Baron Olshevri Vampires

In the year 1912 Russian vampire literature saw the arrival of a mysterious author known only as Baron Olshevri. The book has never been translated into English before and the copyright has long expired. It is the story where Aztec and Indian gods vie for power, where pearl necklaces come to live in the night and where the most dangerous creature on earth is a beautiful woman.


13. XVII


Wright was the last to arrive at the morning coffee. He looked enraged and his lips twitched angrily. He came close to the table, but instead of his customary greeting and bow, he threw a large dark red rose on the floor and crushed it with his foot:


“Gentlemen I am not a woman and to throw roses into my window is, in the least, foolish. I consider it an insult which, in the future, I will answer with a point of a blade”.


Guests looked up at him surprised and some exchanged puzzled glances among themselves.


Well-drilled footman came quietly and picked up the crumpled flower.


“Where did he get it from? I haven’t seen a rose like that in our garden”, he asked showing the rose to Harry’s butler Sabo.


“Up on the mountain, in the castle. They were brought yesterday,” remarked Miller.


The day dragged on, endless and boring.


In the evening remaining guests gathered in the dinning hall. The company dwindled and the few that stayed seemed to be in a bad mood.


The host, wanting to entertain the guests and take their minds of the recent misfortunes, called in Karl Ivanovich and asked him to read something.


The old man was visibly unsure, he fidgeted and wanted to say something, but then decided against it, and, putting on his glasses began to read.


Wright was the last to arrive at the morning coffee. He looked enraged and his lips twitched angrily. He came close to the table, but instead of his customary greeting and bow, he threw a large dark red rose on the floor and stepped on it, saying:


“Gentlemen I am not a woman and to throw roses into my window is, in the least, stupid. I consider it an insult which, in the future, I will answer with a point of a blade”.


Guests looked up at him surprised and some exchanged puzzled glances among themselves.


Well-drilled footman came quietly and picked up the crushed flower.


“Where did he get it from? I haven’t seen a rose like that in our garden”, he asked showing the rose to Harry’s butler Sabo.


“Up on the mountain, in the castle. They were brought yesterday,” remarked Miller.


The day dragged on, endless and boring.


In the evening remaining guests gathered in the dinning hall. The company dwindled and the few that stayed seemed to be in a bad mood.


The host, wanting to entertain the guests and take their minds of the recent misfortunes, called in Karl Ivanovich and asked him to read something.


The old man was visibly unsure, he fidgeted and wanted to say something, but then decided against it, and, putting on his glasses began to read.


Seventeenth Letter:




A mere day had passed between my last letter to you and this one, but in this single day I’ve lived a lifetime, a lifetime that destroyed all that is pure and dear to me. My personal happiness is dead. And Rita? She had no part in this, she doesn’t deserve it, and it is for her sake, with a heavy weight upon my soul that I must pretend to be happy.


I must tell you what happened.


I left Rita in the care of her old nanny and cousins, and, after leaving few orders concerning my household, I made my way to the city in search of our old family doctor.

I didn’t have to look for long, because at the small hotel, where I lodged, they all knew of him and gave me his address.



“Only you’d be wasting your time, Sir”, added the floor man “he no longer sees patients, and barely ever allow visitors. He is little bit ‘touched in the head’. If you want, I will take you to another doctor, Doctor Frisch. He is very good and also stays at our hotel”.


I thanked him and declined to meet Doctor Frisch.


“Why do you say that the old man is ‘touched in the head’?”  I asked


“Everyone say so, Sir. They say he is insane”.


I left.


Coachman took me all the way to the edge of town and stopped in front of a small wooden house. An elderly woman met me in the yard and sullenly told me that doctor no longer sees anyone.


“Please, take me to him,” I asked handing her a ‘golden’ admittance ticket.


Her demeanour changed instantly and I was quickly ushered into the entrance room and then into Doctor’s study. While his first room was nothing out of the ordinary, with unremarkable furniture and the usual bourgeoisie knick-knacks, his study was quite a sight.


I felt as if I stepped into laboratory of an alchemist: dark imposing bookcases, creaking under the weight of crammed books, glass jars and flasks filled with chemicals, several stuffed animals and a complete human skeleton.


I saw an old man sitting in a large chair, staring out of the window.



I thought at first that I must have made a mistake and came to a wrong address. I couldn’t recognise our tubby cheerful doctor in this thin, gnarled old man.

He was completely bald and was wearing outsized glasses.


If I, knowing whom I was going to see, barely recognised familiar features, the old man, of course had no idea who I was.


He looked up at me angrily:


“What do you want? I no longer practice medicine”, he said curtly, dragging his chair on the floorboards.


I introduced myself.


For a moment, he sat motionless, as if he didn’t understand, and then he craned his neck in a very strange way, and asked in a trembling voice:


“Who are you?”


I repeated my name.


Alf, you should have seen the horror on his face. He turned deathly pale, as white as a sheet of paper, his glasses fell off, yet he paid no attention. He put up his arms in front of him, as if to ward something off and mumbled:


“No, it cannot be”.


His legs were trembling and he sank back into his chair.


I poured a glass of water and gave it to him. Taking his hand gently I stroked it, saying:


“Don’t you remember me, I was your favourite” I said and tried to remind him of all the little incidents from my childhood, his jokes and gifts.


After a while, the old man calmed down and began to smile:


“It is you, Carlo, well and healthy. You have grown, and grown very handsome. It is such a pity that my friend, your Father couldn’t see you now!”


