Jackson Elias Journal – Continued
13 March, 1916, Athene Palace, Bucharest— Reaching forth unto those things left behind. For safety’s sake . . . I hope of this I have been misinformed—I could not help but turn back to the page where I had had the foresight to copy Sister Agatha’s missive. I cannot help in hindsight now to wonder whether its veiled warning was in regards to the black-market enterprise I sought to uncover or the darken, sinister world of revenants. And one such in particular, whom, until today, I would have thought the magnificent creation of a fanciful fiction. Dracula. Even writing of it seems totally incredulous to the extreme. Even to I, who in my youthful awakening of desires had written in my well concealed and salacious notebook a fanciful romance with a nocturnal Mercy Brown – whom I had imagined as lovely as the day they had placed her in her grave – and as licentious as the brides in Stoker’s novel – which had so enchanted me with their voluptuous lips, the warm breath upon a neck, their musical voices. Their passage I read over and over again for even upon the page they so mesmerized me. Theodora Corey. Aunt Ellen’s own enthralling bride – who has ever worn black since her passing. A poet, a member of Ipswich’s fashionable society –– it was she who had awakened my literary passions. Fed me books my pious and hypocritical Aunt would not have allowed. Gave a 12-year-old Sister Carrie. Loaned me Dracula. From her I learned vampires were not something merely whispered of in the far-away Carpathians but in haunted New England as well – told me the tragic story of Mercy, a young girl, who to my impressionable imagination I fantasized as being as unnaturally perverse and wicked as I began to understand myself to be. Only now – I am confronted with the true meaning of perversity and wickedness. And evil. Of that there was no mistake. For there was nothing licentious in the look of that young woman in the earthen box. Nothing sensual in the sudden sound of the snapping of Sister Agatha’s neck. There was only the reality of a crumpled nun on a chapel floor.
But—I do not have the time for this . . . Lord Cyril will be waiting. I need to dress so as to descend to dinner lest Edmond Richmond arrives early – and yet I will be uneasy until I can make some accounting of all that transpired within Lord Cyril’s suite.
Theodora beyond all else – you have made me a reporter.
In that I had earlier sought him out and was informed he had departed the hotel for the afternoon and as yet had not returned, I had, as earlier related, gone to the hotel dining room, not only for tea, but the reassurance of not being alone in my rooms – not after having witnessed the sudden and brutal murder of Sister Agatha. But, in some way around, we had managed to miss one another, for he had as well been seated in the dining room, awaiting my return (as he later explained) and had only momentarily stepped away from his table, when I had entered to take up mine. And so, looking up from my writing I was gratified to see him entering through the open double doors of the dining room just as he was striding past M. Gora, the Maître d’s station – heading to a table which seemingly had already been selected. I arose from my seat, “Lord Cyril – I am so glad to see you. Please, have a seat. I have so much to tell you.”
Cane in hand he stopped and looked at me in some surprise to find me standing there before him, “I say, Jackson, I have been most eager to speak with you as well.” Only, I took notice his eagerness was tempered by a quick glance to the table before the tall windows, where the lovely aristocrat and her odd table companion – whom I was ever more than certain was in private service – were seated.
With a slight nod he was all agreement, “Right—although, I would recommend, we should retire to a more secluded location."
“Yes, most definitely.” I was not at all sure how much of what I had to tell him even he would believe, but to do so where we should be overheard could only add to the awkwardness of the improbability of the discussion. And so, I quickly gathered up my pen and journal – as sanguine M. Gora, nodding as we passed, remarked: “I see – you have made connection.”
“Quite.” Lord Cyril replied and we exited through the double doors open to the dark expanse of the lobby. In a lower voice, which was all but a whisper, owing no doubt to the awareness of the acoustics of the hall, he turned to me, “As improper as it might sound, perhaps it would be best that we should compare notes in the office of my suite. Is that amenable to you?"
“My day, Lord Cyril, has been, well, to put it mildly, unbelievable.” I replied in a soft-voice to match his own, “And so—yes. I am in complete agreement. What I have to discuss needs to be done with some confidence.”
