Cat and Mouse


'I understand why you didn't trust me,' said Papastamos, 'but you should have. What? You think the Greeks are ignorant of these things? Greeks, of all people? Listen, I was a boy in Phaestos on the island of Crete, born and lived there until I was thirteen. Then I went to my sister in Athens. But I never forgot the myths of the islands, and I never forgot what I saw and heard there. Did you know that there are places in Greece even now where they put the silver coins on the eyes of the dead, to keep them closed? Hah! Those slits in the eyes of Layard. He kept opening his eyes!'

Darcy said to him: 'Manolis, how could we know? If you took a hundred people and told them you were hunting a vampire, how many do you think would believe you?'

'Here in Greece, in the Greek islands, ten or twenty,' the other answered. 'Not the young peoples, no, but the old ones who remember. And up in the mountains - in the mountain villages of Karpathos, for example, or Crete, or better still in Santorin - maybe seventy-five out of a hundred! Because the old ways die hard in such places. Don't you know where you are? Just look at a map. Six hundred miles away is Romania! And do you think the Romanian peoples don't know the Vrykoulakas, the vampire? No, no, we are not the innocent childrens, my friends!'

'Very well,' said Harry, 'let's waste no more time. You know, you understand, you believe - we accept that. But still we warn you that myths and legends can be very different from the real thing.'

'I'm not so sure,' Manolis shook his head. 'And in any case I have had the experience of the real thing. When I was a boy thirty years ago there was a sickness. The children were growing weak. An old priest had lived on the island in a remote place in the stony hills. He had lived there, all alone, for many years. He said he was alone for his sins, and dared not surround himself with the people. Recently he had been found dead in his place and they had buried him there. But now the village priest went there with the people - with the fathers of the sick children - and dug him up. They found him fat and red and smiling! And how did they deal with him? I heard it later - with a wooden spear through the heart. I cannot be sure, no, but that night there was a big bonfire in the hills, and its light was seen for miles around.'

'I think we should tell Manolis everything,' said Sandra.

'We will,' Harry nodded, 'but first he came here to tell us something.'

'Ah!' Manolis gave a start and stood up. 'My God, but now this vampire you hunt - there are two of them!'

Harry groaned. 'Ken Layard!'

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'Of course, the poor Ken. This morning, one hour ago, I get the call. It is the morgue. They have found the naked body of a mortician. He is dead with a broken neck. And Ken Layard's body has disappeared. And then - ' he spoke directly to Harry,' - then I remember what you say about Layard being undead, and that you want him burned very quickly. And then I know. But this is not all.'

'Go on, Manolis,' Darcy prompted him.

'The Samothraki has been absent from the harbour since the night of the trouble under the old windmills, when I saved Layard from the sea. This morning the fishermen have brought in many pieces of burned wreckage. It is - it was - the Samothraki! And still there is more. A girl, a prostitute, died on the streets three, four nights ago. She has been examined. The doctor says it could have been anything: not eating - the, how do you say, malnutrition? - or perhaps she fainted and lay in the alley all night, and so died of the exposure. But most likely it is the anaemia. Hah! You know this anaemia? No blood in the body? My God - anaemia!'

'Like a plague.' Harry groaned. 'She must be burned, too.'

'She will be,' Manolis promised. 'Today. Believe me, I will see to it!'

Sandra said: 'And still we're no closer to discovering who the vampire is, or what he's done to Ken. And I for one would like to know how those bats got in here...'

Harry indicated a domed wood-burning fireplace where its flue went up into a brick wall. 'At least there's no great mystery there,' he said. 'As to Layard: he's now in thrall to this thing and, depending how strong his will is, serving it faithfully. And the vampire's identity? Well, there's a clue I can follow up. I think I may know someone who has the answer.'

'What clue?' Manolis faced him. 'Any clue - all clues -are for me. No more secrets. Also, I want to know about that word the bats made on the wall: what did it mean?'

'That's the clue,' said Harry. 'Faethor fixed it so that I couldn't mistake his meaning. He wants me to go and see him.'

Frowning, Manolis looked from face to face. 'This Faethor who fixes such things, and in such a way. He is... what?'

'No more secrets?' said Harry, wrily. And: 'Manolis, even if we had an entire day to waste, still we couldn't tell you everything. And even you wouldn't believe it all if we did.'

Try me!' Manolis answered. 'But in the car. First you dress and I take you to breakfast, then to the police station in town. I think is the safest place. And meanwhile you tell me everything.'

'Very well, we will,' Darcy agreed. 'But we must be allowed to get on with this thing in our own way. And Manolis, we have to be sure that all of this will go no further than you.'

'Anything you say,' the other nodded. 'And anything I can help you with, I will. You are the experts. But please, we are wasting the time. Hurry now!'

They got dressed as quickly as they could...

By mid-morning their plans were finalized, and by noon Manolis Papastamos had set them in action. Once he'd known what was to be done, he wasted little time doing it.

Harry Keogh was now the owner of a suitably worn and well-thumbed Greek passport, stamped with a visa for Romania. Ostensibly, its bearer was an 'international dealer in antiques' (a cover which had brought a wry smile to Harry's face), one 'Hari Kiokis', a name which shouldn't give him too much trouble. Sandra had been fixed up with a flight to Gatwick, London, leaving Rhodes at 9:10 that night, and Darcy would stay here and work with Manolis. E-Branch had been put as completely in the picture as possible, but for now Darcy hadn't called in any esper help. First he must ascertain the size of the problem, and after that he'd call on help as required and available directly through Sandra.

Harry's flight to Bucharest via Athens was at 2:30; with an hour to spare he and the others had lunch on the high balcony of a taverna overlooking Mandraki harbour. And it was there that one of the local policemen found them, with information for Papastamos.