“Yes, Doctor, I was denied my parents since I was seven years old and to this day I don’t know why.”


The old man moved back and fell silent.


“Why did you come to our town, and how long will you be here?” he asked.


“I came today, and how long I will stay will depend on you, Doctor. If you agree to help me, tomorrow we can both leave for the castle”.


Old man started to tremble once more, and his voice rose to an angry scream:


“What for? Why do you want to go there?!”


I laughed, surprised at his sudden outburst:


“What for? I have been living there for the past two months”.


“Two months? Right next to it, in the castle.” he muttered. His teeth, or rather his lower jaw, was trembling.


“You are alive and healthy, completely healthy. Swear by the Blessed Virgin, that you are telling the truth”, he said, pointing commandingly to the corner in his room.


Entire corner was filled with religious images, small and large; one of them had a little votive candle burning before it. Small altar with an open bible completed the picture. Initially I haven’t noticed this corner and now the contrast struck me, saints and votive candle in the same room with stuffed animals and a human skeleton.


“Swear it! I am telling you! Cross yourself!” , insisted the old man angrily.


Thinking that I was dealing with a lunatic and trying not to aggravate him, I crossed myself and announced in a pompous voice:


“I swear by the Blessed Virgin that I am alive and well”.


The old man started to cry, not so much with real tears but rather with a long series of sniffles, and pulling a large crumpled handkerchief from his breast pocked he blew his nose and said:


“Why did you have to come? Why? What do you want here?”


Once he calmed down, I’ve told him that I was missing my homeland since I was a small child, but dared not anger my father and return without his permission. His sudden death freed me and I returned to bow at my parent’s caskets, and would you imagine, it, Doctor, I couldn’t find them! , I finished.


“Didn’t find them! He didn’t find them!” whispered the old man happily   “Did you find the new crypt?”


“A new crypt? Where is it?” I asked. The old man ignored my question.


“Good, very good”, he muttered rubbing his hands together with glee.


I didn’t understand a word he was saying and was repenting bitterly that I ever came to see him. Trying to come up with a suitable way to be rid of the lunatic, I was silent.


Old man was also quiet.


“When do you plan to go back overseas?” he asked finally.


“Back? I wouldn’t dream of it!”,  I objected, surprised “I’ve cleaned and repaired the castle and in two weeks I will be married.”


Fear flooded old man’s eyes once more:


“You’ve decided to live in the castle, maybe marry there; maybe you’ve already selected a girl. You are insane, insane! Didn’t old Petro warn you? Didn’t he tell you that your father ordered you never to come back, never so much as set foot in the castle let alone live there with a young wife?” he was screaming at me and shaking at the same time.


I’ve had enough of his silly theatrics, and, getting up, said curtly:


“My father never wrote to me anything of the sort. Besides, it is too late anyway. My fiancé is already living with me in the castle”.


Old man began to speak; his voice was sad, yet solemn:


“Blessed Virgin, take pity on her and save her!”, he whispered sadly,  “Oh, Carlo, I never thought that fate would force me to drink this bitter cup. It seems preordained. We were protecting you from this horror, but you yourself, irreverently tore off the veil of kindness. Your father took a terrible oath from me and Petro to let the secret die with us...but now...I am forced...I must reveal it to you.

Oh, Blessed Protectress of men, forgive dear friend, you told me “Be careful. Do not let yourself reveal it, even in your sleep, I will be watching you from my very grave” and now, if you could hear me, please understand, I have to help Carlo, to save him, even with the price of my own soul, the price of a broken oath.”


He grew quiet and hung his head.


Though his words sounded delirious, I no longer thought him mad. Something inside me was telling me that there was truth in what he was saying, and that I was about to face something horrible.


I was silent, scared to break Doctor’s fleeting thoughts and at the same time, my mind was racing, trying to guess at what secret he was going to reveal. My first thought was about my vast wealth. Maybe it was ill begotten. Maybe it was tainted with someone’s blood. I swore to mend all that could be mended.


No, it cannot be.


My Mother’s death, perhaps my father was guilty of it?


Impossible. He adored her and for fifteen years stayed faithful, worshipping the very memory of her.


What then?


Doctor was still silent, and then, after what seemed like hours he asked quietly:


“Carlo what do you remember from your childhood?”


I started to reminisce, remembering odd incidents.


“And what do you think about your Mother’s death?”


I felt cold rise up my spine. What if?


I told him all that I’ve told you already, i.e. that Mother saw a snake in her dream and it bit her, she screamed in the middle of the night and fell ill shortly afterwards.

Then she got better, but after her fainting in the great hall, her illness worsened.


Afterwards, - and that I haven’t told you- she weakened more and more, at night she felt a great weight on her chest and yet she couldn’t scream or cast it off.


Father started to keep vigil by her bed once more and she recovered a little.


After a few nights, he grew tired and relinquished his post to Pepa.


My Mother took turn for the worse that very night.

When Pepa was questioned, she couldn’t answer when my Mother started feeling ill, because she claimed that she was not in the room.


“His excellence, the Count, came into the room and I dared not stay”, she said


 “Me? In the room? You are imagining things, Pepa,” replied my Father, laughing.


“Of course, your Excellency, you have opened the terrace door and a strong gust of cold wind blew in, and you were wrapped up in your cloak, but I’ve recognised you instantly”, she insisted.


My father paled:


“Go on, Pepa”, he said quietly


“You knelt by Madam Countess’ bed and I left” she finished.