With a nod and an accompanying, “Very well,” we crossed the lobby and slowly began ascending the lobby’s majestic stairs. For my part, I must admit to my selfish desire to overwhelm him with the revelation of the incredible events of my day – perhaps to the exclusion of any which may have occurred to him since we last saw one another. To this, I am certain the silence with which we ascended owed in part to his perception and contemplation of this impending onslaught as well as how to best juggle the itinerary of what he in turn may wish to relate. I wanted to exclaim the moment we entered his rooms that I had witnessed the impossible – I had seen Dracula. And yet my thoughts were tumultuous. There were so many things I needed to impart. So, as I slowly took a stair, I forced myself to relax the tension in my shoulders. To exhale a long breath. To expand my focus. To observe. To become orderly. Measured. And I began to arrange how best to relate all of the day’s events and revelations.
As we reached the landing, I hesitated a moment to take a quick backward glance down into the lobby to be assured we were not being observed.
Upon approaching his rooms, his lordship reached onto his pocket and withdrew his key. To open the door to his suite and ever the gentleman he motioned for me to enter, even as I caught him taking as well a last quick look down the corridor.
He entered and closed the door as I placed my purse and journal down on a side table, “First, I need to ask you, Lord Cyril. Last night, when you mentioned Imre Turcanu,” I turned to him, “It was owing to your desire to have me find out what I could about him?”
“Yes.” He quite readily admitted as he ambled over to one of the cushioned chairs positioned near the windows, whose drapes had been pulled back to reveal the falling snow beyond. He unbuttoned his jacket and seated himself with the aid of his cane
“Of what did you suspect of him?”
The corner of his mouth pulled slightly, “I feel that I have a bit of a confession to make. You see, I sent you thus because I trust you—and I reasoned that you would rather judiciously discover the truth behind M. Turcanu, if there were any to be uncovered." That said, he proceeded to produce from the pocket of his jacket his pipe, “I am more the fool for not properly preparing you for what you must have undoubtedly discovered.” He continued as he removed his tobacco pouch and slowly began to fill the pipe, “For you see, it is true. The Stigoi, the Vampires, the Un-dead. Call them what you will – they exist. And so, of what did I suspect of M. Turcanu?” He looked up earnestly from his working with the pipe, “That he is one of these abominations, made all the more insidious by his connection to a web that threatens all of humanity."
I stepped lightly across the burgundy rug with what seemed a loud rustle of my skirt and took a seat in the cushioned chair opposite him. I could not help but feel extremely gratified by this strong recommendation of me – which, no doubt, derived not only from having proven myself during our hazardous trek to the Danube, but to the crossing as well, where there had been not only the vague hint of vampires in the overheard conversation of the sentries we had to dispatch in order to make good our escape to the river, but, in the odd circumstance of the soldiers which had fired upon us as we began our crossing. And the sudden appearance of the dark figure who had made such short work of the Bulgarians – an event neither of us had since discussed – although, I was certain we both had the same suspicions. And if he had held similar suspicions of M. Turcanu – more than just mere trust in me – I felt his lordship was well aware I was from Connecticut – from witch haunted New England, where there was not only a long, dark heritage of witchcraft and sorcery, but also, like Rhode Island and Vermont, an incredulous belief in the un-dead – which, as knowledgeable as his lordship was, he most certainly had to have taken into consideration in his setting me out upon a course leading to M. Turcanu.
“Well, I can confirm your suspicions.” I told him crossing my legs and rubbing a caressing hand over the material of the dress draped upon my knee, “M. Turcanu is, well, was a revenant. A significant one from what I gather . . . until Nigel Montague saw to his demise."
“One of Commissioner Câmpineanu’s shrewd speculations.” Lord Cyril muttered as he took a match from the match-box he had removed from the same pocket of his jacket which had held his pipe.
“But more importantly—so is the new owner of the bookstore.” I continued.
He struck the match on his shoe and began lighting his pipe. “This new owner. Who is he?”
“His name is Viorel Rákóczi – and to say the least, he is sinister in the extreme." I watched as he began to draw on the stem of his pipe, the tobacco in the bowl catching fire. “But – as to this insidious web—”
“You say with some certainty that Nigel Montague dispatched Turcanu,” he continued to draw the flame of his match into the bowl the pipe, “And you discovered this how?”
