Henry Fields, Jr.
Henry Fields, Jr. was born in 1950, in Wayne, Pennsylvania, a very nice suburb of Philadelphia. His father, Henry Fields, Sr., had a MBA from Villanova University and worked in the trust department of a prominent bank in center city. His father took the Paoli Local, now known as the R5, into the center of Philadelphia every morning, Monday through Friday, for work.
About the time Henry was seven or eight, he began noticing that something was quite different about his father. His dad did not eat cereal, oatmeal, eggs, bacon, toast, or any of the other various items most people eat for breakfast. Nor did he have a morning coffee. His dad consumed sixteen ounces from the Joseph P. Schmidt and Sons brewing company, Philadelphia, PA, for breakfast, every day, seven days a week. Henry Fields, Sr., was a hard-core alcoholic.
Henry, Jr. also noticed something else about his father. Henry, Sr. liked to use Mrs. Fields, who was a loving mother and housewife, as a punching bag. There was more than one occasion when Henry noticed a black eye, puffy cheek, or split lip on Mom. Henry adored his mother, and this disturbed him. He did not quite understand why anyone would want to hurt her.
Henry, Jr. had a sister who was three years older than he. She was a pretty brunette with a happy smile and bright eyes. Henry, Sr. had taken to slapping her a bit. When Henry caught his father slapping his sister, he stepped in and tried to stop it. After all, his big sister was crying. His reward was to get punched. His father didn't hit him hard. He only banged on Henry enough to cause the youngster pain and humiliation. From that moment on, an angry fire began to smolder inside of him, one that would not erupt for more than ten years. But when it did, Henry, Sr. would finally get his.
Two weeks after her high school graduation, in 1965, big sis would move out. She would only return home to see Mom when Dad was not around. Henry, however, could count on the occasional punch or two.
In 1968, Henry graduated from high school. The war in South Vietnam had been quite messy, and there was a military draft in effect. Henry, to avoid being drafted and sent to Nam, enlisted in the Army for a four-year hitch. In August, he reported to Fort Benning, GA, for basic training. And Henry promptly got screwed.
February 1969, found Henry, Jr. at a firebase in the Central Highlands. Richard M. Nixon had been elected President, and he had a plan to get the United States out of the mess in Southeast Asia. The problem was that the plan would take effect too late to help Henry.
Henry had the standard thirteen-month rotation. Then he would be shipped back stateside to finish up his enlistment commitment. Since Nixon was in the White House, things were getting a bit quieter than normal. The North Vietnamese were waiting to see what would happen, but there was still a lot of fighting going on all over this poor, torn country. Two days before Henry was to rotate back to America, a North Vietnamese barrage dropped a round on the ammunition dump for Henry's firebase. Henry wasn't that close, but he was close enough. Two pieces of shrapnel from the explosion landed in his body. One caught him in the left thigh, deep and high, and the other in his left side, just below the rib cage. Henry had a discharge waiting once he healed.
In August 1970, Henry was discharged from the United States Army and sent home to suburban Philly. While he was overseas, his sister had married. She and her husband were slowly starving themselves to death while attending college. She was at Villanova; he was at St. Joseph's. They appeared to be happy, and she was overjoyed to see her baby brother.
The only other change was in Henry Fields, Sr. He no longer drank sixteen ounces of beer in the morning. He had graduated to Seagram's VO, taken neat, from a glass. How his father functioned was beyond Henry.
Just after Labor Day, 1970, Henry found a job. There was a small, but very exclusive restaurant in Wayne called, appropriately enough, "The General Wayne." The community of Wayne, PA, was named for General "Mad Anthony" Wayne of Revolutionary War fame. The restaurant specialized in serving gourmet English fare, and it was not uncommon to find pheasant or venison on the menu. Henry went to work as a waiter.