The man was fat and sweaty, scarred and bow-legged; if he hadn't been a policeman then he would've had to be a brigand. He arrived in the road below their balcony on a tiny moped which his huge backside almost entirely obscured. 'Hey, Papastamos!' he shouted, waving a fat arm. 'Hey, Manolis!'

'Come on up,' Manolis called down to him. 'Have a beer. Cool down.'

'You won't feel so cool in a minute, Inspector!' the other called back, entering the taverna and panting his way upstairs.

When he arrived Manolis offered him a chair, said: 'What is it?'

The other got his breath back, and in wheezing Greek told his story. 'Down at the mortuary, at the hospital,' he began. 'We were recording statements about the missing corpse - ' He glanced at Manolis's company and quickly shrugged his apologies in the Greek fashion. 'I mean, about the circumstances in the case of your dead English friend. We took statements from everybody, like you said. There was this girl, a receptionist who was on duty the night you saved his life. She said in her statement that someone went to see him in the early hours of the morning. It was her description of this one that I found interesting. Here, read it yourself.'

He took a crumpled, sweat-stained official statement form from his shirt pocket and handed it over. Manolis quickly translated what he'd been told, then read the statement. He read it a second time, more thoroughly, and his forehead creased into a frown. And: 'Listen to this,' he said, reading aloud.

'It must have been about six-thirty in the morning when this man came in. He said he was a Captain and one of his crew had gone missing. He'd heard how someone had been rescued from the sea and wondered if it was his man. I took him to see Mr Layard in his room where he was sedated. The Captain said: "Ah, no, this one is not mine. I have troubled you for nothing." I began to turn away but he didn't follow me.

'When I looked back he was standing with his hand on the bump on Layard's head, and he said: "This poor man! Such an ugly wound! Still, I am glad he is not one of mine."

'I said he must not touch the patient and showed him out. It was strange: although he had said he was sorry for Layard, still he was smiling a very peculiar smile...'

Harry had slowly straightened up in his chair as he listened to this, and now he asked, 'And the description?'

Manolis read it out, and mused: 'A sea-Captain; very tall, slim, strange, and wearing dark glasses even in the dawn light. I think ... I think I know this one.'

The fat policeman nodded. 'I think so, too,' he said. 'And when we were watching that fleapit the Dakaris, we saw him come out of there.'

'Hah!' Manolis thumped the table. 'The Dakaris? It's a spit away from where they found that poor whore!' And at once: 'I'm sorry, Sandra.'

'Who is he?' Harry demanded.

'Eh?' Manolis looked at him. 'Who? Oh, I'll do even better than that and show you where. There he is!' And he pointed out across the harbour.

The sleek white motor-cruiser was slicing her way out of the harbour through the deep-water channel, but the distance wasn't so great that Harry's keen eyes couldn't read her name. 'The Lazarus!' he breathed. 'And the name of the owner?'

'The same, almost,' said Manolis. 'Jianni Lazarides.'

'Jianni?' Harry's face was suddenly drawn, lined, grey.

'Johnny,' Manolis shrugged.

'John,' Harry echoed him. And in the back of his mind another voice - or the memory of one - said, Janos!

'Ahhhr Harry clasped his head as pain lanced through his skull. It was sharp but short, nothing so bad as a full-scale attack, a mere warning. But it confirmed his worst suspicions. For Janos could only be a name he'd learned from the dead - perhaps from Faethor himself - with whom conversation had been forbidden. He unscrewed his eyes and let in the cruel sunlight and the concerned expressions of his friends. And: 'I know him,' he said, when he could speak. 'And now I know I'm right to go and see Faethor.'

'But why, if we already know our man?' Darcy asked.

'Because we don't know him well enough,' Harry told him, as the pain quickly subsided. 'And since Faethor spawned him, he's the one most likely to know how to deal with him.'

'Nothing has changed,' said Harry as they drove into the airport in the car Manolis had provided. 'Everything stands. I go to Ploiesti, to see if I can learn anything from Faethor. I'll spend the entire night there, even sleep in the ruins of his place if I have to. It's the only sure way I can think of to contact him. Sandra goes back home tonight - definitely! Now that this "Lazarides", Janos Ferenczy, controls Ken Layard, he can locate anyone he wants to. Anyone associated with me will be in danger, and more especially so here in the vampire's own territory.' He paused and looked into each face in turn, then continued:

'Darcy, you stay here with Manolis, dig up everything you can on Lazarides, his crew, and the Lazarus. Go right back to the start of it, when they first appeared on the scene. Manolis can be of real assistance there; since Janos has chosen himself a Greek identity, it shouldn't be too hard for the Greek authorities to fill in his origins and background.'

'Ah!' said Manolis, looking at Harry in his driving mirror. 'One other thing. He has dual nationality, this one. Greek, yes - and Romanian!'

'Oh, my God!' Sandra gasped at once. And: 'Harry, he can travel freely where you may only go with extreme caution!'

Harry pursed his lips, thought about it for a moment, and said: 'Well, and maybe I should have expected as much. But that doesn't change anything either. By the time he knows I'm there, and if he tries to come after me, I'll be out again. Anyway, I've no choice.'

'God, I feel so helpless!' Manolis complained as he parked the car and they all climbed out. 'Inside, a voice says, "arrest this monster aboard his ship!" But I know that this is impossible. I understand we must not alert him until we know all about him. Also, Ken is in his hands, and-'

'Save it, about Ken,' Harry cut in, heading for the departure lounge. 'There's nothing anyone can do for him.' He turned his haunted eyes on Manolis. 'Except destroy him, which would be a mercy. And even then don't expect him to thank you for it. Thank you? God, no! He'll have your heart out first!'

'Anyway,' Darcy told Manolis, 'you're absolutely right that we can't touch him yet. We've told you about Yulian Bodescu; he was an innocent, a child, by comparison with Lazarides. Harry thinks so, anyway. But once he knew we were onto him ... we each of us lived in fear of hell until he was finally dead!'

