"Are you sure about this, Mr. Wonka? Well, what I mean is, we won't be disturbing you in any way?" Mrs. Bucket twisted her apron strings nervously about her fingers. She had never in her life felt more intimidated than she did at this moment. Mr. Wonka was wearing a rather bizarre (to her anyway) style of clothing.

His coat was black, as was everything else he wore except for the shirt (a soft charcoal gray), gloves (they made his hands appear to be covered in fresh blood), and of course the silver 'W' pin at his throat. In the flourescent lights of the stark white hall, his skin was incredibly pale. It did not have that healthy olive tone she'd been expecting from old newspaper clippings her father had at home, but had the appearance of very pale stone, but not quite alabaster. It looked almost unnatural and too smooth to be real.

"Of course not, Mrs. Bucket. It only makes sense that Charlie and his family should move into the factory. Charlie would be closer to me, you would be closer to Charlie. It would be incredibly awkward if Charlie was only able to come here after school for a short time before going home. This makes much more sense in the long run. Don't you agree?"

"Well, I can only trust that you know what you're doing, Mr. Wonka. You are quite a bit more knowledgeable than I am in these matters," Mr. Bucket said, tightening his grip a little on Mrs. Bucket's shoulder.

"Wonderful," Mr. Wonka said, flashing a brief and toothless smile. "These rooms were specifically picked out for you by the Oompa Loompas who care for the living quarters. And don't worry about Charlie and your parents. They have already been taken care of. For now, relax and enjoy." Reaching into his pocket, Mr. Wonka pulled out a long, thin key and handed it to Mr. Bucket. Then, with a tip of his hat, Mr. Wonka turned on his heel and walked back in the direction he had come.

later that evening...

After eating the delicious meal brought to them by an Oompa-Loompa who, with many communication issues, introduced himself as Dennis, Mr. and Mrs. Bucket sat themselves down in the plush armchairs positioned in front of the large fireplace to discuss the unusual things that had occured in the past few days.

"I know I should just trust him and let things go how they will, but isn't there something about Mr. Wonka that's...well, a little disturbing," Mrs. Bucket asked, nibbling on the nails of her left hand.

"I admit he is a bit odd," Mr. Bucket said with a sigh. " But I don't think it's anything to worry about. Charlie and your father know more about him than we do and neither of them seem worried." When his wife made only a small noise of displeasure in response to what he'd said, he reached over and took hold of her free hand. "Helena, listen to me. Everything is going to be fine. What Mr. Wonka said earlier makes perfect sense. If Charlie is really to inherit this factory one day, there's going to be a lot of changes. If Charlie were to go to school every day and then to the factory for a few hours, it would cause quite a bit of trouble for everyone. Mr. Wonka's a very reclusive man, you know that from everything that's been in the media about him, so from that angle it's understandable because he would just be attracting unwanted attention to himself from us being able to come and go from the factory as we please."

Helena sighed. "I suppose you're right. But don't expect me to be getting all chummy with him just yet. There's something...unnatural about him, Noah. I can't quite place it, but he seems to be a lot more dangerous than those other children who came to the factory made him out to be. Even Charlie's a little frightened of him."

"Frightened? Impossible. Charlie's just...well, he's intimidated, yes, but look at what's happened to him in the past couple of days. He got a once-in-a-lifetime chance to tour the most glorious sweet-making factory in the world, then was told that he was to be the heir to the entire business when Wonka finally decides to retire, and his entire family gets to move into the factory. How could that possibly not be intimidating for a young boy?

"But I must admit he is a bit odd-looking. Maybe it's just the light, but did you notice how pale he looked? Almost like he were made of stone."

Helena nodded. "Yes, I did notice. And he doesn't appear to have aged at all from the first photos I saw of him back when he first opened the factory. It's been, what, nearly fifteen years since then. You would think he'd have changed at least a little bit."

"Helena, how do we know he doesn't just take very good care of himself? Your friend Karen, from secondary school, she kept getting mistaken for a teenager all the way up to the day she died."

At this, Helena managed a smile and laughed a little. "Oh, I remember how much she used to hate that. Always yelling that she was not a teenager and she could in fact buy alcohol legally, thank you very much. I think she would have been happy to know that her first obituary said she had 'died so young, just a tender young flower' and her husband had to ring up the paper and remind them Karen was 31 when she died." She paused and stared into the fire. "How did Karen die anyway? I know someone at the toothpaste factory managed to find out, but they never really publicized it."

"Oh, you know what Bill's like. I doubt it was even true, what he said the police found. He said that the medical examiner found no reason for Karen to have died except for one thing that seemed very suspicious. Her body was completely drained of blood, but there was no marks to suggest that anyone had stuck a needle or whatever into her to drain her blood. Only mark on her body was a large bite of some sort just above her left breast. It didn't have any blood on or in it, so the medical examiner wrote down that it had been made post-mortem and was likely done by a stray dog or some other creature that was hungry."

Helena cringed. "Ergh, that's horrible. Just the thought of some dog trying to make a meal of Karen. But...you said the blood was drained from her body and there was no sign of how it could have been done except for that bite? It sounds almost like those horrid vampire stories Charlie enjoys reading."

"Don't be rediculous. Vampires don't even exist. If they did, I'm sure they wouldn't leave their victims' bodies where anyone can find them. And I'm sure they're not nearly as cruel as you think they are. I've always been fascinated by them. I read one of Charlie's vampire books and I loved it. There was a certain sensuality to the whole world the vampires inhabit in that book. Absolutely marvelous."

In another room, at the far end of the factory from where the Buckets were quartered, Willy sat in a plush armchair watching on a surveillance screen the conversation Helena and Noah Bucket were having. He could have listened in on it through reading their minds, but it took far more energy to read two minds at once and besides, when reading a mind, the subject nearly always got a feeling that someone unseen was watching them. Rarely did they figure out what was truly going on, but there was no reason to take the unnecessary risk.

Having heard enough to satisfy his curiousity for the time being, Willy turned off the screen, leaving the room in near silence, the only sound being the barely audible hum of the factory machines. Letting out a long, slow breath, he closed his eyes, smiling at the way Noah Bucket praised vampires, despite the fact that he believed them to be wholly imaginary beings. It was almost as if the man wished that vampires were real and that he could-

Willy sat up quickly and pressed his hands to his eyes, trying to suppress the images rising in his mind. He could not give in to these selfish desires. Not now. Had he run into Noah six months ago, before he'd discovered the thin child who took the long way home from school each day to keep the smell of chocolate and other sweets in his nose as long as possible, before he'd taken that child home and seen the almost beautiful man that was Charlie's father... He had to go out, get away from the factory for a while. He needed to find a poor, unmissed, and certainly unloved individual and drain them. Perhaps he would even take a leaf out of his mentor's book and tear the corpse into pieces. Anything to supress this awful lust for blood.