Just after Christmas, 1970, Henry got promoted to bartender. He was working six nights a week, and making a decent amount of money. His father, of course, belittled the promotion. He ridiculed his son at every opportunity, and began to attempt to punch him. Attempt is an appropriate word. Even though Henry walked with a bit of a limp because of his wounds, he was still agile enough to slip his father's punches. He was young, did not smoke, and hardly touched alcohol. His father, on the other hand, was really beginning to show the effects of long-term alcohol abuse, both physically and mentally. Henry Fields, Sr. also began to beat up on his wife with an ever-increasing frequency. And the smoldering fire inside of Henry began to burn.
One evening, after work, his father took a swing at him. Henry had had enough. He swung back. The neighbors finally called the police. When they arrived, Henry was pummeling his father's face in the middle of the back yard. They pulled Henry Jr. off of Henry Sr. and got him calmed down. Of course, no charges would be pressed. This was a family affair. Henry Sr. was taken to the hospital, where he would spend two weeks recovering from four missing teeth, a broken nose, a broken jaw, numerous contusions and abrasions, a concussion, and three cracked ribs. The fire had caught.
Henry got accepted at Temple University, to start as a full-time student, in the fall of 1971. He spoke to the owner of the restaurant, and the owner, who was a World War II vet, agreed Henry could work part-time. He was aware of Henry's home situation and was supportive.
Henry bought a beat-up 1964 Chevy Impala to use for short trips. He would never take it to Temple. The car was a wreck, and really wasn't dependable. Instead, Henry would ride the train, much like his father. He would take the Paoli Local to Suburban Station, and then board the Broad Street Subway, northbound, to Temple. He usually left at five in the morning, and returned home around nine-thirty at night. He was studying secondary education, and hoped to teach history. On weekends, he worked as bartender at the restaurant. He hardly ever saw his father, which suited him just fine. But he sorely missed his mother.
In early May 1974, three things happened to Henry Fields, Jr., that, when combined, would change his life for the better forever. The first was bad. It was very bad. Philadelphia, at that time, had a major gang problem in North Philadelphia. Temple University was in North Philadelphia. One fine early spring Friday night, as Henry was wrapping up a day of study and research and walking towards the subway station, a gang fight erupted. Henry walked into the middle of it.
There were some shots fired, and Henry dove for the street. But he was not fast enough. A stray bullet caught Henry in the top of his left thigh, near his war wound. Henry rolled to his back, unbuckled his belt, and began to yank it out from his jeans. He was bleeding profusely and needed to quickly improvise a tourniquet. Better a limb then a life, as the army used to say. He was also a bit upset that he had gotten shot in the same area where the shrapnel had landed a few years earlier.
Henry finished wrapping the belt around the top of his left thigh and tied it off as well as he was able. The bleeding began to slow, but the gang fight did not. It was then that Henry saw something shocking. A man, slightly under six feet tall, with dark brown hair worn in a ponytail, a dark-brown beard and moustache trimmed close, dressed in flared jeans, a tie-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirt, and sandals, slowly walked through the crossfire. He was smiling and looking directly at Henry. Henry was sure he saw the man take a few bullets, but the hippie just kept on walking, finally stopping and looking down at Henry.
The stranger picked Henry up as if he were picking up a small child. He carried Henry to the entrance of an alley, and lay him down gently. Then, he kneeled over Henry, slit his left wrist with his right thumbnail, and jammed the bleeding wound into Henry's mouth. He allowed Henry three mouthfuls, and then he stood up, smiled, and walked away.
When the gang fight ended, Henry was taken to Temple University Hospital and put immediately into surgery. The surgeon was surprised at the fact that the wound was already starting to heal. Indeed, it seemed as if the bullet was working its way out of Henry's leg. After the surgery, Henry was sent to a room to recover.
The police, of course, talked with Henry. It didn't take them long to establish the fact that he was merely an innocent bystander who wandered into a bad place. They did not believe any part of his story about the hippie who fed him blood. A police psychiatrist came to visit, spoke with Henry, and determined that Henry had gone into shock from loss of blood and hallucinated the entire episode. Of course, that did not explain Henry's presence of mind and quick reaction in fashioning a tourniquet. Henry merely smiled and listened to what the psychiatrist said. He knew what he had seen.
