Stand Fast and Damn the Devil
A Dark Shadows Fan Fiction
I've been trying to resist writing Dark Shadows fan fiction for a year or so now, but I finally had to give in. We've recently started watching, for the first time, the first year of the show, and I fell in love with the character of ill-fated fishing fleet manager Bill Malloy (namesake for the "Who Killed Bill Malloy?" story arc!). As is my usual pattern, I started wondering what would happen if this character were introduced into some other story line(s) of the show. I was also rather shocked to discover that there is very little (or no?) Bill Malloy fan fiction available, or at least posted. Hence this story.
In those early days of the show, they were making a serious effort to make their setting and some of the characters realistic for "Down East" Maine. Bill Malloy is one of the characters who recognizably speaks in Down East "Mainah" dialect (as I've learned from researching the topic since starting this story!). A major feature of said dialect, which Malloy definitely uses in the show, is the word "ay-yup" (variously spelled "ah-yup," "ayup," etc.), a Down East version of "yeah" or "yep." Thus you will see that word used at various points in Bill's dialogue here.
The "adventure" portion of this story's categorization will appear in later chapters (honest!). The story's title is adapted from an early line of Bill's in which he describes the reasons he admires Elizabeth Collins Stoddard. This WIP may be revised as we continue to watch the show, but I was too excited over my first fanfic in a couple of years to resist posting Chapter One at once. And I'd like to encourage any Dark Shadows fans who haven't done so, to watch those early episodes. Give my love to Bill Malloy when you see him!
Oh, and yes – I don't own Dark Shadows (alas!); it's the intellectual property of Dan Curtis, and my only profit from this is the fun of enjoying some adventures with the one-and-only Mr. Bill Malloy (and some others of the gang from the Great House of Collinwood).
My name is Bill Malloy. And my life is wonderful.
I'm not saying I think it's perfect. A man who reaches 55 years and still thinks anything in the world is perfect, is an idiot. There's always darkness and evil out there, and things going to hell in a hand basket because that's the way life is.
But right now, my life is more wonderful than it has ever been.
A spear of sunlight stabbed between the dark brocade curtains. Bill Malloy thought it was probably the sun on his face that woke him. He didn't grudge waking up. At this moment he was too happy for him to want to waste any more time in sleeping.
Beside him, Liz was still asleep. She lay on her side, with her face turned toward him. One of her lovely, delicate hands was tucked under the pillow. Bill reached out and touched a lock of her hair.
He wanted to touch her face, too. He wanted to touch a hell of a lot more of her. But he didn't want to wake her up. It was a privilege for him to treasure, just being able to lie here and watch her sleep. There was awe and wonder in knowing that, Lord willin', he would wake up with Liz beside him every day for the rest of his life. He would wake up and know that despite every obstacle, after all those years, he was married to the woman of his dreams.
Bill glanced over to the clock on the bedside table. 6:35. On most days, he would have been up and about already for a half an hour by now. He would have showered, dressed, and he'd be starting in on his oatmeal, orange juice and coffee, before heading down to the docks to see the fleet set out.
But most days weren't the morning after his wedding night.
He gazed at Liz again. He thought how impossible it would be to ever put all his feelings for her into words.
She was wearing less makeup than she did in the daytime. There were just the faint traces of makeup she had put on late last night when they finally turned their attention to sleep. To see her like this, in her light makeup and the innocence of sleep – it made him think of Liz as she was 21 years ago, when they so briefly dated. When Elizabeth Collins had just inherited Collins Enterprises, and Bill Malloy was a newly-hired deckhand in her fishing fleet. When their few casual dates had started him hoping for so much more – and she had announced she would marry Paul Stoddard.
You never know about life, he thought.
Twenty-one years ago, he'd made an unspoken vow that if he couldn't have her himself, he would devote his life to her service, instead.
Eight months ago, he narrowly escaped getting murdered by a fellow devoted family servant.
Three weeks ago, Liz had her feet firmly planted on the path of marrying the slimiest piece of filth to crawl off the Emerald Isle.
