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. 32 of 36]
PART FOUR : Missolonghi
Although warm due to the summer, the Missolonghian nights were characterised by the humidity of the lagoon. This was not good for the elders' arthritis and that's why they all wore the long woollen socks that reached up to the crotch. And if the revelry and the festivities in the city were calming down, one could feel in the ear during the night hours the shrieks of the seagulls that were looking for their own catch by flying over the surface of the waters. This is how the Missolonghian nights were like at that period of time, with celebrations and heat and humidity and seagulls' shrieks. And with the singing of the crickets.
But that night, that Wednesday night, was a strange, special night. And that's because a suspicious silence prevailed in the area. Almost insidious. Even the humidity seemed to have receded into the atmosphere. The moon was full, bright. The sky was clear, dotted with countless bright diamonds from horizon to horizon. Only two fishing boats were sailing in the lagoon. The bonnets of the windmill standing on an islet remained motionless from the calm.
That Wednesday night was of crucial importance. It was the night that the Lord and Daphne had arranged to leave Missolonghi and travel up to the hill of Lefka, at the montane monastery of Panagia Filotheou. Where Petros Mousouris was, Daphne's love. They had to travel thirty kilometres of a wild goat track surrounded by willows and poplars and ash trees and mountains. And -of course- by the hordes of Turks who had encamped around.
The Lord had ordered Daphne to select a night of full moon. It would be preferable, he told her. This did not have to do with the lighting that the moon would provide to their journey, Daphne would anyway carry a lantern with her. The Lord had his reasons. He did not confide them to Daphne. Knowing Lord's secretiveness, she did not insist on learning. And if by any chance doubts arose about the successful realisation of this journey, the Lord hastened to eliminate them with his characteristic exhortation:
However, there was an obstacle for this impending journey, an obstacle that no one had predicted. Several people had learned of this journey, and thus the news spread in Missolonghi. And unfortunately the news spread so much that they ultimately reached the ears of Yagos Vochoritis who became furious since the fiasco of his marriage had not yet faded in the consciousness of the small Missolonghian community. Yagos was much too egocentric and arrogant to allow things evolve this way. He had to mobilise himself immediately to prevent this journey of Daphne's. At any cost.
It was almost nine o'clock. There was intense mobility in the house of Mastrodimos. Daphne filled her bundle with changes of clothes and was helped by Lady-Asimo next to her. Every now and then Lady-Asimo cried on Daphne's shoulder as they would soon part for good. However, she was always coming to her senses and proceeded with making the preparations. Daphne and Lady-Asimo shared the same stare, shiny lashes and green eyes that looked like eyes of a beaver, close to each other. Sensual eyes, although slightly unusual for the Greek type of women.
In the living room, old Mastrodimos was constantly walking up and down. He wore the wide-sleeved felt overcoat to protect his back from the humidity. It was very easy for the humidity to affect old Mastrodimos on his back and leave him lying on the bed with stiffness.
Lord Greywood sat on a chair and occasionally took his gold round watch out of his pocket to check the time. That night the Lord was pathologically obsessed with the predetermined schedule, to the point of perversion. They had to depart at exactly nine o'clock, as agreed. But given the women's stalling in matters of preparation, he tolerated the whole process, sometimes sighing with discomfort.
Elias, a close friend of the family, was sitting next to Lord and was studying an English grammar book borrowed from the Misolonghian Academy. The poor boy had come specifically to help with the preparations, but the women politely prevented him from doing so as they did not want an eighteen-year-old to poke his nose into the women's clothing in the bundle.
As for Myrto, she was sitting speechless on a low stool with her pale face following old Mastrodimos back and forth. Uninvolved as always, with her left fist clenched. They shared the same stare, Myrto and old Mastrodimos: big eyes, eyelids so black that befitted more a coal miner.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Milord. I only hope you are sure of what you are going to do." said old Mastrodimos.
The Lord did not respond. He had already made many commitments to the Mastrodimos' family, and had repeatedly warned them that they simply had to trust him without asking too much. Old Mastrodimos, however, remained inflamed by the agony of the impending journey. When he realised that his shoes made an annoying noise on the wooden floor, he took them off his feet and began to stroll silently wearing only his woollen socks.
Gunshot. Heard from outside. Old Mastrodimos approached the window and looked. Yagos and his three brothers were standing outside the yard's door.
