Patient Zero

Chapter 3 - You're Free Now

Once they arrived at the house, Emma was ushered to a room to turn in for the night, and Willie was taken to the kitchen to address a plumbing issue. But she was far too curious for sleep and needed to see what was transpiring downstairs. The young woman waited a few minutes, and then snuck down to the main floor and crouched in a hallway, silently listening to a conversation between Willie and some woman, who had flame red hair and was wearing a flowing chiffon floral orange dress.

"I told you, I met her tonight at the bar. Ouch..."

Julia continued to wrap Willie's wrist with a splint and bandages. "It seems to be a minor fracture. You'll be fine. But, surely you can understand Barnabas' doubt. You are suddenly found with some woman whom you never met, and you chose to take her to a place you consider your sanctuary. Even I have not been there." Julia studied Willie's body language, sure to catch him in a lie.

"I know how it looks, Julia. She was drunk and Bob wanted to close. It didn't feel right just dumpin' her off at a hotel. How'd that look for Barnabas? His employee randomly abandoning a drunk woman? Not very good."

"He is quite upset with you. He is considering the punishment for your actions as we speak. I don't know if I can help you out of it this time, Willie."

"Punishment? He broke it just 'cause he could." Willie held up his wrist. "I-I didn't do nothin' wrong!"

"Here, take these. They will calm your nerves and help ease any pain, and perhaps put you in a better frame of mind for when he returns." Two little pills shook out of a pill bottle and into the doctor's hand.

"No matter how hard I try, or what I do, it's never going to get better than this, is it? And one day he's gonna take a punishment too far, and then maybe it'll finally be over for me. Some days I wish he'd just kill me so I don't havta feel like this anymore."

Julia and Willie fell silent as Barnabas entered the room, and Emma retreated into the shadows to make sure she wasn't seen. Willie's heart was beating against his ribs, waiting to hear his fate. Thoughts of the young woman were pushed to the corner of his mind, and dread took center stage. His anxiety rose to new heights, choking him, and still he stood in silence. Waiting for his sentence.

"Clean this mess up, Willie. You have an hour before I return, and I hope that I find these rooms immaculate."

Willie looked around the room, glasses everywhere, confetti scattered in the carpet, plates of half eaten food smeared on fine china lying on every surface. All the remains of a successful party, whose guests felt no responsibility to help clean up after. But, all he could do was agree.

"Yes, Barnabas."

"And there is a stain on the chair where Carolyn spilled her drink. I expect that to be taken care of as well."

Willie looked wide eyed at his master, wanting to say something, but fear held his tongue.

"Is there a problem?"

"N-No, no, Barnabas."

"One hour." Barnabas turned to Julia and held her coat open, waiting for her to slip it on. "I'll walk you back to Collinwood, Julia."

Willie stared at the door as they exited, knowing that an hour wasn't nearly enough time to clean everything. He turned back to face the mess, and was surprised to find Emma standing there in the middle of the room.

"We can do it. If we go fast, we can clean it all." She brushed a tear from her cheek, and tried to get a hold of herself after realizing fully what Willie's life truly was like.

"Go back upstairs and stay there." His voice was stern; this was not a conversation, it was a command.

"But I can help you!"

"NO! Go back to the room and don't come down until morning. I don't want your help!"

"You need my help!" Emma was yelling at him. "There is no way you can get this done by yourself before he gets back!"

Willie spun around and yelled at her.

"Exactly! There is no way I'll finish it alone. Do you think he doesn't know that?! He's counting on it! And, if you help, he'll know! He'll know you were down here! He'll know we're lying!" Willie set the plates down and grabbed Emma's hands in his and pleaded. "Please, please just go back upstairs and stay there. No matter what you hear, stay there."

"What's he going to do to you?"

"It doesn't matter. In the morning, as soon as the sun rises, leave this house and never come back. Do you understand? Don't come lookin' for me. Just leave. I'd have ya leave tonight, but he'd come after ya." Willie put his arm around her and walked her to the stairs. "Please."


Emma sat up all night. The silence of the house was maddening, and all she could think about was Willie. She waited for the first glimmer of sun to pop through the small window above the bed, and when it did, she rushed out the door and flew down the stairs. She wasn't surprised to find the woman from last night sitting in the chair, as if waiting for her.

"Emma, I don't think we were properly introduced. I am Dr. Julia Hoffman. Did you sleep well?" Julia asked between sips of her tea.

"No, I'm afraid not. Even with the fire, it is dreadfully cold in that room."

"Yes, Willie has complained of that many times." Julia set the teacup down on the small table, picked up her purse, and began fishing around inside of it.

"Where is Willie?" Emma casually looked around the room, hoping to see some sign of him.

"Come sit by me dear, and have some tea before you leave. I have called a cab for you." Julia patted the chair across from her.

Emma sat beside her, and something in her gut told her that this odd -looking woman knew exactly where Willie was. "I'd like to see Willie before I leave, to thank him for last night."

"That is quite impossible, he has left for the day."