Then came the revelation that 18 years ago, she had killed Paul Stoddard, and Jason McGuire had buried him in Collinwood's cellar. And then, after Bill and Sheriff Patterson had dug up the cellar, came the revelation that she hadn't killed her husband after all, and the vile McGuire had been blackmailing her for a murder she hadn't committed.
It was one of Bill's most satisfying accomplishments of recent years, when he beat the tar out of the vile McGuire in the foyer of Collinwood. The sheriff and Roger Collins were able to pull Bill off McGuire before he could completely pulverize the bastard. But it would be some time before the Irishman's battered face could manage his trademark smirk again.
Bill had also taken thorough enjoyment from throwing all of McGuire's belongings into a couple of suitcases and pointedly leaving them outside Collinwood's front door.
Of course, there was a bit of a mystery over where McGuire had gone. George Patterson confessed himself troubled over it, when there was no evidence of McGuire taking a train or bus out of town. But the suitcases were gone the next morning. Bill figured the S.O.B. had simply convinced one of his lowlife friends to give him a lift. The sort of person who associated with Jason McGuire, was not always likely to want to chat with the sheriff.
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard had not left the grounds of Collinwood in 18 years, since the night she believed she had murdered her husband. When she set forth for the first time, a few days after Jason McGuire's departure, she asked Bill Malloy to go with her.
Her daughter Carolyn, or her brother Roger, or Vicki Winters the governess, would all have been delighted to accompany her. But Liz confessed to Bill, with a shaky smile, that she didn't want to face taking this step in their company. She told him they would expect too much of her. They would be trying too hard to make the day perfect for her.
Bill, she could trust not to push her. She knew he would let her do what she needed to do.
Bill drove her to Bangor. They had lunch together. They window shopped. When they got back to Collinsport, they took a walk on the beach.
He took her home, and she invited him into the drawing room for a drink. There were tears in her eyes as she turned to him and thanked him for that day.
Bill Malloy hadn't planned the words he spoke to her then. There just seemed nothing else he could do. He seized her shoulders and said, "Liz, Paul Stoddard is gone. Good riddance. He's gone and you didn't kill him. You've finally divorced him. You're free. You were going to marry that bastard McGuire for all the wrong reasons. Marry me instead. Marry me for the right reasons."
Sometimes he still could hardly believe that her answer to him had been "yes."
Lying in their bed, he grinned at his memories. He thought, Who needs that nonsense about marrying fresh out of high school – or marrying fresh out of the Army, as would have been his case if Liz had married him when he first dreamed of asking her. This sort of experience was too danged fine to be wasted on young people. A young man would ruin things by rushing too much, and being nervous, and not treating his woman with the respect and care she deserved.
Of course, Bill freely admitted, he would have married Liz at any moment over these past 21 years. But after what they'd shared last night, he had no regrets that they had waited this long for it. He would not trade last night for any other experience in this life.
Bill Malloy always insisted to himself he would never say that anything was perfect. But his and Liz's wedding night could just about tempt him into using that word.
The wedding itself had gone without hiccups as well. Of course, he thought, one reason it went so smoothly might be that everyone was so darned relieved Liz was marrying him rather than that pond scum McGuire.
It was a simple ceremony, fitting for a woman who was the subject of more Collinsport gossip than anyone else in town. She had no desire to put herself in any more spotlight than she had to. For her to marry the manager of her fishing fleet, three weeks after being set to marry Jason McGuire, would set enough tongues wagging anyway. She certainly did not need or want a big society wedding.
They married in the Collinwood drawing room, Judge Crathorne looking pleased as Punch to be splicing Liz to Malloy instead of McGuire. Carolyn was her mother's bridesmaid, radiant with happiness and relief, and noticeably unconcerned by supposed boyfriend Buzz Hackett not being included on the guest list. Roger gave the bride away. Roger's son David, looking purposeful and solemn, was the ring-bearer. Joe Haskell was Bill's best man, and their few guests were Bill's niece and grand-niece, his housekeeper Sarah Johnson, Vicki Winters, and the ubiquitous Cousin Barnabas Collins.
All were invited to dinner afterwards in Collinwood's grand dining room – the first time the room had been used since Paul Stoddard's disappearance. Wisely, Liz had hired a caterer. She did not need to be cooking on her wedding day. And Sarah Johnson's cooking, while suited to the simple tastes of Bill Malloy, did not suggest that the housekeeper had a future ahead of her as a banquet caterer.
