Night was already drawing in, the early-break tourists promenading in their evening finery, and the town's lights beginning to come on as the taxi sped the three to their villa. But in the front of the car with the driver, Manolis Papastamos was very quiet. Darcy supposed that the Greek felt out of things and probably considered he'd been snubbed, and he wondered how best to make up for it. There was still a lot Papastamos could do for them; indeed, without his co-operation they might find the going very difficult.

The villa stood in its own high-walled gardens of lemon, almond and olive trees, overlooking the sea on the Akti Canari promenade towards the airport. It was square and flat-roofed, had shuttered windows, squealing wrought-iron gates and a pebbled path to the main door, where a dim lamp glowed under the roof of a pine porch. The lamp had already attracted a cloud of moths, and they in their turn had lured several small green geckoes, which scattered across the wall as Papastamos turned the key gratingly in the door. And while the stubble-jawed, chain smoking taxi driver patiently waited, so the Greek police-man showed his three very odd foreign visitors around the place.

It wasn't the best but it was private and gave easy access to the town; there were cooking facilities but the three would be well advised to eat at any one of the half-dozen excellent tavernas which stood within a stone's throw; and there was a telephone, which came with a typed list of useful local numbers kept clean in a plastic folder. Downstairs were two bedrooms, both equipped with two single beds, bedside tables, reading lamps and built-in wardrobes. There was also a spacious sitting- or reading-room, with glass doors to a patio under a striped, wind-down canvas awning. And lastly a small toilet and bathroom; no bath as such but a tiled shower recess and all the rest of the amenities. Upstairs didn't matter.

When Papastamos was through he automatically assumed he wouldn't be needed any more that night; but when he went back out to the taxi Darcy followed him, saying, 'Manolis, we really don't know how to thank you. I mean, how do we pay for all of this? Oh, we can pay -of course we can - but you'll have to tell us how, and how much, and... et cetera.'

The other shrugged. 'It's on the Greek government.'

'That's very kind,' Darcy said. 'We really would have been lost without you. Especially at a time like this, with so much on our minds. For Layard and Jordan, they really are - or were - two of our very closest friends.'

At last Papastamos turned to him. 'My friends, too!' he said, with a lot of feeling. 'I only knew them for a day or two, but they were nice people! And I tell you, not everyone I meet is so nice!'

'Then you must understand how we feel,' Darcy answered, 'who knew them a long time.'

Papastamos was quiet a moment then shrugged again, perhaps apologetically, and nodded. 'Yes, of course I understand. Is there anything else I can do?'

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'Oh, indeed there is!' Darcy knew it was all right between them now. 'Like I said, we'd be lost without you. And that still goes. We'd like you to exert whatever pressure you can to get that autopsy over and done with, and then to have poor Ken Layard cremated as soon as possible. And that's just for starters. You'll also need to keep tabs on this gang of drug-smugglers, for right now you're the only one who knows anything about them. We will eventually have some more people flying out, and you'll also be required to brief them. And finally, if it's at all possible ... do you think you could arrange a car for us?'

'No problem!' said the other, expansive as ever. 'It will be here tomorrow morning.'

'Then that's about it for now,' Darcy smiled. 'We'll just trust you to see to your end of this thing, for after all, that's what's most important. And you must trust us to do the things we have to do. We're all experts in our different ways, Manolis.'

Papastamos scribbled a number on a scrap of paper. 'You can get me here any time,' he said. 'Or if not, you'll get someone who knows where I am.'

Darcy thanked him again and said good night. And as the taxi drew away he went back in through the squeaking gates...

The three went out to eat, and to talk.

'But why out?' Darcy wanted to know, after they'd found a taverna fronting on a quiet street, with small stairways to private tables on internal balconies, out of earshot of other patrons. And when they were seated in just such privacy: 'I mean, wasn't the villa private enough?'

'It could have been too private,' Harry told him.

'Too private?' Sandra was still a little shaky from the brief mental contact she'd made with something unthinkable in the mind of Trevor Jordan.

'There are people here,' Harry tried to explain something he wasn't himself sure of. 'Other minds, other thoughts. A background blanket of mental activity. You two should understand that better than I do. I don't want us to be found out, that's all. You think you espers are clever? Well, and so you are - but the Wamphyri have powers, too.'

Wamphyri! It was a word Darcy Clarke couldn't hear without remembering the Yulian Bodescu affair. And he felt a familiar shiver down his spine as he asked: 'And you believe that's what we're up against, right? Another like Bodescu?'

'Worse than that,' Harry answered. 'Bodescu was an open book compared to this. He didn't know what was happening to him. He wasn't an innocent himself - hadn't even been innocent from a time before he was born - but he was an innocent in the ways of the Wamphyri. He was a beginner, a child learning how to run before he could walk. And he made mistakes, kept falling down. Until one of his falls was fatal. But this one isn't like that.'

'Harry,' said Sandra, 'how do you know these things? How do you know what we're up against? Yes, I sensed a mind in there with Trevor's, a powerful, totally evil mind ... but couldn't it have been another telepath? They were on a drugs job, Ken and Trevor. What if the big-league criminals have set up their own ESP-units? It could happen, couldn't it?'

'I doubt it,' Harry answered. 'From what I've seen of espers they don't work for other people.'

'What?' Darcy was surprised. 'But we all do. Ken, Trevor, Sandra, myself. And you, once upon a time.'

'Worked for a cause,' said Harry, 'for an idea, a country, for revenge. Not for the gain of other people. Would you, if you were as powerful as the one Sandra sensed? Would you sell your talent to a gang of thugs who'd destroy you the moment they began to fear you -which they would, eventually?'

'But what about Ivan Gerenko, who - ?'

