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 -revolting against the Ottomans- country of Greece and locate the renowned 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. 28 of 36]
PART FOUR : Missolonghi
It was only five o'clock in the morning, at the crack of dawn, when the dink of Captain Apostolos Niohoritis approached the seaside of the Karangeleika of Missolonghi. The two watchmen guarding the city walls, Yorgis and Panagis, were waiting for the next shift to arrive. Yorgis smoked his long pipe, Panagi gazed at the peaks of Aracinth that were surrounded by the white clouds of the sky. They did not talk to each other as their drowsiness had overwhelmed them for good. Both with long lubricated hair (as Missolonghian men used to have until their fifties or sixties), dressed in embroidered tabards and long fustanellas that had been messed by too much rubbing on the ground. And, of course, they both had their flintlocks hugged in their arms.
As captain-Apostolos moored his dink at the shore, a dapper tailcoated penpusher with a tall hat jumped out of it, around fifty years in age, a large bow between his raised collars and glasses of thick lenses. People of his kind, the Missolonghians teasingly referred to as "scissorlegs" because they wore trousers instead of fustanellas and were generally dressed in the "European" fashion.
So, that scissolegs approached the two watchmen of the walls raising his white silk handkerchief and waving it nervously in front of them to alert them that he was not an enemy. As he reached ten meters from the walls, he assumed a haughty pose inflating his lungs and began his report:
“Dear gentlemen, Ι wish you a good day and all the appropriate. I have the honour to state my name, that is Charilaos Charilaou, and inform you that I am practising the profession of notary in the beautiful island of Zakynthos for thirty consecutive years. The reason for my visit to the Holy City of Missolonghi relates to my esteemed client, Mr Lord Jules Greywood, who comes from England and is a descendant of an aristocratic family. My principal has stated his intention to visit the beloved city of Missolonghi and to settle there for a period of about two weeks. For the hospitality offered by the city and its inhabitants, Lord Greywood promises the endowment of the sum of fifty thousand piasters, an amount which the Lord wishes to distribute equally to each permanent resident of Missolonghi, male and female. Allow me to discuss the details of the general arrangement of the matter with your institutional lord for security reasons."
Yorgis and Panagis examined the scissorlegs for a few seconds. Then they looked at each other:
"What the fuck is this turd blabbering about?"
The two watchmen took the notary and led him to the house of Thanasis Rajikotsikas, the Chief of the Guard of Missolonghi. The castellan, Mitros Deligeorgis also went there. They locked themselves up in the spacious lounge, Rajikotsikas sitting behind his oak desk, the notary sitting on the velvet embroidered armchair opposite him, the rest of them standing.
Mr Charilaou was served coffee with a glass of water as he complained that his journey in the seas had caused him a dry mouth. Sat in the armchair, he took off his high hat and laid it on the low table beside. The sparse hair on his head was matted down with pomade. His face lacked a legible chin, and for this reason his lower lip seemed to hang somewhat gawky from the rest of the physiognomic ensemble.
Pressuring the notary to speak in plain spoken language was like trying to teach a goldfish how to sing in the cage. The honorable Mr. Charilaou did not take into account the men's suggestions one bit and continued to explain the reasons for his arrival with his typical archaisms and grammatical quirks.
Rajikotsikas listened to him patiently twisting his moustache with his fingertips, and his head beneath the red bulgy fez was about to explode like a flaming powder keg. He wiped the sweat of his face with his frilled fustanella, fixed the swords and firearms under his belt more appropriately, and straightened the edges of his moustache which he had wrapped like garlands during the notary's hearing.
'Speak clearer, you damn spaz. Who is this man and what does he want?" asked Rajikotsikas desperately with his elbows on the desk.
“I've already explained to you, dear sir. Mr. Lord Greywood is an aristocrat from London, a descendant of a great... ” began Charilaou.
"You've said that already, you dervish." Rajikotsikas interrupted him. "You've said all that already in that goddamned archaic language that turns my stomach. What does this man want from us?"