"Mastrodimos! Come out! We need to talk!" cried Yagos in a thunderous voice.
Daphne and her mother panicked in the room and left things on the bed. The old man, Mastrodimos, went about to pick up the rifle that was hanging on the wall. But the Lord stopped him.
"I'll go. Alone." he said.
"And what are you going to do with him, Milord? He will kill you the way he is, angered and drunk. Wrath has consumed him lately, the entire city knows it." said old Mastrodimos.
"I'll go. Alone." repeated the Lord abruptly.
"I'll come with you, Milord." jumped Elias from his chair.
"No. You stay where you are." said the Lord.
"But, Milord, they are four and you are only one. I will help you." said Elias.
The Lord stood at the door. He turned to Elias and looked him in the eyes. In this look of the Lord's, Elias cringed. That was not one of those kind, gentle looks that the Lord was used to give.
"Do me a favour, boy, and don't move one bit from your seat." he said in a calm voice, and Elias obeyed.
Now, a few words about the Vochoritis' family: The Vochorites were smart people and lovers of money. Of course, no one can or has the right to blame them for this. However, they acquired their properties, as well as the high social status they held amongst the notables, because they always secured the favour of the Turkish pashas who generously rewarded their devotion. As the Greek Revolution began and the prospect of an independent Greek nation ignited for good, the Vochorites - who adapted to the times and interests and moved with the flow of developments as the osiers bend in the direction of the winds - now fashioned themselves as fighters and ideologues in order to maintain their financial prominence. So they forgot their previous master, the Turk, and now they were actively mixing with their fellow citizens in the taverns and as capable demagogues they persuaded the crowds all around them for their mighty patriotism. Such were, more or less, the Vochorites.
What the Vochorites inherited from their previous master was the uncompromising perception of authority. The Vochorites, either with deceitful tactics of cajolery or with the practice of shameless audacity, had to always impose their superiority over the rest, in every possible way. This perception was spread as a flu to the view they held of the position of women. For the Vochorites, women did not represent but unquestionable submission, those beings who had to remain silent and unprotesting as to the man's whatever whims, no matter how brutal those might were. This, after all, was the reason why Yagos mostly addressed Daphne by the nickname wretched woman, to the extent that he even forgot her name.
The Lord stood outside the yard's door, before the four young men. Yagos' moustache widened to his ears with a smile. His eye shone with drunkenness and rage. The other three were more sober, but determined to help their brother. The brothers shared a common feature between them, the fierce slit eyes. As well as a particular fondness for the long oily hair. Each one of them also bore two pistols tied to their belts around the waist. The youngest one of the brothers seemed relatively timid.
"Well, well, well, greetings dear Lord! It was Mastrodimos I was shouting, but to tell the truth, Lord, it was you I was actually looking for." said Yagos.
"Well, here I am." replied the Lord.
"Lord, the tongues speak in Missolonghi and say various things." said Yagos angrily. "The tongues say that you and Mastrodimos's whore - yes, I mean his daughter, the one who did not keep the wedding vow she gave me - will embark on a journey tonight. And the tongues say that you will travel as far as Lefka, to the monastery of Panagia Filotheou, because there stays a louse named Petros Mousouris. The tongues say that Daphne has noble feelings for that mister louse and intends to marry him and stay with him and cut all connections with Missolonghi. That's what the tongues say."
"The tongues are telling the truth, Yago Vochoritis. And because we aim to go soon, I shall kindly ask you to be brief on your issue as I have no time to lose." said the Lord.
Yagos' eyes hardened. His eyebrows joined at the forehead forming a bridge. His nostrils opened wide as if by their own accord in order to smell the burnt gunpowder of the gunshot.
"I've got bad news for you, Lord. The schedule is changing. You shall not go anywhere. Neither tonight nor ever. Daphne will stay in Missolonghi. Daphne has unfinished business and this business need to be settled. Daphne will stay where she is in order to think about the mistake she made and then make her decisions. Daphne, Lord, owes me a marriage. And if she can't give me the marriage, she has to think about what else she can give me for compensation." said Yagos.
"Go home, Yagos. You are drunk." replied the Lord.
"I'll stay where I am, Lord. I won't move one bit from here. I will stay to keep an eye on you so that you won't slip away." said Yagos furious.