'A madman, a megalomaniac!' Harry cut him off. 'No, even the necromancer Dragosani was working for an ideal - the resurrection of old Wallachia. At least until his vampire took control. Listen: how many people know you have your talent, Darcy? And Sandra, how many people know you're a telepath? I've only known it myself for a few hours. You didn't go around advertising it, did you? Take it from me, the ones who do tell all are the fakes. Mediums and spoon-benders, mystics and gurus - fakes every one!'

Darcy snorted his derision. 'So you're saying that all of us espers are good guys, right?'

'No such thing,' Harry shook his head. 'No, for there's plenty of wickedness in the world, even among "all you espers". But think about it: if you're evil and you've mastered a special talent, why would you want to sell it to someone else? Wouldn't you use it - in secret - to make yourself mighty?'

'The fact is,' said Darcy, 'I've often wondered why they don't! The people in E-Branch, I mean.'

'I've no doubt that some do,' said Harry. 'No, I'm not talking about E-Branch, but others, people we know nothing about. There must be many talents loose in the world. How do we know that so-called "business acumen" isn't just another talent? Did this man make a million because he has a "knack" for wheeling and dealing, or was it because there's a special something guiding his hand? Something which he himself might not even know about? Is the war hero really as brave as we believe him to be, or has he - like you, Darcy, or even like Gerenko

- got a guardian angel watching over him? Did you know that the casinos have a list of people they won't let in, professional gamblers who have the winning "knack", and that an awful lot of them are rich as Croesus?'

'That's all very well,' said Darcy, reasonably, 'but still you have no proof that this one is a vampire!'

'Proof, not yet,' Harry answered. 'But evidence, plenty. Circumstantial, but still it's there.'

'Such as?' said Sandra.

Perhaps exasperated, he turned to her. 'Sandra, the closest you've been to a vampire is in reading my case file. I take it you have read it? It's a standard text in E-Branch, as a guard against "the next time". But I do know what I'm talking about, and so does Darcy. So while I don't want to be hurtful, still I think you'd best just sit still and listen. Especially you, for we don't yet know that when you saw him - whoever he is - in Trevor's mind, he didn't see you!'

She gasped and sat up straighter, and Harry reached across to pat her hand. 'I'm sorry, but now maybe you can see what's worrying me. Some of it, anyway. Me? -I've been here before, or at least in a similar position. But you? - God, I don't want anything to happen to you!'

Darcy said: 'But you did mention evidence.'

Before Harry could answer, a waiter came to take their order. Darcy ordered a full meal, Sandra a salad and sweet, but Harry only asked for a portion of chicken and plenty of coffee. 'A full stomach always makes me sleepy,' he explained, 'and alcohol is worse still. And I intend that you understand how deadly serious I am about this thing. But if you really want to drink that brandy, just go ahead, Darcy.'

Darcy looked at his brandy glass and the large measure of golden liquid it contained, and put it aside.

'Evidence, then,' said Harry. 'For more than four years the dead haven't attempted to contact me. Or if they have, I haven't been aware of it. Oh, my mother may well have come to me in my dreams; in fact I'm sure she has, for that's her nature. And yet now, suddenly, they've placed me in jeopardy. All right, the fact of them attacking Wellesley was circumstantial: they just happened to be there when he'd planned to murder me. But they were there, delivering a message. And they were doing it, possibly (a) for my mother, or (b) for themselves, out of their concern for me, or (c) for Ken and Trevor, who had been trying to reach me in my dreams.'

Darcy frowned. 'They'd been trying to reach you, telepathically? I didn't know that.'

'Neither did I, until Ken Layard woke up and saw us, and spoke. A mental voice sounds just like the real thing to me, Darcy, and back in Scotland I'd been dreaming that people were trying to reach me, but I didn't know who they were. As soon as I heard Ken's real voice, then I recognized it. As to how they did it: Ken's a locator, he found me. And Trevor's a telepath, he helped send the message. Why me? Because I'm the so-called "expert" on what they both knew they were dealing with. And so they should know, because they too were in on the Bodescu affair.'

Darcy nodded, licked his dry lips. He lifted his brandy and took the merest sip, dampening his mouth with it. 'All right - what other evidence?'

'The evidence of my own senses,' said Harry, 'which, like yours, number more than five.'

'Not any longer,' Sandra pointed out - and at once bit her tongue, hoping he wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Harry didn't. Smiling, however wryly, he said: 'I don't have to be able to talk to the dead to know the difference between a corpse and a live man.'

Again Darcy frowned. 'So what does that mean?' he asked. 'The same goes for any one of us!'

'Have you ever walked down a silent, empty alley at night?' Harry asked him. 'And all of a sudden you're certain someone is there? And sure enough, you see the flare of a match in a dark corner where someone is lighting a cigarette? Have you ever played hide-and-seek where you're it, and when you're searching for the other kids you get this feeling right between the shoulder blades that someone is watching you? And when you look round, again one of them is there? I mean, not the sixth sense which you already know you possess, but just a sort of gut feeling?'

Darcy nodded, and Harry continued: 'Well, just as you sense the presence of living people, so I sense the dead. I know when I'm in the company of dead men. Which is why I can tell you definitely that Ken Layard isn't! Even if I could still speak to the dead, I couldn't have spoken to Ken. For he's not dead. Oh, he's not alive either, but something in between. He's undead, in thrall to some other, and he'll rise up again as a vampire unless we make sure he's put down forever. That's what he was saying to me in my dream, what he was begging me to do: find him, finish him, put him down.'

Again Darcy nodded. 'And when he and Trevor couldn't get through to you, the real dead relayed their message, right?'

'Right,' said Harry. "They tried to spell it out for me, in stone, right there in my garden.'

Sandra shuddered. 'God, but I just might have defied Wellesley, Harry! I might have been there with you when he came after you. Also when They came after him!' She shook her head. 'I don't think I could bear it... to have seen those things.'

