Blood for the Vampire Dead can be found in

Mystery Tales, March 1940

Was this then the horrible price Tim Croft must pay for his disbelief in devil-magic philtres?- forfeiture of his own lovely fiancee's life-blood to the undead corpse of Haunted Hollow!


by Robert Leslie Bellem

Author of "Curse of the Lovely Torso," etc.

OVER the wind's midnight howling and the demoniac swirl of the mountain rainstorm came the frantic cry of a man harassed by some hideous mental torment. "Doc Croft! For God's sake open up afore hit's too late!"

Tim Croft, recently assigned by the state health authorities to take charge of this tiny charity hospital in the deep Ozarks, came abruptly awake as he heard the agonized call punctuated by an insistent hammering on the front door of his cabin, which was located to one side of the hospital proper. He slid his feet into worn slippers, made a light, crossed the cabin's single room and opened the rough, hard-hewn door.

A spindrift of rain flurried at him, and with it came the man who had called out so despairingly. He was Jeb Starko from up in Haunted Hollow, a mile beyond the ridge—an area bedeviled, according to local superstition, by ghosts and similar evil creatures of the night. Soaked to the skin, his unshaven face pasty with fear, Starko stumbled over the threshold. "You got to stop 'em, doc!" he mouthed. "They're a-comin' to git my Eula!"

"Coming to get your wife? But she's—" Tim Croft choked back the gloomy news he had for the mountaineer. "Who's coming, and why?" he demanded.

"The Ludwells from down in the flats, damn 'em! They're a-sayin' as how Eula is a witch-vampire like the hants that roam the ridge, an' they're aimin' to kill her. They'll do for you an' your nurses, too, if you ain't careful!"

Croft's nostrils pinched in as he drew a deep breath. The Ludwells were members of a clan which, from the very outset, had fiercely resented his coming to the region as only the deeply superstitious can resent progress. More than once they had muttered dark threats against him because of his efforts to educate the natives away from their old beliefs in herbs and charms and devil-magic philtres. If it were really true that they were now on their way to the hospital, then trouble was definitely brewing.

THERE was an old revolver in the top drawer of Tim Croft's desk. He got it and thrust it into the pocket of his bathrobe. Then he pivoted as he heard scurrying footfalls behind him. His day nurse, Brenda Lemoyne, came pelting into the room, clad in a slicker over her nightgown. Daintily blonde and alluringly pretty, she panted: "Tim, darling, what's wrong? I heard a commotion—"

His arm went possessively about her slender waist. Some day Brenda would be his wife, when he had achieved a promotion to some more important post; and because his love for her was so great, he frowned uneasily at her presence in his quarters now. "You should have stayed in your cabin with Edith Paxon," he said gravely, referring to the nurse who shared duty with Brenda.

"But—but Edith isn't there. I looked for her before I came over here, but I couldn't find her. Tim—tell me what the trouble is!"

"The Ludwells are on their way here."

"The Ludwells? Oh, Tim, I—I'm frightened!"

"I'll handle them," he said evenly.

She shivered as she clung to him. "Maybe you won't be able to. You know how they hate us, Tim. And that Lige Ludwell is... dangerous. Only today, down in the village, somebody told me Lige turned his own daughter out into the storm after whipping her with a leather strap—because she'd fallen in love with a boy Lige disliked. A man capable of doing a thing like that is capable of doing... uglier things."

Croft summoned a smile. "Maybe they won't come here, after all."

Even as he spoke the words, the trembling Jeb Starko pointed through the open doorway toward the road. "Don't fool yourself, doc. Here they be n...

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