“Thank you, you can go now”, said Father and turning his ashen face to Doctor, whispered:


“It wasn’t me!”


I was silent for a moment.


“Yes”, old man nodded his head, “Yes”.


“Whether it ever resolved and who was in my Mother’s room I still don’t know”, I finished.


“Go on’, he muttered.


“On? Three days later, Lucy, my little sister Lucy was found dead in her bed. The evening before she was well and sang like a bird, asking to be woken early- early, to see the sunrise”.


In the morning, Caterina, surprised by child’s long sleep, went to her bed and discovered that Lucy was not only dead, but stiff and cold.


“Yes”, confirmed Doctor again.


Lucy was buried and on the same day Mother called me to her couch and, blessing me, said:


“Tomorrow, early, you will travel with Petro to Nuremberg to study. Goodbye.”


She kissed me fiercely with tears glittering in her eyes.


None of my crying, pleading and despair could help me, - I was taken away.


Even after the passage of time, old grief returned with new force, and I felt my voice break. I fell silent.


“Yes”, the old man nodded again “Yes. Do you remember anyone else dying, besides, Lucy?”


“Of course, a lot of people died at that time, mostly children and the young,” I answered “we could hear the funeral bell tolling up at the castle and I remember it clearly. And in our home, on the mountain several people also died”.


The old man fell quiet again as if gathering his thoughts. He was breathing heavily and pulled out his handkerchief again, this time wiping his bald head.


“Now is your time to listen, Carlo.”


“After you were sent away, the deaths continued. Sometimes they would follow in quick succession, at other times it seemed that the epidemic was on the wane. I was loosing my mind trying to find the cause. I re-read my medical books, examined the bodies, and questioned witnesses....

Not a single known disease could fit the symptoms.

I noticed a single similarity in all the cases; in those bodies that I was allowed to dissect, I found very little blood. And on the neck, sometimes on the chest, of the victims I always found two small red wounds.


That was all.


Strange epidemic in the village fascinated me, but I couldn’t give it my undivided attention because your mother’s illness preyed on my mind constantly. She seemed to be fading in my very hands. None of my Latin remedies could restore healthy colour to her face. It was obvious now that she was dying, yet her eyes shone, as if her entire life force has gone into them.


The incident with a gentleman in a cloak was never explained.


Since that event, she was never left alone at night; either your father or I kept vigil by her bedside.

I also insisted on being the one to give her her medicine.....all of it was in vain....she grew weaker and weaker.


One day I was called to a new body, your father was busy with a supervisor. Countess was laying in the garden, under a watchful eye of Caterina, your nanny.

Once I returned I immediately noticed dreadful turn for the worse in your mother’s condition.


“What happened?” I whispered to Caterina


“Nothing, Doctor”, she replied, “The Countess was lying quietly, so quietly that a strange, black bird sat gently upon her chest. I wanted to chase it away, but the Countess waved her hand for me not to do it. That’s all”.


A bird? I wondered if Caterina wasn’t lying.

I decided against asking your mother, fearing that I may upset her.


Three day passed.

Your father and I were sitting in the garden platform; Countess was reclining on her chaise lounge as usual, facing the village.

The sun already set, but your mother asked for a few more moments to enjoy fresh air.

It was a wonderful, mild evening. We were smoking and talking quietly.


A huge bat flew across the evening sky on soft wings, from the direction of the castle. It was completely black, the type I have never seen before.


Suddenly the Countess pushed herself up and stretched out her arms, crying: ‘Come to me! Come to me’, and fell back on her pillows.

We ran to her.

She was dead.

No matter how much we prepared ourselves for this when the moment came we stood as if struck by lightning. Your father was first to come to his senses:


“I must call the servants”, his voice sounded hollow and he walked away, swaying slightly as if carrying a heavy burden.


I knelt at the foot of the chaise lounge. How much time had passed, I don’t know, I wasn’t aware of it at all. Soon I heard voice and saw lights flickering in the distance and at that moment a large bat, the same that I saw earlier, rose from Countesses’ body and after circling once overhead vanished in the falling darkness. 


I wasn’t even thinking about performing an autopsy, knowing that your father would never allow it.


I, as a physician, was intrigued by the fact that her limbs, though cold as ice, remained very flexible.


Her body was laid out in the chapel.


A monk from neighbouring monastery came to read all the necessary prayers.

I disliked him from the start: fat with tiny pig’s eyes and a bulbous purple-hued nose he was easily identified from the first glance as a worshipper of Bacchus.


After the first night of prayers he demanded an increase in his payments as well as a bottle of wine, because, according to him, the diseased was ‘restless’.


His wishes were obeyed.


On the second night, I was sleepless. I felt as if unseen weight was pressing on my heart and decided to go to the chapel. Since I didn’t want to go there through the garden I decided to enter from the choir balcony. I came close to the railing and looked down. The chapel was semi dark. Candles in tall silver holders, surrounding the coffin flickered dimly, giving little light. At the open prayer book, where the monk was supposed to be reading, a fat candle was dying in a pool of melted wax.


I peered into the darkness and, as my eyes adjusted, saw that the monk himself was laying on his back, with his arms and legs splayed and something white, perhaps a sheet, spread over his body.


Involuntarily my eyes fell on the coffin and I felt as if a cold hand had squeezed my heart.


The casket was empty! Expensive embroidered cover was lying crumpled on the steps of the catafalque.