He reached out to clasp her hand across the table. 'They're not just things,' he said. They were living people, once. And now they're dead people. Why, most of the soil and sand and sky and sea oh or covering this entire planet was alive one time or another! It's the nature of things, and life's a stage we go through. But the dead think enough of me to transcend the natural order of things.'

'And transcending the natural makes them... supernatural?' This from Darcy.

'I suppose it does,' said Harry, turning his soulful eyes on him. 'But didn't we think of vampires as being supernatural, once upon a time?' And at last he allowed himself a genuine smile, however wan. 'You know, Darcy, for the head of E-Branch you're hellish sceptical! I mean, isn't this what it's always been about? Gadgets and ghosts? The physical and the metaphysical? The natural and the supernatural?'

'I'm not sceptical,' said Darcy, 'for I've seen too much for that. It's just that I like things sorted out, that's all.'

'And have I sorted things out for you?'

'I suppose you have. So ... where do we go from here?'

'We go nowhere. We examine what we know, take a stab at what we don't know. And we try to prepare for what's coming. But frankly, if I were you two, I'd simply back right out of it.'

'What?' Darcy wondered if his hearing was all right.

'You and Sandra. You should climb right aboard the next flight for home, go back to E-Branch and utilize whatever powers are available to you from that end. We should play it like we played the Bodescu business: low-key, until we know what we're dealing with.'

Darcy shook his head. 'We're in it together. I can get the Branch jacked-up from right here. Maybe I'd better remind you: falling in harm's way isn't a habit of mine. My guardian angel? And anyway, what can you do on your own? Sandra was right, Harry. You're an ex-Necroscope. You don't have it any more. Where talents are concerned, you no longer figure. And as you yourself pointed out, what happened in Bonnyrig was entirely coincidental: the dead won't be there to help you out every time. So let's face it, of the three of us you're the weakest. It isn't that you don't need us, more that we don't need you.'

Harry stared at him. 'You need my expertise,' he said. 'And I've already stated the possible danger to Sandra. She really shouldn't be anywhere near me, and...' And abruptly, he paused. But too late, for the damage was done. He never had been much good at subterfuge.

'Near you?' she said. 'What does that mean, Harry?' It was her turn to trap his hand.

He sighed, looked away, finally said: 'Look, we have a vampire here. Possibly of the old guard, but in any case not too far removed from the original strain, the Wamphyri themselves. And like I keep telling you, if only you'd listen, the Wamphyri have powers! Sandra, you looked in Jordan's head and there was this thing in there torturing him, questioning him - specifically about us. By now he probably knows all there is to know about E-Branch, and how we dealt with what Thibor Ferenczy left behind, and Yulian Bodescu, and... hell, anything he wants to know! But more especially he'll know about me. If not now, soon. And then he'll come for me. He can't afford not to, for he'll know his cover's blown. I'm Harry Keogh, the Necroscope, and I'm dangerous. I've killed vampires; I've caused vampire sources to be rooted out and destroyed; and locked away in my brain somewhere I have the secrets of dead speak and the Möbius Continuum. Of course he'll come for me. And for you two, if you're with me. Now Darcy... OK, you have your talent, which protects you. But you're still a man, flesh and blood. You were born and you can die. And remember, this thing knows about your talent! If there's a way to dispose of you - or even better, to use you - he'll find it.'

'But surely that's my big advantage?' Darcy argued. 'I already know how to kill him!'

'Oh?' said Harry. 'And how will you find him? And if and when you do, do you think he'll lie still for you to stake him out? Man, he won't wait for you to find him -he'll come looking for you! For us! Look, I'll say it again: compared to this, Yulian Bodescu was a bumbling amateur.'

"Then I'll call in all the help I can get, from E-Branch. I can have ten of our best out here by tomorrow noon.'

'Call them in to be slaughtered?' Harry's frustration was growing, turning to anger. With people as special and intelligent as these two, still he had to explain these things as if they were children. For compared to the Wamphryi they were children, and just as innocent. 'But can't you see, Darcy,' he tried again, 'they don't know him. They don't know who or where he is.'

Sandra spoke up, displaying all of her innocence and lack of experience for anyone to see. 'Then it's a game of hide-and-seek,' she said. 'We'll keep our heads down and let him make his play. Or close him in through a system of elimination. Or - '

'We can use our locators,' Darcy cut in, 'like we did with Bodescu, and - ' He paused abruptly and his scalp tingled. And: 'Jesus!' he said, giving a nervous start as something of the enormity of the problem - and something of its true horror - suddenly hit him. And: 'Our locators!' he said again. So that now Sandra, too, caught on.

'Oh, my God!' she said.

Harry nodded and allowed himself to flop slowly back in his chair. 'I see we're starting to think,' he said, almost without sarcasm. 'Locators? A terrific idea, Darcy -except our enemy has fixed it so he may soon have a locator of his own. Yes, and Ken Layard's one of the best there is!'

The food arrived; gloomy and thoughtful, Darcy and Sandra only toyed with theirs; Harry tucked his away in short order, lit one of his very rare cigarettes, started on the coffee. Darcy, silent for some time, said:

'If it comes to it, we may have to burn Ken ourselves.'

Harry nodded. 'You can see why I was in a hurry.'

'I'm a fool!' Sandra said, suddenly. 'I feel such a fool! Some of the utterly stupid things I've said!'

'No, you're not a fool,' Harry shook his head. 'Don't put yourself down. You're just loyal, brave, and human. You could no more think like a vampire than you could think like a cockroach. That's what it boils down to: being as devious as they are. But don't think that's a bonus. Believe me it isn't. You can make yourself sick, trying to think like they do.'

'Anyway,' said Darcy, 'I agree with you, Sandra has to get out of this.'

'Yes,' Harry nodded, 'and never should have been in, except there was no way we could know until we got here.' He turned to her. 'You must be able to see, love, how hampered we'd be? Oh, Darcy will get by OK - he always has - but I wouldn't even be able to think straight with you around. I'd be forever worrying about what you might bump into.'