'Is all academic,' Manolis shrugged. 'What? I should go to the government and say, "send our gunboats to sink a vampire in his ship!" No, quite impossible. But when the Lazarus puts in to port again, I think I may be tempted to take out her crew one by one!'

'If you could isolate them, positively identify them as vampires, and had a good back-up team who knew what to do and weren't frightened to do it, yes,' said Harry. 'But again this might be to tip Lazarides's hand, which in turn might precipitate something you couldn't even hope to control.'

Guiding Harry and the others to the passenger control desk, Manolis answered: 'Don't worry about it. I do nothing until I get your go-ahead. Is frustrating, that's all...'

Harry had only fifteen minutes to wait before being called forward. At the last minute, Sandra said, 'If we'd thought of it, I could have gone on with you to Athens and flown home from there. But things have happened so quickly I ... I don't like seeing you go off like this, on your own, Harry.'

He held her very close and kissed her, then turned to Darcy and Manolis. 'Listen, I'm coming back, I promise you. But if I should be delayed, go ahead and finish things as best you can. And good luck!'

That's my middle name,' Darcy told him. 'Take care of yourself, Harry.'

Sandra hugged him again, and then he stood back, nodded, turned and followed the crowd out onto the dusty concourse, towards the landing strip.

Among the many people there to see friends off, a man in flip-flops, bright Bermuda shorts and an open-necked white shirt watched Harry's plane take off. He was a Greek who ran the occasional errand for the Russians. Now all he had to do was discover Harry's destination and pass it on.

Not too difficult. His brother worked at the passenger information desk.

Harry made his Athens connection and landed in Bucharest at 5:45. The airport and its perimeter were thick with lightly armed soldiers in grey-green shirts, drab olive trousers and scuffed boots; but their presence seemed pointless and the men themselves aimless. This was a duty of long standing, out of which nothing had ever come. They didn't expect anything to come out of it and in all honesty weren't much interested. They were there because they'd been told to be.

As Harry passed through customs, the official stamping passports scarcely looked at him; all eyes were turned towards the three or four members of some foreign delegation or other, who were being given red-carpet treatment through the airport and out into the 'freedom' of Romania. Harry reckoned he was lucky.

Manolis had fixed him up with one hundred and fifty American dollars, which he'd sworn were good as gold. He caught a taxi, dumped his holdall on the back seat and told the driver: 'Ploiesti, please.'

'Eh? Ploiesti?'


'You English?'

'No, Greek. But I don't speak your language.' And God, I hope you don't speak Greek!

'Hah! Is funny! We are both speaking English, yes?' The man was unkempt and his breath was bad, but he seemed amiable enough.

'Yes,' said Harry, 'it's funny. Er, do you take dollars? American?' He showed him some green.

'Eh? Eh? The dollars?' His eyes stood out. 'Sure, by gosh! I take it! Ploiesti is - I don't know - sixty kilometres? Is, er, ten dollars?'

'Are you asking?'

'Is ten dollars,' he grinned, shrugged.

'Fine!' Harry handed over the money. 'Now I sleep,' he said, leaning back and closing his eyes. He didn't intend to sleep, but neither did he want to talk...

The Romanian countryside was boring. Even in springtime merging with summer there wasn't anything much of green to be seen. Plenty of browns and greys: piles of sand and cement, cheap breeze-blocks and bricks. Enough building going on to rival all the coastal regions of Spain, Turkey and the Greek islands put together. Except that this had nothing to do with tourism, for there was plenty of wrecking, too. The grotesque, inhuman mechanics of Ceausescu's agro-industrial policy: save money by cramming more and more people under one roof, like cattle in pens. Goodbye to peasant autonomy, the picturesque settlements and village life; hello to the ugly, rearing tower blocks. And all the while the reins of political control drawn tighter.

Through eyes three-quarters shuttered, Harry scanned the land as it sped by beyond the windows of the car. The roadside en route from Bucharest to Ploiesti looked like a landscape in the aftermath of war. Bulldozers worked in teams in the poisonous blue haze of their rumbling exhausts, erasing small farming communities wholesale to fashion empty, muddy acres in their place; while other machines stood idle or exhausted alongside huge iron diggers with their bucket heads lifted and stretching forward, almost as if watching. And where once there were villages, now there was only earth and rubble and desolation.

'More than ten thousand villages in old Romania,' Harry's driver, perhaps sensing that he was still awake, told him out of the corner of his mouth. 'But old President Nicholae reckons that's about five thousand too many. What a madman! Why, he'd flatten the very mountains if someone would tell him how to go about it!'

Harry made no answer, continued to nod - but he wondered: and what of Faethor's place on the outskirts of Ploiesti? Will Ceausescu flatten that, too? Has he perhaps already flattened it?

If so, then how might Harry find it again? The last time he was here he'd come via the Möbius Continuum, homing in on Faethor's telepathic voice. (Or rather, his necroscopic voice, for it was only the dead Harry could speak to in this way; he wasn't a true telepath.) Faethor had spoken to him, and Harry had tracked him down. Now was different: he would only recognize Faethor's place, know it for sure, when he got there. As to its precise location: he knew only that the birds didn't sing there, and that the trees and bushes and brambles grew no flowers, developed no fruit. For the bees wouldn't go near them. The place was in itself Faethor's tombstone, bearing his epitaph which read:

This Creature was Death! His Very

existence was a Refutation

of Life;

wherefore he now lies Here,

where Life Itself refuses to

Acknowledge him.

As the taxi passed a signpost stating that Ploiesti lay ten kilometres ahead, Harry shook himself, yawned, and pretended to come more properly awake. He looked at his driver.

'There were some rich old houses once on the outskirts of Ploiesti. The homes of the old aristocracy. Do you know where I mean?'

'Old houses?' The man squinted at him. 'Aristocracy?'

