Jonathan could feel Lucy’s presence in the house so strongly that it was a wonder to him that Mina could not. He had tried to ask her about it several times, cautiously, but she only suggested that he should go to see Dr Seward again. Lucy had been dead for three months now, so he supposed he couldn’t blame her for being sceptical.
“It’s just your imagination,” she said, each time, stroking his arm in reassurance. “It’s hardly to be wondered at, is it?”
Jonathan’s time under the Count’s control had left him intensely sensitive to supernatural activity. It wasn’t only here at the Westons’ house that he could sense the uncanny. Edges of an otherworld seemed to lurk in all sorts of unlikely places, making his skin prickle and his teeth water when he passed by, but what he felt here was far worse than anywhere else, even the asylum or the churchyard.
In the hall way, Jonathan heard unseen skirts rustle in passing, brushing against the skirting board. Sitting in the lounge, laughter echoed in his ears while Mina and Mrs Weston, sewing or reading close by, heard only the ticking of the clock. In bed at night with Mina asleep beside him, he often woke, sure that he had heard a girl’s voice calling. He felt something else, too, as if following him about the house – a shadow far more sinister than poor Lucy’s fading human spirit. It trailed around him like fog and sometimes closed in; a sulphurous, smothering cloud. Mina never seemed to notice that, either – or so she said whenever he tried to explain.
Dr Seward also thought, or chose to believe, whatever Jonathan sensed must be his imagination – a supernatural hangover from being possessed. Only Professor Van Helsing took him seriously, and it was the Professor who eventually suggested a séance to clear up the matter.
“Professor!” Dr Seward said, half-starting out of his chair in his study at his mentor’s proposal. “I won’t have it! Séances – mediums – sheer superstition, practised by a band of charlatans! You cannot think it would be worth the risk of worsening Harker’s condition?”
Van Helsing held up a hand. “John, John. We will take every precaution, but how else do we solve our problem? Harker here senses spirits in Mrs Weston’s house – perhaps even your unfortunate Miss Weston – perhaps something worse. We have already on more than one occasion seen that his senses are more attuned to otherworldly matters than ours. Are we to ignore this? No! It is vital that we know what influence is at work. If it is evil, then we face it on our terms. We cannot let this go unexplored. I know it is a great deal to ask of you, my friend, but I believe it is necessary.”
John scowled in Jonathan’s direction and gave a short harrumph, before pressing himself more firmly back in his chair. “Well, I don’t like it, Professor. Besides, what about Mrs Harker? She won’t appreciate you encouraging Harker in his –” He glanced at Jonathan and coughed.
“Wild imaginings?” said Jonathan for him, with a weary smile. “I know it must be difficult to believe, but I can’t rid myself of this feeling – and it’s only present at the Westons’ house. It is real, I know it. As for Mina, I’m sure, doctor, if you tell her you think it will help me, she will agree. And I think it will - one way or the other.”
“I still don’t like it!”
The Professor glanced at Jonathan and Jonathan saw a faint glimmer of amusement pass over his austere features. “But, John,” Van Helsing said, “from what Harker tells us, Miss Weston may be asking for our help. You could not refuse such a plea, could you?”
Dr Seward, as ever, when appealed to for aid, subsided, albeit with one last dark look at the Professor. Jonathan supposed it was being a doctor that did it, but he was relieved to have the support of both when trying to persuade Mina.
In the face of Van Helsing’s insistence and John’s agreement, however reluctant, as well as Jonathan’s own determination, Mina had little choice but to consent to the strange experiment. She was still unhappy about it, even now that she and Jonathan were in the drawing room, waiting for the other two to arrive.
“And what if Mrs Weston returns early?” she said, finding another objection, as she paced up and down the room. “What will we say to her?” She came to a halt in front of Jonathan. “She’d be horrified. I wouldn’t blame her in the least if she asked us to leave.”
Jonathan squeezed her hand briefly. “She won’t be back till evening, my love.”
