“I really am most terribly sorry,” Cecil cleared his throat. “For just dropping by unannounced and uninvited.” Suddenly, his starched collar seemed several sizes too small for his neck, which, he was sure, had flushed as bright as a new pillar-box.
“That’s quite all right.” Lord Brom waved dismissively. His English was impeccable and his manner designed to put his impromptu guest at his ease but those eyes with their heavy lids were like bottomless pits. When you look into the abyss, Cecil had read somewhere, the abyss looks into you. That is certainly what it felt like in Lord Brom’s study under Lord Brom’s unblinking scrutiny.
“A drink, perhaps?” Lord Brom moved over to a cabinet heavy with lead crystal decanters and goblets.
It’s a test, Cecil panicked! If I say yes to hard liquor, he will consider me a raging dipsomaniac, but if I decline, he will think me less than a man and therefore an unsuitable suitor for his only daughter.
“A sherry, perhaps?” Lord Brom lifted a decanter. The golden liquid flashed in the lamp light.
Cecil stammered out his thanks. When he accepted the drink, his hand was shaking so much, he feared he might spill the whole bally lot down his clothes or –worse! – on the expensive and antiquated Persian carpet upon which his boots had the temerity to stand.
Lord Brom questioned him about his situation and prospects. Cecil sipped the sherry to prevent his mouth drying up completely. He was a clerk in an accountancy firm. It was the lowest rung of a tall ladder but the opportunities were there for a hard-working and ambitious young man.
“And are you?” Lord Brom arched one of his luxuriant eyebrows. “Are you hard-working and ambitious, young man?”
Cecil returned the older man’s stare. “Diligent.”
Lord Brom bowed his head; he approved of the answer.
“I shan’t torture you any longer.” He rose from his seat and tugged on a bell-pull. “Lucy will be with you presently.”
Lord Brom made to leave but the crashing of glass stopped him in his tracks. He turned to find the fool of a young man lunging for his chest with the neck of a broken decanter.
Cecil intoned Latin phrases as he stabbed the shard into the monster’s heart.
Lord Brom bared his fangs in a silent shriek before vanishing in an explosion of ash.
“I’ll be with you in a minute!” Lucy’s voice called to him from the grand staircase in the hall. “I want you to take me dancing until sunrise.”
Oh, I’ll dance with you all right, thought Cecil Van Helsing, dusting the remains of Lucy’s father from his dinner jacket. He snapped the leg from a chair to make a rudimentary stake.