The second event happened roughly less than one month later. Henry was tending bar at the restaurant on a Saturday night. The owner kept the restaurant open late on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. After nine pm, he served light snacks and drinks to customers coming from the theatre or other entertainment. He closed at eleven-thirty. Henry was working the late shift, as school was out for the term and he needed the money.
The bar was small, seating only eight. Most people preferred to do their drinking at one of the tables, or, if it was warm, outside on the sidewalk patio. The restaurant was pretty much empty, as it was a lovely night. Henry was setting up his bar for Sunday when the sweet aroma of a cigar tickled his nostrils.
He looked to his right, got a shock, and quickly recovered. There, at the end of the bar, sat the hippie who fed him blood. His attire was different, being a navy pinstriped suit, vest, and solid black tie over a white button-down Oxford shirt. But, there was no mistake on Henry's part whatsoever. It was the same man. Henry approached him and asked him what he would like to drink.
The man smiled and answered in a soft and mellow baritone. He only wanted a glass of the house Chardonnay. Henry quickly complied and asked if the man would like a snack. The man said no, and Henry went back to his bar.
The evening grew late. Henry looked at the man on his right, sitting there and slyly smiling. The wine was untouched. Henry informed him that it was closing time. The man merely smiled, stood up, paid for the drink, left a very generous tip, and walked outside. Once outside, he lit another cigar.
Henry cleared his register and walked out the front door of the restaurant. There, leaning against an expensive BMW, was the man. He smiled and spoke to Henry.
"You remembered me."
"Of course." Henry was very, very cautious. "How could I forget? I am Henry Fields, Jr. Have you a name?"
"And, of course, you told the police what happened, and they did not believe you. Am I correct?"
Henry was a bit miffed that the man did not give up his name, but still nodded in assent. He looked the man over carefully. There was something about him that suggested great power and strength in an average frame. Henry would tread carefully.
"And, of course," continued the man, "you healed very quickly, a fact that amazed all of your attending physicians. That is one of the effects of the cocktail, as I choose to call it. Would you like some more, Henry?"
Before Henry knew it, he had spoken one word, "Yes." He began to walk toward his car, the man following. Henry got into the driver's side; the man took the passenger seat. He slit his wrist, and Henry began to sip. The man allowed him two mouthfuls. When it was finished, the man got out of the car and spoke only two words. "Be careful."
Henry fired up his battered Chevy and headed for home. He was as high as a kite. He felt like he could conquer the world.
When Henry arrived at home and entered the living room, his father whacked him on the back of the head with a baseball bat. Anyone else would have dropped to the floor, out cold. Henry felt the blow, but didn't go down. He spun around, an ugly rage inside of him. He grabbed the bat from Henry Sr., right hand on the handle, and broke it over his knee like a stick of kindling. And then he pointed it at his father and screamed.
"I've had it with you! I am gonna kill you! I'd shove this stick up your ass, old man, but you might enjoy it! Who in the hell do you think you are?"
Henry's mother, hearing the disturbance, rushed downstairs from the bedroom in time to see her son punch his father in the stomach, and then, as Henry Sr. folded like cheap cardboard, begin to bang his father's face off of his right knee. She threw herself between the two men and begged Henry Jr. to stop, the tears flowing like a hard rain.
At that point, the man from the bar walked into the house and stepped between the two men. He parted the Fields men and managed to get Henry, Sr. lying on the floor. He helped Mrs. Fields to a sofa and comforted her. Henry Jr. simply stood there, breathing hard, fists clenched, and tried to regain his composure.
"I am Henry's good friend, Mrs. Fields. My name is Jack. I will take care of your son. Please, tend to your husband."
Jack arose from the sofa, grasped Henry by the elbow, and guided him outside. The two men slowly began to walk.
"So," said Henry, anger filling his voice and his heart still racing, "you have a name. More important than who are you is what are you. So, what in God's name are you?"
Jack chuckled softly and began to speak. Henry detected a light British overtone to the speech. The man was educated, no doubt, and quite possibly British.