“I thought this was all over,” Mina said, a crease forming between her brows. “And I will not believe that Lucy – Oh, no! Jonathan, Lucy has gone. She’s at peace now. Besides, I don’t want you to be disturbed again – I’d never have believed the Professor would do something as irresponsible as this!”
Jonathan, hearing Mrs Perkins, out in the hallway, opening the door for their visitors, leant in and kissed her cheek. “The Professor assured me he will be careful.”
“Will he?” said Mina, and then sighed, throwing up her hands in defeat as she pulled away from him. “Oh, I suppose if we must do the dreadful deed it may as well be sooner rather than later.” She forced a laugh. “I expect nothing will happen and then I shall look silly, making such a fuss. I’m sorry, Jonathan.” She twined her fingers more tightly around his. “I only want you to be able to forget all this, dear.”
They turned simultaneously towards the door as Van Helsing entered, carrying a small case full of items, and followed by Dr Seward, who barely managed a nod in greeting to the Harkers, before crossing the room, away from the Professor, his hands behind his back, as if trying to distance himself from the business.
Van Helsing took no notice of Dr Seward and walked on over to the table Mina had put ready in the centre of the room. He dropped his case down onto the couch and then pulled out a collection of items one by one. First a red tablecloth, then a candle, some matches, and a wooden board with strange markings.
“Professor!” said John, turning around and catching sight of his elaborate arrangements. “Is all this – this revolting paraphernalia really necessary?”
The Professor glanced up briefly in between pulling a Bible, a cross, and a larger candle out of the case. “Obviously, John.”
“What is it all for?” asked Jonathan, sitting down at the table ready. He wanted to do this, but his stomach was beginning to churn. Mina was right. It was a risk. There was a darkness remaining in him he must never awaken again. A séance was simply asking for trouble.
Van Helsing straightened up, placing the Bible, second candle and cross on the already cluttered sideboard. “These,” he gestured at the table, “are held to be of assistance in conducting a séance. And these –” he waved towards the sideboard – “are to hand in case we raise an evil spirit and need to exorcise it.”
“Good God,” spluttered Dr Seward. “You go too far! Evil spirits! That does it – I refuse to be a party to this.”
Mina, having pulled down the blind, turned in the act of drawing the heavy velvet curtains across the window. She folded her arms in against herself and shivered in the gloom she’d wrought on the room. “Raise an evil spirit? Surely that isn’t likely? Is it?”
“I hate to be a nuisance,” said Jonathan, “but I do want to try. There are spirits of some kind here – I can feel them. It seems to me it would be a sight more useful to be able to communicate with them.”
Mina cast a long look at Jonathan. He wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but then her face softened and she gave him a small nod, before turning aside to put a hand to Dr Seward’s arm. He stood there, tense and frowning, hunched against the wall. Van Helsing paid little regard to John’s outburst or Mina’s worries and merely continued his preparations.
“I don’t like it either,” she said softly, “but if it will help Jonathan, then we must.”
Dr Seward was facing away from Jonathan, so he couldn’t see his expression, but he turned his head towards Mina and said, “What if it is her? Lucy. I can’t –” He stopped.
“I’m not sure I could bear it either,” said Mina, a quiver passing over her face. She gave a quick smile, glancing up at Dr Seward. “But whatever it is, it appears we must try, for Jonathan’s sake. Perhaps even for Lucy’s too.”
Jonathan looked away hastily; their shared grief over Lucy was something he had no part in. He had met Lucy only briefly at the wedding and remembered nothing of his time under the Count’s influence.
He heard Dr Seward cough, and then Mina said, her voice still low: “Trust in the Professor, John. We wouldn’t be here if it were not for him.”
“Sit,” ordered Van Helsing, drawing everyone’s attention. “Let us waste no more time.”
Jonathan reached the table first. He felt as uneasy at this odd experiment as both Mina and Dr Seward, if he was honest, but he had to try it. He was not imagining things – or he was almost certain he was not. It felt so different to his previous experiences with the Count. He said nothing, however. He didn’t want either Mina or Seward to suddenly refuse and have to wait and argue the whole thing out over again, while all the time he heard Lucy’s muted cries in every room and that strange, awful weight pressing down on him. He shivered.