Dinner was pleasant, the toasts offered to the happy couple were respectful and affectionate, and best of all, no one outstayed their welcome. Guests and wedding party made themselves scarce as soon as politeness allowed, and bride and groom were left to enjoy their night.
The only thing that had troubled him about their wedding, Bill thought, was asking Joe Haskell to stand by him in the ceremony.
It wasn't that he thought Joe unworthy of the distinction. Joe was worthy and then some. But he had worried it was callous of him, asking Joe to attend a wedding this soon after poor Maggie Evans' death.
He'd told Joe that, flat out. He had said, "Joe, I'd like you to stand up with me in this. But I don't want you doing it if it's going to bring you pain. What with poor Maggie … If you'd rather not do it, Joe, just tell me."
The young man gave a faint smile, looked away almost guiltily, and ran a hand through his hair. When Joe looked back, he said earnestly, "Mr. Malloy, I want to stand by you. I'm honored you asked me. I don't want to let you down. Maggie … Maggie wouldn't want me to back out of it because of her."
A middle-aged bridegroom who seldom drank anything stronger than coffee, was not a likely candidate for a stag party. And frankly he was glad that no one had tried springing anything like that on him. All he had done the night before the wedding was offer to take Joe out for a drink.
At that, Haskell admitted, "There's not much of anywhere to go but the Blue Whale. And I'd rather not go there if it's all the same to you. I've … I've been spending too many hours there lately – trying to convince Sam Evans to lay off the booze."
So groom and best man had gone to Malloy's house for a whiskey. When Bill asked Joe if he wanted another, the younger man answered shakily, "No thanks, Mr. Malloy. When I drink much these days … it's too hard for me to stop thinking of Maggie."
Damn, Bill hated to see that boy's broken heart. He'd told Haskell then, "You shouldn't stop thinking of her, Joe. Just try to believe that … someday you'll be able to think of her and it won't cause so much pain."
Joe had smiled a brave and absolutely miserable smile. Bill Malloy felt a lump in his throat, and swigged down the last of his whiskey. Hating how useless he felt, he kept searching for something to say that might possibly do some good.
"Did you ever read The Three Musketeers?" he asked.
Surprised by the question, Joe got a less haunted-looking smile on his face. "Sure, years ago. All for one and one for all, right?"
"That's right. There's another quote I always liked, from right at the end of the book. In the very last paragraph, Athos tells d'Artagnan, 'You're young. Your bitter memories have time to change into happy ones.'"
Nothing could really help, of course. But Haskell seemed to appreciate the effort. "I hope you're right, Mr. Malloy. Now you'd better give me one last very small drink, so I can drink to your happy memories."
Happy memories, Bill thought now, watching the sleeping Liz. We've got those now, all right. And we are going to have many, many more of them.
He wanted to be here with her when Liz woke up. He had no intention of letting her wake to an empty bed. That was not the message he wanted to convey on the first morning of their marriage. But good intentions or no, he thought, the most devoted and determined bridegroom still needs to answer the call of nature.
He would just have to hope he could make it down the hall to the bathroom and back again while Liz was still asleep. Cautiously he got out of bed, got into his slippers and bathrobe, and started his first attempt at walking silently over the creaking floorboards of Collinwood.
Bill managed his escape from the bedroom, apparently without waking his wife. As soon as he was out in the corridor, he had to grin at how ridiculous he felt. Walking through Collinwood's halls in his pajamas and bathrobe would take getting used to, considering that until last night the great house had been an extension of his workplace. This felt like the kind of dream where one finds oneself naked in the middle of a shareholders' meeting, and tries to conceal one's nakedness behind the conference table and a stack of profit-and-loss reports.
It didn't take long to reach the bathroom that, until last night, had been used by Liz alone. Another bathroom further along the corridor was shared by Carolyn, Miss Winters and David. In addition, a small closet near the door from the landing had been converted to hold a very cramped toilet and sink. Bill thought this third toilet on the second floor had been one of the 20th century's most essential additions to Collinwood. He could easily imagine occasions when the ladies of the household had possession of the two larger bathrooms, when things might get desperate if it weren't for that third toilet.
