"This shouldn't have happened," fretted Julia as she pulled on her coat. "The experiment was going so well. I can't imagine what could have gone wrong."

"Well, something did," said Willie frantically, following her out the front door of Collinwood. "You shoulda seen him, Julia. He was all pale, like he used to be, and he bared his fangs at me, and his eyes..." He shuddered. "I thought he was gonna bite me, I really did."

"Well, don't worry," said Julia as they approached the Old House. "I'll find out what's wrong, one way or another." She headed determinedly to the front door. Willie started to follow, but she motioned him back. "You stay here. I can deal with him better alone."

"But it's dangerous," protested Willie.

"I have a cross. Don't worry." She went inside.

Willie stood outside in the moonlight, his spirits sinking. It was no use. They wouldn't be able to cure Barnabas. It was a crazy idea from the beginning. Now he'd go back to the way he was before, cruel and terrifying... Willie shivered.

Suddenly he remembered Maggie. He had told Barnabas that Maggie was starting to get her memory back, and could expose him. If Barnabas was as ruthless as he used to be, he might kill her to keep her quiet.

She was in danger, and it was Willie's fault. He began to pace anxiously. He had to do something about it, he just had to. But what could he do?

He stopped. He could warn her, he thought. Not tell her about Barnabas, of course, but just tell her she was in danger and should leave town. He'd have to do it quietly, and pray that Barnabas didn't find out. If he ever did... Willie was too scared to dwell on that thought. But he owed this to Maggie; he had to help her. With sudden resolve, he headed for his car.

o o o o o o o o o o o o

Sam forced himself to calm down enough to analyze Julia's notes. Everything seemed to be in order. Her injections combined various chemicals used to treat anemia, leukemia, porphyria, and cancer. The combination had worked...until now.

Sam studied the pages, and found his eye drawn to one chemical name: Amethopterin. Something about it, something he'd forgotten...He cursed his Swiss cheese memory, struggling to remember.

He heard the front door slam and Julia's anxious voice. "Barnabas, Barnabas, where are you?" At that moment, a puzzle piece clicked into place. He suddenly had the answer.

Excited, he took the steps two at a time."Julia, I've figured it out!"

"Calm down, Barnabas," she said slowly and soothingly, as though calming a wild animal."I know you're feeling very upset right now, but I'm going to stop by the hospital and get some whole blood, and give you a transfusion, and then you'll feel better, I promise."

"There's no time for that," Sam said urgently. He grabbed her shoulders. "Listen to me, Julia. One of the chemicals you've been giving me is amethopterin."

"Why, yes," she said, surprised. "It's used to treat leukemia."

I know," Sam said. But sometimes patients develop a tolerance for it. It stops being effective after they've had a few doses. That must have been what happened to me. The doses probably stopped working a day or two ago, but it took a little while for me to revert back drastically."

"Oh, dear," said Julia. "Barnabas, if that's the case, I don't know what can be done about it."

Sam shook his head impatiently. "We can substitute 6-mercaptopurine. That will have the same effect. And if, after a few doses, that starts to become ineffective, then we can go back to the amethopterin - by that time the tolerance will have worn off. As long as we rotate the two, it'll work."

Julia was staring at him. "How on earth did you think of that? I've never heard of that course of treatment...but Barnabas, I believe you're right! It should work!" She continued staring at him in disbelief.

"We have to hurry, Julia. I'll come with you to the hospital, and you can get some 6-mercaptopurine and make up an injection."

"All right, Barnabas." They hurried out of the house.

o o o o o o o o o o o o

The hypodermic slid into Sam's arm. Sam took a few deep breaths. He felt his racing heartbeat return to normal, his fangs retract. He held onto the chair to steady himself, feeling self-control return. "That was close," he said worriedly.

Julia shone a light into his eyes, examining them. She checked out his teeth, and took his pulse. "It's not too bad," she said. "We've lost some ground, but not much. Now that we know how to keep the injections effective, you'll progress much more quickly. Another three days at most, and you'll be fully human."

"Thank goodness," said Sam, deeply relieved.

"Now that you're out of danger, I want to know how you figured out what was wrong and what to do about it," insisted Julia. "You have no medical training."