Sandra thought: It's the first time he's called me 'love' in... a day or two? It felt like a long time anyway. But the wait had been worth it. 'And what would I do?' she said. 'Sit around back home and hope for the best?'

Darcy shook his head. 'No, you'd co-ordinate E-Branch's efforts in my absence. With Wellesley out of the picture and me over here, things are bound to be tight. But you have first-hand knowledge of our situation, so you'll be invaluable as our liaison man - or woman. Also, you'll be kept fully in the picture, day to day, on what's happening. In fact you'll probably have so much on your plate that there won't be time to worry about Harry.'

And Harry said, 'He's right, you know.'

She looked at them, then looked away. 'Well, I'll say one thing for it: at least I won't have to worry about things like... like burning poor Ken!'

Darcy looked at Harry. 'How about it? How long do we have before... ?'

'It will only come to that - dealing with it ourselves - if the local authorities don't get a move on,' Harry answered. 'But out here, because of the heat and such, I should think they're normally pretty smart off the mark.'

Darcy frowned. 'But is there no official deadline - God, what a pun! I mean, before things start to get ... problematic?'

'You mean: when does he get up and walk, right?' Harry shook his head. 'No, there's no official deadline. How long did it take George Lake, Yulian Bodescu's uncle?'

'Three days and nights,' Darcy answered at once. 'They had just enough time to bury him before he was digging his way out again.'

'Oh, don't!' said Sandra, her eyes bright with horror.

Harry looked at her, felt sorry for her, but had to continue anyway. 'Lake was textbook,' he said. 'But I don't think there are any strict rules. None I'd trust, anyway.' He sat up straighter and looked around. 'But you know, I was just thinking: for tourists we must look pretty miserable! Anyway, this place is filling up now. I suggest we get back to the villa. Let's face it, I could be wrong about the value of crowds; we could be just as safe there as we are here. And whichever, we still have to make our plans - and make the villa secure.'

On their way back they were mainly silent. This far out from the centre of Rhodes, and this early in the season, things weren't so busy. There was plenty of traffic on the roads, heading for the bright lights, but the sidewalks were almost empty. With the sea flat and shining on their right, beyond the promenade, and the Milky Way strewn like the dust of diamonds across the sky, it might have been very romantic. In other circumstances. But as they walked the pebble path to their door, even the plaintive, repetitive, molten silver calling of small Greek owls couldn't lift their mood.

As soon as they were inside Darcy went upstairs to check the windows, while Harry tended to the downstairs windows and back door. Both doors were solid, with strong locks and good bolts. All the windows were fitted with shutters externally and thief locks internally.

'Couldn't be better,' said Darcy, as they got together again around a table in the sitting-room.

'Oh, it could be,' Harry contradicted him. 'Remind me tomorrow to buy some garlic.'

'Of course,' Darcy nodded. 'You know, I'd forgotten that entirely? It's so much a part of the fiction that it slipped my mind it's also part of the fact!'

'Garlic,' Harry repeated, 'yes. On Sunside the Travellers call it "kneblasch". That's the root of its name in Earth's languages, too. It's the German "Knoblauch" and the Gypsy "gnarblez".' He grinned tiredly and without humour. 'Another piece of useless information.'

'Useless?' said Sandra. 'I think it's as well if you give us all the useless information you can!'

Harry shrugged. 'You can get a lot of it out of Darcy's "fiction". But if that's what you want...' And he shrugged again, but warned: 'Except you must always remember, nothing is certain, not with a vampire. And no one - myself included - knows everything there is to know about them. What, everything? I don't know a tenth of it! But I do know that the closer you get to the source, to the original Wamphyri stock, the more effective the various poisons become. Garlic sickens them. Its stink offends as ordure offends us, even makes them ill. On Starside, Lardis Lidesci smears his weapons with oil of garlic. A vampire, struck with a weapon treated that way - arrow, knife or sword, whatever - will suffer hideously! Often the infected member must be shed, and another grown in its place.'

Darcy and Sandra looked at each other aghast, but they said nothing.

'Then there's silver,' Harry continued, 'poison to them, like mercury or lead is to us. Which reminds me: we should be on the lookout for a couple of these fancy Greek paperknives - in silver or silver-plate. Darcy, you saw those bolts I packed with my crossbow? They're of hardwood, rubbed with garlic oil, tipped with silver. And please don't ask me if I'm serious. On Starside the Travellers swear by these things, and stay alive by them!'

Starside! Darcy thought, staring at Harry. The alien, parallel world of the vampires. He's seen it, been there and returned. He's had all that. And now he sits here, entirely human and vulnerable, and tries to explain these things to us. And somehow he doesn't get angry with us, and somehow he doesn't crack up and rant and rave. And he never quits.

'Vampires,' said Sandra, and felt herself thrilling to the word, even knowing she loathed it. 'Tell us about them, Harry. Oh, I know it's all in the files back at E-Branch HQ in London. But it's different coming from you. You know so much about them, and yet you say you know so little.'

'I'll tell you the several sure things I know about them,' said Harry. 'They're devious beyond the imagination of human beings. They're liars each and every one, who on almost every occasion would rather lie than tell the truth - unless there's something of substantial value in it for them. They're expert in confusing any argument, adept at ambiguous and frustrating riddles, word-games, puzzles and paradoxes, false similes and parallels. They're insanely jealous, secretive, proud, possessive. And as for their grip on life - or undeath - they are the most tenacious creatures in or out of Creation!

'Their source lies in the vampire swamps east and west of the central mountain range that divides Starside from Sunside. The legend is that at times they emerge as monstrous slugs or leeches to fasten on men and beasts. As to what degree of intelligence they possess at that stage: who can say? But their tenacity is there from square one. They live on the blood of the host and form a horrific symbiosis with him. The host is changed, materially and mentally. Sexless, the vampire "adopts" the sex of its host, and it fosters in him - or in her - that lust for blood which eventually will sustain both of them.

