Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The Astonishment of Mike Costello

Mike Costello slammed his pint glass down on the table and consulted his watch for about the fifteenth time. Vlad had always had a hazy notion of time, but this time he was really taking the biscuit. He was short of cash, as usual, and had been relying on Vlad to get the drinks in. He sighed heavily and fished around in his pocket to see if he had enough money for another pint. His search produced a 50p, a 20p and a button. He really needed Vlad to show and get the round in.

He wasn't the nervous type, but for some reason this evening he just felt wired. It was about warm enough for him to sit at a table outside; Vlad didn't deal real well with the flashing lights on the one-armed bandits and felt more at home skulking in the shadows outside. But Costello felt spooked and was jumping at the slightest movement and the loud guffaws of laughter that suddenly floated out of the pub doors.

He had just started investigating the pockets on the front of his shirt to see if he still had a stray fag, when a hand fell heavily onto his shoulder and gave him the fright of his life. Shaking like a leaf and already chiding himself for being soft, he turned his head expecting to see Vlad standing there.

It wasn't Vlad he saw; but the tall elegantly dressed stranger looking down on him was definitely a vampire. It's vibration was just not human and Costello could feel the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise. It felt as though all the air had been sucked out of the courtyard garden and that the vampire was standing in a vortex.

'I'm sorry to have startled you' said the stranger in a low, patrician drawl 'You are Michael Patrick Costello, are you not?'

'Depends who's asking' stuttered Costello getting shakily to his feet and backing away as best he could until his back was up against the courtyard wall.

The stranger put his hand into his breast pocket, withdrew a heavily embossed business card with a crest on it and presented it to him.

'Lord Kingsteington, at your service' said the vampire silkily as Costello took hold of the card with suddenly heavy, clumsy fingers.

'May I get you a drink?' the vampire continued 'Your glass appears to be empty and I myself am in need of refreshment'.

Costello gulped nervously as he was well aware of what constituted refreshment for a vampire; he was also shaken to the core at the vampire naming himself as Kingsteignton.

'Thanks' he managed to squeak 'Mine's a pint of bitter'.

'Wouldn't you rather sample some of the superb brandy that they serve in this establishment?' queried Kingsteignton clicking his fingers, and to Costello's total astonishment summoning one of the barstaff instantly to his side at the table.

'Two large brandies and a couple of those Cuban cigars' snapped Kingsteignton premptorily and the barman scurried off to do his bidding.

'Wouldn't you be more comfortable sitting' asked Kingsteignton courteously as he himself sank elegantly down onto one of the vacant seats.

Mike shuffled himself back into his seat, still clutching the business card. He found that he couldn't stop staring into the deep, dark pools that were Kingsteignton's eyes, it felt that he was being spun in a big, warm tub of melted caramel and he was drowning.....

Kingsteignton's laugh shattered the spell and Costello found himself snapping back into full reality.

'You may be a psychic, human, but you can be played just as easily as any of them. Did your friend Vladimirescu not warn you about the glamour of a vampire; about how we can seduce our prey into submission?'

Costello rubbed his eyes with his knuckles to clear them and looked cautiously back at the vampire.

'How do you know about me' he asked belligerently 'And why are you here instead of Vlad; I thought they had gone off to sort you out!'

'Two Romanian vampires and a werewolf? How you do underestimate me, my boy! Let us just say that young Vladimirescu has been regretfully detained this evening, which gives me the chance to spend some time with you and get to know you better'.

The barman came out of the pub and put a round silver tray with a decanter, two glasses, two cigars, a lighter and an ashtray on it down on the table.

Costello suddenly felt his ears buzzing. 'Whatever you do, do not drink from the decanter' came a firm, female voice in his head.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Sun Finally Sets

Roland pulled himself together and started up the steps that led to the entrance to the apartment block. He would definitely have to take a shower now, before he popped in to say goodnight to Malvolio and Proserpine. It was just not vampire that he reeked of now; he knew that Malvolio would instantly pick up the scent that he had been aroused by a woman and the anger and resentment that followed it.

He stepped into the lift, making sure that he was not seen and thankfully let himself into his apartment. He flung open the wide glass doors that led out onto the terrace overlooking the Thames, and then went into the bathroom and turned the shower on to it's hottest setting.

He stood under the stinging hot needles of water for at least twenty minutes, trying to wash away all the grime and accumulated debris of his day. His mind was spinning; who should he trust, whose story should he believe. And always the alluring image of Eunice Batchworth was trying to push it's way to the front of his mind and into his awareness.

