5: YOU ARE NOT WELCOME
Valia does indeed know someone who knows about ghosts. Which is how Arthur, Pavel and Dr. Barrow find themselves joining her on the 11 p.m. boat to Alcatraz for the midnight ghost tour presented by her friend Carrie Figtree.
When the vampires see the apparently young woman in a vintage guard’s cap and skull makeup, they can all tell that she might know more than she tells most of the tourists - she’s one of them...
“Visitors, welcome... Step onto the Rock, and step carefully.”
“What can we expect to see tonight?” Dr. Barrow asks, trying not to sound too keen.
“I can’t promise we’ll see anything. The inmates don’t run to a strict schedule any more...”
In fifty minutes, she discusses some of the legends, some of the claims of ghost sightings since the prison closed in 1963, and enough to impress the human visitors.
“I ride back with the staff, you can too. That gives us an extra hour to talk... maybe see a little more.”
“So there really are ghosts here?” Dr. Barrow asks doubtfully.
“Yes. They remain anchored to the place they died.”
“Can you see them?”
“No... generally no, anyway. But sometimes I hear them, sometimes they can pass messages other ways.” She holds up a notebook and charcoal pencil. “And there are less than when I started... maybe they worked out what they needed to move on... or maybe they ran out of time.”
“You are very creepy.” Arthur half smiles.
“Force of habit.”
They follow her through dark and silent corridors, further into the former prison.
“Can ghosts... teleport?” Arthur actually cringes as he suggests this.
“If they can appear, they can probably disappear as well. Move without trace.”
“That would work.”
“Why? What have you seen?”
“We thought she was human, maybe a ghoul, but... a ghoul shouldn’t be able to vanish like one of us. Even her scent disappeared.”
“In a doorway.”
“Ah, well, portals have power. That’s why some vampires can’t enter a house uninvited.”
“So, what... magic?”
She shrugs. Dr. Barrow scoffs again.
She leads them to a cell block the tour did not visit.
“The most active residents are around here... vampires might draw them out.”
As they approach a specific cell, something unseen strikes at its door. Again. Again. The door starts to slide open. The room grows colder.
And something pushes Pavel.
“It’s singled you out. Why?”
“He was a cop?” Arthur suggests.
“I was a deputy.”
Another door starts to open.
“We should get out. You’re not welcome.”
Carrie opens the guardhouse door.
Pavel feels the gun in his shoulder holster move, hears it click through like someone taking off the safety.
Carrie holds up her ring of keys and shakes it through the cold air as Valia gets out, last of all, then closes the door and locks it after passing through.
“They shouldn’t come past the door. Not for any physical reason, but the anchor holds them close to their cells...”
“Okay. Portals. What else does that?”
“The Circle might know.”
Pavel frowns as Arthur nods again.
“I can spend a few hours on the mainland, look things up. If there’s something new in the underworld, I want to know about it as well. Although I’d sooner stay here. If it comes down to it, it’s not a bad place to hold up. As you’ve seen, they don’t like intruders.”
Dr. Barrow looks back at the cell block.
“I would love a chance to analyse this effect. I may not believe in ghosts, but obviously something is going on in here.”
Carrie gives him a look. He doesn’t really notice.
Valia helps her with her hat as they make their way to the waiting ferry.
“No, no, thank you. Quite a show.”
“One of my better ones this season. Oh, what are you doing for Halloween...?”
Carrie is the first character from the book to make an appearance, although not the first to make their presence known. Valia’s a local and a vampire since the 60s, so even though she has no occult contacts it seemed reasonable to know her.
The ghosts’ reaction to Pavel occurred to me at the time, as it seemed to fit. When I started planning the chronicle I did not intend to make other supernatural beings a major feature, but the ghosts crept in... and you’ll see something else next time.
(Weird trivia: the TV series Alcatraz was running on a free TV channel for the first time while he game was going on. I managed to stop myself doing a crossover.)