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. 20 of 36]
The Mouton Blanc cabaret on Rue du Vieux-Colombier had already begun to provoke the Parisian public opinion on a negative note. Not of course because it had a prostitution ring functioning inside it. In places of this kind where the sinful night escapades were offered aplenty, prostitution was merely a logical consequence of the repertoire. The characteristic of Mouton Blanc that triggered unfavourable comments was the ballerinas' onstage dance. According to the kinesiology of this dance, the ballerinas - positioned in lines of four - performed high kicks in the air with their shapely legs (thus displaying the tights and the underwear under their skirts in common view) and bold suggestive splits (unacceptable for the period's social mores). Can-Can was the name given to this dance and was considered outrageous to the point that efforts were constantly being made by the Parisian society to suppress it.
The Can-Can was the reason why Hamhaduke chose to visit Mouton Blanc that night for his entertainment. For a sleazy vampire plagued by constant amorous flushes like Hamhaduke, the can-can constituted in itself a powerful motive. So, dressed in the expensive attire of the silk tailcoat with the lace furbelow - bearing the signature of famed dressmaker LeRoy - he headed for the cabaret's notorious attraction.
The lounge of Mouton Blanc was a flamboyant mishmash of wall tapestry with red rhombuses and fluffy pink carpet. Entering the lounge, the first thing Hamhaduke made a note of was the stares of the patrons examining him from head to toe. This was, of course, natural since the newspapers were screaming on a daily basis about the maniac assassin of the obese build, the infamous Beast of two fangs. Hamhaduke did not give a damn about these suspicious stares of the people: he now had such physical strength that he could bloodsuck all the patrons in the lounge - who were in excess of seventy in number - if the conditions required it.
Hamhaduke, however, was irritated by those other stares, those that came from the marble busts that sometimes happened upon his way. Whatever the figure they were portraying, the busts turned their heads towards him and stared at him with eyes that seemed inexpressible and frosty, as if they were spying on his movements and then reporting to some other superior hypostasis. This phenomenon of the persistent stares of the busts had now strained Hamhaduke's nerves to their limits. Consequently, as he watched the bust of Muse Erato standing on an oak pole next to the entrance focusing her eyes on him, he shook his hand straight away and crushed her with his fist.
The cabaret 's maitre d 'rushed to the spot to berate him. He was a cross-eyed titch with a black bow tie and striped vest. His hair and moustache were smeared with two okes of pomade.
"The management of this establishment expects its customers to let their boorish manners out of the premises, monsieur!" said strictly the maitre d'.
"Whom are you calling boorish, you louse!?" growled Hamhaduke and grabbed the maitre d' by his bow tie.
The maitre d' was terrified at the sight of flame-red hues that poured raged from Hamhaduke's eyes. Soon, however, Hamhaduke revised his attitude and, with a forced smile reaching his ears, straightened the maitre d's bow tie to its proper position. He reminded himself that he had come to the place to enjoy the can-can of the voluptuous ladies on the stage. A quarrel in this case would be completely out of place. So, gently smacking the maitre d's cheek with his hand, he pulled out a golden louis from his pocket. He tossed it lightly into the air and its golden glow instantly flashed under the light of the lit sconces that adorned the lounge. And as the coin fell on his palm, he stuffed it into the hand of the horrified maitre d '.
"Here you go. Take this and make a refurbishment to the place. Get rid of those damned busts right away, write this one at the top of your list.” said Hamhaduke and violently sent his fist to the bust of Apollo standing to his right breaking it into pieces.
"Uhhh, y-y-yes, monsieur" stammered the maitre d'.
"And now be a good boy and get me a table," ordered Hamhaduke.
The maitre d' immediately ran to serve Hamhaduke leading him to a table that was quite a few steps away from the stage. Furious, Hamhaduke looked once again at the hapless maitre d' with those fiery red eyes that spread fear.
"No, you louse! You shan't fix me on this table offhand. I want a table right in front of the stage."
"B-b-b-but monsieur ... The tables in front of the stage are all reserved."
"Then I guess you'll have to get rid one of the customers on the front tables. Otherwise you could place an extra table right in front of the stage for my excellency. The choice is yours. Did you understand me, you louse?"