"I see." Emma didn't believe that for a second. He was somewhere in that monster of a house, and she was going to find him.

"Emma, have you ever seen one of these?" Julia held up an ornate golden medallion. "It helps to stabilize your memory. You want things to go back to the way they were, don't you?"

"Yes." Emma stared at the medallion held before her.

"Just listen to my voice and you will find everything you've been seeking. Everything. See how the colors sparkle and dance? Look at it closely. You will remember nothing of Willie or this house. Do you understand? All interaction you have had with Willie will be forgotten." Emma nodded and the good doctor took the medallion and put it in her purse, and then snapped her fingers.

"So, Emma, did you enjoy your stay in Collinsport?"

Emma picked up her purse and smiled at Julia. "I truly did." She stuck her hand into her purse as she stood, and then turned to Julia with arms out stretched, a gun in her hands.

"Did you really think that trinket was going to work?"

Julia gasped at the sight of the barrel pointed at her. She sat dumfounded, mouth gaped open with no words coming to the rescue. Her mind erasing medallion had never failed her before.

"Where. Is. He." Emma walked closer to the odd looking woman, pointing the gun directly at her chest. "I know he's here, what did that thing do to him?"

Julia stood up and backed several feet away from Emma. "I – I told you, he isn't here. Put that thing away before someone gets hurt."

"Do you think I don't know how to use it? Honey, I grew up on the streets of south Chicago, I know my way around a gun. So, tell me where he is, NOW!" Emma shot a warning round right past Julia's head, causing her ears to ring. "Next time it goes right through you, if you're lucky."

"I'm not sure where he is. The last time I saw them, Barnabas took him downstairs."

"Lead the way." Emma maneuvered behind Julia and pushed the gun into her shoulder. "Come on, get going."

Julia walked to the basement door and wiggled the knob. "He must have locked it."

"Bullshit, get the key. You know you have it."

"I don't." Julia tried to look innocent.

Emma looked around the room and saw Julia's purse sitting on the floor. Holding the gun steady on her target, she reached over, grabbed the purse, and dumped its contents on the table.

"Geeze. You sell these?" dozens of pill bottles fell out, along with syringes and little glass bottles. She looked up at Julia in bewilderment. "What on earth do you do with all this?"

"I work at a psychiatric hospital; they are needed." She said flatly.

"How often do you drug Willie with this shit?" There was no verbal answer, only a shrug, and Emma became even more livid than before. "You do it all the time, don't you? Does he even know? Do you slip it into his food to make him do what you want? You're just as bad as that monster, worse maybe." Then Emma saw it, a long skeleton key sitting on the table beneath all the junk. She grabbed it, and still holding the gun steady, slipped it into the large door, turned it and heard the loud click. She opened the door, which revealed a staircase down to nothingness.

"Are there lights?"

"What do you think?" Julia said sarcastically.

Emma went back to her purse and pulled out a flashlight, "My father always told me to keep a gun and a flashlight with me. And duct tape. If you behave, hopefully I won't need it. You first, Dr. Hoffman."

They descended the stair case, and as reached the bottom, Emma swallowed her fear after seeing the coffin sitting alone in the cavernous room.

"Is that him? Barnabas?"

Julia nodded quietly.

"Where's Willie?" Emma walked around the large room, taking her eyes off Julia for a moment, and Julia tried to pounce on her. Emma shook her off, and with the butt of her gun knocked the devious doctor out. I should have done that right away, she thought.

She continued to search the room, and heard the faintest of noises. She let the sounds carry her, until she came up on a narrow hallway and large metal door. She could hear a soft cry and muffled words.

"Let me out. Please, let me out…"

She shone her light through the bars, searching for the source, sickened at the fact that she already knew it was Willie. Her flashlight revealed what she didn't want to see.

"Willie? No!" She lifted the large metal bar that sealed the door shut, and pushed it open. "Willie!" Dropping to his side, she set the flashlight down on the floor, shining it towards him. He was curled up on the floor, shivering uncontrollably, wearing only a thin white t-shirt and his boxers. No socks, no blanket. His lips were turning blue, and every inch of his body trembled. It couldn't have been more than 40 degrees in the cold cell, and he had been in there all night.

Abigail grabbed the flashlight, ran out of the cell, nearly tripping over Julia on her way. She ran up to the bedroom she had slept in, grabbed the blankets and then returned to Willie.

"Here, here let me warm you." Emma wrapped the shaking young man in the blankets, and held him close to her as he shuddered. "Where are your clothes? He could have killed you!" The young man didn't respond to her at all. He simply pleaded into the darkness to be let go, and her heart sank.

"You're okay…you'll be okay. Can you stand? Let's get you out of here, okay?" She stuck the flashlight in her mouth, and dragged Willie from the cell, using the blankets to move him. Once out of the cell and in the cavernous room, she propped him up against the wall and re positioned the blankets around him. From the corner of her eye she saw Julia begin to rouse, and with no hesitation, she stormed back towards her, dragged her backwards and tossed her in the cell. "Let's see how you like it, you bitch." Emma muttered under her breath.