“Surely you are aware,” I said, “Edmond Richmond and Nigel Montague, they are members of British Secret Service.” I didn’t in any way feel I was betraying a confidence owing to the fact that from the moment I saw him huddled with Lieutenant Kadijević in the austere dining room of the White Venice Hotel, as they conferred over their maps, I suspected Lord Cyril of being British Intelligence. “Or rather some special branch as Richmond says.”
He looked at me thoughtfully, "Yes, I am aware. And Richmond, he told you this?”
“Yes.” I watched the rather deceptive detachment of his concentration upon lighting his pipe. "What with the shooting of Richmond last night and the fact I am still uncertain as to whether he was truly the intended target and not yourself, I felt it incumbent to follow your lead. And so, I awoke this morning intent upon the task of seeing what I could discover about this Turcanu. I made my way to Gral Street and easily found the bookshop. There I spoke to Viorel Rákóczi and under the pretext of wanting to order a rather esoteric book, I told him I was one of M. Turcanu’s special customers and that I would like to speak to him – whereupon, he explained M. Turcanu was deceased and that he was now the new owner. Whether he believed I was a bibliophile,” I brushed back the fall of my hair which had swept across my face so as to closely observe his reactions, “I am not at all certain – although owing to a rather gruesome murder in New York, I was aware of several very infamous books, so the book I was asking for I knew to be authentic and rare. To say the least, M. Rákóczi does not instill a desire upon a customer’s part to stay any longer in the shop than is absolutely necessary and so I left and took up a vantage point across the street in the small café. Which I feel certain was the same café Montague had been observed watching the bookstore as the Commissioner indicated last night. I was not there long before Richmond arrived and while we were watching the bookshop, we took an opportunity that presented itself . . . when Rákóczi departed the shop . . . to undertake a closer inspection of the premises.”
“I see. He left the shop unattended?” His lordship asked discarding the spent match into the ashtray upon the small table near to hand.
“Yes – and so, as the shop faced the café and any of those patrons who were sitting before its large windows, we sought a more secluded entrance. There’s a small alley behind it – which, designated for deliveries, was extremely narrow I must say. We made our way down it to a service entrance and as the lock was rather insubstantial, we were quickly inside where we began to hastily search – there wasn’t anything very much out of the ordinary for a bookshop, although, I did find some interesting documents. It would appear M. Rákóczi has correspondences in Paris, Madrid, Moscow, Berlin, and London – oh, and a bank in Budapest.” I took note of Lord Cyril’s a brow rising slightly with interest.
And I wasn’t at all sure if this was not far too long a way about getting to how it came about that Richmond had revealed himself to be a member of the Secret Service.
“I am sorry—” I began, but he removed the smoking stem of his pipe from his mouth: “No, no, do continue.”
I was uncertain whether I should bring up the letter from the Pimander Club – as I arose from my chair in need of a cigarette – although significant, at the moment it seemed to me it would be disruptive to the importance of our discoveries in the bookshop: “As I said there wasn’t too much out of the way in the bookshop, until I happened upon a hidden passage that led down to a cellar and there,” I opened my purse and removed my cigarette case from under the Styer. “We found a secret room. A horrid Red Room.” I told him as I turned back, lighting the cigarette I had extracted, “The walls were all red. Either paint or blood – I don’t know which; but it had all the appearances of having been used for what I suspect to have been human sacrifices. Now Richmond was all for leaving the place and so, we were about to ascend the stairs when I happened to take notice of a large wooden crate. Or an earthen box.”
“An earthen box?” His interest was decidedly piqued.
I exhaled a smoky inhalation and nodded, “Yes. One very much like those described in Stoker’s novel – when we opened it, we found a young woman lying within . . . upon some moldy earth. Now—upon this sudden revelation, Edmond hurriedly closed the lid and hastily pulled me out of the cellar and out of the shop and back into the alley. Of course, my first inclination was for going back down into that horrid cellar in order to try and save the young woman but from Edmond’s reaction – “ I brought the cigarette back to my lips and inhaled, not uncertain I wasn’t being a bit dramatic, “I pointedly asked him if she were a vampire. To which he said he wasn’t at all certain – but if not, she would be one soon as they were ‘cooking her to be one.’ Which of course I immediately demanded he explain whatever the hell he could possibly mean by that – cooking her up – which, he later revealed to be some method of transforming one into the un-dead.”