"Then why are you standing like this, looking at me like a dopey owl? Move your ass!"
“Y-y-y-yes, monsieur! Right away monsieur!"
Despite protests from patrons sitting at the front tables, the maitre d' placed a table right in front of the stage at Hamhaduke's request. Hamhaduke rested his redingote and cane on a chair and sat at the table full of excitement about the stimulating repertory of the night. But as he caught with his ear the complaints of customers sitting behind him - those whom he had deprived of the privilege of the front view on stage - he shouted a thunderous "shut up!" and soon the complaints lulled into unremarkable murmurs.
The lanky waiter arrived with a tray at Hamhaduke's table and left a bottle of Chateau Georges and a lit candle. And after doing so, he began to play nervously with the tray he was holding in his hands waiting for a tip. Hamhaduke stared at him mockingly blinking his eyelids.
“Looking for a tip, huh? Get lost, you cretin!"
The waiter left whispering a bitter "miser!", unfortunately however Hamhaduke overheard him and grabbed the cane right away and hit him on the back. Screaming an exclamation of pain, the waiter left immediately, manoeuvring between the tables.
Next to Hamhaduke sat a couple. The man was wearing a humble herringbone skirt, the woman was wearing a fringed shawl on her shoulders. The man stared at Hamhaduke, apparently enraged at the vampire's cruel brashness. The woman at his side was holding him tight by the elbow, trying to prevent him from starting a fight. The stubborn look of the man did not take long to be perceived by Hamhaduke.
"What the hell are you looking at, you fuckface?"
"You like acting like a bully, huh?"
"Maybe I'm a real bully."
"So you're a real bully, huh?"
"That's right. Now, what is your concern, you fuckface?"
"I wonder ... I wonder what kind of a bully you'd be if I introduced my fist to your mug."
"Why don't you go ahead and find out, fuckface?"
The man burst from the table. But the woman held him back.
"Leave him! Don't pay attention to him!" she said in her soft voice.
"Act smart and listen to your sister, fuckface," said Hamhaduke.
"She's not my sister! She's my fiancee, pig!” replied the man.
"Makes no difference. You both look like rat turds!” replied Hamhaduke giggling.
The man completely lost his temper and released himself from the woman's hands. He moved threateningly towards Hamhaduke, but the lightning slap in the face was enough to put him back in his chair semi-unconscious. Hamhaduke stood above him ready to finish him off.
"Don't hurt him!" screamed the woman at Hamhaduke and covered her semi-unconscious man with her body.
"Shut up, bitch!" barked Hamhaduke.
Once again, Hamhaduke was called to remind himself that he had visited the place for the can-can of ballerinas and that such disorderly conducts were not suited to the occasion. So he calmed down the rage dictated by his undead nature and revised his behaviour. But the stares of the rest of the patrons which were focused on him did not leave him much room to relax his nerves. Whether he desired it or not, he had now become the centre of attention.
"Well? Does anyone else want to try their luck with me?” he told the audience.
None of the patrons responded. Some lowered their eyes silently, others turned their heads elsewhere, others groaned in discomfort.
"Hehehe, French frogs ... Losers, your entire lives ..." laughed Hamhaduke disparagingly with a loud snort and sat down at his table again. And after doing so, he grabbed the Chateau Georges' bottle and pulled out its cap with his teeth and began to pour generous gulps into his throat from its spout.
There were many the factors in Hamhaduke's individuality that made him so irritable in character, most notably the inherent tendency to have himself always unfolded in his environment and to ultimately dominate it. It was a tendency that was now horribly oppressed. The reason for that? Hamhaduke was now realising deeply in his head that the sunlight was his invincible enemy and that he should hide from it forever. As a result, he became increasingly petulant. It was not possible for someone like Hamhaduke to tolerate such a restriction. But he had no other choice. He knew too well that the sun would destroy him on the spot if he were exposed to its rays, this was anyway proven by the few experiments he carried out himself to confirm it. Therefore, such was the rage boiling inside him when he felt he was now doomed to wander alone as a creature of the night that he did everything in his power to relieve his irritated instincts. And this, of course, meant an unconditional surrender into the territories of total impunity.