'Then the war came and they were bombed,' Harry continued. 'Reduced to so much rubble. The authorities never touched the place; it was left as a sort of memorial - until now, anyway.'

'Ah! I know it - or used to. But not on this road, no. On the old road, where it bends. Now tell me quick - is that where you want to go?'

'Yes. Someone I know used to live there.'

'Used to?'

'Still does, as far as I know,' Harry corrected himself.

'Hold on!' said the other, hauling his steering wheel hard right. They bumped off the road onto a cobbled avenue that wound away at a tangent under huge chestnuts.

'It's along here,' said Harry's driver. 'Another minute and I'd passed it and would need to turn around and come back. Old houses, the old aristocracy, aye. I know it. But you came at the right time. Another year and it's gone. Your friend, too. They just knock 'em flat, these old places, and whoever lives there moves on or gets knocked down with 'em! Oh, the bulldozers will be here soon enough, wait and see...'

Half a mile down the road and Harry knew that this was it. The shells of old buildings began rising left and right behind the chestnuts, dilapidated places mainly, though a few of the chimneys still smoked. And: 'You can drop me here,' he said.

Getting out of the taxi and picking up his holdall, he asked, 'How about buses? I mean, if I stay with my friend overnight, how will I go about getting back into town tomorrow morning?'

'Walk back to the main road, towards Bucuresti,' the other told him. 'Cross over onto the right and keep walking. Every kilometre or so, there's a bus stop. You can't miss 'em. Except - don't go offering dollars! Here, you've got some change coming. Banis, my Greek friend. Banis and leu - else people will wonder what's up!' And waving, he drove off in a cloud of dust.

The rest of it was instinct; Harry just followed his nose; he would soon discover he'd been a mile or so off target, but time and distance were passing quickly enough and he sensed he was walking in the right direction. He saw few signs of humanity: smoke from distant chimney-stacks, and an old peasant couple who passed him going in the opposite direction. They looked weary to the bone and pushed a cart piled high with sticks of furniture and personal belongings; without knowing them or their circumstances, still Harry felt sorry for them.

Pretty soon he felt hungry, and remembering a pack of salami sandwiches and a bottle of German beer in his holdall, he left the road through a gate into an ancient cemetery. The graveyard didn't bother him; on the contrary, he felt at home there.

It was as extensive as it was rundown, that old burial ground; Harry walked through the ranks of leaning, untended, lichen-crusted slabs until he reached the back wall, well away from the road. The old wall was two feet thick but crumbling in places; Harry climbed it where its stones had tumbled into steps and found himself a comfortable place to sit. The sunlight slanted onto him through the trees, reminding him that in just another hour the sun would be down. Before then he must be at Faethor's place. Still, he wasn't worried. He felt that he must be pretty close.

Eating his sandwiches (which had kept remarkably well) and draining the sweet lager, he looked out over the sea of leaning slabs. There'd been a time when the occupants of this place wouldn't have given him a minute's peace, and when he wouldn't have expected it. He'd have been among friends here, all of them bursting to tell him what they'd been thinking all these years. And it wouldn't matter at all that they were Romanian, for deadspeak -like its twin, telepathy - is universal. Harry would have understood them perfectly well, and to a man they'd understand him.

Ah, well... that was then and this was now. And now he was forbidden to speak with them. Except he must find a way to speak to Faethor.

As that name crossed his mind so a cloud passed over the sun and the graveyard fell into shade. Harry shivered and for the first time turned and looked behind him, out of the cemetery. There were empty fields back there, criss-crossed with bramble-grown tracks and paths, where the land was humped in places and spotted with ruins, and the overgrown scars of old craters were still plainly visible. Closer to the main road a half-mile away, the ground had been made swampy where the bulldozers had been at work interfering with the natural drainage.

Harry scanned the land with the eye of memory, superimposing the current scene and the scene remembered, and slowly the two pictures merged into one. And he knew that the taxi driver had been right: another year, maybe only a month, and he would be too late. For one of these crumbling piles was surely Faethor's, and pretty soon the bulldozers would level it, too, into the earth forever.

Harry shivered again, got down from the wall on the other side and made his way from ruin to ruin, searching for the right one. And as evening turned to twilight he found and knew the place at once, just from its feel. The birds kept their distance, singing their muted evening songs in trees and bushes hundreds of yards away, so that they scarcely reached here at all; there were no bees or flying insects and the foliage bore neither flower nor fruit; even the common spiders kept well clear of Faethor's last place in all the world. It seemed a singular warning, and yet one which Harry must ignore.

The place was not exactly as he remembered it. The absence of adequate drainage had threaded it with small, stagnant streams, where every slightest hollow had become a pool. A veritable swamp, normally it would be alive with mosquitoes, but of course it was not. At least Harry needn't worry about being bitten while he slept. But that (being bitten) was a thought he could well do without!

In the deepening twilight he took out a sleeping-bag from his holdall and made down his bed on a grassy hump within low, ivy-clad walls. Before settling he answered the call of nature behind a crumbling mound of rubble some little way apart, and returning to his place saw that he wasn't entirely alone here. At least the small Romanian bats weren't afraid of this place; they flitted silently overhead, then swept away to do their hunting elsewhere. Perhaps in their way they paid homage to the ancient, evil Thing which had died here.

Harry smoked one of his rare cigarettes, then tossed away the stub like a tiny meteorite in the night to sizzle out in a small pool of water. Finally he pulled up the zipper on his sleeping-bag and made himself as comfortable as possible, and prepared to face whatever his dreams would conjure...

Harry? The monstrous, gurgling voice was there at once, touching upon his sleeping mind without preamble. So, and it would seem that you have come. It sounded as close and vibrant as if-a living person spoke to him, and Harry sensed no small measure of satisfaction in it. But in his dream, try as he may, he couldn't remember what he was doing here. Oh, he knew Faethor's mental voice well enough, but not why the vampire had chosen to seek him out. Unless it was to torment him. And so he kept silent, for the one thing he did remember was that he was forbidden to speak to the dead.