'I said that the host is altered materially. That's true: a vampire's flesh is different from ours. It has within itself the power of regeneration. Lose a finger, an arm or leg, and given time the vampire will replace them. That's not as weird as it sounds. A starfish does it even better. Cut a starfish up and throw it back in the sea, each part will grow a whole new animal. Likewise a gecko losing its tail, or the segmented cestode or tapeworm of men. But a vampire is no cestode worm. Lesk the Glut, an insane Wamphyri Lord, lost an eye in battle - and caused another to grow on his shoulder!

'As the vampire matures within its host, so that host's strength and endurance increase enormously. Likewise his emotions. Except for love, whose concept is alien to the Wamphyri, all other passions become a rage. Hate, lust, the urge to war, to rape, to torture and destroy all peers or opponents. But such evils as these are tempered by the vampire's desire for secrecy, anonymity. For he knows that if he is discovered, men won't rest until he's destroyed. That last applies specifically in this world, of course, for in their own they are, or were, the Lords. They were, until The Dweller and I brought their reign to ruin. But even before that there were certain Traveller tribes who would kill them if and when they could. My son and I ... we didn't destroy them all. Sometimes I wish we had.

'So ... when did they first come here, how, and where did they arrive? The first of them, in this world? Who knows? There have been vampires in all Man's legends. Where is far easier: in ancient Dacia, in Romani and Moldova, in Wallachia. Which is all one and the same: Romania to you, on or close to the Danube. There's a Gate there, a tunnel between dimensions, but mercifully inaccessible. Or very nearly so. I used it when I went to Starside, but that was before Harry Jnr stripped me of my talents.'

Harry sat back and sighed. Time and its events were catching up with him. He looked very tired now, but nevertheless asked, 'What else?'

However morbid, Sandra couldn't resist the fascination of Harry's subject. 'What of their life-cycles, their longevity? When I read the E-Branch files, it all seemed so fantastic! And you say their origin is the swamps; but what about before that? How did they get there in the first place?'

'That's like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg,' said Harry. 'The swamps are their place, that's all. Why are there aborigines in Australia? How come we only find Komodo lizards in Komodo? As for their life-cycles:

'They start in the swamps, as great leeches. That's how I understand it, anyway. They transfer to men or beasts, usually wolves. And incidentally, it's a theory of mine that the werewolf of myth is in fact a vampire. Why not? It lives on raw, red flesh and its bite can create another werewolf, can't it? Of course, for the bite is the passing of the egg, which carries the codes of both wolf and vampire.'

Suddenly Harry's haunted look became more haunted yet. 'My God!' he whispered, shaking his head in wonderment. 'And every time I think of that, I can't help thinking of my son. Where is he now? I wonder. Still on Starside, a vampire Lord? What is he now, that child of Brenda and me? For Harry's vampire came from a wolf!'

For long moments his soulful eyes were fogged, distant, lost. But then he blinked, stirred himself, came back to the present point in space and time. And:

"Their life-cycles,' he cleared his throat and continued. 'Very well. So far we've traced the cycle from a swamp-leech to a parasite in a human or animal host. But I called the partnership a symbiosis, and as you'll appreciate that calls for give and take on both sides. Well, the parasite gets his keep, and learns from the mind of his host. And the host gets the vampire's healing powers, his protoflesh, his skills for survival and, of course, his longevity. Eventually the vampire will weld itself to its host's interior; it will become part of him, utterly inseparable. The two parts -even the brains - will slowly merge and become one. But in the early days the parasite retains a certain individuality. If an immature vampire senses extreme, inescapable danger to its host, it may even attempt to flee him. Dragosani's vampire did just that when I destroyed him. But to no avail; I destroyed it, too...'

A tremor had entered Harry's soft-spoken voice, and the gauntness was back in his face. It was a hag-ridden expression and hard to define, at least until he continued:

'Or again, an immature vampire may be driven out from its host, if you know the way. But always with... with disastrous results to the host.' And now they knew he was talking about the Lady Karen and understood his mood.

He saw the looks on their faces and moved quickly on:

'Where was I? Oh yes: the life-cycle. Well, you might be tempted to think that the rest of it is the weirdest of all, but is it really? Have a look at the amphibia, the frogs and newts. Or moths and butterflies. Or if you're happy to stick with parasites, how about the liver fluke? There's a horror if ever there was! But what makes the vampire worse is his evil intelligence, and the fact that in the end his will is ascendant, dominant, stronger than that of his host. So you see it isn't really give and take at all but total submission. And then there's the egg. Faethor Ferenczy passed on his egg to Thibor the Wallach by way of a kiss. He hooked the thing up out of his throat onto his forked tongue and thrust it down Thibor's throat! And from that moment forward, Thibor, warrior that he was, was doomed.

'Staked and chained and buried, undead for five hundred years, Thibor put forth a protoflesh tendril and dropped his egg on the back of Dragosani's neck. The thing entered like quicksilver, passed through Dragosani's flesh and fastened to his spine without even leaving a mark. And so Dragosani, too, was doomed. Now, Faethor was Wamphyri. He gave Thibor his egg, and so he became Wamphyri! Yes, and so would Dragosani be Wamphyri if I hadn't put an end to him.

'The egg, then, carries the true Wamphyri strain. Only the egg. And it may be passed on through a kiss, through intercourse, or simply hurled at its target host. So Dragosani was informed by Thibor Ferenczy himself, the old Thing in the ground. Except Thibor, like all vampires, was a liar! Why, the old devil barely touched the undeveloped foetus of Yulian Bodescu, and the child was corrupted and vampirized before he was even born! And he had all the - stigmata? - of the Wamphyri. Every sign and symptom, yes, including the ultimate vampire skill of shape-changing. Yulian was Wamphyri! But -

' - Would he have developed an egg of his own? I don't know. It's entirely paradoxical, which is only what you'd expect of them.' And Harry fell silent.