The burgundy curtains of the stage opened revealing the maître des cérémonies - the host of the event - lying in a plaster imitation of a white fountain and a blond beauty sitting beside with a harp between her legs. The lounge was delivered in loud laughters but also in wolf-whistles of admiration aimed at the beauty who was wearing only a camisole with some purple tulles sewn on the explicit points of her body.
The host was a fifty-year-old man with swollen dewlaps, wearing a fancy tuxedo defined by the colours of red and yellow and blue, his hair was muddled in its phosphorescent orange dye. Underneath his nostrils posed a fake twisted moustache made from long horsehair, and from his chin hung a goatee that was his own, authentic.
"As I was passing by the clear fountain, I found the water so charming that I felt the need to take a bath," the host pretended to rub his body with the sponge, and the beauty beside began to pinch the strings of the harp. The laughters of the audience were so loud that one would think the ceiling would fall at any time now. "I have loved you for so long that it is impossible for me to forget you. Under the foliage of the oak tree, I lied down to dry my body. On the tallest branch, sung a nightingale. Sing, nightingale, sing, you of the merry heart. Your heart is made for laughter ... mine can only cry. I lost my love without deserving it, because of a rose I had kept secret from her ... I wish the rose were still on the rosebush where it was, and my darling still loved me."
The host stood up and came out of the fountain with ethereal moves. He reached the edge of the stage with slow steps while the blond beauty was sounding lethargic melodies from the harp. His made-up face - with the red dots on his cheeks and nose - retained an expression of meretricious sadness as if he methodically composed the prelude of a well-planned farce.
"Exactly, Mesdames et Messieurs." said the host and pulled a rose out of his tuxedo pocket. "A rose was the cause of an irreversible misunderstanding. A simple, humble, gorgeous rose. This rose over here, Mesdames et Messieurs, was discovered by my love in this pocket and mistakenly thought it was meant for another woman. I tried in vain to convince her that I was keeping this rose as a surprise to her. I cried in pain, fell to her feet, begging her to believe me. But she remained adamant. And she deserted me in my misery. She may as well just looking for a reason to leave me, you have every right to assume this. Whatever the case, the point is one: my love is gone forever. And since then I am wandering the world in my unbearable pain."
Two assistants then came and dragged the fountain on its wheels away from the stage. The blonde beauty with the harp also left. The host remained alone for a few seconds. Until an voluptuous brunette woman dressed as a shepherdess appeared on the right of the stage, wearing a sheepskin coat and holding a shepherd's stick in her hand. Some contributor from the backstage mimicked sheep bleats. The woman's tunic was short enough to show off the garters of her legs. At her appearance, the audience broke into frantic whistles of admiration. The host approached her and continued his monologue.
"Until some day ... I met a shepherdess ... She was pure and kind girl ... With a heart full of goodness ..."
Some hollow giggles, here and there.
"And with feet sensual and lustful ..."
Some loud laughter and whistles of admiration from the audience, here and there.
"And with buttocks that were a feast for the eyes, juicy and soft ..."
More giggles from the audience, here and there.
"And with busty and hedonistic breasts ..."
Even more giggles from the audience, here and there.
"And then I remembered my darling ... My only love ... The one I never forgot ... And looking at this blood red rose of love, I thought with the voice of my soul: To hell, my love, with you and the damned rose!!! ... Hahahaha!"
The entire lounge was plunged into a pandemonium of deafening laughs. The roar of the endless laughter did not abate when the three band musicians appeared on stage: the guitarist, the accordionist and the trumpet player. As the band started the music, three dancegirls with crinolines came forth, and then the shepherdess got rid of the sheepskin from her (revealing the camisole of her curvaceous body) and joined them. And began the four dancegirls their can-can under the rhythm of the music by performing with their shapely legs high kicks in the air. And the host was singing full of energy the Il Était une bergère (=Once upon a time there was a shepherdess) whilst struggling to achieve the high kicks of the dancegirls with his flabby bodyshape.
Il était un' bergère,
Et ron, ron, ron, petit patapon;
Il était un' bergère,
Qui gardait ses moutons,
Qui gardait ses moutons.