I shook myself, thinking that I was dreaming, rubbed my eyes, and matter how much the candles flickered, no matter how many shadows I thought were playing tricks on my tired imagination, the casket was still empty.


I felt a surge of happiness and ran to the small staircase, jumping two steps at the time. Thoughts flashed through my mind: no wonder her limbs remained flexible, she was in a coma.....oh thank God, thank God.


I tumble down the stairs nearly falling in the darkness.


Dear God, what is this?

The deceased is lying in her place, arms crossed on her chest, eyes closed. Even the roses that I placed on her pillow yesterday are still there, if fallen a little to the side.

I rub my eyes again, thinking that I am in a dream.


I walk around the coffin.

The monk is still on the floor, his arms and legs splayed, his head thrown back. ‘Where is the sheet I saw across him?’ a thought flashes through my mind and vanishes, unanswered.

I no longer trust my eyes; blood is hammering in my temples.

No it isn’t my heartbeat, someone is hammering from outside. Without thinking, I unhook the door.

Cold night air refreshes me.


“What’s the matter?” I ask.


A night watchman, accompanied by two workers comes in:


“Oh, it is you, Doctor” he replies, looking relieved “I got such a fright. I was walking across the yard and saw someone move behind the chapel’s window. I thought that it may have been a thief. God protect us from such things, but people are easily tempted into sin. They say that the Countess is covered with those, what you call them? - Diamonds, yes, diamonds, and they are worth, the people say, a hundred thousand kronen! I came close to the window and heard a rustle and then a sound of struggle and a moan...I ran and called the chaps, too scared to go in alone”, finished the old man.


“Well, you came at the right time, the monk is unwell, help me take him outside,” I ordered.


“To hell with him, he stank up the entire place with his incense, my head is spinning”, grumbled one of the workers lifting up the monk “Damn him, he is heavy” he added.


At that moment, a wine bottle fell from the monk’s sleeve and rolled across the stone floor. Young workers laughed.


“His holiness, the father is passed out cold from the booze, and he burned way too much incense. No wonder he was moaning, and I got such a fright!” orated the watchman.


We took the monk outside and laid him out on the garden bench. I tried to bring him around.


We were unsuccessful at first, combination of alcohol and fumes affected the obese man badly.


Finally, his eyes opened and began to dart around, as if frightened.


I ordered for a glass of wine to be brought and gave it to him. He gulped it down greedily and, belched, whispering afterwards:


“Restless. She is restless.”


I saw that the dawn was breaking, and heard the first toll of the church bell calling the faithful to their morning prayers.


I was tired and went to my room, looking for a quiet place to sit down and think about all that had happened tonight, but no sooner did I lie down on my bed, my eyes closed involuntarily and I fell into a deep sleep.


The day went on as usual.

The monk recovered and asked Pepa for a double portion of wine as a compensation for his “trouble”. I saw Pepa handing him a large decanter and teased her:


“Watch out, Pepa or you may have a great sin to answer for one day if our monk will drink himself to death”.


“Oh, Doctor, this is nothing. You should see how much they drink back at the monastery!”  she parried.


I slept badly that night, waking up several times and had to force myself to stay in bed.


Early in the morning, I heard impatient knocking on my bedroom door.


“Another death” immediately sprang to mind and I got ready in a flash.


I opened the door and came face to face with distressed Pepa:


“Doctor, Doctor...the monk...he is dead”, she stuttered finally, sinking heavily into a chair.


I hurried outside. The monk was lying on the same garden bench as yesterday. His face with its wide open, staring eyes was frozen in an expression of sheer terror.

A large crowd of servants gathered around the body.


“Who found him and where?” I asked.


One of the house footmen stepped forward:


“His Excellency the Count ordered for the candles to be replaced next to the Countess’ coffin and I went into the chapel. He was lying near the door.”


“Old bugger must have sniffed death and tried to get out,” said someone in the crowd.


“Must have sniffed something, a fat man like him, dragging himself all the way across the chapel.”


“In his hand he had two water lilies. Yesterday chaps brought a huge basket of them from the village and covered the entire catafalque”


“Poor man must have been feeling ill and leant onto the coffin, grabbing the flowers”, suggested somebody


“At least he hasn’t overturned poor Countess’ casket.”


Servants crowded around me, all talking at once. I listened, without really hearing. In my head, I heard a strange noise, as if great swarm of bees made it their home and for the first time I felt the nameless, all pervading fear wash over me.


Death was staring me in the face and I felt utterly helpless.

In order to keep up the appearances and calm the servants I ordered for the monk’s body to be brought inside and stripped of his clothing.

One I was alone I examined the neck.

I had no trouble finding two red spots.


I sat down thinking.

For the first time I wondered if the spots had been the direct cause of death. I never examined them before believing them too trivial to bother with.

Right now, I was beginning to think differently. The wounds were tiny and yet, reached deep, all the way down to the artery.


Who was making them? And with what?


I decided to stay quiet for a while.


We buried the monk. Countess’ casket was lowered into the crypt.

To give the occasion more solemnity she was carried through the garden doors, instead of the small spiral staircase.


Even on the day of the burial, her limbs stayed supple and I even imagined that the colour returned to her dead cheeks.


I was wondering if the stained glass windows in the chapel and bright sun were not deceiving me.


Many people came to pay their respects.

After the funeral, as it is custom, there was a meal served in the castle, as well as in the servants’ quarters.