His bathroom visit was another surreal experience. It really would take a while to convince himself that this bathroom was now his. He wondered how long he had to live in Collinwood before he could shake off the feeling of being in a grand, if seedy, hotel.
Of course, a hotel bathroom wouldn't be so full of perfume, soaps, make-up, and Lord knew what all those jars and bottles contained. Not that it was anything less than scrupulously tidy and organized. Liz would never stoop to something so low-bred as clutter. It was just that all the shelves and cupboards were very, very full. Bill's lone toothbrush and shaving kit looked sorely outnumbered by the platoons of feminine accoutrements.
After a brief interval of rubbernecking at the bathroom, he was ready to hurry back to his wife. He stepped into the hallway. That was when he heard the sound.
Crying. A weird, uncanny sort of sobbing that seemed to go on and on. He thought it was probably a woman's voice, but he couldn't tell for sure.
He absolutely did not think Liz was making that sound. But he had to make certain. A few steps brought him to their door, which he quietly opened.
Liz's position seemed unaltered since he'd left. She lay on her side, her slumbers apparently untroubled – not even troubled by the sobbing that seemed to sound from everywhere around them.
Where the hell is it coming from? Bill wondered as he pulled the door softly shut. He thought, It's the darnedest thing. He couldn't pin down the source of the sound to any particular direction. Maybe, he thought, it's being carried through the heating pipes. In which case, it could originate just about anywhere.
He certainly hoped it wasn't his niece or grand-niece crying like that. If he hadn't solved the mystery by then, he would ask Helen and Jenny about it when he saw them this morning. It wouldn't be a problem for him to ask Carolyn about it, either. The only woman in the house he didn't feel comfortable asking was Victoria Winters. But he could always get Carolyn to speak with her about it, if it came to that.
Or, he supposed, there was one other possibility. Mrs. Johnson had been planning to go back home after dinner – to the house that she and Bill would both be moving out of over the next few days. But maybe Roger or Carolyn or Miss Winters had made up a guest room for her so she could stay over, last night. The only thing was, he couldn't begin to imagine his no-nonsense housekeeper sobbing her heart out like that.
A patently absurd idea popped into his mind. Had Sarah Johnson been secretly in love with him, all these years she'd worked for him? Had she faced her hidden passion only now, when Bill was married?
Sure, he thought. Because I'm just the kind of smoldering heart-throb people go around secretly pining for.
It's soap opera stuff. That kind of thing never happens in real life.
Not in his real life, anyway. He was pretty darned sure it didn't happen in the real life of Sarah Johnson, either.
Of course, he had been in love with Liz for 21 years. But he hadn't been hiding that love while living in the same house with her. And he thought that if anyone had cared to notice, his unspoken love must have been glaringly obvious.
If Sarah was in love with him all these years she had lived in his house, then she had a hell of a lot better poker face than Bill did.
No, if that was Sarah Johnson crying, Bill's wedding was not the cause. More likely, the poor woman was worrying over that turd of a son of hers.
Experimentally, he tried walking a ways up the corridor, towards the door to the closed-off west wing. Then he turned and headed the opposite way, toward the door to the grand staircase.
He thought maybe it sounded just slightly louder, the closer he got to the staircase. So he mentally shrugged, opened the door and walked onto the landing.
Bill wasn't sure if the crying was louder out here, or not. At least he thought it wasn't any quieter.
How could it be coming through the heating pipes? he demanded of himself. If the acoustics worked like that, then anything spoken or done near any furnace grate should be broadcast throughout the house.
Broadcast, he thought. Maybe that's it. Maybe it's David.
The little devil could have rigged up some kind of loudspeaker system, with some tape-recorded crying, and attached it to one of the furnace pipes. Maybe as a friendly little way of welcoming his new uncle to the house on the hill.
Bill grinned a little at the notion. Hell, he thought, I hope it's David.
High tech deviltry by the holy terror of Collinwood was a lot easier to stomach than – than a house where the walls throbbed with tortured, disembodied sobs.
He'd been walking down the grand staircase while he pondered the question. Down in the foyer, he thought just maybe the noise was slightly louder, now. And maybe, again, it sounded like it could be coming from the drawing room.
