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The Stake is a novel by Richard Laymon first published in 1990. It was paired with Funland in volume 6 of the Richard Laymon collection.

Summary

"My name is Lawrence Dunbar. I am a writer of horror fiction..." So begins Larry Dunbar's new book and just for once it is a true story - a frightening account of his own experiences.

"Somebody hammered a pointed shaft of wood through the heart of a woman. He left her inside a lidless coffin, and hid her corpse beneath the stairway of an abandoned hotel in the town of Sagebrush Flat."

Now Larry is personally involved in this ghoulish mystery and the evidence is rotting in a coffin in his garage with a stake through its heart. For once real life has the author by the throat, leading him inexorably to the moment when he must put himself on the line. Was the woman in the coffin an innocent victim of a callous murderer - or was she a vampire? There's only one way for Larry to find out. He must summon all his courage - and pull out the stake...

Plot

Horror author Larry, his wife Jean and their neighbours Pete and Barbara are exploring the deserted town of Sagebrush Flat on a weekend trip. Pete decides to sneak into an abandoned Inn. When Barbara falls through some worn-out floorboards, the four discover a coffin hidden under the stairway. Inside the coffin is a mummified corpse of a young girl with a wooden stake in her heart. Disgusted, Larry, Jean and Barbara beg Pete to let them go home.

At home, Larry makes plans for his new novel, as his last one has been edited to the point where it's no longer his work. Pete calls Larry and suggests that they go back to the Inn and retrieve the casket. Larry reluctantly goes with him. Along the way, Pete suggests using this experience to write a new vmpire-themed novel. The two take the coffin home and hide it in Larry's garage attic. As Larry gets to work, he finds himself writing not vampire fiction, but a true account of the events. He gets so excited about this new piece that he stays up late writing, getting drunk along the way.

The next morning, Larry finds himself in the garage and naked next to the corpse, with its hand between its legs. Larry removes its hand and notices that the corpse has a ring on its finger with the name Bonnie Saxon '68 engraved on it, along with a school emblem. Larry recognises the ring as a graduation gift from the school where his daughter Lane goes. Larry then asks Lane to find a 1968 yearbook and bring it home for him to research.

At school, Lane is gradually losing interest in her sexually-aggressive boyfriend Jim, who makes absolutely no effort to get to know her or her friends. As Lane outgrows Jim, she begins to notice her teacher Hal Kramer. Kramer helps her loan the yearbook for 1968 and lets her stay behind after classes as a favour to him. Lane notices that the local badgirl Jessica coming to class battered within an inch of her life. She suspects Jessica's boyfriend Riley of hitting her. In reality, it was Kramer who attacked Jessica, as he had been raping her on a daily basis. Kramer later kills Jessica and her family and sets fire to their house, as he's decided to move onto Lane.

Lane comes to class the next day having heard about Jessica's death. She offers her condolences to Riley, but he attackes her. Kramer punches Riley and has him transferred to a school for delinquents. That night, Lane, Jim and Lane's friends go to the movies. When Jim tries to fondle Jane during the film, Jane loses her temper with him and storms out. Jim tries to get back into her good graces with another insincere apology, but when one of Lane's friends tells him off, Jim tries to fight him and Lane tells him that it's over.

Larry's research into Bonnie's history quickly grows into an obsession, as he finds himself physically attracted to her when she was alive. He goes so far as to cut oher photos out of the yearbook and gaze at them in the middle of the night. He tries to get his feelings of lust out of his system by making love to Jean, but only feels guilty for doing so. Larry then imagines that Bonnie is talking to him from beyond the grave, not just in his dreams but during the day as well.

Larry goes to the public library to find out more on Bonnie's murder. He finds out that Bonnie was one of three girls who were murdered that year by an unknown serial killer. At the center of all these cases is a man named Uriah Radley. Uriah had lost his wife and daughter and Larry believes that they, along with Bonnie and the other two girls, were murdered by a delusional vampire-killer.

