First published in Great Britain by Speartip
Copyright © Lee McGeorge 2014
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transferred, in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cover artwork by Miguel E. Santillán
Islington, London, N4
For Alex & Jasmine
Queen Margaret of the Aouati People
Duchess Camilla of The Noble
Emily Twirly Ford
Book Three, of the Vampire "Untitled" Trilogy
Previously, in Vampire “Untitled”
It was a career opportunity that brought Paul McGovern to Romania. The mild and unassuming young man was one of the best and brightest. A graduate of Oxford University, he was at the beginning of his professional life as journalist and author.
His plan was to create a retreat to work on a project, but things took on a darker tone when he uncovered a strange Christian shrine hidden in woodland. The legend said he’d found the grave of a vampire, something the locals called the Strigoi, an invisible spirit that infected men with violent and murderous thoughts.
Paul dismissed it as nothing more than folktales until the legend got the better of his own psychology. Within weeks he’d killed two men and raped the girl he loved.
Wanted by the Romanian police, he escaped to London to research the illness of the Strigoi whilst two manhunters methodically worked their way towards him.
With the noose closing, Paul turned the tables and found the manhunters before they found him. The first, Cornel Latis, was cornered in a hotel room and survived an attack that disfigured his face, whilst the second man died from knife wounds in a London alleyway.
That was the last anyone saw of Paul McGovern. He vanished into the rain on an autumn evening, but the promise of the strigoi is that once a man is infected it’s only a matter of time before the violence returns.
Now, the story continues...
Paul brought the car to a halt, there was blood smeared across the back of his hands. He turned his palms over, stained red from the Frenchman.
The sky was clear with an early morning rising sun. He got out and looked across the scrubland to the blue waters of Lake Skhodra many miles away. From this high point on the mountain ridge, the city of Skhodra in Albania was a thousand red tiled rooftops of quaint little buildings on the shore of a pristine lake.
He poured mineral water onto his hands to try and clean away some of the blood. He rubbed some water on his face to cool down, then removed his shirt, towelled with it, and tossed it into the back of the car. Over his T-shirt he wore a curved knife in a shoulder holster, a karambit. “Show no fear, Paul,” he said to himself. “Show no fear.”
At the back of the car he put the key into the boot lock.
His hands had a slight tremble. “Help me now, Ildico,” he whispered. “I need your strength to do this.”
He popped open the boot.
Wide panicked eyes stared back.
“Get out of the fucking car!” he screamed whilst grabbing at the fifty year old’s shirt and hair. “Get out! Get out! Get the fuck out!” He pulled at him with power and fury, dragging him upright whilst catching the smell of fermented piss. His victim’s eyes bulged as Paul hoisted him to sitting then dragged him out to crash against the dirt.
“Mmmrease… MMMREASE!” The man was trying to say something, scream something, perhaps it was ‘Please’ but the gag and zip-tie between his teeth prevented him. His face was purple with strain, his body heaved and wretched as he tried to inhale a lungful of air through his nostrils.
Paul raised his boot above the man’s face. “Shut the… fuck up!” he stomped his foot against his temple to finish the sentence, sending the man into the dust and a position of utter subservience. His fingers flexed and his wrists squirmed against the ties that held them behind his back, his head turned to the side and his eyes squinted and blinked in the daylight, but he said nothing.
The man was Alek Dukanovic, a banker from Montenegro. Paul pulled his clothing to get him onto his knees. “Stand up.” Paul’s voice was so coarse and deep it sounded like the words were ground between two stones. Dukanovic wobbled upright but his weak and numbed legs gave way and he dropped back to his knees. Paul hooked a hand under his arm and could feel the banker’s whole body shaking as he lifted him.
He unhooked the karambit and held the blade against Dukanovic’s face. “There is one job for you. Do it well and I’ll let you go unharmed. Do anything wrong, or do anything that I haven’t told you and I’ll slowly cut your testicles in half, one at a time.” He pressed the karambit against Dukanovic’s skin. “Do you understand?”
The banker nodded, pulling back from the knife. Sharpened on both edges and shaped like a tiger-claw, the karambit was a slashing weapon, not a stabbing blade... and it could slash.
“I have a question,” Paul hooked the blade under the zip-tie to cut the gag away. “The Frenchman,” he asked, “why was he there this morning?”
“Francoise?” Dukanovic said, the cotton gag falling from his mouth, his voice faltering, his body shaking.
“Why was he there? Why was he at your home?”
“He was… he was…” the banker’s shoulders clenched forward, his face screwed up and tears began streaming from his eyes before his head threw back and he purged with a wailed sob. He cried the man’s name with a breath. “Francoise…”
Paul yanked his jacket. “Why,” he repeated, “was he there this morning?”
“We live together…” Dukanovic replied. “We share the home.”
“I know you live together. But for the last two months he’s left every Thursday night and returned Saturday afternoon. Why? Why this week was he there on a Friday?”
Dukanovic looked down to his shoes. “His sister,” he whispered. “He visits her every week… But this week, she is on holiday... she is in Egypt with her children.”
“So he didn’t visit this week,” Paul muttered. “That’s too bad.”
Dukanovic suddenly started coughing inward, sucking air like he was having a seizure. “Please,” he begged between coughs, “Please, I’m sorry please…”
“Sorry? What are you sorry for?”