Having drunk the whole bottle of Chateau Georges down his throat, Hamhaduke was inflamed with excitement for good, and his obese mass was swaying ostentatiously on the chair, following the movements of the dancegirls. And as he managed to snatch quick glances from their underwear at the openings of their feet and to discern a few hair of their sweet vaginas, he succumbed to uncontrollable chuckles that overpowered the laughter of the rest of the lounge's patrons.
Soon everyone inside the lounge began to feel discomfort at the sight of Hamhaduke and his exaggerated shakes. And the discomfort was replaced by confusion as they saw that it was impossible for Hamhaduke to sit on his chair being as drunk and excited. So at some point Hamhaduke got up from the table and, with clumsy movements, danced his own can-can under the stage jouncing the surrounding tables with his kicks. Until he once decided to go up on stage and participate himself - in his own peculiar way - in the cabaret's dancing show.
The host proceeded to move Hamhaduke away by tapping him gently on the back. Hamhaduke then grabbed him tightly by the nose with his two fingers and drove him off the stage. The host broke into groans from his hurt nose. Hamhaduke returned to the four dancers and, groping their buttocks with his open palms, he began the high kicks of the legs with them. They were too puzzled to stop dancing, as was the band that continued the music.
Eventually, however, the audience revolted with boos and jeers, screaming for Hamhaduke to get off the stage. Their appeals were in vain. Hamhaduke continued his crazy dance undeterred without the slightest concern. And his hands fondled the curves of the women in a manner so savage that he occasionally caused them pain.
And Hamhaduke danced, he danced with his whole being, his obese mass danced in the zenith of revelry. Until the band was forced to stop the music as the audience in the lounge was enraged and was demanding united in one voice for Hamhaduke to come off the stage. Hamhaduke sent three kicks in the air before realising the absence of music. He then turned to the band, forcibly holding two dancegirls by their hips.
"Hey! What the hell is going on with you? Play then!"
The musicians frowned and, with their eyes nailed to the floor, nodded their heads negatively. The voices of the angry audience were increasing in intensity. Hamhaduke turned and looked at the patrons of the lounge with a look that sparkled his murderous intentions.
“Shut the hell up all of you! You damned Frogs!"
The dancegirls he had bound to his side struggled to get rid of his strong hands. After laughing sadistically with their hopeless efforts, Hamhaduke threw the one dancegirl towards the audience and then shoved the other one into his tight chest and buried his elongated fangs into her throat.
The audience remained silent and immobile for a few seconds. No one could suspect what exactly Hamhaduke was up to on stage, and it was reasonable for everyone to assume that he was simply giving the hapless dancegirl a passionate kiss on the neck. They had no idea how they should react but instead watched nonplussed the bizarre spectacle taking place before them. But just as Hamhaduke withdrew from the woman full of blood around his mouth and threw her lifeless body off the stage, everyone burst into shrieks of horror and hysteria.
"The beast! It's the Beast of the two fangs! The newspapers write about him!"
Hamhaduke's eyes were glowing with ecstasy. They turned high as if seeking to clarify that divine energy that had suddenly accumulated in the haunted body, to identify it as a mass having shape and colour. Human blood - when nourishing the glands of the undead hypostasis - not only extinguishes the thirst of the vampire but also gives him the very substance which he appears to be lacking from the deprivation of this incomparable pleasure. It fills the vampire's entity and finally gives him all those parameters that constitute his existence. Without human blood, vampires are not accounted. How pathetic Lord Greywood was indeed! This was what Hamhaduke was thinking. How can a vampire deny this superb satisfaction of his bloodthirsty cravings? Does he even have the right to refuse it?
But now is not the time for reflection. Now is the time for action. And this is because human blood is never enough. Not for a vampire like Hamhaduke. Only one thing stands as a higher ideal than human blood: more human blood! And - thank heaven! - there was plenty of it in the Mouton Blanc's lounge .
“Il Était une bergère , my dear maitre! Hahahaha!” exclaimed Hamhaduke, and with a leap he hurtled towards the host, achieving the two required holes in the carotid with those terrific fangs.
