Anno Dracula Chapter 2


Noise reached into her darkness. Hammering. Insistent, repeated blows. Meat and bone against wood.

In her dreams, Genevieve had returned to the days of her girlhood in the France of the Spider King, la Pucelle and the monster Gilles. When warm, she had been the physician's daughter not Chandagnac's get. Before she turned, before the Dark Kiss...

Her tongue felt sleep-filmed teeth. The aftertang of her own blood was in her mouth, disgusting and mildly exciting.

In her dreams, the pounding was a mallet striking the end of a snapped-in-half quarterstaff. The English captain finished her father-in-darkness like a butterfly, pinning Chandagnac to the bloodied earth. One of the less memorable skirmishes of the Hundred Years' War. Barbarous times she had hoped deservedly dead.

The hammering continued. She opened her eyes and tried to focus on the grubby glass of the skylight. The sun was not yet quite down. Dreams washed away in an instant and she was awake, as if a gallon of icy water were dashed into her face.

The hammering paused. 'Mademoiselle Dieudonne,' someone shouted. It was not the director  -  usually responsible for urgent calls that dragged her from sleep  -  but she recognised the voice. 'Open up. Scotland Yard.'

She sat, sheet falling away. She slept on the floor in her underclothes, on a blanket laid over the rough planks.

'There's been another Silver Knife murder.'

She had been resting in her tiny office at Toynbee Hall. It was as safe a place as any to pass the few days each month when lassitude overcame her and she shared the sleep of the dead. Up high in the building, the room had only a tiny skylight and the door could be secured from the inside. It served, as coffins and crypts served for those of the Prince Consort's bloodline.

She gave a placatory grunt and the hammering was not resumed. She cleared her throat. Her body, unused for days, creaked as she stretched. A cloud obscured the sun and the pain momentarily eased. She stood up in the dark and ran her hands over her hair. The cloud passed and her strength ebbed.


The hammering started again. The young were always impatient. She had once been the same.

She took a Chinese silk robe from a hook and drew it about herself. Not the dress etiquette recommended to entertain a gentleman caller, but it would have to do. Etiquette, so important a few short years ago, meant less and less. They were sleeping in earth-lined coffins in Mayfair, and hunting in packs on Pall Mall. This season, the correct form of address for an archbishop was hardly of major concern to anyone.

As she slid back the bolt, traces of her sleep-fog persisted. Outside the afternoon was dying; she would not be at her best until night was about her again. She pulled open her door. A stocky new-born stood in the corridor, long coat around him like a cloak, bowler hat shifting from hand to hand.

'Surely, Lestrade, you are not of the kind that needs to be invited into any new dwelling?' Genevieve enquired. 'That would be very inconvenient for a man in your profession. Well, come in, come in...'

She admitted the Scotland Yard man. Jagged teeth stuck from his mouth, unconcealed by a half-grown moustache. When warm, he had been rat-faced; the sparse whiskers completed the resemblance. His ears were shifting, becoming high and pointed. Like most new-borns of the bloodline of the Prince Consort, he had not yet found his final form. He wore smoked glasses but crimson points behind the lenses suggested active eyes.

He set his hat down upon her desk.

'Last night,' he began, hurriedly, 'in Chicksand Street. It was butchery.'

'Last night?'

'I'm sorry,' he drew breath, making an allowance for her spell of rest. 'It's the seventeenth now. Of September.'

'I've been asleep three days.'

Genevieve opened her wardrobe and considered the few clothes hanging inside. She hardly had costume for every occasion. It was unlikely, all considered, that she would in the near future be invited to a reception at the Palace. Her only remaining jewellery was her father's tiny crucifix, and she rarely wore that for fear of upsetting some sensitive new-born with silly ideas.

'I deemed it best to rouse you. Everyone is jittery. Feelings are running high.'

'You were quite right,' she said. She rubbed sleep-gum from her eyes. Even the last shards of sunlight, filtered through a grimy square of glass, were icicles jammed into her forehead.

'When the sun is down,' Lestrade was saying, 'there'll be pandemonium. It could be another Bloody Sunday. Some say Van Helsing has returned.'

'The Prince Consort would love that.'

Lestrade shook his head. 'It's merely a rumour. Van Helsing is dead. His head remains on its spike.'

'You've checked?'

'The Palace is always under guard. The Prince Consort has his Carpathians about him. Our kind cannot be too careful. We have many enemies.'

'Our kind?'

'The un-dead.'

Genevieve almost laughed. 'I am not your kind, Inspector. You are of the bloodline of Vlad Tepes, I am of the bloodline of Chandagnac. We are at best cousins.'

The detective shrugged and snorted at the same time. Bloodline meant little to the vampires of London, Genevieve knew. Even at a third, a tenth or a twentieth remove, they all had Vlad Tepes as father-in-darkness.

'Who?' she asked.

'A new-born named Sch?n. Lulu. Common prostitute, like the others.'

'This is... what, the fourth?'

'No one is sure. The sensation press have exhumed every unsolved East End killing of the past thirty years to lay at the door of the Whitechapel Murderer.'

'How many are the police certain of?'