Once the toast was drunk to her memory, some of the servants noticed that the old American was not present at the table. The crowd felt offended and then someone remembered that the old man didn’t pay his respects to the body. Even on this morning, the door and windows to his guardhouse were tightly shut.


Under the influence of wine tempers flared and soon some of the more hotheaded youths decided to beat up the old man there and then.

Before long, the drunken crowd under the leadership of those in possession of the loudest voices spilled into the garden and made their way to the guardhouse.


Old American was sitting on the steps, as usual.


Servants surrounded him, cussing and waving fists.


He sprang to his feet, glaring at the crowd and before anyone could react, jumped back into his guardhouse and shut the door.


“All right, you dog-faced American bastard!” shouted Herman, the young groom. He cleared the steps in one single leap and, with a powerful kick, forced the door open.


The crowd surged forward into the guardhouse and froze in shock.

It was empty.

 The tiny room had only a bed, a desk and two chairs and there was nowhere else to search.


“Witchery” whispered suddenly frightened Herman, looking around.


Everyone felt scared and hurried from the guardhouse.


Broken door was put back in its place and servants made their way back from the garden.


Once they got to the common room, conversation started to buzz again.


Everyone was puzzled by the old man’s strange disappearance. There was no end to theories and suggestions. Many noticed that his room appeared hardly lived in at all, a thick blanked of dust covered his meagre furniture. Where did the old man sleep and where did he disappear to?


And soon the word ‘Witchery’ was repeated once again and the longer the discussion carried on, with throats moistened by wine and beer, the more weird the questions sounded and before long the word ‘Witchery’ was replaced with ‘Werewolf’.


A week had passed.


Your father spent his days in the crypt, sometimes refusing to come up even for meals.


There were no new deaths in either the village or up at the castle.


Broken door of the guardhouse still stood where the mob left it. It seems that the old man never returned.


Soon some kind of request from the city reached your father and he was forced to attend to it. He told me that he would be gone for three or four days.


The very next day after he left we had a new disaster.


After much questioning, I managed to piece together the chain of events: in the morning, after breakfast our senior coachman decided to take a nap and ordered Herman to water and clean the horses.


No one noticed that Herman didn’t come to the common room at lunchtime.

Once the meal was finished one of the maids remarked that she passed near the stables and heard the horses whinnying and beating their hoofs on the floor.


“What the devil is he doing in there?” grumbled the coachman and left the table to find out.


Soon the servants heard him call for help, and rushed to the stables.

In the second stall stood the coachman, whip in hand, and on the floor at his feet, face down, lay Herman.

The coachman said that when he got to the stables he saw Herman “sprawled asleep on a fresh pile of straw”:


 “So I hit him with my whip and then saw that he was dead.”


Herman’s body was taken out.

The horses calmed down and only the one in whose stall the corpse was discovered was still trembling, as if frightened.

I came down and quietly lowered Herman’s shirt collar.

Two fresh wounds were staring me in the face!


I knew that Herman was dead, but for the servants’ benefit, I mechanically went through all the revival techniques.

Afterwards I ordered for the body to be undressed and examined it closely.


Nothing, only the strong muscles of a young Hercules.

Since no one objected, I performed the autopsy.

All of my former suspicions were confirmed; - young Hercules had very little blood in him.


I was barely finished when the news of a fresh disaster arrived from the village.


A young girl, minding a flock of geese was found dead. Her mother arrived with food for the child at noontime and discovered her lifeless body. For once, there was no doubt as to the cause of death; - the mother clearly saw green snake coiled on child’s chest. She screamed and the disgusting creature vanished in the grass.

I decided nonetheless to go down to the village and take a look for myself, using the excuse of financial help.


The girl, already dressed in her best clothes was lying on the table. I made up some excuse to send the mother away for a moment, and pulled aside the dead girl’s neckerchief.

The ominous wounds burned red on her neck.


I felt the cold hand of fear squeeze my spine. Am I going insane? Or is it really....”witchery”?

I could not sleep that night, pacing my room over and over again. I wasn’t tired and I had no appetite. I shuddered every time I heard footsteps and voices, anticipating the news of fresh calamity.

I didn’t have to wait long.


A young boy, cook’s helper was found dead. The cook sent him to the garden to pick a few apples. He never came back.....

Again, I went through all the required motions with the body, working mechanically, without thinking, my eyes seeing only the red marks on child’s neck.


At last, your father came back. He was told of all that happened, and to my shock, he reacted with cold indifference. He merely shrugged and said:


 “The same as my late wife” and walked away to the crypt.


I was left alone again in the face of this terrifying mystery.


I don’t think that my nerves could have held out much longer, if, to my relief, Petro didn’t come back later that week. Initially we thought that he would stay with you in Nuremberg, but he changed his mind.

Though he was gone only a short time, he seems to have aged ,and even worse, his character altered as well, - once cheerful and friendly he became depressed and downright rude.


In the common room, servants told him of all our misfortunes, adding with strange optimism that the American fled the castle and that he was, after all, not an American but a plain werewolf.

One of the servants swore that he saw the old man disappear in front of the crypt’s doors, without opening them, while another added that he saw the American crawl down a side of the rock, like a bat, while the third told us that he saw the old man change into a black cat.


Others swore that they saw a dragon. Soon an argument started whether the dragon has a tail or huge ears. Some argued that dragon resembles a snake, while others swore that it is closer to a bird. After much arguing and shouting a decision was reached: A dragon looks like a dragon.