“No one saw you enter or exit the bookshop?” He asked watching as I returned to my seat.
Sweeping back once more my hair and holding the cigarette such that the smoke trailed away so as not to curl back into my eyes, I shook my head, “I am fairly certain we were undetected. The snowfall had gotten decidedly worse by then and Gral Street is not a busy thoroughfare, neither is the neighborhood. And, so . . . you see – I had made a bad selection of shoes – they were much too insubstantial for the accumulation that had gathered and Richmond wished to hurry me back to the café, where he proceeded to call the consul for a car – their being little traffic along the street, as I said, and so no taxi. When he returned from placing the call, I pressed him not only about the young woman – but how he knew about vampires and in particular this ‘cooking up’ method he had spoken of and that was when he revealed he was with the British Secret Service. Or rather some special branch which he said not only hunted vampires Lord Cyril – but recruited them.”
At this his pipe quickly came free from his lips, “Recruited. He said recruited?”
I nodded and took a long drag from my cigarette. “He said he had done so in London. Montague, he said, was more senior than he – had been stationed here in Bucharest for quite some time – whereas he had only been with this special branch a short while before being sent to Romania. He told me he originally been with the Naval Intelligence and then was recruited to this special division which apparently had formed in order to deal exclusively with the un-dead. Lord Cyril,” I sat forward, “This Imre Turcanu, he was well known throughout the neighborhood for what he was — in fact, he used it to his advantage. I spoke to a waiter at the café who told me the whole of Gral Street knew precisely what he was but they chose to remain silent. They protected him. It was as if he ran the neighborhood like some Crime Boss in New York. Where in return for acquiesce he apparently settled petty grievances or extracted revenge, or even provided some with financial assistance. And to further this appearance of civility, I was told he made certain to placate his thirsts elsewhere within the city."
“And no doubt his replacement has taken up similar control and has informants about the neighborhood.” He pointed out with the smoking stem of his pipe. “For all your care – I am more than certain you were observed.”
For a brief moment we both sat silently smoking as I pondered the possibility and I ordered my thoughts as to how to proceed further with the report of my day – but, there were also questions for which I needed answers. “Lord Cyril, that hidden room, as I said, from all appearances, it looked as if it were used in some sort of ceremony, or ritual, if not for human sacrifices. I mean, we haven’t discussed it, but you have to know, being from New England, I am aware of vampires – there was a panic in Rhode Island, which is not only still whispered about, even in Connecticut, but made sensational headlines. And, then of course, I have read Stoker’s novel. But—I thought they were solitary predators driven by their insatiable thirst – not bookshop owners, or sinister Boyars of a complicit neighborhood, or members of some esoteric associations. Least of all practitioners of some dark rituals – which smacks more of witchcraft or sorcery or satanic worship. Is this – is this normal?”
“Your comparison to organized crime is more on the nose than you suspect.” He removed the smoking stem of his pipe from his mouth, “In general, yes, the vampir is a solitary creature. Preying upon a lonely village, usually their loved ones first. However, what we are dealing with here is a web of horror. A mad beast with a mad agenda and this book store is but a very small part of it. If it had been me down there, I would have wanted to end that young women before she rose to be another pawn in this network, and wait for this Rákóczi to return and end him.”
I sat back with a rather heavy sigh, “Precisely . . . I am sorry Lord Cyril.”
“However, having said that, it may have given up too much too quickly.” He said as to soften the admonishment.
“Although, Edmond may be heading back there to do so.” I said cupping a hand to catch a falling ash, “Or so he gave the impression.”
“You seemed eager to have Richmond with you.” He remarked as I rose to step over and drop the curl of ash into his ashtray, “Did you suspect him of being with British Intelligence when you sent for him?”
“That is just it Lord Cyril. I never sent for him.” I corrected.