Sam improvised quickly. "Well...ever since we began the experiment, I've been studying your medical journals," he said, trying to sound convincing. "I remembered seeing a footnote in an article a while back that mentioned that a doctor in, uh, Venezuela was experimenting with treating leukemia patients with rotating doses of two drugs, to avoid the potential problem of patients developing a tolerance to one or the other."

"I see," said Julia.

Sam quickly changed the subject. "What time is it? It must be getting close to dawn by now. I should be getting home."

Julia looked at her watch. "It's 3:00. Give me a minute to pack up my medical supplies - I don't want to leave any trace of your case here at the hospital. Then I'll drive you back to the Old House."

"Okay. I'll wait for you outside." Sam went outside as Julia busied herself putting things away.

He breathed in the cold night air, feeling refreshed and glad the crisis had been averted.

Suddenly Al's voice came frantically from behind him. "Sam, you've got to get to Maggie Evans' house right now!"

Sam jumped. "Don't sneak up on me like that!" he said testily. "What do you want? It's 3:00 in the morning."

"If you don't get to Maggie's house in exactly five minutes and 30 seconds, Willie's gonna get shot!"

Sam stared at him. "Shot? Why?"

"Sam, there's no time! Hurry up!" urged Al. "I'll go there now and keep an eye on him." He vanished.

Julia came out of the hospital. Sam ran up to her. "Julia, I need to borrow your car. It's an emergency."

"What's happened?" she asked in concern.

"There's no time to explain now," he said urgently.

Julia pursed her lips. "All right. But I'll drive. You can explain to me on the way."

They got into her car, and Julia backed out of the hospital parking lot and eased onto the street. "Where are we going?" she asked.

"Maggie Evans' house," said Sam.

Julia slammed on the brakes so hard that Sam lurched forward. "Maggie Evans' house?" she repeated incredulously. "Barnabas, you have no business going there after what you did to that girl. I won't let you near her."

"I don't need to go near her," said Sam hurriedly. "It's Willie. He's gone there and I have to stop him before something terrible happens to him. Please, hurry."

Julia looked skeptical, but grudgingly started the car again. "Why is Willie at Maggie's house?" she asked, turning onto the road that led to the cottage by the sea.

"I don't know," said Sam truthfully. He tried to think. "He said something earlier about Maggie getting her memory back - maybe that has something to do with it."

Julia shook her head. "That's nonsense," she said decisively. "Maggie isn't getting her memory back. I saw to that."

Sam blinked in surprise. "You did?"

"Certainly," said Julia mildly, her eyes on the road. "I've been secretly hypnotizing her to make sure her memories of the kidnapping stay buried. In fact, I just saw her yesterday. So you see, there's nothing for you or Willie to be concerned about."

Sam stared at her, shocked. "You're forcing her to repress memories? But that could be harmful to her." He was appalled by her breach of ethics. "You're her doctor. How could you do that?"

She glanced at him sideways. "Would you prefer she expose you? You'd have a mob of enraged townspeople with stakes at your door within five minutes. Is that what you want?"

"Well, I...I don't know," said Sam in confusion. "It just doesn't seem right."

"Believe me, Maggie is fine," said Julia. "I have the situation under complete control."

They arrived at the Evans cottage. "Park by the bushes so we won't be seen," said Sam. "I need to check out what's going on."

They got out of the car. Al was waiting. "What took you so long?" he asked in exasperation.

"Where's Willie?" said Sam, looking around.

Julia was surprised. "Don't you know? You're the one who said he was here." Sam ignored her.

Al pointed. "He's over there, by those trees."

Sam saw him. And sharpening his supernatural senses, he became aware of numerous other forms hidden among the trees and bushes around the house. "What's going on?" he whispered.

"They're cops," explained Al. "The sheriff spread a false rumor that Maggie was getting her memory back, to draw out the kidnapper. Anyone who goes near that house is gonna get shot full of holes."

Sam turned to Julia. "I think you're right - Maggie isn't getting her memory back at all. There are about a dozen police officers hidden in those trees. I think it was all a trap to catch the kidnapper."

"What are you planning to do?" asked Julia, her eyes narrowing.

"I'm just going to get Willie out of there," said Sam. "Wait here."