What, all of that again? Faethor was impatient. Now listen to me, Harry Keogh: I didn't seek you out but the other way around. It is you who visits me here in Romania. And as for being forbidden to speak to me - or to the dead in general - surely that is why you are here, so that I may undo what has been done to you?

'But ... if I speak to you,' Harry paused and waited for the pain to strike him down, which it did not, 'there's this pain that comes and -'

And has it come? No, because you are asleep and dreaming. Conscious, you may not converse with me. But you are not conscious. Now tell me, pray, may we get on?

Now Harry remembered: asleep, his deadspeak couldn't hurt him. Oh yes, he remembered that now -and more than that. 'I came ... to find out about Janos Ferenczy!'

Indeed, Faethor answered, that is one of the reasons why you are here. But it is not the only one. Before we consider all of that, however, first answer me this: did you come here of your own free will?

'I'm here out of necessity,' said Harry, 'because there are vampires in my world again.'

But did you come as a free man, as you yourself willed it? Or were you compelled by force, cajoled or coerced against your own natural desires?

By now Harry was fully 'awake' in his dream and more surely aware of the vampire's wiles. Moreover, he'd grown as skilled in their word-games as the Wamphyri themselves and knew that they were only a form of verbal manoeuvring. 'Compelled?' he said. 'Well, no one pushed me. Coerced? On the contrary, my friends would have kept me back! But cajoled? Only by you, old devil, only by you.'

By me? Faethor played the innocent. How so? You have a problem and I have the answer. Someone reached inside your head, grabbed up your brains and tied a knot in them. I can perhaps untie it - if I feel inclined. Which I may not, so long as you create obstacles and make these accusations! So tell me quickly now: how have I cajoled you? In what way?

'The way I understand it,' said Harry, 'the word "cajole" has several meanings. To coax or persuade with flattery; to wheedle; to make delusive promises. It is to allure or inveigle so as to derive a point of personal gain. These are the meanings of the word. Ah, but when a vampire cajoles... then the object of the exercise is far less clear. And the consequences frequently dire.'

Hah! Harry sensed Faethor's exasperation, and his astonishment that a mere human being should attempt to try him with one of his own games! But he also sensed the vampire's shrug of indifference, and perhaps of finality. And: Well, said Faethor, that says it all! You do not trust me. So be it; your journey is wasted; wake up and get yourself gone! I had thought we were friends, but I was mistaken. In which case... what care I that there are vampires in your world? To hell with your world, and with you, Harry Keogh!

Harry wasn't about to fall for that one. He was supposed to plead now, for Faethor's audience. But Faethor would never have called him here just to dismiss him so casually. It was simply the way of vampires, that was all. A ploy to gain the upper hand. But just as some dreams are brilliantly clear and real as life, so this one was developing. Within it, Harry's wits were grown razor sharp.

'Let's have it out in the open, Faethor,' he said, abruptly. 'For it suddenly dawns on me that while we've talked now and then, you and I, we've never actually met face to face. And I feel certain that if I could only see your earnest, honest face, why, then I'd be that much more at ease in your presence - and not need to stay so firm on guard!'

Oh? said the other, as if surprised. And are you still here? But I could swear our conversation was at an end. Or perhaps you didn't understand me. Then let me make myself plain: GO AWAY!

Harry's turn to shrug. 'Very well. And no great loss. For let's face it, I could never have relied on anything you said, anyway.'

What? Now Faethor was furious. And how many times have I assisted you, Harry Keogh? And how often have I borne you up, when 1 could - and should - have let you founder?

'We've had this conversation before,' said Harry, unperturbed. 'Must we play it out again? If my memory serves me well, we agreed in a previous time that former liaisons had been to our "mutual" advantage: neither one of us gained more than the other." So come down off your high horse and tell me truly, why now do you insist on this sinister ritual that I should come to you of my own free will? And if I admit as much, under what obligation will I place myself, eh?'

Ahhh! sighed Faethor, after a moment. And if only it could have been you, Harry Keogh, instead of blood-crazed Thibor or that scheming, devious lout Janos! If only I had chosen my sons more carefully, eh? Why, such as you and I could have ruled the world together! But... too late now, for Thibor got my egg and Janos was my bloodson. And now there's neither spark nor spunk left of me to form another.

'If I thought for a moment there was, Faethor' (and

even dreaming Harry shivered), 'then believe me I wouldn't be here!'

But you are here, and so I beg of you, observe the formalities, that ancient 'ritual' of which you speak so harshly and suspiciously.

'So now you beg of me,' said Harry, 'and still I ask myself; what's in it for you?'

Aye, and we've had that conversation before, too! Faethor cried. Well then, if I must repeat myself: that bloodspawn of mine - that child of my human side, Janos - walks in the world of men again, and I cannot bear it! When Thibor was desperate to be up and about, who was it came to your aid in keeping him down, eh? I did, for I loathed the dog! And now it's the turn of Janos. What's in it for me, you ask? Well, when you destroy him, you might remember to tell, him how his father helped you, and even now lies laughing in his grave. That will be profit enough.

'What?' said Harry, speaking (and thinking) slowly and very carefully. 'But surely that would be a lie, for nothing at all of you lies in any grave. You burned up in the fire that destroyed your house - didn't you?'

But you know I did! the other cried. But still I am here, in a manner of speaking, for how else could I talk to you? It is my ghost, my spirit, the echo of a voice long vanished, that you hear. It is your talent, your ability to speak with the dead, which in itself should be evidence enough of my extinction!

Harry was silent a while. He knew that it was tit for tat, this for that, and that he'd get nothing without first giving something. Faethor was eager, indeed insistent, that his rules should apply in any exchange here. And in the end it was plain the vampire would have his way, for Harry's cause was doomed without him. He thought these things, but yet contrived to hide such thoughts from Faethor.

