Historical fiction novel, by Dimitris Apergis. Exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS in 36 weekly episodes, in English and Greek languages.
Synopsis: London, 1824. The boss of London's Crime Syndicate, Wilbur Barnaby, assigns two men to travel to the -rebelling against the Ottomans- country of Greece and locate the poet Lord Byron in order to obtain a gambling debt of his to the underworld. One of the two men is Welsh Bugs Hamhaduke, the so-called "neckwringer." The other is the enigmatic Lord Greywood. The two men will embark on an adventurous journey to the Greek city of Missolonghi via Paris. None of those involved, however, is aware of Lord Greywood's terrible secret: That he actually belongs to the Order of Strigoi Morti, the oldest and most dangerous generation of vampires.
ISBN : 978-618-00-1549-2
PRELUDE : Guilá Naquitz (1 chapter)
PART ONE : London (4 chapters)
PART TWO : Paris (10 chapters)
PART THREE : Vampires (10 chapters)
PART FOUR : Missolonghi (10 chapters)
EPILOGUE : Los Angeles (1 chapter)
[ep. 05 of 36]
PART ONE : London
Lord Greywood's meeting with Bugs Hamhaduke took place on a Wednesday night at Mrs. Salmon 's Waxworks on Fleet Street. Mrs Salmon's Waxworks were housed in the four-storey building at No. 17 the facade of which was adorned by a crookedly fixed sign that said THE WAX WORK. The site's exhibits largely depicted historical events of grand guignol style such as the decapitation scene of King Charles I, the whipping of Queen Voadicia, Canaanite women offering their children as sacrifice to the god Moloch and a scene of Countess Margaret of Henneberg with her 365 children that she's said to have given birth to all at once.
At every step inside the showroom, Bugs Hamhaduke would not fail to make his disgusting presence noted either with awful chuckles of excitement (he was particularly impressed by King Charles I's beheading scene and mimicked pompously the pose of the executioner) or by the intense stench of breweries that emanated from his obese stature, a stench defined by smoked gammon and rancid alcohol. The formally dressed visitors of the gallery were regrouping within the expensive garments of tailcoats and fur shawls and shied away repulsed from this pink-ish structure that suggested human being, the foul mass of fat with the wide sideburns that reached the chin, the ginger hair that sprouted disorderly from the pores of the crude skin, the flabby cheeks hanging by the face like confessions of bulimic instincts, the mouth of swollen lips that constantly secreted surplus saliva during speech.
Previously, Hamhanduke had spent the hours of the evening in the room of a Bulgarian prostitute named Ljubina, on Dorset Street in the East End area. After the act of paid intercourse, Hamhaduke was overwhelmed by a wholly impromptu oestrus of self-reference and began narrating to Ljubina his infantile memories from Porth of Wales. And after he did so, he wrung her neck and left her dead in her humble chamber. Just like that. There was no reason for alertness and rushing because Ljubina had neither relatives nor friends. Hamhaduke took a stroll along the piers of the Docks and then set out for his rendezvous with Lord Greywood.
Hamhaduke wandered the corridors of the showroom for quite some time in order to locate Lord Greywood. Until he finally found him standing engrossed before the representation of a Turkish harem. There was no doubt in him that the dark man with the straight body posture and the black frock coat was the Lord himself: He was anyway the only one of those present who did not move away in his passage.
"You must be Lord Greywood! Aren't you?” Hamhaduke cried loudly, urging the Lord to make a gesture with his finger to keep silent.
"And you must be Baglen Hamhaduke" said Lord Greywood quietly.
"Baglen Hamhadocke is my authentic Welsh name. But I do hate Hamhadocke and I hate Baglen even more. So you may address me as Sir Hamhaduke or simply as Bugs , whichever suits your lordship better. Everyone is calling me Bugs. Ever since I can remembered myself, everyone has been calling me Bugs. No one ever called me Baglen. Nobody, except my late mother. She liked it because it sounded melodic, as she used to say," said Hamhaduke.
"Nice to meet you, Bugs Hamhaduke." said Lord Greywood with a measure of despair and turned his gaze on the Turkish harem wax figures. His attention was focused on the details of the female faces, especially the resin of their eyes that glittered in the light of the sconces.
"This is a fine place indeed, Lord! I ought to thank you for arranging our meeting here. I didn't know about this place. It's amazing. I only hope it stays open until late. I'd like to visit it again but would like to be drunk next time. I am sure that - being drunk - I will appreciate it even more." vociferated Hamhaduke, completely ignoring the quiet in the showroom.