The banker didn’t answer. He was sorry for nothing. It was panic talk. Pleading. Begging. He looked like he was going to vomit. Paul leaned his man forward in case he did. “Stay there.” Paul went to the car to collect his sword, a wakizashi, a genuine short sword of the Samurai that he’d found in a Czech flea market for forty Euros. It had the sharpest blade he’d ever found.
“This way,” Paul motioned to a faint track in the scrubland. He took hold of Dukanovic’s elbow and pushed him towards a row of trees several hundred yards away. The ground was thick with dead brush and with his bound hands Dukanovic didn’t balance well. They walked to a folding chair behind a row of bushes; an observation hide, the sort of secret cover used to watch animals, but this one wasn’t for the wildlife. It overlooked a compound of luxury villas.
“Sit... on the ground.”
Dukanovic didn’t immediately move. Paul hooked a finger into the pressure point below his Adam’s apple and pressed him to the floor. He stepped behind the man and took his knife from the holster. The banker must have thought he was going to slit his throat because he clenched, flinched and shrieked as Paul positioned himself. He seemed genuinely surprised when his arms sprung forward as they escaped the cuffs. Paul sat in the chair and rested the sword on his lap.
“Do you know who lives in that compound?” Paul asked.
“I don’t know where we are.”
“It is owned by Aldo, Lorik and Erjon Gjokeja. Do you know who they are?”
“Yes.” His answer was sheepish. Embarrassed.
“Sure you know them… The Gjokeja brothers store a lot of physical cash at your bank in Podgorica. They visited you yesterday and spent time in your strong room. You spoke with them, remember?”
“I remember,” Dukanovic whispered.
“I know they visit your strong room on days they receive a lot of hard currency and yesterday they deposited a lot of money in your bank… Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to convince them to go across the border into Montenegro, withdraw that cash and bring it up here to the villa.”
Dukanovic started crying. “I don’t know how to make them do that.”
“You’re going to say you have been tipped off that the police are coming to seize their assets. Tell them a police task-force is about to raid the bank. You will convince them to collect everything and bring it here and that you will come and meet them later to explain the situation.”
“I can do what you ask,” he said. “But I can’t guarantee they will do it… What are you going to do to them? To the Gjokejas?”
“I’m going to kill them and take their money.”
Dukanovic’s skin turned a shade lighter. “And what are you go-going to do to me?”
“Nothing… if you help me. Do as I ask and I’ll let you go.” He leaned closer to hiss his next words. “But if you don’t help me, if you don’t convince those men to rush to your bank and come back with a car full of money, you will spend the rest of your life screaming in pain and begging me to stop... and I won’t stop. Understand?”
Paul leaned even closer and whispered, “My Albanian is passable for speaking, but une flas shqipe te dini se ju them te verteten!”
Dukanovic understood. In his broken language he’d said, ‘I speak enough Albanian to know you will tell the truth.’
“I am not going to lie,” he said. “I wi-will do whatever you ask.”
“Then stop crying. I’ll give you a few minutes to compose yourself and then you will make the call.”
Dukanovic held his lips together but tears ran across his cheeks. Paul stared through the hide to the compound and adopted an impossible stillness which he held for several minutes, then took a mobile telephone from his pocket and turned back to the banker sitting in the dirt beside him. “Prepare yourself.”
----- X -----
Paul pictured the memory perfectly. They were walking in deep snow by Castle Bran, the real life castle was the fictional home of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. “I want two children,” Ildico had said as she mused a possible future. “A boy called John and a girl called Alina.”
He smiled at the memory. Her words, her voice. The castle was their first date; they’d held hands. She wore that cheap white puffer coat, the one that ripped and he’d put safety pins in whilst she cried in his bathroom. That was the first night they kissed. Ildico Popescu. What a wonderful girl. His memory of her was almost real enough to touch.
“I want a boy called John and a girl called Alina,” she had said as they walked the grounds of Dracula’s castle.
Be careful what you wish for, Ildico. Never tell the monster what you really want.
He allowed the projection in his mind to fade away and turned his attention back to Dukanovic. He was holding it together quite well considering he’d watched his lover bleed out only a few hours earlier.
There was more killing to be done.
It would be worth it.
Paul stroked his fingers across the tattoo. On his left arm, from the crook of his elbow to his wrist the word ‘sublimation’ was inked in simple block letters. He traced the word with a finger and whispered it to himself, “Remember why you’re doing this. Sublimation for Ildico… and for Alina.”
He took another moment to daydream and imagined her laying on a bed above a plain white sheet. Her skin milky and colourless, her long dark hair as a bloom around her head. He wanted to see her inviting him, asking for his touch, but for some time his fantasy of her would no longer look at him. In his imagination she always looked away, avoiding eye contact. Was she disappointed by him? Was it his subconscious mind feeling disgust and revulsion in his actions? Was that why she turned her gaze away?
“I love you, Ildico; and I understand. It is right for you to be repulsed.”
He turned the mobile phone in his hands and selected the number for Erjon Gjokeja. “I’m coming, Ildico,” he whispered. “I’ll risk everything for you. Even if you’re repulsed by my actions, in the long run I trust you will understand.”
He opened his eyes wide to shake away the daydreams. He was back, sitting on a rocky hillside above a luxury compound of villas. He breathed in the scent of baked dusty air. He handed the phone to the man beside him and activated the speakerphone. “Une jam duke degjuar.” I am listening, he said, then he pressed the dial button.
Drrrrr Drrrrr Drrrrr… Drrrrr Drrrrr Drrrrr… The phone was answered. A man’s voice, “Allo?”