Authors: Lee McGeorge
First published in Great Britain by Speartip
Copyright © Lee McGeorge 2014
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transferred, in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Islington, London, N4
For Mehdi & Natalia
Tony “Shoot You Down Like a Duck” Shannon
Jo-Jeff Pip the Pirate
Miss N. Sillybum
Emily “Upside-Down” Ford
and the beautiful, Lady Islington
Book Two, of the Vampire "Untitled" Trilogy
Previously, in Vampire “Untitled”
Deep snow. Stripped winter forests on rolling mountains. Dark grey skies. This is Romania. The Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania.
Paul McGovern had come here to work. Fresh from university and with a string of magazine articles and short stories in print, he was considered to be the next generation of literary talent. He’d travelled to this place to create an artistic retreat; his publishers had offered an opportunity and all Paul wanted was a quiet place to work.
His plans changed when he discovered a strange Christian shrine in the forest surrounding his home. The locals said it was the grave of a vampire. They warned him that men who spent time there could become infected by the Strigoi, a ghostly entity that turned ordinary men into killers.
Paul saw it as folklore and superstition, but became fascinated and inspired by the legend. Having uncovered a rich and detailed mystery, he began to research the history in the hope it would inspire his own work; but the closer he looked into the tale, the darker his psychology became. Slowly at first, his mind went into the shadows, his dreams became violent and his thoughts became murderous. Within weeks his rational mind had given way to dark and predatory desires, turning him from a kind and softly spoken young man into the frightening figure of legend.
He was last seen in the forest, stripped naked and standing in deep snow. He was splashed in blood, holding a knife and quietly contemplating the two murdered men at his feet.
Now, the story continues...
“I need to go to Bucharest,” he said in English. “The airport. How much?”
Bucharest was a three hour drive from Brasov but taxis were cheap, labour was cheap, food was cheap, all living was cheap here.
Life was cheap.
“You want pay Euro, Dollar or Lei?” the driver asked in an East European tone.
Paul McGovern had killed two men.
Holy fucking shit.
He’d killed two men, strolled home, washed the blood off his skin, dressed and was now negotiating the cost of what was going to be a three hour cab fare to Bucharest. Only now, some ninety minutes after the fact did the horror of what he’d done begin to sink in.
Once on the road he found space to think. The headlights of the taxi cut long beams through heavy snowfall and the passing traffic faded in and out through the haze of weather.
What to do?
He had to change his identity. He had to research this and figure out how it could be done. There were always stories on the news of illegal immigrants fraudulently living in the UK and finding work. Surely there was a way he could do the same, to create a new identity, get a new passport, then leave the country and create a new life. He could live in Africa as an aid worker, or work in a bar in Ibiza, he could do anything and the world would be his oyster. He didn’t want to be on the run, looking over his shoulder; he wanted to be a completely new person and to do that he needed London. It was his home turf and the first place they would look for him, but it was the ideal place to drop off the grid. In London he could live as a beggar if he needed to, blend in with the homeless and hide in plain sight. London is big, impersonal and has everything a man could ever need, including fake identities.
His thoughts drifted from plans of the future to the two dead bodies on a hillside behind him. Nealla and Raul. The big man, Raul, he’d put down quickly with a stab to the neck. Nealla had taken longer, for enjoyment.
How long would it take for the bodies of Nealla and Raul to be discovered? How long would it take for the police to ask around? How long would it take for them to learn that he fought with Nealla only yesterday in front of a neighbour? How long would it take from discovering the bodies for the police to draw a direct line to him?
Not long at all.
“I’m screwed,” Paul mumbled. The taxi driver turned his head as though he’d been asked a question. Paul closed his eyes to demonstrate that he hadn’t, then said it again in his head. “I’m totally fucking screwed.”
That was the attitude of the defeated.
The bodies would be found for sure. There was so much evidence left behind it was impractical to believe he wouldn’t be discovered. The crime was too open, too public. They would link it to him quickly. The police would come looking. He had to hide and vanish. He had to create the space and learn how to craft a new identity.
Paul McGovern was wanted for murder. Paul McGovern would try and vanish. The police would try and find him.
----- X -----
The rows of cold aluminium chairs felt endless. Bucharest airport at two in the morning was a desolate place with only a handful of late night arrivals and seemingly no other outbound passengers. This airport was built for a heavy traffic flow but it wasn’t Heathrow, where hundreds of people milled around twenty-four hours a day. Here the bar had closed at eleven and once the last outbound flight departed Paul sat uncomfortably alone. The place was deserted except for policemen with nothing better to do than scrutinise him. He wanted to disappear. He was wearing jeans, boots and a simple coat that were as drab as the surroundings but nothing could disguise him being the only person there.
