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. 10 of 36]
Once the sun had set, the night took over the canvas of the Parisian sky plunging the Rue Quentin-Bauchart in the dark, and then the light of the oil lamps characterised the window blinds of the pension Les Paons Fiers. Hamhaduke was lying on his bed with his eyes wide open and his knife held tight on his chest. Sounds of footsteps from the next room. Hamhaduke jumped from his bed and went out into the hallway. He unlocked the door to the Lord's room. Opening it, he saw the Lord - dressed in his usual black Saville Row tailcoat - sitting on the low stool of the boudoir, holding the newspaper of Le Constitutionnel in his hands under the lamp. His face was sunk in sadness, burdensome and endless sadness.
"So you did it ... You couldn't resist the temptation ... I should have suspected it ... I should have stopped you ..." said Lord Greywood to Hamhaduke with eyes surrendered to the fiery-red hue so much that their wildfires pervaded the room.
The article was on the front page of the newspaper. It was titled YOUNG PROSTITUTE MURDERED. Next to the title was the victim's sketch. The sketch artist of the Le Constitutionnel had employed all his craftsmanship to the depiction of the face, but the bold lines of ink were not able to accurately represent Josephine's delicate physiognomy.
Late last night, Josephine M., a prostitute in profession, was found dead in her apartment on the Rue de Montpensier, in central Paris. The victim's body was discovered by neighbours of the house a few minutes after the crime. The coroner found the cause of death to be strangulation by breaking of the nape. Eyewitnesses report that the victim's head was completely turned around, that is, it was facing backwards. Police are focusing their action on the identification of two suspect foreigners, one of whom is alleged to be Welsh. Anyone who knows anything about the case is kindly requested to contact the Paris Authorities immediately to provide any relevant information.
"I have travelled the world for so many years, yet I have not yet learned to predict the human nature in all its extensions ... The human soul still remains for me an abyss that stubbornly refuses to be deciphered once it momentarily reveals its fathomless depths. I should have learned to read people by now, I should have been trained in every temperament of theirs, in every blemish. Unfortunately it turns out that I am weak and naive as to the human element. Perhaps because deep down I actually believe in people. I'll never forgive myself for not stopping you, Bugs. I shall always be haunted by guilt for Josephine. And that's because the real culprit in this story is me, not you. Isn't it ironic? Isn't it unfair? In the darkness which I live in, there shall be more darkness added. I shall be punished for eternity whilst you will always be content in that personal, impeccable, untainted oasis of your petty existence. You've found your paradise, Bugs, and no one can take that away from you. I, on the other hand, live in hell consoling myself by scorning paradises like yours. And yet I'm miserable whilst you're blissful ... How ironic and how unfair this is indeed...!" said Lord Greywood with his gaze focused on Josephine's sketch.
"We need to talk." said Hamhaduke sharply, and his murderous intentions were applied awkwardly upon his voice, giving it a distorted tone.
The Lord raised his head and pierced Hamaduke with his red eyes. Feeling secure with the knife in his waistband, Hamhaduke defied the reflective shiver in his backbone as he witnessed those eyes releasing the glowing rays of red. Whether that pulsating red was due to rage or lamentation was of no importance now. As far as Hamhaduke was concerned, the Lord was only a man sentenced to death just before his execution.
"Yes. That, we must do.” replied the Lord.
"Come to my room," said Hamhaduke.
Lord Greywood got up and went out to the corridor. They both entered Hamhaduke's room. Hamhaduke instructed him to sit down and locked the door. The Lord sat on the stool silent. Hamhaduke began to stroll around the Lord figuring out out his next moves and words.
"Well Lord, things are as follows. I am not happy with our partnership. I had warned you several times about my requirements in regards to my collaborators. There are so many quirks in you which I cannot tolerate and I had informed you about it in the most explicit way possible. Yesterday I was quite clear about what your attitude towards me should be from now on. But once again you ignored me. You didn't listen to me. You disappeared again while I had expressly stated that I wanted to spend our day together. This move of yours was the final straw.” said Hamhaduke while studying the Lord's insidious stillness.
"I'm not available to anyone during the day, Bugs. I had made that clear to you.” Lord Greywood interrupted him.
"You shut up, cretin. You will speak only when I tell you to." growled Hamhaduke and continued: "Under these circumstances, you do not leave me much choice. As I see it, we have two options ahead of us. We either terminate our partnership with whatever this entails or you shall obediently and to the letter follow my commands without straying. All I can do for you is give you one last chance to repent. This means that your daily habits change for good and are in tune with my own tastes. In a nutshell: I command, you obey. Well, Lord? What's it going to be then, eh?"
"Bugs ..." said the Lord with a painful whisper. "You are the last man on earth I'd ever obey to."
"Watch your words with me, bastard!" exclaimed Hamhaduke and grabbed the Lord violently by the collar. The immediate next step would be to pull the knife out of his waistband using his other hand.