Sandra and Darcy had sat and listened in a sort of stupefaction to all of this. But now, when it seemed Harry was done, Darcy took it up. 'Their varieties are equally baffling,' he said. 'It seems Bodescu infected his mother with a small piece of himself. We don't know what sort of piece or how, but hell, I can't say I'm sorry about that. He grew something monstrous in the cellars of Harkley House, an unbelievable Thing that murdered one of our espers. And he grew it from one of his own wisdom teeth! This mindless, protoflesh thing: he used it to infect his uncle, his aunt and cousin. It seems he vampirized all of them, in as many different ways. Even his damned dog!'

Harry nodded slowly and said, 'Yes, all of that, and it's still not the half of it. Darcy, the Wamphyri of Starside had skills which the vampires of Earth, our Earth, seem to have forgotten, thank God! They could take flesh -Traveller flesh, Trog flesh - and given time shape it to their will. I've talked about or mentioned gas-beasts, which they breed for the methane they produce; but they make warriors, too, which you wouldn't believe even if you saw one!'

'I've seen one,' Darcy reminded him.

'On film,' said Harry, 'yes - but you haven't seen one falling towards you out of the sky, every inch of it armoured and lethally equipped! And you haven't seen the bony, cartilage creatures they design specifically for the skins, ligaments and skeletons with which they extend and provision their aeries! And God, you've neither seen nor could imagine their siphoneers!'

Sandra closed her eyes, held up her hand and gasped, 'No!' She'd read about the things called siphoneers in the Keogh files, and this was something she really didn't want to hear from Harry. She knew about the great placid, flaccid things in the heights of the vampire towers: how their living veins hung down through hundreds of yards of hollow bone pipes, to siphon up water from the wells. And she knew, too, how all of these creatures and beasts had once been human, before vampire metamorphosis. And, 'No!' she said again.

'Yes,' said Darcy, 'Sandra's right. And perhaps this was the wrong time to go through all of this anyway. God knows I shan't sleep!'

Harry nodded. 'I rarely sleep,' he answered, 'peacefully.'

And as if they had already agreed it, though in fact it hadn't been mentioned, they carried three single beds out of the bedrooms into the large living-room and set them up there around the central table, and prepared to sleep in the same room together. It might not be entirely civilized, but it was safest.

Harry brought out his crossbow from a holdall, assembled it and fitted a bolt. He placed the loaded weapon between his and Darcy's bed, on the floor close to the table, where they weren't likely to step on it. Then, while the others used the bathroom to prepare for bed in their turn, he stretched out in an armchair and drew a blanket up over himself. If he became uncomfortable later, he could always stretch out on his bed then.

And in the darkness and quiet of the room, where only a haze of grey light came in through the louvres, Darcy yawned and asked, 'What plans for tomorrow, Harry?'

'To see to Ken Layard,' Harry answered without hesitation, 'to get Sandra on a plane for home, and to see what can be done for Trevor Jordan. We should try to get him out of here as soon as possible. To distance him from the vampire should be to lessen the thing's influence. Again I suppose it's up to the local authorities and what they say. But let's deal with all that in the morning. Right now I think I'll be happy just to make it through the night.'

'Oh, I'm sure we will,' said Darcy.

'You feel... easy, then?'

'Easy? Hardly that! But there doesn't seem to be anything bothering me especially.'

'Good,' said Harry. And: 'You're a very handy man to have around, Darcy Clarke.'

Sandra said nothing. Already she was asleep...

Harry did in fact sleep; he caught brief, troubled snatches of sleep in a series of short naps, never more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time ... for the first few hours, anyway. But in the wee small hours his exhaustion caught up with him and his sleep grew deeper; and now the dead, no longer able to communicate with his conscious mind, could at least try to get through to him.

The first was his mother, whose voice came to him from far away, faint as a whisper in the winds of dream:

Haaarry! Are you sleeping, son? Why don't you answer me, Harry?

'I ... I can't, Ma!' he gasped, expecting to feel his brain squeezed in a moment, and acid poured on the nerves of his mind. 'You know that. If I try to talk to you, he's going to hurt me. Not him, but what he did to me.'

But you are speaking to me, son! It's just that you've forgotten again, that's all. It's only when you're awake that we can't speak. But nothing to stop us when you're only dreaming. You've nothing to fear from me, Harry. You know I'd never hurt you. Not deliberately.

'I... I remember now,' said Harry, still not quite sure. 'But what's the use anyway? I won't remember what you tell me when I wake up. I never do. I'm forbidden to.'

Ah, but I've found ways round that before, Harry, and I can try to do it again. I don't quite know how, for I sense you're a long way away from me, but I can always try. Or if not me, perhaps some of your other friends.

'Ma,' he was fearful now, 'you have to tell them to stop that. You've no idea the pain they can cause me, the trouble they can get me in! And I have enough problems right now without adding to them.'

Oh, I know you have, son, I know, she answered. But there are problems and there are problems, and the solution is sometimes different. We don't want you to go solving them in the wrong way, that's all. Do you understand?

But in his sleep he didn't understand; only that he was dreaming, and that someone who loved him was trying her best to help him, however mistakenly, however misguided. 'Ma,' he said, suddenly angry with her, and with all of them, 'I really wish you'd try to understand. You have to get it through your head that you're putting me in danger! You and the rest of the dead, all of you - it's like you were trying to kill me!'

Oh, Harry! she gasped. Harry I And he knew she was ashamed of him. Now how can you say a thing like that, son? Kill you? Heavens, no. We're trying to keep you alive.