He walked quickly to the door and flung it open. That dramatic gesture yielded nothing at all. As he walked in, he saw the room held no mysterious sobber. Not unless the sobber was hiding behind a curtain. And the sound of the sobbing continued all around him.
A recording, he insisted. It has to be.
Anyone would have to stop to catch his or her breath sometime, if the sobs came from any living person's throat.
Despite himself, Bill jumped in surprise when he glanced behind him and saw a figure standing in the drawing room doorway.
The "figure," he realized in the next instant, was Miss Victoria Winters. Like him, the governess was wearing slippers, pajamas and bathrobe. Bill thought the two of them looked like members of the same club. Did the Mickey Mouse Club ever do a show in their pajamas?
How many more pajama-clad members of the Collins household would he meet before he got back to bed?
Miss Winters stepped into the room and said solemnly, "You hear it, don't you."
"Ay-yuh," he told her. Something about her expression and tone made him ask, "Would I be right in thinking you've heard this before?"
She nodded and then walked over to him. They stood by the sofa, the sobs continuing unabated around them.
"I've heard it many times," Miss Winters continued quietly. "It happened more frequently when I first arrived. I don't think I've heard it for … two or three months, now."
"And have other people heard it?"
She smiled wanly. "Everyone who lives here, I think."
"What do they say it is?"
With her somber, dark-eyed gaze, Vicki Winters answered, "Roger, Carolyn and David all say it's ghosts. I was never quite sure how seriously Roger or Carolyn meant that. But I think they both really believe it, now. Or they almost believe it. David does believe it. There's no doubt of that."
He asked, "What does Liz say about it?"
"Mrs. Stoddard – " she began, then she interrupted herself with a bright smile at him. "I mean, Mrs. Malloy – she always says it's the wind through the pipes; maybe blowing through from one of the closed-off wings of the house. Of course," Miss Winters continued, "sometimes I've heard it when there isn't any wind."
She frowned slightly as she thought back. "When I was first here, it often seemed to be coming from the basement. From the room that was locked. It doesn't seem to be doing that tonight, though."
Bill speculated, "Maybe there's been too much activity down there for it to feel comfortable in the cellar anymore."
He thought about what Miss Winters had said. Nothing in what she'd told him thus far ruled out the theory that young David had hidden a tape recorder in a heating pipe.
"Miss Winters," he pursued, "could you think back to what Carolyn's said about it? Did she ever tell you if she'd heard these sounds before Roger and David moved in?"
Miss Winters looked a little startled at the question. But she didn't ask him about it. Hesitatingly she told him, "I think she did. I think she told me she'd heard sounds like this in Collinwood all the time she was growing up." Sounding more certain of her facts now, the governess nodded and went on, "I'm pretty sure Roger said something to me once, too, about hearing the ghosts cry when he was a child here."
All right, Bill thought regretfully. If that's true, then so much for David's loudspeaker.
Unless the little monster heard his family's stories of crying ghosts, and decided to rig up some spook show sound effects to scare the bejesus out of his relatives.
How am I going to prove that, short of David confessing? I foresee a lot of poking around heating pipes in my near future.
Deciding to drop the idea for now, he went back to Miss Winters' testimony. "You haven't heard it for two or three months, you say." Bill grimaced. "I hope the timing doesn't mean anything. I'd hate to think the ghost disapproves of Liz marrying me."
Everything suddenly went silent. The sobbing was gone.
For a moment the two of them could do nothing but stare at each other. Then Bill managed to remark, "I guess it doesn't approve of me making jokes about it, either."
The silence around them was shocking. Vicki Winters said with only a slight quaver in her voice, "I don't think it's you. Maybe it happens when anyone new moves into the house. Whenever – whenever the energies around it change."
Bill demanded, "It didn't happen when Jason McGuire moved in, did it?"
"No – I don't think so."
"Hmph. Maybe when he turned up, the ghost had the good taste to go into hiding."