"To some," said Jack, "I am a demon. To others, an angel. Like so much in life, it all depends in your point of view."
"Cut the crap!" screamed Henry, clenching his right fist.
"Well," said Jack, smiling, "since you insist so forcefully, I am a vampire. Does that answer your question? And I have fed you vampire blood. But you, Henry Fields Jr., are not a vampire, merely a ghoul. And a ghoul in my service."
Henry laughed out loud, calming immediately. Everyone knew that there was no such thing as a vampire. Henry unbuttoned the top of his shirt. When he went to the service, a girl he had known gave him a small gold crucifix to wear. He put it on when he went to Viet Nam and had never taken it off. He now waved it in the air in front of Jack's face.
Jack reached up, still smiling, and held the cross in the palm of his hand.
"Ummmmmmmmm," said Henry, displaying three years of college, "shouldn't you get burnt, or run away, or blow up, or something?"
Jack roared with laughter. He led Henry back home, and the two sat on the front porch. And, once there, Jack began Henry's real education.
"Henry, I am a vampire. Now, forget everything you have heard, seen, or read about vampires. It is all myth and legend. We are an old race. We have been here as long as man. Do we serve God or Satan? It is a question for philosophers to answer. We survive, and in a lot of cases, thrive. Understood?"
Henry nodded, but asked the question anyhow. "What can you do?"
"We feed on human blood, Henry," Jack went on. "And sunlight will destroy us. As will fire. But we do not sleep in coffins, merely in dark rooms. We can be killed. If we bleed faster than our blood heals us, we will die. You have seen me walk through a cross fire and take three bullets. It did not even bother me. You have sampled the power of vampire blood, even though it was diluted with your own. Do you not agree that we are a force?"
Henry merely shook his head.
"We live very long lives, Henry," Jack continued. "There are stories of vampires who have lived thousands of years. Their powers are almost immeasurable. And we have great power, which, like all power, can be abused. You have sampled the power. The longer a vampire lives, the more power they acquire. As we grow older, we have the power to alter our appearance. I am quite old by human terms; over two centuries. And I wish you, Henry, to serve me as my ghoul. If you accept, I will continue with your education at a later date."
Henry looked at the house behind him. Worrying about his mother would take a lot out of him. He was concerned.
"I know, Henry," said Jack tenderly, "you think of your mother. She will never leave your father. It is a situation out of your control. But, as a ghoul, I can promise you that you will find a way to ease her pain. That much, for now, I can give you."
"Jack," said Henry, looking Jack squarely in the face, "what do I need to do?"
"You will receive a third feeding, Henry. After that, you will have become addicted to the vampire blood and require one feeding a month. Withdrawal will mean a slow, agonizing death. If you serve me well, you will never suffer or want. You will age slowly and rarely suffer disease. When you decide you know longer want to serve, you have two options. The first is I will deliver a quick and merciful death. The second option is to be embraced, and join me in the vampire community."
"And what if I choose not to become your ghoul?"
"Then I walk away," said Jack, very matter-of-fact in his tone. "Of course, you have the option to go to the police. But do you think, for one minute, that you will be taken seriously?"
Unbeknownst to Jack, Henry had already made up his mind. The vampire and his future ghoul said good night, and Henry went back into the house and helped his mother before going to bed.
One month later, Jack gave Henry his third feeding. Henry was now a full-fledged ghoul. Jack's first order to Henry was to finish his education, an order which Henry obeyed. Henry graduated from Temple in June of 1975 with his BS in secondary education. When Henry graduated, he went to work for Jack, but not as a teacher. It was to be a very long and profitable association.
One other event bears mentioning concerning the young Henry Fields, Jr. In the middle of February 1975, Henry Fields Sr., while returning home from work, slipped on some ice on the steps of the westbound platform at the Wayne train station. He tumbled to the bottom, and smacked the back of his head on the granite steps. The resulting blood clot was inoperable, and Henry Sr. died. Some said he was pushed, but that was never proven. And the local police in Wayne, Pennsylvania, were not overly energetic in their investigation.