One gloomy afternoon, Granny decides to go through the elixirs and spell books in Missy’s basement while her sister is away on a ghost hunting mission. She’s carrying some interesting papers upstairs to read when the phone rings. She hurries to pick up, answering a little out of breath, ‘Yes? Yes, it is she speaking. Who am I talking to, please?’
‘Mr. Stanescu? Private Detective Iorghu Stanescu?’ She had almost forgotten about her brief encounter with the private detective a few months ago, having given up all hope of hearing from him again. What could he possibly want?
‘… so I’d like to meet somewhere and talk about your “problem”…’ he finishes the sentence, putting the weight on the last word, making it sound very special and secret. Granny listens carefully to what he says, feeling like a spy in a movie.
‘Yes… 7 p.m. at the “Lonely Literary Café”… Good… Yes, I’ll see you there. Goodbye.’ She hangs up a little flustered. Maybe she should bring her documents. But where did she store them away? OMG. They are finally taking action!
At a quarter to seven, Iorghu Stanescu enters the café, his cell glued to his ear. ‘Yeah… She’s meeting me here…’ He nods to the barista who is busy with an uncertain client. ‘Excuse me, just a cup of tea, please. No, make that a pot…’ He raises a finger in the air, silencing the young woman. ‘Uh-huh… Wait a second, Jan.’ He returns his attention to the waiting barista. ‘Black tea, any brand. Yes, thank you.’
Still talking in a low voice into his cell, he walks over to a table for four, leaving the barista with the hesitating client.
Granny sees Iorghu Stanescu immediately but doesn’t recognize him. She stops on the threshold, scanning the small café, taking in the cozy interior with the odd chairs and different wooden tables. The café is not very busy at this hour of the day. A young woman is sleeping in an armchair, her half full wineglass balancing next to an upturned book on the table next to her and an extremely pale woman is silently reading at a corner table. Granny notices the gloves and frowns. But where is the detective? Is she too early? She checks her watch and notices a dark man in a business suit discreetly wave her over to his table.
‘Mrs. Grey.’ He stands up and shakes her hand. ‘Please have a seat.’
Granny takes the proffered hand and sits on his left. ‘Mr. Stanescu? I didn’t recognize you.’ She looks pointedly at his hair and moustache.
He chuckles. ‘Is it that good? I have been on a mission calling for me to follow a business man from Bucharest and-’ He’s interrupted by the barista showing up with a cup for Granny and a new pot of steaming tea, taking the empty one with her. ‘Anyway… Some tea?’
‘Yes, please, Mr. Stanescu.’
‘Call me Iorghu.’
Granny nods, sipping the hot tea.
‘Now, you must wonder why it has taken me so long to contact you?’
Granny nods again.
‘Well. I have been doing some research overseas, in Bridgeport.’ He waits for her reaction.
‘Why Bridgeport?’ she asks.
‘Supernatural beings, my dear. Bloodsuckers.’
Granny looks suitably chocked and he lowers his voice, leaning slightly towards her.
‘I think I have found the answer to the mystery. Vampires. Bridgeport was threatened to be overrun by them, but they were stopped just like we will stop them from overrunning Vulturu.’
‘Are you sure we are talking about vampires here? I’m not sure they exist.’
‘You will understand if you hear me out. So, someone I know arranged a meeting with the leader of a supernatural hunter. Or rather a hunter of supernatural beings. His name was Grimm.’
‘Like the fairy tale authors?’
‘Err… No, more like the TV series.’
Granny holds her tongue, waiting for him to explain what he has discovered since they last met.
‘Grimm taught me how to identify a vampire. There are tests and tell-tale signs if you know what to look for.’
‘Uh-huh. What signs?’
‘You must have heard of Vlad Țepeș or Vlad Dracul? Vlad the Impaler? The most famous vampire of them all, living right here in Transylvania.’
‘Vaguely,’ Granny says, on her guard, ‘I must say I’m more familiar with Bram Stokes version.’
‘Count Dracula?’ Iorghu laughs. ‘Oh, he didn’t know how close he was to the truth when he wrote his book.’