Vicki Winters put a hand to her mouth to hastily stifle a giggle. Solemn again, she went on, "Mr. Malloy – it's not just people hearing things. You know we held a séance a few months ago. Some of us were convinced that Josette Collins spoke to us, warning us of danger. And later, I saw the spirit of a woman in a long white dress. I believe that was Josette Collins, too. She warned me to save David – when that horrible thing happened with his mother. And then, of course … Mr. Morgan also told me he had seen ghosts here at Collinwood." She glanced at Bill in obvious apology for mentioning the groundskeeper who had almost killed him.
"Ay-yuh," Bill muttered. "Matthew did always say he saw the ghosts. I always assumed his imagination ran away with him. And then," Bill added, absently rubbing at his neck, "then I just assumed it was thanks to him being crazy."
He sighed and shook his head. He tried to forget the feeling of Matthew Morgan's fingers about his throat.
"What do you think?" he asked her. "Have we talked this thing to death for one morning?"
"I think we have," she said.
"I have to get back to Liz," he reminded himself, hit by a jolt of guilt.
The governess offered kindly, "I was going to fix myself some breakfast. Can I bring you and Mrs. Malloy anything?"
"Some coffee, if you would."
"Of course. I'll leave it outside your door."
"You're an angel, Miss Winters."
For a moment the absurdity of the situation washed over him. He suggested, "Since we've gone hunting ghosts in our pajamas together, shall we make it 'Vicki' and 'Bill' from now on?"
Victoria Winters grinned at him. "All right, Bill," she answered. Then she added, "Welcome to Collinwood."
Now he was no longer worried about trying to walk silently. If the sobbing ghost hadn't woken people up, then his footsteps weren't going to. He just about bounded up the staircase.
He thought, Either Collinwood really is packed to the gills with ghosts, or everyone who lives here goes crazy.
It was a speedy process of going insane, too. From what he could see, the process took just one night.
It's a fast worker, he told himself, our great old house on the hill.
Liz apparently had not woken up. But from the look of things, the sobbing had made some inroads on her. She had pulled the sheet up higher around her. A little frown knit her brows as she slept.
Bill sat on the bed and watched her. After a time, her frown vanished. She sighed and loosened her grasp on the sheet.
And then, with her eyes still closed, she murmured sleepily, "Bill?"
Bill Malloy reached out and took his wife's hand. She opened her eyes.
"You're here," Liz whispered.
"I'm here." For a crazy moment, just to see her watching him with that small smile of hers brought him close to tears. He knew he had never seen a more beautiful sight than this.
Although some views he'd had of her last night, gave this sight a run for its money.
Her gaze noting his bathrobe, Liz asked, "You've been out already?"
"Ay-yuh," he assented. He told himself there was absolutely no call for him to mention hypothetical crying ghosts. "I asked Miss Winters to bring us some coffee. She's probably discreetly left it at the door by now. You want me to check?"
"Not yet," said Elizabeth Collins Malloy. She sat up, the sheet falling away from her. In the sleeveless white satin night-dress she'd donned at the end of the night, she reminded him of the movie stars he had crushes on when he was young.
Randomly he thought, When I was twenty, what would I have thought if anyone told me someday I'd marry a look-alike for Joan Bennett?
His glamorous, gorgeous wife reached up to touch his face. Her hand lightly stroked his cheek and his beard, and she whispered, "Bill. Thank you."
He smiled a little at that. "Anytime, Liz," he said quietly. "Anytime."
She looked as regal as ever. But there was impishness in her answering smile as she said, "They do say there is no time like the present."
His body told him he had infinitely more important things to accomplish than speaking. But he still needed to force some of what he felt into words.
"I love you, Liz," he managed. His voice was rough with intensity. "I love you more than anything on this earth. More than my life."
And my life, thought Bill Malloy, is wonderful.
So there's a sobbing ghost, or two, or three, or a hundred, in the great house of Collinwood.
Or else my new nephew-by-marriage has a career ahead of him doing sound effects for horror movies.
Or else I'm on track to become as crazy as Matthew Morgan.
So some maniac out there somewhere kidnapped and murdered sweet little Maggie Evans, and left her father and Joe Haskell emotionally broken men. So the police still haven't caught whoever attacked Maggie and all those other women on the docks. So we still don't know why the hell the farmers keep finding their livestock drained of blood.
Right now, in this room, in this bed, life is wonderful.