He turned off the jets and towelled himself down. After shrugging on a thick navy blue towelling robe, he padded back into his lounge to look over the pile of post he had brought in with him and listen to the messages promised by the winking light on the machine. He poured himself a glass of whisky from the decanter on the side and flung himself down on the sofa to go through the myriad envelopes. One in particular, caught his eye and he fished it out. The envelope was pink and was edged with lavender ribbon. It wafted a strong odour of attar of roses when he turned it over, and written on the back in lavender ink was the name and address of the sender:

Mlle Simone de Grandjean, 14 The Corniche, Monte Carlo.

Roland frowned. He had never heard of anyone by that name before, so how did they know his name and address? He was paranoid about the security of the Clan, and only trusted intimates knew addresses and phone numbers of Clan members.

He was about to rip the envelope open and, hopefully, solve the mystery when the phone rang and his answering machine whirred into action.

'De Cazalrenoux you are being played for a fool. The vampire is meeting his human psychic friend this evening at the Bricklayers Arms. Trust no-one!'

The message was delivered in a gruff, low tone, as though the speaker was talking through a scarf. Roland played back the message several times to see if he could gain more information about who had called. The number used was blocked, and Roland couldn't tell if the caller was male or female, what accent they spoke in, or even if the message had been pre-recorded.

Was the message for real or was he being set up? There were several Bricklayer's Arms in London, if he was to try and intercept the meeting he would probably have to do a mini pub-crawl!

He thought furiously for a few minutes and then decided that action was the best way forward. He sighed heavily and got on his feet to go into his bedroom and dress. As he looked out onto the terrace he could see the sun dipping down over the river in a fiery glow. He was due to turn tonight when the moon rose, so he needed to track Vladimirescu and his psychic chum down swiftly; he could not risk turning in a crowded London pub or on the street!

He had entirely forgotten about the scented pink envelope that had fallen back onto the sofa as he stood up; that now lay discarded on the black leather of the seat cushions.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Roland's Day Deteriorates

Roland entered the vampire's house warily, although his curiosity was piqued and he wanted to know what the inside of a vampire's lair looked like.

As the Count dumped Kingsteignton unceremoniously on a couch in the hall and Vladimirescu picked up some kind of note, began reading and then started muttering to himself, Roland roamed the rooms on the ground floor. All he could see was faded grandeur; peeling wallpaper, fading upholstery and several holes in the carpets. Even the kitchen cabinets and appliances looked like they had come out of a woman's journal of the 1930's. It was a far cry from his ultra-modern, luxurious flat overlooking the river at Shad Thames.

However, he could find no signs of a human male being currently in residence. His ultra-sensitive nose detected that a male in his late twenties, with not particularly good personal hygiene had been there but had left at least an hour ago. An overturned red wine bottle dribbling over the carpet, an emptied glass and a lot of bagel crumbs were further confirmation of the humans presence.

So Vladimirescu had not been lying about him being here, at least. Roland decided that there was no profit in him staying there if the psychic was long gone and returned to where Vlad still stood. He had crumpled the note in his hand and was looking thoughtful.

'Look Vladimirescu, there is no human here, so I am off. Some of us have work to do you know!'

'Oh' said Vlad vaguely 'Yes it seems his plans have changed. I will try and sort something out'.

'What was in that note he left you?' asked Roland curtly.

'Oh, the note wasn't from him; it was from the milkman asking that I pay his account' replied Vlad weakly.

'Don't take me for a fool, Vladimirescu! All I want is to know where my clan member is? Pretending to be as soft in the head as Kingsteignton, cuts no ice with me. Arrange a meeting with this human psychic of yours and let me know'.

Roland turned on his heel and strode out of the house, passing Count Antonescu, who was still trying to get Kingsteignton to lie on the couch, without acknowledgement.

He walked briskly out into the spring sunshine and hailed a cab to take him back to his flat.

What a total waste of an afternoon! He had learned nothing to his advantage and reeked of vampire! He would have a good, long shower when he got back and see if he had had any messages from Sue Fisher.

As he was paying off the cabbie at the main door of the block, he noticed a familiar figure come down the steps, unhook a soft mint green crash helmet from the handlebars of a scooter of the same colour, and start putting it over her glowing, titian curls.

Roland couldn't believe his eyes. What was Eunice Batchworth, that divine goddess of a young witch doing in his apartment block?

He loped over to where she was now climbing onto her scooter in a few strides.

'Hi Eunice! What are you doing here? Were you looking for me?' Roland asked a little breathlessly.

'Oh Roland, Hi. No I was over having a cup of tea with Malvolio and Proserpine. We were talking about what to do for Proserpine's birthday. As you know, it's only a few weeks away.'

