/ Language: English / Genre:thriller

The Historian

Elisabeth Kostova

"To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…" Late one night, exploring her father's library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father's past and her mother's mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history. The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler's dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages. Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad's ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova's debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable. Amazon.com Review If your pulse flutters at the thought of castle ruins and descents into crypts by moonlight, you will savor every creepy page of Elizabeth Kostova's long but beautifully structured thriller The Historian. The story opens in Amsterdam in 1972, when a teenage girl discovers a medieval book and a cache of yellowed letters in her diplomat father's library. The pages of the book are empty except for a woodcut of a dragon. The letters are addressed to: "My dear and unfortunate successor." When the girl confronts her father, he reluctantly confesses an unsettling story: his involvement, twenty years earlier, in a search for his graduate school mentor, who disappeared from his office only moments after confiding to Paul his certainty that Dracula-Vlad the Impaler, an inventively cruel ruler of Wallachia in the mid-15th century-was still alive. The story turns out to concern our narrator directly because Paul's collaborator in the search was a fellow student named Helen Rossi (the unacknowledged daughter of his mentor) and our narrator's long-dead mother, about whom she knows almost nothing. And then her father, leaving just a note, disappears also. As well as numerous settings, both in and out of the East Bloc, Kostova has three basic story lines to keep straight-one from 1930, when Professor Bartolomew Rossi begins his dangerous research into Dracula, one from 1950, when Professor Rossi's student Paul takes up the scent, and the main narrative from 1972. The criss-crossing story lines mirror the political advances, retreats, triumphs, and losses that shaped Dracula's beleaguered homeland-sometimes with the Byzantines on top, sometimes the Ottomans, sometimes the rag-tag local tribes, or the Orthodox church, and sometimes a fresh conqueror like the Soviet Union. Although the book is appropriately suspenseful and a delight to read-even the minor characters are distinctive and vividly seen-its most powerful moments are those that describe real horrors. Our narrator recalls that after reading descriptions of Vlad burning young boys or impaling "a large family," she tried to forget the words: "For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me this: history's terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could never have told me. Only history itself can convince you of such a truth." The reader, although given a satisfying ending, gets a strong enough dose of European history to temper the usual comforts of the closing words. From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Considering the recent rush of door-stopping historical novels, first-timer Kostova is getting a big launch-fortunately, a lot here lives up to the hype. In 1972, a 16-year-old American living in Amsterdam finds a mysterious book in her diplomat father's library. The book is ancient, blank except for a sinister woodcut of a dragon and the word "Drakulya," but it's the letters tucked inside, dated 1930 and addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor," that really pique her curiosity. Her widowed father, Paul, reluctantly provides pieces of a chilling story; it seems this ominous little book has a way of forcing itself on its owners, with terrifying results. Paul's former adviser at Oxford, Professor Rossi, became obsessed with researching Dracula and was convinced that he remained alive. When Rossi disappeared, Paul continued his quest with the help of another scholar, Helen, who had her own reasons for seeking the truth. As Paul relates these stories to his daughter, she secretly begins her own research. Kostova builds suspense by revealing the threads of her story as the narrator discovers them: what she's told, what she reads in old letters and, of course, what she discovers directly when the legendary threat of Dracula looms. Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too.

Elisabeth Kostova

The Historian

For my father,

who first told me

some of these stories

A Note to the Reader

The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper. Recently, however, a shock of sorts has prompted me to look back over the most troubling episodes of my life and of the lives of the several people I loved best. This is the story of how as a girl of sixteen I went in search of my father and his past, and of how he went in search of his beloved mentor and his mentor’s own history, and of how we all found ourselves on one of the darkest pathways into history. It is the story of who survived that search and who did not, and why. As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it. And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claw.

In the thirty-six years since these events transpired, my life has been relatively quiet. I have devoted my time to research and uneventful travel, to my students and friends, to the writing of books of a historical and mainly impersonal nature, and to the affairs of the university in which I have ultimately taken shelter. In reviewing the past, I’ve been fortunate in having access to most of the personal documents in question, because they have been in my possession for many years. Where I felt it appropriate, I’ve stitched them together to make a continuous narrative, which I have occasionally had to supplement from my own reminiscences. Although I have presented my father’s first stories to me as they were told aloud, I’ve also drawn heavily on his letters, some of which duplicated his oral accounts.

In addition to reproducing these sources almost in their entirety, I’ve tried every possible avenue of recollection and research, sometimes revisiting a place in order to brighten the faded areas of my memory. One of the greatest pleasures of this undertaking has been the interviews-in some cases, the correspondences-I have conducted with the few remaining scholars who were involved in the events related here. Their memories have provided an invaluable supplement to my other sources. My text has also benefited from consultations with younger scholars in several fields.

There is a final resource to which I’ve resorted when necessary-the imagination. I have done this with judicious care, imagining for my reader only what I already know is very likely, and even then only when an informed speculation can set these documents into their proper context. Where I have been unable to explain events or motives, I have left them unexplained, out of respect for their hidden realities. The more distant history within this story I have researched as carefully as I would any academic text. The glimpses of religious and territorial conflict between an Islamic East and a Judeo-Christian West will be painfully familiar to a modern reader.

It would be difficult for me to adequately thank all those who have helped me with this project, but I would like to name at least a few. My profound gratitude goes to the following, among many others: Dr. Radu Georgescu of the University of Bucharest’s Archaeological Museum, Dr. Ivanka Lazarova of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Petar Stoichev of the University of Michigan, the tireless staff of the British Library, the librarians at the Rutherford Literary Museum and Library of Philadelphia, Father Vasil of Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos, and Dr. Turgut Bora of Istanbul University.

My great hope in making this story public is that it may find at least one reader who will understand it for what it actually is: a cri de coeur. To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history.

Oxford, England

January 15, 2008

Part One

How these papers have been placed in sequence will be made manifest in the reading of them. All needless matters have been eliminated, so that a history almost at variance with the possibilities of later-day belief may stand forth as simple fact. There is throughout no statement of past things wherein memory may err, for all the records chosen are exactly contemporary, given from the stand-points and within the range of knowledge of those who made them.

– Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897

Chapter 1

In 1972 I was sixteen-young, my father said, to be traveling with him on his diplomatic missions. He preferred to know that I was sitting attentively in class at the International School of Amsterdam; in those days his foundation was based in Amsterdam, and it had been my home for so long that I had nearly forgotten our early life in the United States. It seems peculiar to me now that I should have been so obedient well into my teens, while the rest of my generation was experimenting with drugs and protesting the imperialist war in Vietnam, but I had been raised in a world so sheltered that it makes my adult life in academia look positively adventurous. To begin with, I was motherless, and the care that my father took of me had been deepened by a double sense of responsibility, so that he protected me more completely than he might have otherwise. My mother had died when I was a baby, before my father founded the Center for Peace and Democracy. My father never spoke of her and turned quietly away if I asked questions; I understood very young that this was a topic too painful for him to discuss. Instead, he took excellent care of me himself and provided me with a series of governesses and housekeepers-money was not an object with him where my upbringing was concerned, although we lived simply enough from day to day.

The latest of these housekeepers was Mrs. Clay, who took care of our narrow seventeenth-century town house on the Raamgracht, a canal in the heart of the old city. Mrs. Clay let me in after school every day and was a surrogate parent when my father traveled, which was often. She was English, older than my mother would have been, skilled with a feather duster and clumsy with teenagers; sometimes, looking at her too-compassionate, long-toothed face over the dining table, I felt she must be thinking of my mother and I hated her for it. When my father was away, the handsome house echoed. No one could help me with my algebra, no one admired my new coat or told me to come here and give him a hug, or expressed shock over how tall I had grown. When my father returned from some name on the European map that hung on the wall in our dining room, he smelled like other times and places, spicy and tired. We took our vacations in Paris or Rome, diligently studying the landmarks my father thought I should see, but I longed for those other places he disappeared to, those strange old places I had never been.

While he was gone, I went back and forth to school, dropping my books on the polished hall table with a bang. Neither Mrs. Clay nor my father let me go out in the evenings, except to the occasional carefully approved movie with carefully approved friends, and-to my retrospective astonishment-I never flouted these rules. I preferred solitude anyway; it was the medium in which I had been raised, in which I swam comfortably. I excelled at my studies but not in my social life. Girls my age terrified me, especially the tough-talking, chain-smoking sophisticates of our diplomatic circle-around them I always felt that my dress was too long, or too short, or that I should have been wearing something else entirely. Boys mystified me, although I dreamed vaguely of men. In fact, I was happiest alone in my father’s library, a large, fine room on the first floor of our house.

My father’s library had probably once been a sitting room, but he sat down only to read, and he considered a large library more important than a large living room. He had long since given me free run of his collection. During his absences, I spent hours doing my homework at the mahogany desk or browsing the shelves that lined every wall. I understood later that my father had either half forgotten what was on one of the top shelves or-more likely-assumed I would never be able to reach it; late one night I took down not only a translation of theKama Sutra but also a much older volume and an envelope of yellowing papers.

I can’t say even now what made me pull them down. But the image I saw at the center of the book, the smell of age that rose from it, and my discovery that the papers were personal letters all caught my attention forcibly. I knew I shouldn’t examine my father’s private papers, or anyone’s, and I was also afraid that Mrs. Clay might suddenly come in to dust the dustless desk-that must have been what made me look over my shoulder at the door. But I couldn’t help reading the first paragraph of the topmost letter, holding it for a couple of minutes as I stood near the shelves.

December 12, 1930

Trinity College, Oxford

My dear and unfortunate successor:

It is with regret that I imagine you, whoever you are, reading the account I must put down here. The regret is partly for myself-because I will surely be at least in trouble, maybe dead, or perhaps worse, if this is in your hands. But my regret is also for you, my yet-unknown friend, because only by someone who needs such vile information will this letter someday be read. If you are not my successor in some other sense, you will soon be my heir-and I feel sorrow at bequeathing to another human being my own, perhaps unbelievable, experience of evil. Why I myself inherited it I don’t know, but I hope to discover that fact, eventually-perhaps in the course of writing to you or perhaps in the course of further events.

At this point, my sense of guilt-and something else, too-made me put the letter hastily back in its envelope, but I thought about it all that day and all the next. When my father returned from his latest trip, I looked for an opportunity to ask him about the letters and the strange book. I waited for him to be free, for us to be alone, but he was very busy in those days, and something about what I had found made me hesitate to approach him. Finally I asked him to take me on his next trip. It was the first time I had kept a secret from him and the first time I had ever insisted on anything.

Reluctantly, my father agreed. He talked with my teachers and with Mrs. Clay, and reminded me that there would be ample time for my homework while he was in meetings. I wasn’t surprised; for a diplomat’s child there was always waiting to be done. I packed my navy suitcase, taking my schoolbooks and too many pairs of clean kneesocks. Instead of leaving the house for school that morning, I departed with my father, walking silently and gladly beside him toward the station. A train carried us to Vienna; my father hated planes, which he said took the travel out of traveling. There we spent one short night in a hotel. Another train took us through the Alps, past all the white-and-blue heights of our map at home. Outside a dusty yellow station, my father started up our rented car, and I held my breath until we turned in at the gates of a city he had described to me so many times that I could already see it in my dreams.

Autumn comes early to the foot of the Slovenian Alps. Even before September, the abundant harvests are followed by a sudden, poignant rain that lasts for days and brings down leaves in the lanes of the villages. Now, in my fifties, I find myself wandering that direction every few years, reliving my first glimpse of the Slovenian countryside. This is old country. Every autumn mellows it a little more,in aeternum, each beginning with the same three colors: a green landscape, two or three yellow leaves falling through a gray afternoon. I suppose the Romans-who left their walls here and their gargantuan arenas to the west, on the coast-saw the same autumn and gave the same shiver. When my father’s car swung through the gates of the oldest of Julian cities, I hugged myself. For the first time, I had been struck by the excitement of the traveler who looks history in her subtle face.

Because this city is where my story starts, I’ll call it Emona, its Roman name, to shield it a little from the sort of tourist who follows doom around with a guidebook. Emona was built on Bronze Age pilings along a river now lined with art-nouveau architecture. During the next day or two, we would walk past the mayor’s mansion, past seventeenth-century town houses trimmed with silver fleurs-de-lis, past the solid golden back of a great market building, its steps leading down to the surface of the water from heavily barred old doors. For centuries, river cargo had been hoisted up at that place to feed the town. And where primitive huts had once proliferated on the shore, sycamores-the European plane tree-now grew to an immense girth above the river walls and dropped curls of bark into the current.

Near the market, the city’s main square spread out under the heavy sky. Emona, like her sisters to the south, showed flourishes of a chameleon past: Viennese Deco along the skyline, great red churches from the Renaissance of its Slavic-speaking Catholics, hunched brown medieval chapels with the British Isles in their features. (Saint Patrick sent missionaries to this region, bringing the new creed full circle, back to its Mediterranean origins, so that the city claims one of the oldest Christian histories in Europe.) Here and there an Ottoman element flared in doorways or in a pointed window frame. Next to the market grounds, one little Austrian church sounded its bells for the evening mass. Men and women in blue cotton work coats were moving toward home at the end of the socialist workday, holding umbrellas over their packages. As my father and I drove into the heart of Emona, we crossed the river on a fine old bridge, guarded at each end by green-skinned bronze dragons.

“There’s the castle,” my father said, slowing at the edge of the square and pointing up through a wash of rain. “I know you’ll want to see that.”

I did want to. I stretched and craned until I caught sight of the castle through sodden tree branches-moth-eaten brown towers on a steep hill at the town’s center.

“Fourteenth century,” my father mused. “Or thirteenth? I’m not good with these medieval ruins, not down to the exact century. But we’ll look in the guidebook.”

“Can we walk up there and explore it?”

“We can find out about it after my meetings tomorrow. Those towers don’t look as if they’d hold a bird up safely, but you never know.”

He pulled the car into a parking space near the town hall and helped me out of the passenger side, gallantly, his hand bony in its leather glove. “It’s a little early to check in at the hotel. Would you like some hot tea? Or we could get a snack at thatgastronomia. It’s raining harder,” he added doubtfully, looking at my wool jacket and skirt. I quickly got out the hooded waterproof cape he’d brought me from England the year before. The train trip from Vienna had taken nearly a day and I was hungry again, in spite of our lunch in the dining car.

But it was not thegastronomia, with its red and blue interior lights gleaming through one dingy window, its waitresses in their navy platform sandals-doubtless-and its sullen picture of Comrade Tito, that snared us. As we picked our way through the wet crowd, my father suddenly darted forward. “Here!” I followed at a run, my hood flapping, almost blinding me. He had found the entrance to an art-nouveau teahouse, a great scrolled window with storks wading across it, bronze doors in the form of a hundred water-lily stems. The doors closed heavily behind us and the rain faded to a mist, mere steam on the windows, seen through those silver birds as a blur of water. “Amazing this survived the last thirty years.” My father was peeling off his London Fog. “Socialism’s not always so kind to its treasures.”

At a table near the window we drank tea with lemon, scalding through the thick cups, and ate our way through sardines on buttered white bread and even a few slices oftorta. “We’d better stop there,” my father said. I had lately come to dislike the way he blew on his tea over and over to cool it, and to dread the inevitable moment when he said we should stop eating, stop doing whatever was enjoyable, save room for dinner. Looking at him in his neat tweed jacket and turtleneck, I felt he had denied himself every adventure in life except diplomacy, which consumed him. He would have been happier living a little, I thought; with him, everything was so serious.

But I was silent, because I knew he hated my criticism, and I had something to ask. I had to let him finish his tea first, so I leaned back in my chair, just far enough so that my father couldn’t tell me to please not slump. Through the silver-mottled window I could see a wet city, gloomy in the deepening afternoon, and people passing in a rush through horizontal rain. The teahouse, which should have been filled with ladies in long straight gowns of ivory gauze, or gentlemen in pointed beards and velvet coat collars, was empty.

“I hadn’t realized how much the driving had worn me out.” My father set his cup down and pointed to the castle, just visible through the rain. “That’s the direction we came from, the other side of that hill. We’ll be able to see the Alps from the top.”

I remembered the white-shouldered mountains and felt they breathed over this town. We were alone together on their far side, now. I hesitated, took a breath. “Would you tell me a story?” Stories were one of the comforts my father had always offered his motherless child; some of them he drew from his own pleasant childhood in Boston, and some from his more exotic travels. Some he invented for me on the spot, but I’d recently grown tired of those, finding them less astonishing than I’d once thought.

“A story about the Alps?”

“No.” I felt an inexplicable surge of fear. “I found something I wanted to ask you about.”

He turned and looked mildly at me, graying eyebrows raised above his gray eyes.

“It was in your library,” I said. “I’m sorry-I was poking around and I found some papers and a book. I didn’t look-much-at the papers. I thought -”

“A book?” Still he was mild, checking his cup for a last drop of tea, only half listening.

“They looked-the book was very old, with a dragon printed in the middle.”

He sat forward, sat very still, then shivered visibly. This strange gesture alerted me at once. If a story came, it wouldn’t be like any story he’d ever told me. He glanced at me, under his eyebrows, and I was surprised to see how drawn and sad he looked.

“Are you angry?” I was looking into my cup now, too.

“No, darling.” He sighed deeply, a sound almost grief stricken. The small blond waitress refilled our cups and left us alone again, and still he had a hard time getting started.

Chapter 2

You already know, my father said, that before you were born I was a professor at an American university. Before that, I studied for many years to become a professor. At first I thought I would study literature. Then, however, I realized I loved true stories even better than imaginary ones. All the literary stories I read led me into some kind of-exploration-of history. So finally I gave myself up to it. And I’m very pleased that history interests you, too.

One spring night when I was still a graduate student, I was in my carrel at the university library, sitting alone very late among rows and rows of books. Looking up from my work, I suddenly realized that someone had left a book whose spine I had never seen before among my own textbooks, which sat on a shelf above my desk. The spine of this new book showed an elegant little dragon, green on pale leather.

I didn’t remember ever having seen the book there or anywhere else, so I took it down and looked through it without really thinking. The binding was soft, faded leather, and the pages inside appeared to be quite old. It opened easily to the very center. Across those two pages I saw a great woodcut of a dragon with spread wings and a long looped tail, a beast unfurled and raging, claws outstretched. In the dragon’s claws hung a banner on which ran a single word in Gothic lettering:DRAKULYA.

I recognized the word at once and thought of Bram Stoker’s novel, which I hadn’t yet read, and of those childhood nights at the movie theater in my neighborhood, Bela Lugosi hovering over some starlet’s white neck. But the spelling of the word was odd and the book clearly very old. Besides, I was a scholar and deeply interested in European history, and after staring at it for a few seconds, I remembered something I’d read. The name actually came from the Latin root fordragon ordevil, the honorary title of Vlad Tepes-the “Impaler”-of Wallachia, a feudal lord in the Carpathians who tormented his subjects and prisoners of war in unbelievably cruel ways. I was studying trade in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, so I didn’t see any reason for a book on this subject to be tucked in among mine, and I decided it must have been left there accidentally, perhaps by someone who was working on the history of Central Europe, or on feudal symbols.

I flipped through the rest of the pages-when you handle books all day long, every new one is a friend and a temptation. To my further surprise, the rest of it-all those fine old ivory-colored leaves-was completely blank. There wasn’t even a title page, and certainly no information about where or when the book had been printed, no maps or endpapers or other illustrations. It showed no imprint of the university library, no card or stamp or label.

After gazing at the book for a few more minutes, I set it on my desk and went down to the card catalog on the first floor. There was indeed a subject card for “Vlad III (‘Tepes’) of Wallachia, 1431- 1476-See also Wallachia, Transylvania, and Dracula.” I thought I should check a map first; I quickly discovered that Wallachia and Transylvania were two ancient regions in what was now Romania. Transylvania looked more mountainous, with Wallachia bordering it on the southwest. In the stacks I found what seemed to be the library’s only primary source on the subject, a strange little English translation from the 1890s of some pamphlets about “Drakula.” The original pamphlets had been printed in Nuremberg in the 1470s and ‘80s. The mention of Nuremberg gave me a chill; only a few years earlier, I had followed closely the trials there of Nazi leaders. I’d been too young by one year to serve in the war before it ended, and I had studied its aftermath with all the fervor of the excluded. The volume of pamphlets had a frontispiece, a crude woodcut of a man’s head and shoulders, a bullnecked man with hooded dark eyes, a long mustache, and a hat with a feather in it. The image was surprisingly lively, given the primitive medium.

I knew I should be getting on with my work, but I couldn’t help reading the beginning of one of the pamphlets. It was a list of some of Dracula’s crimes against his own people, and against some other groups, too. I could repeat what it said, from memory, but I think I won’t-it was extremely disturbing. I shut the little volume with a snap and went back to my carrel. The seventeenth century consumed my attention until nearly midnight. I left the strange book lying closed on my desk, hoping its owner would find it there the next day, and then I went home to bed.

In the morning I had to attend a lecture. I was tired from my long night, but after class I drank two cups of coffee and went back up to my research. The antique book was still there, lying open now to that great swirling dragon. After my short sleep and jarring lunch of coffee, it gave me a turn, as old novels used to say. I looked at the book again, more carefully. The central image was clearly a woodcut, perhaps a medieval design, a fine sample of bookmaking. I thought it might be valuable in a cold-cash way, and maybe also of personal value to some scholar, since it obviously wasn’t a library book.

But in that mood I didn’t like the look of it. I shut the book a little impatiently and sat down to write about merchants’ guilds until late afternoon. On my way out of the library, I stopped at the front desk and handed the volume to one of the librarians, who promised to put it in the lost-and-found cabinet.

The next morning at eight o’clock, when I hauled myself up to my carrel to work on my chapter some more, the book was on my desk again, open to its single, cruel illustration. I felt some annoyance-probably the librarian had misunderstood me. I put the thing quickly away on my shelves and came and went all day without letting myself look at it again. In the late afternoon I had a meeting with my adviser, and as I swept up my papers, I pulled out the strange book and added it to the pile. This was an impulse; I didn’t intend to keep it, but Professor Rossi enjoyed historical mysteries, and I thought it might entertain him. He might be able to identify it, too, with his vast knowledge of European history.

I had the habit of meeting Rossi as he finished his afternoon lecture, and I liked to sneak into the hall before it ended, to watch him in action. This semester he was giving a course on the ancient Mediterranean, and I had caught the end of several lectures, each brilliant and dramatic, each imbued with his great gift for oratory. Now I crept to a seat at the back in time to hear him concluding a discussion of Sir Arthur Evans’s restoration of the Minoan palace in Crete. The hall was dim, a vast Gothic auditorium that held five hundred undergraduates. The hush, too, would have suited a cathedral. Not a soul stirred; all eyes were fixed on the trim figure at the front.

Rossi was alone on a lit stage. Sometimes he wandered back and forth, exploring ideas aloud as if ruminating to himself in the privacy of his study. Sometimes he stopped suddenly, fixing his students with an intense stare, an eloquent gesture, an astonishing declaration. He ignored the podium, scorned microphones, and never used notes, although occasionally he showed slides, rapping the huge screen with a pole to make his point. Sometimes he got so excited that he raised both arms and ran partway across the stage. There was a legend that he’d once fallen off the front in his rapture over the flowering of Greek democracy and had scrambled up again without missing a beat of his lecture. I’d never dared to ask him if this was true.

Today he was in a pensive mood, pacing up and down with his hands behind his back. “Sir Arthur Evans, please remember, restored the palace of King Minos at Knossos partly according to what he found there and partly according to his own imagination, his vision of what Minoan civilization had been.” He gazed into the vault above us. “The records were sparse and he was dealing mainly with mysteries. Instead of adhering to limited accuracy, he used his imagination to create a palace style breathtakingly whole-and flawed. Was he wrong to do this?”

Here he paused, looking almost wistfully out over the sea of tousled heads, cowlicks, buzz cuts, the purposely shabby blazers and earnest young male faces (remember, this was an era when only boys attended such a university as undergraduates, although you, dear daughter, will probably be able to enroll wherever you want to). Five hundred pairs of eyes gazed back at him. “I shall leave you to ponder that question.” Rossi smiled, turned abruptly, and left the limelight.

There was an intake of breath; the students began to talk and laugh, to collect their belongings. Rossi usually went to sit on the edge of the stage after the lecture, and some of his more avid disciples hurried forward to ask him questions. These he answered with seriousness and good humor until the last student had trailed away, and then I went over to greet him.

“Paul, my friend! Let’s go put our feet up and speak Dutch.” He clapped me affectionately on the shoulder and we walked out together.

Rossi’s office always amused me because it defied the convention of the mad professorial study: books sat neatly on the shelves, a very modern little coffee burner by the window fed his habit, plants that never lacked water adorned his desk, and he himself was always trimly dressed in tweed trousers and an immaculate shirt and tie. His face was of a crisp English mold, sharp-featured and intensely blue-eyed; he’d told me once that from his father, a Tuscan immigrant to Sussex, he’d acquired only a love of good food. To look into Rossi’s face was to see a world as definite and orderly as the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.

His mind was another thing altogether. Even after forty years of strict self-apprenticeship, it boiled over with remnants of the past, simmered with the unsolved. His encyclopedic production had long since won him accolades in a publishing world much wider than the academic press. As soon as he finished one work, he turned to another, often an abrupt change of direction. As a result, students from a myriad of disciplines sought him out, and I was considered lucky to have acquired his advisership. He was also the kindest, warmest friend I’d ever had.

“Well,” he said, turning on his coffeepot and waving me to a chair. “How’s the opus coming along?”

I filled him in on several weeks’ work, and we had a short argument about trade between Utrecht and Amsterdam in the early seventeenth century. He served up his fine coffee in porcelain cups and we both stretched back, he behind the big desk. The room was permeated with the pleasant gloom that still came in at that hour, later each evening now that spring was deepening. Then I remembered my antique offering. “I’ve brought you a curiosity, Ross. Someone’s left a rather morbid object in my carrel by mistake and after two days I didn’t mind borrowing it for you to take a look at.”

“Hand it over.” He set down the delicate cup and reached out to take my book. “Good binding. This leather might even be some kind of heavy vellum. And an embossed spine.” Something about the spine of the book brought a frown to his usually clear face.

“Open it,” I suggested. I couldn’t understand the flickering throb my heart gave as I waited for him to repeat my own experience with the nearly blank book. It opened under his practiced hands to its exact center. I couldn’t see what he saw, behind his desk, but I saw him see it. His face was suddenly grave-a still face, and not one I knew. He turned through the other leaves, front and back, as I had, but the gravity didn’t become surprise. “Yes, empty.” He laid it open on his desk. “All blank.”

“Isn’t it an odd thing?” My coffee was growing cold in my hand.

“And quite old. But not blank because it is unfinished. Just terribly blank, to make the ornament in the center stand out.”

“Yes. Yes, it’s as if the creature in the middle has eaten up everything else around it.” I’d begun flippantly, but I finished slowly.

Rossi seemed unable to drag his eyes from that central image spread before him. At last he shut the book firmly and stirred his coffee without sipping it. “Where did you get this?”

“Well, as I said, someone left it in my carrel by accident, two days ago. I guess I should have taken it to Rare Books immediately, but I honestly think it’s someone’s personal possession, so I didn’t.”

“Oh, it is,” Rossi said, looking narrowly at me. “It is someone’s personal possession.”

“So you know whose?”

“Yes. It’s yours.”

“No, I mean that I simply found it in my -” The expression on his face stopped me. He looked ten years older, by some trick of the light from the dusky window. “What do you mean, it’s mine?”

Rossi rose slowly and went to a corner of his study behind the desk, climbing two steps of the library stool to bring down a little dark volume. He stood looking at it for a minute, as if unwilling to put it in my hands. Then he passed it across. “What do you think of this?”

The book was small, covered in ancient-looking brown velvet like an old prayer missal or Book of Days, with nothing on the spine or front to give it an identity. It had a bronze-colored clasp that slipped apart with a little pressure. The book itself fell open to the middle. There, spread across the center, was my-I saymy -dragon, this time overflowing the edges of the pages, claws outstretched, savage beak open to show its fangs, with the same bannered word in the same Gothic script.

“Of course,” Rossi was saying, “I’ve had time, and I’ve had this identified. It’s a Central European design, printed about 1512-so you see it could very well have been set with movable-type text throughout, if there had been any text.”

I flipped slowly through the delicate leaves. No titles on the first pages-no, I knew it already. “What a strange coincidence.”

“It’s been stained by salt water on the back, perhaps from a trip on the Black Sea. Not even the Smithsonian could tell me what it’s seen in the course of its travels. You see, I actually took the trouble of getting a chemical analysis. It cost me three hundred dollars to learn that this thing sat in an environment heavily laden with stone dust at some point, probably prior to 1700. I also went all the way to Istanbul to try to learn more about its origins. But the strangest thing is the way I acquired this book.” He stretched out a hand and I gladly gave the volume back, old and fragile as it was.

“Did you buy it somewhere?”

“I found it in my desk when I was a graduate student.”

A shiver went over me. “Your desk?”

“My library carrel. We had them, too. The custom goes back to seventh-century monasteries, you know.”

“Where did you-where did it come from? A gift?”

“Maybe.” Rossi smiled strangely. He seemed to be controlling some difficult emotion. “Like another cup?”

“I will, after all,” I said, dry throated.

“My efforts to find its owner failed, and the library couldn’t identify it. Even the British Museum Library had never seen it before and offered me a considerable sum for it.”

“But you didn’t want to sell.”

“No. I like a puzzle, as you know. So does every scholar worth his salt. It’s the reward of the business, to look history in the eye and say, ‘I know who you are. You can’t fool me.’”

“So what is it? Do you think this larger copy was made by the same printer at the same time?”

His fingers drummed the windowsill. “I haven’t thought much about it in years, actually, or I’ve tried not to, although I always sort of-feel it, there, over my shoulder.” He gestured up toward the dark crevice among the book’s fellows. “That top shelf is my row of failures. And things I’d rather not think about.”