Petro called them all fools and left for his room.



The next morning Petro spend a long time talking to your father, about what, - no one knew. Afterwards he walked out of the Count’s study and called for two workers ordering them to break down the old guardhouse.


They obeyed reluctantly.

First, the roof was pulled down and then the workers began to dismantle the walls. In the bright sunlight, it became even more apparent that the guardhouse wasn’t lived in at all.

Soon only the small stove and the chimney remained.


Petro ordered for the logs and planks to be sawn in half and loaded onto a cart. Stove and chimney were to be broken, without sparing the bricks.


When the mason hit the brick with his sledgehammer, your father and I stood nearby at the entrance to the crypt and we both saw huge black bat fly out of the chimney. Disoriented it flew towards us and I waved my cane at it. The bat turned around sharply and vanished behind castle wall.


“Damned bastard was nesting in the chimney,” grumbled the stonemason.


I understood then, where the bat that sat on your mother’s chest on the evening she died came from. Everyone knows that the bats are attracted to colour white and your mother’s dress was of that shade. And the fact that the bat was black instead of the more common grey was easily explained by the soot in the chimney.


Petro ordered for the wood from the guardhouse to be taken to the village church for coming winter, as a gift from Count. Broken bricks were carted to a far away field and discarded there.


Petro cleaned and swept the foundation of the guardhouse personally and was seem mumbling something to himself, while walking strangely in circles.

The next day a huge cross, made of aspen, arrived. Its bottom was sharpened to a point like a stake.


The cross was hammered into the ground in the middle of the platform where the guardhouse once stood. All around it, Petro diligently dug a small flowerbed and to the laughter and mockery of other servants planted garlic instead of flowers.


I asked your father the meaning of all this and he only waved his hand saying: “let him be”.      


Soon afterwards, your father injured his leg, when going down the stairs in the chapel. The injury in itself was very light, but coupled with his daily vigils in the damp crypt and lack of proper nutrition he was forced to spend a few days in bed.


On the very first day, when I was sitting by his bedside, reading him the newspaper, a messenger boy knocked telling me that I was needed in the garden.

I called for Pepa to replace me at your father’s side and hurried downstairs. Everything was in chaos.


Pavel, the young gardener was found unconscious.

He was moaning softly, and I feared that he would fall silent forever at any moment.

I ordered for him to be carried to my cabinet and dismissed all servants except for my own assistant.


I bend down and saw the tiny, still bleeding wounds on Pavel’s neck.


I decided then, in order to revive him for at least a few minutes, to use those remedies that are forbidden by both science and the law.

I was ready to risk all in order to lift the veil of mystery.


I poured a strong preparation into his mouth and propped him up against a stack of pillows.

Finally, he opened his eyes. At the first signs of consciousness, I started questioning him.

He was incoherent in the beginning, but soon his voice grew stronger and he told me this:


It is a custom in the castle for the workers to have one hour’s rest after a midday meal.

Pavel found a quiet spot under acacia tree and lay down. He wasn’t sleepy at all and lay on his back staring at the clouds in the blue sky, thinking about his village. Soon he imagined that a single cloud, light and white covered the sun. He felt a pleasant cool breeze. He stared and the cloud was no longer a cloud at all, but a woman in light summer’s dress. She reminded him of the dead Countess. Her long flowing hair was dressed with flowers.

The boy tried to rise, but the woman motioned for him to be still and leaned over him, coming nearer and nearer until her face was so close and she laid one hand on his forehead and the other on his neck.


‘And I felt so wonderful, so good’ he smiled ‘and her hands were so tiny and cool. She was kneeling next to me looking straight into my eyes, and her own green lakes, bottomless...then I felt heavy. My neck was painful...I couldn’t open my eyes....everything was spinning, melting away. And from somewhere far away I could hear the foreman calling: ‘Pavel! Pavel!’ I try to wake myself and cannot,” he continued “I feel as if a coffin’s lid is pressing on my chest, I cannot breathe and then I hear the voice again: ‘Pavel, I will sack you, you lazy bastard!’ I opened my eyes. And the Countess is here, leaning over me, only she is no longer gentle and kind as before...she is evil now, her face twisted in rage, eyes like glowing coals, red lips snarling. She stares at me without blinking and begins to move backward...backward and then she disappeared and...”   Pavel’s voice grew quieter, his words less coherent and he lost consciousness again.


I didn’t dare to use narcotics for the second time, and what for? I knew enough.


I handed Pavel over to my assistant and hurried back to the garden, needing badly fresh air and solitude. I found my way to the edge of the precipice and stood there, thinking.

After a while, Petro joined me.

We were silent.


“It must be ‘his’ doing again”  said Petro into the void.


“Whose? What are you talking about?” I was happy to find an ally in Petro.


“About the Old Devil. The American.”


“Listen, Petro, we cannot joke about these things anymore. Please tell me what you think.”


“Aha! I’d bet you’ve been wondering yourself...does Pavel have wounds on his neck?”




“All right, I will tell you, listen closely...

As soon as the American arrived, on the first day Nettie, poor soul, she jumped on him....” began Petro, “and I felt my heart ache...a bad omen...strange that he arrived with a dead man and yet he wouldn’t cross himself...God forgive us...and his eyes, as red as blood and darting from side to side. I started watching him...I see something isn’t right. He doesn’t go to church or sets a foot into the chapel. Not even a toe in the door.

