Darcy never expected to spend a summer vacation living with her long-lost uncle Jake. Although he’s only six years older than her, they have never met. By the end of the summer, she’ll know him better than she ever wanted. Jake and his friends share a dark sense of humor. He lives in the Dungeon, a wax museum filled with gory scenes of famous monsters. His favorite is the statue of Dracula, which stares out with lifelike eyes and crimson lips. His friends seem to be obsessed with vampires, and one of them is even playing Dracula in a play. It’s all harmless fun until the bodies of murdered young girls start appearing in the back alleys of their small town—throats cut and necks bitten. One of Jake’s friends is playing vampire for real, and he has his eyes on Darcy’s neck. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Richie Tankersley Cusick including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
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By Richie Tankersley Cusick
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1991 Richie Tankersley Cusick
All rights reserved.
The building sat back from the narrow street, dingy and cheap in the gray afternoon light. Its red neon sign blinked on and off, the words DUNGEON OF HORRORS reflecting in the puddles, turning the water to blood.
"He's insane," Mrs. Thomas mumbled, peering gloomily from the cab. "I always knew he was, but I'd hoped by now he'd outgrown it."
"How could you possibly know anything about Uncle Jake?" Darcy turned accusing eyes on her mother. "You haven't even seen him for years."
"I know what Alicia tells me, and she says he's a disgrace."
"Aunt Alicia thinks everyone's a disgrace."
"Darcy, I won't have you talking that way about my sister. She's a prominent attorney and very highly respected. It's no wonder Jake's a total embarrassment to her—he's always been a total embarrassment to both of us."
"He can't be that bad, Mom. And I'll never understand why you and Aunt Alicia won't have anything to do with Uncle Jake, when he's your only brother."
"I've told you before, we never did have anything to do with Jake. After the divorce he went to live with Father. We didn't even grow up together." She snorted in disgust. "He's not our kind, Darcy. He never has been, and he never will be."
"What is our kind, Mom?" Darcy said, then at the look on her mother's face, added hurriedly, "Well, I wish you weren't leaving me here. I don't like Aunt Alicia."
"Of course you do," Mom said impatiently. "She's just like me."
Darcy rolled her eyes, but Mrs. Thomas was mumbling again and didn't see.
"Believe me, Darcy, I wasn't planning on seeing Jake this time, but Alicia lives miles from town—you remember me telling you about that gorgeous country home of hers?—and I only have two hours between flights. It was more convenient for her to pick you up here on her way home from work. And quit being so difficult, will you? Think of my happiness for a change."
"We always think of your happiness." Darcy sighed. "Mom, please—I don't want to stay with—"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, just wait here a minute," Mrs. Thomas returned sharply. "And stop complaining. Surely you can stand it with Alicia for a little while. It's not like I'm abandoning you!"
Darcy watched helplessly as her mother got out and disappeared into the old building. For one crazy instant she actually considered making a break for freedom, but since she didn't know where to run, she took her suitcase from the cab and went inside.
"What do you mean she was called away on business? She can't do this to me!"
Darcy heard her mother's voice bordering on its familiar hysteria, and she looked curiously around the lobby as she closed the door quietly behind her. There were two other doorways—one hung with red beads which seemed to lead off into darkness, and another, closed, but not muffling the raised voices behind it.
"And it's so nice to see you, too," a second voice responded dryly. "After all this time, how can I be so lucky?"
"What kind of a place is this, anyway? And look at your face! What was it this time? Money again? Some crazy new deal of yours? A jealous boyfriend you had to settle up with? God, Jake, you are so worthless! Alicia must be out of her mind—does she really expect me to leave Darcy here with you till she gets back? Why didn't she call me?"
"She did, but you'd already left. And you're absolutely right—we both know how crazy Alicia's always been. Well, it was great seeing you. I'll just show you out—"
"But I don't have anyone else to leave Darcy with! And I've got to get back to the airport!"
"Gone through all your friends, huh? Down to last, desperate measures?"
"I'm on my way to Europe to get married! I can't take Darcy on my honeymoon!"