“Hands on the table,” said the Professor, once they had all seated themselves. The candle in the centre above the board burned steadily. “Fingers touching – like so. Close your eyes. Yes, yes, good. And now – we wait!”
Jonathan felt Mina’s touch on one side and Dr Seward’s on the other. He tensed. What if this unnatural ritual cast him back into the same old madness, his true self lost, maybe forever? He swallowed, his mouth dry.
They waited, and waited. All the odd things Jonathan had sensed and heard now seemed to be stubbornly absent. There was only the clock, counting away the interminably long seconds while nothing happened, on and on. Jonathan, in the silence and gloom, opened his eyes and watched the flickering candle flame until his mind calmed and his consciousness started to drift.
“Professor,” began Dr Seward, jolting Jonathan back to earth. “Clearly we are wasting our time and I must insist that we –”
“Shh!” hissed Van Helsing. He lifted his head and looked across the table at Jonathan opposite. “Harker? What do you think? Should we continue?”
Jonathan nodded. For a moment, he’d sensed something. They must not stop now. It was important; he felt inexplicably convinced of it. He looked to his left at Mina, her features oddly satanic in the light and shadow cast by the candle. Dr Seward, on his right, was frowning, his brow furrowed and shoulders rigid, but he didn’t pull his hand away.
“Then we carry on,” said the Professor and, facing Jonathan, if Mina looked satanic, the hawk-like features of Van Helsing were positively devilish under his whiskers.
Silence fell on the room again for some minutes more. Jonathan felt Dr Seward’s hand twitch and saw him shift his position, biting back impatience. Jonathan looked straight at the candle once more, letting everything else fall away, leaving it to the others to hold him in reality if necessary.
The flame seemed to change colour under his idle, semi-mesmerised gaze. First yellow and blue at the heart, now red and silver and then finally, white at its heart with a blue halo. He could not see the other three or hear their movements and breathing, but he still felt the warmth of Mina and Dr Seward’s fingers against his.
A sudden pain seared through his head while unseen winds buffeted against him, causing him to cry out and almost knocked him off his chair. The board’s pointer flew away, striking the wall behind him. Jonathan trembled in the grip of forces that didn’t cause the slightest stir to the tablecloth or the flame. He was cut off from the others, two influences fighting it out over him. One of them was gentler, but tugged at him insistently, calling to Jonathan, not merely seeking a host. The other he knew and his heart leapt within him: the echo of his Master. He shut his eyes, as if that could close out the power it had over him. He must obey Dracula’s will – but the other spirit kept pulling him back, allowing him to think, to choose – and, oh how he wanted to chose not to fight, to embrace that familiar intoxicating mix of power and pleasure and be free of the miserable struggle back to his mundane life, empty of the vividness he had once known –
He had his eyes closed, but that cool other presence touched him again and his focus shifted: he was aware of everything in the room. He didn’t need to look to be able see Mina, beside him, her head down, a nimbus of darkness around her, or the Professor’s intense blue gaze. Dr Seward’s hand moved against his – he might break the circle in his concern.
The storm subsided, as Jonathan turned his face away from his old Master and towards the other presence in the room. Left to himself, he was weak, he would give in again – but he could not do that to Mina, or to the Professor and Dr Seward, who had worked so hard to try and save him. Something almost tangible gripped his shoulders and then vanished. Something cool and soft, like snow, settled over him.
It was nothing like being under the Count’s power; he sensed no evil in it. It didn’t so much wrest control from him as gently request his permission to be there. Lucy? Could it truly be? A sense of warmth and affirmation filled him in response to his unspoken question. He breathed out and let go; let her do what she would. He was only an observer now, some distance away from the scene.
“Mina,” said “Lucy”, turning to face her friend. She broke the circle, reaching out to take both of Mina’s hands in hers. “Oh, Mina! You must show it to them.”
Mina tried to pull away, but only with half a heart. “Lucy” hung on. Jonathan dimly felt Mina’s fingers tremble in his.