“Well, maybe now that I’ve turned up a mate for it, you can fit the pieces in place better. They can’t be unrelated.”

“They can’t be unrelated.” It was a hollow echo, even if it came through the swish of fresh coffee.

Impatience, and a slightly fevered feeling I often had in those days from lack of sleep and mental overexertion, made me hurry him on. “And your research? Not just the chemical analysis. You said you tried to learn more -?”

“I tried to learn more.” He sat down again and spread small, practical-looking hands on either side of his coffee cup. “I’m afraid I owe you more than a story,” he said quietly. “Maybe I owe you a sort of apology-you’ll see why-although I would never consciously wish such a legacy on any student of mine. Not on most of my students, anyway.” He smiled, affectionately, but sadly, I thought. “You’ve heard of Vlad Tepes-the Impaler?”

“Yes, Dracula. A feudal lord in the Carpathians, otherwise known as Bela Lugosi.”

“That’s the one-or one of them. They were an ancient family before their most unpleasant member came to power. Did you look him up on your way out of the library? Yes? A bad sign. When my book appeared so oddly, I looked up the word itself, that afternoon-the name, as well asTransylvania, Wallachia, and theCarpathians. Instant obsession.”

I wondered if this might be a veiled compliment-Rossi liked his students working at a high pitch-but I let it pass, afraid to interrupt his story with extraneous comment.

“So, the Carpathians. That’s always been a mystical spot for historians. One of Occam’s students traveled there-by donkey, I suppose-and produced out of his experiences a funny little thing calledPhilosophie of the Aweful. Of course, the basic story of Dracula has been hashed over many times and doesn’t yield much to exploration. There’s the Wallachian prince, a fifteenth-century ruler, hated by the Ottoman Empire and his own people-both. Really among the nastiest of all medieval European tyrants. It’s estimated that he slaughtered at least twenty thousand of his fellow Wallachians and Transylvanians over the years.Dracula meansson of Dracul -son of the dragon, more or less. His father had been inducted into the Order of the Dragon by Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund-it was an organization for the defense of the Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Actually, there is evidence that Dracula’s father gave Dracula over to the Turks when he was a boy as hostage in a political bargain, and that Dracula acquired some of his taste for cruelty from observing Ottoman torture methods.”

Rossi shook his head. “Anyway, Vlad’s killed in a battle against the Turks, or perhaps just by accident by his own soldiers, and buried in a monastery on an island in Lake Snagov, now in the possession of our friend socialist Romania. His memory becomes legend, passed down through generations of superstitious peasants. At the end of the nineteenth century, a disturbed and melodramatic author-Abraham Stoker-gets hold of the nameDracula and fastens it on a creature of his own invention, a vampire. Vlad Tepes was horrifyingly cruel, but he wasn’t a vampire, of course. And you won’t find any mention of Vlad in Stoker’s book, although his version of Dracula talks about his family’s great past as Turk-fighters.” Rossi sighed. “Stoker assembled some useful lore about vampire legends-about Transylvania, too, without ever going there-actually, Vlad Dracula ruled Wallachia, which borders Transylvania. In the twentieth century, Hollywood takes over and the myth lives on, resurrected. That’s where my flippancy stops, by the way.”

Rossi set his cup aside and folded his hands together. For a moment, he seemed unable to continue. “I can joke about the legend, which has been monstrously commercialized, but not about what my research turned up. In fact, I felt unable to publish it, partly because of the presence of that legend. I thought the very subject matter wouldn’t be taken seriously. But there was another reason, too.”

This brought me to a mental standstill. Rossi left no stone unpublished; it was part of his productivity, his lavish genius. He sternly instructed his students to do the same, to waste nothing.

“What I found in Istanbul was too serious not to be taken seriously. Perhaps I was wrong in my decision to keep this information-as I can honestly call it-to myself, but each of us has his own superstitions. Mine happen to be an historian’s. I was afraid.”

I stared and he gave a sigh, as if reluctant to go on. “You see, Vlad Dracula had always been studied in the great archives of Central and Eastern Europe or, ultimately, in his home region. But he began his career as a Turk-killer, and I discovered that no one had ever looked in the Ottoman world for material on the Dracula legend. That was what took me to Istanbul, a secret detour from my research on the early Greek economies. Oh, I published all the Greek stuff, with a vengeance.”

For a moment he was silent, turning his gaze toward the window. “And I suppose I should just tell you, straight out, what I discovered in the Istanbul collection and tried not to think about afterward. After all, you’ve inherited one of these nice books.” He put his hand gravely on the stack of two. “If I don’t tell you all this myself, you will probably simply retrace my steps, maybe at some added risk.” He smiled a little grimly at the top of the desk. “I could save you a great deal of grant writing, anyway.”

I couldn’t bring the dry chuckle out of my throat. What on earth was he driving at? It occurred to me that perhaps I’d underestimated some peculiar sense of humor in my mentor. Maybe this was an elaborate practical joke-he’d had two versions of the menacing old book in his library and had planted one in my stall, knowing I’d bring it to him, and I’d obliged, like a fool. But in the ordinary lamplight from his desk he was suddenly gray, unshaven at the end of the day, with dark hollows draining the color and humor from his eyes. I leaned forward. “What are you trying to tell me?”

“Dracula -” He paused. “Dracula-Vlad Tepes-is still alive.”

“Good Lord,” my father said suddenly, looking at his watch. “Why didn’t you tell me? It’s almost seven o’clock.”

I put my cold hands inside my navy jacket. “I didn’t know,” I said. “But please don’t stop the story. Please don’t stop there.” My father’s face looked momentarily unreal to me; I’d never before considered the possibility that he might be-I didn’t know what to call it. Mentally unbalanced? Had he lost his balance for a few minutes, in the telling of this story?

“It’s late for such a long tale.” My father picked up his teacup and put it down again. I noticed that his hands were shaking.

“Please go on,” I said.

He was ignoring me. “Anyway, I don’t know whether I’ve scared you or simply bored you. You probably wanted a good straightforward tale of dragons.”

“There was a dragon,” I said. I wanted, too, to believe he had made the story up. “Two dragons. Will you at least tell me more tomorrow?”

My father rubbed his arms, as if to warm himself, and I saw that for now he was fiercely unwilling to talk about it further. His face was dark, closed. “Let’s go get some dinner. We can leave our luggage at Hotel Turist first.”

“All right,” I said.

“They’re going to throw us out in a minute, anyway, if we don’t leave.” I could see the light-haired waitress leaning against the bar; she didn’t seem to care whether we stayed or went. My father got out his wallet, smoothed flat some of those big faded bills, always with a miner or farmworker smiling heroically off the back, and put them in the pewter tray. We worked our way around wrought-iron chairs and tables and went out the steamy door.

Night had come down hard-a cold, foggy, wet, East European night, and the street was almost deserted. “Keep your hat on,” my father said, as he always did. Before we stepped out under the rain-washed sycamores, he suddenly stopped, held me back behind his outstretched hand, protectively, as if a car had gone rushing past us. But there was no car, and the street dripped quiet and rustic under its yellow lights. My father looked sharply left and right. I thought I saw no one, although my long-eaved hood partly blocked my sight. He stood listening, his face averted, body stock-still.

Then he let his breath out heavily and we walked on, talking about what to order for dinner at the Turist when we got there.

There would be no more discussions of Dracula on that journey. I was soon to learn the pattern of my father’s fear: he could tell me this story only in short bursts, reeling it out not for dramatic effect but to preserve something-his strength? His sanity?

Chapter 3

At home in Amsterdam, my father was unusually silent and busy, and I waited uneasily for opportunities to ask him about Professor Rossi. Mrs. Clay ate dinner with us every night in the dark-paneled dining room, serving us from the sideboard but otherwise joining in as a member of the family, and I felt instinctively that my father would not want to tell more of his story in her presence. If I sought him in his library, he asked me quickly about my day or wanted to see my homework. I checked his library shelves in secret soon after our return from Emona, but the book and papers had already vanished from their high place; I had no idea where he’d put them. If it was Mrs. Clay’s night out, he suggested that we go to a movie ourselves, or he took me for coffee and pastries at the noisy shop across the canal. I might have said he was avoiding me, except that sometimes when I sat near him, reading, watching for an opening to ask questions, he would reach out and stroke my hair with an abstracted sadness in his face. At those moments, I was the one who could not bring up the story.

When my father went south again, he took me with him. He would have only one meeting, and an informal one at that, almost not worth the long trip, but he wanted me to see the scenery, he said. This time we rode the train far beyond Emona and then settled for taking a bus to our destination. My father preferred local transportation whenever he could use it. Now, when I travel, I often think of him and bypass the rental car for the metro. “You’ll see- Ragusa is no place for cars,” he said as we clung to the metal bar behind the bus driver’s seat. “Always sit up front and you’re less likely to be sick.” I squeezed the bar until my knuckles were white; we seemed to be airborne among the towering piles of pale-gray rock that served as mountains in this new region. “Good God,” my father said after one horrible leap across a hairpin turn. The other passengers looked completely at ease. Across the aisle an old woman in black sat crocheting, her face framed by the fringe of her shawl, which danced as the bus jolted. “Watch carefully,” my father said. “You’re going to see one of the greatest sights of this coast.”

I gazed diligently out the window, wishing he didn’t find it necessary to give me so many instructions, but taking in everything I could of the rock-piled mountains and the stone villages that crowned them. Just before sunset I was rewarded by the sight of a woman standing at the edge of the road, perhaps waiting for a bus going in the opposite direction. She was tall, dressed in long, heavy skirts and a tight vest, her head crowned by a fabulous headdress like an organdy butterfly. She stood alone among the rocks, touched by late sun, a basket on the ground beside her. I would have thought she was a statue, except that she turned her magnificent head as we passed. Her face was a pale oval, too far away for me to see any expression. When I described her to my father, he said she must have been wearing the native dress of this part of Dalmatia. “A big bonnet, with wings on each side? I’ve seen pictures of that. You could say she’s a sort of ghost-she probably lives in a very small village. I suppose most of the young people here wear blue jeans now.”

I kept my face glued to the window. No more ghosts appeared, but I didn’t miss a single view of the miracle that did: Ragusa, far below us, an ivory city with a molten, sunlit sea breaking around its walls, roofs redder than the evening sky inside their tremendous medieval enclosure. The city sat on a large round peninsula, and its walls looked impenetrable to sea storm and invasion, a giant wading off the Adriatic coast. At the same time, seen from the great height of the road, it had a miniature appearance, like something carved by hand and set down out of scale at the base of the mountains.

Ragusa’s main street, when we reached it a couple of hours later, was marble underfoot, highly polished by centuries of shoe soles and reflecting splashes of light from the surrounding shops and palaces so that it gleamed like the surface of a great canal. At the harbor end of the street, safe in the city’s old heart, we collapsed on café chairs, and I turned my face straight into the wind, which smelled of crashing surf and-strange to me in that late season-of ripe oranges. The sea and sky were almost dark. Fishing boats danced on a sheet of wilder water at the far reaches of the harbor; the wind brought me sea sounds, sea scents, and a new mildness. “Yes, the South,” my father said with satisfaction, pulling up a glass of whiskey and a plate of sardines on toast. “Say you put your boat in right here and had a clear night to travel. You could steer by the stars from here directly to Venice, or to the Albanian coast, or into the Aegean.”

“How long would it take to sail to Venice?” I stirred my tea, and the breeze pulled the steam out to sea.

“Oh, a week or more, I suppose, in a medieval ship.” He smiled at me, relaxed for the moment. “Marco Polo was born on this coast, and the Venetians invaded frequently. We’re actually sitting in a kind of gateway to the world, you could say.”

“When did you come here before?” I was only beginning to believe in my father’s previous life, his existence before me.

“I’ve been here several times. Maybe four or five. The first was years ago, when I was still a student. My adviser recommended I visit Ragusa from Italy, just to see this wonder, while I was studying-I told you I studied Italian in Florence one summer.”

“You mean Professor Rossi.”

“Yes.” My father looked sharply at me, then into his whiskey.

There was a little silence, filled by the café awning, which flapped above us on that unseasonably warm breeze. From inside the bar and restaurant came a blur of tourists’ voices, clinking china, saxophone and piano. From beyond came the slop of boats in the dark harbor. At last my father spoke. “I should tell you a little more about him.” He didn’t look at me, still, but I thought his voice had a fine crack in it.

“I’d like that,” I said cautiously.

He sipped his whiskey. “You’re stubborn about stories, aren’t you?”

You are the stubborn one, I longed to say, but I held my tongue; I wanted the story more than I did the quarrel.

My father sighed. “All right. I’ll tell you more about him tomorrow, in the daylight, when I’m not so tired and we have a little time to walk the walls.” He pointed with his glass to those gray-white, luminous battlements above the hotel. “That’ll be a better time for stories. Especially that story.”

By midmorning we were seated a hundred feet above the surf, which crashed and foamed white around the city’s giant roots. The November sky was brilliant as a summer day. My father put on his sunglasses, checked his watch, folded away the brochure about the rusty-roofed architecture below, let a group of German tourists drift past us out of earshot. I looked out to sea, beyond a forested island, to the fading blue horizon. From that direction the Venetian ships had come, bringing war or trade, their red and gold banners restless under the same glittering arc of sky. Waiting for my father to speak, I felt a stirring of apprehension far from scholarly. Perhaps those ships I imagined on the horizon were not simply part of a colorful pageant. Why was it so difficult for my father to begin?

Chapter 4

As I’ve told you, my father said, clearing his throat once or twice, Professor Rossi was a fine scholar and a true friend. I wouldn’t want you to think anything different of him. I know that what I made the mistake, perhaps, of telling you earlier makes him sound-crazy. You remember that he’d described to me something terribly difficult to believe. And I was deeply shocked, and filled with doubt about him, although I saw sincerity and acceptance in his face. When he finished speaking he glanced at me with those keen eyes.

“What on earth do you mean?” I must have been stammering.

“I repeat,” Rossi said emphatically, “I discovered in Istanbul that Dracula lives among us today. Or did then, at least.”

I stared at him.

“I know you must think I’m insane,” he said, relenting visibly. “And I grant you that anyone who pokes around in history long enough may well go mad.” He sighed. “In Istanbul there is a little-known repository of materials, founded by Sultan Mehmed II, who took the city from the Byzantines in 1453. This archive is mostly odds and ends collected later by the Turks as they were gradually beaten back from the edges of their empire. But it also contains documents from the late fifteenth century, and among them I found some maps that purported to give directions to the Unholy Tomb of a Turk-slayer, who I thought might be Vlad Dracula. There were three maps, actually, graduated in scale to show the same region in greater and greater detail. There was nothing on these maps that I recognized or could tie to any area I knew of. They were labeled mainly in Arabic, and they dated from the late fifteenth century, according to the archive’s librarians.” He tapped the strange little volume that I told you resembled my own find so closely. “The information in the center of the third map was in a very old Slavic dialect. Only a scholar with multiple linguistic resources at his command could have made head or tail of them. I did my best, but it was uncertain work.”

At this point, Rossi shook his head, as if still regretting his limits. “The effort I poured into this discovery drew me unreasonably far from my official summer research on the ancient trade of Crete. But I was beyond the reach of reason, I think, sitting in that hot, sticky library in Istanbul. I remember I could see the minarets of the Hagia Sophia through the grimy windows. I worked there, with those clues to the Turkish view of Vlad’s kingdom resting on the desk in front of me, toiling over my dictionaries, taking copious notes, and copying the maps by hand.

“To make a long research story short, there came an afternoon when I found myself closing in on the carefully marked spot of the Unholy Tomb, on the third and most puzzling map. You remember that Vlad Tepes is supposed to have been buried at the island monastery on Lake Snagov, in Romania. This map, like the others, didn’t show any lake with an island in it-although it did show a river running through the area, widening in the middle. I had translated everything around the borders already, with the help of a professor of Arabic and Ottoman language at Istanbul University -cryptic proverbs about the nature of evil, many of them from the Qur’an. Here and there on the map, nestled among roughly sketched mountains, was some writing that at first glance appeared to be place-names in a Slavic dialect but that translated as riddles, probably a code for real locations: the Valley of Eight Oaks, Pig-Stealing Village, and so forth-strange peasant names that meant nothing to me.

“Well, in the center of the map, above the site of the Unholy Tomb, wherever it was supposed to be located, was a rough sketch of a dragon, wearing a castle as a sort of crown on its head. The dragon looked nothing like the one in my-our-old books, but I conjectured it must have come down to the Turks with the legend of Dracula. Below the dragon someone had inked tiny words, which I thought at first were Arabic, like the proverbs in the map’s borders. Looking at them through a magnifying glass, I suddenly realized that these markings were actually Greek, and I translated aloud before I had thought about courtesy-although of course the library room was empty except for myself and occasionally a bored librarian who came in and out, apparently to make sure I didn’t steal anything. At this moment I was completely alone. The infinitesimal letters danced under my eyes as I sounded them out: ‘In this spot, he is housed in evil. Reader, unbury him with a word.’

“At that moment, I heard a door slam in the downstairs foyer. Heavy footsteps came up the stairwell. I was still occupied with a flash of thought, however: the magnifying glass had just told me that this map, unlike the first two more general ones, had been labeled by three different people, in their three different languages. The handwritings as well as the languages were dissimilar. So were the colors of the old, old inks. Then I had a sudden vision-you know, that intuition that a scholar can almost trust when it’s backed by weeks of careful work.

“It seemed to me that the map had originally consisted of this central sketch, and the mountains that surrounded it, with the Greek command in the center. It had probably only later been labeled in that Slavic dialect to identify the places it referred to-in code, at least. Then it had somehow fallen into Ottoman hands and been surrounded by Qur’anic material, which appeared to house or imprison that ominous message at the center, or to encircle it with talismans against the dark. If this were true, who, knowing Greek, had marked the map first, perhaps even drawn it? I knew that Greek was used by Byzantine scholars of Dracula’s time, not by most scholars in the Ottoman world.

“Before I could write down even a note on this theory, which might involve tests beyond my own powers, the door on the other side of the stacks flew open, and a tall, well-built man came in, hurrying wildly past the books and stopping on the other side of the table where I worked. He had the air of a conscious intruder, and I felt sure he wasn’t one of the librarians. I also felt for some reason that I should rise to my feet, but out of a certain pride I couldn’t bring myself to; it might have seemed deferential, when the interruption had been sudden and rather rude.

“We looked each other in the face, and I was more startled than ever. The man was distinctly out of place in that esoteric setting, handsome and well-groomed in a swarthy Turkish or South Slavic way, with a drooping, heavy mustache and tailored dark clothes like a Western businessman’s. His eyes met mine belligerently, and their long lashes looked somehow disgusting in that stern face. His skin was sallow but beautifully unblemished, and his lips very red. ‘Sir,’ he said in a low, hostile voice, almost a growl of Turk-accented English. ‘I do not think you have proper permissions for this.’

“‘For what?’ My academic hackles rose at once.

“‘For this work of research. You are involved in material the Turkish government considers private Turkish archive. May I see your papers, please?’

“‘Who are you?’ I asked with equal coolness. ‘May I see yours?’

“He pulled a wallet out of his interior jacket pocket, slapped it open on the table in front of me, and snapped it shut again. I had just time to see an ivory card with a jumble of Turkish titles on it. The man’s hand was unpleasantly waxen and long-nailed, with a ridge of dark hair on the back. ‘Ministry of Cultural Resources,’ he said coldly. ‘I understand you do not have actual exchange arrangement with Turkish government to examine these materials. Is this true?’

“‘It most certainly is not.’ I produced for him a letter from the National Library, stating that I was to be permitted research rights in any of its divisions in Istanbul.

“‘Not good enough,’ he said, tossing it down on my papers. ‘Maybe you will need to come with me.’

“‘Where?’ I stood up, feeling safer on my feet now, but hoping he would not take my rising as compliance.

“‘To police, if necessary.’

“‘This is outrageous.’ When in bureaucratic doubt, I had learned, raise your voice. ‘I am a doctoral candidate at Oxford University and a citizen of the United Kingdom. I registered with the university here the day I arrived and received this letter as proof of my status. I will not be questioned by the police-or by you.’

“‘I see.’ He smiled in a way that curled my stomach into a knot. I had read a little about Turkish prisons and their occasionally Western inmates, and my situation struck me as precarious, although I didn’t understand what kind of trouble I could possibly be in. I hoped one of the shuffling librarians had heard me and would come in to quiet us down. Then I realized that they would certainly have been responsible for admitting this character, with his intimidating business card, into my presence. Perhaps he was actually someone important. He leaned forward. ‘Let me see what you are doing here. Move, please.’

“I stepped aside, reluctantly, and he bent over my work, slapping shut my dictionaries to read their covers, still with that disquieting smile. He was a massive presence across the table, and I noticed he had an odd smell, like a cologne used not quite successfully to cover something disagreeable. At last he picked up the map I had been working over, his hands suddenly gentle, handling it almost tenderly. He looked at it as if he didn’t need to examine it long to know what it was, although I thought that must be a bluff. ‘This is your archival material, yes?’

“‘Yes,’ I said angrily.

“‘This is very valuable possession of Turkish state. I do not believe that you will be needing it for foreign purposes. And this piece of paper, this little map, brings you whole way from your English university to Istanbul?’

“I considered retorting that I had other business as well, to throw him off my scholar’s track, but realized at once that this might invite further questioning. ‘Yes, in a nutshell.’

“‘Nutshell?’ he said, more mildly. ‘Well, I think you will find this temporarily confiscated. What a shame for foreign researcher.’

“I boiled, standing there, so close to my solution, and felt thankful that I hadn’t brought with me that morning any of my own careful copies of old maps of the Carpathians, which I’d meant to start comparing to this map the next day. They were hidden in my suitcase at the hotel. ‘You have absolutely no right to confiscate material I’ve already been given permission to work on,’ I said, gritting my teeth. ‘I will certainly take this up with the National Library immediately. And with the British embassy. Anyway, what possible objection can you have to my studying these documents? They are obscure pieces of medieval history. They have nothing to do with the interests of the Turkish government, I’m sure.’

“The bureaucrat stood looking away from me, as if the spires of Hagia Sophia presented an interesting new angle he’d never had occasion to see before. ‘It is for your own good,’ he said dispassionately. ‘Much better to let someone else work on that. Some other time.’ He remained quite still there, head turned toward the window, almost as if he wanted me to follow his gaze to something. I had a childish feeling that I shouldn’t, because it might be a trick, so I looked at him, instead, waiting. And then I saw, as if he meant the greasy daylight to fall on it, his neck above his expensive shirt collar. On the side of it, in the deepest flesh of a muscular throat, were two brown-scabbed puncture marks, not fresh but not fully healed, as if he had been stabbed by twin thorns, or mutilated at knifepoint.

“I stepped back, away from the table, thinking I’d lost my mind with all my morbid readings, that I’d actually come unhinged. But the daylight was quite ordinary, the man in his dark wool suit perfectly real, down to the smell of unwash and perspiration and something else under his cologne. Nothing disappeared or changed. I couldn’t drag my eyes from those two half-healed little wounds. After a few seconds he turned back from the absorbing view, as if satisfied with what he had seen-or what I had-and smiled again. ‘For your own good, Professor.’

“I stood there wordlessly while he left the room with the map rolled up in his hand, and listened to his steps dying away on the stairs. A few minutes later one of the elderly librarians came in, a man with bushy gray hair, carrying two old folios, which he began to put away on a low shelf. ‘Excuse me,’ I said to him, my voice almost stuck in my throat. ‘Excuse me, but this is perfectly outrageous.’ He looked up at me, puzzled. ‘Who was that man? That bureaucrat?’

“‘Bureaucrat?’ The librarian faltered over my word.

“‘I must have an official letter from you at once about my right to work in this archive.’

“‘But you have all the right to work here,’ he said soothingly. ‘I have registered you here myself.’

“‘I know, I know. So you must catch him and make him return the map.’

“‘Catch who?’

“‘The man from the Ministry of-the man who just came up here. Didn’t you let him in?’

“He looked at me curiously from under his gray thatch. ‘Someone came in now? No one has come in for the last three hours. I am down at the entrance myself. Unfortunately we have few who do research here.’

“‘The man -’ I said, and stopped. I saw myself, suddenly, a crazy gesturing foreigner. ‘He took my map. I mean the archive’s map.’

“‘Map, Herr Professor?’

“‘I was working on a map. I signed it out this morning, at the desk.’

“‘Not that map?’ He pointed to my worktable. In the middle of it lay an ordinary road map of the Balkans that I had never seen in my life. It certainly hadn’t been there five minutes before. The librarian was putting away his second folio.

“‘Never mind.’ I gathered my books as quickly as I could and left the library. In the busy, traffic-filled street there was no sign of the bureaucrat, although several men of his build and height in similar suits hurried past me carrying briefcases. When I reached the room where I was staying, I found that my belongings had been moved, owing to some practical problems with the room. My first sketches of the old maps, as well as the completed notes I hadn’t needed that day, were gone. My suitcase had been perfectly repacked. The hotel staff said they knew nothing about it. I lay awake all night listening to every sound outside. The next morning I gathered up my unwashed clothes and my dictionaries and took the boat back to Greece.”

Professor Rossi folded his hands again and looked at me, as if waiting patiently for my disbelief. But I was suddenly shaken by belief, not doubt. “You went back to Greece?”

“Yes, and I spent the rest of the summer ignoring the memory of my adventure in Istanbul, although I couldn’t ignore its implications.”

“You left because you were-frightened?”

“Terrified.”

“But later you did all that research-or had it done-on your strange book?”

“Yes, mainly the chemical analysis at the Smithsonian. But when it was inconclusive-and under some other influences-I dropped the whole thing and put the book on my shelf. Up there, eventually.” He nodded to the highest roost in his cage. “It’s odd-I think about these events occasionally, and I seem to remember them very clearly sometimes and then only in fragments at other times. I suppose familiarity erodes even the most awful memories, though. And there are certainly periods-years at a time-when I don’t want to think about this at all.”

“But do you really believe-this man with the wounds on his neck -”

“What would you have thought, if he’d been standing in front of you and you’d known yourself to be sane?” He stood leaning against the shelves, and for a moment his tone was fierce.

I took a last sip of cold coffee; it was very bitter, the dregs. “And you never tried again to figure out what the map meant, or where it had come from?”

“Never.” He seemed to pause for a moment. “No. One of the few pieces of research I’m sure I’ll never finish. I have a theory, however, that this ghastly trail of scholarship, like so many less awful ones, is merely something one person makes a little progress on, then another, each contributing a bit in his own lifetime. Perhaps three such people, centuries ago, did just that in drawing up those maps and adding to them, although I admit that all those talismanic sayings from the Qur’an probably didn’t further anyone’s knowledge about the whereabouts of Vlad Tepes’s real tomb. And of course it could all be nonsense. He could perfectly well have been buried in his island monastery, as reported by Romanian tradition, and stayed there peacefully like a good soul-which he wasn’t.”

“But you don’t think so.”

Again he hesitated. “Scholarship must go on. For good or for evil, but inevitably, in every field.”

“Did you ever go to Snagov to see for yourself, somehow?”

He shook his head. “No. I gave up the search.”

I put down my icy cup, watching his face. “But you kept some information,” I guessed slowly.

He reached up among the books on his top shelf again, pulling down a sealed brown envelope. “Of course. Who destroys any research completely? I copied from memory what I could of the three maps and saved my other notes, the ones I had with me that day in the archive.”

He laid the unopened packet on his desk, between us, and touched it with a tenderness that didn’t seem to me to match his horror of its contents. Maybe it was that disjunction, or the deepening of the spring evening into night outside, that made me even more nervous. “Don’t you think this might be a dangerous sort of legacy?”

“I wish to God I could say no. But perhaps dangerous only in a psychological sense. Life’s better, sounder, when we don’t brood unnecessarily on horrors. As you know, human history is full of evil deeds, and maybe we ought to think of them with tears, not fascination. It’s been so many years that I can’t even be certain of my memories of Istanbul anymore, and I’ve never cared to go back there. Besides, I have the feeling I took away with me all I could have needed to know.”

“To go further, you mean?”

“Yes.”

“But you still don’t know who could have concocted a map that showed where this tomb is? Or was?”

“No.”

I put my hand out toward the brown envelope. “Don’t I need a rosary to go with this, or something, some charm?”

“I’m sure you carry your own goodness, moral sense, whatever you want to call it, with you-I like to think most of us are capable of that, anyway. I wouldn’t go around with garlic in my pocket, no.”

“But with some strong mental antidote.”

“Yes. I’ve tried to.” His face was deeply sad, almost grim. “Perhaps I’ve been wrong not to make use of those ancient superstitions, but I’m a rationalist, I suppose, and I’ll stick to that.”

I closed my fingers over the package.

“Here’s your book. It’s an interesting one and I wish you luck in identifying its source.” He handed me my vellum-covered volume, and I thought the sorrow in his face belied the lightness of his words. “Come two weeks from now and we’ll get back to trade in Utrecht.”

I must have blinked; even my dissertation sounded unreal to me. “Yes, all right.”

Rossi cleared away the coffee cups and I packed my briefcase, stiff fingered.

“One last thing,” he said gravely, as I turned back to him.

“Yes?”

“We won’t talk about this again.”

“You don’t want to know how I get on?” It left me aghast, lonely.

“You could put it that way. I don’t want to know. Unless, of course, you find yourself in trouble.” He took my hand in his usual affectionate grip. His face wore a look of actual grief that was new to me, and then he seemed to make himself smile.

“All right,” I said.

“Two weeks from now,” he called almost cheerfully as I went out. “Bring me a finished chapter, or else.”

My father stopped. To my astonished embarrassment, I saw that there were tears in his eyes. That gleam of emotion would have halted my questions even if he hadn’t spoken. “You see, writing a dissertation’s the really grisly thing,” he said lightly. “Anyway, we probably shouldn’t have gotten into all this. It’s such a convoluted old story, and obviously everything turned out fine, because here I am, not even a ghostly professor anymore, and here you are.” He blinked; he was recovering. “That’s a happy ending, as endings go.”