'Ma, I -'

Haaarry. She was fading away again, going back where she belonged, as faint and distant as a forgotten name on the tip of your tongue, which won't shape itself no matter how hard you try. But then, in another moment, her deadspeak signal strengthened and he focussed on her again. And:

You see, son, she said, we don't worry too much about you that way any more. It's no longer so painful to us to think that one day you might die. We know you will, for it comes to us all. And through you we've come to understand that death isn't really as black as it's painted. But between life and death there's another state, Harry, and we've been warned that you're straying too close.

'Undeath!' it was his turn to gasp, as suddenly his dream turned sharp as reality. 'Warned? By whom?'

Oh, she answered, there are many talents among the dead, son. There are those you can speak to and trust, without fearing their words, and others you should never, ever speak to! At times you've moved without caution, Harry, but this time... one... evil... lost to... dark as... forever!

Her deadspeak was breaking up, fading, dissolving. But what she'd been saying was important, he was sure. 'Ma?' he called after her, into the gathering mists of dream. 'Ma?'

Haaaaarrry! Her answer was the faintest echo, diminishing and... gone.


- Something touched Harry's face; he started and sat up a little in his armchair. And: 'Wha... ?' he gasped, as he came half-awake. Was that a fluttering just then? Had something disturbed the air of the room?

'Shhh!' Sandra mumbled from her bed somewhere in the darkness. 'You were dreaming. About your mother again.'

Harry remembered where he was and what he was doing here, and listened for a moment to the room's darkness and silence. And in a little while he asked, 'Are you awake?'

'No,' she answered. 'Do you want me to be?'

He shook his head before realizing she couldn't see him, then whispered, 'No. Go to sleep.'

And as he himself sank down again in dreams, once more he felt that faint fanning of the air. But sleep had already claimed him and he ignored it.

This time the voice came from the heart of a fog which rolled up out of Harry's dreams as dank and clinging as any fog he'd known in the waking world. It was clear, that voice; however distant, its signal was fixed and true; but it was dark, too, and deep and grinding and sepulchral as the bells of hell. It came out of the fog and seemed to surround Harry, pressing in on his Necroscope mind from all sides.

Ahhh! Beloved of the dead, it said, and Harry recognized it at once. And so I have found you, despite the misguided efforts of those who would protect you from a very old, very dead, very harmless thing.

'Faethor,' Harry answered. 'Faethor Ferenczy!'

And: Haaarry Keeooogh, crooned the other, his voice seething. But you do me honour, Harry, with this stress which you place upon my name! Is this awe which I sense in you? Do you tremble before the Power I once represented? Or is it something else? Fear, perhaps? But how so? What, fear? In one who was always so fearless? Now tell me: what has changed you, my son?

'No son of yours, Faethor,' Harry at once answered, with something of his old spirit. 'My name is clean. Don't try to taint it.'

Ahhh! smiled the gurgling, hissing, monstrous thing in his mind. But that's better. So much better to be on familiar termsss.

'What is it you want, Faethor?' Harry was suspicious, careful. 'Is it that you've heard the dead whispering of my fix and so you've come to taunt me?'

Your fix? Faethor feigned surprise, but not so much as to disguise his oozing sarcasm. You are in a fix? But is it possible? With so many friends? With all the teeming dead to advise and guide you?

Even dreaming, Harry was well versed in the ways of vampires - even the 'harmless', expired variety. 'Faethor,' he said, 'I'm sure you know well enough the problem. But since you've asked I'll state it anyway: I'm Necroscope no longer, except in my dreams. So enjoy my predicament all you can, for awake it's a pleasure you'll never know.'

Such bitterness! said Faethor. And there, I thought we were friends, you and I.

'Friends?' Harry felt inclined to laughter, but controlled it. Better not to antagonize one of these unduly, not even one as surely dead and gone forever as Faethor. 'In what way friends? The dead are my friends, as you've pointed out, and to them you're an abomination!'

And so you deny me, said the other, and the cock not yet crowed three times.

'That is a great blasphemy!' Harry cried.

And he sensed Faethor's vile, yawning grin. But of course it is. For I am a great blasphemy, Haaarry! In the eyes of some.

'In the eyes of all,' said Harry. 'In the eyes of sanity itself, Faethor.' And with finality: 'Now leave me, if you've done with mocking. There must be better things to dream.'

Your memory is short! the other now snarled. When you sought advice you came to me. And did I turn you away? Who was it destroyed your enemy in the mountains of the Khorvaty?

'You aided me because to do so suited your own ends, and for no other reason. You assisted me in order to strike at Thibor, and so avenge yourself a second time even from the grave! You tossed down Ivan Gerenko from the cliffs guarding your castle because he had caused it to be destroyed. You did nothing for me. In fact and as I see it now, you used me more than I used you!'

So! Faethor snapped. Not quite the fool I thought! Little wonder you prevailed, Harry Keogh! But even if what you say is true, still you must admit that the advantage was mutual?

And now Harry knew that the old vampire wasn't here simply to mock; no, there was more to it than that. That much was made perfectly obvious by Faethor's manner of expression, his use of the words 'mutual' and 'advantage'. And Harry wondered, would their conversation now prove mutually advantageous? What did the monster want, and perhaps more importantly, what was he willing to exchange for it? Only one way to find out.

'Out with it, Faethor,' said Harry. 'What is it you want from me?'

Shame on you! said the other. You know how I like a good argument: the persuasion of unassailable logic, the deft manipulation of words, the skilful haggling before a bargain is struck. Would you deny me these simple pleasures?

'Spit it out, Faethor,' said Harry. 'Tell me what you want, and also what it's worth to you. And only then - if I can deliver and still live with myself - only then let's talk about bargains.'

Bah! the other answered; but was equally quick to follow up, Very well. And without more ado: I have heard it from the dead that you are come upon hard times. Yes, I admit it, I knew that you had been stripped of your powers. Oh, it's true, I am a pariah among the dead, but sometimes when they talk it pleases me to 'overhear' what is said.Much has been said about you, Harry Keogh, and I have overheard it. Not only are you forbidden to deadspeak, but you no longer command the facility of instantaneous transportation. This is all true?