"These are your travel documents." said the Lord with discomfort and pulled the tickets out of his coat's inner pocket. "You're leaving London the coming Friday. You will travel by coach to Dover. There, at Dover Harbour, on Sunday, you will board a steamboat named Rob Roy that will take you through the English Channel to the port of Calais. And from there you will travel by coach to Paris. Our next meeting will be in Paris on Wednesday, eight o'clock in the evening, at the Les Paons Fiers pension . I'll be there already and waiting for you. We will stay in Paris for four days. Then we will travel to Marseilles and from there we will leave for Greece by ship."
"Hey! Why travel separately? And why do we have to stay in Paris for four whole days?” said Hamhaduke flustered.
“I have long wanted to visit Paris. In particular I wish to visit the Paris Opera House in Salle Le Peletier. I hope you like the opera. We shall watch a performance of Les Bayaderes by Charles-Simon Catel. It has received dithyrambic reviews.” said Lord Greywood.
"Dirty Wilbur didn't tell me anything about Paris or any operas. Wilbur also told me that we would travel together, you and I." said Hamhaduke.
"It was a last-minute decision. I apologise for that. No matter what, our mission is not going to be jeopardised.” said Lord Greywood.
"I don't think Dirty Wilbur will like that," said Hamhaduke.
"Don't worry about Mr Barnaby. I'll handle him myself. You just make sure you are on time at our meeting next Wednesday at the Les Paons Fiers pension.” replied Lord Greywood.
"I don't think I like your attitude, Lord." growled Hamhaduke and angrily grabbed the travel documents from the Lord's hands.
"It doesn't matter, Bugs. Do not forget that in essence our cooperation will be a matter of just a few days. I'm certain there will be many things in my character you will dislike. And I'm even more confident that I will dislike many things about you. The least we have to do both is to be patient with each other's idiosyncrasies," said Lord Greywood.
"Never mind our idiosyncrasies, Lord. Just look after making my time as enjoyable as possible. One never makes such arbitrary decisions when working with Bugs Hamhaduke. When someone works with me, he has to meet all my needs. Have I made myself quite clear, Lord?" said Hamhaduke, and he stuffed the documents in the pocket of his gungy jacket.
"Barnaby was right after all," said Lord Greywood, as he buttoned up his black frock coat.
"About what?" asked Hamhaduke quizzical.
"You're ugly indeed." replied Lord Greywood and walked away, leaving Hamhaduke out cold.
The Lord took his top hat and cane from the gallery's cloakroom and went out into the nightly Fleet Street. He had an active night ahead at Covent Garden and more specifically at the Old Slaughter 's Coffee House where the newly formed Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would be convening under the chairmanship of Reverend Arthur Broome and Sir Fowell Buxton. Then, in the same place, the usual games of whist and discussions of intellect and culture would follow. Excited by the forthcoming evening activities and by his impending trip to Paris and Greece, Lord Greywood walked towards Covent Garden hitting his cane on the road and adopting a slinking manner of moving that betrayed nothing but bliss. And there was no better time than this to whisper along the way the verses from the poem Childe Harold Pilgrimage by George Gordon Byron. Oh yes, Lord Greywood was really happy.
Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep'ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon;
Restless it rolls, now fixed, and now anon
Flashing a far,—and at his iron feet
Destruction cowers to mark what deeds are done.
For on this morn three potent nations meet,
To shed before his shrine the blood he deems most sweet.
[to be continued next Friday, 14 February 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]
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A few words about the author
Dimitris Apergis was born in Larisa, Greece, in 1978. He graduated in BA (Hons) Film Studies in the UK. He lives in Greece.
His books are published in both English and Greek languages, by the OKYPUS PUBLISHING. https://en.okypus.com/okypus-publisher
Dimitris has received multiple awards for his literary work.
In 2018 he received the First Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his novel Gerard & the father. Additionally, in 2018 his novel Gerard & the father also received the First Literature Award at the 8th International Literature Contest held by E.P.O.C. (Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus) under the aegis of UNESCO.
In 2017 his novel ‘At the Whiskey County’ received the First Literature Award at the 7th International Literature Contest held by the Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus under the aegis of UNESCO.
In 2015 his novella ‘Jazz Room’ received the Second Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers.
In 2013 he received a Praise from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his short story Labyrinth
In 2012 he received the First Literature Award from the MONITOR Press for his short story Acid Rain