He slipped away silently. Willie was still standing by the tree, watching the house. He seemed to be trying to get up his nerve. Sam crept up behind him and touched his shoulder.

Willie almost jumped out of his skin. He spun around. "Barnabas!" he squeaked.

"Shhh," Sam hissed. "Listen to me. You're in danger here. We have to get away quietly." He put a hand on Willie's arm. The young man tensed and for a fleeting moment, thought of trying to break free. But he knew Barnabas' power too well. Resigned, he followed Sam.

Slowly, keeping to the shadows, Sam led Willie back to Julia's car.

"Did anyone see you?" asked Julia.

"No, it's all right," said Sam, letting out his breath. "We can go back to Collinwood now."

Julia opened her car door. "Aren't you getting in?" she asked when Sam didn't move.

"No, we'll go back in our car," said Sam. "I need to talk to Willie." Willie swallowed nervously but didn't say anything.

"All right," said Julia. "I'll see you back at Collinwood." She got in her car, but waited until she saw the other car leave before she turned her key in the ignition.

Sam and Willie got in the front seat; Al hovered in the back. Sam started the car and pulled out onto the road. He breathed a sigh of relief as Maggie's house faded into the distance. "That was close." He looked at Willie and explained, "You were walking into a trap."

" A trap?" Willie was confused.

"The sheriff had policemen hidden all around the house to guard Maggie," Sam told him. "If you'd gone near the house, they would have shot you."

"And sent you to the loony bin," added Al, consulting his handlink.

"Shot me?" Willie said weakly. He had not expected this.

Sam nodded. "I'm just glad I was able to get you out of there in time."

Willie shot a glance at him, surprised by the concern in his voice. Barnabas didn't seem mad at him at all. Willie studied him surreptitiously. He didn't look ghostly pale anymore, but it was hard to tell in the darkness.

"But Willie, why did you want to go there in the middle of the night?" Sam asked.

Willie looked down and didn't answer.

"Was it because you thought Maggie was getting her memory back?" Sam pressed.

Willie hesitated. "Yeah," he admitted finally.

Sam sighed and shook his head. "I appreciate your wanting to protect me, but I don't see what you could have done to help." A thought occurred to him, and he looked sharply at the young man. "You weren't going there to...harm her, were you?"

"Me?" Willie was indignant. "I'd never harm Maggie. You know that."

"Then what...?" Realization dawned. "You thought I was going to harm her? You went there to protect her from me?"

Willie looked up in surprise at his tone. Barnabas actually sounded hurt at the idea.

The young man shifted awkwardly in his seat. "Well, no, not really," he lied. "It's just that...well... you were actin' so scary before. Like...like the way you used to be," he said, stealing a glance at Sam. "I just thought I oughta look out for her, ya know? Just to be on the safe side."

"Oh," said Sam, remembering what had happened in the house earlier. "Listen, I'm sorry if I scared you before. I didn't mean to. Something went wrong with the experiment. I suddenly felt like...like I had to have blood right away." He shuddered. "It was terrible. I never want to feel that way again."

Willie looked at him curiously. Sam's eyes were filled with remembered horror. "Is it that bad, bein' a vampire?" Willie asked.

"I wouldn't wish it on anyone," said Sam fervently. He shook his head as though to erase the feeling. "Anyway, I didn't want you to get too close to me when I was like that. That's why I pushed you away."

"Oh," said Willie, digesting this. He looked up into Sam's eyes. "So it didn't work, huh?" he said quietly. "You're back to bein' what you were?"

"No, no," Sam said hastily. "It turned out to be just a little problem. We made one change in the formula, and now it's fine. In fact, Julia says I'll be completely cured in three days."

"Really?" Willie's eyes widened. It's really gonna happen? You're gonna be normal?"

Yes." They reached the Old House. Sam parked the car and turned to Willie. "And since I am going to be normal, I won't need anyone to guard me during the day. So you don't have to stay here anymore. You're free to leave."

"Leave?" Willie was stunned. "You're...you're lettin' me go?"

"Yes." Sam smiled at him. "In fact, when we get in the house I'll give you some money to get you started. That way you can leave in the morning." He turned off the car, got out, and went into the house.

Willie followed, looking dazed. Sam took some bills out of a drawer and handed them to him.

