Ten minutes of work springs the lock. A narrow staircase lit by electric bulbs leads down. The sound of howling, growling and barking comes from below.
During a break in the clamor, Jimmy thinks he hears voices coming from below.
They go down. At the bottom of the staircase they find a room covered thickly with dust. There are bulky implements scattered around the room that suggest this room was once the castle’s torture chamber.
A crack of light comes from under a heavy iron door in the far wall. The howling is coming from behind the door, along with the faint sounds of a conversation.
Francis pounds on the door, and then stands next to it with his gun drawn.
The conversation stops.
There is the sound of the bolt unlatching. Francis yanks open the door and flattens himself against the wall. He catches a glimpse of several ancient cells for holding prisoners beyond it.
Something howls from inside the cell block. There is the sound of something heavy hitting a door from around the corner, further down the the cells.
There is the sound of hinges beginning to creak as the slamming noise continues.
“You’re in trouble,” yells Francis. “Come on out, before whatever’s in there gets out.”
Lawrence Vane walks out. “I told you, this is a family matter.”
“Lawrence, what’s going on?”
“You really don’t have much time. Go on upstairs, and I’ll lock up. We’re having a bit of a pest control issue.”
“She’s safe. She’s not in any more trouble than she was now.” Lawrence keeps glancing back as he talks to Francis. Then with a sigh, he steps out into the torture room.
Two other men scamper out, one with a drawn Luger. “All right, all right,” says one of them, a portly Englishman with a bristle mustache.
“Who the hell are you?” says Francis.
“Clive. Dr. Henry Clive. This is my associate, Mr. Sprech.”
“Well, I need a drink,” says Lawrence when they get back to the dining room.
“Why don’t you two go back upstairs and let the experts take care of this,” says Clive.
“You’re experts?” says Francis.
“We have experience with these matters. I’m an archaeologist by trade.”
“Have you ever seen a woman turn into a giant lizard and bite you?”
“Can’t say that I’ve seen that one, no. But I’m afraid the family rather insists on using us for this particular issue.”
“What about the priest?” says Jimmy.
“The priest is of no concern. No one will ever believe him, not even Rome.”
“We did,” says Jimmy.
“And who are you? Nobody interesting, from what I understand.”
“A young woman asked me for my help,” says Francis.
“Well, she’s confused, insn’t she?”
“I think she’s in trouble.”
“I think you know what her trouble is. We’re taking care of her.”
“By drugging her?”
“We gave her a powerful muscle relaxant, to keep her from hurting herself.”
“She doesn’t know what’s going on, does she?” says Jimmy. “Why haven’t you told her?”
“And how would you react to that, Mr. Wright?”
“What happens to your sister when she’s older, when people try to understand why she’s not married, why she can’t bring life into this world?” says Francis to Lawrence.
“I’m afraid her heart is already taken, and that is a match which can never be publicly acknowledged,” says Lawrence, pouring another drink.
“She has all of you under this fear, but she was able to bring a stranger in here! She’ll be able to leave one day!”
“Look old man, we’ve got this under control,” says Clive. “Nobody’s died—not here. And I assure you, Eloise was always inside the castle when her condition is such.”
“How do you explain what’s been happening?” demands Jimmy.
“Some random dog I should suppose.”
“How did she get this condition?” says Francis.
“Well…you see, old man…it’s a bit of a family curse,” says Lawrence. “The Vane women get it…they have this condition.”
“For a hundred and fifty years?”
“At least that long, I should say. It doesn’t die out, either—we’ve had generations of only sons, but as soon as another daughter is born, she gets it.”
“Why haven’t you done the logical thing and stopped breeding?”
“Well, it’s fifty-fifty each time. I’m rather glad I’m here. And Eloise is safe.”
“Except that she’s afraid. Except that she’s unhappy. She went to a total stranger for help—you don’t think that will happen? I won’t be the last, and one day she’ll escape. Now, who is better to help her—somebody who’s been exposed to these things, who can deal with the fact that she’s a wolf, or somebody else, who won’t know what to do? What would have done tonight if somebody else had been at the door downstairs?”
As if on cue, Jimmy sees the door to the kitchen begin to open. A wolf the size of a pony is standing there.
It leaps onto the dining room table, which collapses. Clive and Sprech sprint for the stairs. The wolf stands there growling at Lawrence, Jimmy and Francis.
The wolf sniffs at the door to the wine cellar. Jimmy sprints for the doorway, but gets tripped up as Francis blasts past him. Jimmy finds himself between the wolf and the wine cellar door.