“But maybe there’s a lot in between,” I managed to say. The sun reached only through my skin, not to my bones, which had picked up some cold breeze coming off the sea. We stretched and turned this way and that to look at the town below. The latest group of milling tourists had wandered past us along the wall and were standing in a distant alcove, pointing out the islands or posing for one another’s cameras. I glanced at my father, but he was gazing out to sea. Behind the other tourists, and already far ahead of us, was a man I hadn’t noticed before, walking slowly but inexorably out of reach, tall and broad shouldered in a dark wool suit. We had seen other tall men in dark suits in that city, but for some reason I couldn’t stop staring after this one.

Chapter 5

Because I felt such constraint with my father, I decided to do a little exploring by myself, and one day after school I went alone to the university library. My Dutch was reasonably good, I had studied French and German for years now, and the university had a vast collection in English. The librarians were courteous; it took me only a couple of shy conversations to find the material I was looking for: the text of the Nuremberg pamphlets about Dracula that my father had mentioned. The library did not own one of the original pamphlets-they were very rare, the elderly librarian in their medieval collection explained to me, but he found the text in a compendium of medieval German documents, translated into English. “Will that be what you need, my dear?” he said, with a smile. He had one of those very fair, clear faces you see sometimes among the Dutch-a direct, blue gaze, hair that seemed to have grown paler instead of going gray. My father’s parents, in Boston, had died when I was a little girl, and I thought that I would have liked a grandfather of this model. “I’m Johan Binnerts,” he added. “You may call for me whenever you need more help.”

I said it was exactly what I needed,dank u, and he patted my shoulder before going quietly away. I reread the first section from my notebook in the empty room:

In the Year of Our Lord 1456 Drakula did many terrible and curious things. When he was appointed Lord in Wallachia, he had all the young boys burned who came to his land to learn the language, four hundred of them. He had a large family impaled and many of his people buried naked up to the navel and shot at. Some he had roasted and then flayed.

There was a footnote, too, at the bottom of the first page. The typeface of the note was so fine that I almost missed it. Looking more closely, I realized it was a commentary on the wordimpaled. Vlad Tepes, it claimed, had learned this form of torture from the Ottomans. Impalement of the sort he practiced involved the penetration of the body with a sharpened wooden stake, usually through the anus or genitals upward, so that the stake sometimes emerged through the mouth and sometimes through the head.

I tried for a minute not to see these words; then I tried for several minutes to forget them, with the book shut.

The thing that most haunted me that day, however, as I closed my notebook and put my coat on to go home, was not my ghostly image of Dracula, or the description of impalement, but the fact that these things had-apparently-actually occurred. If I listened too closely, I thought, I would hear the screams of the boys, of the “large family” dying together. For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me this: history’s terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could never have told me. Only history itself can convince you of such a truth. And once you’ve seen that truth-really seen it-you can’t look away.

When I reached home that night, I felt a kind of devilish strength, and I confronted my father. He was reading in his library while Mrs. Clay rattled the dinner dishes in the kitchen. I went into the library, closed the door behind me, and stood in front of his chair. He was holding one of his beloved volumes of Henry James, a sure sign of stress. I stood without speaking until he looked up. “Hello, there,” he said, finding his bookmark with a smile. “Algebra homework?” His eyes were anxious already.

“I want you to finish the story,” I said.

He was silent, tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair.

“Why won’t you tell me more?” It was the first time I had ever felt myself a menace to him. He looked at the book he had just closed. I knew that I was being cruel to him in a way I could not understand, but I had begun my bloody work, so I would have to finish. “You don’t want me to know things.”

He looked up at me, finally. His face was inscrutably sad, deeply furrowed in the light from his lamp. “No, I don’t.”

“I know more than you think,” I said, although I felt that was a childish stab; I wouldn’t have wanted to tell him what I knew, if he’d asked me.

He folded his hands under his chin. “I know you do,” he said. “And because you know anything at all I will have to tell you everything.”

I stared at him, surprised. “Then just tell me,” I said fiercely.

He looked down again. “I will tell you, and I’ll tell you as soon as I can. But not all at once.” Suddenly he burst out, “I can’t bear it all at once! Be patient with me.”

But the look he gave me was pleading, not accusing. I went to him and put my arm around his bowed head.

March would be chill and blustery in Tuscany, but my father thought a short trip in the countryside there was in order after four days of talks-I always knew his occupation as “talks”-in Milan. This time, I didn’t have to ask him to take me along. “ Florence is wonderful, especially off-season,” he said one morning as we drove south from Milan. “I’d like you to see it one of these days. You’ll have to learn a little more about its history and paintings first, to really get a kick out of it. But the Tuscan countryside’s the real thing. It rests your eyes and excites them at the same time-you’ll see.”

I nodded, settling into the passenger seat of the rented Fiat. My father’s love of freedom was contagious, and I liked the way he loosened his shirt collar and tie when we headed off for a new place. He was setting the Fiat to a hum on the smooth northern highway. “Anyway, I’ve been promising Massimo and Giulia for years that we’d come. They’d never forgive my passing this close without a visit.” He leaned back and stretched his legs. “They’re a little strange-eccentricis the way to put it, I guess, but very kind. Are you game?”

“I said I was,” I pointed out. I preferred staying alone with my father to visiting strangers, whose presence always brought out my native shyness, but he seemed eager to see his old friends. In any case, the vibration of the Fiat was lulling me to sleep; I was tired from the train trip. A spell had come over me that morning, the alarmingly belated trickle of blood my doctor was always worrying about and for which Mrs. Clay had awkwardly supplied my suitcase with a mass of cotton pads. My first glimpse of this change had brought tears of surprise to my eyes in the train lavatory, as if someone had wounded me; the smudge on my sensible cotton underpants looked like the thumbprint of a murderer. I’d said nothing about it to my father. River valleys and village-piled distant hills became a hazy panorama past the car window, then blurred. I was still sleepy at lunch, which we ate in a town made up of cafés and dark bars, the street cats curling and uncurling around the doorways.

But when we pulled upward with the twilight toward one of twenty towering hill towns, stacking themselves around us like the subjects of a fresco, I found myself wide awake. The windy, cloud-swept evening showed cracks of sunset on the horizon-toward the Mediterranean, my father said, toward Gibraltar and other places we might go someday. Above us was a town built on stilts of stone, its streets nearly vertical and its alleys terraced with narrow stone steps. My father guided the little car here and there, once past a trattoria doorway that streamed light onto the damp cobbles. Then he steered cautiously down the other side of the hill. “It’s in here, if I’m remembering correctly.” He turned between dark guardian cypresses into a rutted lane. “Villa Montefollinoco, at Monteperduto. Monteperduto’s the town. Remember?”

I remembered. We’d looked at the map over breakfast, my father tracing with one finger past his coffee cup: “ Siena, here. That’s your focal point. That’s in Tuscany. Then we cross just into Umbria. Here’s Montepulciano, a famous old place, and on this next hill is our town, Monteperduto.” The names ran together in my head, butmonte meantmountain and we were among mountains for a large dollhouse, small painted mountains like children of the Alps, which I’d traveled through twice now.

In the impending darkness, the villa looked small, a low-slung farmhouse made of fieldstone, with cypress and olive trees clustered around its reddish roofs and a couple of leaning stone posts to mark a front walk. Light glowed in the windows on the first floor, and I found myself suddenly hungry, tired, filled with a young crankiness I would have to hide in front of our hosts. My father took our bags from the trunk of the car and I followed him up the walk. “Even the bell’s still here,” he said, satisfied, pulling on a short rope by the entryway and smoothing his hair back in the gloom.

The man who answered came out like a tornado, hugging my father, slapping him hard on the back, kissing him soundly on both cheeks, bending over a little too far to shake my hand. His own hand was enormous and warm and he put it on my shoulder to lead me in with him. In the front hall, which was low beamed and full of ancient furniture, he bellowed like a farm animal. “Giulia! Giulia! Quickly! The big arrival! Come here!” His English was ferocious and sure, strong, loud.

The smiling tall woman who came in pleased me at once. Her hair was gray but it gleamed silver, pinned back from a long face. She smiled at me first and didn’t bend over to meet me. Her hand was warm, like her husband’s, and she kissed my father on each cheek, shaking her head through a gentle stream of Italian. “And you,” she said to me in English, “must have your own room, a good one, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed, liking the sound of that and hoping it would be safely near my father’s and would have a view of the surrounding valley from which we’d climbed so precipitously.

After dinner in the flagstoned dining room, all the grown-ups leaned back and sighed. “Giulia,” my father said, “you become a greater cook every year. One of the great cooks of Italy.”

“Nonsense, Paolo.” Her English breathed Oxford and Cambridge. “You always talk nonsense.”

“Maybe it’s the Chianti. Let me look at that bottle.”

“Let me fill your glass again,” Massimo interjected. “And what are you studying, lovely daughter?”

“We study all subjects at my school,” I said primly.

“She likes history, I think,” my father told them. “She’s a good sightseer, too.”

“History?” Massimo filled Giulia’s glass again, and then his own, with wine the color of garnets, or dark blood. “Like you and me, Paolo. We gave your father this name,” he explained to me, aside, “because I can’t stand those boring Anglo names you all have. Sorry, I just can’t. Paolo, my friend, you know I could have dropped dead when they told me you gave up your life in the academy toparley-vous all over the world. So he likes to talk more than he likes to read, I said to myself. A great scholar lost to the world, that’s your father.” He gave me half a glass of wine without asking my father and poured some water into it from the jug on the table. I felt fond of him now.

“Now you’re talking nonsense,” my father said contentedly. “I like to travel, that’s what I like.”

“Ah.” Massimo shook his head. “And you, Signor Professor, once said you’d be the greatest of them all. Not that your foundation isn’t a wonderful success, I know.”

“We need peace and diplomatic enlightenment, not more research on tiny questions no one else cares about,” my father countered, smiling. Giulia lit a lantern on the sideboard, turning off the electric light. She brought the lantern to the table and began to cut up atorta I’d been trying not to stare at earlier. Its surface gleamed like obsidian under the knife.

“In history, there are no tiny questions.” Massimo winked at me. “Besides, even the great Rossi said you were his best student. And the rest of us could hardly please the fellow.”

“Rossi!”

It was out of my mouth before I could stop myself. My father glanced uneasily at me over his cake.

“So you know the legends of your father’s academic successes, young lady?” Massimo filled his mouth hugely with chocolate.

My father gave me another glance. “I’ve told her a few stories about those days,” he said. I didn’t miss the undercurrent of warning in his voice. A moment later, however, I thought it might have been directed at Massimo, not me, since Massimo’s next comment shot a chill through me before my father quashed it with a quick shift to politics.

“Poor Rossi,” Massimo said. “Tragic, wonderful man. Strange to think anyone one has known personally can just-poof-disappear.”

The next morning we sat on the sun-washed piazza at the town’s summit, jackets firmly buttoned and brochures in hand, watching two boys who should, like me, have been at school. They shrieked and punted their soccer ball back and forth in front of the church, and I waited patiently. I had been waiting all morning, through the tour of dark little chapels “with elements of Brunelleschi,” according to the vague and bored guide, and the Palazzo Pubblico, with its reception chamber that had served for centuries as a town granary. My father sighed and gave me one of two Oranginas in dainty bottles. “You’re going to ask me something,” he said a little glumly.

“No, I just want to know about Professor Rossi.” I put my straw into the neck of the bottle.

“I thought so. Massimo was tactless to bring that up.”

I dreaded the answer, but I had to ask. “Did Professor Rossi die? Is that what Massimo meant when he saiddisappear? ”

My father looked across the sun-filled square to the cafés and butcher shops on the other side. “Yes. No. Well, it was a very sad thing. Do you really want to hear about that?”

I nodded. My father glanced around, quickly. We were sitting on a stone bench that projected from one of the fine old palazzi, alone except for the fleet-footed boys on the square. “All right,” he said at last.

Chapter 6

You see, my father said, that night when Rossi gave me the package of papers, I left him smiling at his office door, and as I turned away I was seized by the feeling that I should detain him, or turn back to talk with him a little longer. I knew it was merely the result of our strange conversation, the strangest of my life, and I buried it at once. Two other graduate students in our department came by, deep in conversation, greeting Rossi before he shut his door and walking briskly down the stairs behind me. Their animated talk gave me the sensation that life was going on around us as usual, but I still felt uneasy. My book, ornamented with the dragon, was a burning presence in my briefcase, and now Rossi had added this sealed packet of notes. I wondered if I should look through them later that night, sitting alone at the desk in my tiny apartment. I was exhausted; I felt I couldn’t face whatever they held.

I suspected, also, that daylight, morning, would bring a return of confidence and reason. Perhaps I wouldn’t even believe Rossi’s story by the time I awoke, although I also felt sure it would haunt me whether I actually believed it or not. And how, I asked myself-outside now, passing under Rossi’s windows and glancing up involuntarily to where his lamp still shone-how could I not believe my adviser on any point related to his own scholarship? Wouldn’t that call into question all the work we had done together? I thought of the first chapters of my dissertation, sitting in piles of neatly edited typescript on my desk at home, and shuddered. If I didn’t believe Rossi’s story, could we go on working together? Would I have to assume he was mad?

Maybe it was because Rossi was on my mind as I passed under his windows that I became acutely aware of his lamp still shining there. In any case, I was actually stepping into the puddles of light thrown from them onto the street, heading toward my own neighborhood, when they-the pools of light-went out quite literally under my feet. It happened in a fraction of a second, but a thrill of horror washed over me, head to foot. One moment I was lost in thought, stepping into the pool of brightness his light threw on the pavement, and the next moment I was frozen to the spot. I had realized two strange things almost simultaneously. One was that I had never seen this light on the pavement there, between the Gothic classroom buildings, although I’d walked up the street perhaps a thousand times. I had never seen it before because it had never been visible there before. It was visible now because all the streetlights had suddenly gone off. I was alone on the street, my last footstep the only sound lingering there. And except for those broken patches of light from the study where we’d sat talking ten minutes earlier, the street was dark.

My second realization, if it actually came second, swooped over me like a paralysis as I halted. I sayswooped because that was how it came over my sight, not into my reason or instinct. At that moment, as I froze in its path, the warm light from my mentor’s window went out. Maybe you think this sounds ordinary: office hours finish, and the last professor to leave the building turns off his lamps, darkening a street on which the streetlights have momentarily failed. But the effect was nothing like this. I had no sense of an ordinary desk lamp’s being switched out in a window. Instead it was as if something raced over the window behind me, blotting out the source of light. Then the street was utterly dark.

For a moment I stopped breathing. Terrified and clumsy, I turned, saw the darkened windows, all but invisible above the dark street, and on impulse ran toward them. The door through which I’d made my exit was firmly bolted. No other lights showed in the building’s facade. At this hour, the door was probably set to lock behind anyone who walked out-surely that was normal. I was standing there, hesitating, on the verge of running around to the other doors, when the streetlights came on again, and I felt suddenly abashed. There was no sign of the two students who’d walked out behind me; they must, I thought, have gone off in a different direction.

But now another group of students was strolling past, laughing; the street was no longer deserted. What if Rossi came out in a minute, as he certainly would after having switched off his light and locked his office door behind him, and found me waiting here? He had said he didn’t want to discuss further what we’d been discussing. How could I explain my irrational fears to him, there on the doorstep, when he’d drawn a curtain over the subject-over all morbid subjects, perhaps? Embarrassed, I turned away before he could catch up with me and hurried home. There, I left the envelope in my briefcase, unopened, and slept-although restlessly-through the night.

The next two days were busy, and I didn’t let myself look at Rossi’s papers; in fact, I put all esoterica resolutely out of my mind. It took me by surprise, therefore, when a colleague from my department stopped me in the library late on the afternoon of the second day. “Have you heard about Rossi?” he demanded, grabbing my arm and wheeling me around as I hurried past. “Paolo, wait!” Yes, you’re guessing correctly-it was Massimo. He was big and loud even as a graduate student, louder than he is now, maybe. I gripped his arm.

“Rossi? What? What about him?”

“He’s gone. He’s disappeared. The police are searching his office.”

I ran all the way to the building, which now looked ordinary, hazy inside with late-afternoon sun and crowded with students leaving their classrooms. On the second floor, in front of Rossi’s office, a city policeman was talking with the department chairman and several men I’d never seen before. As I arrived, two men in dark jackets were leaving the professor’s study, closing the door firmly behind them and heading toward the stairs and classrooms. I pushed my way through and spoke to the policeman. “Where’s Professor Rossi? What’s happened to him?”

“Do you know him?” asked the policeman, looking up from his notepad.

“I’m his advisee. I was here two nights ago. Who says he’s disappeared?”

The department chairman came forward and shook my hand. “Do you know anything about this? His housekeeper phoned at noon to say he hadn’t come home last night or the night before-he didn’t ring for dinner or breakfast. She says he’s never done that before. He missed a meeting at the department this afternoon without phoning first, which he’s never done before, either. A student stopped by to say his office was locked when they’d agreed on an appointment during office hours and that Rossi had never shown up. He missed his lecture today, and finally I had the door opened.”

“Was he in there?” I tried not to gasp for breath.

“No.”

I pushed blindly away from them toward Rossi’s door, but the policeman held me back by one arm. “Not so fast,” he said. “You say you were here two nights ago?”

“Yes.”

“When did you last see him?”

“About eight-thirty.”

“Did you see anyone else around here then?”

I thought. “Yes, just two students in the department-Bertrand and Elias, I think, going out at the same time. They left when I did.”

“Good. Check that,” the policeman said to one of the men. “Did you notice anything out of the ordinary in Professor Rossi’s behavior?”

What could I say? Yes, actually-he told me that vampires are real, that Count Dracula walks among us, that I might have inherited a curse through his own research, and then I saw his light blotted out as if by a giant-

“No,” I said. “We had a meeting about my dissertation and sat talking until about eight-thirty.”

“Did you leave together?”

“No. I left first. He walked me to the door and then went back into his office.”

“Did you see anything or anyone suspicious around the building as you left? Hear anything?”

I hesitated again. “No, nothing. Well, there was a brief blackout on the street. The streetlights went off.”

“Yes, that’s been reported. But you didn’t hear anything or see anything out of the usual?”

“No.”

“So far you’re the last person to see Professor Rossi,” the policeman insisted. “Think hard. When you were with him, did he do or say anything strange? Any talk of depression, suicide, anything like that? Or any talk of going away, going on a trip, say?”

“No, nothing like that,” I said honestly. The policeman gave me a hard look.

“I need your name and address.” He wrote down everything and turned to the chairman. “You can vouch for this young man?”

“He’s certainly who he says he is.”

“All right,” the policeman told me. “I want you to come in here with me and tell me if you see anything unusual. Especially anything different from two nights ago. Don’t touch anything. Frankly, most of these cases turn out to be something predictable, family emergency or a little breakdown-he’ll probably be back in a day or two. I’ve seen it a million times. But with blood on the desk we’re not taking any chances.”

Blood on the desk? My legs were weakening under me, but I made myself walk in slowly after the policeman. The room looked as it had on dozens of other occasions when I’d seen it in daylight: neat, pleasant, the furniture in precise attitudes of invitation, books and papers in exact stacks on the tables and the desktop. I stepped closer. Across the desk, on Rossi’s tan blotting paper, lay a dark reservoir, long since spread and soaked and still. The policeman put a steadying hand on my shoulder. “Not a big enough loss of blood to be a cause of death in itself,” he said. “Maybe a bad nosebleed, or some kind of hemorrhage. Did Professor Rossi ever have a nosebleed when you were with him? Did he seem ill that night?”

“No,” I said. “I never saw him-bleed-and he never talked about his health to me.” I realized suddenly, with appalling clarity, that I’d just spoken of our conversations in past tense, as if they were ended forever. My throat closed with emotion when I thought of Rossi standing cheerfully at the office door, seeing me off. Had he cut himself somehow-on purpose, even?-in a moment of instability, and then hurried out of the room, locking the door behind him? I tried to imagine him raving in a park, perhaps cold and hungry, or boarding a bus to some randomly chosen destination. None of it fit. Rossi was a solid structure, as cool and sane as anyone I’d ever met.

“Look around very carefully.” The policeman released my shoulder. He was watching me hard, and I sensed the chairman and the others hovering in the doorway behind us. It dawned on me that until proven otherwise I would be among the suspects if Rossi had been murdered. But Bertrand and Elias would speak up for me, as I could for them. I stared at everything in the room, trying to see through it. It was an exercise in frustration; everything was real, normal, solid, and Rossi was utterly gone from it.

“No,” I said finally. “I don’t see anything different.”

“All right.” The policeman turned me toward the windows. “Look up, then.”

On the white plaster ceiling over the desk, high above us, a dark smear about five inches long drifted sideways, as if pointing toward something outside. “This appears to be blood, too. Don’t worry; it may or may not be Professor Rossi’s. That ceiling’s too high for a person to reach it easily, even with a step stool. We’ll have everything tested. Now think hard. Did Rossi mention a bird getting in that night? Or did you hear any sounds as you left, maybe like something getting in? Was the window open, do you remember?”

“No,” I said. “He didn’t mention anything like that. And the windows were shut, I’m sure.” I couldn’t take my eyes off the stain; I felt if I stared hard enough I might read something in its horrible and hieroglyphic shape.

“We’ve had birds in this building several times,” the chairman contributed behind us. “Pigeons. They get in through the skylights once in a while.”

“That’s a possibility,” the policeman said. “Although we haven’t found any droppings, it’s certainly a possibility.”

“Or bats,” the chairman said. “What about bats? These old buildings probably have all kinds of things living in them.”

“Well, that’s another possibility, especially if Rossi tried to hit something with a broom or umbrella and wounded it in the process,” suggested a professor in the doorway.

“Did you see anything like a bat in here, ever, or a bird?” the policeman asked me again.

It took me a few seconds to form the simple word and get it past my dry lips. “No,” I said, but I could hardly make sense of his question. My eyes had finally caught the inner end of the dark stain and what it seemed to trail away from. On the top shelf of Rossi’s bookcase, in his row of “failures,” a book was missing. Where he had replaced his mysterious book two nights before, one narrow black crevice now gaped among the spines.

My colleagues were leading me out again, patting my back and telling me not to worry; I must have looked white as a piece of typing paper. I turned to the policeman, who was shutting and locking the door behind us. “Is there any chance Professor Rossi is already in a hospital somewhere, if he cut himself, or if someone injured him?”

The officer shook his head. “We’ve got a line to the hospitals, and we’ve done a first check. No sign of him. Why? Do you think he might have injured himself? I thought you said he didn’t seem suicidal or depressed.”

“Oh, he didn’t.” I took a deep breath and felt my feet under me again. The ceiling was too high for him to have smeared his wrist on, anyway-that was a grim consolation.

“Well, folks, we’ll be on our way.” He turned to the department chairman, and they went off in low-voiced conference. The crowd around the office door was beginning to disperse, and I moved away ahead of them. I needed above all a quiet place to sit down.

My favorite bench in the nave of the old university library was still being warmed by the last sun of a spring afternoon. Around me three or four students read or talked in low voices, and I felt the familiar calm of that scholar’s haven soak through my bones. The great hall of the library was pierced by colored windows, some of which looked into its reading rooms and cloisterlike corridors and courtyards, so that I could see people moving around inside or outside, or studying at big oak tables. It was the end of an ordinary day; soon the sun would desert the stone tablets under my feet and plunge the world into twilight-marking a full forty-eight hours since I’d sat talking with my mentor. For now, scholarship and activity prevailed here, pushing back the verges of darkness.

I should tell you that usually when I studied in those days I liked to be completely alone, undisturbed, in monastic silence. I’ve already described the study carrels I often worked in, on the upper floors of the library stacks, where I had my own niche and where I’d found that weird book that had changed my life and thoughts almost overnight. Two days ago at this time I’d been studying there, busy and unafraid, about to sweep up my books on the Netherlands and hurry toward a pleasant conference with my mentor. I’d thought of nothing but what Heller and Herbert had written the year before on Utrecht ’s economic history and how I might refute it in an article, perhaps an article filched efficiently from one of my own dissertation chapters.

In fact, if I had imagined any part of the past at all, then, I had been picturing those innocent, slightly grasping Nederlanders debating their guilds’ little problems, or standing, arms akimbo, in doorways above the canals, watching some new crate of goods as it was hauled up to the top floor of their houses-cum-warehouses. If I had had any visions of the past, I had seen only their rose-tinted, sea-freshened faces, beetling brows, capable hands, heard the creaking of their fine ships, smelled the spice and tar and sewage of the wharf and rejoiced in the sturdy ingenuity of their buying and bartering.

But history, it seemed, could be something entirely different, a splash of blood whose agony didn’t fade overnight, or over centuries. And today my studies were to be of a new sort-novel to me, but not to Rossi and not to many others who had picked their way through the same dark underbrush. I wanted to begin this new kind of research in the cheerful murmur and clang of the main hall, not in the silent stacks, with their occasional wearily treading footsteps on distant stairs. I wanted to open the next phase of my life as a historian there under the unsuspecting eyes of young anthropologists, graying librarians, eighteen-year-olds thinking of their squash games or new white shoes, of smiling undergraduates and harmlessly lunatic professors emeritus-all the traffic of the university evening. I looked once more around the teeming hall, the rapidly withdrawing patches of sunlight, the brisk business of the doors at the main entrance swinging open and shut on bronze hinges. Then I picked up my shabby briefcase, unsnapped the top, and drew out a thickly full dark envelope, labeled in Rossi’s handwriting. It said, merely:SAVE FOR NEXT ONE.

Next one? I hadn’t looked closely at it two nights before. Had he meant to save the information enclosed for the next time he attempted this project, this dark fortress? Or was I myself the “next one”? Was this a proof of his madness?

Inside the open envelope I saw a pile of papers of different weights and sizes, many dingy and delicate with age, some of them onionskin covered with dense rows of typing. A great deal of material. I would have to spread it out, I decided. I went to the nearest honey-colored table by the card catalog. There were still plenty of people around, all friendly strangers, but I looked superstitiously over one shoulder before drawing out the documents and arranging them on the table.

I had handled some of Sir Thomas More’s manuscripts two years before, and some of the elder Albrecht’s letters from Amsterdam, and more recently had helped to catalog a set of Flemish account books from the 1680s. I knew, as a historian, that the order of any archival find is an important part of its lesson. Digging out a pencil and paper, I made a list of the order of the items as I withdrew them. The first, the topmost, of Rossi’s documents proved to be the onionskin sheets. They had been covered by the neatest possible typing, more or less in the form of letters. I kept them carefully together without letting myself look closely.

The second item was a map, hand drawn with awkward neatness. This was already fading, and the marks and place-names showed up poorly on a thick foreign-feeling notebook paper obviously torn from some old tablet. Two similar maps followed it. After these came three pages of scattered handwritten notes, in ink and quite legible at first glance. I set these together, too. Next was a printed brochure inviting tourists to “Romantic Roumania,” in English, that looked from its Deco embellishments like a product of the 1920s or ‘30s. Next, two receipts for a hotel and for meals taken there. Istanbul, in fact. Then a large old road map of the Balkans, untidily printed in two colors. The last item was a little ivory envelope, sealed and unlabeled. I set it aside, heroically, without touching the flap.

That was it. I turned the big brown envelope upside down, even shook it, so that not so much as a dead fly could go unnoticed. While I was doing this I suddenly (and for the first time) had a sensation that would accompany me through all the ensuing efforts required of me: I felt Rossi’s presence, his pride in my thoroughness, something like his spirit living and speaking to me through the careful methods he himself had taught me. I knew he worked swiftly, as a researcher, but also that he abused nothing and neglected nothing-not a single document, not an archive, however far from home it was located, and certainly not an idea, however unfashionable it might be among his colleagues. His disappearance, and-I thought wildly-his very need of me, had suddenly made us almost equals. I had the sense, also, that he had been promising me this outcome, this equality, all along, and waiting for the time when I would earn it.

I now had every dry-smelling item spread on the table in front of me. I began with the letters, those long dense epistles typed on onionskin with few mistakes and few corrections. There was one copy of each, and they seemed to be in chronological order already. Each was carefully dated, all from December 1930, more than twenty years before. Each was headedTRINITY COLLEGE, OXFORD, without any further address. I glanced through the first letter. It told the story of his discovery of the mysterious book, and of his initial research at Oxford. The letter was signed, “Yours in grief, Bartholomew Rossi.” And it began-I held the onionskin carefully even when my hand started to shake a little-it began affectionately: “My dear and unfortunate successor -”

My father suddenly stopped, and the trembling of his voice made me turn tactfully away before he could force himself to say anything more. By unspoken consent, we gathered our jackets and strolled across the famous little piazza, pretending the facade of the church still held some interest for us.

Chapter 7

My father did not leave Amsterdam again for several weeks, and during that time I felt that he shadowed me in a new way. I came home from school a little later than usual one day and found Mrs. Clay on the phone with him. She put me on at once. “Where have you been?” my father asked. He was calling from his office at the Center for Peace and Democracy. “I phoned twice and Mrs. Clay hadn’t seen you. You’ve put her in a big pother.”

He was the one in a pother, I could tell, although he kept his voice level. “I was reading at a new coffee shop near school,” I said.

“All right,” my father said. “Why don’t you just call Mrs. Clay or me if you’re going to be late, that’s all.”

I didn’t like to agree, but I said I would call. My father came home early for dinner that night and read aloud to me fromGreat Expectations. Then he got out some of our photograph albums and we looked through them together: Paris, London, Boston, my first roller skates, my graduation from third grade, Paris, London, Rome. It was always just me, standing in front of the Pantheon or the gates of Père Lachaise, because my father took the pictures and there were only two of us. At nine o’clock he checked all the doors and windows and let me go to bed.