In the midst of all this turmoil, the Mouton Blanc's patrons run around terrified in order to escape from the spot. However, the bulimic mood of Hamhaduke was such that it did not give them much time since it made him fast in the movements and therefore the bloodsucking of the host was accomplished in a matter of seconds. And after throwing the host's corpse onto the floor, Hamhaduke attacked the patrons of Mouton Blanc with long jumps and plunged his fangs into theirs throats. Flying around like a predatory eagle, Bugs would grab the patrons one after another and bloodsucked them all until the lounge was eventually all blood-stained and plunged into mournful laments.
While Hamhaduke indulged in his bloodied binge, he was simultaneously dancing his beloved can-can singing along the Il Était une bergère. He didn't just do it to get rid of the stiffness of the joints in his body. He did so because he considered the finale of that dance night to be a bit of an inglorious one. That was a shame, indeed. Just as he was about to be entertained, everything had to end. Let it be then. Il Était une bergère. Once upon a time, there was a shepherdess.
Il était un' bergère,
Et ron, ron, ron, petit patapon;
Il était un' bergère,
Qui gardait ses moutons,
Qui gardait ses moutons.
And thus Hamhaduke continued. Until he once came across that petty old man with the hooked nose and the glasses of thick lenses. And as he was about to attack him with his jaws wide open, the old man pulled out of his tailcoat's pocket a small cross made of white alabaster that carried the figure of Christ carved on it. At the sight of the cross, Hamhaduke shrieked like a panicked girl and shrunk into a corner. This was the first time he had been confronted with the appearance of a cross, and he felt the stinging on the retina of his eyes as well as the nausea of his gastric fluids. The old man stood over the folded Hamhaduke with the cross held tightly in his hand. Very soon, the patrons present gathered around him.
"Voilà, dear gentlemen. This man is a varkolak. Nosferatu. A creature of the night." said the old man to the patrons, and then turned to Hamhaduke: "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men!"
Refusing to look at the cross, Hamhaduke made a desperate cry. He shrunk his mass even further into the corner, covering his head with his hands.
"We have to kill him! Now that we have the chance!” exclaimed the mob.
"Do calm down, gentlemen. A nosferatu does not die so easily. There are specific methods to kill them." responded the old man.
"Tell us then! How are we going to kill this devil! With a rope? With a sword? With a pistol?" shouted the mob.
"The rope and the sword and the pistol are completely useless in this instance, gentlemen. The nosferatu are not harmed by strangulation or by slaughtering or by bullets. The only thing we owe to do is drive a stake directly into the heart of the nosferatu. It's the most approved method in this case, trust me." explained the old man.
"Quickly! Let's find a stake! A pointy stake!" exclaimed the mob.
"And a hammer. We shall need to drive the stake with force into the heart of the nosferatu" remarked the old man.
So the crowd of patrons went about to find a stake and a hammer. And Hamhaduke took advantage of the opportunity while the men were busy and collected his powers. And after he did so, he rose violently from the floor and pushed away the old man and his alabaster cross with fury. He moved towards the backstage, sending his fists here and there to anyone standing in his way. Arriving at the backstage, he he discovered distraught the back door and opened it with a strong kick and went out into the small yard. The patrons ran after him.
Coming out into the yard, Hamhaduke took a deep breath from the cold night into his lungs to mitigate the poisonous effects of the cross. But the patrons encircled him once again, along with the old man who constantly projected his alabaster cross to the tormented vampire.
"Sit still, Antichrist!" shouted the mob.
Once again, Hamhaduke curled up on the ground to collect his powers. And once he managed to concentrate his thoughts away from the lynching he was receiving from the patrons, he sprang to his feet and escaped with a leap over the wall.
He staggered through the narrow alley and then turned around a corner and hid himself in the dark, in a small quadrangle full of dustbins. He rested his head on the wall of a derelict building trying to obtain some of the coolness from the moist cobblestones on his forehead and thus bring himself out of the migraines.
Poor Hamhaduke! He was under the impression that only the sun could hurt a vampire. He had no idea that the sight of the cross was equally fatal. That was a real cold shower for him. His teeth clenched against each other in hatred. He would return to Mouton Blanc sometime. Yes, he would. And then he would get a grand revenge, one that the newspapers would write about for a long time in the future.
[to be continued next Friday, 29 May 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]
Subscribe to the OKYPUS website to receive weekly newsletters.
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 several 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.