For a limited time, I’m making available the ENTIRE FIRST CHAPTER of my book, SHERLOCK HOLMES and the WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE” 

 (Please leave a comment on what you think)

Chapter 1

FRESH HOPE

June 30, 1888

Her arm dangled as he lifted her from the bed. A single drop of blood remained on her still warm pillow, a silent witnessto her last moments. Cradling her body, he carried Marguerite from her room above Le Chat Noir down the back stairway to his awaiting coach. Mademoiselle Dubois, he knew, would not be missed for several hours. To avoid discovery he would deposit the young prostitute’s remains in the one place he knew she would not immediately be found, the Seine River.

Running through the center of Paris, the Seine was ideal. Not only was it a convenient receptacle that would not immediately give up its secrets, but it would also corrupt her body to beneficial effect disguising the true nature of her attacker.

The blood he’d so recently ingested would sustain Baron Antonio Barlucci during the long trip back to his villa outside Milan. It was from there he administered his affairs as one of the wealthiest financiers in Europe, known internationally as the Pope’s banker. But before leaving Paris, he directed his driver to the Academy of Science where a young American doctor was about to give a lecture that piqued the baron’s curiosity.

His carriage ambled along Le Quai du Tuleries, the clacking of the horse’s hooves against the cobblestones clinging to the humid night air. Movement near the water’s edge caught the baron’s eye; he watched as two policemen, their trousers rolled up their legs, worked to pull a body from the river. “Mon dieu!” The cry echoed up from the river giving it a disembodied quality, “She’s like the others.”

The coach passed a police wagon parked near the water. Two detectives stood beneath a gas lamp. A second voice, addressing the detectives, called out, “Her throat’s been cut nearly through.”

Settling back in his coach the baron smiled, confident his latest victim would not be found till he was well on his way back to his villa.

This centuries’ long game of fox and geese he played with legal authorities across Europe was one he could not afford to lose. At the dawn of his affliction, eluding even crude law enforcement agencies proved a challenge. As time wore on, the agencies became more adept, but fortunately they lacked the sophistication to effectively incorporate lessons learned the way the baron could. His intellect and patient observation allowed him to stay two steps ahead of detection. The immense fortune he amassed down through the centuries, further insulated him from suspicion. One advantage of being a vampire in this modern age was the reluctance of law enforcement to believe in him. Tonight as he watched the detectives and police officers discover the refuse of his appetites, he knew not only would he not be held accountable, but also his involvement would never be suspected.

When he arrived at his destination, he strode unnoticed into the lecture hall. The baron’s fashionable but modest dress allowed him to blend seamlessly into the elite assemblage of Europe’s scientific community. With dispassion he took his place in the rear of the hall.

Curious but cynical, the baron watched and listened to the charismatic speaker at the lectern deliver his discourse titled “Dispelling Folk Lore with Science”. As the young doctor spoke, describing his methods and the success he’d achieved on the Dark Continent with a variety of blood disorders, the baron’s interest became more acute—an interest soon to have a crucial influence over both their destinies.

With every word, the baron became increasingly convinced that this was the young man for whom he’d been waiting. As he watched, he thought about how patient he’d been for this moment to arrive. He thought back to his awakening in the early thirteenth century when the Inquisition would have burned one such as he at the stake. Unaware at the time just how long this curse would last, he watched as the world around him marched forward with inexorable sluggishness. He watched and waited as the world crept from the dull nescience of the dark ages, through the renaissance of enlightenment, and ultimately into the modern industrial age. Finally after six centuries, it appeared science had freed itself from superstition, attaining the dimension necessary to liberate him from the burden he’d so long carried.

The baron exited the hall with guarded exuberance before the lecture was over. The journey back to his villa in Milan was a long one and he was anxious to return. He would need time, time and research, in order to put into action the plan now formulating in his mind. As he climbed into the back of his coach, he had his driver stop in the middle of the deserted Pont Neuf on his way out of Paris, one final bit of business of which to tend.

The overcast Parisian sky conspired to conceal his actions as the baron removed the lifeless body of Marguerite from her temporary crypt. Effortlessly he carried her to the edge of the bridge. Without ceremony he lifted her over the stone railing. Pausing only long enough to ensure no one would see or hear he relaxed his grip, allowing her body to slip into the black water of the Seine. His dark business concluded the baron retired to the back of his coach for the journey home.

 

Advertisements