"Especially when husband—wait, what is it now? Number four? Five? Gosh, it's so hard to keep up with your and Alicia's weddings! Anyway, especially when this husband doesn't particularly like the idea of having a kid around—isn't that what Alicia told me? Hey, Sis, you don't have to explain anything to me. Why should I care if you want to dump her and fly off to your rendezvous?"
"Are you sure Alicia said she'd only be gone a few days?" Mrs. Thomas broke in, as if she hadn't heard a word he'd said. "Well, I suppose if it's just for a few days—"
"Hey, please don't consider me in all this. After all, I don't have plans—my life is totally at your beck and call—"
"Don't be sarcastic, Jake, that's so like you. I don't have time to argue. I have a plane to catch."
"Sure you do. Forgive me for interfering with your busy schedule. Where's the kid?"
"Her name is Darcy. She's a very sweet, lovable girl."
"Yeah? Just like her mom and Aunt Piranha, huh?"
In spite of her misery Darcy almost smiled, imagining her mother's livid expression. Walking over to a counter, she studied the brochures scattered there—WELCOME TO THE DUNGEON—and turned as the office door burst open.
"Oh, Darcy." Mrs. Thomas looked flustered. "I thought I told you to wait for me in the cab. This is your Uncle Jake. Jake, this is—for God's sake, Darcy, don't stare, it's impolite."
Flushing, Darcy dropped her eyes, then cautiously raised them again. Even though she'd been told that Jake wasn't that much older than she, she hadn't expected such a boyish face, the thick brown hair falling stubbornly over the forehead, the faded jeans and dirty red jersey, the ratty-looking high-tops. He was tall, with a deliberate slouch, and insolent green eyes that seemed to be appraising her. One of his eyes was bruised and swollen, and there were several cuts and bruises on his tanned cheeks. He was eating popcorn from a bag, chewing slowly, one piece at a time, totally unbothered by the whole situation. This can't be my Uncle Jake ... this guy's gorgeous.
"Darcy," Mrs. Thomas was saying crisply, "there's been a slight change of plans. Your Aunt Alicia had some emergency on a case she's working on, so while she's away on business, you'll be staying here with your uncle. It's only for a few days. The minute Alicia gets back, she'll come and get you and—"
"Drag you kicking and screaming to safety," Jake finished, returning Mrs. Thomas's glare with a sardonic smile.
Darcy hid a smile of her own as her mother handed Jake a slip of paper.
"Here's a list of hotels where we'll be staying. Not that you'll need to get in touch with me for anything." She glanced at her watch and made an irritated sound in her throat. "I've got to get back to the airport—I've got to make that connecting flight." As Jake shoved the paper into his pocket, she walked over and looked down at Darcy. "I'll try and send a postcard or something.... It's just that I don't know how busy we'll be...."
Darcy nodded and looked away, her words squeezing painfully from her throat. "Have a nice time." She stiffened as her mother planted a kiss on her forehead.
"I love you, Darcy."
Another nod. Darcy felt her mother hesitate for a moment, waiting, and then the rush of damp air as the door closed.
The room filled with a terrible, empty silence.
"Well ..." Jake chewed on his popcorn, slowly crumpled the bag, and tossed it at the door Mrs. Thomas had gone out. "She hasn't forgotten how to do the martyr face."
Darcy's eyes lifted, shocked, and he shrugged.
"Sorry. She is your dear old mom, after all—"
"No," Darcy said quickly, surprising herself. "You're right. It is a martyr face. I know just what you mean, only I never quite knew how to describe it."
He cocked his head at her. "Well, kid, it looks like we're stuck with each other."
Suddenly Darcy felt tears threatening. "I'm really sorry."
"For what? It wasn't your idea, was it?"
"Well ... no ..."
"Mine, either. Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"Don't you want to see where you'll be living?"
Darcy reached for her suitcase. "Oh, are we going to your house now?"
"This is my house. And my family."
Darcy looked confused. "Mom didn't tell me you lived here. Or that you're married—"
"I didn't tell her I live here. It's hardly the Ritz, if you know what I mean. And I didn't say I was married. You don't have to be married to have a family, okay?"
"I guess you're right."
"I am right. Didn't you see the sign? This is an honest to goodness Dungeon of Horrors." He paused, waiting for her to look at him again. "Think of all the mad, bad characters you've ever heard about—or read about—or shivered at in the movies. Dr. Frankenstein. The Wolfman. Dracula." He moved toward the beaded curtain and swept it aside. "They're all here. Come on. Have a look."