Larry and Pete go back to the Sagebrush Inn in the hopes of finding even more information about Bonnie and the other girls. They are attacked by a hermit who tries to ram a stake in Pete's heart. Larry manages to stop him by shooting the hermit through the cheeks and leaves him unconscious in a ravine. As Larry rightfully suspects, this man was Uriah Radley. Uriah had spent the last 20 years watching over the corpses of his victims, believing them to be vampires that murdered his wife and daughter and that he only commits murder in the name of God. All of his targets were beautiful young girls because he believes that a servant of God should be indulged for his efforts. Recognising Larry and Pete as the men who took Bonnie's corpse away, believes them to be her vampire slaves. He spends the next few days following their van home and planning his attack.

Lane and a few other students go with Kramer to a Hamlet play on Saturday night. Kramer drops the others at home, but offers to take Lane to the docks to see his prize boat. While on the boat, Kramer gives Lane a shoulder massage. Lane initially yields, but begins to feel a sense of dread as Kramer begins to undress her. She tries to fight back, but Kramer hits her hard enough to subdue her. He then rapes Lane, stating that "This is what you wanted. This is what we both wanted..."

Kramer drops Lane at home, threatening her to keep her mouth shut or he'll kill her parents. She comes to the conclusion that Jessica's bruises and later death were caused by Kramer doing the same thing to her. She stays up late that night and notices that her father was sleep-walking to the garage. She looks into the attic and sees him talking to the corpse of Boniie Saxon. Horrified, Lane snaps her father out of it just as he's about to pull the stake out. Shaken up, Larry decides to confess to Lane and Jean about the corpse. When Jean hears, she is livid. She calls Barbara and tells her to come over with Pete. Larry and Pete explain how they're only keeping the corpse for the sake of the book Larry's writing. The five of them decide that they'll film the pulling of the stake, just to confirm that the corpse is not a vampire and turn the body over to the authorities so that they can reopen the case.

Too scared to tell her parents about Kramer, Lane decides to get Riley to help her exact vengeance. Riley distrusts her at first, but when she mentions Kramer killing Jessica, he decides to help. They can't find Kramer at his house, so they wait until Monday when his guard will be down. Monday comes, but Lane is too scared to go to school and pretends to be sick. That night, Kramer drops by the Dunbar's house to deliver her homework, as well as threaten her some more. He manages to stay for dinner and hears all about the case of Bonnie Saxon. Lane has an emotional outburst after listening to everyone joke about vampires when the reality is that a girl's life was destroyed. 

The five of them, sans Lane, go to the garage and prepare to pull the stake out of Bonnie. Kramer is handed a bow and arrow by Pete in case Bonnie comes back as a vampire. Lane skulks around inside the house before gaining the courage to go to the garage and see. She sees Larry about to pull out the stake and Kramer aiming an arrow at the corpse. Fearing that Kramer might try to kill her father, Lane attacks him. Kramer punches her out of the way. The others quickly realise that Kramer's not all that he seems and come at him as Kramer pulls out a razor. Larry, realising i that moment that Kramer had raped his daughter, pulls the stake out and drives it into Kramer's neck, seeing him as a far more real monster than Bonnie ever could be.

As Kramer's and Bonnie's bodies are taken to the morgue, Uriah finds the Dunbar house. He sneaks in, hoping to find Bonnie Saxon and stake her again. He finds Lane sleeping on the couch. As Lane bears a passing resemblance to Bonnie, Uriah assumes that they're one and the same. He prepares to stake Lane, first removing her blanket and cutting open her nightshirt, as he likes to strip his female victims naked before killing them.

The next day, Larry wakes up and sees Uriah's mangled corpse in the kitchen. He warns Lane and Jean to stay out as he staggers to the garage. To his surprise, Bonnie Saxon appears before him alive and well. Bonnie reveals that she is indeed a vampire and his dreams of her were actually Bonnie communicating with him. Bonnie also didn't kill Uriah's wife and daughter. It was one of the other vampire-girls that Uriah killed and only beacuse she was in a bad mood. To Larry's surprise, Bonnie reveals that vampires aren't weakened or killed by sunlight and that most of them are actually quite kind-hearted. She expresses her gratitude to Larry for bringing her back to life and takes some of his blood. Biting him won't make Larry a vampire, but it will allow Bonnie to keep watch over him. Larry offers to let Bonnie stay with him, but Bonnie wishes to live at sea after being trapped inland for so long. Kissing Larry goodbye, Bonnie vanishes.

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