The next time I was going to be late, I did call Mrs. Clay. I explained to her that some of my classmates and I were going to do our homework together over tea. She said that was fine. I hung up and went by myself to the university library. Johan Binnerts, the librarian in the medieval collection in Amsterdam, was getting used to the sight of me, I thought; at least he smiled gravely whenever I stopped by with a new question, and he always asked how my history essays were coming along. Mr. Binnerts found for me a passage in a nineteenth-century text that I was particularly pleased to have, and I spent some time making notes from it. I have a copy of the text now, in my study at Oxford -I found the book again a few years ago in a bookshop: Lord Gelling’sHistory of Central Europe. I have a sentimental attachment to it, after all these years, although I never open it without a bleak feeling, too. I remember very well the sight of my own hand, smooth and young, copying down passages in my school notebook:

In addition to displaying great cruelty, Vlad Dracula possessed great valor. His daring was such that in 1462 he crossed the Danube and carried out a night raid on horseback in the very encampment of Sultan Mehmed II and his army, which had assembled there to attack Wallachia. In this raid Dracula killed several thousand Turkish soldiers, and the Sultan barely escaped with his life before the Ottoman guard forced the Wallachians into a retreat.

A similar quantity of material might be dredged up in connection with the name of any great feudal lord of his era in Europe-more than this, in many cases, and much more, in a few. The extraordinary thing about the information available on Dracula is its longevity-that is to say, his refusal to die as an historical presence, the persistence of his legend. The few sources available in England refer directly or obliquely to other sources whose diversity would make any historian profoundly curious. He seems to have been notorious in Europe even during his own lifetime-a great accomplishment in days when Europe was a vast and by our standards disjointed world whose governments were connected by horse messenger and river freight, and when horrifying cruelty was not an unusual characteristic among the nobility. Dracula’s notoriety did not end with his mysterious death and strange burial in 1476, but seems to have continued almost unabated until it faded into the brightness of the Enlightenment in the West.

The entry on Dracula ended there. I’d had enough history to puzzle over for one day, but I wandered into the English literature division and was glad to find that the library owned a copy of Bram Stoker’sDracula. In fact, it would take me quite a few visits to read it. I didn’t know if I was allowed to check out books there, but even if I had been, I wouldn’t have wanted to bring it home, where I would have the difficult choice of hiding it or leaving it carefully out in the open. Instead, I readDracula sitting in a slippery chair by a library window. If I peered outside, I could see one of my favorite canals, the Singel, with its flower market, and people buying snacks of herring from a little stand. It was a wonderfully secluded spot, and the back of a bookshelf sheltered me from the other readers in the room.

There, in that chair, I gradually allowed Stoker’s alternating Gothic horror and cozy Victorian love stories to engulf me. What I wanted from the book, I didn’t quite know; according to my father, Professor Rossi had thought it mainly useless as a source of information about the real Dracula. The courtly, repulsive Count Dracula of the novel was a compelling figure, I thought, even if he didn’t have much in common with Vlad Tepes. But Rossi himself had been convinced that Dracula had become one of the undead, in life-in the course of history. I wondered if a novel could have the power to make something so strange happen in actuality. After all, Rossi had made his discovery well after the publication ofDracula. Vlad Dracula, on the other hand, had been a force for evil almost four hundred years before Stoker’s birth. It was very perplexing.

And hadn’t Professor Rossi also said that Stoker had turned up lots of sound information about vampire lore? I had never even seen a vampire movie-my father did not like horror of any sort-and the conventions of the story were new to me. According to Stoker, a vampire could attack his victims only between sunset and sunrise. The vampire lived indefinitely, feasting on the blood of mortals and thereby converting them to his own undead state. He could take the form of bat or wolf or mist; he could be repelled by the use of garlic blossoms or a crucifix; he could be destroyed if you drove a stake through his heart and filled his mouth with garlic while he slept in his coffin during the daylight. A silver bullet through the heart could also destroy him.

None of this would have frightened me, in itself; it all seemed too remote, too superstitious, quaint. But there was one aspect of the story that haunted me after each session, after I’d put the book back on its shelf, carefully noting the page number where I’d left off. It was a thought that followed me down the steps of the library and across the canal bridges, until I reached our door. The Dracula of Stoker’s imagination had a favorite sort of victim: young women.

My father was longing more than ever, he said, for the South in spring; he wanted me to see its beauties, too. My vacation was coming soon, anyway, and his meetings in Paris would detain him only a few days. I had learned not to press him, either for travel or for stories; when he was ready, the next would come, but never, never when we were at home. I believe that he didn’t want to bring that dark presence directly into our house.

We took the train to Paris and later a car south into the Cévennes. In the mornings I worked on two or three essays in my increasingly lucid French, to mail back to school. I still have one of these; even now, decades later, unfolding it returns to me that feeling of the untranslatable heart of France in May, the smell of grass that was not grass butl’herbe, edibly fresh, as if all French vegetation were fantastically culinary, the ingredients of a salad or something to stir into cheese.

At farms along the road we stopped to buy picnics better than any restaurant could have made for us: boxes of new strawberries that gave off a red glow in the sun and seemed to need no washing; cylinders of goat cheese weighty as barbells and encrusted with a rough gray mold, as if they’d been rolled across a cellar floor. My father drank dark red wine, unlabeled and costing only centimes, which he recorked after each meal, carrying with it a small glass wrapped carefully in a napkin. For dessert we ravaged whole loaves of newly baked bread from the last town, inserting squares of dark chocolate into them. My stomach ached with pleasure and my father said ruefully that he’d have to diet again when we returned to our ordinary lives.

That road led us through the Southeast and then, a blurred day or two later, up into cooler mountains. “Les Pyrénées-Orientales,” my father told me, unfolding the road map across one of our picnics. “I’ve been wanting to come back down here for years.” I traced our route with my finger and found we were surprisingly close to Spain. This thought-and the beautiful wordOrientales -jolted me. We were approaching the edges of my known world, and for the first time I realized that someday I might go farther and farther out of it. My father wanted to see a particular monastery, he said. “I think we can reach the town at its foot by tonight and walk up there tomorrow.”

“Is it high up?” I asked.

“It’s about halfway up the mountains, which protected it from all sorts of invaders. It was built just at the year 1000. Incredible-this little place carved into a rock, difficult for even the most enthusiastic pilgrims to reach. But you’ll like the town below it just as much. It’s an old spa town. It’s really charming.” My father smiled when he said this, but he was restless, folding the map too quickly. I felt that he would soon tell me another story; perhaps this time I wouldn’t need to ask.

I did like Les Bains, when we drove into it that afternoon. It was a large sand-colored rock village spread over one small peak. The great Pyrénées hung above it, shadowing all but its broadest lower streets, which stretched toward river valleys and the dry flat farms below. Dusty plane trees, cropped square around a series of dusty piazzas, provided no shade whatsoever for the strolling townspeople and the tables where old women sold crocheted tablecloths and bottles of lavender extract. From there we could look up to the predictable stone church, haunted by swallows, at the town’s summit, and see the church tower floating in an enormous shadow of mountains, a long peak of gloom that would stretch down this side of the village street by street as the sun set.

We dined heartily on a soup something like gazpacho, and then on veal cutlets, in the first-floor restaurant of one of the town’s nineteenth-century hotels. The restaurant manager put one foot on the brass rail of the bar next to our table and asked idly, yet courteously, about our travels. He was a homely man, dressed in immaculate black, with a narrow face and sharply olive complexion. He spoke staccato French, flavored by some spice I hadn’t encountered before, and I understood far less of it than my father did. My father translated.

“Ah, of course-our monastery,” began the maître d‘, in answer to my father’s question. “You know that Saint-Matthieu draws eight thousand visitors every summer? Yes, it really does. But they are all so nice, quiet, lots of foreign Christian people who go up on foot, it’s a real pilgrimage still. They make their own beds in the mornings, and we hardly notice them come and go. Of course, many other people come forles bains. You will take the waters, no?”

My father replied that we had to turn north again after just two nights here and that we planned to spend all of the next day at the monastery.

“You know there are a lot of legends in this place, some remarkable ones, and all true,” the maître d‘ said, smiling, which made his narrow face suddenly handsome. “The young lady understands? She might be interested to know them.”

“Je comprends, merci,”I said politely.

“Bon.I shall tell you one. You don’t mind? Please, eat your cutlet-it’s best very hot.” At that moment, the restaurant door swung open, and a smiling old couple who could only have been residents came in and chose a table.“Bon soir, buenas tardes,” our manager said in one breath. I looked a question at my father, and he laughed.

“Yes, we are very mixed up here,” the manager said, laughing too. “We arela salade, all the different cultures. My grandfather spoke very good Spanish-perfect Spanish-and he fought in their civil war when he was already an old man. We love all our languages here. No bombs for us, no terrorists, like les Basques.We are not criminals.” He looked around indignantly, as if someone had contradicted him.

“Explain to you later,” my father said under his breath.

“So, I will tell you a story. I am proud to say they call me the historian of our town. Eat. Our monastery was founded in the year 1000, you know already. Actually, the year 999, because the monks who chose this spot were preparing for the Apocalypse to come, you know, in the millennium. They were climbing in these mountains looking for a place for their church. Then one of them had a vision in his sleep that Saint Matthieu stepped down from heaven to place a white rose on the peak above them. The next day they climbed up there and consecrated the mountain with their prayers. Very pretty-you will love it. But that is not the great legend. That is only the founding of the abbey church.

“So, when the monastery and its little church were just a century old, one of the most pious monks, who taught the younger ones, died mysteriously in middle age. He was called Miguel de Cuxa. They mourned him terribly, and he was buried in their crypt. You know, that is the crypt we are famous for, because it is the oldest Romanesque architecture in Europe. Yes!” He tapped the bar crisply with long, squared-off fingers. “Yes! Some people say this honor goes to Saint-Pierre, outside Perpignan, but they are just lying for the tourist trade.

“In any case, this great scholar was buried in the crypt, and soon after that a curse came over the monastery. Several monks died of a strange plague. They were found dead one by one in the cloisters-the cloisters are beautiful, you will love them. They are the most beautiful in Europe. So, the dead monks were found white as ghosts, as if they had no blood in their veins. Everyone suspected poisons.

“Finally one young monk-he was the favorite student of the monk who had died-he went down into the crypt and dug up his teacher, against the wishes of the abbot, who was very frightened. And they found the teacher alive, but not really alive, if you know what I mean. A living death. He was rising at night to take the lives of his fellow monks. In order to send the poor man’s soul up to the right place, they brought holy water from a shrine in the mountains and got a very sharp stake -” He made a dramatic shape in the air, so I would understand the sharpness of the object. I had been fixed on him and his strange French, putting his story together in my mind with the greatest effort of concentration. My father had stopped translating for me, and at that moment his fork clinked against his plate. When I looked up, I suddenly saw that he was as white as the tablecloth, staring at our new friend.

“Could we -” He cleared his throat and wiped his mouth with his napkin once or twice. “Could we have coffee?”

“But you have not had thesalade. ” Our host looked distressed. “It is exceptional. And then we havepoires belles-Hélène this evening, and some nice cheese, also agâteaufor the young lady.”

“Certainly, certainly,” my father said hurriedly. “Let’s have all those things, yes.”

The lowest of the dusty squares was full of thrumming loudspeaker music when we emerged; some kind of local show was in progress in the form of ten or twelve children in costumes that reminded me ofCarmen. The small girls quivered in place, rustling their yellow taffeta flounces from hip to ankles, their heads swaying gracefully under lace mantillas. The little boys stamped and knelt, or circled the girls disdainfully. Each boy was dressed in a short black jacket and tight trousers and carried a velvet hat. We could hear the music flaring up now and then, accompanied by a sound like the crack of whips, which grew louder as we came close. A few other tourists were standing around watching the dancers, and a row of parents and grandparents sat on folding chairs by the empty fountain, applauding whenever the music or the boys’ stamping reached a crescendo.

We lingered only a few minutes before turning onto the road upward, the one that led so clearly out of the square to the church at the top. My father said nothing about the rapidly sinking sun, but I felt our pace was set by the day’s sudden death, and I wasn’t surprised when all the light in that wild country plunged away from it suddenly. The rim of the blue-black Pyrénées on the horizon stood out starkly as we climbed. Then it melted into blue-black sky. The view from the foot of the church wall was enormous-not dizzying like the views we’d caught in those Italian towns I still dreamed about, but vast: plains and hills gathering themselves into foothills, and foothills rearing up into dark peaks that blocked out whole portions of the distant world. Just below us the town’s lights were coming on, people were walking up the streets or along alleys, talking and laughing, and a smell like the scent of carnations came from the narrow walled gardens. Swallows flew in and out of the church tower, wheeling as if outlining something invisible with filaments of air. I noticed one that cartwheeled drunkenly among the rest, weightless and awkward instead of swift, and realized it was a single bat, just visible against the faltering light.

My father sighed, leaning against the wall, and put one foot up on a block of stone-a hitching post, something to climb onto a donkey from? He wondered this aloud, for my benefit. Whatever it was, it had seen centuries of this view, the countless similar sunsets, the relatively recent change from candle glow to electric lights in the high-walled streets and cafés. My father looked relaxed again, propped there after a fine meal and a stroll in the absolutely clear air, but it seemed to me that he was relaxed on purpose. I hadn’t dared to ask him about his strange reaction to the story the restaurant maître d‘ had told us, but it had opened up to me a sense that there might be stories more horrifying to my father even than the one he’d begun telling me. This time, I didn’t have to ask him to go on with our story; it was as if he preferred it, for now, to something worse.

Chapter 8

December 13, 1930

Trinity College, Oxford

My dear and unfortunate successor:

I take some comfort today in the fact that this date is dedicated in the church calendar to Lucia, saint of light, a holy presence carted home by Viking traders from southern Italy. What could offer better protection against the forces of darkness-internal, external, eternal-than light and warmth, as one approaches the shortest, coldest day of the year? And I am still here, after another sleepless night. Would you be less puzzled if I told you that I now slumber with a wreath of garlic under my pillow, or that I keep a little gold crucifix on a chain around my atheist neck? I don’t, of course, but I will leave you to imagine those forms of protection, if you like; they have their intellectual, their psychological, equivalents. To these latter, at least, I cling night and day.

To resume my account of my research: yes, I changed my travel plans last summer to include Istanbul, and I changed them under the influence of one small piece of parchment. I had examined every source I could find at Oxford and in London that might pertain to theDrakulyaof my mysterious blank book. I had taken a sheaf of notes on the subject, which you, unquiet reader of the future, will find with these letters. I have expanded them a little since then, as you shall hear later, and I hope they will protect as well as guide you.

I had every intention of dropping this pointless research, this chase after a random sign in a randomly discovered book, on the eve of my departure for Greece. I knew perfectly well that I had taken it up as a challenge dealt me by fate, in whom, after all, I didn’t even believe, and that I was probably pursuing the elusive and evil wordDrakulyaback into history out of a sort of scholarly bravado, to prove I could find the historical traces of anything, anything at all. In fact, I had so nearly lapsed into a chastened frame of mind, packing my clean shirts and my weather-beaten sun hat, that I almost forsook the whole thing, that last afternoon.

But, as usual, I had prepared too diligently for my travels, I was ahead of myself, I had a little time before my last sleep and the morning train. Either I could go down to the Golden Wolf to order a pint of stout and see if my good friend Hedges was there or-here I made an unfortunate detour, in spite of myself-I could stop one last time in the Rare Book Room, which would be open until nine. There was a file I had intended to try there (although I doubted it would bring anything to light), an entry underOttomanthat had struck me as pertaining to precisely the period of Vlad Dracula’s life, since the documents listed in it were, I’d noticed, mainly from the mid- to late fifteenth century.

Of course, I reasoned with myself, I couldn’t go hunting through every source from that period for all of Europe and Asia; it would take years-lifetimes-and I didn’t foresee getting even an article out of this bloody goose chase. But I turned my feet away from the cheering pub-a mistake that has been the downfall of many a poor scholar-and towards Rare Books.

The boxed file, which I found without difficulty, contained four or five flattened short scrolls of Ottoman workmanship, all part of an eighteenth-century gift to the University. Each scroll was covered with Arabic calligraphy. An English description at the front of the file assured me that this was no treasure trove, as far as I was concerned. (I referred immediately to the English because my Arabic is depressingly rudimentary, as I’m afraid it will probably remain. One has time for only a handful of the great languages unless one gives up everything else in favor of linguistics.) Three of the scrolls were inventories of taxes levied on the peoples of Anatolia by Sultan Mehmed II. The last of them listed taxes collected from the cities of Sarajevo and Skopje, a little closer to home, if home for me just now was Dracula’s abode in Wallachia, but still a distant part of empire from his, in that day and time. I reassembled them with a sigh and considered the short but satisfying visit I might still pay to the Golden Wolf. As I gathered the parchments to return them to their cardboard file, however, a bit of writing on the back of that last one caught my eye.

It was a short list, a casual graffito, an ancient doodle on the reverse of Sarajevo and Skopje ’s official paperwork for the sultan. I read it curiously. It appeared to be a record of expenses-the objects purchased had been noted down on the left and the cost, in an unspecified currency, noted neatly down on the right. “Five young mountain lions for his Gloriousness the Sultan, 45,” I read with interest. “Two golden belts with precious stones for the Sultan, 290. Two hundred sheepskins for the Sultan, 89.” And then the final entry, which made the hair rise along my arm as I held that aging parchment up: “Maps and military records from the Order of the Dragon, 12.”

How, you ask, could I take all this in at a glance, when my knowledge of Arabic is as crude as I’ve already confessed? My quick-minded reader, you are staying awake for me, following my lucubrations with care, and I bless you for it. This scrawl, this mediaeval memorandum, was written out in Latin. Below it, a faintly scratched date seared the thing into my brain: 1490.

In 1490, I recalled, the Order of the Dragon lay in ruins, crushed by Ottoman might; Vlad Dracula was fourteen years’ dead and buried, according to legend, in the monastery at Lake Snagov. The Order’s maps, records, secrets-whatever this elusive phrase referred to-had been bought cheap, very cheap, compared to the bejewelled belts and the loads of stinking sheep wool. Perhaps they’d been thrown into this merchant’s purchase at the last minute, as a curiosity, a sample of the bureaucracy of conquest to flatter and amuse an erudite sultan whose father or grandfather had expressed grudging admiration for the barbaric Order of the Dragon that harassed him at the edge of the Empire. Was my merchant a Balkan traveller, Latin writing, speaking some Slav or Latinate dialect? Certainly he was highly educated, since he could write at all, perhaps a Jewish merchant with three or four languages at his command. Whoever he was, I blessed his dust for jotting down those expenses. If he had sent off the caravan of spoils without incident, and if it had reached the sultan safely, and if-least likely of all-it had survived in the sultan’s treasure-house of jewels, beaten copper, Byzantine glass, barbarous church relics, works of Persian poetry, books of cabala, atlases, astronomical charts -

I went to the desk, where the librarian was checking through a drawer. “Excuse me,” I said. “Do you have a listing of historical archives by country? Archives in-in Turkey, for example?”

“I know what you’re looking for, sir. There is such a listing, for universities and museums, although it’s by no means complete. We don’t have it here-the central library desk can show it to you. They open tomorrow at nine o’clock in the morning.”

My train to London, I remembered, didn’t leave until 10:14. It would take only ten minutes or so to glance through the possibilities. And if Sultan Mehmed II’s name, or the names of his immediate successors, appeared among any of the possibilities-well, I hadn’t wanted to see Rhodes so very badly after all.

Yours in profoundest grief, Bartholomew Rossi

Time seemed to have stopped in the high-vaulted library hall, despite the activity all around me. I had read one whole letter, but there were at least four more in the pile beneath it. I noticed, looking up, that a blue depth had opened behind the upper windows: twilight. I would have to walk home in it alone, I thought like a frightened child. Again I felt the urge to rush to Rossi’s office door and knock briskly on it. Surely I’d find him sitting there turning over pages of manuscript in the pool of yellow light on his desk. I was perplexed, all over again, the way one is after a friend’s death, by the unreality of the situation, the impossibility it presented to the mind. In fact, I was as much puzzled as I was afraid, and my bewilderment increased my fear because I couldn’t recognize my usual self in that state.

As I pondered this, I glanced down at the neat piles of papers on my table. I had taken up a great deal of the surface with this spread. As a consequence, probably, no one had tried to sit down opposite me or to occupy any of the other chairs at the table. I was just wondering if I should gather up all of this work and walk home to continue there later when a young woman approached and seated herself at one end of the table. I saw, looking around, that the surrounding catalog tables were full to capacity and strewn with other people’s books, typescripts, card-catalog drawers, and notepads. She had no other place to sit, I realized, but I felt suddenly protective of Rossi’s documents; I dreaded the involuntary glance of a stranger’s eye on them. Did they look obviously mad? Or did I?

I was just about to gather the papers together, carefully, preserving their original order, and pack them away, just about to make those slow and polite movements with which you try falsely to assure the other person who has just sat down apologetically at the cafeteria table that you really were leaving anyway-when I suddenly noticed the book the young woman had propped up in front of her. She was already flipping through the center section of it, a notebook and pen lying ready at her elbow. I glanced from the book’s title to her face, in astonishment, and then at the other book she had set down nearby. Then I looked back at her face.

It was a young face but already aging very slightly and handsomely, with the light crinkling of skin I recognized around my own eyes in the mirror every morning, a barely veiled fatigue, so I knew she must be a graduate student. It was also an elegant, angular face that wouldn’t have been out of place in a medieval altar painting, saved from a pinched look by the delicate widening of cheekbones. Her complexion was pale but could have turned olive after a week in the sun. Her lashes were lowered toward the book, her firm mouth and spreading eyebrows somehow made alert by whatever her eyes followed on the page. Her dark, almost sooty hair sprang away from her forehead with more vigor than was fashionable in those tightly groomed days. The title of her reading, in this place of myriad inquiry-I looked again, again astonished-wasThe Carpathians. Under her dark-sweatered elbow rested Bram Stoker’sDracula.

At that moment, the young woman glanced up and met my gaze, and I realized I’d been staring directly at her, which must have been offensive. In fact, the dark, deep stare I got back-although her eyes also had a curious amber in their depths, like honey-was extremely hostile. I wasn’t what people still called then a ladies’ man; in fact I was something of a recluse. But I knew enough to feel ashamed, and I hurried to explain. Later I realized that her hostility was the defense of the striking-looking woman who is stared at again and again. “Excuse me,” I said quickly. “I couldn’t help noticing your books-I mean, what you’re reading.”

She stared unhelpfully back at me, keeping her book open in front of her, and raised the dark sweep of her eyebrows.

“You see, I’m actually studying the same subject,” I persisted. Her eyebrows rose a little higher, but I indicated the papers in front of me. “No, really. I’ve just been reading about -” I looked at the piles of Rossi’s documents in front of me and stopped abruptly. The contemptuous slant of her eyelids made my face grow warm.

“Dracula?” she said sarcastically. “Those appear to be primary sources you have got there.” She had a rich accent I couldn’t place, and her voice was soft, but library soft, as if it could spring into real strength when uncoiled.

I tried a different tactic. “Are you reading those for fun? I mean, for enjoyment? Or are you doing research?”

“Fun?” She kept the book open, still, maybe to discourage me with every possible weapon.

“Well, that’s an unusual topic, and if you’ve also gotten out a work on the Carpathians, you must be deeply interested in your subject.” I hadn’t spoken so quickly since the orals for my master’s degree. “I was just about to check that book out myself. Both of them, in fact.”

“Really,” she said. “And why is that?”

“Well,” I hazarded, “I’ve got these letters here, from-from an unusual historical source-and they mention Dracula. They’re about Dracula.”

A faint interest dawned inside her gaze, as if the amber light had won out and was turned reluctantly on me. She slumped slightly in her chair, relaxed into something like masculine ease, without taking her hands off her book. It struck me that this was a gesture I had seen a hundred times before, this slackening of tension that accompanied thought, this settling into a conversation. Where had I seen it?

“What are those letters, exactly?” she asked, in her quiet foreign voice. I thought with regret that I should have introduced myself and my credentials before getting into any of this. For some reason, I felt I couldn’t start over at this point-couldn’t suddenly put out my hand to shake hers and tell her what department I was in, and so on. It also occurred to me that I’d never seen her before, so she certainly wasn’t in history, unless she was new, a transfer from some other university. And should I lie to protect Rossi? I decided, at random, not to. I simply left his name out of the equation.

“I’m working with someone who’s-having some problems, and he wrote these letters more than twenty years ago. He gave them to me thinking I might be able to help him out of his current-situation-which has to do with-he studies, I mean he was studying -”

“I see,” she said with cold politeness. She stood up and started collecting her books, deliberately and without haste. Now she was picking up her briefcase. Standing, she looked as tall as I’d imagined her, a little sinewy, with broad shoulders.

“Why are you studying Dracula?” I asked in desperation.

“Well, I must say it is not any of your business,” she told me shortly, turning away, “but I am planning a future trip, although I do not know when I will take it.”

“To the Carpathians?” I felt suddenly rattled by the whole conversation.

“No.” She flung that last word back at me, disdainfully. And then, as if she couldn’t help herself, but so contemptuously that I didn’t dare follow her: “To Istanbul.”

“Good Lord,” my father prayed suddenly against the twittering sky. The last swallows were homing in above us, the town with its diminished lights settling heavily into the valley. “We shouldn’t be sitting around here with a hike ahead of us tomorrow. Pilgrims are supposed to turn in early, I’m sure. With the coming of dark, or something like that.”

I shifted my legs; one foot had fallen asleep under me and the stones of the churchyard wall felt suddenly sharp, impossibly uncomfortable, especially with the thought of bed looming ahead of me. I would have pins and needles on the stumbling walk downhill to the hotel. I felt a boiling irritation, too, far sharper than the sensations in my feet. My father had stopped his story too soon, again.

“Look,” my father said, pointing straight out from our perch. “I think that must be Saint-Matthieu.”

I followed his gesture to the dark, massed mountains and saw, halfway up, a small, steady light. No other light appeared close to it; no other habitation seemed anywhere near it. It was like a single spark on immense folds of black cloth, high up but not close to the highest peaks-it hung between the town and the night sky. “Yes, that’s just where the monastery must be, I think,” my father said again. “And we’ll have a real climb tomorrow, even if we go by the road.”

As we set off along moonless streets, I felt that sadness that comes with dropping down from a height, leaving anything lofty. Before we turned the corner of the old bell tower, I glanced back once, to pin that tiny spot of light in my memory. There it was again, gleaming above a house wall tumbled over with dark bougainvillea. Standing still for a moment, I looked hard at it. Then, just once, the light winked.

Chapter 9

December 14, 1930

Trinity College, Oxford

My dear and unfortunate successor:

I shall conclude my account as rapidly as possible, since you must draw from it vital information if we are both to-ah, to survive, at least, and to survive in a state of goodness and mercy. There is survival and survival, the historian learns to his grief. The very worst impulses of humankind can survive generations, centuries, even millennia. And the best of our individual efforts can die with us at the end of a single lifetime.

But to proceed: on my journey from England to Greece, I experienced some of the smoothest travelling I have ever known. The director of the museum in Crete was actually at the dock to welcome me, and he invited me to return later in the summer, to attend the opening of a Minoan tomb. In addition, two American classicists whom I had wanted for years to meet were staying at my pension. They urged me to inquire about a faculty position that had just become available at their university-exactly the thing for someone with my background-and heaped my work with compliments. I had easy access to every collection I approached, including some private ones. In the afternoons, when the museums shut down and the town took its siesta, I sat on my lovely vine-shaded balcony, fleshing out my notes, and in the process derived ideas for several other works to be attempted at some later date. Under these idyllic circumstances I considered dropping entirely what now seemed to me to be a morbid fancy, the pursuit of that peculiar word,Drakulya.I had brought the antique book with me, not wanting to be parted from it, but I had not opened it for a week now. All in all, I felt free of its spell. But something-an historian’s passion for thoroughness, or maybe sheer love of the chase-compelled me to stick to my plans and go on to Istanbul for a few days. And now I must tell you of my singular adventure in an archive there. This is perhaps the first of several events I shall describe that may inspire your disbelief. Only read to the end, I beg you.

In obedience to this plea, my father said, I read every word. That letter told me again about Rossi’s chilling experience among the documents of Sultan Mehmed II’s collection-his finding there a map labeled in three languages that seemed to indicate the whereabouts of Vlad the Impaler’s tomb, the map’s theft by a sinister bureaucrat, and the two tiny, blistered wounds on the bureaucrat’s neck.

In the telling of this story, his writing style lost some of the compactness and control I had noticed in the earlier two letters, stretching thin and harried and blossoming with small errors, as if he had typed it in great agitation. And despite my own uneasiness (for it was now night, I had returned to my apartment, and I was reading alone there, with the door bolted and the curtains superstitiously drawn), I noticed the language he used in unfolding those events; it followed closely what he’d said to me only two nights before. It was as if the story had bitten so deeply into his mind, nearly a quarter-century earlier, that it needed only to be read off to a new listener.

There were three letters left, and I went on to the next one eagerly.

December 15, 1930

Trinity College, Oxford

My dear and unfortunate successor:

From the moment the ugly official snatched away that map, my luck failed. On my return to my rooms, I found that the hotel manager had moved my belongings to a smaller and rather dirtier chamber because one corner of the ceiling had fallen in, in my own room. During this process, some of my papers had disappeared, and a pair of gold cuff-links of which I was extremely fond had also vanished.

Sitting in my cramped new quarters, I tried at once to resurrect my notes on Vlad Dracula’s history-and the maps I had seen in the archives-from memory. Then I hurried away from that place back into Greece, where I attempted to resume my studies on Crete, since I now had extra time at my disposal.