The next flight to London was just before seven, leaving him a solid five hours as the only interesting thing for the security personnel to look at. It gave him time to think, but the only thoughts he had were selfish and miserable.
What was he doing?
Who could he turn to?
He could trust nobody and he had to become nobody.
Of his handful of friends he knew he couldn’t trust any of them. He didn’t have a lot to lose, but the sense of losing every connection in life was slowly twisting his stomach. He could never call in to visit an old friend, or pick up the telephone and use his real name. He would never be invited to a party, he would never see his work published and be able to tell people about it. He would never see his friends form relationships or have children, they would never attend his wedding. All of the trials and tribulations of a successful life, from achievement to illness, from Christenings to funerals were now closed to him.
This was the cost of his actions.
He didn’t care one ounce for his victims. Nealla and Raul were deserving of their deaths, but it wasn’t fair that he should have to suffer for their murders. They were scum, he wasn’t.
It was all just so fucking unfair!
At six in the morning he validated his open return ticket to a standby place on a seven o’clock flight and with twenty minutes to go they cleared him.
He sweated and felt his breath go short as he handed over his passport. The guard looked at the photograph, then looked at him, then held the passport under an ultraviolet light. The thing with looking natural is you look anything but natural. He tried to smile but it came off awkwardly. He looked to the side with a slight grimace. He checked his watch to try and show his flight was boarding now but knew he was coming off as evasive.
The passport was handed back. He took it with a mild snatch and walked briskly toward the departure gate. Paul looked back over his shoulder to see the guard staring at him, his hand lifting the telephone handset to make a call. He was looking at him. He was definitely looking at him.
“Hello, welcome on board.”
Stewardesses in yellow jackets and hats greeted him and guided him to a seat beside a fat woman overly scented in perfume.
Was he in trouble?
Undoubtedly he had piqued the curiosity of the passport man. The border guard had made a call straight after checking him. Why? Probably because he looked guilty, of what the border guard couldn’t know but he knew he looked out of sorts enough to...
The plane door closed making him jump. He was onboard. He had to travel. There was no going back, the next stop was London. What if passport man alerted Heathrow? What if Nealla and Raul’s bodies were discovered? If they were already looking for him they could even be waiting for him on arrival. He would be trapped. They would be ready to arrest him the moment he touched down.
They would arrest him and he’d go to prison. Was that so bad? They say you do your best writing in prison. That was the fantasy, that you could be locked away and permitted to get on with intellectual pursuits. More likely you spent your prison days surrounded by aggressive dumb shits, stressed and on edge, paranoid of being held down and butt fucked in the showers, or stabbed and scarred with a sharpened toothbrush.
The plane moved backwards, pushed by an airport tractor. The intercom beeped, a girl’s voice talking about the name of the Captain and imploring the passengers to listen to the safety briefing.
His mind drifted again to the border guard. He pictured him in his mind perfectly, the guard’s hand reaching to lift the telephone, his face serious, his glare steely and locked forward.
“I’m fucked.” Paul whispered. He could feel the sweat on his brow and realised he was gripping the armrests of the chair for dear life.
He’d ran. It was the worst thing to do. He’d ran from his Romanian apartment which made him look super guilty. When the bodies were discovered and they had his name they would question why he had run out in the middle of the night, why had he sat in an airport desperate to get on the first flight home. Guilty behaviour.
Had those bodies been discovered yet?
Were they looking for him?
In a few hours he would land at Heathrow and find out.
----- X -----
Cosmin Dobrin was already drunk and it was only breakfast time. He was taking a walk through the picnic area of Noua, the sleepy village on the outskirts of Brasov. His wife Raluca was not pregnant... again. She thought it was his fault for drinking and smoking. He thought it was because they were both forty years old and nature had decided against it. They’d had a huge fight. She hadn’t won, he’d just given up early and gone for a walk with the homemade whisky.
It wasn’t his fault. She was angry and the thing with Raluca is when she was angry nothing he could say or do would put it right. He tried to be a good husband, to listen attentively and console her, but his accepting and agreeable nature did nothing but enrage her further. When she was upset those emotions needed channelling and he was the target. It wasn’t his fault.
He was walking aimlessly, kicking through snow and had his head rocked back to sup the good stuff from a hip flask. That was when he tripped. He thought it was a log and kicked it, getting his foot underneath, expecting to see a branch emerge. What he saw was a frozen hand on the end of a black coat sleeve.