"But you're not cured yet," Willie pointed out. "Shouldn't I stay till it's all done?"

No," said Sam quickly. He wanted Willie safely gone before Barnabas came back. He patted Willie's shoulder. "You've done so much for me already - more than I can ever repay you for. You deserve to have a life of your own. You can go far away from here, get an education - there's a whole world out there. But you should definitely leave tomorrow morning."

"Okay," said Willie, confused. "If that's what you want. An'...an' thanks." He went upstairs.

Sam was very pleased with himself as he went down to the basement. Al followed, looking puzzled. "Why did you insist he leave tomorrow morning?"

"Don't you see?" said Sam, grinning. "The cure will be complete in a few days. If Barnabas Leaps back, and Willie's already long gone, Barnabas won't be able to do anything about it."

"Hey, Sam, that's pretty smart," said Al admiringly.

Sam smiled modestly. "I have my moments." He opened the coffin and hopped in cheerfully. "Night, Al." He closed the lid.

"Night, Sam." Al punched a key on his control pad and vanished.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o

Willie lay awake, staring at the ceiling. He couldn't understand what he was feeling. A month ago he would have been overjoyed if Barnabas had released him. But now...

He turned on his side, drawing his knees up to his chest. Barnabas had saved his life tonight. He couldve let Willie walk into the trap at Maggie's house and get shot, but he didn't. He'd saved Willie.

And then he'd let him go.

Willie sighed. Ever since he'd opened the coffin, he'd dreamed of escaping from Barnabas. But Barnabas was different now. And soon he would be human, and there would be no more nightly attacks, no more supernatural terror...just a human being who regretted his past and wanted to make up for it. Just as Willie did.

Restless, Willie rolled onto his back again. The Old House had been his home for several months now - the longest he'd stayed in one place since he'd left home as a teenager. He thought about going on the road again, drifting from town to town, without roots. No Jason this time; no con games or petty thefts. How would he live? he wondered. Barnabas' idea that he could get an education was laughable; he'd never been one for book learning. He supposed he could be a carpenter, or an upholsterer; he knew enough about it, having fixed up the Old House. Or maybe he'd go back to sea. That seemed fitting, somehow. He imagined a ship, floating alone on an endless ocean, forever drifting from port to port, without a home.

Finally he fell asleep.

o o o o o o o o o o o o

When Sam climbed out of the coffin the next evening, Julia was already there, preparing his injection. Willie was nowhere in sight. Sam was glad. He pictured the young man driving on a highway somewhere, headed to a new life.

Julia held up the hypodermic needle. "Well, Barnabas, just two or three more of these and you'll be human. How do you feel?"

"Great," said Sam, rolling up his sleeve. Julia dabbed alcohol on his arm.

Then Sam's eyes widened in surprise. Willie was coming down the stairs to the basement. Sam was about to ask why he was still here, when two things happened simultaneously: Julia injected the medication into his arm, and Sam Leaped.

o o o o o o o o o o o o

Barnabas blinked, feeling totally disoriented. Just a moment ago he had been...where had he been? He grabbed for the memory, but it was slipping away from him.

He looked around in confusion. He was in his basement in the Old House, and that historian, Miss Hoffman, was standing over him, taking his pulse. "Barnabas, this is incredible!" she was saying. "We don't need those two extra injections after all. You're completely human!"

"What?" Barnabas' head was spinning. "Miss Hoffman, what are you talking about?"

Julia raised an eyebrow. "Miss Hoffman? You haven't called me that in weeks - not since we started the experiment."

"Experiment?" echoed Barnabas blankly.

Willie touched Julia's shoulder. "What's wrong with him?" he asked anxiously.

Julia shook him off. "Barnabas, tell me what you remember."

He looked up at her. "You're a historian, researching the Collins family."

Julia frowned. "The shock of the transformation must have caused a temporary loss of memory," she theorized. "I'm sure everything will come back to you soon."

"Julia's been tryin to cure ya," Willie told him.

"Cure me..." Something stirred in Barnabas' mind. A white room...and someone saying "Julia is a doctor. She's trying to cure you, to make you human again."

"I...I do seem to remember something now," he said hesitantly. You're really a doctor, not a historian. You were trying to make me human." Julia and Willie both looked relieved.