The boat trip to Crete was horrendous, the sea being very high and rough. A hot, crazing wind, like France ’s infamousmistral,blew down over the island without cease. My previous rooms were occupied and I found only the most pitiful lodgings, dark and musty. My American colleagues had departed. The kindly director of the museum had fallen ill and no one seemed to remember his having invited me to the opening of a tomb. I tried to go on with my writing about Crete but searched my notes in vain for inspiration. My nervousness was hardly appeased by the primitive superstitions I encountered even among townspeople, superstitions I hadn’t noticed on previous trips, although they are so widespread in Greece that I must have come across them before. In Greek tradition, as in many others, the source of the vampire, thevrykolakas,is any corpse not properly buried, or slow to decompose, not to mention anybody accidentally buried alive. The old men in Crete’stavernasseemed much more inclined to tell me their two hundred and ten vampire stories than they were to explain where I might find other shards of pottery like that one, or what ancient shipwrecks their grandfathers had dived into and plundered. One evening I let a stranger buy me a round of a local speciality called, whimsically, amnesia, with the result that I was sick all the next day.

Nothing, in fact, went well with me until after I reached England, which I did in a terrible rainy gale that caused me the most gruesome seasickness I have ever experienced.

I note down these circumstances in case they have some bearing on other aspects of my case. At the very least, they will explain to you my state of mind when I arrived in Oxford: I was exhausted, dejected, fearful. In my mirror I looked pale and thin. Whenever I cut myself shaving, which I did frequently in my nervous clumsiness, I winced, remembering those half-congealed little wounds on the Turkish bureaucrat’s neck and doubting more and more the sanity of my own recollection. Sometimes I had the sense, which haunted me almost to madness, of some purpose unfulfilled, some intention whose form I could not reconstruct. I was lonely and full of longing. In a word, my nerves were in a state I’d never known before.

Of course, I attempted to carry on as usual, saying nothing of these matters to anyone and preparing for the upcoming term with my usual care. I wrote to the American classicists I’d met in Greece, intimating that I would be interested in at least a brief appointment in the States, if they could help me acquire one. I was nearly done with my degree, I felt more and more the need to start afresh, and I thought the change would do me good. I also completed two short articles on the juncture of archaeological and literary evidence in the study of Crete ’s pottery production. With effort, I brought my natural self-discipline to bear on each day, and each day calmed me further.

For the first month after my return, I tried not only to stifle all memory of my unpleasant journey but also to avoid any renewal of my interest in the odd little book in my luggage, or in the research it had precipitated. However, my confidence reasserting itself and my curiosity growing again-perversely-within me, I picked up the volume one evening and reassembled my notes from England and Istanbul. The consequence-and from then on I did view it as a consequence-was immediate, terrifying, and tragic.

I must pause here, brave reader; I cannot bring myself to write more, for the moment. I beg you not to desist in these readings but to pursue them further, as I will try to, myself, tomorrow.

Yours in profoundest grief, Bartholomew Rossi

Chapter 10

As an adult, I have often known that peculiar legacy time brings to the traveler: the longing to seek out a place a second time, to find deliberately what we stumbled on once before, to recapture the feeling of discovery. Sometimes we search out again even a place that was not remarkable in itself-we look for it simply because we remember it. If we do find it, of course, everything is different. The rough-hewn door is still there, but it’s much smaller; the day is cloudy instead of brilliant; it’s spring instead of autumn; we’re alone instead of with three friends. Or, worse, with three friends instead of alone.

The very young traveler knows little of this phenomenon, but before I knew it in myself, I saw it in my father, at Saint-Matthieu-des-Pyrénées-Orientales. I sensed in him, rather than read clearly, the mystery of repetition, already knowing he had been there years before. And, oddly, this place drew him into abstraction in a way no other we’d visited had done. He had been to the region of Emona once before our visit, and to Ragusa several times. He had visited Massimo and Giulia’s stone villa for other happy suppers, in other years. But at Saint-Matthieu I sensed that he had actually longed for this place, thought it through over and over for some reason I could not excavate, relived it without telling anyone. He did not tell me now, except to recognize aloud the curve of the road before it finally ran up against the abbey wall, and to know, later, which door opened into sanctuary, cloister, or-finally-crypt. This memory for detail was nothing new to me; I had seen him reach for the right door in famous old churches before, or take the correct turn to the ancient refectory, or stop to buy tickets at the right guardhouse in the right shady gravel drive, or recall, even, where he had previously had the finest cup of coffee.

The difference at Saint-Matthieu was a difference of alertness, an almost cursory scanning of walls and cloistered walkways. Instead of seeming to say to himself, “Ah, there’s that fine tympanum above the doors; Ithought I remembered it was on this side,” my father appeared to be checking off views he could already have described with his eyes closed. It came over me gradually, even before we had finished climbing the steep, cypress-shaded grounds to the main entrance, that what he remembered here were not architectural details, but events.

A monk in a long brown habit stood by the wooden doors, quietly handing brochures to the tourists. “As I told you, it’s a working monastery still,” my father was saying in an ordinary voice. He had put on his sunglasses, although the monastery wall threw a deep shade over us. “They keep the crowds down to a dull roar by letting everyone in for only a few hours a day.” He smiled at the man as we approached, then stretched his hand out for a pamphlet. “Merci beaucoup-we’ll take just one,” he was saying in his courteous French. But this time, with the intuitive accuracy the young turn on their parents, I knew even more surely that he had not merely seen this place before, camera in hand. He hadn’t just “done” it properly, even if he knew all its art-historical coordinates from his guidebook. Instead, something, I felt sure, had happened to him here.

My second impression was as fleeting as my first, but sharper: when he opened the pamphlet and put one foot on the stone threshold, bending his head too casually to the words instead of to the beasts in relief overhead (which would normally have caught his eye), I saw that he hadn’t lost some old emotion for the sanctuary we were about to enter. That emotion, I realized without breathing between my intuition and the thought that followed it-that emotion was either grief or fear, or some terrible blend of the two.

Saint-Matthieu-des-Pyrénées-Orientales sits at a height of four thousand feet above sea level-and the sea is not as distant as this walled-in landscape with its wheeling eagles would have you believe. Red-roofed and precariously high at the summit, the monastery seems to have grown directly out of a single pinnacle of mountain rock, which is true, in a way, since the earliest incarnation of its church was hewed straight down into the rock itself in the year 1000. The main entrance to the abbey is a later expression of the Romanesque, influenced by the art of the Muslims who fought over the centuries to take the peak: a squared-off stone portal crowned by geometric, Islamic borders and two grimacing, groaning Christian monsters in bas-relief, creatures that might be lions, bears, bats, or griffins-impossible animals whose lineage could be anything.

Inside lies the tiny abbey church of Saint-Matthieu and its wonderfully delicate cloister, hedged in by rosebushes even at that tremendous altitude, surrounded by twisted single columns of red marble so fragile in appearance that they could have been corkscrewed into shape by an artistic Samson. Sunlight splashes onto the flagstones of the open courtyard, and blue sky arches suddenly overhead.

But the thing that caught my attention as soon as we entered was the sound of trickling water, unexpected and lovely in that high, dry place and yet as natural as the sound of a mountain stream. It came from the cloister fountain, around which the monks had once paced their meditations: a six-sided red marble basin, decorated on its flat exterior with chiseled relief that showed a miniature cloister, a reflection of the real one around us. The fountain’s great basin stood on six columns of red marble (and one central support through which the springwater rose, I think). Around its exterior, six spigots burbled water into a pool below. It made an enchanting music.

When I went to the outside edge of the cloisters and sat down on a low wall there, I could look out over a drop of several thousand feet and see thin mountain waterfalls, white against the vertical blue forest. Already perched on a peak, we were surrounded by the looming, unscalable walls of the highest Pyrénées-Orientales. At this distance, the waterfalls plunged downward in silence, or appeared as mere mist, while the living fountain behind me trickled and dripped audibly without pause.

“The cloistered life,” my father murmured, settling down next to me on the wall. His face was strange, and he put one arm around my shoulders, something he rarely did. “It looks peaceful, but it’s very hard. And wicked, sometimes, too.” We sat gazing across that gulf, which was so deep that morning light hadn’t yet reached the chasm below. Something hung and glinted in the air beneath us, and I realized even before my father pointed to it what it was: a bird of prey, hunting slowly along the pinnacle walls, suspended like a drifting flake of copper.

“Built higher than the eagles,” my father mused. “You know, the eagle is a very old Christian symbol, the symbol of Saint John. Matthew-Saint Matthieu-is the angel, and Luke is the ox, and Saint Mark of course is the winged lion. You see that lion all over the Adriatic, because he was Venice ’s patron saint. He holds a book in his paws-if the book is open, that statue or relief was carved at a moment when Venice was at peace. Closed, it means Venice was at war. We saw him at Ragusa -remember?-with his book closed, over one of the gates. And now we’ve seen the eagle, too, guarding this place. Well, it needs its guards.” He frowned, stood up, and swung away. It struck me that he regretted, almost to tears, our visit here. “Shall we take a tour?”

It was not until we were descending the steps to the crypt that I saw again in my father that indescribable attitude of fear. We had finished our attentive pacing through cloisters, chapels, nave, wind-worn kitchen buildings. The crypt was the last item on our self-guided tour, dessert for the morbid, as my father said in some churches. At a yawning stairwell he seemed to go forward a little too deliberately, keeping me behind him without even raising an arm as we stepped down into the hold of the rock. A stunningly cold breath reached up for us from the earthy dark. The other tourists had moved on, finished with this attraction, and left us there alone.

“This was the nave of the first church,” my father explained again, unnecessarily, in his thoroughly ordinary voice. “When the abbey grew stronger and they could continue building, they simply burst into the open air up there and built a new church on top of the old.” Candles interrupted the darkness from stone sconces on the heavy pillars. A cross had been cut into the wall of the apse; it hovered, like a shadow, above the stone altar, or sarcophagus-it was hard to tell which-that stood in the apse’s curve. Along the sides of the crypt lay two or three other sarcophagi, small and primitive, unmarked. My father drew a long breath, looking around that great cold hole in the rock. “The resting place of the founding abbot and of several later abbots. And that completes our tour. All right. Let’s go get some lunch.”

I paused on the way out. The urge to ask my father what he knew about Saint-Matthieu, what he remembered, even, came over me in a wave, almost a panic. But his back, broad in a black linen jacket, said as clearly as spoken words, “Wait. Everything in its time.” I looked quickly toward that sarcophagus at the far end of the ancient basilica. Its form was crude, stolid in the unflickering light. Whatever it hid was part of the past, and guessing would not unbury it.

And I knew something else already, without having to guess. The story that I would hear over lunch on the monastic terrace, a tactful drop below the monks’ quarters, might turn out to be about someplace very distant from this one, but like our visit here, it would certainly be another step toward that fear I had begun to see brooding in my father. Why had he not wanted to tell me about Rossi’s disappearance until Massimo had blundered into it? Why had he choked, white, when the maître d‘ of the restaurant had told us a legend about the living dead? Whatever haunted my father’s memory was brought out for him vividly by this place, which should have been more sacred than horrible and yet was horrible to him, so much so that his shoulders were squared against it. I would have to work, as Rossi had, to collect my own clues. I was becoming wise in the way of the story.

Chapter 11

On my next visit to the library in Amsterdam, I found that Mr. Binnerts had actually looked some things up for me during my absence. When I went into the reading room straight from school, my book bag still on my back, he glanced up with a smile. “So it’s you,” he said in his nice English. “My young historian. I have something for you, for your project.” I followed him to his desk and he took out a book. “This is not such an old book,” he told me. “But it has some very old stories in it. They are not very happy reading, my dear, but maybe they will help you write your paper.” Mr. Binnerts settled me at a table, and I looked gratefully at his retreating sweater. It touched me to be trusted with something terrible.

The book was calledTales from the Carpathians, a dingy nineteenth-century tome published privately by an English collector named Robert Digby. Digby’s preface outlined his wanderings among wild mountains and wilder languages, although he had also gone to German and Russian sources for some of his work. His tales had a wild sound, too, and the prose was romantic enough, but examining them long afterward, I found his versions of them compared favorably to those of later collectors and translators. There were two tales about “Prince Dracula,” and I read them eagerly. The first recounted how Dracula liked to feast out of doors among the corpses of his impaled subjects. One day, I learned, a servant complained openly in front of Dracula about the terrible smell, whereupon the prince ordered his men to impale the servant above the others, so the smell would not offend the dying servant’s nose. Digby presented another version of this, in which Dracula shouted for a stake three times the length of the stakes on which the others had been impaled.

The second story was equally gruesome. It described how Sultan Mehmed II had once sent two ambassadors to Dracula. When the ambassadors came before him, they did not remove their turbans. Dracula demanded to know why they were dishonoring him in this way, and they replied that they were simply acting in accordance with their own customs. “Then I shall help you to strengthen your customs,” replied the prince, and he had their turbans nailed to their heads.

I copied Digby’s versions of these two little tales into my notebook. When Mr. Binnerts came back to see how I was getting along, I asked him if we might look for some sources on Dracula by his contemporaries, if there were any. “Certainly,” he said, nodding gravely. He was going off his desk then, but he would look around for something as soon as he had time. Perhaps after that-he shook his head, smiling-perhaps after that I would find some pleasanter topic, such as medieval architecture. I promised-smiling, too-that I would think about it.

There is no place on earth more exuberant than Venice on a breezy, hot, cloudless day. The boats rock and swell in the Lagoon as if launching themselves, crewless, on adventure; the ornate facades brighten in the sunlight; the water smells fresh, for once. The whole city puffs up like a sail, a boat dancing unmoored, ready to float off. The waves at the edge of the Piazza di San Marco become raucous in the wake of the speedboats, producing a festive but vulgar music like the clash of cymbals. In Amsterdam, Venice of the North, this jubilant weather would have made the city sparkle with renewed purpose. Here, it ended by showing cracks in the perfection-a weedy fountain in one back square, for example, whose water should have been on full spray and instead made a rusty dribble over the lip of the basin. Saint Mark’s horses pranced shabbily in the glittering light. The columns of the doge’s palace looked disagreeably unwashed.

I commented on this air of dilapidated celebration, and my father laughed. “You’ve got an eye for atmosphere,” he said. “ Venice is famous for her stage show, and she doesn’t mind if she gets a little run-down, as long as the world pours in here to worship her.” He gestured around the outdoor café-our favorite place after Florian’s-at the perspiring tourists, their hats and pastel shirts flapping in the breeze off the water. “Wait till evening and you won’t be disappointed. A stage set needs a softer kind of light than this. You’ll be surprised by the transformation.”

For now, sipping my orangeade, I was too comfortable to move, anyway; waiting for a pleasant surprise suited my aims exactly. It was the last hot spell of summer before autumn blew in. With autumn would come more school and, if I was lucky, a little peripatetic studying with my father as he roamed a map of negotiation, compromise, and bitter bargains. This fall he would be in Eastern Europe again, and I was already lobbying to be taken along.

My father drained his beer and flipped through a guidebook. “Yes.” He pounced suddenly. “Here’s San Marco. You know, Venice was a rival of the Byzantine world for centuries, and a great sea power, too. In fact, Venice stole some remarkable things from Byzantium, including those carousel animals up there.” I looked out from under our awning at Saint Mark’s, where the coppery horses seemed to be dragging the weight of the dripping leaden domes behind them. The whole basilica looked molten in this light-garishly bright and hot, an inferno of treasure. “Anyway,” said my father, “San Marco was designed partly in imitation of Santa Sophia, in Istanbul.”

“ Istanbul?” I said slyly, dredging my glass for ice. “You mean it looks like the Hagia Sophia?”

“Well, of course the Hagia Sophia was overrun by the Ottoman Empire, so you see those minarets guarding the outside, and inside there are huge shields bearing Muslim holy texts. You reallysee East and West collide in there. But then there are the great domes on the top, distinctly Christian and Byzantine, like San Marco’s.”

“And they look like these?” I pointed across the piazza.

“Yes, very much like these, but grander. The scale of the place is overwhelming. It takes your breath away.”

“Oh,” I said. “Could I get another drink, please?”

My father glared at me suddenly, but it was too late. Now I knew that he had been to Istanbul himself.

Chapter 12

December 16, 1930

Trinity College, Oxford

My dear and unfortunate successor:

At this point, my history has almost caught up with me, or I with it, and I must narrate events that will bring my story up to the present. There, I hope, it will stop, since I can hardly bear the thought that the future may contain more of these horrors.

As I have related, I eventually picked up my strange book again, like a man compelled by an addiction. I told myself before I did it that my life had returned to normal, that my experience in Istanbul had been odd but was surely explicable and had taken on exaggerated proportions in my travel-wearied brain. So I literally picked the book up again, and I feel I should tell you about that moment in the most literal terms.

It was a rainy evening in October, only two months ago. Term had begun, and I sat in pleasant solitude in my rooms, whiling away an hour after supper. I was waiting for my friend Hedges, a don only ten years older than myself of whom I was extremely fond. He was an awkward and eminently good-natured person, whose apologetic shrugs and kind, shy smile disguised a wit so keen that I often felt thankful he turned it on eighteenth-century literature and not on his colleagues. Except for his shyness, he could have been at home among Addison, Swift, and Pope, gathering in some London coffeehouse. He had only a few friends, had never so much as looked directly at a woman not related to him, and fostered no dreams that reached beyond the Oxford countryside, where he liked to walk, leaning over a fence now and then to watch the cows chewing. His gentleness was visible in the shape of his big head, his meaty hands, and his soft brown eyes, so that he seemed rather bovine himself, or badgerlike, until that clever sarcasm of his suddenly stung the air. I loved to hear about his work, which he discussed in a modest but enthusiastic way, and he never failed to urge me on in my own pursuits. His name was-well, you could find it in any library, with a little poking around, since he brought several of England ’s literary geniuses back to life for the lay reader. But I will call him Hedges, anom de guerreof my own devising, to give him in this narrative the privacy and decency that were his in life.

This particular evening Hedges was to drop by my rooms with drafts of the two articles I had squeezed out of my work at Crete. He had read and corrected them for me, at my request; although he couldn’t comment on the accuracy or inaccuracy of my descriptions of trade in the ancient Mediterranean, he wrote like an angel, the sort of angel whose precision would indeed have allowed him to dance on the head of a pin, and he often suggested polish for my style. I anticipated half an hour’s friendly critique, then sherry and that gratifying moment when a true friend stretches his legs at your fireside and asks you how you’ve been. I wouldn’t tell him the truth about my rattled and still-healing nerves, of course, but we might discuss anything and everything else.

While I waited I poked up the fire, added another log, set out two glasses, and surveyed my desk. My study also served me for a sitting room, and I made sure it was kept as orderly and comfortable as the solidity of its nineteenth-century furnishings demanded. I had completed a great deal of work that afternoon, supped off a plate brought up to me at six o’clock, and then cleared the last of my papers. Dark was coming in early already, and with it arrived a gloomy, slanting rain. I find this the most appealing kind of autumn evening, not the most dismal, so I felt only a faint shiver of premonition when my hand, searching for ten minutes’ reading, fell casually on the antique volume I had been avoiding. I’d left it tucked among less disturbing items on a shelf above my desk. Now I sat down there, feeling with lurking pleasure the suede-soft old cover fitting into my hand again, and opened the book.

Immediately I became aware of something very strange. A smell rose from its pages that was not merely the delicate scent of aging paper and cracked vellum. It was a reek of decay, a terrible, sickening odor, a smell of old meat or corrupted flesh. I had never noticed it before, and I leaned closer, sniffing, unbelieving, then shut the book. I reopened it after a moment, and again stomach-turning fumes rose from its pages. The little volume seemed alive in my hands, yet it smelled of death.

This unsettling malodor brought back to me all the nervous fear of my return trip from the Continent, and I stilled my feelings only with a concerted effort. Old books rotted, that was fact, and I had travelled with this one through rain and storm. The smell could surely be explained thus. Maybe I would take it to the Rare Book Room again and get some advice on having it cleaned, or fumigated, whatever was required.

If I had not been studiously avoiding my reaction to this unpleasant presence, I would’ve dropped the thing, put it away again. But now, for the first time in many weeks, I made myself turn to that extraordinary central image, the wide-winged dragon snarling over his banner. Suddenly, with jarring accuracy, I saw something afresh and comprehended it for the first time. I have never been gifted with great sharpness in my visual understanding of the world, but some flicker of heightened senses showed me the outline of the whole dragon, his spread wings and looped tail. In a spasm of curiosity I rummaged through the package of notes I had brought back from Istanbul, which had lain ignored in my desk drawer. Fumbling, I found the page I wanted; torn from my own notebook, it showed a sketch I had made in the archives in Istanbul, a copy of the first of the maps I’d found there.

You will remember that there were three of those maps, graduated in scale to show the same unnamed region in greater and greater detail. That region, even sketched in my inartistic if careful hand, had a most definite shape. It looked for all the world like a symmetrically winged beast. A long river wound away from it to the southwest, curling back as the dragon’s tail did. I studied the woodcut, my heart fluttering strangely. The dragon’s tail was barbed, tipped with an arrow that pointed-here I almost gasped aloud, forgetting all the intervening weeks of recovery from my former obsession-towards the spot that corresponded on my map to the site of the Unholy Tomb.

The visual resemblance between the two images was too striking to be coincidence. How had I not noticed, in the archive, that the region represented on those maps had exactly the brooding, spread-winged shape of my dragon, as if he cast his shadow over it from above? The woodcut I had puzzled over so deeply before my trip must hold a definite meaning, a message. It was designed to threaten and intimidate, to commemorate power. But for the persistent, it might be a clue; its tail pointed to the tomb as surely as any finger points to the self: this is me. I am here. And who was there, in that central point, that Unholy Tomb? The dragon held up his answer in cruelly sharpened talons:DRAKULYA.

I tasted an acrid tension, like my own blood, at the back of my throat. I knew I must hold myself back from these conclusions, as my training warned me, but I felt a conviction deeper than reason. None of the maps showed Lake Snagov, where Vlad Tepes was supposed to have been buried. Surely this meant Tepes-Dracula-rested somewhere else, someplace not even legend had recorded reliably. But where was his tomb, then? I grated out the question aloud, in spite of myself. And why had its location been kept a secret?

As I sat there trying to fit these pieces together, I heard the familiar sound of footsteps along the college hall-Hedges’s shuffling, endearing walk-and I thought distractedly that I must hide these materials, go to the door, pour out sherry, rearrange myself for convivial talk. I had half risen, gathering papers, when I suddenly heard the silence. It was like an error in music, a note held one beat too long, so that it arrested the listener in a way no definite chord could have done. The familiar, good-natured steps had stopped outside my door, but Hedges hadn’t knocked, as he usually did. My heart echoed that perceptibly skipped beat. Over the rustling of my papers and the spat of rain on the gutter above my window, now darkened, I heard a hum-the sound of my blood rising in my ears. I dropped the book, hurried to the outer door of my rooms, unlocked it, and pulled it open.

Hedges was there, but he lay sprawled on the polished floor, his head thrown backwards and his body twisted sideways, as if a great force had hurled him down. I realized with a thrill of nausea that I hadn’t heard him cry out or fall. His eyes were open, staring hard past me. For an endless second I thought he was dead. Then his head moved and he groaned. I crouched beside him. “Hedges!”

He moaned again and blinked rapidly.

“Can you hear me?” I gasped, almost sobbing with relief because he was alive. At that moment his head rolled convulsively, revealing a bloody gash in the side of his neck. It wasn’t large, but it looked deep, as if a dog had leapt up and torn at the flesh, and it was bleeding profusely down his collar and onto the floor by his shoulder. “Help!” I shouted. I doubt anyone had so violently broken the hush of that oak-panelled hall in the centuries since it was built. And I didn’t know if it was any use; this was the night when most of the fellows dined with the college master. Then a door flew open at the far end and Professor Jeremy Forester’s valet came running, a nice chap named Ronald Egg who has since left the house. He seemed to take everything in at once, his eyes bulging, and then he knelt to tie his handkerchief over the wound on Hedges’s neck.

“Here,” he said to me. “We’ve got to get him sitting up, sir, elevate that cut, if he has no other injuries.” He felt carefully up and down Hedges’s rigid body, and when my friend didn’t protest, we propped him against the wall. I supported him on my shoulder, where he leaned heavily, his eyes closing. “I’m going for the doctor,” Ronald said and vanished down the hallway. I kept a finger on Hedges’s pulse; his head lolled next to me but his heartbeat seemed steady. I couldn’t help trying to call him back to consciousness. “What happened, Hedges? Did someone strike you? Can you hear me? Hedges?”

He opened his eyes and looked at me. His head listed to one side and half his face looked slack, bluish, but he spoke intelligibly. “He said to tell you…”

“What? Who?”

“He said to tell you he will brook no trespasses.”

Hedges’s head fell back against the wall, that big, fine head that sheltered one of England ’s best minds. The skin crawled on my arms as I held him. “Who, Hedges? Who said that to you? Did he hurt you? Did you see him?”

Saliva bubbled at the corner of his mouth and his hands worked by his sides.

“Brook no trespasses,” he gurgled.

“Lie still now,” I urged. “Don’t talk. The doctor will be here in a few minutes. Try to relax and breathe.”

“Dear me,” Hedges murmured. “Pope and the alliterative. Sweet nymph. For argument.”

I stared at him, my stomach tightening. “Hedges?”

“‘The Rape of the Lock,’” Hedges said politely. “Without a doubt.”

The university doctor who admitted him to the hospital told me Hedges had suffered a stroke along with his wound. “Brought on by the shock. That gash on his neck,” he added outside Hedges’s room. “It looks as if it was made by something sharp, most likely sharp teeth, an animal. You don’t keep a dog?”

“Of course not. They aren’t permitted in college chambers.”

The doctor shook his head. “Very odd. I believe he was attacked by some animal on his way to your room, and the shock brought on a stroke that was perhaps waiting to occur. He’s pretty well off his head, for now, although he can form coherent words. There will be an investigation, I’m afraid, because of the wound, but it seems to me we’ll find someone’s nasty watchdog at the bottom of this. Try to think out what walk he would’ve taken to your digs.”

The investigation turned up nothing satisfactory, but neither was I indicted, since the police could find no motive and no evidence for my having hurt Hedges myself. Hedges was incapable of testifying, and they finally recorded the incident as “self-injury,” which seemed to me an avoidable blight on his reputation. One day during a visit to his rest home, I quietly asked Hedges to think about these words: “I will brook no trespasses.”

He turned incurious eyes on me, touching with idle, puffy fingers the red wound on his neck. “If so, Boswell,” he said pleasantly, almost humorously. “If not, begone.” A few days later he was dead, of a second stroke suffered during the night. No external injuries to the body were reported by the rest home. When the college master came to tell me, I swore to myself that I would work tirelessly to avenge Hedges’s death, if I could only figure out how.

I do not have the heart to record in detail the pain of the service held for him in our chapel at Trinity, the stifled sobs of his old father when the boys’ choir began their beautifully set psalms to comfort the living, the anger I felt towards the impotent Eucharist on its tray. Hedges was buried in his own village in Dorset, and I have visited the grave alone, on a mild November day. The stone saysREQUIESCAT IN PACE,which would have been my exact choice, too, had the decision been mine. To my infinite relief, it is the quietest of country churchyards, and the parson speaks as mildly of Hedges’s interment as he might of any local honor. I heard no tales of an Englishvrykolakasat the pub on the high street, even when I dropped the broadest, blandest hints. After all, Hedges was attacked only once, not the several times Stoker describes as necessary to infect a living person with the contagion of the undead. I believe he was sacrificed as a mere warning-to me. And to you, as well, unfortunate reader?

Yours in profoundest grief, Bartholomew Rossi

My father stirred the ice in his glass, as if to steady his hand and give himself something to do. Afternoon heat was relaxing into a calm Venetian evening, making the shadows of tourists and buildings stretch long across the piazza. A mass of pigeons started up off the paving stones, frightened by something, and wheeled overhead, enormous in flight. The chill from all those cold drinks had finally reached me, seeped into my bones. Someone laughed, far away, and I could hear seagulls crying above the pigeons. As we sat there a young man in a white shirt and blue jeans came loping up to speak with us. He had a canvas bag slung over one shoulder and his shirt was spotted with colors. “Buy a painting, signore?” he said, smiling at my father. “You and the signorina are the stars of my painting today.”

“No, no,grazie, ” my father replied automatically. The squares and alleys were full of these art-student figures. This was the third scene of Venezia we’d been offered that day; my father hardly glanced at the picture. The young man, still smiling and perhaps unwilling to leave us without at least a compliment for his work, held it up for me to see, and I nodded sympathetically, glancing at it. A second later he was bobbing away in search of other tourists, and I sat frozen, watching him go.

The painting he had shown me was a richly hued watercolor. It depicted our café, and the edge of Florian’s, a bright and unprovoking impression of the afternoon. The artist must have been stationed somewhere behind me, I thought, but fairly close to the café; he had caught a splotch of color that I recognized as the back of my red straw hat, with my father in blurry tan and blue just beyond. It was an elegant, casual piece of work, the image of summer indolence, something a tourist might well want to keep as the souvenir of an unblemished Adriatic day. But my glance at it had shown me a lone figure sitting beyond my father, a broad-shouldered, dark-headed figure, a crisp black silhouette among the cheerful colors of awning and tablecloths. That table, I recalled clearly, had been vacant all afternoon.

Chapter 13

Our next trip took us east again, beyond the Julian Alps. The little town of Kostanjevica, “place of the chestnut tree,” was indeed full of chestnuts at this time of year, some already underfoot, so that if you set your shoe down wrong on the cobbled streets you slid precariously on a sharp burr. In front of the mayor’s house, originally built to shelter an Austro-Hungarian bureaucrat, the nuts in their wicked-looking shells lay everywhere, a swarm of tiny porcupines.