"But I explained this too, sir. Lord Greywood has a high regard for the citizens of Missolonghi and offers the sum of fifty thousand piasters for their hospitality in the city." replied Charilaou.
“Fifty thousand piasters? And what does he ask in return? Fuck our behinds every morning?" said Rajikotsikas.
Charilaou floundered. The level of his debate with the uncouth warriors before him was much too low for his standards, and for that reason he regrouped himself in the armchair.
"My client's wish, sir, is just to visit the place where the heart of our beloved national benefactor Lord Byron was buried. Therefore, his stay in your city shall not last more than two weeks." he said, and drank two sips of his coffee.
Rajikotsikas remained skeptical. Deligeorgis, standing behind him, did not understand what Rajikotsikas was concerned about in this instance. So he decided to speak his view.
"What is to bother us in this man, Thanasis? These are fifty thousand piasters. Let him pay and amuse himself here if that's what he wants." he said.
"Oh stop it, Mitros. Where do I know that whoreson from to trust him that easily? For all I know, he may be a spy sent from Kutahi to mess us all up. It may as well be that this notary over here is nothing but the Sultan's mole and gathers information to spill it out to his bosses." said Rajikotsikas.
Charilaou gulped. He straightened the bow that posed under his chin as he realized Yorgis and Panagis were strolling around behind him with their hands on their pistols.
"I assure you, my dear sir, that this is not the case. I'm a mere notary and nothing beyond that." he said, and drank the entire glass of water into his throat.
"Let the man come here with the chest of piasters. And as soon as he sets his foot on the shore, we'll grab the piasters and hang the sonofabitch from a tall stake in Klisova so that Kutahi can look at him with his telescope." said Deligeorgis teasingly, referring to Klisova, which was one of the islets of Missolonghi's lagoon.
"Oh no, no, my dear gentlemen." jumped Charilaou. "I urge you not to devise any such plans for Lord Greywood. Lord Greywood is a man who gives great importance in fair dealing, and he does not forgive breach of agreements and insidious deviations. If I attain the contract he's assigned me with you, there's nothing more to do from your part other than satisfy his agreed-upon wishes."
"Why? What is he going to do in case we deviate?" asked Rajikotsikas.
"Well, I could not in any case answer this question on the Lord's behalf. I am however under the sincere impression, dear gentlemen, that Lord Greywood is not a man who would hesitate to proceed in retaliation if he considers himself a victim of fraud." said Charilaou.
"He will fart our cocks." Rajikotsikas responded dryly.
"Well, let's put things in some order." intervened Deligeorgis to calm the spirits. "I don't know what you think, Thanasis, but I 've formed a good opinion of Mr. Charilaou and perceive him as a decent and just man. So if you agree, I suggest closing the deal and welcoming the Honorable Lord with open arms if he, of course, abides to his commitment about the piasters. And I will make all the preparations for his coming, and we will set up a fest in the square to meet with the man and rejoice together. How does my idea sound to you?"
"I don't know, Mitros." said Rajikotsikas. "It all sounds like hassle to me. But the piasters are piasters. Anyway. So be it. Let's welcome the mister and let's do the celebrations and the feasts."
"No, no, dear gentlemen." jumped Charilaou again. "Mister Lord Greywood has instructed me to let you know his desire to keep his stay at Missolonghi highly confidential. He doesn't want any special events or publicity in regards to his arrival in your city. In plain speaking, he wants the city to continue its daily routine as if he were not present."
"Hmm, I see. You know what that means, right Mitros? We should tell Meyer not to mention one word in his brochure." said Rajikotsikas in reference to the newspaper Hellenic Chronicles published by the Swiss doctor Jakob Meyer in Missolonghi.
"I will tell him." said Deligeorgis. "What are we going to do with the piasters? We should inform Mavrocordatos about them."