Iorghu throws himself into a resume of Vlad III’s prowess in the campaign against the Ottomans and Granny listens to him drone on for a while about the infamous vampire.
They meet at Granny’s a Saturday night. Iorghu Stanescu, Petre Belododia, old Apostol Alexandrescu and Claudiu Iliescu are there – Jan Dimir is the only one missing as his wife is giving a dinner party. Missy is also part of the fun, Granny couldn’t refuse when she insisted on listening in…
The discussion is animated, Iorghu Stanescu piles up his documents and tells them about his recent journey to Bridgeport and what he learned there, and it seems they all have something to add.
‘Can I… Would you please… HEY! LISTEN TO ME!’
Startled, everybody looks at Missy who smiles apologetically and asks: ‘Ahem… who would like some coffee?… And why don’t you just capture one of them and make him talk?’
‘I think she’s right!’ Iorghu Stanescu adds. ‘We could stalk out the park, as we know they come there late at night.’
Everybody starts talking at once.
‘Oh no, that’s kidnapping!’
‘I believe we could do it!’
‘What if they press charges?’
‘I think we should use guns.’
‘Yes!’ Missy chirps in. ‘And we’ll knock them out and torture…’
‘Missy!’ Granny interrupts her sister. ‘You will NOT participate. N-O-T.’ Missy pouts, but doesn’t say anything more.
‘Stop! Stop! STOP!’ Petre Belododia tries to calm the assembly. ‘Let’s listen to what Iorghu has to say… Do you think it’s possible?’
‘Yes, I think we could pull it off…’ Iorghu outlines a new plan quickly. ‘Let’s vote. Who’s against the plan?’
Claudiu Iliescu is the only one raising his hand, but he quickly puts it down again when he sees the look on the other’s faces.
‘So, I think it’s settled then. Any questions?’
Granny raises her hand. ‘When? When are we doing it? I think we should try as soon as possible – before Halloween.’ I don’t want to have Taïga around if something bad happens…
‘So… It sounds good to me. I’ll call Jan tonight. It will take some time to put up an operation like this… Let’s meet here next Thursday.’
The following Thursday…
‘You can’t be serious? We said camouflage! And what’s that? A scarf?’ Claudiu is outraged by Petre’s outfit.
‘And what’s wrong with my scarf?’
Claudiu snickers: ‘Nothing – if you’re going to a “soirée”…’
The arrival of Iorghe calms them down. ‘OK. Stop arguing. I’ve probably got something in the van for you, Petre. Let’s move.’
Iorghu had a black sweatshirt in his van, so Petre is correctly outfitted upon arrival at Granny’s.
Granny is leaving when Missy comes running downstairs. ‘WAIT! You weren’t leaving without me, were you!?!’
Iorghu is embarrassed. Granny heaves a sigh… ‘OK, get upstairs and change.’
‘Is this good enough.’
‘Very. You don’t have time to change the heels, we’re in a hurry.’
Claudiu and Jan are criticizing Petre’s camouflage war paint. ‘So what? Who said it has to be ugly? This is stylish camouflage! French soldiers always…’
He’s interrupted by the arrival of Iorghu and the two old ladies. ‘Get in the van everybody. We’re moving out.’
When they arrive at Pitch Park, everything is quiet.
Granny stays behind to hide the van.
She makes sure nobody sees her, then she takes out her wand…
… and “voilà”!
She hurries to take up her position in the bushes… And the long wait begins…
Time goes by slowly… Granny fights the urge to sleep.
Missy is bored, but she has brought Taïga’s iPad so she can check the numerous dating services she’s listed in…
A taxi! Iorghu warns the others.
Missy snaps to attention and puts away the iPad.
A pale figure steps out of the taxi and sits down on the bench right in front of Missy.
The men jump out of the bushes and surround him, brandishing their weapons! The poor man is too afraid to move… Iorghu soon gets the information he wants – the pale stranger’s name is Costea Jonker and he’s there to meet Ichabod Spectescu. ‘You just stay put and act as if nothing happened, and we won’t hurt you. Is that clear?’