Ah-ha! And now I see it! the other finally burst out.

You are afraid of me, Harry Keogh! Of me, a long-dead thing, burned up and melted away in a holocaust! But why now? What is different now? We are not strangers. This is not the first time we've come together for a common cause.

'No,' said Harry, 'but it's certainly the first time I've bedded down with you! I've been here before, yes, but when I was awake. And other than that I've only ever spoken to you across great distances, again via deadspeak, when there was no possible danger to me. And if there's one thing I've learned about vampires, Faethor, it's that when they seem at their most vulnerable, that's when they're most dangerous.'

We're arguing at odds, getting nowhere, said the vampire, almost despairingly. But for all the 'fatigue' he displayed, still Harry guessed that Faethor wouldn't be moved from his stand in this matter. Which meant there remained only one way to break the deadlock.

'Very well,' he said, 'and so one of us must give way. Perhaps I'm a fool, but... yes, I came of my own free will.'

Good! the vampire grunted at once, and Harry could almost sense him smacking his lips. A most wise and agreeable decision. And why not? For if I'm to observe your manners and customs, why should not you observe mine, eh? They loved to win, these creatures, even in so small a thing as a contest of words. Perhaps that was all to the good, for now Faethor might find room to give way in other matters. And as if he had read Harry's thoughts:

And now we may face each other on equal terms. You desired to speak to me face to face? So be it.

Until now the dream had been blank and grey and unyielding, a place without substance except in the exchange of thoughts. But now the grey took on a gently swirling motion and rapidly dissolved down to a thickly misted plain under a slender horned moon. Harry sat on a ruined wall with his feet dangling in the ground mist where it lapped at his ankles; and Faethor, seated upon a heap of rubble, was a dark figure in a shrouding robe, whose hood cast his face in shadows. Only his eyes burned in that hollow darkness, and they were like tiny scarlet lamps.

And is this more to your liking, Harry Keogh?

'I know this place,' said Harry.

Of course you do, for it is the same place but perceived as it shall be some small distance in the future. Oh yes, for that was one of my talents, too: to see a little way into the future. Alas, it was unreliable, else I'd not have been here that night they dropped their bombs.

'I see that the bulldozers have been at work,' Harry looked all around. 'This place of yours seems the only place left!'

For the moment, aye, Faethor answered. A ruin on a low plain, surrounded by mud and debris, soon to become an industrial complex. And even if there were ears to hear me, who would listen to me then? What, through all of that hubbub and mechanical chaos? How are the mighty fallen, Harry Keogh, that I am reduced to this? And perhaps now you can understand why Thibor was made to suffer, and in the end destroyed; and why Janos must go the same way. They could have had it all, everything, and instead chose to defy me. And should I haunt this place, alone, unloved and unremembered, while one of them is returned to the world, perhaps to become a power? Perhaps The Power? No, I shall not rest, until I know that Janos is as little or even less than I am - which is nothing.

'And I'm to be your instrument?'

Is it not what you want? Do not our objectives coincide?

'Yes,' Harry agreed, 'except I want it for the safety of a world, and you want it for your own selfish spite. They were your sons, Thibor and Janos. Whatever it is in them which you hate, they got it from you. It's a strange father who'll murder his own sons because they take too well after him!'

Faethor gloomed on him and his voice turned sly and insinuating. Is it, Harry? Is it? And you're the expert, are you? Ah, but of course - certainly you would understand such things -for I've heard it that you have a son, too...

Harry was silent; he had no answer; perhaps he would destroy his son if he could, or at least change him. But hadn't he also tried to change the Lady Karen?

Faethor took his silence as something else: a sign that perhaps he went too far. Now he was quick to change his tone. But there, the circumstances are different. And anyway, you are a man and I am Wamphyri. There can be no meeting point except in our dual purpose. So let's make an end of criticisms and accusations and such, for there's work to be done.

Harry was pleased to change the subject. 'These are the simple facts,' he said. 'We both want Janos put down again, permanently. Neither one of us can do it on his own. For you it is absolutely impossible. Likewise for me, without my gift of deadspeak. You say you can return that talent to me; that since it was taken from me by a vampire, only a vampire can return it. Very well, I believe you. What will it entail?'

Faethor sighed and seemed to slump down a little where he sat. He turned his red-glowing eyes away and looked out over the plain of mist. And: We are come to that part from which I know you will shy most violently. And yet it is unavoidable.

'Say it,' said Harry.

The trouble lies in your head. A creature other than yourself has visited the labyrinth caves of your mind and wrought certain changes there. Let us say that within your house the furniture has been rearranged. Now another must go in and put the place in order.

'You want me to let you into my mind?'

You must invite me in, said Faethor, and I must enter of my own free will.

Harry recalled to mind all he knew about vampires, and said, 'When Thibor entered Dragosani's mind, he tried to steer it his way. He interfered in Dragosani's affairs. When he touched the living foetus which would become Yulian Bodescu, that was sufficient to alter the child entirely and turn him into a monster. And again Thibor was in Yulian's mind, able to communicate with him and guide - or direct him - even over great distances. At this very moment a friend of mine on the island of Rhodes has a vampire, your bloodson Janos, in his mind, or at least controlling it. And my friend exists in a hell of terror and torment. And you want me to let you into my mind?'

I said you would shy from it.

'If I let it happen this once, how may I be sure it won't happen when I don't want it?'

I would remind you: distance removed Dragosani from danger. Even if what you suggest were possible, do you intend to stay here in Romania forever? No, for you have your own way to go, which will put you far beyond my reach. I would further remind you: Thibor was an undead thing in the ground - he was real, solid, intact in all his parts - while I am but a wraith, dead and gone forever. A ghost, aye: empty, immaterial, incorporeal, and of no consequence whatsoever.