My father and I walked slowly along, enjoying the end of a warm autumnal day-in the local dialect, this was called gypsy summer, a woman in a shop had told us-and I reflected on the differences between the Western world, a few hundred kilometers away, and this Eastern one, just a little south of Emona. Here everything in the stores looked like everything else, and the shop clerks, too, seemed to me exactly like one another, in royal blue work coats and flowered scarves, their gold or stainless steel teeth glinting at us over the half-empty counter. We had bought an enormous chocolate bar to supplement our picnic of sliced salami, brown bread, and cheese, and my father carried bottles of my favorite Naranca, an orange drink that reminded me already of Ragusa, Emona, Venezia.

The last meeting in Zagreb had ended the day before while I put the finishing flourish to my history homework. My father wanted me to study German now, too, and I was eager to, not because of his insistence but despite it; I would begin that tomorrow, out of a book from the foreign-language store in Amsterdam. I had a new short green dress and yellow kneesocks, my father was smiling over some unintelligible spoof that had passed between one diplomat and another that morning, and the Naranca bottles clinked together in our net bag. Ahead of us lay a low stone bridge, spanning the River Kostan. I hurried there for my first look, which I wanted to enjoy in private, without even my father beside me.

The river curved out of sight close to the bridge, and in its curve huddled a diminutive castle, a villa-sized Slav château with swans paddling below its walls and grooming themselves on the bank. As I watched, a woman in a blue coat opened an upstairs window, pushing it outward, making its latticed glass wink in the sun, and shook her dust mop. Below the bridge, young willows crowded together and swallows flew in and out of the mud bluffs at their roots. In the castle park, I saw a stone bench (not too close to the swans, whom I feared even now, in my teens) with chestnut trees leaning over it and the castle walls throwing a soothing shade on it. My father’s clean suit would be safe there, and he might sit longer than he’d intended and talk in spite of himself.

All the time I was looking through these letters in my apartment, my father said, wiping the traces of salami from his hands with a cotton handkerchief, something outside the whole tragic problem of Rossi’s disappearance kept nagging at the back of my mind. When I put down the letter recounting his friend Hedges’s gruesome accident, I felt too ill for a few moments to think clearly. I had stumbled into a world of sickness, a netherworld of the familiar academic one I’d known for many years, a subtext of the ordinary narrative of history I’d always taken for granted. In my historian’s experience, the dead stayed respectably dead, the Middle Ages held real horrors, not supernatural ones, Dracula was a colorful East European legend resurrected by the movies of my childhood, and 1930 was three years before Hitler assumed dictatorial powers in Germany, a terror that surely precluded all other possibilities.

So I felt sick, for a second, and corrupted, angry with my vanished mentor for having bequeathed me these nasty illusions. Then the regretful, gentle tone of his letters worked on me again, and I was filled with compunction for my disloyalty. Rossi depended on me-on me alone; if I refused to suspend disbelief because of some pedantic principle, I would surely never see him again.

And something else nagged at me. As my brain cleared a little, I realized it was my memory of the young woman at the library, whom I’d met only a couple of hours before, although it already seemed to me days. I remembered the extraordinary light in her eyes as she had listened to my explanation of Rossi’s letters, the masculine drawing together of her eyebrows in concentration. Why had she been reading about Dracula, at my table of all tables, that evening of all evenings, at my very elbow? Why had she mentioned Istanbul? I was rattled enough by what I had read in Rossi’s letters to suspend my disbelief further, to reject the notion of coincidence in favor of something stronger. And why not? If I accepted one supernatural occurrence, I should certainly accept others; it was only logical.

I sighed and picked up Rossi’s last letter. After this I would need only to review the other materials that had been hidden in that innocuous envelope and then I was on my own. Whatever the girl’s appearance meant-and it probably meant nothing out of the ordinary, didn’t it?-I did not have time yet to find out who she was or why we shared this interest in the occult. It was odd for me to think of myself as someone interested in the occult; I wasn’t, in the slightest, when you got right down to it. I was interested in finding Rossi.

The last letter, unlike the others, was handwritten-on lined notebook paper, in a dark ink. I unfolded it.

August 19, 1931

My dear and unfortunate successor:

Well, I cannot pretend you may not be out there for me still, somewhere, waiting to save me if my life one day collapses. And because I have a further bit of information to add to everything you have already (presumably) perused, I feel I should fill this bitter vial up to the brim. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” my friend Hedges would have quoted. But he is gone, and gone as surely by my hand as if I had opened my study door, struck the blow myself, and then shouted for assistance. I didn’t do that, of course. If you have consented to read this far, you do not doubt my word.

But I finally doubted my own strength, a few months ago, and I did so for reasons connected with Hedges’s enraging and terrible end. I fled his graveside for America -almost literally; my appointment had become reality and I was already packing my boxes at the time I took a day out in Dorset to see where he rested in peace. After I departed for America, disappointing a few in Oxford and saddening my parents greatly, I’m afraid, I found myself in a new and brighter world, where the term (I have been appointed for three and will fight for more) begins earlier, and the students have an open and practical outlook unknown at Oxford. And even after all this I could not bring myself to drop entirely my acquaintance with the undead. As a consequence, apparently, he-It-could not bring himself to drop his acquaintance with me.

You will remember that on the night Hedges was attacked, I had unexpectedly discovered the meaning of the central woodcut in my sinister book and verified to myself that the Unholy Tomb on the maps I’d found in Istanbul must be the tomb of Vlad Dracula. I had spoken my remaining question aloud-where was his tomb, then?-as I had spoken aloud in the archive in Istanbul, conjuring up this second time some terrible presence, which wreaked its warning to me on my dear friend’s life. Perhaps only an abnormal ego would pit itself against natural forces-unnatural, in this case-but I swear to you that this punishment angered me beyond terror, for a time, and made me vow to ferret out the last clues and, if my strength held, to pursue my pursuer to his lair. This bizarre thought became as ordinary to me as the desire to publish my next article, or to earn a permanent place at the cheerful new university that was claiming my jaded heart.

After I had settled into the routine of academic duties, and prepared to return briefly to England at the end of term to see my parents and to turn the pages of my doctoral thesis over to that kind London press where I was increasingly well looked after, I set out once more on the scent of Vlad Dracula, the historical or the supernatural, whichever he might prove to be. It seemed to me that my next task was to learn more about my strange old book: whence it had come, who had designed it, how old it was. I gave it up (reluctantly, I admit) to the laboratories of the Smithsonian. They shook their heads there over the specificity of my questions and hinted that the consultation of powers beyond their own means would cost me more. But I was stubborn, and I didn’t think that a farthing of my inheritance from my grandfather, or my meagre savings from Oxford, should go to clothe or feed or entertain me while Hedges lay unavenged (but, thank God, at peace) in a churchyard that ought not to have seen his coffin for another fifty years. I was no longer afraid of consequences, since the worst I could have imagined had already befallen me; in this sense, at least, the forces of darkness had miscalculated.

But it was not the brutality of what occurred next that changed my mind and brought home to me the full meaning of fear. It was the brilliance of it.

My book was being handled at the Smithsonian by a bibliophilic little person named Howard Martin, a kind if rather taciturn man who had taken my cause to heart as thoroughly as if he’d known my whole story. (No-on second thought, if he had known my whole story, he would perhaps have shown me the door on my first visit.) But he apparently saw only my passion for history, sympathized, and did his best for me. His best was very good, very thorough, and he assimilated what the laboratories sent him with a care that would have graced Oxford better than it did those rather bureaucratic museum offices in Washington. I was impressed, and further impressed by his knowledge of European bookmaking in the centuries just before and after Gutenberg.

When he had apparently done everything he could for me, he wrote to me that I could have the results, such as they were, and that he would hand the book to me in person, as I had first handed it to him, if I didn’t wish it to be shipped north. I made the train trip down, doing a little sightseeing the next morning and then appearing at his office door ten minutes before the appointed time. My heart was thudding and my mouth had gone dry; I itched both to have my hands on my book again and to know what he had learned about its origins.

Mr. Martin opened the door and ushered me in with a little smile. “So glad you could come down,” he said in the flat American twang that had become for me the most welcoming speech in the world.

When we were seated in his manuscript-filled office, I found myself facing him and was immediately shocked by the change in his appearance. I had seen him briefly a few months before and remembered his face, and nothing in his neat and professional correspondence with me had implied illness. Now he was drawn and pale, haggard in a way that caused his skin to look grey-yellow, his lips unnaturally crimson. He had lost a great deal of weight, so that his outdated suit hung limply from his thin shoulders. He sat hunched slightly forwards, as if some pain or weakness made it impossible for him to stand up straight. He seemed drained of life.

I tried to tell myself that I had merely been in a hurry during my first visit and that my acquaintance with the man by post had made me more observant this time, or more compassionate in my observations, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of having seen him decay with the lapse of a short time. I assured myself that he might have some unfortunate and degenerative disease, a rapidly advancing cancer of some sort. Of course, politeness precluded any mention of his appearance.

“Now, Dr. Rossi,” he said, in the American way. “I don’t believe you realize what a valuable little item you’ve had here all along.”

“Valuable?” He could not possibly know its value to me, I thought, not with all the chemical analyses in the world. It was my key to revenge.

“Yes. It’s a rare example of Central European mediaeval printing, a very interesting and unusual thing, and I’m pretty well satisfied now that it was probably printed about 1512, perhaps in Buda or perhaps in Wallachia. That date would place it safely after the Corvinus Saint Luke but before the Hungarian New Testament of 1520, which would probably have had an influence on such a work if it had already existed.” He shifted in his creaking chair. “It’s even possible that the woodcut in your book actually influenced the New Testament of 1520, which has a similar illustration, a winged Satan. But there’s no way to prove that. Anyway, it would be a funny influence, wouldn’t it? I mean, to see part of the Bible decorated with illustrations anything like this diabolical one.”

“Diabolical?” I relished the sound of the condemnation on someone else’s lips.

“Sure. You filled me in on the Dracula legend, but do you think I stopped there?”

Mr. Martin’s tone was so flat and bright, so American, that it took me a moment to react. Never had I heard that sinister depth in a voice so perfectly ordinary. I stared at him, puzzled, but the tone was gone and his face smooth. He was looking through a pile of papers he had taken out of a folder.

“Here are the results of our tests,” he said. “I’ve made clean copies of them for you, along with my write-up, and I think you’ll find them interesting. They don’t say much more than I’ve just told you-oh, there are two interesting additional facts. It appears from the chemical analysis that this book was stored, probably for a long time, in an atmosphere heavily laden with stone dust, and that that occurred before 1700. Also, the back section of it was stained at some point with salt water-perhaps from exposure to an ocean voyage. I suppose it could have been the Black Sea, if our guesses about production location are correct, but there are a lot of other possibilities, of course. I’m afraid we haven’t set you farther on your quest than that-didn’t you say you’re writing a history of mediaeval Europe?”

He looked up and gave me his casual, good-natured smile, weird in that wasted face, and I perceived simultaneously two things that made my marrow go cold as I sat there.

The first was that I had never told him anything about writing a history of mediaeval Europe; I had said I wanted information on my volume to help me complete a bibliography of materials related to the life of Vlad the Impaler, known in legend as Dracula. Howard Martin was as precise a man, in his curatorial way, as I was in my scholarly one, and he would never unknowingly have committed such an error. His memory had previously struck me as nearly photographic in its capacity for detail, something I notice and appreciate heartily whenever I meet it in other people.

The second thing I perceived at this moment was that, perhaps due to whatever illness he was suffering-the poor man, I almost made myself say, internally-his lips had a decayed, flaccid look when he smiled and his upper canine teeth were bared and somehow prominent in a way that gave his whole face an unpleasant appearance. I remembered all too well the bureaucrat in Istanbul, although there was nothing wrong with Howard Martin’s neck, as far as I could see. I had just quelled my tremor and taken book and notes from his hand when he spoke up again.

“That map, by the way, is remarkable.”

“Map?” I froze. Only one map I knew of-three, actually, in graduated scale-had anything to do with my present intentions, and I was sure I had never so much as mentioned their existence to this stranger.

“Did you sketch it yourself? It’s not old, obviously, but I wouldn’t have put you down as an artist. And certainly not a morbid type, anyway, if you don’t mind my saying that.”

I stared at him, unable to decipher his words and afraid to give something away by asking what he meant. Had I left one of my sketches in the book? How utterly stupid, if I had. But I was sure I’d checked the book carefully for loose leaves before handing it over to him.

“Well, I tucked it back in the book, so it’s there,” he said comfortingly. “Now, Dr. Rossi, I can show you down to our accounting department if you’d like, or I can arrange for you to be billed at home.” He opened the door for me and smiled his professional grimace again. I had the presence of mind not to hunt through the volume in my hand then and there, and I saw in the light of the corridor that I must have imagined Martin’s peculiar smile, and perhaps even his illness; he was normal-skinned, just a little stooped from decades of work among the leaves of the past, nothing more. He stood by the door with one hand thrust out in a hearty Washingtonian good-bye, and I shook it, muttering that I should like the bill sent to my university address.

I made my way warily out of sight of his door, then out of that hall and finally away from the great red castle that housed all his labours and those of his colleagues. Out in the fresh air of the Mall, I strolled across the bright green grass to a bench and sat down, trying both to appear and to feel unconcerned.

The volume fell open in my hand, with its usual sinister obligingness, and I looked in vain for a loose sheet of something to surprise me there. Only turning back through the pages did I find it-a very fine tracing on carbon paper, as if someone had had the third and most intimate of my secret maps actually in front of him, and had copied all its mysterious lineaments for me. The place-names in Slavic dialect were exactly those I knew from my own map-Pig-Stealing Village, Valley of Eight Oaks. In fact, this sketch was unfamiliar to me in only one particular. Below the appellation of the Unholy Tomb, there was some neat Latin lettering in an ink that seemed to match that of the other titles. Over the apparent location of the tomb, arched around it as if to prove its absolute association with that spot, I read the wordsBARTOLOMEO ROSSI.

Reader, judge me a coward if you must, but I desisted from that moment. I am a young professor and I live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I lecture, dine out with my new friends, and write home to my aging parents every week. I don’t wear garlic, or crucifixes, or cross myself at the sound of a step in the hall. I have a better protection than that-I have stopped digging at that dreadful crossroads of history. Something must be satisfied to see me quiet, because I have been untroubled by further tragedy.

Now, if you yourself had to choose your sanity, your remembered life, over true instability, which would you select, as the proper way for a scholar to live out his days? Hedges would not, I know, have required of me a headlong plunge into darkness. And yet, if you are reading this at all, it means that harm has finally come to me. You must choose, too. I have given you every shard of knowledge that I possess, where these horrors are concerned. Knowing my story, can you refuse me succor?

Yours in grief, Bartholomew Rossi

The shadows beneath the trees had lengthened to yawning proportions, and my father kicked at a chestnut burr under his good shoes. I had the sudden sense that if he had been a cruder man, he would have spat on the ground at this moment, to expel some appalling taste. Instead, he seemed to swallow hard and gather himself to smile. “Lord! What’ve we been talking about? How grim we seem to be this afternoon.” He tried to smile, but he also threw me a glance that spoke of worry, as if some shadow might come down over me, me in particular, and remove me without warning from the scene.

I uncurled my cold hand from the edge of the bench and made the effort to be lighthearted now, too. When had it become effort? I wondered, but it was too late. I was doing his work for him, distracting him as he had once tried to distract me. I took refuge in a slight petulance-not too much or he would suspect it. “I have to say I’m hungry again, for real food.”

He smiled a little more naturally, and his good shoes thumped on the ground as he gave me a gallant hand off the bench and set about packing our bag with empty Naranca bottles and the other relics of our picnic. I gathered up my share with a will, relieved now because this meant he would stride away with me toward town instead of turning to linger over our view of the castle’s facade. I had turned once already, near the end of the story, and seen that upper window, where a dark and stately shape had replaced the housecleaning old woman. I talked, rapidly, of anything else that came into my head. As long as my father didn’t see it, too, there could be no confrontation. We might both be safe.

Chapter 14

Ihad stayed away from the university library for some time, partly because I’d been feeling strangely nervous about my research there, and partly because I had the sense that Mrs. Clay was suspicious about my absences after school. I had always called her, as I’d promised to, but something increasingly shy in her voice on the phone had made me picture her holding uncomfortable discussions with my father. I couldn’t imagine her knowing enough about vice to guess anything specific, but my father might have embarrassing surmises of his own-pot? Boys? And he looked so anxiously at me sometimes, already, that I was unwilling to trouble him further.

Finally, however, the temptation was too great, and I decided in spite of my uneasiness to go back to the library. This time I feigned an evening movie with a dull girl from my class-I knew that Johan Binnerts worked in the medieval section on Wednesday nights and that my father was at a meeting at the Center-and I went out in my new coat before Mrs. Clay could say much.

It was odd, going to the library at night, especially since I found the main hall as full as ever of weary-looking university students. The medieval reading room was empty, however. I made my way quietly to Mr. Binnerts’s desk and found him turning through a pile of new books-nothing that would interest me, he reported with his sweet smile, since I liked only horrible things. But he did have a volume set aside for me-why hadn’t I come in sooner for it? I apologized weakly and he chuckled. “I was afraid something must have happened to you, or that you had taken my advice and found a nicer topic for a young lady. But you have got me interested, too, so I looked this up for you.”

I took the book gratefully, and Mr. Binnerts said he was going into his workroom and would be back soon to see if I needed anything. He had shown me the workroom once, a little stall with windows, at the back of the reading room, where the librarians repaired wonderful old books and glued cards into new ones. The reading room was quieter than ever when he had gone, but I eagerly opened the volume he’d given me.

It was a remarkable find, I thought then, although I know now what a basic source it is for fifteenth-century Byzantine history-a translation of Michael Doukas’sIstoria Turco-Bizantina. Doukas has quite a bit to say about the conflict between Vlad Dracula and Mehmed II, and it was at that table that I first read the famous description of the sight that met Mehmed’s eyes when he invaded Wallachia in 1462 and made his way to Târgoviste, Dracula’s deserted capital. Outside the city, Doukas asserted, Mehmed was greeted by “thousands and thousands of stakes bearing dead people instead of fruit.” At the center of this garden of death was Dracula’s pièce de résistance: Mehmed’s favorite general, Hamza, impaled among the others in his “thin garment of purple.”

I remembered Sultan Mehmed’s archive, the one Rossi had gone to Istanbul to explore. The prince of Wallachia had been a thorn in the sultan’s side-that was clear. I thought it would be a good idea for me to read something about Mehmed; perhaps there were sources about him that explained his relationship with Dracula. I didn’t know where to start, but Mr. Binnerts had said he would return soon to check on me.

I had turned, impatiently, with the idea of going to see where he was, when I heard a noise from the back of the room. It was a kind of thump, more a vibration through the floor than an actual sound, like the feel of a bird hitting a polished window in full flight. Something made me start up in the direction of the impact, whatever it was, and I found myself dashing into the workroom at the back of the hall. I could not see Mr. Binnerts through the windows, which was for one moment a reassurance, but when I opened the wooden door, there was a leg on the floor, a gray-trousered leg attached to a twisted body, the blue sweater askew on the wrenched torso, the pale-gray hair matted with blood, the face-mercifully half hidden-crushed, a bit of it still on the corner of the desk. A book had apparently just fallen from Mr. Binnerts’s grasp; it lay sprawled, like him. On the wall above the desk, there was a smear of blood with a large, fine handprint in it, like a child’s finger painting. I tried so hard not to make a sound that my scream, when it came, seemed to belong to someone else.

Ispent a couple of nights at the hospital-my father insisted, and the attending doctor was an old friend. My father was gentle and grave, sitting on the edge of the bed, or standing by the window with his arms crossed as the police officer questioned me for the third time. I had seen no one come into the library room. I had been reading quietly at the table. I had heard a thump. I had not known the librarian personally, but I had been fond of him. The officer assured my father that I was not under suspicion; I was simply the closest thing they had to a witness. But I had witnessed nothing, nobody had come into the reading room-I was certain about that-and Mr. Binnerts had not cried out. There had been no wounds to any other part of the body; someone had simply dashed the poor man’s brain out against the corner of the desk. It would have taken prodigious strength.

The officer shook his head, perplexed. The handprint on the wall had not been made by the librarian himself; there hadn’t been blood on his hands. Besides, the print did not match his, and it was a strange print, the whorls of the fingers unusually worn. It would have been easy to match-the officer waxed talkative with my father-except that they’d never recorded one like it. A bad case. Amsterdam was not the city he had grown up in-now people threw bicycles into the canals, and what about that terrible incident last year with the prostitute who-my father stopped him with a look.

When the officer was gone, my father sat on the edge of my bed again and asked me for the first time what I’d been doing in the library. I explained that I’d been studying, that I’d liked to go there after school to do my homework because the reading room was quiet and comfortable. I was afraid he might be on the verge of asking me why I had chosen the medieval section, but to my relief he lapsed into silence.

I did not tell him that in the eruption of the library after my scream, I had instinctively shoved into my bag the volume Mr. Binnerts had been holding when he died. The police had searched my bag, of course, when they’d entered the room, but they had said nothing about the book-and why would they have noticed it at all? There had been no blood on it. It was a nineteenth-century French volume on Romanian churches and it had fallen open to a page on the church at Lake Snagov, endowed with magnificence by Vlad III of Wallachia. His grave was traditionally located there, in front of the altar, according to a little text below a plan of the apse. The author noted, however, that villagers near Snagov had their own stories. What stories? I wondered, but there was nothing more on that particular church. The sketch of the apse showed nothing unusual, either.

Sitting gingerly on the edge of my hospital bed, my father shook his head. “I want you to study at home from now on,” he said quietly. I wished he hadn’t said it; I would never have entered that library again anyway. “Mrs. Clay can sleep in your room for a while if you feel upset, and we can see the doctor again, whenever you want to. Just let me know.” I nodded, although I thought I would almost rather be alone with the description of the church at Snagov than with Mrs. Clay. I pondered the idea of dropping the volume into our canal-the fate of the bicycles the policeman had mentioned-but I knew that I would want eventually to reopen it, in daylight, to read it again. I might want to do this not only for my own sake but also for that of grandfatherly Mr. Binnerts, who now lay somewhere in a city morgue.

Afew weeks later, my father said he thought it would be good for my nerves to take a trip, and I knew that he meant it would be better for him not to leave me at home. “The French,” he explained, wanted to confer with representatives from his foundation before beginning talks in Eastern Europe that winter, and we were going to meet them one last time. It would be the best possible moment on the Mediterranean coast, too, after the hordes of tourists left but before the landscape began to look barren. We examined the map carefully and were pleased that the French had foregone their usual choice of a meeting in Paris and settled on the privacy of a resort near the Spanish border-close to the little gem of Collioure, my father gloated, and perhaps something like it. Just inland were Les Bains and Saint-Matthieu-des-Pyrénées-Orientales, I pointed out, but when I mentioned them my father’s face clouded and he began to hunt along the coast for other interesting names.

Breakfast on the terrace at Le Corbeau, where we stayed, was so good in the fresh morning air that I lingered there after my father had joined the other dark-suited men in the conference hall, taking out my books reluctantly and looking up often at the aquamarine water a few hundred yards away. I was on my second cup of that bitter Continentalchocolat, made bearable with a cube of sugar and a pile of fresh rolls. The sunlight on the faces of the old houses looked eternal in the dry Mediterranean climate with its preternaturally clear light, as if no storm had ever dared to approach these inlets. From where I sat I could see a couple of early sailboats out on the edge of the marvelously colored sea and a family of small children going with their mother and their pails and their (to me) unusual French bathing suits down to the sand beach below the hotel. The bay curved around us to the right, in the form of jagged hills. One of these was topped by a rotting fortress the same color as the rocks and sere grasses, olive trees climbing ineffectively toward it, the delicately blue morning sky stretched behind it.

I felt a sudden twinge of unbelonging, of envy for those unbearably complacent children with their mother. I had no mother and no normal life. I wasn’t sure what I meant bynormal life, but as I flipped through my biology book looking for the beginning of the third chapter, I thought vaguely it might mean living in one place, with a mother and father who were there every evening at dinnertime, a household in which travel meant the occasional beach vacation, not an endlessly nomadic existence. I felt sure, glaring at the children as they settled onto the sand with their shovels, that these creatures were never threatened by the grimness of history, either.

Then, looking down on their glossy heads, I realized that they were indeed threatened; they were simply unaware of it. We were all vulnerable. I shivered and glanced at my watch. In another four hours, my father and I would have lunch on this terrace. Then I would study again, and after five o’clock we would take a walk toward the eroded fortress that ornamented the near horizon-from which, my father said, you could see the little sea-bathed church on the other side, at Collioure. In the course of this day I would learn more algebra, some German verbs, read a chapter on the War of the Roses, and then-what? Up on the dry cliff, I would listen to my father’s next story. He would tell it unwillingly, looking down at the sandy soil or drumming his fingers on rock quarried centuries ago, lost in his own fear. And it would be up to me to study it again, to piece it all together. A child shrieked below me and I started, spilling my cocoa.

Chapter 15

When I finished reading the last of Rossi’s letters, my father said, I felt a new desolation, as if he had vanished a second time. But by now I was convinced that his disappearance had nothing to do with a bus trip to Hartford or a family illness in Florida (or London), as the police had tried to postulate. I put these thoughts out of my mind and set myself to looking through his other papers. Read first, absorb everything. Then build a chronology and begin-but slowly-to draw conclusions. I wondered if Rossi had had any premonition that in training me he might have been ensuring his own survival. It was like a gruesome final exam-although I devoutly hoped it would not be final for either of us. I wouldn’t make a plan until I had read everything, I told myself, but already I had an inkling of what I would probably have to do. I opened the faded packet again.

The next three items were maps, as Rossi had promised, each drawn by hand and none of them looking older than the letters. Of course: these would be his own versions of the maps he had seen in the archive in Istanbul, copied from memory after his adventures there. On the first that came to hand, I saw a great region of mountains, which were drawn in as little triangular notches. They formed two long east-west crescents across the page and clustered densely on the west side as well. A broad river looped along the northern edge of the map. No cities were visible, although three or four little Xs among the western mountains might have marked towns. No place-names appeared on this map, but Rossi-it was the penmanship of that last letter-had written around the borders: “Those who do not believe and die while they are unbelievers, on them falls the curse of Allah, of angels, and of men (The Qur’an),” and several similar passages. I wondered if the river I saw here could be the one that had seemed to him symbolized by the dragon’s tail in his book. But no; in that case he’d been referring to the largest-scale map, which must be among these. I cursed the circumstances-all of them-that prevented my seeing and holding the originals; in spite of Rossi’s fine memory and neat hand, there must surely be omissions or discrepancies between original and copy.

The next map seemed to focus more closely on the western mountain region shown in the first. Again, I saw here and there Xs, marked in the same relation to one another as on the first map. A smaller river appeared, curling through the mountains. Again, no place-names. Rossi had noted across the top of this map: “(Same Qur’anic mottoes, repeated).” Well, he had been just as careful in those days as the Rossi I knew. But these maps, so far, were too simple, too crude an outline, to suggest any specific region I’d ever seen or studied. Frustration rose in me like a fever, and I swallowed it down with difficulty, forcing myself to concentrate.

The third map was more enlightening, although I wasn’t sure exactly what it could tell me, at this point. Its general outline was indeed the fierce silhouette I knew from my dragon book and Rossi’s, although without Rossi’s discovery of the fact, I might not have noticed that at once. This map showed the same kind of triangular mountains. They were very tall now, forming heavy north-south ridges, a river looping through them and opening out into a reservoir of some sort. Why couldn’t this be Lake Snagov, in Romania, as the legends of Dracula’s burial suggested? But, as Rossi had noted, there was no island in the broadened part of the river, and it didn’t look like a lake, anyway. The Xs appeared again, this time labeled in tiny Cyrillic letters. I assumed these were the villages Rossi had mentioned.

Among these scattered village names I saw a square, marked by Rossi: “(Arabic) The Unholy Tomb of One Who Kills Turks.” Above this box was a rather nicely drawn little dragon, a castle crowning its head, and under it I read more Greek letters, and Rossi’s English translation: “In this spot, he is housed in evil. Reader, unbury him with a word.” The lines were unbelievably compelling, like an incantation, and I had opened my mouth to intone them aloud when I stopped and closed my lips tightly. They made a sort of poetry in my head, nevertheless, which danced there infernally for a couple of seconds.

I set the three maps aside. It was terrifying to see them there, exactly as Rossi had described them, and stranger yet to see not the originals but these copies in his own hand. What was to prove to me, ultimately, that he hadn’t made the whole thing up, drawing these very maps as a prank? I had no primary sources in this matter, apart from his letters. I drummed my fingers on the desktop. The clock in my study seemed to be ticking unusually loudly tonight, and the urban half darkness seemed too still behind my venetian blinds. I hadn’t eaten in hours and my legs ached, but I couldn’t stop now. I glanced briefly at the road map of the Balkans, but there was nothing unusual on it, apparently-no handwritten marks, for example. The brochure on Romania also yielded nothing striking, apart from the weird English in which it was printed: “Avail yourselves of our lush and appalling countryside,” for example. The only items that remained to be examined were the notes in Rossi’s hand and that small sealed envelope I’d noticed on first turning through the papers. I had meant to leave the envelope for last, because it was sealed, but I couldn’t wait longer. I found my letter opener among the papers on my desk, carefully broke the seal, and drew out a sheet of notepaper.

It was the third map again, with its dragon shape, curling river, towering caricature mountain peaks. It had been copied in black ink, like Rossi’s version, but the hand was slightly different-a good facsimile but somehow cramped, archaic, a little ornate, when you looked at it closely. I should have been prepared by Rossi’s letter for the sight of the one difference from the first version of the map, but it still hit me like a physical blow: over the boxlike tomb site and its guardian dragon curved the wordsBARTOLOMEO ROSSI.