"Now, before we continue this discussion, I want you to answer a question. Are you left-handed or right-handed?” said the Lord.
"What did you say, Lord?" asked Yagos wondering.
"I am asking whether you and your siblings are left-handed or right-handed." said the Lord.
"And what concern is it of yours, Lord, whether we're left-handed or right-handed?" asked Yagos.
"Please answer this question for me and then I shall give you my explanations." said the Lord.
"We are all right-handed. Now explain yourself." said Yagos imperatively.
"Now, things are as follows and please listen to me very carefully." said the Lord. "The reason you came here with your brothers is to cause a stir and to provoke some quarrel if such thing was deemed necessary. This does not bother me so much since I happen to understand that you are all young and a little bit of fuss is legitimate from time to time so that those poor unsatisfied hormones manifest themselves, otherwise they'd gird the rationales like Furies. I am opposed to violence but I empathise with the rebellious youth and I let be with her cute stubbornness. But there is something else that bothers me in this instance and for this I have to inform you properly before retaliating, as you also have the right to know where you erred in your ways. In that small quarrel you've come here to initiate, you and your company made the foolish decision to bring your pistols along for reinforcement. This means, in my frugal perception, that if your intimidation of the people you are arguing with had not been successful, you would have been more or less willing to commit even murder in order to release your grudge. Now, that infuriates me unimaginably, that I do not forgive. So, what I intend to do on the occasion is to take the pistols from your possession and then I'll break the right hand of each one of you, so that it becomes a lesson to you and an example to the rest that it is impermissible to threaten to kill your fellow man and compatriot in order to impose your own opinion. Was I clear enough in my explanations or would you like me to state them in a simpler manner?”
Yagos giggled and then looked at his brothers. They also giggled along with him, albeit with some caution.
"You've got a very big idea of yourself, Lord. Tonight I will teach you the virtue of humility." said Yagos.
"Time is precious. Make your move and get it over with." said the Lord.
Yagos fixed his gaze on the Lord without blinking even for one second. Although poisoned by alcohol and the rage of recent days, he could discern the fiery red hues that sparked their flashes in Lord's eyes. However, he had made his own decisions and did not allow any illusions of this kind to deviate him from his purpose. Daphne ought to stay in Missolonghi and spend the rest of her life there, drowning in shame and guilt. And - by heavens! - we was determined to commit murder and even collaborate with the devil himself to impose his own judgement.
He suddenly threw his fist at Lord's face. The Lord avoided it by crouching swiftly and then struck a hard blow to Yagos' nose with the elbow of his left arm. When Yagos' eyes cried out from the horrible pain and his nose began to flood with blood, the Lord grabbed his right arm and twisted it on his back. And after he'd done so and kept him immobilised in a standing position, the Lord took out the two pistols that were sprouting out of his waistband and threw them into the small parterre with the roses. He then bent him over with a hard punch in the stomach, stretched out his right arm, and forcibly struck the arm's joint with the hard end of his flattened palm. The "crack" that was heard from the bone fracture made the others wince from shivering.
Yagos let out a piercing scream of pain. The Lord kicked him in the butt and sent him aside on the ground. Now was the turn of the others. The two brothers walked towards Lord, scrutinising his body language. They were both smart enough to realise that Lord was flexible and fast. So they estimated their movements, making quick walks around him. The youngest of the group stood aside, looking rather reluctant.
"Boys, I have no time to waste!" said the Lord.
The two brothers looked at each other and tacitly agreed on the common idea they had in mind. So they sent their fists at the Lord simultaneously, the one aimed at the head, the other moved towards the flank. Like a fast-moving feline, the Lord grabbed both hands by the wrists and instantly turned them around their shoulders, thus achieving the slight twist on the tendons, enough for the time being to immobilise the two aspiring competitors. He sent his clenched fist to the one, knocking him to the ground. Then he moved towards the other, tightened his fingers around his right forearm like metal press and stretched it straight. The hard flattened palm fell with its tip on the joint, breaking the bone. The Lord then moved on to the other brother, who was lying on the ground by the blow, and repeated the same move, breaking his right arm. And after doing so, the Lord took the pistols from their waistbands and threw them in the parterre.