“Oh, Mina! Then I will,” said Lucy-in-Jonathan’s-form, and leant forward to unbutton the collar of Mina’s blouse. Mina sagged slightly and closed her eyes. Jonathan, through the haze, recognised the familiar feel of the tiny fabric-coated buttons, undoing another one – two – three – and pulling back the garment to reveal a chunky onyx ring hung on a ribbon around Mina’s neck.
“Lucy” dragged Mina to her feet, gripping her hands too tightly for her to try and hide her guilty secret. Dracula’s ring! Jonathan, somewhere underneath, recognised it, and deep-seated desire for it stirred before he shut his eyes and let Lucy remain in control of his body.
Van Helsing leapt to his feet, stifling a curse under his breath, while Dr Seward watched from his chair with a frown, glancing quickly from one to the other, unable or unwilling to comprehend.
Mina gasped and tried to clutch at the ring the moment “Lucy” released her hands, but she was ahead of her, catching hold of it and pulling it free of Mina’s neck with a sharp tug that must have been painful. Before Mina could move, “Lucy” threw it across to the Professor, who caught it, giving a bitten off cry. Mina froze as soon as the ring had been taken, her expression blank, as if in shock.
“What the devil is it?” said Dr Seward, leaning forward over the table. “Whatever is going on? Harker? Mrs Harker – Mina!”
The Professor shook his head. “Shh, John, shh!”
A shudder passed through Mina and she cried out before clapping her hands to her face, and shrinking away from them. She choked back sobs, sinking down into a hunched huddle on the carpet. Lucy and Jonathan reacted to her distress as one being, moving immediately to reach down and pull her up. They pried her fingers from her face, wet with tears. Then they leant in to kiss her, once on each cheek, as Lucy so often had, and lastly full on the mouth, as was Jonathan’s right, with a longing he knew was not all his own. Mina, dearest Mina. His heart ached in sympathy, and he was not sure whose emotions flooded through him; they were too tangled.
“Lucy” drew away slowly from her friend, Jonathan sinking back under her light control again. He felt her regret as she cast one last look at Mina, before turning around to face Van Helsing, who had the ring cupped in his hands. “Can you destroy it?”
“I believe so, yes,” said the Professor, tucking it into his waistcoat pocket. “If not, I will ensure it does no more damage.” He directed a wintry blue gaze at Mina that caused Jonathan-and-Lucy to move, one in spirit again, to stand between her and the Professor’s wrath.
Dr Seward coughed, rising to his feet. He was still frowning, still lost. “I don’t understand.” He took one step forward, the lines on his forehead deepening. “Lucy?” he asked, an incredulous note in his voice.
“John, dear – close your eyes,” said “Lucy” and held out her hands to take his.
Dr Seward obeyed, and his shoulders lowered; he gave a soft, long, “Oh,” as if now he understood – he could see her, too, at last. “Lucy.”
“Lucy” kept hold of him, their fingers intertwining before she pressed a kiss to his lips. But even as she pulled back, her spirit dissolved and left him, now nothing more than dust in the air. Only Jonathan remained, himself once more – still holding John’s hands. He blinked and let go, staggering back in confusion. Dr Seward – John – put his hand to Jonathan’s arm to steady him, holding on quietly until he was sure Jonathan wasn’t going to fall.
“She’s gone, hasn’t she?” said Mina from behind Jonathan. She sounded breathless, as if the words had been wrenched from her.
Jonathan turned in concern. Mina grasped his sleeve and managed a brave smile, the tears glistening her eyes remaining unshed. Then she gave herself a small shake and raised her head. “Jonathan – you are unharmed?”
“Yes,” he said and kissed her head. “At least, I think so.”
Before Mina could respond, light flooded the room, and they swung round to see the Professor standing by the window, the curtain cord swinging beside him. The day outside was overcast and the sky a hard January grey, but even so, the brightness left them blinking.
“A successful experiment,” the Professor said. “Nevertheless, I still have this unpleasant object –” He nodded down at the ring – “and we should keep in the light.”