"No! I do not want that whoreson and his dog-company to get involved with money that's aimed for Missolonghi." said Rajikotsikas.
"But if we don't, Thanassis, he will accuse us for embezzlement. It's Mavrokordatos who manages the finances." said Deligeorgis.
"Fuck this bastard. Let him come to Missolonghi to report me and I'll fuck him in the village square in front of everybody. The management of Missolonghi's Guard will take over the piasters. And they will be spent on weapons and food and nautical fares." replied Rajikotsikas.
"No, no, dear gentlemen." Charilaou jumped in again. "Mister Lord Greywood is extremely strict on the issue of the money's distribution. He expressly and unequivocally wishes that the fifty thousand piasters be distributed equally to every lawful inhabitant of this city. From the distribution of money and hence, the question of the financial expenditure of each sum is a purely personal matter for each citizen, except of course for minors."
"Very well, Mr. Charilaou." said Rajikotsikas. "Your boss seems like worse headache than you. Let it be so then, we'll do this favour for him too. The piasters will go to the citizens. Tell him not to worry about it as he comes across as a peevish type. And tell him we'll put him in a nice room with a view and sun."
"We'll put him in Kapsalis' house that's right in front of the sea. He shall have two bedrooms for himself. One to look at the sunrise in the morning and one to gaze at the sunset at dawn." said Deligeorgis.
"No, no, dear gentlemen." Charilaou jumped again. "Mister Lord Greywood has expressed his non-negotiable desire to stay in a room inside the city centre. He is not bothered if the room is small and humble, as long as it is sunless. The Lord suffers from a skin condition which does not allow him to be exposed to the sun's rays."
Rajikotsikas and Deligeorgis looked at each other. They were both bewildered. But the piasters were piasters and they couldn't turn their backs on such an amount so easily. So Rajikotsikas regrouped himself in his chair and focused his eyes on Charilaou's plump face, eyes angry and exasperated:
“All right then, your Majesty Mr. Charilaou. We shall also respect this wish of the honourable Mr Lord Greywood, of English ancestry and descendant of aristocratic family. But I'll tell you something and stuff it well inside your head, you shitsack twopenny notary fuck. All I know about that man is what you've told us in here. So I will rely upon your own judgement and thus welcome him into the city. But if he turns out to be a scant, Mr. Charilaou, woe to you and your harlot breed. I swear I shall travel in person to your whore-island to meet you. And when I find you, I 'll chop your balls off and force them into your mouth. Do you understand what I mean, Mr. notary?"
Charilaou swallowed the knot in his throat. He leaned back comfortably in the armchair and stared at Rajikotsikas through his thick eyeglasses:
“Dear Sir, I fully understand what you have diligently disclosed to me in your most gracious way. I must, however, inform you that I met Mr. Honorable Lord Greywood just over a month ago and that my contacts with him do not exceed our three half-hour meetings in my notary. The judgement I have formed in regards to the man is based on the experience of my thirty-year career, and if the great impression this man has left me is incorrect, then I declare myself ready to take on the burden of responsibility. It would seem outrageous to me, sir, to accept that a man has so deceived me to the point of throwing away my thirty years of experience in the wastebin with such skill. This would certainly not be accepted by my ego, and therefore I would welcome a possible severe punishment with relief. But, sir, I tell you with all sincerity that this man appears to me straightforward and reasonable and fastidious. Whatever he says he means it, every word of his is given with determination, and it's clear for anyone to attest to it. Furthermore, his references do not call into question the prestige and esteem he enjoys in the ruling classes of London. But allow me, sir, to appose another dimension to the character of this fine man. Lord Greywood possesses a very dark element in his stature. I cannot explain it, however I do admit that this dark element is particularly frightening to me. Lord Greywood, sir, looks like a man with whom no wise mind would wish to clash with or launch hostile strife. He seems capable of everything, sir. As if he maintains within him a sacred inviolable power that does not recognize another like it."
[to be continued next Friday, 24 July 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 Apergis 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.