It was a high-pitched scream that woke Elvi. Piercing and full of terror, it ripped her from sleep and had her moving before she was quite awake. She started up abruptly only to curse and drop back down when her head slammed into the wooden lid of the coffin.
Groaning at the pain vibrating through her skull, Elvi closed her eyes against the stars dancing before them and pressed a hand against her forehead. She’d really cracked herself good and would have liked to clasp her head in both hands and roll around in agony for a moment, but the casket wouldn’t allow it.
And then a second terrified shriek reminded her of why she was awake.
She reached out with the hand not holding her head and gave the coffin lid a shove that sent it flying open. She then had to release her head to get up. Climbing out of a coffin was a two-handed job, and ridiculously strenuous first thing in the morning. Especially before her first bag of blood.
Elvi cursed her way out of the contraption, her bare feet slapping on the hardwood floor as she hurried out of her room without even bothering to grab a robe to cover the white cotton nightgown she wore. Another scream cut the air as she raced up the hall. A fourth was being issued just as she burst into Mabel’s room. Elvi slammed the door open, uncaring that it crashed into the wall and probably left a lovely hole.
She spotted Mabel at once, standing on the bed in her robe, backed against the wall, silver hair a chaotic mass around her head and eyes wide with panic. The woman was waving a body brush wildly in the air at a bat that was swooping just as wildly around the room near the ceiling. She was also, apparently, screeching every time the winged animal came anywhere near her. Elvi watched as the bat swerved to avoid hitting the far wall and swooped back toward Mabel, setting off another shriek.
Veering to the side to avoid the waving shower brush, the bat swept through the open bathroom door and briefly out of sight. Elvi rushed over and slammed the door closed, trapping it inside.
“Oh!” Mabel collapsed on the bed, hugging the shower brush to her chest. “Oh, thank God.”
Elvi propped her hands on her hips and scowled at her housemate. “You opened your windows last night.”
Mabel sighed at the accusation in her voice. “I had to open the windows. It was hot, Elvi.”
“I know it was hot, Mabel. I live here too.”
“But your windows have screens on them. The ones in your bedroom, at least.”
“I sleep in a coffin,” she pointed out in dry tones. “There are no windows in a coffin. Trust me, I know it was hot. But you can’t open your windows until the replacement screens are in.”
“Well, when the hell are they going to put them in already?” Mabel asked impatiently. “It’s been two weeks now.”
“They had to be specially made and shipped from the manufacturer,” Elvi reminded her.
“Yes, because every damned window in this place is a different size,” Mabel muttered.
Elvi’s mouth quirked with amusement at her disgust. “Welcome to the world of Victorian houses. Ain’t it great?”
“Ha!” Mabel snarled, and then sat up with alarm when Elvi moved toward the door to the hall. “Hey! Where are you going?”
“Back to my coffin.”
“But what about the bat?” she asked with dismay, scrambling off the bed as quickly as her sixty-two-year-old body would allow and hurrying after her.
“What about it?” she asked, continuing up the hall.
“Well, aren’t you going to get it out of my bathroom?”
“Do I look stupid to you?” Elvi asked with disbelief. “I’m not going near that thing. Call Animal Control.”
“Animal Control? They won’t be open now.”
“They must have someone on call for emergencies. Call and find out,” Elvi said firmly over her shoulder.
“But that could take hours,” Mabel protested. “Can’t you just get it out? I mean, you should have some sort of affinity with it.”
Elvi paused at the door to her own room and turned on her in amazement. “Do I look like a flying rat to you?”
“No, of course not,” Mabel said quickly, then added, “but you’re a vampire and it’s a bat…There should be some empathy or understanding or…something. Maybe if you tried you could talk to it.”
“Right, and by that reasoning we should all be able to talk to monkeys. Let’s try that the next time we’re near a zoo,” Elvi snorted, then repeated, “call Animal Control.”
“Elvi!” Mabel cried and stomped her foot when Elvi turned to continue on into her room. “I can’t take a shower with that thing in there.”
“Mabel, there are six bathrooms in this house with showers and tubs. Use one of the others.”
Elvi closed the door on her further protest and moved toward the coffin, but paused when her eye caught the time on the digital clock on her dresser. Whipping back around, she yanked her door open and scowled at Mabel’s retreating back. “It’s nine o’clock!”
“So?” Mabel sounded miffed and kept walking.
“So why didn’t you wake me up at eight o’clock like I asked?”
“Because you haven’t been sleeping well, and you’re exhausted, and I decided to let you sleep in…rather kindly in my opinion, but then I’m a kind considerate person…unlike some people who won’t even try to talk to a bat for a dear faithful friend.”
Elvi scowled over the attempt to put her on a guilt trip, and then ground out, “Mabel, it’s Owen’s birthday today. I have to make a cake and see to the decorations, and—”
Heaving out a long-suffering sigh, Mabel paused and turned to face her. “I saw to the decorating earlier and then came home for a shower for the festivities. I was going to wake you after I’d showered. As for the cake…” She shrugged. “They’ll wait. The party can’t start without you.”
When Elvi just stood glaring at her, Mabel waved her away. “Go on. Go take your shower. I’ll get dressed and then come help you get ready since I can’t shower.”
“Call Animal Control,” Elvi growled, refusing to feel guilty, then slammed her door shut.
“I just can’t believe it. An immortal advertising in the Wanted Items ads in the Toronto Star! Unbelievable.”