Lestrade snorted. 'We'll not even be certain of Sch?n until the inquest, although I'll stake my pension on her. I've come direct from the mortuary. The trade marks are unmistakable. Otherwise, Annie Chapman last week and Polly Nichols the week before. Opinions differ on a couple of others. Emma Smith, Martha Tabram.'

'What do you think?'

Lestrade nibbled his lip. 'Just the three. At least, the three we know of. Smith was set upon, robbed and impaled by roughs from the Jago. Violated, too. Typical rip-mob assault, nothing like our man's work. And Tabram was warm. Silver Knife is only interested in us. In vampires.'

Genevieve understood.

'This man hates,' Lestrade continued, 'hates with a passion. The murders must be committed in a frenzy, yet there's a coolness to them. He kills out on the street in broad darkness. He doesn't just butcher, he dissects. And vampires aren't easy to kill. Our man is not a simple lunatic. He has a reason.'

Lestrade took the crimes personally. The Whitechapel Murderer cut deep. New-borns were jerked this way and that by misunderstanding, cringing from the crucifix because of a folk tale they half-knew.

'Has the news travelled?'

'Fast,' the detective told her. 'The evening editions carry the story. It'll be all over London by now. There are those among the warm who do not love us, Mademoiselle. They're rejoicing. When the new-borns come out, there could be a panic. I've suggested troops, but Warren is leery. After that business last year...'

She remembered. Alarmed in the aftermath of the Royal Wedding by increased public disorder, Sir Charles Warren, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had issued an edict against political meetings in Trafalgar Square. In defiance, warm insurrectionists, preaching against the Crown and the new government, gathered one November afternoon. William Morris and H.M. Hyndman of the Socialist Democratic Federation, with the support of Robert Cunningham-Grahame, the radical Member of Parliament, and Annie Besant, of the National Secular Society, argued for the declaration of a Republic. There was fierce, indeed violent, debate. Genevieve observed from the steps of the National Gallery. She was not the only vampire to consider aligning with the putative Republic. You did not have to be warm to take Vlad Tepes for a monster. Eleanor Marx, herself a new-born, and authoress with Dr Edward Aveling of The Vampire Question, made an impassioned speech calling for the abdication of Queen Victoria and the expulsion of the Prince Consort.

'... I can't say I blame him. Still, H Division isn't equipped for riot. The Yard has sent me over to goose the local blokes, but we've got enough to do catching the murderer without having to fend off some scythe-and-stake mob.'

Genevieve wondered which way Sir Charles would jump. In November, the Commissioner, a soldier before he was a policeman and now a vampire before he was a soldier, had sent in the army. Even before a flustered magistrate could finish reading the Riot Act, a dragoon officer ordered his men, a mixture of vampires and the warm, to clear the Square. After that charge, the Prince Consort's Own Carpathian Guards set about the crowd, doing more harm with teeth and claws than the dragoons had with fixed bayonets. There were a few fatalities and many injuries; subsequently, there were a few trials and many 'disappearances'. November 13th, 1887, was remembered as 'Bloody Sunday'. Genevieve spent a week in Guy's Hospital, helping with the less seriously wounded. Many spat on her or refused to be ministered to by one of her kind. Were it not for the intervention of the Queen herself, still a calming influence on her adoring subjects, the Empire could have exploded like a barrel of gunpowder.

'And what, pray, can I do,' Genevieve asked, 'to serve the purpose of the Prince Consort?'

Lestrade chewed his moustache, teeth glistening, flecks of froth on his lips.

'You may be needed, Mademoiselle. The Hall will be overrun. Some don't want to be out on the streets with the murderer about. Others are spreading panic and sedition, firing up vigilante mobs.'

'I'm not Florence Nightingale.'

'You have influence...'

'I do, don't I?'

'I wish... I would humbly request... you would use your influence to calm the situation. Before disaster occurs. Before more are unnecessarily killed.'

Genevieve was not above enjoying a taste of power. She slipped off her robe, shocking the detective. Death and rebirth had not shaken out of him the prejudices of his time. Lestrade shrank behind his smoked glasses, as she swiftly dressed, fastening the seeming hundreds of small catches and buttons on her bottle-green skirt and jacket with neat movements of sharp-tipped fingers. It was as if the costume of her warm days, as intricate and cumbersome as a full suit of armour, had returned to plague her. As a new-born, she had, with relief, worn the simple tunics and trews made acceptable if not fashionable by the Maid of Orleans, vowing never again to be sewed into breath-stopping formal dress.

The Inspector was too pale to blush properly, but penny-sized patches appeared on his cheeks and he huffed involuntarily. Lestrade, like many new-borns, treated her as if she were the age of her face. She had been sixteen when Chandagnac gave her the Dark Kiss. She was older, by a decade or more, than Vlad Tepes. While he was a warm Christian Prince, nailing Turks' turbans to their skulls and lowering his countrymen on to sharpened posts, she had been a new-born, learning the skills that now made her the longest-lived of her bloodline. With four and a half centuries behind her, it was hard not to be irritated when the fresh-risen dead, still barely cooled, patronised her.