Time to take care of that monster. Emma returned to the room and set her eyes on the coffin. She thought she would be more frightened, but her anger was stronger that her fear, and she flipped the coffin open, revealing the white skinned, dead, evil being, lying motionless there. She wasted no time in hustling up the stairs to find something she could use to impale the beast with. You're in a house where a vampire lives. A wooden stake isn't going to be in the junk drawer. Emma stopped scavenging through the drawers in the kitchen. She paused for a moment, saw the knife rack on the counter, and picked the sharpest one. She remembered seeing a broom in the hallway, and rushed for it. Once it was retrieved, it took no time at all to put a sharp point on the end of the wooden handle. She poked the palm of her hand a few times with the makeshift spear, and ran back down the stairs, shocked to see Willie standing beside the coffin, and closing the lid.

"Willie, come back and sit down." She walked towards him, and he attempted to push her away, with little success. Emma wrapped her arms around him and guided him back to the floor. "Sit here. Just sit and soon this will all be over, okay?" She wrapped the blanket back around him, and he quieted.

Picking the broomstick in her hands, she opened the coffin once again, and hopped on top of it, one leg balancing on each wooden side.

"Your days of tormenting him are over, you bastard." She reached her arms up and saw Willie coming at her again, but before he could get to her she thrust her hands down, the sharp wooden handle piercing through the vampire's chest. The vampire let out a mournful screech, eyes opening wide as his hands gripped the sides of the coffin. Emma stumbled back and fell to the ground, realizing that Willie too was lying on the ground, gripping his chest, and his hands covered in blood.

"Willie!? No! NO!" She looked at him, and he was staring back at her.

"Finish it Emma. Set me free. Please, set me free."

"NO! This isn't what's supposed to happen!"

The blood began to pool on Willie's chest and he continued to plead with her. "Finish it!"

Emma was crying and shouting. "This isn't how it's supposed to be!"

"Finish it, Emma!" Willie cried.

"She jumped back on the coffin and took ahold of the makeshift stake. Rage for the beast swelled within her, and she screamed as she plunged the weapon deeper into the vampire's chest, tears streaming down her face and anguish filling her heart. She could see Willie's body jerk with each thrust. With the very last push of the stake, Barnabas' eyes softened, and his skin filled with a human glow. Emma jumped down from the casket and stood over him, watching his color come back into his face.

"Thank you." He whispered from the casket. "I am free…I can finally be with my Josette." Within seconds his body disintegrated to dust before her eyes.

She turned back to Willie, sobbing over him, and holding his lifeless hand. "You're free." She held him close to her, wrapping the blanket around him and rocking him in her lap as she wept. She sat like that for what seemed like forever, and then heard Julia screaming from the cell. Gently, she laid Willie down and released Julia.

"What have you done?!" Julia hissed. She went to the coffin to find dust. "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!" She screamed at Emma, and slapped her across the face. Emma returned the violent action by gripping Julia by her silk ascot and throwing her to the floor.

"What you should have done a long time ago! He is free now; they both are." Emma picked up her flashlight, and headed up the stairs.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Home." Emma responded. "There is nothing left for me here


The sun was shining high in the sky, and Emma sat on the tiny balcony of her apartment, sipping coffee and listening to the birds sing. It had been nearly 3 months since she left Collinwood, and she made good on her earlier intentions. She left Beals and Collinwood without a trace. Disappeared into the world like her con artist of a father taught her to. She changed her name, got all the fake documentation needed, and started a new life on the small island of Nevis, where she worked as a traveling nurse. Not a single day passed when she didn't think about Willie. She sat, looking out over the water, and was startled to hear someone yell to her from behind the palm trees.

"Hey!"

She looked around and then saw a figure emerge from the shadows.

"You're a hard person to find."

"Willie!?" The ceramic cup dropped from her hands and shattered on the ground three floors below.

"Can I come up?"

"Yes! YES!" Emma ran to the door of her apartment and didn't wait for him to get to her. She nearly flew down the flights of stairs, and when she saw him, jumped into his arms, shifting his balance, and sending them both into the sand. "How? How are you here?" She asked between kisses and tears. "I thought…"

Willie wrapped his arms around her tight and sat up, positioning her to sit on his lap facing him. He wrapped his fingers in her hair and stared into her eyes. "You saved me." He said quietly, and she started to cry harder. "You set me free."

"I thought you were dead."

"So did I. Turns out only the part of me connected to Barnabas died. I came to a few days later. Julia took care of me until I was well enough to leave.

"Julia?"

"Yeah. Somethin' about redemption. Anyway, I left lookin' for you, but you just disappeared. It's a good thing we both hung out in the wrong circles. I checked with some of my old acquaintances and one of them recognized you."

"Recognized me?"

"I got your picture from your uncle." Willie quieted for a moment and just stared at her. "God, it's good to see you."

Emma pulled him in against her, and held onto him as tight as she could.

"I'm planning to stay for a while if that's okay with you." Willie whispered into her hair.

"Not for a while. Forever."

The End