Francis gets to the stairs, notices Jimmy is missing, and heads back to the dining room.
The wolf stares at Jimmy, who is sitting against the wall, trying to scramble up. Somehow words form in his head.
You keep her. You die.
Francis runs in, leaps up onto a chair, and shoots the wolf point blank behind his ear.
Blood sprays all over the room. The wolf yelps and rolls away. As Francis watches, the blood flow almost immediately stops, and the shot, which would have crippled or killed most people, hasn’t seemed to slow the wolf at all.
“Jimmy get out—” shouts Francis as the wolf springs at him. The bone-shuddering impact blows him completely through the wall of the dining room. Plaster and lathing explode around him. The wolf’s eyes seem to glow red.
Francis crawls to his feet and runs for the door. The wolf follows him to the threshold, and then howls. Francis keeps running the mile or so into town.
Jimmy runs upstairs. From below, he hears an enormous crash, as if a door had been knocked down. The wolf howls. From the basement comes a howl in response.
He opens a window, slides down a tree, and lopes like a gazelle through the moonlight. Soon he’s on Francis’ heels.
As they reach the edge of the village, Francis hears howling from the castle. Maybe it’s his imagination, but he hears rage, pain, and frustration in the wordless cry. He slows down, thinking. Thinking about how solid the door in the basement is, and how it was designed to be wolf-proof. And how that will anger the wolf that attacked them. Which he left. Alone in the castle.
Where it will massacre everyone in revenge.
He stops dead. His shoulders droop.
“Jimmy,” says Francis, “go find all the explosives that you can. And steal a car!”
Francis bursts into the Laughing Horse pub. “The Devil Dog is in the castle! Let’s go kill it!”
“The Devil Dog!” shouts the crowd. They quickly gather outside with pitchforks and weapons left over from the Civil War.
Meanwhile Jimmy heads down to the plane. He doesn’t see anyone as he comes up, but suddenly hears the click of a pistol.
“Ah jeez, it’s you,” says Joyce. An Irish girl is hiding behind her. Wearing only a blanket.
“Ah. Oh! AH! Sorry, I just need some dynamite,” says Jimmy. He drags a case out from the back of the plane. “There may be some explosions. Oh, and enjoy the rest of your night.”
“Well, I would but you’ve ruined the mood,” mutters the pilot.
Jimmy meets Francis back at the plane with a car he liberates from a farmhouse on the way. Together the crowd makes their way to Castle Plum. They pause on the doorstep, unnerved by the sudden howling they hear from inside.
“Ye didn’t tell us there were two divil dogs,” says the publican. About half the crowd looks like it is about to run back to the village. “There’s nothing to fear, boys! Come on!” says Francis.
In the kitchen they find the broken window that the wolf used to get in the castle. The dining room is slick with blood, and the door to the wine cellar is ripped down. There’s still howling coming from the basement.
“Where’s Sir Arthur and Lady Vane?” mutter some of the crowd. “Let’s go check on ’em.”
The crowd heads upstairs. They come upon a trail of blood. On the second story they find a chambermaid with her head ripped from her body. Some of the crowd melt away.
Eloise’s room has been completely wrecked, all the furniture smashed to pieces.
In the Vanes’ bedroom, they find Sir Arthur dead on the floor, with a look of horror on his face that they will all take to their graves. Sitting on the bed is Lady Vane, her eyes staring blankly, sanity having long since fled. Over and over she whispers, “Lawrence…Lawrence…Lawrence…”
The howling from the basement has stopped.
“We’ll take her back to town in the car,” says some members of the mob, relieved to be able to do something useful that takes them away from the castle.
“I don’t think we can stay here tonight,” says Francis. “I don’t think we can beat the beast. Everyone should leave now.”
The crowd bolts from the castle, running back to the village. Jimmy and Francis leg it out with them, just in time to see a gigantic wolf leap into the crowd, scattering them and ripping out their throats.
Everyone runs in the opposite direction—only to scatter again when a_ second_ gigantic wolf suddenly appears and charges into them.
As Jimmy and Francis run towards the village, the last thing they see is the two wolves rolling together, howling and yipping at each other.
They spend the night with the survivors barricaded in the pub. Several people casually inform them that they’re going to be dead men soon.
In the morning, Francis gathers Jimmy, Charleston and Noor and they sneak out of the pub and drive back to the plane.
On the way there they come upon Eloise Vane, wandering naked and dazed by the road.