'Except to a Necroscope.'

Except to you, Faethor's shade nodded its agreement, the man who talks to and befriends the dead. Or used to.

'So how do we go about it?' Harry asked. 'I'm no telepath, with a mind like a book to be read.'

But in a way you are, Faethor told him. Is it not a form of telepathy, to be able to talk to the dead? Also, when you too were without body, did you not speak to the living?

'That was a strange time,' Harry agreed. 'It was my deadspeak. It worked in reverse. Being incorporeal, I had no voice, and so I could talk to the living - to those who had body - in the same way I talked to the dead!'

Again Faethor's nod. There's more to your mind than even you suspect, Harry Keogh. And I say I can be into it even as Thibor was into Dragosani's! - but without the complications.

Harry sensed Faethor's eagerness. He was far too eager. But there was no way round it. 'What do I have to do?'

Nothing. Simply relax. Sleep a dreamless sleep. And I shall visit within your mind.

Harry felt Faethor's beguilement - his hypnotism -working on him and resisted it. 'Wait! Three things I want. And if your mind-tricks work, perhaps a fourth, later.'

Name them.

'First, that you undo the mischief done to my mind and return my deadspeak, as agreed. Second, that you give me some sort of defence against Janos's telepathy, for I've seen what he can do to minds such as mine. Third, that you look and see if there's any way I can regain access to the Möbius Continuum. It's the ultimate weapon against Janos and would surely tilt the odds in my favour.'

And the fourth?

'When - if - I have my deadspeak back, I'll be able to find you again no matter where I am. And then, hopefully for the last time, I may ask for your help again. To free the mind of my friend Trevor Jordan, which Janos holds enthralled.'

As for this last thing, the vampire answered, if it can be done, then it shall be done in due course. But alas, access to this device of yours - teleportation? - we shall see what we shall see. However, I doubt it. It was not an art of mine; I know nothing of it; how may I unriddle something in a language I cannot speak? The language of mathematics is a stranger to me. On the other hand, your deadspeak is something I can surely put back to rights, for I understand it. Even when they were dead many hundred years, still my Szgany answered my call and got up from their graves! Lastly, you ask for some sort of defence against Janos's mindspells. Well, that is no simple thing; it's not any sort of gift I can will or bestow upon you. But later I shall describe to you how to fight fire with fire. Which may help... if you can stand the heat of it.

'Faethor,' Harry was almost completely resigned to his fate now, 'I wonder, will I thank you for this when it's done? Will there ever be thanks enough? Or will I curse you for all eternity, and will there ever be curses enough? Even now you could be plotting to destroy me, as you've destroyed everything else you ever touched. And yet... it seems I've no choice.'

These things are not entirely true, Harry, Faethor answered. Destroyed things? Aye, I've done that - and brought a few into being, too. Nor are you without choice. Indeed it seems to me the very simplest matter. Trust me now as an ally tried and true, or begone from here and wait for Janos to seek you out - and when the time is come go up against him like a child, naked and innocent of all his ways and wiles.

'We've talked enough,' said Harry. 'And we both know there's only one course open to me. Let's waste no more time.'

And: Sleep, said Faethor, his mental voice deep and dark as a bottomless pool of blood. Sleep a dreamless sleep, Harry Keogh, leaving all the doors of your mind standing open to me. Sleep, and let me see inside. Ah, but even though you may will it freely, still I shall find certain doors closed to me - and closed to you! These are the ones which I must unlock. For beyond them lie all your talents, which your son has hidden from you.

Sleep, Harry. We are the betrayed, you and I, by our own flesh and blood. We have this much in common, at least. Nay, more than this, for we've both been powers in our time. And you shall be ... a power... again... Haaarry Keeooogh!

The mist on the plain swirled as Faethor flowed to his feet and approached Harry where he slumped on the broken wall. The long dead vampire reached out a hand towards Harry's face... and the hand was white and skeletal, projecting from the fretted sleeve of his robe like a bundle of thin sticks. The bony fingers touched Harry's pale brow, and melted into his skull.

And as the scarlet fires dimmed in the sockets of Faethor's eyes, so their light was transferred beneath Harry's lowered lids, like red candles behind frosted glass. Following which... the vampire was privy to Harry's most secret things: his thoughts and memories and passions, his very mind.

Until, after what might have been moments or millennia:

Wake up! said Faethor.

Harry came out of the dream with a sneeze; and a second sneeze even as he realized he was truly awake. He rolled his head a little in the hood of his sleeping-bag, and something made a soft bursting sound close by. In the faint dawn light, he saw a ring of small black mushrooms or puffballs where they'd grown up beside his bed in the night. Already they were rotting, bursting open at the slightest movement, releasing their spores in peppery clouds. Harry sneezed again and sat up.

For a moment his dream was there in his mind, but already fading as most dreams do. He strove to remember it ... and it was gone. He knew he'd conversed with the spirit of Faethor Ferenczy, but that was all. If anything had passed between them, Harry couldn't say what it had been. Certainly he felt no different from when he went to sleep.

Oh? said Faethor. And are you sure of that, Harry Keogh?

'Jesus!' Harry jumped a foot. 'Who... ?' He looked all about, saw no one.

And did you think I would fail you? said Faethor.

'Deadspeak!' Harry whispered.

It is returned to you. There, see now how Faethor Ferenczy keeps his word.

Harry had unzipped his sleeping-bag and scrambled to his feet in the dispersing morning mist. Now he sat down again, with something of a bump. There was no pain in his head; no one squirted acid in his mind; his talent seemed returned to him in full measure.

All that remained was to try it out. And:

'Faethor?' he said, still wincing inside and expecting to be struck down. 'Was it... difficult?'

Difficult enough, aye, the dead vampire's voice sounded tired. What had been done to you was the work of an expert! All night I laboured to rid your house of his infestation, Harry. You may now gauge for yourself the measure of my success.