He lives alone in the guardhouse, doesn’t talk to anyone and there is no light in his window. And no smoke out of the chimney. Means he doesn’t light his stove either. I never saw him eat and yet he gets fatter and redder by the day. How could this be, Doctor?


And all around...deaths, doctors...and even you, you also say that the dead have no blood in them.

Then it came to me....he is a vampire, or ‘upir’ as we folks call them. It means that the dead man rises from his grave and sucks the blood of the living.

I started following him in the earnest...” Petro fell silent.


“And what did you discover?”


“That’s the trouble, nothing. Nothing, Doctor, Sir. Never caught him ‘red-handed’ as they say. He is crafty. A lot of little things are there, but not enough to prove anything, and if I talk, everyone would just laugh,” he added sadly.


“Only the sweet Countess, God rest her soul, she suspected something. It wasn’t for nothing that she send Carlo away, she demanded it. What kind of learning can a seven-year-old have?” he finished.


We were quiet again.


“I came back and the Countess is no more. Maybe it was ‘his’ doing also? You were here, what do you think?”


I chose not to answer.


“I know this from the old women”, continued Petro “that ‘it’ doesn’t like aspen stake and smell of garlic. With the stake, you could pin him to the ground and he would no longer get up and walk. And the garlic, it is as good as the holy frankincense, it banishes the unclean spirits away, back to their places. The old women say also that every ‘upir’ has his own place, quiet place, where he must lie a certain time as a dead man; - it is a must for him, an order set forth by God himself. And for the rest of the time he could turn himself into whatever he wishes: a bird or an animal. This is why he is an ‘upir’”, Petro carried on.


“I destroyed the hut, took it out for firewood, put the stake in, the garlic will flower soon and...he is still up to his mischief,” he added miserably.


“What can we do? Old Devil brought a corpse from America along with his cursed necklace, and the illness stuck to our dear Countess, isn’t there something here? What do you think, Doctor?”, he asked, searching my face with enquiring eyes.


“I don’t know”, I shrugged.


“This is what I think”, resumed Petro “I will put a mistletoe cross on top of the old Count’s coffin, they say it is good, and all around I will hang garlic, and you will tell the rest not to touch it, by the Count’s order. Tell them that only Petro will clean the crypt from now on, and that all are forbidden to go there. I fear that the rascals would take it away and spread some gossip with it! And we must do everything quietly so that ‘he’ wouldn’t get the wind of it.”


I promised.


Petro left to start his work on the cross.

While he was busy, two children died in the village and a seasonal worker was discovered dead in the castle.

Finally, he told me that everything was ready.


We waited for the sunset, when all the workers are busy tidying for the evening. Petro and I made our way down to the crypt. We did everything as planned, hung wreaths of garlic and placed the cross on top of the stone coffin, covering it with a black sheet, so it wouldn’t attract Count’s attention.


“Can you hear it moaning and howling?” , asked Petro.


I listened closely. He was right, something was howling, but it was hard to tell whether the sound was human, or merely made by wind in one of the air vents of the crypt.


Petro was very cheerful and sure of our success, while I had a reason to be very apprehensive about the future.


I was right. That very night Count’s personal footman was found dying. He was discovered in his bed, still clinging to life and his last words were: ‘Countess, cou...”


While the rest of the servants stood around the body, Petro came in the room and quietly lifted up the dead man’s head. Whatever he saw caused him to moan and sink, almost unconscious to the floor.

He was as white as a chalk.

Petro’s reaction was the last drop for many of the servants.

Most of them, instead of helping poor old man, ran out of the room, and within an hour, many of them resigned. By the evening, our seasonal workers also asked for their pay.


All songs and laughter died.

The servants spoke in whispers; we felt that if someone else were to die, we would be left alone. By the nightfall...





“Gentlemen”, interrupted  Doctor   ”no matter how fascinating all of these fairytales are, it is way past anyone’s bedtime. It is close to two in the morning. I’ll bet you that all of your vampires and werewolves had had enough partying and are probably passed out somewhere. As for me- I am off to bed”, he finished getting up.


“Well, we will have to wait till tomorrow then”, said one of the guests.


“Don’t worry, neither Karl Ivanovich, nor his fairytales will run away”, joked Doctor.


“Are you sure that they are only fairytales?”, asked surprised Georges.


“You are still a boy, Georges, if you doubt it for one moment”, remarked elderly guest.



It was a lively, fun filled day. Some of the guests chose to go out riding, while others took up boxing and wrestling.

No one brought up the topic of yesterday’s reading.


In the evening, tired and hungry, yet in a light-hearted mood the guests gathered in the dining hall.


After a sumptuous meal, Karl Ivanovich was called in to finish his “fairytales”.


Karl Ivanovich was unusually reluctant and spent a long time looking in his briefcase, sifting through papers.


“So, to what nonsense will you treat us to today?”, asked Doctor.


Karl Ivanovich brightened:


“Maybe I shouldn’t read today?”, he asked hopefully.


“Oh no, we want to know the end”, protested the guests.


“You left off where the servants fled the castle from fright”, reminded Georges.


Karl Ivanovich took a deep noisy breath and started to read:


By the nightfall, Petro announced that he would not leave the crypt’s door until he catches the ‘Cursed Old Devil’.

All was quiet.

Even in the morning, Petro refused to abandon his post. He only agreed to take a piece of bread from me.

The day went peacefully.

Another day had passed.

What was I to do with my stubborn sentinel? He is eating only bread and doesn’t sleep at all. How long can he last?