'Silver Knife must be found and stopped,' Lestrade said. 'Before he kills again.'

'Indubitably,' Genevieve agreed. 'It sounds like an affair for your old associate, the consulting detective.'

She sensed, with the sharpened perceptions that told her night was falling, the chilling of the Inspector's heart.

'Mr Holmes is not at liberty to investigate, Mademoiselle. He has his differences with the current government.'

'You mean he has been removed, like so many of our finest minds, to those pens on the Sussex Downs. What does the Pall Mall Gazette call them, concentration camps?'

'I regret his lack of vision...'

'Where is he? Devil's Dyke?'

Lestrade nodded, almost ashamed. There was much of the man left inside. New-borns clung to their warm lives as if nothing had changed. How long would it be before they grew like the bitch vampires the Prince Consort had brought from the land beyond the forests, an appetite on legs, mindlessly preying?

Genevieve finished her cuffs and turned to Lestrade, arms slightly out. It was a habit born of lifetimes without mirrors, always seeking an opinion on her appearance. The detective gave grudging approval. Settling a hooded cloak about her shoulders, she left her room, Lestrade following.

In the corridor outside, gaslights were already lit. Beyond a row of windows, hanging fog purged itself of the last of the dying sun. One window was open, letting in cool air. Genevieve could taste life in it. She must feed soon, within two or three days. It was always that way after her rest.

'The Sch?n inquest commences tomorrow night,' Lestrade said, 'at the Working Lads' Institute. It might be best if you attended.'

'Very well, but I must first talk with the director. Someone will have to take care of my duties for the duration.'

They were on the stairs. The building was coming to life. No matter how the Prince Consort changed London, Toynbee Hall  -  founded by the Reverend Samuel Barnett in the name of the late philanthropist Arnold Toynbee  -  was still required. The poor needed shelter, sustenance, medical attention, education. The new-borns, potentially immortal destitutes, were hardly better off than their warm brothers and sisters. For many, the East End settlements were the last recourse. Genevieve felt like Sisyphus, forever rolling a rock uphill, losing a yard for every foot gained.

On the first-floor landing sat a dark-haired little girl, a rag-doll in her lap. One of her arms was withered, leathery membranes bunched in folds beneath it, the drab dress cut away to allow freedom of movement. Lily smiled, teeth sharp but uneven.

'Gene,' Lily said, 'look...'

Smiling she extended the spindly arm. It grew longer, more sinewy; the hairy grey-brown flap stretched.

'I've been working on my wings. I'll fly to the moon and back.'

Genevieve looked away and saw Lestrade similarly examining the ceiling. She turned back to Lily and knelt, stroking her arm. The thick skin felt wrong, as if the muscles beneath were pulling against each other. Neither the elbow nor the wrist locked properly. Vlad Tepes could shape-shift without effort, but new-borns of his bloodline could not carry off the trick. Which didn't prevent them from trying.

'I'll bring you some cheese,' Lily said, 'as a present.'

Genevieve stroked Lily's hair and stood. The director's door was open. She entered, rapping a knuckle on the wood as she passed. The director was at his desk, going over a lecture time-table with Morrison, his secretary. The director was youngish and still warm, but his face was lined, his hair streaked grey. Many who'd lived through the changes were like him, older than their years. Lestrade followed her into the office. The director acknowledged the detective. Morrison, a quiet young man with an interest in literature and Japanese prints, stood back in the shadows.

'Jack,' she said, 'Inspector Lestrade wishes me to attend an inquest tomorrow.'

'There's been another murder,' the director said, making a statement not asking a question.

'A new-born,' said Lestrade. 'In Chicksand Street.'

'Lulu Sch?n,' Genevieve put in.

'Did we know her?'

'Probably, but under some other name.'

'Arthur can go through the files,' the director said, looking at Lestrade but indicating Morrison. 'You'll want the details.'

'Was she another street girl?' Morrison asked.

'Yes, of course,' said Genevieve. The young man looked down.

'I think we've had her here,' he said. 'One of Booth's cast-offs.'

Morrison's face screwed up as he mentioned the General's name. The Salvation Army deemed the un-dead beyond redemption, worse than other drunkards. Although warm, Morrison did not share the prejudice.

The director's fingers drummed his desk. He looked, as usual, as if the weight of the world had just unexpectedly settled on his shoulders.

'Can you spare me?'

'Druitt can take your rounds if he's back from his cricketing jaunt. And Arthur can fill in once we've got the lecture schedules arranged. We weren't, ah, expecting you for a night or two yet anyway.'

'Thank you.'

'That's quite all right. Keep me informed. This is a dreadful business.'

Genevieve agreed. 'I'll see what I can do to pacify the natives. Lestrade is expecting an uprising.'

The policeman looked shifty and embarrassed. For a moment, Genevieve felt small, teasing the new-born. She was being unfair.

'There may be something I can actually do. Talk to some of the new-born girls. Get them to take care, see if anyone knows anything.'

'Very well, Genevieve. Good luck. Lestrade, good evening.'

'Dr Seward,' said the detective, putting on his hat, 'good night.'
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