Hesitantly Darcy went through, stopping at once as darkness engulfed her. She felt Jake move past and saw his outline materialize ahead of her.
"Track lights in the ceiling." Jake pointed. "You'll get used to it in a few seconds."
"It's really black in here."
"Yeah, I have to keep it low like this. It's the way they like it."
But Jake moved on ahead, and Darcy had no choice but to follow. It was almost like floating through a void, and as she groped along, cool, damp walls slid by beneath her fingertips. As they rounded a curve in the tunnel, Darcy could see a pale glow that seemed to be coming out of nowhere.
"Tableaus," Jake explained, leading her forward again. "Each character has his own little setup to really show him off. Each exhibit is set back in an alcove on its own little stage, so what you've got is a whole series of different scenes, like stills from horror movies. Here. The Mummy. Looks real, doesn't he?"
Jake stopped, pointing at a swaddled figure in the eerie light, its arms extended, dragging filthy wrappings across the floor.
"And this one." Jake nudged her on. "Poor Mr. Hyde."
Darcy peered in at the laboratory and the grotesquely transformed face of Dr. Jekyll. Before she could comment, Jake tugged her forward again.
"This one's my favorite. You do believe in vampires, don't you?"
As he pushed her to the guardrail, Darcy felt her skin crawl. There was the infamous Count Dracula, red lips curled back, fangs poised over the slender white neck of his female victim, who had fainted into his arms. In the very back of the alcove, practically hidden in shadows, rested a coffin with its lid raised, the red satin lining scattered with clods of earth which had spilled out onto the floor and run together in pools of shiny red blood.
Darcy turned away, strangely unsettled by the coffin. "How many exhibits are there?"
"Twenty-five in all. But I'm adding some."
"I never realized there were so many villains."
In the half light Jake's smile seemed masklike. "You'd be surprised."
Drawing a deep breath, Darcy continued on, stopping at each scene, shuddering at all the gory details. The Wolfman in his final agonies. Frankenstein's monster ripping his restraints, lumbering up from the operating table. The hideous Creature surfacing from the swampy waters of the Black Lagoon. Jack the Ripper fleeing the gaslit alleyways of London. Witches ... ghouls ... murderers ... monsters ... the depraved and hopelessly wicked ... Darcy saw them all, not wanting to look but compelled somehow, fascinated by the very wickedness that so repelled her. As they stood before the last exhibit, Jake moved his arms in an all-encompassing gesture.
"Like I said. My family."
Darcy shut her eyes, trying to force all the grisly scenes from her mind. "Well, at least your family's not dull."
He nodded slowly and leaned into the spotlight, the greenish glow going over his face so that his eyes and skin became one. Instinctively Darcy moved back.
"You don't want to go past here," Jake said, indicating a barricade of sawhorses at this end of the tunnel. "Those are the new exhibits we're putting together. Off-limits to the customers. Too easy for someone to get hurt. Or to hide." He cast her a sidelong glance and straightened. "Come on."
"Where are we going now?"
"But I thought you were closed."
"Not here. At the Club." He led her back the way they'd come. "It's a few blocks from here. I manage the place, so we probably won't be seeing much of each other."
"But—I thought—" Darcy broke off as they reached the lobby. The outside door was open, and two people were trying to close it against a gust of rain.
"Jake!" A girl spun around, frizzy red hair plastered to her freckled cheeks, glasses perched on the end of her upturned nose, lips painted as red as her hair. "Wait till you hear what happened. It's not safe to go anywhere anymore."
Beside her a boy was wringing water from his wet T-shirt onto the floor. "Hey, Jake, how's it going?" As he lifted his eyes, he noticed Darcy and broke off abruptly, running one hand through his combed-back hair. His eyes crinkled up as he smiled. "Oh, sorry. Hi. You must be Darcy."
"Hi." Darcy smiled back, feeling awkward as the girl turned and held her in a long, deliberate stare. It wasn't friendly.
"Darcy"—Jake brought a towel from the office and tossed it to the bedraggled pair—"Liz ... Kyle. Friends of mine."