"That's right," said Julia encouragingly. "And I succeeded. You've been cured."

Barnabas stood up. "Willie, I need to speak to you in private. Excuse us...doctor." They walked to a secluded corner of the room while Julia cleaned up the equipment.

"Willie," Barnabas whispered urgently, "my memory isn't what it should be. What has happened here? Can this woman be trusted with my secret?"

"Sure, Barnabas," said Willie, surprised. "You been workin' with her for weeks on this. Don't you remember? And it worked - you're really human again."

"Human..." Barnabas could hardly believe it. Experimentally he touched his tongue to his upper teeth. No fangs. His skin felt alive and warm for the first time in centuries. Slowly he smiled...a smile of joy and wonder. "Human..." Slowly he walked over to a chair and sat down, marvelling at the idea.

Willie walked over to where he was sitting. "Listen, Barnabas, I gotta talk to you," he was saying.

"Hmm?" Barnabas had been imagining all the wonderful implications of this miracle. With an effort, he turned his attention to his servant. "Yes? What is it?"

Willie dug his hands into his pockets, looking down at the ground. "Well, I been thinking about what you said - how I should leave, and start a new life, and all."

Barnabas stared at him. Had he really said that? It didn't seem possible. But...if he had said it, he would have to stick to it. He was a Collins, and a man of his word. Too, he was gradually beginning to realize that his mental control over Willie was gone. The psychic link between them had been broken when he was cured. With a start, he realized that if Willie walked out, he no longer had the power to call him back.

Barnabas felt a flash of panic. Ever since he had been released from his coffin, Willie had been the only one who knew the truth about him, the only person he could depend on in this strange and unfamiliar century. Now he was about to start another new, unknown life, and Willie was leaving. And there was nothing he could do about it.

"Anyway, I really appreciate what you said and all," Willie was saying. He looked down into Barnabas' eyes. "But the thing is, I really don't have anywhere special to go. I got no friends, no family. And I'm thinking, bein' human's gotta be a big change for you. You're gonna need help adjustin' to it. And the house still needs lookin' after." He took a deep breath. "So what I'm sayin' is, I'd just as soon stay here. If it's okay with you."

Barnabas stared at him in amazement. "I told you that you could leave, and you want to stay?"

"Yeah," said Willie, scanning his face.

Barnabas couldn't believe it. After all he had done to the man... But Willie's clear eyes held no bitterness or resentment, just sincerity and concern. Barnabas was moved, and a little ashamed. He knew that if he were in Willie's place, he could not have been as forgiving.

"I want you to stay," said Barnabas, with gratitude. "And I...thank you for your loyalty."

Willie grinned, looking relieved. He patted Barnabas' shoulder. "Don't worry. I know this is a big change for you, but Julia n' me'll help ya get used to it. We're your friends."

Julia came over, smiling. "How do you feel?" she asked.

Barnabas noticed a small mirror on the table next to his chair. He picked it up and gazed at his own reflection for the first time in centuries. He looked up at Julia and Willie, both smiling at him. Slowly he smiled back. It was incredible: he was human again, free of the curse after all this time. He could start a new life - become again the honorable, decent man he had been so long ago. And, after centuries of loneliness, he had friends to help him. He couldn't understand how it had happened, but he was profoundly grateful.

He reflected on Julia's question. "I feel reborn," he said simply.

He looked up at the ceiling and thought, "To whatever power has brought about this miracle...thank you."

o o o o o o o o o o o o

Sam was in a new environment, and Al was beside him, saying, "Okay, Sam, your name is-"

"Wait a second," interrupted Sam. "What happens to Barnabas?"

Al checked his handlink. It all works out, Sam. Barnabas marries Julia and they have two kids. Willie keeps working for them for awhile, and then later he marries a girl named Roxanne and they settle down in Collinsport, and Barnabas gives him money to start his own business restoring old houses."

Sam was relieved, as he always was, that everything had turned out well. He turned his attention to his next assignment. "Good. Now, who am I this time?"

"Your name is Nick Knight, and you're a detective,"said Al.

"A detective? Great!" said Sam enthusiastically. "This mission should be a lot simpler than the last one."

THE END