For a moment his body felt as though he were being pumped full of acid. His senses burned and the shock of what he saw rolled from the centre of his chest to his toes. He sucked in air as he saw it... then paused, looked around him, then drank every last drop of the whisky without stopping.
----- X -----
Paul had fought down his agitation and anxiety to pass through border control. He was asked where he had travelled from by a sleepy border guard and allowed back into Britain without so much as a cursory glance.
Once surrounded by faceless commuters on a tightly packed tube train he felt invisible and the stress eased off a little. It was nice to be faceless, unrecognised. It was nice to be in a place where nobody made eye-contact.
He rode for an hour into central London deciding to take a hostel space in Victoria. It was the most impersonal place he could think of, a place where a young man with a backpack would look like everybody else. The hostel wouldn’t allow him to check in until six in the evening but they allowed him to reserve a space. He left his bags with the left luggage service in Victoria station and headed back out to solve the immediate problem of money.
How do you live when you must leave no trace? How do you eat when you have no money? How do you get money when you can’t take a job or apply for unemployment benefit?
He went to his old bank in Hammersmith.
“I want to buy a car,” he said to the girl. “I’m about to become a sales rep for my publisher but I need transport.”
“Your publisher?” The girl in the bank smiled widely as she spoke. The silver badge pinned to her breast said her name was Louisa and her uniform made her desirable. The fitted blouse hugged her tiny waistline, her breasts were shapely, her legs in flesh coloured stockings were slender. Paul smiled at her whilst feeling his hands involuntary tightening into fists.
“I’ve just had my first book published and I’m writing a series for them, but to tide me over financially they’re giving me a job too.”
“What is your book about, is it fiction?”
“It is fiction. If you type my name into an online bookshop you should find it.” Louisa smiled and turned to her computer. “It’s called Skin Crawlers,” Paul added. Why was she asking about this? Why couldn’t she just come to the point and talk about loaning him money?
“Skin Crawlers Volume Three, by Paul McGovern,” she said on finding it.
“That’s right!” There was a bittersweet moment. He’d held a copy of the printed book in his hands just one time in his publishers office. He’d worked hard and gotten that modicum of artistic success, but this was his final and only chance to ever be Paul McGovern and enjoy the praise. He was sharing the moment with Louisa. Perhaps he would kill her and fuck her and...
She was talking to him. Her mouth was moving but he missed the words. She pushed her blonde hair back behind one of her ears to expose her neck.
His smile had become a manic glare. It took him a second to walk it back and shake the desire from his mind. She was pretty. Her hair was fine and thin. Her eyes were blue. She was waiflike, delicate and fragile. He could imagine sliding his cock into her. Her mouth was still moving.
“I’m sorry,” he said interrupting whilst trying to shake away the image. “I spaced out for a second, what were you saying?”
“About the loan? We can loan up to ten thousand pounds unsecured, but if you can bring proof of future earnings we might be able to raise that.”
“Ten thousand is easily enough.”
Force her legs apart and slice a razor blade across her skin. Mutilate her. Watch as the blood starts flowing from fine slices. Watch her panic and scream herself into unconsciousness.
Stop this now.
“If you want to go with that we can have it in your account in a hour. Can I show you options for insurance and redundancy protection?”
“Please,” Paul said almost with a grimace.
His fist clenched and he felt his eyes shaking from side to side. His right arm tensed as though building with energy that wanted to explode out in a punch. He wanted to smash her to the floor and tear at her clothes. He wanted to see her sob with a bloody nose, to cry in pain and clutch her ripped blouse, fighting to cover her exposed breasts.
What he really wanted, what he needed, was a bank loan that he didn’t intend to pay back. Insanity was getting in the way. There was no reason for this. There was no reason to imagine these things. Why such thoughts, why such uncontrolled desires of violence against this girl? She had done nothing to provoke this, other than be pretty and interesting and...
She had touched his desire nerve.
She was lovely and he’d noticed and in that moment he had wanted her. It was a trigger, a tripwire. The slightest smile from a pretty girl had transmuted its expected emotion of soft desire into a vicious kind of rape instinct.
This wasn’t normal.
This was similar to what had happened with Nealla and Raul.
Somehow things had amplified and channelled. He could see it. There was a rational logic to this irrationality. He had hit the tripwire with Nealla and Raul yesterday evening and murdered them. He had hit the tripwire with Louisa the bank clerk too. The only thing keeping her alive was the knowledge that there was no way to kill her under bank CCTV. Fuck the money and loan, he would have killed her right now if he could get away with it. The only thing keeping her alive was the sliver of rationality that whispered to him that he couldn’t get away with it.