Chapter 1

There exists a general misconception as to the boundaries of reality. People seem content enough to rely on the absence, or rather the non-existence, of aliens, “mythical” creatures and magic, but this is further away from the truth, than the horizon is from its observer. Most people view the world through a haze of spreadsheets and reality television, but throwing a fistful of bones and feathers on the floor would lend that worldview a greater measure of accuracy. In truth, many mythical creatures exist right in front of our eyes, such as Valkyries, zombies and taxidermists, most of whom subsist thanks to our naïve inability to recognise them.

Oh, and then there are vampires, too, of course. Vampires also thrive right under our noses. People don’t recognise them for what they really are, not merely because their existence has been mightily exaggerated, but because their habits and powers have been altered over the ages as well. A more imaginative lifestyle has been dealt the stereotypical vampire in order to afford professional tellers of tales more auspicious career opportunities. Vampires can't be killed by sunlight or holy water, although, admittedly, the latter has never really been attempted, nor disproved. They do not fear crosses or garlic at all, and they don’t mind wooden stakes being thrust into their hearts any more than most humans do. Paradoxically, those of us in the know have heard many accounts of vampires ordering fashionable, aioli-drenched dishes in some of the most luxurious restaurants of their immediate urban surroundings, which brings me to yet another misconception, namely, that they supposedly avoid contact with humans. This is, as I trust you understand by now, not true.

The main reason vampires often do frequent luxurious restaurants, however, is to compensate, if only appearance-wise, for what is essentially true and well-known about them, that is that they only wish, and some are only able, to interact socially with other vampires. In most cases, when vampires interact with humans, they do so with the ulterior motive of relieving them of their lifeblood. Although, and this is a big one, real-life vampires, if you'll forgive the pun, don't need to drink blood to unlive, although they doubtlessly prefer to. This is due to an old Gipsy curse that went horrifically wrong, and to which – I’m loath to admit – I shall devote a flashback chapter later on. For now, all you need to know is that part of this curse was poorly worded, and rather than refer to blood in a more direct fashion, it spoke of ‘all that passes the lips of the undead.’ The old Gods being rather literal-minded, the curse backfired, enabling vampires to feed off certain homonyms and derived homographs as well. Conequently, the cursed creatures were chuffed to bits when their wretched disease hit the British Isles because now they could fill their stomachs with bloody awful vegetable stew, the chants of bleedin’ heart tree-hugging hippie bastards, or pretty much anything else that contained a connotation to the contents of veins.

The Gipsy curse had actually done the vampires more good than anything else had ever done before, including the great Bubbling Blood Showers of Beelzebub of 322 BC (Before Curse). It opened doors that had been locked to the vampires for millennia. This whole new realm of culinary diversity lead to cookbooks – actually phrase books – being written for vampires by vampires with tips and recipes for alliterations, pejoratives, emotional outbursts and other uses of said partial homonyms that would quench their thirst for blood just as efficiently as the real thing.

Ethnic and cultural diversity were equally benefitted, because in the days BC the life expectancy of Jewish vampires, for instance, had not been particularly astronomical, and far from eternal, since being a vampire and maintaining a kosher lifestyle were two options that didn’t blend well at all.

        Knowing that going by their original ethnic definition, Vampyri, might cause a ruckus and render their plans to suck the life out of us ordinary humans more difficult to bring into fruition, they cunningly and collectively chose a new name for themselves. They even instituted places whereto naïve, young humans will go and have the humanity drained from their veins and be turned into vampires themselves before they've had time to cry out for help or run away. These places are “law schools” and the most commonplace alias vampires go by nowadays is “lawyers”, which – I have been told – is ancient Transylvanian lingo for “they who suck the life out of people who wrongfully believe them to be nice and well-meaning”.

Olaf was a vampire, and one that truly sucked at work. So much so, in fact, that the senior vampire council held discussions over fine brandies and decanters of vintage hamster blood about whether to revoke his licence to practice the vampire fable of law entirely. You had to hand it to the dusty old chap, though. Despite being more or less professionally impotent and having to survive on stray cats and Bloody Maries alone, he had still managed to maintain his eerie looks and moonlit disposition.

Standing behind the robust oak desk in the cobwebbed darkness of his office, in a house that was only standing by the grace of either a very tolerant or myopic God, in a town in the outskirts of London, so small and insignificant and full of punters that there were no fridge magnets bearing its name and its few literate inhabitants, as well as the multitude of inbred illiterate ones, most often just called it “this dump”, “this hole in the ground” or – sometimes – “home”, Olaf was completely unaware of what was only a few chapters away from happening to him, and still as calm and as sombre as the night he had clawed his way out of his grave. With his back to the life-size portrait of himself a few hundred years back in the old country, which he semi-self-negatingly claimed to be a family heirloom, his black cape rustling in the still air as if dancing to the tune of some far away gust of wind, and his fangs poking pointedly out through the corners of the sliver of his mouth, he couldn't have looked scarier, even if he tried.

        ‘So, Mr Wilson,’ he began, 'what you're saying is that you want full custody of your children. Is that right?'

        ‘That's exactly right,’ Mr Wilson confirmed.

        ‘And how old are your children, Mr Wilson?’

        ‘Two and four, Mr Ury.’

        ‘And you’re quite sure they’re your kids, are you?’

        ‘What? Yes, quite, Mr Ury.’

        ‘Right then, I’m going to be honest with you,’ Olaf lied. ‘At first glance this appeared to be an open-and-shut case, but then I drifted back from my daydream and actually saw your face and, well, I knew immediately that it was not.’

        ‘How’s that, Mr Olaf?’

        ‘Please, Mr Wilson,’ the vampire lawman hissed venomously, ‘I’m Olaf to my friends and Mr Ury to everyone else, but I am hitherto to accept that permutation, so take your pick!’

        ‘Erm…’ Mr Wilson began, sensing a distinct air of unfriendliness about the whole affair, and thus finding the pick rather easy to take. ‘Mr Ury?’

        ‘Yes, Mr Wilson?’ Olaf Ury enquired with so broad a smile on his pale face that his fangs stuck out in plain view for all humans to overlook, his hands clasped together like the hands of a cartoon madman.

         ‘How’s that?’ Mr Wilson repeated with a stutter. ‘That is, how come this isn’t an open-and-shut case?’

        Olaf turned around and peered at the back of his pale and pulled-down eyelids in despair before opening his eyes again and looking at his younger self in regretful admiration.

        ‘Why me?’ He whispered to himself. ‘I who commanded armies and drank the blood of virgins when humanity was still in its crib! Why should I have to put up with this?’ This was of course a complete lie. In truth, Olaf had been made a vampire by a prosecutor from the legislative council of the Vampire Feminist Rights Movement, whom he had inaccurately perceived to be romantically interested in him, and that was only a few centuries ago.

        ‘Pardon?’ Mr Wilson stuttered, thinking he had heard something, and Olaf turned back around to face him.

        ‘The reason, Mr Wilson,’ he began, ‘why yours is not an open-and-shut case is that you claim to be the father of two little children, of two and four years of age respectively, yet six years ago I helped you with a lawsuit against,’ his claw-like fingernails drew citation marks in the air as he went on, “your boss at the refrigerator factory” because, you claimed, poor insulation and stressful working conditions were the cause of your undeniable sterility. In fact, I recall that, since it was proven that you had in fact never ever worked at the refrigerator factory in question, nor at any other for that matter, the judge deemed the reason for your incapacity to impregnate a female of any species to be that you possessed neither the looks nor the charm to ever convince a woman to go to bed with you in the first place. On a side note, I might add that I also remember finding that particular moment in court so revoltingly demeaning to my character that I kindly asked you to sod off when you later asked me to help you with a lawsuit against your looks and lack of charm.’ Olaf took a deep breath and tongued his left fang exasperatedly. ‘But that’s beside the point. What is the point, however, and neither beside or above or below it, is this: Why should I believe that this time around everything is going to be different, when you now claim to be the father of two children, neither of whom has lived even as long as I have known that you’re infertile?’

         He paused his rant for a moment and returned to the reality of his financial desperation, finding to his dismay that a bloody miserable day in court would at least serve to quench his thirst.

‘On the other hand, Mr Wilson,’ he sighed, ‘I've never been the type to shy away from a good challenge. I’ll take your case!’

So Mr Wilson filled out some forms, gave Olaf the remaining details of his predicament, shook his cold, dead hand and left.

Olaf had recently lost the one regular client who was not a compulsive liar and whom he could call even remotely respectable. This now former client had chosen to part ways with Olaf because although no law enforcement agency would ever think of looking for potentially incriminating evidence against him there – and goodness knows he had trafficked a lot of paperwork of that ilk through Olaf’s office over the years – he wanted someone who could produce results more swiftly. A wealthy industrialist, who had acquired his means through shady deals and a flexible interpretation of morality, this former client had only let Olaf live, because he thought no one would ever care about the accusations of a bankrupt and only half-sane lawman, especially one who almost always adorned a black cape with a huge theatrical collar over his cheap grey suit. To be on the safe side, though, he had also threatened to kill Olaf if he ever uttered a word of the business they had conducted and also made sure, he thought, that Olaf had made no copies of the documents he had helped him ferry to banks in sunnier, tax-relieved parts of the world.

In truth, Olaf made copies of everything. Not because he was clever or cautious, but simply because besides being a vampire he also suffered from an obsessive compulsion to make triplicate copies of every document he ever handled. Goblins hiding in the darkest corners of his psyche compelled him to stack them neatly in drawers in a vast and overflowing storage cupboard. This cupboard, incidentally, had once been the office of his partner in the law firm, who had not attended law-school but instead passed the bar online and thus not been a vampire, and whom Olaf had therefore sucked dry and killed on his second day of work – after making triplicate copies of the contract to grant full ownership of the firm to Olaf that his former colleague had signed under duress, of course.

But that isn’t really important, so you may go ahead and forget that right away if you wish. Something that I know beyond a doubt to be nothing less than vitally important to this story, is this: Crossword puzzles. It occurs to me that I’ve made it quite clear what doesn’t kill vampires, but I haven’t really gone into detail about what can. The answer is simple. Crossword puzzles. Solving a crossword puzzle from scratch will invariably kill a vampire, but only if he solves it himself or someone in his vicinity does so and announces this to him… or her, of course. I don’t mean to seem chauvinist – indeed, there are plenty of female vampires as well.

Solving crossword puzzles isn’t the only way to kill a vampire, though. Poorly mixed gin martinis will do the trick just as well, but this is slightly more complicated seeing as there are so many different martini recipes out there. This, I think you’ll find is easy enough to confirm, is why lawyers tend to plant themselves in burgundy Chesterfields with a measure of Scotch instead.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed already, crosswords and martinis are both side effects of that very same Gipsy curse that went somewhat tits up, as they say. The traditional and true ways of killing a vampire are still mostly accurate, though. Cut off its head or, as I said before, plunge a wooden stake through its heart and the vampire will be no more than a pile of dust on the ground. Of course, these methods are slightly less glamorous, since they would, at least in most cases, be equally lethal if performed on a regular human. They are still the most efficient ways, apart from crosswords and martinis, to kill a vampire, though. Shooting, stabbing, drowning, or even setting its sleeves ablaze won’t work at all. The creature will simply regenerate and come back for revenge.

But I think that’s enough about vampires for now. Besides, as you’ll soon find out, Olaf wasn’t the only person working in a dark and dank environment.