'I didn't know that you knew Malvolio and Prosperpine?' he replied carefully.

'Yes, I've known them since Malvolio brought her to The Young Witches Association Christmas Party last year. I often drop by, or we all go out for pizza or something. Anyway, mustn't stop, have got heaps to do!'

With that, Eunice revved up her scooter and shot off down the road.

Roland leaned his hand against the nearest lamppost for support. Was his world really spinning totally out of control? Although he knew that there was no real reason why Malvolio should tell him who he saw and when, Roland had always believed that he knew roughly who his clan consorted with and why. Clan security was paramount and as alpha it was his job to ensure it. But Roland was honest enough to admit to himself that the real reason he felt so shaken was because a bolt of pure jealousy had shot through him the second that Eunice had mentioned Malvolio's name.

He had arrogantly assumed that the beautiful young witch has been seeking him out; and he didn't like the fact that she had been hanging out with his curly -haired, personable young beta one bit. In fact he was amazed at how little he liked it at all!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Uneasy spirits

The spirits lived in every nook and cranny of the house, formed by the energy of those who had lived and died there. These were not the ghosts of those who had departed, but simply echoes and memories that had chosen to remain behind.

Costello would never have claimed any ability to speak to those who had passed over, but could, if he let his mind go free, communicate with these spirits. He was, with the assistance of a glass of aged red wine, doing this in the absence of Vlad and the Count.

Usually this was an enjoyable, illuminating experience for the psychic, but this time he was troubled by the feelings emanating from the building. At first as his mind swam with the spirits, he felt a sense of unease rising through him, after a short time the spirits seemed to be chanting faintly, just at the edge of his hearing so that he was unable to make any sense of it.

The spirits seemed to want to hold him where he was, and at first it was like torture; not to be able to move, nor to awake from this dream-like state. But as the time passed the voices seemed to be getting louder, as they did so Mike was able to make out just one word – and on hearing it he was finally able to break free of the spell.

The single word which had been repeated over and over in a whisper, and then finally barked at Costello, was this:


Finally able to move freely about the living room, Mike made his way to the kitchen, swallowing the remains of the wine in his glass as he did so. The experience had made him feel weak and a little nauseous, so he filled a glass with ice cold water and greedily drank it down. He was a little shaken, but he needed to keep moving around do that he could think.

House spirits, by their natures, were not vindictive, they did not serve an agenda; they simply existed to maintain a presence of those who had been happy in the house. The spirits had no reason to lie and no reason to try and frighten those who communed with them.

Someone, or something, had unsettled the spirits enough to make them send out a warning – Costello was surprised that he had not noticed anything strange himself, but Vampires were notoriously difficult to read especially if they were hiding something. He would need a quiet word with Vlad without the brooding presence of the Count.

In the extreme comfort of the Vampire Lord’s car, Vlad and his lupine companion travelled back from to the house. The Count sat in the seats behind to watch over the gibbering Kingsteignton.

“What do you think he meant by all that – do you think he was serious about a war brewing?” Vlad asked, relaxing back into plush leather seats and fiddling with the many buttons at his disposal.

“Nonsense – he has clearly lost his mind …” Roland began, but Vlad was not about to allow him to follow that train of thought.

“I respectfully disagree, my furry friend,” Vlad paused to allow his insult to have effect and then continued, “No, I have known that wretched money-grabber for well over a century, and he is self composed, single minded and ruthless. Even the prospect of being savaged by you would not have changed that.

“What we saw back there was wide-eyed terror my young friend.” He smiled revealing his fangs and went back to fiddling with the any gadgets that had been fitted by its owner.

Roland bit back his reaction to being referred to as either hairy, or young. He may not have liked the Vampire sitting next to him, or indeed Vampires in general, but if he was to locate his lost clan member then he would have to trust that the human psychic was all that Vladimirescu had claimed.

“Your problems are your own Vladimirescu, I wish only to find Kea so for your sake Mr Costello had better be able to get more out of the mad Lord here then we could.” He barked back.

As he spoke, the car pulled up outside the Vampire’s residence, and the men made their way to the front door, the Count lifting the prone figure of Kingsteignton easily and carrying him up the steps leading to the front door.

Vlad wandered around and called out for his friend, but no answer came. It was then that he noticed on one of the few remaining tables in the drawing room was a folded piece of paper. He opened it and read its contents:

Dear Vlad,

Something is wrong. Your house spirits are uneasy (and please try not laugh, this is serious). We need to speak in private – after dark make your way to the Bricklayers Arms and I will meet you there.

Also, beware the Count. He is not all he seems.