The three brothers were now groaning in unbearable pain, curled up on the ground. The Lord turned his gaze to the fourth brother, the youngest one. They stared at each other silent for a few seconds. Until the young one found the courage and boldly took the pistol out of his waistband and aimed it at the Lord. He pulled the trigger and the pistol eructed its bullet with a bang and smoke towards the Lord. The bullet pierced the Lord's tailcoat, at the point of his heart. Seeing the vampire standing unharmed before him, the young brother seemed to calm down, as if the questions in his mind had been answered.
"Forgive me, Lord. I needed to know." he said, and threw the pistol on the ground and ran away.
The Lord took the young brother's pistol and threw it in the parterre. He then approached the three brothers who were convulsing with cries on the ground from the horrible pains of the broken arms.
"You two leave. I want to talk to Yagos alone." he ordered the two brothers and they got up from the ground with a great deal of effort and left with groans in the night, holding their broken right hands tightly on their chests to alleviate the pain.
The Lord sat down next to the cluttered Yagos. He grabbed him by the shoulder and leaned him on his back. Under the pale moonlight, Yagos's face looked unusually white-grey, and the blood running from his nose looked as black as tar.
"Yagos, I want you to listen very carefully to what I'm going to tell you." the Lord said in a low, steady voice. "Can you hear me, Yagos Vochoritis? Give me a nod that you are listening to me because - I swear - I will break your other hand too."
Grunting, Yagos raised his eyes at the Lord's face. All he could see was the Lord's black silhouette under the full moon. In that black silhouette, however, posed for two fiery red spots that stared at him straight in the eyes and passed through his spine like raging blazes.
"I hear you, I hear you," groaned Yagos through his clenched teeth, with his right broken hand stuck to his chest.
"Now, listen to me very carefully, Yagos Vochoritis, because these are not words I will repeat." said the Lord. "If I ever learn in the future that you've started a vendetta against this house in order to blow your stubbornness over, I shall return to Missolonghi from wherever I am on earth. And guess what I'm going to do if I come over here. I shall slaughter all of your family, all the Vochorites. I shall slaughter your mother, your old man, your brothers, your cousins, I shall slaughter whoever you have and have not. And I shall slaughter them before your eyes. I shall slaughter them all like pigs, all but one. Only you I shall leave untouched. And after I do that, I shall leave here. And when I do leave and stay away, I shall pray for you, I shall pray that you'll be strong enough in life to overcome this unspeakable tragedy and rebuild your life and make a fresh start. And if my prayers work, you - hopefully - will be with a new family and with a wife and children and you will be looking forward to a new future with hope and dreams. And guess what I'll do then, Yagos Vochoritis. I shall return to Missolonghi again. And I shall slaughter your new family, your wife, your children, all your hopes and dreams. I shall slaughter them all except you. Only you I shall leave untouched and alive, and when I leave here I shall pray that you'll always be well in your health. And if the time passes and my prayers are heard from the Almighty, you will one day become a weak but omniscient little old man. And in that twilight of years, when your humble existence will be doddering by the burden of the desolation that tarnished your entire life, you will no longer find the sweet final happiness but in the shadow of a willow or in the chanting of a nightingale or in the sight of a flower. And guess what I'll do then, Yagos Vochoritis. I shall return to Missolonghi. And I shall destroy the willow and kill the nightingale and crush the flower. I am not going to respect you even in your death. I will be coming over every year, to your every memorial service, and I shall be urinating on your grave. So that your name will be cursed forever in the next generations. Did you understand what I just told you, Yagos Vochoritis?"
"Yes, yes," mumbled Yagos.
"Never provoke my true wrath, Yagos. You 'll never find a name for the evil I shall unleash upon you." said the Lord.
"Yes, yes," repeated Yagos as the pain in his broken arm became more and more intense.
"And now go." said the Lord, and Yagos rose from the ground with difficulty, and walked the dark dirt road with his right hand tightly stuck on his torso until he disappeared into the night.
The Lord returned to the house of the Mastrodimos' family. Upon entering, he was confronted with the stunned looks of everyone who had watched the entire event. What caused them awe and horror, more than the Lord's heroic act, was the smoky hole in his tailcoat, at the point of his heart, from the shot of little Vochoritis. The Lord, however, had absolutely no intention of procrastinating on the matter, and so all he had to say in this case was:
"Please hurry up. We have to go."
[to be continued next Friday, 21 August 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.