He looked very surprised. “Good lord, what’s this?”
“I have no idea who sent that message to him.” I stood beside the window so we could share the ashtray, “When he arrived at the café and he told me he had come in response to my message I was very much surprised. Not I had not sent one.”
Lord Cyril sat now in some thought as he rasped upon his pipe.
“And as odd as that is, there is even more. While I was sitting there in the tea shop, this rather lovely, dark-haired woman took a seat at my table and began talking about Turcanu and Rákóczi and their connection to some club in London, The Pimander Club – which incidentally, I found a letter from them among Rákóczi’s correspondence. She was to say the least extremely fascinating even though she spoke about communing with the dead. Whom she said travel fast.”
He nodded as he drew on his pipe, “The dead travel fast.”
“Yes. It’s a poem, Richmond says.”
“I know it.” He replied.
“The end of our conversation was rather worrisome, for she not only offered up what was unmistakably a warning. But Lord Cyril, she knew my name. Not Jackson Elias, but my real name: Elisa Bishop.”
He sat thoughtfully and stroked his beard. “The police know your name too I’m afraid. This woman. Could you describe her in more detail?”
“She was tall, slender, as I said very, very attractive. Haunting dark eyes. She wore her hair and dressed in the most current fashion in Paris. Her voice. It was lovely. British. Cultured – there was more than a hint of the aristocracy about her; although I had a distinct feeling, she tried in some ways to hide it, as if she were not comfortable with what in England you would consider her class.” I related as I remembered her voice and my fascination in watching as she spoke, "Her lips—sensual . . . you could sit . . . and . . . well, I could have sat and watched her talk for hours. And yet, there was something – I am at not sure, a feeling . . . it was as if I felt she held some dark and painful secret.”
“Very dangerous, a woman like that.” Cyril gruffy remarked and then he paused for a second as if to collect his thoughts When suddenly he said, “I suspect this Englishwoman is one of two Vampiri Englishwomen who must have been sowing the webs of darkness across Europe for 22 years now. From what you say, it was probably one Katherine Reed, a most tragic, but ultimately terrible creature. She is bound to be close to the heart of this affair.”
Englishwomen? Victims unaccounted for in the novel? Just how many had he visited like poor Lucy? The whole of the Count’s wanderings of the streets of London was ever a mystery in Stoker’s accounting, save his obvious intentions for a beautiful girl in the big cart-wheel hat in Piccadilly upon whom he cast a hard and no doubt hungry gaze, and a visit to the Zoo and of course the relentless arrangements for the transport of earthen boxes. The more I had read the more I had wondered, what was he doing? What nefarious plan was he putting into motion? There was so much Stoker had conveniently omitted. If I had thought to use Stoker’s gothic as my textbook, what good is a textbook if it is all wrong?And if this Katherine was as Lord Cyril described—why had she intentionally taken a seat at my table in order to exposed The Pimander Club — and why expressly give me a fair warning?
And then there was of course the letter from the Pimander Club, which I had purloined from Rákóczi’s correspondence, but as I gaze out the window to the snowy park and the pedestrians huddled against the wind harsh along the Calea Victoriei below, I took a long, thoughtful inhalation from my cigarette—and felt that at the moment there were far more urgent matters yet to be discussed.
“Stoker’s novel. Edmond said that some if not all of it is based on fact – although some of had been obscured, some intentionally altered, some never making publication so that it is an odd mixture of truth, obfuscation, misinformation, and lies.” I turned from the window to look at him in all seriousness, “I need to know – and not out of some idle curiosity but because I am not at all completely certain of Edmond. Not that he is lying straight-faced. But I cannot help feeling he is concealing something – that he his own agenda – I need to know Lord Cyril – the truth. For there is more I need to tell you – so, what Stoker wrote about – it happened? It actually happened?””