Costea Jonker just nods and the men return to their positions.
A couple of minutes later, another pale stranger hurries into the park, looking frantically around him.
‘Ichabod! I’m over here!’
The same scenario repeats itself, but with Missy urging the men on. ‘Shoot one of them! It will make the other talk!…’
‘Missy! Be quiet!’ Granny tries to calm her sister.
‘But I want a gun too. Why can’t I have a gun?’ Granny rolls her eyes. That’s definitely NOT on the list…
Jan gets excited, waving his big gun around, yelling at their prisoners. Granny tries to make them all calm down and listen to Ichabod who seems willing to talk; without any shooting.
They get into the van again, taking their prisoners with them, and they drive to where Ichabod told them a person – a certain Professor Varujan Torje – could give them answers…
St. Andrei Șaguna Sanitarium…
The big hospice is creepy at night, but they follow Ichabod’s instructions and are surprised to find the big entrance door unlocked.
Costea Jonker and Ichabod Spectescu lead them downstairs, into the basement, through long empty corridors lined with doors…
Missy stops to peek inside, but it slows them down so Granny urges her on.
Finally they push through one of the doors, into an office. ‘Where is he? You told us we would find answers!’
‘We took you here – to the Professor’s office… I don’t know where he is. He’s usually here…’
Iorghu tries to contain his anger: ‘Let’s search the premises for clues.’
‘… and Claudiu, wait outside with Jonker and Spectescu!’
Missy goes through the lockers without finding anything more suspicious than dirty socks, and lab-coats. Lots of lab-coats…
Granny takes down all the information she can find.
Iorghu sits down at the desk, and after thoroughly going through the drawers…
… finally takes on the challenge of breaking into the laptop. Unsuccessfully…
Hmmm… The professor is well read… No medical journals though… Not even a copy of Gray’s Anatomy!..
Missy is also studying one of the well filled book cases.
Hmmm… I think I got something here…
Oh, yesssss! She rubs her hands in anticipation.
Then she pulls out a first issue of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”…
… and calmly sits down to read! Meanwhile, Granny’s hunch proved right. She has found a secret door!
But she’s disappointed to find it only leads into a half empty store room.
‘Hey, Petre! Get Iorghu and come over here!
Iorghu hurries outside and leaves Granny to search through the store room. I don’t understand… Why hide a store room behind a secret door? There must be something in here…
Iorghu and the others are searching through the rest of the basement…
The long corridors are like a maze, but they are careful not to get lost… or surprised by someone… or something…
‘All’s clear. C’mon on.’
… one last bend… a cul-de-sac!
The cul-de-sac ends with a large steel door.
The glass is dirty and it’s dark on the other side, but Iorghu can see the outlines of a strange object.
Petre feels a little jumpy. He keeps watch while the others discuss if it’s safe to go into the huge, dark room.
He finally follows the others into the vast storeroom filled with weird machines. Costea and Ichabod are strangely upset.
‘Be quiet, both of you!’ Petre is nervous. ‘What are you whispering about?’
Ichabod shrugs. ‘Nothing.’
‘Is this a seat!’
‘Yeah, and a wheel.’
‘No, they’re handlebars, like in a plane.’
‘I think this is Army top secret!’
‘Yeah, kind of next generation Black Hawks or something like that.’
‘How many are there? Must be at least a dozen…’
’37, there are 37.’ Iorghu’s phone vibrates…
Granny has found something, and she’s calling Iorghu . ‘You should come back here, I’ve found something interesting.’
‘We have found something too.’
‘Oh… But I’ve found another door and I think you should be here when I open it!’
Iorghu and the men hurry back to help Granny move the heavy lockers…
… Uncovering a steel door with a strange, arrow-like sign on it.
Granny must have touched the locking mechanism, because the door opens with a hiss. Granny tries to pass through, but Iorghu stops her.
‘Let me and Claudiu go first, we don’t know what to expect.’
Granny impatiently follows them through the door. Oh-My-God!
Part I – End of Chapter 41