I fought down assumptions, fears, and conclusions, and willed myself to set the paper aside and read the pages of Rossi’s notes. The first two he had apparently made in the archives at Oxford and the British Museum Library, and they told me nothing he had not already. There was a brief outline of Vlad Dracula’s life and exploits, and a listing of some literary and historical documents in which Dracula had been mentioned over the centuries. Another page followed these, on a different notepaper, and this was marked and dated from his trip to Istanbul. “Reconstituted from memory,” said his swift yet careful handwriting, and I realized they must be the notes he had thrown onto paper after his experience in the archive, when he’d sketched the maps from memory before leaving for Greece.

These notes listed the Istanbul library’s holdings of documents from Sultan Mehmed II’s time-at least whatever had struck Rossi as pertaining to his own research-the three maps, scrolls of accounts from the Carpathian wars against the Ottomans, and ledgers of goods traded among Ottoman merchants at the edge of that region. None of this seemed to me very enlightening; but I wondered at what point, exactly, Rossi’s labors had been interrupted by the ominous-looking bureaucrat. Could the scrolls of accounts and ledgers of trade he mentioned here contain clues to Vlad Tepes’s demise or burial? Had Rossi actually looked through them himself, or had he merely had time to list the possibilities in that archive before being scared away from it?

There was one last item on the list from the archive, and this one took me by surprise, so that I lingered over it for a few minutes. “Bibliography, Order of the Dragon (partial scroll form).” What surprised me about this jotting and made me hesitate over it was the fact that it was so uninformative. Usually Rossi’s notes were thorough, self-explanatory; that, he liked to say, was the point of note taking. Was this bibliography he mentioned so hurriedly a list the library had put together to record all the material they housed that pertained to the Order of the Dragon? If so, why would it be in “partial scroll form”? It must be something ancient itself, I thought-perhaps one of the library’s holdings from the time of the Order of the Dragon. But why had Rossi not explained further, on this otherwise mute sheet of notebook paper? Had the bibliography, whatever it was, proven irrelevant to his search?

These musings over a far-away archive, which Rossi had looked through so long ago, hardly seemed a direct path to his disappearance, and I dropped the page in disgust, tired suddenly of the trivia of research. I craved answers. With the exception of whatever lay in the scrolls of accounts, in the ledgers, and in that old bibliography, Rossi had been surprisingly thorough in sharing with me his discoveries. But that was like him, that conciseness; besides, he’d had the luxury, if it could be called that, of explaining himself in many pages of letters. And yet I knew little, except what I must probably attempt to do next. The envelope was completely, depressingly empty now, and I hadn’t learned much more from the last documents it had contained than I’d learned from his letters. I realized also that I must act as fast as possible. I had often stayed up all night before, and in the next hour I might be able to assemble for myself what Rossi had told me about the previous threats on his life, as he saw them.

I stood, my joints creaking, and went to my dismal little kitchen to boil some bouillon for soup. As I reached for a clean pot, I realized that my cat had not come in for his supper, a meal I shared with him. He was a stray, and I suspected that our arrangement was not wholly monogamous. But around supper time he was usually there at my narrow kitchen window, peering in from the fire escape to let me know he wanted his can of tuna or, when I’d splurged on him, his dish of sardines. I had come to love the moment when he jumped down into my lifeless apartment, stretching and crying in an extravagance of affection. He often stayed a while after eating, sleeping on the end of the sofa or watching me iron my shirts. Sometimes I thought I saw an expression of tenderness in his perfectly round yellow eyes, although it might also have been pity. He was powerful and sinewy, with a soft black-and-white coat. I called him Rembrandt. Thinking of him, I lifted the edge of the blind, pushed up the window, and called him, waiting for the thud of feline feet on the windowsill. I could hear only distant night traffic from the center of the city. I lowered my head and looked out.

His shape filled the space, grotesquely, as if he had rolled there in play and then gone limp. I drew it into the kitchen with gentle, fearful hands, immediately aware of the broken spine and weirdly flopping head. Rembrandt’s eyes were open wider than I’d ever seen them in life, his lips drawn back in a snarl of fear and his front paws splayed and thorny. I knew at once he could not have fallen there, so precisely, onto the narrow windowsill. It would take a large and strong grip to kill such a creature-I touched his soft coat, rage welling under my terror-and the perpetrator would have been scratched and perhaps bitten fiercely. But my friend was incontrovertibly dead. I had set him softly down on the kitchen floor, my lungs filling with a smoky hate, before I realized that under my hands his body was still warm.

I whirled around, closed and latched the window, then thought frantically of my next move. How could I protect myself? The windows were all locked, and the door was double bolted. But what did I know about horrors from the past? Did they leak into rooms like mist, under the doors? Or shatter windows and burst directly into one’s presence? I looked around for a weapon. I didn’t own a gun-but guns never prevailed against Bela Lugosi, in the vampire movies, unless the hero was equipped with a special silver bullet. What had Rossi advised? “I wouldn’t go around with garlic in my pocket, no.” And something else, too: “I’m sure you carry your own goodness, moral sense, whatever you want to call it, with you-I like to think most of us are capable of that, anyway.”

I found a clean towel in one of the kitchen drawers and gently wrapped my friend’s body in it, laying him out in the front hall. I would have to bury him tomorrow, if tomorrow were going to come around the way it usually did. I would inter him in the backyard of the apartment house-deeply, where dogs couldn’t get at him. It was hard for me to imagine eating now, but I made my cup of soup and cut a slice of bread to go with it.

Then I sat down at the desk again and cleared away Rossi’s papers, putting them neatly back in the envelope. I set my mysterious dragon book on top of that, taking care not to let it fall open. On top of these I placed my copy of Hermann’s classicGolden Age of Amsterdam, which had long been one of my favorite books. I opened my dissertation notes across the center of the desk and propped up in front of me a pamphlet on merchants’ guilds in Utrecht, a reproduction from the library that I had yet to peruse. I laid my watch beside me and saw with a thrill of superstition that it showed a quarter to twelve. Tomorrow, I told myself, I would go to the library and swiftly do any reading I could find there that might equip me for the coming days. It couldn’t hurt to know more about silver stakes, garlic flowers, and crucifixes, if those were the peasant remedies prescribed against the undead for so many centuries. That would show a faith in tradition, at least. For now I had only Rossi’s advice, but Rossi had never failed me where it was in his power to help. I picked up my pen and bent my head over the pamphlet.

Never had I found it so difficult to concentrate. Every nerve in my body seemed alert to the presence outside, if it was a presence, as if my mind rather than my ears might be able to hear it brushing up against the windows. With an effort, I planted myself firmly in Amsterdam, 1690. I wrote a sentence, then another. Four minutes to midnight. “Look for some anecdotes about Dutch sailors’ lives,” I noted on my papers. I thought of the merchants, banding together in their already ancient guilds to squeeze the best they could from their lives and their wares, acting day by day on their rather simple sense of duty, using some of their surplus to build hospitals for the poor. Two minutes to midnight. I wrote down the name of the pamphlet’s author, to look up again later. “Explore the significance for merchants of the city’s printing presses,” I noted.

The minute hand on my watch jumped suddenly, and I jumped with it. It showed just shy of twelve o’clock. The printing presses might be extremely significant, I realized, forcing myself not to look behind me as I sat there, especially if the guilds had controlled some of them. Could they actually have purchased control of some of them, bought up ownership? Did the printers have their own guild? How did ideas about freedom of the press among Dutch intellectuals in that setting relate to the ownership of the presses? I grew interested for a moment, in spite of myself, and tried to remember what I’d read about early publishing in Amsterdam and Utrecht. Suddenly I felt a great stillness in the air, then a snapping of tension. I glanced at my watch. Three minutes after midnight. I was breathing normally and my pen moved freely across the page.

Whatever stalked me wasn’t quite as clever as I’d feared, I thought, careful not to pause in my work. Apparently, the undead took some appearances at face value, and I appeared to have heeded Rembrandt’s warning and settled down to my usual task. I wouldn’t be able to hide my real actions for long, but for tonight my own appearance was the only protection I had. I moved the lamp closer and settled into the seventeenth century for another hour, to deepen the impression of retreat into work. As I pretended to write, I reasoned with myself. The final threat to Rossi, in 1931, had been his own name on the location of Vlad the Impaler’s tomb. Rossi hadn’t been found lying dead over his desk two days ago, as I might be soon if I weren’t careful. He hadn’t been discovered wounded in the hallway, like Hedges. He had been abducted. He might be lying dead somewhere else, of course, but until I knew that for certain, I had to hope he was alive. Beginning tomorrow, I would have to try to find the tomb myself.

Seated on that old French fortress, my father was staring out to sea, rather as he’d looked across the gap of mountain air at Saint-Matthieu, watching the eagle bank and wheel. “Let’s go back to the hotel,” he said finally. “The days are getting shorter already, have you noticed? I don’t want to be caught up here after sunset.”

In my impatience, I dared a direct question. “Caught?”

He glanced at me seriously, as if considering the relative risks of the answers he could give. “The path is really steep,” he said at last. “I wouldn’t want to have to find my way back through those trees in the dark. Would you?” He could be daring, too, I saw.

I looked down into the olive groves, gray-white now instead of peach and silver. Each tree was twisted, straining up toward the ruins of a fortress that had once guarded it-or its ancestors, anyway-from Saracen torches. “No,” I answered, “I wouldn’t.”

Chapter 16

It was early December, we were on the road again, and the lassitude of our summer trips to the Mediterranean seemed far behind us. The high Adriatic wind was combing my hair again and I liked the feel of it, its awkward roughness; it was as if a beast with heavy paws clambered over everything in the harbor, making flags snap sharply in front of the modern hotel and straining the topmost branches of the plane trees along the promenade. “What?” I shouted. My father again said something unintelligible, pointing at the top story of the emperor’s palace. We both craned back to look.

Diocletian’s elegant stronghold towered over us in the morning sunlight, and I almost fell over backward trying to see the upper edge of it. Many of the spaces between its beautiful columns had been filled in-often by people dividing up the building for apartments, my father had explained earlier-so that a patchwork of stone, much of it Roman-hewn marble plundered from other structures, shone across the whole strange facade. Here and there water or earthquake had broken long cracks in it. Tenacious little plants, even some trees, hung out of the fissures. The wind whipped up the broad collars of sailors strolling along the quay in twos and threes, their faces brass colored against white uniforms and their crew-cut dark hair shining like wire brushes. I followed my father around the edge of the building, over fallen black walnuts and the litter from sycamore trees, to the monument-lined square behind it, which smelled of urine. Just in front of us rose a fantastic tower, open to the winds and decorated like a piece of pastry, a tall thin wedding cake. It was quieter back here and we could stop shouting.

“I’ve always wanted to see this,” my father said in his normal voice. “Would you like to climb to the top?”

I led the way, taking the iron steps with gusto. In the open-air market near the quay, which I glimpsed from time to time through a marble frame, the trees had turned gold-brown, so that the cypresses along the water looked more black than green against them. As we rose I could see the water of the harbor navy blue beneath us, the small white shapes of the sailors on leave roaming among the outdoor cafés. Distant curving land, beyond our big hotel, pointed like an arrow to the interior region of the Slavic-speaking world, where my father would soon be drawn into the flood of détente spreading across it.

Just under the roof of the tower, we stood catching our breath. Only an iron platform suspended us above the drop to earth; from there we could see all the way to the ground through a spiderweb of plaited iron steps, which we’d just climbed. The world around us stretched out beyond stone-framed openings, each possibly low enough to let an unwary tourist topple nine stories to the paved courtyard below. We chose a bench in the center instead, looking out toward the water, and sat so quietly that a swift came in, its wings arched against the blustering sea wind, and disappeared under the eaves. It had something bright in its beak, something that caught the glint of the sun as it flew in off the water.

Iwoke early, my father said, the morning after I’d finished reading through Rossi’s papers. I’ve never been so glad to see sunshine as I was that morning. My first and very sad business was to bury Rembrandt. After that, I had no trouble arriving at the library just when the doors were opening. I wanted this whole day to ready myself for the next night, the next onslaught of darkness. For many years, night had been friendly to me, the cocoon of quiet in which I read and wrote. Now it was a threat, an inevitable danger just hours away. I might also be setting out on a journey soon, with all the preparations that would entail. It would be a little easier, I thought ruefully, if I just knew where I’d be going.

The main hall of the library was very still except for the echoing steps of librarians going about their business; few students got here this early, and I would have peace and quiet for at least half an hour. I went into the maze of the card catalog, opened my notebook, and began pulling out the drawers I needed. There were several listings for the Carpathians, one on Transylvanian folklore. One book on vampires-legends from the Egyptian tradition. I wondered how much vampires had in common around the world. Were Egyptian vampires anything like East European vampires? It was a study for an archaeologist, not for me, but I copied down the call number of the book on Egyptian tradition anyway.

Then I looked up Dracula. Subjects and titles were mixed together in the catalog; between “Drab-Ali the Great” and “Dragons, Asia,” there would be at least one entry: the title card for Bram Stoker’sDracula, which I had seen the dark-haired young woman reading here the day before. Perhaps the library even had two copies of such a classic. I needed it right away; Rossi had said it was the distillation of Stoker’s research on vampire lore, and it might contain suggestions for protection I could use myself. I hunted backward and forward. There was not a single entry under “Dracula”-nothing, nothing whatsoever. I hadn’t expected the legend to be a major topic of scholarship, but surely that one book would be listed somewhere.

Then I caught sight of what actually lay between “Drab-Ali” and “Dragons.” A little shard of twisted paper at the bottom of the drawer showed clearly that at least one card had been wrenched out. I hurried to the “St” drawer. No entries for “Stoker” appeared there-only further signs of a hasty theft. I sat down hard on the nearest wooden stool. This was too strange. Why would anyone have ripped out these particular cards?

The dark-haired girl had checked out the book last, I knew that. Had she wanted to remove the evidence of what she had checked out? But if she’d wanted to steal or hide the copy, why had she been reading it publicly, in the middle of the library? Someone else must have pulled the cards out, perhaps somebody-but why?-who didn’t want anyone looking up the book here. Whoever it was had done it hurriedly, neglecting to remove traces of the job. I thought it through again. The card catalog was sacrosanct here; any student who even left a drawer out on the tables and was caught in this error got a sharp lecture from the clerks or librarians. Any violation of the catalog would have to be accomplished quickly, that was certain, at some odd moment when no one was around or looking in that direction. If the young woman hadn’t committed this crime herself, then maybe she didn’t know that someone else didn’t want that book checked out. And she probably still had it in her possession. I almost ran to the main desk.

This library, built in the highest of high Gothic-revival styles about the time Rossi was finishing his studies at Oxford (where he was surrounded by the real thing, of course), had always appealed to me as both beautiful and comical. To reach the main desk, I had to hurry up a long cathedral nave. The circulation desk stood where the altar would have in a real cathedral, under a mural of Our Lady-of Knowledge, presumably-in sky blue robes, her arms full of heavenly tomes. Checking out a book there had all the sanctity of taking communion. Today this seemed to me the most cynical of jokes, and I ignored Our Lady’s bland, unhelpful face as I addressed the librarian, trying not to seem ruffled myself.

“I’m looking for a book that’s not on the shelves at the moment,” I began, “and I wonder if it’s actually checked out right now, or on its way back.”

The librarian, a short, unsmiling woman of sixty, glanced up from her work. “The title, please,” she said.

“Dracula,by Bram Stoker.”

“Just a minute, please; I’ll see if it’s in.” She thumbed through a little box, her face expressionless. “I’m sorry. It’s currently checked out.”

“Oh, what a shame,” I said heartily. “When will it be coming back?”

“In three weeks. It was checked out yesterday.”

“I’m afraid I simply can’t wait that long. You see I’mteaching a course…” These were usually the magic words.

“You are welcome to put it on reserve, if you like,” the librarian said coldly. She turned her coiffed gray head away from me, as if she wanted to get back to her work.

“Maybe one of my students has checked it out, to read ahead for the course. If you’d just let me have his name, I’ll get in touch with him myself.”

She looked narrowly at me. “We don’t usually do that,” she said.

“This is an unusual situation,” I confided. “I’ll be frank with you. I really must use one section of that book to prepare my exam for them, and-well, I loaned my own copy to a student and he’s unable to find it now. It was my mistake, but you know how these things go, with students. I should have known better.”

Her face softened and she looked almost sympathetic. “It’s terrible, isn’t it?” she said, nodding. “We lose a stack of books every term, I’m sure. Well, let me see if I can get the name for you, but don’t spread around that I did this, all right?”

She turned away to root in a cabinet behind her, and I stood reflecting on the duplicity I had suddenly discovered in my own nature. When had I learned to lie so fluently? It gave me a feeling of uneasy pleasure. While I was standing there, I realized that another librarian behind the big altar had moved closer and was watching me. He was a thin middle-aged man I’d often seen there, only slightly taller than his colleague and shabbily dressed in a tweed jacket and stained tie. Perhaps because I’d noticed him before, I was unexpectedly struck by a change in his appearance. His face looked sallow and wasted, perhaps even seriously ill. “Can I help you?” he said suddenly, as if he suspected I might steal something from the desk if I weren’t attended to at once.

“Oh, no, thank you.” I waved at the lady librarian’s back. “I’m being helped already.”

“I see.” He stepped aside as she returned with a slip of paper and put it in front of me. At that moment I didn’t know where to look-the paper swam under my eyes. For as the second librarian turned aside, he leaned over to examine some books that had obviously been returned to the desk and were waiting to be dealt with. And as he bent myopically toward them, his neck was exposed for a moment above the threadbare shirt collar, and I saw on it two scabbed, grimy-looking wounds, with a little dried blood making an ugly lacework on the skin just below them. Then he straightened and turned away again, holding his books.

“Is this what you wanted?” the lady librarian was asking me. I looked down at the paper she pushed toward me. “You see, it’s the slip for Bram Stoker,Dracula. We have just one copy.”

The grubby male librarian suddenly dropped a book on the floor, and the sound of it reverberated with a bang through the high nave. He straightened and looked directly at me, and I have never seen-or until that moment had never seen-a human gaze so full of hatred and wariness. “That’s what you wanted, right?” the lady was insisting.

“Oh, no,” I said, thinking fast, catching hold of myself. “You must have misunderstood me. I’m looking for Gibbon’sDecline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I told you, I’m teaching a course on it and we’ve got to have extra copies.”

She frowned heavily. “But I thought -”

I hated to sacrifice her feelings, even in that unpleasant moment, when she’d unbent so far toward me. “That’s all right,” I said. “Maybe I didn’t look carefully enough. I’ll go back and check the catalog again.”

As soon as I said the wordcatalog, however, I knew I’d overused my new fluency. The tall librarian’s eyes narrowed further and he moved his head slightly, like an animal following the motions of its prey. “Thanks very much,” I murmured politely and walked off, feeling those sharp eyes boring into my back all the way down the great aisle. I made a show of going back to the catalog for a minute, then closed my briefcase and went purposefully out the front door, through which the faithful were already flocking for their morning study. Outside, I found a bench in the brightest possible sunlight, my back against one of those neo-Gothic walls, where I could safely see everyone around me coming and going. I needed five minutes to sit and think-reflection, Rossi always taught, should be well-timed rather than time-consuming.

It was all too much to digest quickly, however. In that dazed moment I had taken in not only my glimpse of the librarian’s wounded neck but also the name of the library patron who had beaten me toDracula. Her name was Helen Rossi.

The wind was cold and increasingly strong. My father paused here and drew from his camera bag two waterproof jackets, one for each of us. He kept them rolled up tightly to fit with his photographic equipment, canvas hat, and a little first-aid kit. Without speaking, we put them over our blazers, and he continued.

Sitting there in the late-spring sunshine, watching the university stir and wake to its usual activities, I felt a sudden envy of all those ordinary-looking students and faculty striding here and there. They thought that tomorrow’s exam was a serious challenge, or that department politics constituted high drama, I reflected bitterly. Not one of them could have understood my predicament, or helped me out of it. I felt the loneliness, suddenly, of standing outside my institution, my universe, a worker bee expelled from the hive. And this state of things, I realized with surprise, had come about in forty-eight hours.

I had to think clearly now, and fast. First, I had observed what Rossi himself had reported: someone outside the immediate threat to Rossi-in this case the someone was a half-washed, eccentric-looking librarian-had been bitten in the neck. Let us presume, I told myself, almost laughing at the preposterousness of the things I was starting to believe, let us presume that our librarian was bitten by a vampire, and quite recently. Rossi had been swept out of his office-with bloodshed, I reminded myself-only two nights earlier. Dracula, if he were at large, seemed to have a predilection not only for the best of the academic world (here I remembered poor Hedges) but also for librarians, archivists. No-I sat up straight, suddenly seeing the pattern-he had a predilection for those who handled archives that had something to do with his legend. First there had been the bureaucrat who had snatched the map from Rossi in Istanbul. The Smithsonian researcher, too, I thought, recalling Rossi’s last letter. And, of course, threatened all along, there was Rossi himself, who had a copy of “one of these nice books” and had examined other possibly relevant documents. And then this librarian, although I had no proof yet that the fellow had handled any Dracula documents. And finally-me?

I picked up my briefcase and hurried to a public phone booth near the student commons. “University information, please.” No one had followed me here, as far as I could see, but I closed the door and through it kept a sharp eye on the passersby. “Do you have a listing for a Miss Helen Rossi? Yes, graduate student,” I hazarded.

The university operator was laconic; I could hear her shuffling slowly through papers. “We have an H. Rossi listed in the women’s graduate dormitory,” she said.

“That’s it. Thank you so much.” I scribbled the number down and dialed again. A matron answered, her voice sharp and protective. “Miss Rossi? Yes? Who’s calling, please?”

Oh, God. I hadn’t thought ahead to this. “Her brother,” I said quickly. “She told me she’d be at this number.”

I could hear footsteps leaving the phone, a sharper stride returning, the rustle of a hand taking the receiver. “Thank you, Miss Lewis,” said a distant voice, as if in dismissal. Then she spoke into my ear and I heard the low, strong tone I remembered from the library. “I do not have a brother,” she said. It sounded like a warning, not a mere statement of fact. “Who is this?”

My father rubbed his hands together in the chill wind, making the sleeves of his jacket crinkle like tissue paper. Helen, I thought, although I did not dare repeat the name aloud. It was a name I had always liked; it evoked for me something valiant and beautiful, like the Pre-Raphaelite frontispiece showing Helen of Troy in myChildren’s Book of the Iliad, which I had owned at home in the United States. Above all, it had been my mother’s name, and she was a topic my father never discussed.

I looked hard at him, but he was already speaking again. “Hot tea in one of those cafés down there,” he said. “That’s what I need. How about you?” I noticed for the first time that his face-the handsome, tactful face of a diplomat-was marred by heavy shadows, which ringed his eyes and gave his nose a pinched look at the base, as if he never slept enough. He rose and stretched, and then we looked out at each of the giddily framed views a last time. My father held me back a little as if he feared I would fall.

Chapter 17

Athens made my father nervous and tired; I could see that plainly after only a day there. For my part, I found it exhilarating: I liked the combined senses of decay and vitality, the suffocating, exhaust-spewing traffic that whirled around its squares and parks and outcroppings of ancient monuments, the Botanic Gardens with a lion caged in the middle, the soaring Acropolis with frivolous-looking restaurant awnings fluttering around its base. My father promised we would climb up for a view as soon as he had time. It was February of 1974, the first time in nearly three months he’d traveled anywhere, and he’d brought me reluctantly, because he disliked the Greek military presence on the streets. I intended to make the most of every moment.

Meanwhile, I worked diligently in my hotel room, keeping an eye on the temple-crowned heights out my one window as if they might take wing after twenty-five hundred years and fly off without my ever having explored them. I could see the roads, paths, alleys that wound upward toward the base of the Parthenon. It would be a long, slow walk-we were in hot country again, and summer began early here-among whitewashed houses and stuccoed lemonade shops, a path that broke out into ancient marketplaces and temple grounds from time to time, then cut back through the tile-roofed neighborhoods. I could see some of this labyrinth from the dingy window. We would rise from one view to another, looking out on what the residents of the Acropolis neighborhood saw from their front doors every day. I could imagine from here the vistas of ruins, looming municipal buildings, semitropical parks, winding streets, gold-tipped or red-tiled churches that stood out in the evening light like colored rocks scattered on a gray beach.

Farther away, we would see the distant ridges of apartment buildings, newer hotels than this one, a sprawl of suburbs through which we’d traveled by train the day before. Beyond that, I couldn’t guess; it was too distant to imagine. My father would wipe his face with his handkerchief. And I would know, stealing a glance at him, that when we reached the summit he would show me not only the ancient ruins there but also another glimpse of his own past.

The diner I’d chosen, my father said, was far enough from campus to make me feel out of range of that creepy librarian (who was surely required to stay on the job but probably took a lunch break somewhere) and yet close enough to be a reasonable request, not the assignation in some lonely spot that an ax murderer might make with a woman he hardly knew. I’m not sure I’d actually expected her to be late, hesitating about my motives, but Helen was there before me, so that when I pushed in through the diner door, I saw her unwinding her blue silk scarf in a far corner and taking off her white gloves-remember that this was still an era of impractical, charming accoutrements for even the most hard-boiled of female academics. Her hair was rolled back almost smoothly and pinned away from her face, so that when she turned to regard me, I had a sense of being stared at even more enormously than I had been at the library table the day before.

“Good morning,” she said in a cold voice. “I have ordered you some coffee, since you sounded so fatigued on the phone.”

This struck me as presumptuous-how would she know my fatigued voice from my well-rested one, and what if my coffee were already cold? But I introduced myself by name this time, and shook hands with her, trying to hide my uneasiness. I wanted to ask her immediately about her own last name, but I thought I’d better wait for the right opportunity. Her hand was smooth and dry, cool in mine, as if she still wore her gloves. I pulled out a chair opposite her and sat down, wishing I’d put on a clean shirt even for the occasion of hunting vampires. Her mannish white blouse, severe under a black jacket, looked immaculate.

“Why did I think I would be hearing from you again?” Her tone was close to insulting.

“I know you find this strange.” I sat up straight and tried to look her in the eye, wondering if I could ask her all the questions I wanted to before she stood up and walked off again. “I’m sorry. It’s not a practical joke and I’m not trying to bother you or disrupt your work.”

She nodded, humoring me. Watching her face, it struck me that her general outline-certainly her voice-was ugly as well as elegant, and I took heart from this, as if the revelation made her human. “I discovered something odd this morning,” I began, with fresh confidence. “That’s why I called you out of the blue. Have you still got that copy ofDracula from the library?”

She was quick, but I was quicker, since I’d been waiting for the flinch, the drop in color under her already pale face. “Yes,” she said warily. “Whose business is it what another person checks out from the library?”

I ignored this bait. “Did you tear out all the cards in the card catalog pertaining to that book?”

This time her reaction was genuine and undisguised. “Did I what?”

“This morning I went to the card catalog to look for some information on-on the subject we both seem to be studying. I found that all the cards for Dracula and Stoker had been wrenched out of the drawer.”

Her face had tightened and she was staring at me, the ugliness very close to the surface now, her eyes too bright. But at that moment, for the first time since Massimo had shouted to me that Rossi had disappeared, I felt an infinitesimal lightening of burdens, a shifting of the weight of loneliness. She hadn’t laughed at my melodrama, as she could have called it, or frowned, puzzled. Most importantly, there was no cunning in her look, nothing to indicate that I was talking with an enemy. Her face registered only one emotion, as far as she allowed it: a delicate, flickering fear.

“The cards were there yesterday morning,” she said slowly, as if laying down a weapon and preparing to talk. “I looked upDracula first, and there was an entry for it, only one copy. Then I wondered if they had other works by Stoker, and I looked him up, too. There were a few entries under his name, including one forDracula. ”

The diner’s indifferent waiter was setting coffee on the table, and Helen drew hers toward her without looking at it. I thought with sudden fierce longing of Rossi, pouring out far finer coffee than this for himself and me-his exquisite hospitality. Oh, I had other questions for this strange young woman.

“Someone obviously doesn’t want you-me-anybody-checking out that book,” I observed. I kept my voice quiet, watching her.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard,” she said sharply, putting sugar in her cup and stirring it. But she looked unconvinced by her own words, and I pressed on.

“Do you still have the book?”

“Yes.” Her spoon fell with an annoyed clatter. “It is in my book bag.” She glanced down, and I noticed beside her the briefcase I’d seen her carrying the day before.

“Miss Rossi,” I said. “I beg your pardon, and I’m afraid I’m going to sound like a maniac, but it’s my personal belief that there may be some danger to you in possessing this book, which someone else clearly doesn’t want you to have.”

“What makes you think that?” she countered, not meeting my eye now. “Who do you think would not want me to have that book?” A slight flush had spread over her cheekbones again, and she looked guiltily down into her cup; that was the only way to describe it-she looked downright guilty. I wondered with horror if she might not be in league with the vampire: Dracula’s bride, I thought, aghast, the Sunday matinees coming back to me in rapid frames. That smoky dark hair would fit, the rich, un-identifiable accent, the lips like blackberry stain on the pale skin, the elegant black-and-white garb. I put this idea firmly out of my mind; it was fantasy and it fit too well with my jittery mood.

“Do you actually know someone who wouldn’t want you to have that book?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact. But that is certainly none of your business.” She glared at me and went back to her coffee. “Why were you hunting for the book, anyway? If you wanted my phone number, why did you not simply ask me for it, without going through all this rigmarole?”

This time I felt my own face redden. Talking with this woman was like sitting still for a series of slaps, delivered arhythmically so you couldn’t know when the next one was coming. “I had no intention of asking for your phone number until I realized those cards had been torn out of the catalog and thought you should know about it,” I said, stiffly. “I needed that book very badly myself. So I went to the library to see if they had a second copy I might be able to use.”

“And they didn’t,” she said fiercely, “so you had the perfect excuse to call me looking for it. If you wanted my library book, why didn’t you just put it on reserve?”