Lord Cyril closed his eyes for a moment as he puffed upon his pipe. A bit more hush to the hush-hush as Edmond had said. And I was concerned that perhaps it was much too hush for his lordship as well. It seemed an eternity before he took the pipe from his mouth. “It is quite possible that even Richmond may be compromised.” He was all seriousness, “At the moment, no one except you.” And he looked up to me reassuringly, “And Vordenburg are outside of my suspicions, and I now I suspect he has a leak, someone rather close to him that I need to warn him about.” He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose, shifting in his chair to crossing his legs. Less in weariness then in some let his feeling gather themselves. “That damned Irishman should never have been allowed to publish what he did.” Not just irritation but a trace of anger. Betrayal? “But yes. The broad strokes are true, but major details are omitted or recorded incorrectly. The whole affair was a horrible mistake and I am ashamed to be even loosely connected to it.”
I could sense the terrible burden of knowing what his government had tried to do. Was doing? Recruiting vampires? If what Edmond said was true. And—Vordenberg? [Memorandum: At the time, I put that aside as that was a whole new line of inquiry, which I would suspect to be quite time consuming. But Vorderberg? Just how much of fiction was fact and how much fact fiction? Through a Glass Darkly. Theodora you have prepared me well.]
“You suspect Edmond?” I voiced some concern.
“We should suspect everyone.” He said with some annoyance, “Their power is beyond comprehension. Their reach is inestimable. But you said there was more you needed to tell me.”
And now it was my turn to feel the weight of it all as I looked at him and then stepped away from the windows to return to the side table and my purse. I felt his inquisitive eyes upon me. “When I returned from Gral Street,” I opened my purse and withdrew the letter from Sister Agatha. “My first thought of course was to find you—but the front desk said you had gone out and would not return until sometime later in the afternoon,” I explained as I stepped back towards him carrying the letter. “But, while I was out, this arrived.”
I handed it to him
He sat up as he reached into his jacket and removed his reading glasses. He donned them, and opening the letter with some uncertainty, “What is this?”
He looked it over and then began to read:
With my dutiful respects, I write to you though of me you are not aware, but it has been conveyed to me such that I understand you have had certain conversations with Mikel Ostrakova in Paris. If you are certain you wish to know more of these things – but for safety’s sake I hope of this I have been misinformed – then I will speak to you of such matters. Come to The Italian Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. 28 Nicolae Bălcescu. Be certain to say you wish to speak to Sister Agatha regarding the health of a previous patient in Hospital of St. Joseph and Ste. Mary in Buda-Pesth.
Yours will all blessings,
“If you don’t remember the name, surely you will remember the Hospital. It is the one in which Jonathan Harker recuperated after having escaped from the Count’s castle.” I explained, as I sat back down in the chair across from him, having brought an ashtray from the side table beside my purse. “Sister Agatha is the same nurse who wrote to Mina Harker revealing his whereabouts.”
“Why did she write to you?” He asked looking over the edge of his reading glasses, “Who is this Ostrakova person you spoke to in Paris?”
“He is a Russian Émigré’. An anarchist.” Lord Cyril gave me the same look he had given me last night when I had mentioned my meeting with Parisian anarchists, “As I began to explain last night, and perhaps did not do so as well as I might; I had come over expressly to be a war correspondent for the Inquirer—but the War Offices in Paris and London were not about to allow a woman journalist anywhere near the front. And so, I was relegated to the security of conducting hospital interviews of patients, doctors, and nurses – which to be sure was not at all enticing to my inquisitiveness. Not after having reported on the infamous criminality and gangs in New York. So, in trying to establish connections with the Volunteer Ambulance drivers as an avenue to the front, I chanced upon a driver who was reputed to have been a member of the Bonnot Gang. Which was fascinating as I had already been doing some research into their violence – and the beginnings of an article about the Parisian anarchists and the fate of their movement with the coming of the war. And so, listening to his reminiscences I found he had connections to the remnants of various Parisian anarchist movements. Being marvelously coincidental as I wanted to know how had those who had protested for so long the coming war readily succumbed to shout on “To Berlin?” Had acquiesced to the Sacred Union. So—that’s how I met Mikel Ostrakova. But rather than discussing the illegalists in France he spoke about a growing internationale of criminals, a vast network spawned throughout Europe, which, as I said last night had created a black market of medical supplies. Compromised officials in the armies of not only the Entent but the Central Powers purloined everything from surgical equipment to bandages, especially medicines, and then in turn sold them back on the black market. Armed with this information I began to asked about the hospitals, the ones where I was allowed to conduct my interviews only to find them reticent to discuss the matter. One night, out for a walk and a cigarette I took notice of ambulance off-loading supplies – but the driver and the men with him were not in uniform and the nurse watching them seemed to be oddly anxious. The next morning, I spoke to her – and she admitted that the supplies had been purchased through a black markeeter. It was a horrendous racket she said and those aware of it did not wish to speak of their complicity in dealing with them. To shorten this up a bit – further drinks with Ostrakova led him to reveal he had heard one of hubs of its activities took place here in neutral Romania, where it had contributed to the deaths of hundreds in savaged Serbia – which you see was my reasoning for being in Corfu and wanting to come with you to Bucharest. And so, I was bit surprised to receive the letter as I had done very little in the way of working upon my intended story – having become rather entangled in the mystery of the shooting of Richmond and looking into your M. Turcanu.”