One more day came and went.

None of my reasoning or pleading seemed to help. He refused to budge.

I decided to leave the stubborn man for one more night, and in the morning force him to drink a glass of wine, laced with sleeping powder.


I mixed in the powder and sat in my room, waiting.

I heard the clock strike two.


Suddenly, Petro is standing in my doorway. He is white as a ghost, his hair is dishevelled and he is trembling from head to foot. He walks in unsteadily and sinks in my chair, sobbing. At first, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, his teeth chattered so much. Eventually I managed to understand a single phrase:


“Our dear Countess, she is walking, dead”.


“Calm down Petro, and tell me everything from the beginning. I have also long suspected that the Countess is the culprit”, I said deliberately keeping my tone calm.


“Our sweet Countess, that angel, she is a bloodsucker, a vampire....” he started to sob again.


I waited for him to calm down, quietly, without saying a word and once he stopped crying, he told me this:


On this night, as before, he sat on a bench opposite the entrance to the crypt, watching the doors. The key to the door lay securely in his pocket.

The moon was bright and he could see clearly.


“I saw”, he told me “that the Countess is standing by the door. I recognised her instantly, her beautiful white gown, loose hair and flowers and diamonds, just like she used to dress when she was going to a ball... for a moment I forgot that she was dead, and so I ran to her, happy. “Dear lady!” I cried and she looked at me with so much love and tenderness and she said: “Petro, why are you persecuting me?”


I remembered then that she was dead and I moved away. She followed:


“Leave me and I will never hurt you”, and her voice, oh so sweet, so beautiful.”


“God’s peace with you, Lady”, I say “you have died, and you were buried”.


“I died...and yet I live. Don’t hinder me,” she said, pushing me gently out of the way.


I try to make a sign of the cross over her, and she grabs my shoulders, and she is so strong, Doctor, stronger than a man. Her eyes are blazing and her face is like that of  a stranger, I don’t know her at all. I try to pull away and cannot and she is pushing me backwards, backwards, I feel myself tumbling and then we came close to the garlic patch. I fell at the foot of the wooden gross, my weight pulling her with me. “She will maul me,” I think, but God was kind. She smelled the garlic, jumped up, moaned as though in pain and vanished. I lay there for a long time, too scared to move. Then I got up and came straight to you.

What are we to do? I don’t think I can put a stake through her heart. My arms wouldn’t let me”, he finished and I saw that the tears glittered once more in his eyes.


Petro and I sat up until early morning, trying to find the answer. We had to save the village and castle from the vampire and at the same time, for the sake of the Count and Carlo, spare our Countess’ name from the gossipers. We still haven’t agreed on anything, when a servant arrived and told me that the coachman’s son, a boy of about ten was found dead.


It was the last drop.

Soon, the servants one after the other came in, asking for their pay. Each had an identical reason:


“There is something evil here”.


We had to dismiss them. Soon we were left with two or three people who had nowhere to go.

Petro and I had no choice but to talk to your father.

Trying to be as tactful as possible, I slowly explained my findings to him.

To my surprise, he was calm. He only asked who else besides Petro and myself knows about “It”, and when I told him, no one, as far as I know, he seemed very content.

I suspect that he knew the horrible truth already. Maybe it was the reason why he spent so many days and nights in the crypt.


Your father ordered the immediate sale of all the livestock, horses and dogs, in other words, everything that will require care.

He had almost all the rooms in the castle locked and dismissed the remaining servants with a hefty bonus.

Afterwards, he hired labourers from the city to construct a new crypt as soon as was possible. It was made to hold two coffins only.

Not daring to invite a priest, at sunrise, when the clear air carries the sounds of the church bell from the village, we lifted your mother’s casket from the old crypt and took it to her new resting place, where we put it into the niche in the wall, sealing it forever.

Afterwards, your father made us swear upon our souls that we would stay silent about all that happened.

He made generous provisions for us both.

Petro asked your father for one favour only, - to be allowed to stay on at the castle, which he did for the next fifteen years.

What your father wanted to do with the castle or with you, he never told us.

Death took him unexpectedly.


We buried him in the new crypt, in the place that he chose for himself.

Petro took a vow to go to Rome and I returned home.

Now, Carlo, leave me. I broke my oath for you, leave me, let me rest”, he finished and hung his head.

I walked out of the room.


Where I spent the night, I cannot remember. I walked and walked the empty streets.

When dawn broke I sat down with this letter.

It is my last resort to try and make sense of it all. I need to calm down and think logically, rationally.

What is this?

Maybe I am mad?

Maybe none of this happened and I’ve imagined it all, the old man, his story, everything. Maybe my sick brain, in its delirium came up with this?

Or maybe Doctor is real, but lost his mind because of old age?

Or maybe it is all the truth, but what truth? That I am a son of a vampire?

I must be mad.

But then, what is a better option? You decide.

Alf, I wish you were here, and, looking on as an outsider you would be a better judge.

I know it is madness to believe Doctor’s stories and yet...I do believe. Why? How can I not? I have no way of knowing where the truth ends and his madness begins.

Everything that he told me has a ring of truth to it. Dear God, and Rita? I forgot about her completely.

What will happen to her? Can I, in all honesty, marry her now? Do I have a right of making her a part of my misfortune?

No, I must send her away.

But how? What can I tell her? It will humiliate, dishonour her. I cannot do that.

What must I do, Alf? Where is the solution?

Please come, I need your help.

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