So (Harry sensed Faethor's curt nod.) Now, I know nothing of this... teleportation? And so in that sphere may not help you. It involves numbers, I believe - the simultaneous resolution of myriad complicated equations? - and in that I admit to a failing. I am out of touch by a thousand years, and even in my heyday was never much of a mathematician. But as for the question of deadspeak, there we might come to some agreement.

Harry tried not to show his eagerness. 'An agreement? You think you can return it to me? You don't know what you're saying. Experts have handled my case. In my waking hours I can no more speak to the dead than pour acid in my ears! That is, I can, but the result would be the same. I know for I've tried it - once! And also because it was forced upon me - once!'

So, said Faethor again. And I have also heard it whispered by the dead, that this mischief was worked upon you by your own son in a world other than this world. Astonishing! So, you found your way there, did you? Aye, and suffered the consequences...

'Faethor,' said Harry, 'get to the point.'

The point is simple. Only the Wamphyri could so interfere with your mind, and even then only one of their most powerful. It was the art of fascination - hypnotism -as used by a great master of that art, which crippled you, Harry Keogh. Ah, and I pride myself that I too was just such a master!

'You're saying that you can cure me?'

Faethor chuckled darkly, for he knew as well as Harry himself that the ex-Necroscope was hooked. What is written may be erased, he said, as you now appreciate. But just as surely, what is set askew may be put to rights! Only put yourself in my hands, and it shall be done.

Harry shrank back. 'Put myself in your hands? Let you into my mind, as Dragosani once let Thibor into his? Do you think I'm mad?'

I think you are desperate.

'Faethor, I-' .

Now listen to me, the long-extinct vampire interrupted. I have spoken of mutual advantage, and of the dead whispering in their tombs. But some of them do more than merely whisper. In the mountains of the Metalici and Zarundului there are those who cry out in their very terror of that which is risen up! For not even the centuries-dead -not even their bones and their dust - are safe from this one. Aye, and I know his name, and I deem myself responsible.

And now Harry was hooked more surely than ever, but like a fish on a line he intended to give the vampire a good run for his money. 'Faethor,' he said, 'you're saying that one of the Wamphyri has come among us. But I already knew this. Where's the advantage in that? Was I supposed to deliver my mind into your hands for such a scrap as this? You do think I'm mad!'

No, I think you are dedicated. To the eradication of what you term a foulness. You would destroy it before it destroys you. You would do it for the safety and sanity of your world, and I would do it... solely for my satisfaction. For I hated this one even as I hated Thibor.

'Who was he?' Harry shot the question, hoping against hope to catch the other out and read the answer in his startled mind.

But Faethor only tut-tutted, and Harry sensed a saddened, disappointed shake of his head. No need for that, my son, he said, oh so quietly, for I'll gladly tell you his name. Why not? For you won't remember it when you awaken. His name - his most hated, despised name - was Janos! And such was the venom in his voice that Harry knew it was true.

'Your son,' he sighed, nodding. 'Your second son, after Thibor. Janos Ferenczy. So now at least I know who I'm up against, if not what.'

The who of it is Janos, said Faethor, and without my help the what of it will destroy you utterly!

'Then tell me about him,' Harry answered. Tell me all you can of him, and I'll try to do the rest. You've bargained well. I can't refuse you.'

Again Faethor chuckled. And: Indeed your memory is short, he said. It will last only as long as your dream!

Harry saw that it was true and his frustration turned to anger. 'Then what has been the point? Did you only come to mock me after all?'

Not at all, I came to seal a bargain. And it is sealed. You will come to me where you know I lie, and we shall speak again - but the next time you'll remember!

'But I won't even remember this time!' Harry cried out.

Ah, but you will, you will, Faethor's fading voice came echoing out of the rolling fog. You'll remember something of it, at least. For I've seen to it, Harry. I've seen to it, Haaarry Keeooogh!

'Harry?' Someone stood beside him, bent over him.

'Harry' Sandra's urgent hand was on his arm; and Darcy Clarke hurrying to answer a banging at the door, where Manolis Papastamos was shouting to be let in; and a feeble dawn light struggling to find cracks in the louvres.

Harry leaped awake, lurched upright like a drunkard and almost overturned his chair. But Sandra was there to support him. He held her close, and in another moment Darcy and Manolis were in the room.

'A terrible thing! A terrible thing!' Manolis kept repeating, as Darcy opened a window and shutters to let in the pale light of a newly dawning day. But as the room sprang to life so Manolis's jaw fell open and he pointed a trembling hand at a huge Greek tapestry covering the better part of one entire wall. The tapestry was moving!

'God almighty!' Darcy gasped, as Sandra clung to Harry more tightly yet.

The tapestry was a panorama of banded blue sky over brown mountains and white villages, but printed on the sky in letters eighteen inches high was a name: FAETHOR. And it was printed in fur that crawled!

Already Harry's dream was forgotten, but he would never in a lifetime forget his waking conversations with this father of vampires. 'Faethor!' he gasped the word out loud. And as if it were some Word of Power, the name at once broke up the legend written on the tapestry - into a hundred individual bats! No bigger than winged mice, they released their hold on the fabric and whirled around the room once before escaping through the open window.

And: 'So, it's true,' said Manolis Papastamos, white and trembling, the first to regain command of his senses. 'It all comes together. I had thought Ken Layard and Trevor Jordan were the strange policemen, and you three stranger still. But of course, because you hunt the strange criminal!'

Sandra caught a telepathic glimpse of his mind, and knew that he knew.

'You should have told me from the beginning,' he said, flopping down into a chair. 'I am a Greek and some of us understand these things.'

'Do you, Manolis?' said Darcy. 'Do you?'

'Oh, yes,' said the other, nodding. 'Your criminal, your murderer, he is the Vrykoulakas. He is the vampire!'

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