Harry stood up again. With his heart in his mouth, he attempted to conjure a Möbius door ... to no avail. The equations evolving, mutating and multiplying with awesome acceleration on the computer screens of his mind were completely alien to him; he couldn't fathom them individually, let alone as a total concept or entity. He sighed and said: 'Well, I'm grateful to you - indeed, you'll never know just how grateful I am - but you weren't entirely successful.'

Faethor's answer, with his bodiless shrug sensed superimposed upon it, was half-apologetic: I warned you it might be so. Oh, I found the region of the trouble, be sure, and even managed to unlock several of its doors. But beyond them -


- There was nothing! No time, no space, nothing at all. Very frightening places, Harry, and strange to think that they exist right there in your mind - in your entirely human mind! I felt that to take one single step over those thresholds would mean being sucked in and lost forever beyond the boundaries of the universe. Needless to say, I took no such step. And in any case, no sooner had I opened these doors than they slammed themselves shut in my face. For which I was not ungrateful.

Harry nodded. 'You looked in on the Möbius Continuum,' he said. And: 'When I've finished here, I must try to find him. Möbius, I mean. For just as you're the expert in your field, so he's the one true authority in his. Useless to seek him out until now, for without deadspeak I couldn't talk to him.'

Will you do it now, at once? Faethor was fascinated. I am interested in genius. There is a kinship in all true geniuses, Harry. For however far removed their various talents, into whichever spheres, still the obsession remains the same. They seek to eliminate all imperfections. Where this Möbius has approached the very limits of pure numbers, I myself have searched for purest pure evil. We stand on the opposite sides of a great gulf, but still we are brothers of a sort. Yes, and it would be fascinating to meet such a one.

'No,' Harry automatically shook his head, and knew that Faethor would sense it, 'I won't look for him now.

Eventually, but not now. After I've practised a while and when I've convinced myself that my deadspeak is as good as it used to be, maybe then.'

As you wish. And for the moment? Do you go now to seek out Janos?

Harry rolled up his sleeping-bag and stuffed it into his holdall. 'That too, eventually,' he answered. 'But first I'll return to my friends in Rhodes and see how they're faring. And before any of that there are still things you must tell me. I still want to know all about Janos; the better a man knows his enemy, the easier it is to defeat him. Also, I need to know how to defend myself against him.'

Of course! said Faethor. Indeed! I had forgotten there was work still to be done. But only see how eager I am that you should be on your way. Ah, but I go too fast! And certainly you are right: you must have every possible weapon at your disposal, if you're to defeat him. As to how you may best defend yourself, that's not easy. This sort of thing is inherent in the Wamphyri, but difficult to teach. Even the keenest instinct would not suffice, for this is something borne in the blood. If we had an entire week together...

'No,' again Harry shook his head, 'out of the question. Can't you break it down into its simplest terms for me? If I'm not too stupid I might just catch on.'

I can but try, said Faethor.

Harry lit a cigarette, sat down on his stuffed holdall and said, 'Go ahead.'

Again Faethor's shrug, and he at once commenced: Janos is without doubt the finest telepath - which is to say beguiler, enchanter, fascinator - I have ever known. Wherefore he will first attempt an invasion of your mind. Now as I've hinted, and as is surely self-evident, your mind is extraordinary, Harry. Well, of course it is: for you are the Necroscope! But where you have practised only good, Janos, like myself in my time, has practised only evil. And because you know he is evil, so you fear him and what he may do to you. Do you understand?

'Of course. None of this is new to me.'

To anyone less well versed in the ways of the Wamphyri, such is the awe - the sheer terror - Janos would inspire, that his victim would be paralysed. But you are not ignorant of our ways; indeed you are an expert in your own right. Do you know the saying, that the best form of defence is attack?

'I've heard it, yes.'

I suspect that in this instance it would be true.

'I should attack him? With my mind?'

Instead of shrinking back from him when you sense him near, seek him out! He would enter your mind? Enter his! He will expect you to be afraid; be bold! He will threaten; brush all such threats aside and strike! But above all else, do not let his evil weaken you. When he yawns his great jaws at you, go in through them, for he's softer on the inside!

'Is that all?'

'If I say more, I fear it would only confuse you. And who knows? You may learn more about Janos from his story than from any measures of mine to forearm you. Moreover, I'm weary from a long night's work. Ask me what has been, by all means, but not what is yet to be. True, I have been an observer of times, but as my current situation is surely witness, I was far too often in error.

Harry thought about what he'd learned: Faethor's 'advice' about how to deal with a mind-attack from Janos. Some might consider it suicidal to act in accordance with such instructions; the Necroscope wasn't so sure. In any case, it seemed very little to go on. But patently it was all he was going to get. Dawning daylight had apparently dampened the vampire's enthusiasm.

Harry stood up, stretched and looked all around.

The mist had thinned to nothing; a handful of gaunt houses stood beyond a hedge half a mile away; in the other direction, the silhouettes of diggers and bulldozers were like dinosaurs frozen on a grey horizon. Another hour and they'd roar into destructive mechanical life, as if the sun had warmed their joints to clanking motion.

Harry looked at the ground where he stood, the spot where Faethor had died on the night Ladislau Giresci cut off his head in the ruins of a bomb-blasted, burning house. He saw the now liquescent mushrooms there, their spores like red stains on the grass and soil; and in the eye of his mind he saw Faethor, too, the skeletal, shrouded thing he'd been in his dream. 'Are you up to telling me Janos's story?' he asked, apparently of no one.

That will be no effort at all but a pleasure, the other answered at once. It was my pleasure to spawn him, and it gave me the most exquisite pleasure to put him down again!

But first... do you remember the story of Thibor in his early days? How he robbed me of my castle in the Khorvaty? And how I, most sorely injured, fled westwards? Let me remind you, then.

This was how it was...

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