He sat stroking his beard as he listened. I knew the concept of communicating with anarchists was abhorrent to him. “So, you went to see her?” He asked.
“Yes. I mean – when I saw the letter and whom it was from, the suggested ruse of asking about a patient in Hospital of Saint Joseph and Saint Mary in Budapest – I was amazed at the not only at the coincidence but that she existed. The novel coming to life – but even more so. Was it possible that the story I had come all this way to report somehow intersected with – with this deepening intrigue of yours? It was too, too delicious. And so, I went to see her – and at first, she seemed intent on discrediting Ostrakova – she at first accused him of being with the Okhrana.”
“The Okhrana?” He frowned suddenly as he looked down at the bowl of his pipe held in the curl of his fingers.
“Which of course I knew to be a feint to conceal her knowledge of the black market.” I continued – aware I was getting closer to that which I longed to reveal. “Being as I knew of her from the novel – I used some inconsistencies Stoker left in the story to confront her with the fact she had stolen from Harker and then defrauded his fiancé when she arrived. At that Sister Agatha was on the verge of revealing her true character—when suddenly.” And the rise of my anxiety must have been quite visible to Lord Cyril for he folded up the letter and leaned slightly forward—
“When suddenly – what? What happened Jackson?” He asked gently.
“He arrived!” And the remembrance of him – the menace in his stride, the sinister dominance of his voice – and the realization as to who he was – affected me more than I expected in relating it to him for my hand holding the cigarette trembled at the remembrance of his sudden appearance.
Lord Cyril took notice of the slight tremble of my hand as he put the letter aside and rose from his chair, "Steady on Jackson.” He said as he went over to a pitcher of water on a side table and poured a glass which he brought over.
“Here. Drink this.” He offered the glass. “He arrived, you said – who arrived?” There was a gentleness in his voice and real concern in his eyes – seeing my reaction, this woman he had watched battling behind enemy lines – now trembling like some foolish schoolgirl.
I looked at his lordship as I took the glass, “Him, I think. Lord Cyril – I think it was Count Dracula."
“Tell me. Tell what happened.” He said putting a reassuring hand on my shoulder, seemingly unsurprised at the revelation.
“We were in the church, The Italian Church of the Holy Redeemer, sitting at the front pew. I had just confronted her with the fact I knew her to be a fraud and a criminal disguised as a Bride of Christ – when suddenly the doors of the chapel burst open. I saw the look in her eyes – bewilderment and fear – even as she pushed me away, whispering to go, go now – while directing me with a motion of her hand toward the confessional, where I quickly concealed myself. There through this gossamer curtain that covered the small aperture I could see him as he strode down the aisle toward her. A commanding presence of sinisterism. He accused her of betraying him – accused her of serving two masters.” I looked at my cigarette, the glowing ember, momentarily lost in my recollection of him, of his voice. “Lord Cyril – I do not even know how to describe it. His presence. His voice – commanding – but so much more than that.”
“Steady on Jackson, steady on.” He said with great gentleness. “Tell me what happened.”
