Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 13

‘Much Dithering in Little Botheringham’ is an everyday tale of village life and vampires, from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

Ginny decided she had come out much too early to see the bats, either that or she had mistimed exactly when ‘sunset’ really was. From her ‘bat hide’ behind some bushes, but with a clear view of both the church and the belfry – at least she assumed it was a belfry – she saw the vicar. He was making his way through the churchyard and looked rather odd wearing a long duster-style coat as if he had stepped out of a spaghetti western or a Fields of the Nephilim video. He had a tank of something on his back with a spray gun in a holster. He also carried what looked like some sort of a gun. 
Ginny was no expert but it looked like the kind of gun her cousin Bradley had posed around with shooting tin cans from the garden wall one summer holiday in her early teens. Bradley had used it to shoot at pigeons too. That had been the summer she’d become vegetarian. So she was pretty sure the gun was nothing very dangerous unless it caught you in the eye.
Or unless you were a bat. 
But, surely not? This was a vicar not some crazy teenage cousin like Bradley. And Bradly was a semi-retired investment banker now. But the tank of chemicals on the vicar’s back spoke otherwise. 
Frozen to the spot by indecision, Ginny realised that even if she called the police the vicar could kill all the bats before help arrived. 
She wasn’t even aware she was up and running until she heard some mad-woman shouting abuse and realised it was herself and that she was running into the church behind the bat-hating vicar.
By the time she was inside he was unlocking the door to the belfry and he spun round. The lighting in the church must have been a bit odd because he looked as if his front teeth were too big to fit in his mouth properly and the whole of his face seemed to project towards her and she could have sworn his nose was twitching in anger. Then he stepped towards her and the strange effect was gone. His long coast swung back as he moved and she saw a wicked-looking hunting knife in a sheath on his belt.
“Ah, Virginia, so sorry but it’s a bit of a bad time. If you would like to join the flower arranging rota you’ll need to speak to Dolores St.John. She’s always keen for new recruits.”
As he spoke Ginny realised the gun – whatever sort it was – was pointing towards her.
“Uh. No. I wasn’t planning on–”
The vicar smiled, but instead of his usual rugged good looks, his mouth seemed rather narrow and in the subdued light, Ginny got the strangest impression of – fur.
“If it’s about writing a piece for the parish magazine, that would be wonderful. Thank you.” He took a step towards her which felt decidedly menacing. “You really should go now, Virginia, I have something important I need to do.”
“You’re not going to kill the bats.” Ginny had intended it to come out as a firm denunciation, but instead, it emerged from her mouth as more of a strangled squeak.
The vicar giggled.
“You’re not going to kill the bats,” he echoed mockingly. “Well that’s where you’re wrong Virginia Creeper. That is exactly what I am going to do. I’m going to eradicate every last flying rat from this belfry and you should leave right now.”
“But they’re protected!”
The vicar looked around theatrically.
“Doesn’t look like it to me. Not at the moment anyway.”
Common sense was sternly lecturing Ginny that this man was clearly deranged and that her best course would be to run from the church and call for help. But she knew if she did that the bats would indeed be unprotected. Instead, she took out her phone and started filming.
“If you do anything to the bats, I’ll show the world what kind of monster you are.”
Which was perhaps the worst – as well as the last – mistake of her life.
“Why did you say that, you stupid woman?”
The vicar seemed to bound across the distance between them in a single jump, knocking the phone from her hand. His face, thrust right into hers, was no longer human, but covered in soft brown and black fur, with round doe-like eyes. What had been his hair was now long ears.
The vicar was a giant rabbit.
The impossibility of that stunned her as the force of his bound hit her in the chest and Ginny was thrown backwards. She just had time to see the long yellow front teeth and the barrel of his gun caught the last rays of the setting sun through the narthex window as she fell, then her head hit the stone flags stones of the church floor and there was nothing.

Part 14 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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