"Nice to meet you." Darcy smiled again, uncomfortably. Liz was still staring, and there was an odd set to her lips that looked suspiciously like a sneer. Kyle reached out and shook Darcy's hand.
"Jake told us you were coming to visit your aunt, but I forgot it was today."
"Uhhh ... there's been a little change in plans," Jake broke in quickly. "Looks like I have a houseguest for a while."
"Oh, great," Liz snorted, and this time her sneer was unmistakable. "Just what you love most in the world."
"So what do you think about this place?" Kyle shifted his weight slightly, as if trying to block Darcy from Liz's view. "Pretty great, huh?"
"It's ... really fascinating." Darcy looked down at his hand still holding hers, then up again into his face. His dark hair shone with raindrops. His eyes were deep blue, with laugh lines at their corners, and there was a slight dimple in his chin.
"Just tell him," Liz said loudly. "Tell him about the murder."
"Murder?" Darcy looked alarmed, and Kyle released her hand and stepped back. His sleeveless shirt showed leanly muscled biceps, and both knees on his faded jeans were ripped out.
"Murder's nothing new," Jake said, a faint smile on his face. "Tell me something exciting, Liz."
"They found a girl in an alley over on Second Street," Liz went on. "Somebody slit her throat."
"And we knew her—sort of. She comes—came—into the Club a lot. The one always requesting songs." Kyle shook his head slowly. "She always came in alone, remember? Brandon always worried about her leaving so late all by herself—"
"Brandon doesn't think any girl should be by herself when he's around." Jake glanced slyly at Liz's furious expression and reached for Darcy's suitcase. "I'll take this upstairs. You need the bathroom or anything?"
"I'm fine," Darcy said.
"Go on and tell him the rest." Liz nudged Kyle roughly in the side. "About all the blood everywhere. And about the marks."
Kyle hesitated a moment. "Well ... she had these marks on her neck."
"I guess she would," Jake said offhandedly, "if her throat was cut."
"No, that's not what I meant." Kyle brought one hand slowly to his own neck, frowning. "Here—right over her jugular vein—there were these marks. I mean, they didn't break the skin or anything—it was like someone painted them on."
"Like his signature." Jake shrugged. "The murderer signing his name."
"Like bite marks," Kyle said solemnly. "You know. Like ... a vampire."CHAPTER 2
You're not what I expected," Liz said, studying Darcy with a cool stare.
Darcy moved her hands away from her ears, trying to hear through all the noise. The Club was packed, thick with smoke and dancing couples, laughter, shouting, and blaring music. From their corner booth she had a clear view of the stage where the band was finishing up its set, and as Liz spoke again, Darcy leaned closer, forcing a smile.
"What did you expect?"
"Someone more sophisticated, I guess. Not like a little kid who needs a babysitter for the summer. You are seventeen, aren't you?" Her lips moved in a mean smile. "But we hardly look the same age, you and I. In fact, Jake seems much older than you. I guess because he's so mature."
"Is he?" Darcy remembered Jake's jersey and sneakers and all the stories her mother had told her through the years. "We're only six years apart. My mother was already twelve when Jake was born."
Excerpted from Vampire by Richie Tankersley Cusick. Copyright © 1991 Richie Tankersley Cusick. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I first read this book when I was in fourth grade and still love it now 6 years later. It was my first glimpse into the amazing world of vampires. You have to read this book.
This book was amazing! Such a perfect mind game, keeping you reading until the very last word. Its literally perfect. I wish there was way more romance, though. My opinion, though. You need to read this. Now.
I first picked up this book in my library, because of the title. I am obsessed w/ vampires! This book is totally awesome! It is scary, exciting, and suspensful! It did'nt say who the real vampire was untul the last few pages. It is so cool how unique the characters are, and each one is a suspect! It is certainley a brilliant masterpiece!
This book was a real scary book. Every night when I read it I was afraid to go to sleep Cusik really puts the 'S' in scary.
This was one of the best books that I have read in my entire life! This book made you want to read more and more! Everyone who is a horror lover should read this book. It really is great!
I'm hooked on her books!Every one i've read was awesome. I started by picking one of her books out of the library by accident. I read it ,and found that she had more. I love her books!