He didn't even fathom the Lord's left hand that jolted at once and grabbed him by the throat. Such was the swiftness of the move that Hamhaduke failed to think of any reaction. The hand clenched him firmly from the dewlap, so hard that it almost cut his breath. Despair and awe born out of some impulse made Hamhaduke pull the knife out of the waistband, and then the Lord's right hand rushed to the spot and his fingers wrapped around Hamhaduke's wrist and clasped it like a metal press. The pressure upon the wrist eventually became unbearable and Hamhaduke's palm opened as if by its own will, letting the knife fall to the floor.
Overwhelmed by terror now, Hamhaduke turned his gaze at the Lord's face. The eyes were beaming the fiery-red hues, but the red was now glowing like the incandescent coals in an ironsmith's furnace and refusing to reveal pupil and iris in their blaze. A roar of a savage beast sounded from the Lord's throat, betraying cravings of oppressed desires and heralding the death of a hapless prey - Hamhaduke in this instance. The jaws on that well-shaped face were extended to simulate the muzzle of a wild wolf. The mouth opened wide and revealed the dentures, and then the canines of the upper jaw began to lengthen, revealing their deep roots until they were long and sharp and ready to devour.
"Bloody hell! I knew it! I'd suspected you weren't human!" screamed Hamhaduke as those menacing jaws charged onto his throat and the crooked canines sank in the carotid.
Another roar sounded heavy, and then abated with a frayed cry to be succeeded by the lengthy rattle of a murderous reptile. The Lord's skin was gradually transformed into solid mucus, and through the filmy substance of mucus the perplexed branches of the blood vessels - blue and red - were discernible. Raising his bewildered gaze, Hamhaduke saw his own blood leave his carotid and pass through the rheumy throat of the beast. The glowing red colour in the Lord's eyes then darkened with micro-explosions, and the retinas suddenly acquired a glistening silver coating that deflected the dim light of the room and testified to the beast's eerie ecstasy for the satisfying of a crucial vital need -the thirst for fresh human blood. Inevitably came the daze to Hamhaduke's senses as he had lost gallons of blood. His faculties were now weakened and he was completely unable to resist the beast that was still relentlessly bloodsucking him.
The blood! –this red magic elixir that holds humans upon the cryptic riddle of cosmogony called life fed abundant the glands of the beast and its endless pleasures made the silver-grey eyes glow like two full moons. The rheumy body writhed wholesomely from the energy it was reaping and coruscated in its entire form from the thrill. These were the last images that Hamhaduke witnessed amidst his mind's confusion before that deathly fainting approached and rejected his gaze into the darkness. Until the beast had sucked enough and, releasing Hamhaduke from its bloodlusting jaws, it threw his bruised left-over on the floor. The rheumy body was now abandoning the beast's structure, giving way to the human pale skin and the face slowly and steadily returned to its former appearance. The beast was now of human form. The form of Lord Greywood.
"That's right, Bugs. I'm no human. I'm a vampire. Or at least that's the name people have given to my kind.” said Lord Greywood with eyes glistening from exultation. His undead spirit had now reached a state of absolute bliss that - alas! - was only temporary.
Hamhaduke had not died yet despite the enormous loss of blood. He groaned bleeding, hitting occasionally his weakened fists on the floor. In complete despair now, he brought his right hand to his neck to stop the bleeding of the two holes caused by the Lord's fangs. His body shivered with sudden jerky movements every time the idea of death approached his rationales.
"Don't fight it, Bugs. Let it happen. Let it come sweet and calm. You have lost too much blood. It is no good to fight it. The more you resist this death, the more excruciating it becomes." said Lord Greywood, observing with guilty pleasure the anguished efforts of Hamhaduke to keep himself alive.
Hamhaduke, disobeying the Lord's advice, began to take continuous sharp breaths to keep the air in the lungs. His bruised face was sweating more and more and his eyes goggled as if they stared at the scythe of Grim Reaper ready to reap his soul. Succeeding in turning his body face down with an awkward movement, he began to crawl on the floor moaning. His purpose was to reach the bed, and more specifically his overcoat hanging on the bed railing.
The Lord approached curious Hamhaduke's overcoat and, stuffing his hand in the inner pocket, pulled out the pistol. A smirk formed on his lips. The same old incorrigible Hamhaduke! Even at the last moment of death, his thoughts concerned murder - even for revenge.
"I'll take that, Bugs. It won't serve you anyway. I'm a vampire. That is, I'm already dead. But also alive. Undead. And as such, the bullets can't hurt me. All you'll succeed with the pistol is to create unnecessary noise." said Lord Greywood and, taking the pistol, sat on the boudoir's stool.
Hamhaduke turned his body wearied on its back. His eyelids were flickering as he glanced at the ceiling. His right hand did not let the holes upon his neck for a moment. He stubbornly refused to surrender so easily to the embrace of death. As his teeth were clenched together, Hamhaduke was taking quick breaks from his nostrils producing an unbearably annoying noise. As in his life he inspired nothing but disgust, Hamhaduke was just as disturbing in his death.
A soul was about to leave the Les Paons Fiers pension any time now. And what a soul indeed!
[to be continued next Friday, 20 March 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