I’d love to start this off by saying, “I don’t know how the three of us, winsome Vampire siblings, ended up at the old dark house…”
Unfortunately, I do know how we got there. I got a call from my brother Andy (the second eldest of my four brothers).
“Juliette I bought a house. A mansion really. I’m going to check it out today. Come with me. I’m picking up Val. In fact, I’m in front of his house right now.” Val is the youngest of the brothers, only a year older than me.
“A mansion?” I asked. “Where?”
“Out in the Delta.”
“It came up for sale. I used to party there back in the day. And what makes it so cool is that nobody has lived there since 1890.”
“What kind of condition is it in?”
“I don’t know. I’m sure it is a wreck, but I had to have it. I’ll see you in about 30 minutes.”
I got on my phone and texted my husband, who texted back: I heard about the “Mansion” LOL. Andy is nuts. Have fun. Make sure he and Val don’t get into a fight. Don’t let them talk you into crawling into any small spaces. Love you.”
I texted back: Andy is fucking nuts. xoxoxoxo I’ll call you later.
“Does anyone live there now?”
“No. Not even a care taker.”
“Maybe meth heads and rats,” said Val.
Andy ignored Val’s comments.
“Why?” I asked. “Are there ghosts?”
“No ghosts that I know of. Joshua Banert, the owner died.”
“Oh my God, Andy,” said Val. “You bought Josh Banert’s house?”
“Dad always said he was an asshole,” I said.
“Banert was an asshole. Eleora and Tellias went there once and that was enough. Beautiful home but they couldn’t stand Banert,” said Val.
“Did you ever meet him?” Andy asked.
“No, but I knew his sister Catherine. She hated him,” Val replied. Catherine had broken Val’s heart back when we were young. I always believed she was the first regular, non Vampire woman he’d ever been with. Unfortunately her brother Josh Banert was controlling of her mentally, physically, and financially.
“Everyone loved Catherine,” said Andy. “She ran off with the singer Gabriele Barbaranni around 1895. He was going to turn her.”
“I bet she made a great Vampire. I hope they made it,” said Val.
Andy smiled. “She’d asked him to take her to Florence. She told me all about it the last time I was there. Don’t judge me. The company at Josh’s parties was always good, and he knew about and accepted Vampires. Josh always wanted Gebriele and I to come sing at his parties. That was the last time I was there.”
We drove through the Delta and on through the farmlands and water ways. At one time boats would go right up to Banert’s estate to drop off supplies and guests. None the less it was an isolated location for a second home, much less a mansion.
After turning down an unmaintained gravel road, and unlocking not one but three gates, we saw the house. It was surrounded by once lavish gardens now both dead and overgrown. Palm trees and tall Italian Cyprus tresses lined the drive and surrounded the house.
The house was magnificent. It was a huge Italiniate affair, a full three stories. The once blue, gray, and white paint had faded and peeled over the past 130 years it had been shut down and closed off. It didn’t look as if anyone had touched the place since 1890. A carriage stood in the drive, the canvas top rotted off, and the seats torn out by animals and the weather.
“This place is beautiful Andy,” I told my brother. “I’m surprised it hasn’t been vandalized or burned down.”
“Or flooded out,” said Val. “Is it haunted?”
“No ghosts at all. That surprises me, but it’s true. Let’s go in.”
The inside of the house proved to be even more amazing and beautiful than the outside. All of the original furnishings were still in the house. Stained glass windows spread colors across the hand made English tiles in the entry way. The windows were dirty, but not broken. Rare wood graced the walls, along with William Morris wallpapers. Paintings by prominent California artists of the time such as Thomas Hill, William Keith, and Julian Rix adorned the walls.
“How could anyone abandon such a beautiful place?” Val asked as we wandered through the hallways.
“We should go to Catherine’s room,” said Andy. “It was the most wonderful of all the rooms, for more reasons than one.”
“Sounds like Catherine got around,” I said.
“She had a weakness for Vampires. We’re charming and she knew she’d never get pregnant with any of us. By us I don’t mean me. Val was the only one of us who…”
“That will be enough on that subject,” said Val.
On the third floor we came to a boarded up door. It was Catherine’s room. After tearing off the boards we found the door was locked with additional locks on the outside.
My brothers managed to get the locks off the door, with the help of some tools we’d found in the kitchen.
Catherine’s room was indeed beautiful. It wasn’t just beautiful, it was ethereal. The colors were cream and pale pink, touched with gold and lavender. Crystal vases that once contained flowers, now turned to dust were on the mantle place, and on the tables. A book of poetry by Riley was opened on one of the chairs. Opening with a sitting area, an arched doorway led back to a large bed with an ornately carved headboard and foot board.
What looked like a man’s suit on a chair turned out to be something else. Andy drew the curtains letting more light into the room, and opened the window to get some fresh air.
The suit, formal evening wear, contained the remains of it’s owner. He’d been bound to the chair with barbed wire. Gloves and shoes were still on the skeletal hands and feet. His top hat was on the top of the dresser. His head was in the corner of the room behind the chair. Val picked up two sharp white objects on the dresser.
“Fangs,” he said. “The man in the chair was a Vampire.”
“Oh no. I recognize the stick pin. Diamonds and rubies. That was his trademark. I was with him when he purchased it.”
“Who?” I asked.
Behind Andy and I we heard a faint whisper from Val. “Catherine.”
On the bed was a woman, or what was once a woman. She still wore a ballgown of white silk, with pink silk roses. Her brown hair still covered the mummified skull that was once her lovely face. The skeletal arms were above her head. Her mouth was open as if in a scream.
“She was handcuffed to the bed post,” said Val. Then he turned away. Even for three Vampires, who have all three seen a lot over the years, this was beyond horrible.
“Josh killed Gabriele and imprisoned Catherine with his body. The cruelty of the situation is beyond words,” said Andy.
“Do you still want to live here Andy? Do you?”
“I wasn’t going to live here, at least not all the time,” said Andy.
We went downstairs without words, then explored the former gardens. Remains of the dock that boats from San Francisco, and Sacramento landed at still stood. Three once beautiful pleasure boats were pulled up on the shore where they rotted away over the years.
As we drove home in silence, I thought about the horror Catherine must have felt as she was locked away and abandoned by her brother. How long had she been there before she died?
I have no idea what Andy is going to do now. The house needs renovations. There are two bodies that we know of. It is a mess. A total cluster you know what.
An abandoned beauty within an abandoned beauty. A dream turned into a nightmare. A love that couldn’t be killed.
That is it. I have nothing left to say right now.
So stay safe everyone. Wear a mask when necessary. Be kind. Don’t be a dick. Talk to your kids. Check in on those who are elderly, need extra help, or are alone. Hug your dogs and cats. And think twice when your brother asks you to visit an abandoned house he just bought sight unseen.
~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman