Chapter 48


A letter under the seal of Lord Ruthven was passport enough to gain him an audience. The new-born Yeoman Warder seemed to plod down the stone-walled stairwell while Godalming followed with a darting lightness of step. It was an effort to contain his energies. He was excited, almost exploding. The guard was so much slower than he, in thought and motion. He was only gradually becoming aware of the breadth of his new capabilities. He had not found his limits yet.

Just after nightfall, he had encountered while walking in Hyde Park a young lady of his acquaintance. Her name was Helena Such-and-So-Forth, and she had sometimes come to Florence's after-darks, usually with one of Mrs Stoker's fatheaded theatrical cronies. He had reached out with his gaze and held her fascinated. Guiding her into a convenient gazebo, he had made her shrug her way out of her garments. Afterwards, he opened her neck and sucked her almost dry. She had been alive when he left, barely.

Now he was full of the taste of Helena. Sometimes there were little explosions inside his skull and he knew more about the warm girl. Her tiny life was his. With each feeding, he became stronger.

Above was the White Tower, the oldest part of the fortress. Nearby was the Cell of Little Ease, a four-foot-square chamber constructed so a prisoner could not lie down. It had held such enemies of the crown as Guy Fawkes. Even the less unpleasant rooms were bubbles in stone, allowing no possibility of escape. Each stout wooden door was inset with a tiny grille. From some of the tenanted cells, Godalming heard the groans of the damned. The prisoners were near starvation. Many had taken to biting their own veins, seriously injuring themselves. Graf Orlok was notoriously harsh on his own kind, punishing them for their treasons with an imprisonment that amounted to slow death.

Kostaki was kept in one of these cells. Godalming had made enquiries about the Guardsman. An elder, he had been with the Prince Consort since Dracula's warm days. Since his arrest, he had apparently not uttered a single word.

'Here, sir.'

The Yeoman Warder, faintly silly in his comic opera costume, took out his keyring and unfastened the triple locks. He set down his lantern to wrestle with the door and his enlarged shadow danced on the stone behind him.

'That will be all,' Godalming told the guard as he stepped into the cell. 'I'll call out when I'm finished.'

In the gloom, Godalming saw burning red eyes. Neither the prisoner nor he needed a lantern.

Kostaki looked up at his visitor. It was impossible to perceive an expression on his ragged face. It was not rotten, but hung on his skull like old linen, stiff and musty. Only his eyes betokened life. The Carpathian, who lay on a straw-stuffed cot, was chained. A silver band, padded with leather, circled his good ankle, and stout silver-and-iron links fixed him to a ring that was set into the stone. One of the elder's legs lay useless, a wadding of soiled bandage about the smashed knee. The stench of spoiled meat filled the cell. Kostaki had been shot with a silver ball. The elder coughed. The poison was in his veins, spreading. He would not last.

'I was there,' Godalming announced. 'I saw the supposed policeman murder Inspector Mackenzie.'

Kostaki's red eyes did not move.

'I know you are falsely accused. Your enemies have brought you to this filth.' He gestured around the low-ceilinged, windowless cell. It might as well be a tomb.

'I passed six decades in the Chateau d'If,' Kostaki announced. His voice was still strong, surprisingly loud in the confined space. 'These are by comparison quite comfortable quarters.'

'You'll talk to me?'

'I have done so.'

'Who was he? The policeman?'

Kostaki fell silent.

'You must understand, I can help you. I have the ear of the Prime Minister.'

'I am beyond help.'

Water seeped up between the cracks of the flagstones. Patches of green-white moss grew on the floor. There were spots of similar mould on Kostaki's bandages.

'No,' Godalming told the elder, 'the situation is very grave, but it can be reversed. If those who scheme against us can be thwarted, then there are many advantages to be won.'

'Advantages? With you English, there are always advantages.'

Godalming was stronger than this foreign brute, sharper in his head. He could turn the situation so he emerged as sole victor. 'If I find the policeman, I can uncover a conspiracy against the Prince Consort.'

'The Scotsman said the same thing.'

'Is the Diogenes Club mixed up in this?'

'I don't know what you're talking about.'

'Mackenzie mentioned them. Just before he was killed.'

'The Scotsman kept much to himself.'

Kostaki would tell what he knew. Godalming was certain of it. He could see the gears turning in the elder's head. He knew which levers to depress.

'Mackenzie would wish this cleared up.'

Kostaki's great head nodded. 'The Scotsman led me to a house in Whitechapel. His quarry was a new-born, known as "the Sergeant" or "Danny". At the last, his fox turned on him.'

'This was the man who killed Mackenzie?'

Kostaki nodded, indicating his wound. 'Aye, and the man who did this to me.'

'Where in Whitechapel?'

'They call the place the Old Jago.'

He had heard of it. This business kept running back to Whitechapel: where Jack the Ripper murdered, where John Jago preached, where agents of the Diogenes Club were often seen. Tomorrow night, Godalming would venture out into Darkest London. He was confident this Sergeant was no match for the vampire Arthur Holmwood had become.

'Keep up your pluck, old man,' Godalming told the elder. 'We'll have you out of here directly.'

He withdrew from the cell and summoned the Yeoman Warder, who refastened the thick door. Through the bars, Kostaki's red eyes winked out as he lay back on his cot.

At the end of the corridor, framed by an arch, stood a tall, hunched nosferatu in a long, shabby frock coat. His head was swollen and rodentlike with huge pointed ears and prominent front fangs. His eyes, set in black caverns that obscured his cheeks, were constantly liquid, darting here and there. Even his fellow elders found Graf Orlok, a distant family connection of the Prince Consort's, a disquieting presence. He was a crawling reminder of how remote they all were from the warm.

Orlok scuttled down the passageway. Only his feet seemed to move. The rest of him was stiff as a waxwork. When he was close, his flamboyant eyebrows bristled like rat's whiskers. His smell was not as strong as that in Kostaki's cell, but it was fouler.

Godalming greeted the Governor but did not shake Orlok's withered claw. Orlok peered into Kostaki's cell, pressing his face close to the grille, hands against the cold stone either side of the door. The Yeoman Warder tried to edge away from his commanding officer. Orlok rarely asked questions but had a reputation for gaining answers. He turned away from the cell and looked at Godalming with active eyes.

'He still won't talk,' Godalming told the nosferatu. 'Stubborn fellow. He'll rot here, I suppose.'

Orlok's rat-shark-rabbit teeth scraped his lower lip, the nearest he could manage to a smile. Godalming did not envy any prisoner entrusted to the care of this creature.

The Yeoman Warder escorted him up to the main gate. The skies above the Tower were lightening. Godalming still trembled with the sustenance he had taken from Helena. He had the urge to run home, or to dive under Traitor's Gate and swim.

'Where are the ravens?' he asked.

The Yeoman Warder shrugged. 'Gone, sir. So they say.'

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