Mina put her arm around Jonathan. “Professor, I know in this instance, it seems to have been for the best, but we must find a way to protect Jonathan from any more unearthly influences. He cannot go on like this!”
“Yes, yes,” said the Professor. “I have not forgotten, but it is not a simple matter and I await a reply from Professor Reizler in Vienna. I am more concerned about you, Mrs Harker. You should have told us you had found the ring.”
Mina edged in closer against Jonathan. He felt her hair tickle his cheek as she moved her head. “I’m so sorry. I don’t recall – I was not aware that I had it, truly. At least –” She put up a hand to rub her forehead – “Perhaps I knew somewhere, deep within, but not consciously, I swear.”
“You must be thankful for Miss Weston’s intervention and your husband’s sensitivity to her presence,” said the Professor, at his most chilly. “Otherwise your inaction might have undone us all!”
John straightened himself and stepped forward to intervene. “Professor,” he said, in reproach. “Not now. Mrs Harker is badly shaken – I think we all are.”
“Yes, John, yes,” said the Professor, his icy tone thawing. “You are right. I shall dispose of this wicked thing, Mrs Harker, and we shall keep careful watch on you as well as your husband.”
“She’s free of it now,” John said. “Is she not?”
Jonathan nodded. “She is. Lucy would never have left if it hadn’t been so – of that I’m certain.”
“No doubt you are right,” said Van Helsing. “Nevertheless, it will do no harm to be more watchful and cautious in future. But, yes, I think we may hope for the best for both of you, now that this has been brought into the open.”
Jonathan gently detached himself from Mina, not wanting to embarrass John or the Professor with their embrace. Not that anything could embarrass the Professor much, as far as he could tell. “Yes. Aside from all the other ghosts and spirits and goodness only knows what lurking all around us. There seem to be an unending number of them.”
“Oh, dear,” said Mina and squeezed his arm. “Poor Jonathan. At least now you should be safe from them here.”
Jonathan closed his eyes, not quite able to believe that this sad and shadowy house could be untroubled for him at last, but when he paused and concentrated, he sensed no malevolent, oppressive presence in the place, nor any lost spirits calling for his attention. “Do you know, I believe you’re right.”
The Professor left soon after to deal with the ring. Jonathan didn’t ask any questions about what he intended to do – it was better to keep all matters to do with it well out of his and Mina’s reach. He didn’t want to reawaken the devils within him and Van Helsing had more knowledge when it came to these arcane affairs. It didn’t seem to disturb him in the same way as it did Jonathan, Mina, and Dr Seward. Jonathan glanced at John, who was standing at the window, gazing out unseeing and then over at Mina, who had started clearing the Professor’s oddments from the table.
“Mrs Weston mustn’t see any of this,” she said, when she caught Jonathan’s look. She picked the bundle, wrapped up in the red velvet tablecloth, and walked over to where Jonathan was standing. “You are feeling well, aren’t you?”
Jonathan thought about that carefully. He was unsteady, and it was hard to cast off the memory of Lucy’s presence, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing. It linked him more closely to Mina and to John, to their ill-fated friend and love, and the experiences they had shared while he was lost under the Count’s power.
“Yes,” he said, and saw John and Mina watching him, their concern for him mirrored in each other. “I am well – better than I have been in a long while.”
He held out his hand to Mina, who abandoned her bundle on the couch and put her arms around him. Jonathan looked at John while he tightened his hold on Mina, so that they would know he meant both of them when he said, “As you will be, I trust.”
None of this was quite finished, of course. Jonathan was still a lightning rod for the uncanny – not a thing he relished – and Mina might wear a brave face in front of them, but the discovery of the ring and its former influence on her must have left their mark. John, no doubt, wouldn’t cease to grieve Lucy even after this unexpected grace of a last farewell. But the wounds were clean wounds now; together they could heal in time.
A shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds outside and into the room, illuminating dancing dust motes beside John’s elbow.
“All will be well?” murmured John under his breath, more to himself than to the Harkers.
“Yes,” said Jonathan, Mina’s hand warm in his. “I believe it will.”