“As I said,” Aware of the ashtray in my lap as I tapped ashes from my cigarette, “He accused her of serving two masters—which, I assumed he was talking about the black market – of which she was involved. He said she had betrayed him, and that was when I sudden understood she had, all along – even when Harker had been under her care – been in concert with him. For which, oddly, he told her she had been adequately compensated. Her response was to mention someone called Herr Leutner— who I think was responsible for this compensation.” I continued to tap the cigarette against the edge of the ashtray, “Which I suspect had not been as forthcoming to her mind. His voice grew cold as he told her he had taken care of him – which she, as well as I, immediately knew what that meant. She once more reiterated she had not betrayed him – but, he said her work with the black market was a betrayal in that it had become – vexsome, that was his word, vexsome, to his interests. And that whomever was running it was working at cross purposes to agenda.”
Lord Cyril frowned slightly, “His agenda?”
“Yes, they were no longer merely a nuisance but they were now working at cross purposes to his agenda, that is what he said; and he wanted to know to whom they answered. Sister Agatha told him she didn’t know – and said she was only a part of the distribution of the supplies, but he pressed her further . . . and she confessed that there was a charity – which I gather must be the front for the organization – something called the Society for the Favor of War Orphans – but she indicated its reach was to London. Whereupon he suddenly said, as if he now understood who was behind it all: She.”
Lord Cyril stood beside me for a moment and then thoughtfully returned to his chair, “She. This is what he said?”
“Yes, he said: She. That only one of his could be so brazen. And then – he reached out and brutally snapped her neck. I saw it all from inside the confessional and I wasn’t able do anything to prevent it. I was in such haste to meet with her, I didn’t bring my gun with me, a wretched foolish mistake. Particularly after what I had seen and heard earlier today. But – I never . . . I never expected . . .. “ I looked at him in earnest, “It was him—wasn’t it? Dracula.”
“I’m sure it was.” He nodded looking at his pipe which had gone cold, “I saw him today as well. Not as violent, but he’s here all the same. There was nothing you could have done. Lead would not have done much and it would have gotten you killed as well. You did well to stay hidden.”
“But—he was in a church.” I explain the apparent improbability of it, “He entered into the sanctuary and stood beneath the huge crucifix which hung behind the altar – how? How is that possible?”
His hands came together, fingers interlaced upon his lap, “Jackson, I am given to understand you are not a very religious woman, correct?"
“Yes, that is correct.” I readily confirmed.
“So, if a reverend were to try to guilt you into coming to church, saying you will burn in hell for all eternity for your sinful ways, what would your reaction be?”
I smiled slightly as I well-remembered my response to the Reverend Stamps as he sat in Aunt Ellen’s parlor long ago, sermonizing. “Some rather sarcastic remark, I am sure."
“To be sure.” He nodded, “Now how would a true believer react to such a chastisement do you suppose?”
“They would be far more inclined to listen and no doubt be guilted into returning to the church.”
“Certainly, and probably give generously too. The effect religion has on a person depends on them putting faith in its truth. Now let’s suppose that a vampir was Mohammedan, as the Bosniaks are. Do you suspect he would care in the least about a symbol of Christianity, and Papist Christianity at that? Do you think it would remind him that his soul is damned for all eternity due to his curse that the devil put upon him?” He asked, “Or do you think he would kill the priest who was so sure of his own religious superiority?"
“I see what you mean. But Stoker indicated throughout his book that the sight of a crucifix was a ward against The Count.”
And suddenly there came a not so gentle rapping upon the door to Lord Cyril’s suite.
I gave him an inquiring look, which he returned.
“Yes? Who is it?” He loudly responded in French to the knock.
“Commissioner Câmpineanu,” came the familiar voice from behind the door.
His lordship rose to his feet, gripping his cane. “One moment M. Commissioner.”
He made his way over to the door and opening it a touch slow revealed Commissioner Câmpineanu and Sergeant Theodor Savel standing in the corridor. With them I recognized the priest I had spoken to at the Italian Church.
“Lord Cyril, please to excuse the interruption. But we were informed that Mademoiselle Bishop was here, with you—” the Commissioner began but was interrupted as the priest stepped through the threshold.
He took several steps into the room and pointed at me, “There she is. She is the one who was with Sister Agatha when she was murdered.”