“I need it now,” I retorted. Her tone was beginning to exasperate me. We might both be in serious trouble, and she was quibbling about this meeting as if it were a bid for a date, which it wasn’t. I reminded myself that she couldn’t know what dire straits I was in. Then it occurred to me that if I told her the whole story, she might not merely think I was insane. But it might also put her in greater danger. I sighed aloud, without meaning to.

“Are you trying to intimidate me out of my library book?” Her tone was a little softened now, and I caught the amusement that made her strong mouth twitch. “I believe you are.”

“No, I’m not. But I would like to know who you think might not want you checking out this book.” I set down my cup and looked across at her.

She moved her shoulders restlessly under the lightweight wool of her jacket. I could see one longish hair clinging to the lapel, her own dark hair, but glinting with copper lights against the black fabric. She appeared to be making up her mind to say something. “Who are you?” she asked suddenly.

I took the question at academic face value. “I’m a graduate student here, in history.”

“History?” It was a quick, almost angry interjection.

“I’m writing my dissertation on Dutch trade in the seventeenth century.”

“Oh.” She was silent for a moment. “I am an anthropologist,” she said finally. “But I am also very much interested in history. I study the customs and traditions of the Balkans and Central Europe, especially of my native”-her voice dropped a little, but sadly, not secretively-“my native Romania.”

It was my turn to flinch. Really, this was all more and more peculiar. “Is that why you wanted to readDracula? ” I asked.

Her smile surprised me-white, even, her teeth a little small for such a strong face, the eyes shining. Then she tightened her lips again. “I suppose you could say that.”

“You’re not answering my questions,” I pointed out.

“Why should I?” She shrugged. “You are a total stranger and you want to take my library book.”

“You may be in danger, Miss Rossi. I’m not trying to threaten you, but I’m perfectly serious.”

Her eyes narrowed on mine. “You are hiding something, too,” she said. “I will tell you if you tell me.”

I had never seen, met, or spoken with a woman like this. She was combative without being in the least flirtatious. I had the sensation that her words were a pool of cold water, into which I now plunged without stopping to count the consequences.

“All right. You answer my question first,” I said, borrowing her tone. “Who do you think might not want you to have that book in your possession?”

“Professor Bartholomew Rossi,” she said, her voice sarcastic, grating. “You’re in history. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”

I sat there dumbfounded. “Professor Rossi? What-what do you mean?”

“I have answered your question,” she said, straightening up and adjusting her jacket and piling her gloves one on the other again, as if finished with a task. I wondered fleetingly if she were enjoying the effect her words had on me, seeing me stammer over them. “Now tell me what you mean by all this drama about danger from a book.”

“Miss Rossi,” I said. “Please. I will tell you. Whatever I can. But please explain to me your relation to Professor Bartholomew Rossi.”

She bent down, opened her book bag, and took out a leather case. “Do you mind if I smoke?” For the second time, I saw in her that masculine ease, which seemed to come over her when she put aside her defensively ladylike gestures. “Would you like one?”

I shook my head; I hated cigarettes, although I would almost have accepted one from that spare, smooth hand. She inhaled without any flourish, smoking dexterously. “I do not know why I am telling a stranger this,” she said reflectively. “I guess the loneliness of this place is affecting me. I have hardly spoken with anyone in two months, except about work. And you do not strike me as a gossiping type, although God knows my department is full of them.” I could hear her accent welling up fully under the words, which she spoke with a soft rancor. “But if you’ll keep your promise…” The hard look came over her again; she straightened, cigarette jutting defiantly from one hand. “My relationship to the famous Professor Rossi is very simple. Or it should be. He is my father. He met my mother while he was in Romania looking for Dracula.”

My coffee splashed across the table, over my lap, down the front of my shirt-which hadn’t been perfectly clean, anyway-and spattered her cheek. She wiped it off with one hand, staring at me.

“Good God, I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I tried to clean up, using both our napkins.

“So this really shocks you,” she said, without moving. “You must know him, then.”

“I do,” I said. “He’s my adviser. But he never told me about Romania, and he-he never told me he had a family.”

“He doesn’t.” The coldness in her voice cut through me. “I have never met him, you see, although I guess it is only a matter of time now.” She leaned back in the little chair and hunched her shoulders, crudely, as if defying me to come closer. “I have seen him once, from a distance, at a lecture-imagine, seeing your father for the first time at a distance like that.”

I had made a soggy heap of napkins and now I pushed everything aside, heap, coffee cup, spoon. “Why?”

“It’s a very odd story,” she said. She looked at me, but not as if she were lost in thought. She seemed instead to be gauging my reactions. “All right. It’s a love ‘em and leave ’em story.” This sounded strange in her accent, although I wasn’t moved to smile. “Maybe that’s not so odd. He met my mother in her village, enjoyed her company for a while, and left her after a few weeks with an address in England. After he had gone, my mother discovered she was pregnant, and then her sister, who lived in Hungary, helped her flee to Budapest before I was born.”

“He never told me he’d been to Romania.” I was croaking, not speaking.

“Not surprising.” She smoked bitterly. “My mother wrote him from Hungary, to the address he’d left her, and told him about their baby. He wrote her back saying he had no idea who she was or how she’d found his name, and that he’d never been to Romania. Can you imagine anything so cruel?” Her eyes bored into me, huge and starkly black now.

“What year were you born?” It didn’t occur to me to apologize before asking the lady this question; she was so unlike anyone I’d ever encountered that the usual rules didn’t seem to apply.

“In 1931,” she said flatly. “My mother took me to Romania for a few days once, before I even knew about Dracula, but even then she would not go back to Transylvania.”

“My God.” I whispered it to the Formica tabletop. “My God. I thought he’d told me everything, but he didn’t tell me that.”

“He told you-what?” she asked sharply.

“Why haven’t you met him? Doesn’t he know you’re here?”

She looked at me strangely but answered without demurring. “It’s a game, I guess you could say. Just a fancy of mine.” She paused. “I was not doing so badly in the university in Budapest. In fact, they considered me a genius.” She announced this almost modestly. Her English was phenomenally good, I realized for the first time-supernaturally good. Maybe shewas a genius.

“My mother did not finish grade school, if you can believe it, although she got some more education later in life, but I was attending the university by the time I was sixteen. Of course, my mother told me my paternal heritage, and we do know Professor Rossi’s outstanding books even in the murky depths of the East Bloc-Minoan civilization, Mediterranean religious cults, the age of Rembrandt. Because he wrote sympathetically on British socialism, our government allows the distribution of his works. I studied English throughout high school-would you like to know why? So I could read the amazing Dr. Rossi’s work in the original. It wasn’t exactly hard to find out where he was, either, you know; I used to stare at the university name on the jackets of his books and vow to go there one day. I thought things through. I made all the right connections, politically-I started by pretending I wanted to study the glorious labor revolution in England. And when the time came, I had my pick of scholarships. We have been enjoying some freedom in Hungary these days, although everyone wonders how long the Soviets will tolerate that. Speaking of impalers. In any case, I went to London first, for six months, and then got my fellowship to come here, four months ago.”

She blew out a curl of gray smoke, thinking, but her eyes never left mine. It occurred to me that Helen Rossi was likelier to run into persecution by the communist governments she referred to with such cynicism than by Dracula. Perhaps she had actually defected to the West. I made a mental note to ask her about this later. Later? And what had become of her mother? And had she made all of this up, in Hungary, in order to attach herself to the reputation of a famous Western academic?

She was following her own train of thought. “Isn’t it a pretty picture? The long-lost daughter turns out to be a great credit, finds her father, happy reunion.” The bitterness in her smile turned my stomach. “But that is not quite what I had in mind. I have come here to let him hear about me, as if by accident-my publications, my lectures. We will see if he can hide from his past then, ignore me as he ignored my mother. And about this Dracula thing -” She pointed her cigarette at me. “My mother, bless her simple soul for thinking of it, told me something about that.”

“Told you what?” I asked faintly.

“Told me about Rossi’s special research on the subject. I had not known about it, not until last summer, just before I left for London. That is how they met; he was asking around in the village about vampire lore, and she had heard something about local vampires from her father and his cronies-not that a man alone should have been addressing a young girl in public, you understand, in that culture. But I suppose he did not know any better. Historian, you know-not an anthropologist. He was in Romania looking for information on Vlad the Impaler, our own dear Count Dracula. And don’t you think it’s strange”-she leaned forward suddenly, bringing her face closer to mine than it had been yet, but ferociously, not in appeal-“don’t you think it is downright weird that he has not published a thing on the subject? Not one thing, as you surely know. Why? I asked myself. Why should the famous explorer of historical territories-and women, apparently, since who knows how many other genius daughters he has out there-why should he not have published anything out of this very unusual research?”

“Why?” I asked, not moving.

“I’ll tell you. Because he is saving it up for a grand finale. It is his secret, his passion. Why else would a scholar remain silent? But he has a surprise coming to him.” Her lovely smile was a grin this time, and I didn’t like it. “You would not believe how much ground I have covered in a year, since I learned about this little interest of his. I have not contacted Professor Rossi, but I have been careful to make my expertise known in my department. What a shame it will be for him when someone else publishes the definitive work on the subject first-someone with his own name, too. It is beautiful. You see, I even took his name, once I arrived here-an academic nom de plume, you might say. Besides, in the East Bloc, we do not like other people stealing our heritage and commenting on it; they usually misunderstand it.”

I must have groaned out loud, because she paused momentarily and frowned at me. “By the end of this summer, I will know more than anyone in the world about the legend of Dracula. You can have your old book, by the way.” She opened the bag again and thumped it horribly, publicly, on the table between us. “I was simply checking something in it yesterday and I did not have time to go home for my own copy. You see, I do not even need it. It is only literature, in any case, and I know the whole damn thing almost by heart.”

My father looked around him like a man in a dream. We’d been standing on the Acropolis in silence for a quarter of an hour now, our feet planted on that crest of ancient civilization. I was awed by the muscular columns above us, and surprised to find that the most distant view on the horizon was of mountains, long dry ridges that hung darkly over the city at this sunset hour. But as we started back down, and he came out of his reverie to ask how I liked the great panorama, it took me a minute to collect my thoughts and answer. I had been thinking about the night before.

I’d gone into his room a little later than usual so that he could look through my algebra homework, and I found him writing, mulling over the day’s paperwork, as he often did in the evening. That night he sat very still with his head bent above the desk, drooping toward some documents, not upright and paging through them with his usual efficiency. I couldn’t tell from the doorway whether he was intently scanning something he’d just written, almost without seeing it, or simply trying not to doze. His form cast a great shadow on the undecorated hotel-room wall, the figure of a man slumped dully over another, darker desk. If I hadn’t known his fatigue, and the familiar shape of his shoulders sloping above the page, I might for a second-not knowing him-have said he was dead.

Chapter 18

Triumphal, clear weather, the days enormous as a mountain sky, followed us with spring into Slovenia. When I asked if we’d have time to see Emona again-I connected it already with an earlier era in my life, one with a different flavor altogether, and with a beginning, and as I’ve said before one tries to revisit such places-my father said hurriedly that we’d be far too busy, staying at a great lake north of Emona for his conference and then rushing back to Amsterdam before I fell behind in school. Which I never did, but the possibility worried my father.

Lake Bled, when we arrived, was no disappointment. It had poured into an alpine valley at the end of one of the Ice Ages and provided early nomads there with a resting place-in thatched houses out on the water. Now it lay like a sapphire in the hands of the Alps, its surface burnished with whitecaps in the late-afternoon breeze. From one steep edge rose a cliff higher than the rest, and on this, one of Slovenia ’s great castles roosted, restored by the tourist bureau in unusually good taste. Its crenellations looked down on an island, where a specimen of those modest red-roofed churches of the Austrian type floated like a duck, and boats went out to the island every few hours. The hotel, as usual, was steel and glass, socialist tourism model number five, and we escaped it on the second day for a walk around the lower part of the lake. I told my father I didn’t think I could wait another twenty-four hours without seeing the castle that dominated the distant view at every meal, and he chuckled. “If you must, we’ll go,” he said. The new détente was even more promising than his team had hoped, and some of the lines on his forehead had relaxed since our arrival here.

So on the morning of the third day, leaving a diplomatic rehash of what had been rehashed the day before, we took a little bus around the lake, riding nearly to the level of the castle, and then dismounted to walk to the summit. The castle was made of brown stones like discolored bone, joined neatly together after some long state of dilapidation. When we came through the first passageway to a chamber of state (I suppose it was), I gasped: through a leaded window the surface of the lake shone a thousand feet below, stretching white in the sunlight. The castle seemed to be clinging to the edge of the precipice with only its toes dug in for support. The yellow-and-red church on the island below, the cheerful boat docking just then among tiny beds of red-and-yellow flowers, the great blue sky, had all served centuries of tourists, I thought.

But this castle, with its rocks worn smooth since the twelfth century, its tepees of battle-axes, spears, and hatchets in every corner, threatening to crash down if touched-this was the essence of the lake. Those early lake dwellers, moving skyward from their thatched, flammable huts, had ultimately chosen to perch here with the eagles, ruled over by one feudal lord. Even restored so deftly, the place breathed an ancient life. I turned from the dazzling window to the next room and saw, in a coffin of glass and wood, the skeleton of one small woman, dead long before the advent of Christianity, her bronze cloak ornament resting on her crumbling breastbone, green-bronze rings sliding off the bones of her fingers. When I bent over the case to look down at her, she smiled at me suddenly out of eye-sockets deep as twin pits.

On the castle terrace, tea came in white porcelain pots, an elegant concession to the tourist trade. It was strong and good, and the paper-wrapped cubes of sugar were not stale, for once. My father was clenching his hands together on the iron table; the knuckles showed white. I stared at the lake instead, then poured him another cup. “Thank you,” my father said. There was a distant pain in his eyes. I noticed again how worn and thin he looked these days; should he be seeing a doctor? “Look, darling,” he said, turning away a little so that I could see only his profile against that terrific drop of cliff and sparkling water. He paused. “Would you consider writing them down?”

“The stories?” I asked. My heart contracted, sped up its count in my chest.

“Yes.”

“Why?” I countered finally. It was an adult question, with no hedge of childhood wiles around it. He looked at me, and I thought that behind all their fatigue his eyes were full of goodness and sorrow.

“Because if you don’t, I might have to,” he said. Then he turned to his tea, and I saw that he wouldn’t speak about it again.

That night, in the grim little hotel room next to his, I began to write down everything he had told me. He had always said I had an excellent memory-too good a memory, was the way he sometimes put it.

My father told me at breakfast the next morning that he wanted to sit still for two or three days. It was hard for me to picture him actually sitting still, but I could see dark rings under his eyes and I liked the idea of his having a rest. I couldn’t help feeling that something had happened to him, that he was burdened by some silent new anxiety. But he told me only that he was longing again for the Adriatic beaches. We took an express train south through stations whose names were posted in both Latin and Cyrillic letters, then through stations whose names were posted in Cyrillic only. My father taught me the new alphabet, and I amused myself trying to sound out the station signs, each of which looked to me like code words that could open a secret door.

I explained this to my father and he smiled a little, leaning back in our train compartment with a book propped on his briefcase. His gaze wandered frequently from his work to the window, where we could see young men riding little tractors with plows behind, sometimes a horse pulling a cartload of something, old women in their kitchen gardens bending, scraping, weeding. We were moving south again and the land mellowed to gold and green as we hurried through it, then rose up into rocky gray mountains, then dropped on our left to a shimmering sea. My father sighed deeply, but with satisfaction, not the fatigued little gasp he gave more and more often these days.

In a busy market town we left the train and my father rented a car to drive us along the folded complexities of the coastal road. We both craned to see the water on one side-it stretched to a horizon full of late-afternoon haze-and on the other side the skeletal ruins of Ottoman fortresses that climbed steeply toward the sky. “The Turks held this land for a long, long time,” my father mused. “Their invasions involved all kinds of cruelty, but they ruled rather tolerantly, as empires go, once they’d conquered-and efficiently, too, for hundreds of years. This is pretty barren land, but it gave them control of the sea. They needed these ports and bays.”

The town where we parked was right on the sea; the little harbor there was lined with fishing boats knocking against one another in a translucent surf. My father wanted to stay on a nearby island, and he engaged a boat with a wave to its owner, an old man with a black beret on the back of his head. The air was warm, even this late in the afternoon, and the spray that reached my fingertips was fresh but not cold. I leaned out of the bow, feeling like a figurehead. “Careful,” my father said, gathering the back of my sweater in his hand.

The boatman was steering us close to an island port now, an old village with an elegant stone church. He slung a rope around a stump of pier and offered me one gnarled hand up out of the boat. My father paid him with some of those colorful socialist bills, and he touched his beret. As he was clambering back to his seat, he turned. “Your girl?” he shouted in English. “Daughter?”

“Yes,” my father said, looking surprised.

“I bless her,” the man said simply and carved a cross in the air near me.

My father found us rooms that looked back at the mainland, and then we ate our dinner at an outdoor restaurant near the docks. Twilight was coming down slowly, and I noticed the first stars visible above the sea. A breeze, cooler now than it had been in the afternoon, brought me the scents I had already grown to love: cypress and lavender, rosemary, thyme. “Why do good smells get stronger when it’s dark?” I asked my father. It was something I genuinely wondered, but it served also to postpone our discussing anything else. I needed time to recover somewhere where there were lights and people talking, needed at least to look away from that aged trembling in my father’s hands.

“Do they?” he asked absently, but it brought me relief. I grasped his hand to stop its shaking, and he closed it, still absently, over mine. He was too young to grow old. On the mainland, the silhouettes of mountains danced almost into the water, looming over the beaches, looming almost over our island. When civil war broke out in those coastal mountains almost twenty years later, I closed my eyes and remembered them, astonished. I couldn’t imagine that their slopes housed enough people to fight a war. They had seemed utterly pristine when I saw them, devoid of human habitation, the home of empty ruins, guarding only the monastery on the sea.

Chapter 19

After Helen Rossi slammed the bookDracula -which she obviously thought was our bone of contention-onto the diner table between us, I half expected everyone in the place to rise and run, or someone to cry, “Aha!” and come over to kill us. Of course, nothing at all happened, and she sat there looking at me with the same expression of bitter pleasure. Could this woman, I asked myself slowly, with her legacy of resentment and her scholarly vendetta against Rossi, have injured him herself, caused his disappearance?

“Miss Rossi,” I said as calmly as I could, taking the book off the table and putting it facedown beside my briefcase, “your story is extraordinary and I have to say it’ll take me some time to digest all this. But I must tell you something very important.” I drew in a deep breath, then another. “I know Professor Rossi quite well. He has been my adviser for two years now and we’ve spent hours together, talking and working. I’m sure if you-when you-meet him you will find him a far better and kinder person than you can imagine at this point -” She made a movement as if to speak, but I rushed on. “The thing is-the thing is-I take it from the way you talked about him that you don’t realize Professor Rossi-your father-has disappeared.”

She stared at me, and I couldn’t detect any guile in her face, only confusion. So this news was a surprise. The pain over my heart lessened a little. “What do you mean?” she demanded.

“I mean-three nights ago I was talking with him as usual, and by the next day he had vanished. The police are looking for him now. He apparently disappeared from his office, and was maybe even injured there, because they found blood on his desk.” I recounted briefly the events of that evening, beginning with my bringing him my strange little book, but said nothing about the story Rossi had told me.

She looked at me, her face twisted with perplexity. “Is this some kind of trick you are playing on me?”

“No, not in the least. It really isn’t. I’ve hardly been able to eat or sleep since it happened.”

“Don’t the police have any idea where he is?”

“None, as far as I can tell.”

Her look was suddenly shrewd. “Do you?”

I hesitated. “Possibly. It’s a long story, and it seems to be getting longer by the hour.”

“Wait.” She looked hard at me. “When you were reading those letters in the library yesterday, you said they had to do with a problem some professor was having. Did you mean Rossi?”

“Yes.”

“What problem was he having? Is he having?”

“I don’t want to involve you in unpleasantness or danger by telling you even what little I know.”

“You promised to answer my questions after I answered yours.” If she’d had blue eyes instead of dark ones, her face would have been the twin of Rossi’s at that moment. I imagined I could see a resemblance now, an uncanny molding of Rossi’s English crispness into the strong, dark frame of Romania, although it could merely have been the effect of her assertion that she was his daughter. But how could she be his daughter if he had stoutly denied having been in Romania? He had said, at least, that he’d never been to Snagov. On the other hand, he had left that brochure on Romania among his papers. Now she was glaring at me, too, something Rossi had never done. “It is too late to tell me I shouldn’t ask questions. What did those letters have to do with his disappearance?”

“I’m not sure yet. But I may need the help of an expert. I don’t know what discoveries you’ve made in the course of your research -” Again, I received her wary, heavy-lidded look. “I’m convinced that before he vanished Rossi believed he was in personal danger.”

She seemed to be trying to take all of this in, this news of a father she had known for so long only as a symbol of challenge. “Personal danger? From what?”

I took the plunge. Rossi had asked me not to share his insane story with my colleagues. I hadn’t done that, but now, unexpectedly, I had available to me the possibility of assistance from an expert. This woman might know already what it would take me many months to learn; she might be right, even, in thinking she knew more than Rossi himself. Rossi always emphasized the importance of seeking expert help-well, I would do that now. Forgive me, I prayed to the forces of good, if this endangers her. Besides, it had a peculiar kind of logic. If she was actually his daughter, she might have the greatest right of all to know his story. “What does Dracula mean to you?”

“Mean to me?” She frowned. “As a concept? My revenge, I suppose. Eternal bitterness.”

“Yes, I understand that. But does Dracula mean anything more to you?”

“What do you mean?” I couldn’t tell whether she was being evasive or simply honest.

“Rossi,” I said, still hesitating, “your father, was-is-convinced that Dracula still walks the earth.” She stared at me. “What do you make of that?” I asked. “Does it seem insane to you?” I waited for her to laugh, or stand up and leave as she had in the library.

“It’s funny,” Helen Rossi answered slowly. “Normally I’d say that was peasant legend-superstition about the memory of a bloody tyrant. But the strange thing is that my mother is absolutely convinced of the same thing.”

“Your mother?”

“Yes. I told you, she is a peasant by birth. She has a right to these superstitions, although she is probably less convinced of them than her parents were. But why an eminent Western scholar?” She was an anthropologist, all right, despite her bitter quest. The detachment of her quick intelligence from personal questions was astonishing to me.

“Miss Rossi,” I said, making up my mind suddenly. “I somehow don’t have the smallest doubt that you like to examine things for yourself. Why don’t you read Rossi’s letters? I’m giving you my frankest warning that everyone who has handled his papers on this topic has been subjected to some kind of threat, as far as I can tell. But if you aren’t afraid, read them for yourself. It’ll save us the time of my trying to persuade you that his story is true, which I firmly believe it is.”

“Save us time?” she echoed contemptuously. “What are you planning for my time?”

I was too desperate to be stung. “You’ll read these letters with a better-educated eye, in this case, than mine.”

She seemed to be thinking over this proposal, her chin in her fist. “All right,” she said finally. “You have got me in a vulnerable spot. Of course I cannot resist the temptation to learn more about Father Rossi, especially if it puts me ahead of his research. But if he seems to me merely insane, I warn you that you will not get much sympathy from me. That would be just my luck, for him to be shut away in an institution before I have my fair chance to torture him.” Her smile was not a smile.

“Fine.” I ignored the last remark and the ugly grimace, forcing myself not to glance at her canine teeth, which I could already see plainly weren’t longer than normal. Before we concluded our transaction, however, I had to lie on one point. “I’m sorry to say I don’t have the letters with me. I was afraid to carry them around today.” Actually, I’d been thoroughly afraid to leave them in my apartment, and they were hidden in my briefcase. But I’d be damned-literally, maybe-if I pulled them out in the middle of the diner. I had no idea who might be there, watching us-the creepy librarian’s little friends, for example? I had another reason, too, which I had to test even if my heart sank under its unpleasantness. I had to be sure Helen Rossi, whoever she was, was not in league with-well, wasn’t it just possible that the enemy of her enemy was already her friend? “I’ll have to go home and get them. And I’ll have to ask you to read them in my presence; they’re fragile and very precious to me.”

“All right,” she said coolly. “Can we meet tomorrow afternoon?”

“That’s too late. I’d like you to see them immediately. I’m sorry. I know it sounds odd, but you’ll understand my sense of urgency once you’ve read them.”

She shrugged. “If it will not take too long.”

“It won’t. Can you meet me at-at Saint Mary’s Church?” This test, at least, I could perform with Rossi’s own thoroughness. Helen Rossi looked unflinchingly at me, her hard, ironic face unchanged. “That’s on Elm Street, two blocks from -”

“I know where it is,” she said, gathering her gloves and putting them on very neatly. She rewound the blue scarf, which shimmered around her throat like lapis lazuli. “What time?”

“Give me thirty minutes to get the papers from my apartment and meet you there.”

“At the church. All right. I will stop by the library for an article I need today. Please be on time-I have a lot to do.” Her black-coated back was lean and strong, moving out the diner door. I realized too late that she had somehow paid the bill for our coffee.

Chapter 20

Saint Mary’s Church, my father said, was a homely little piece of Victoriana that lingered at the edge of the old section of campus. I’d passed it hundreds of times without ever going in, but it seemed to me now that a Catholic church was the right companion for all these horrors. Didn’t Catholicism deal with blood and resurrected flesh on a daily basis? Wasn’t it expert in superstition? I somehow doubted that the hospitable plain Protestant chapels that dotted the university could be much help; they didn’t look qualified to wrestle with the undead. I felt sure those big square Puritan churches on the town green would be helpless in the face of a European vampire. A little witch burning was more in their line-something limited to the neighbors. Of course, I would be at Saint Mary’s long before my reluctant guest. Would she even show up? That was half the exam.

Saint Mary’s was indeed open, fortunately, and its dark paneled interior smelled of wax and dusty upholstery. Two old ladies in hats sprigged with fake flowers were arranging real ones on the carved altar up front. I stepped in rather awkwardly and settled myself in a back pew, where I could see the doors without being seen at once by anyone who entered. It was a long wait, but the quiet interior and the ladies’ hushed conversation soothed me a little. I began to feel tired for the first time, after my late night. At last the front door swung open again on its ninety-year-old hinges, and Helen Rossi stood hesitating for a moment, looked behind her, and then stepped in.

Sunlight from the side windows threw turquoise and mauve on her clothes as she stood there. I saw her glance around the carpeted entrance. Seeing no one, she moved forward. I watched for any kind of cringing, for an evil shriveling of skin or color in her firm face-anything, I didn’t know what, that might show an allergy to Dracula’s ancient enemy, the church. Perhaps a boxy Victorian relic wouldn’t ward off the forces of darkness anyway, I thought doubtfully. But this building apparently had some power of its own for Helen Rossi, because after a moment she moved through the radiant colors of the window toward the wall font. With a sense of shame for my voyeurism, I saw her remove her gloves and dip one hand into the basin, then touch her forehead. The gesture was tender; her face from where I sat had a grave look. Well, I was doing it for Rossi. And now I knew absolutely that Helen Rossi was not avrykolakas, however hard and sometimes sinister her appearance.

She came into the nave and then drew back a little, seeing me get to my feet. “Did you bring the letters?” she whispered, her eyes fixing me accusingly. “I have to return to my department by one o’clock.” She glanced around again.

“What’s wrong?” I asked quickly, my arms prickling with instinctive nervousness. I seemed to have developed some sort of morbid sixth sense over the last two days. “Are you afraid of something?”

“No,” she said, still whispering. She clenched her gloves together in one hand so that they looked like a flower against her dark suit. “I simply wondered-did someone else come in just now?”

“No.” I glanced around, too. The church was pleasantly empty except for the altar-guild ladies.

“Someone was following me,” she said in the same low voice. Her face, framed by the roll of heavy dark hair, wore an odd expression, mixed suspicion and bravado. For the first time, I wondered what it had cost her to learn her own species of courage. “I think he was following me. A small, thin man in shabby clothes-tweed jacket, green tie.”

“Are you sure? Where did you see him?”

“In the card catalog,” she said softly. “I went to check your story about the missing cards. I simply was not sure I believed it.” She spoke matter-of-factly, without apology. “I saw him there, and the next thing I knew he was following me, but at a distance, on Elm Street. Do you know him?”

“Yes,” I said dismally. “He’s a librarian.”

“A librarian?” She seemed to wait for more, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about the wound I’d seen on the man’s neck. It was too incredible, too strange; hearing that, she would certainly give me up as a mental case.

“He seems suspicious of my movements. You absolutely must stay out of his way,” I said. “I’ll tell you more about him later. Come, sit down and be comfortable. Here are the letters.”

I made room for her in one of the velvet-cushioned pews and opened my briefcase. Immediately her face was intent; she lifted out the package with careful hands and removed the letters almost as reverently as I had the day before. I could only wonder what kind of sensation this must be for her, to see on some of them the handwriting of the alleged father she had known only as a source of anger. I looked at it over her shoulder. Yes, it was a firm, kind, upright hand. Perhaps it had already made him seem faintly human to his daughter. Then I thought I should stop watching, and I got to my feet. “I’ll just wander around here and give you whatever time you need. If there’s anything I can explain or help you with -”

She nodded absently, eyes fixed on the first letter, and I walked away. I could see she would handle my precious papers with care, and that she was already reading Rossi’s lines with great swiftness. For the next half hour I examined the carved altar, the paintings in the chapel, the tasseled hangings at the pulpit, the marble figure of the exhausted mother and her squirming baby. One of the paintings in particular caught my attention: a ghoulish Pre-Raphaelite Lazarus, tottering out of the tomb into the arms of his sisters, his ankles gray-green and his grave clothes dingy. The face, faded after a century of smoke and incense, looked bitter and weary, as if gratitude were the last thing he felt on being called back from his rest. The Christ who stood impatiently at the tomb’s entrance, holding up his hand, had a countenance of pure evil, greedy and burning. I blinked, turned away. My lack of sleep was clearly poisoning my thoughts.

“I’m done,” Helen Rossi said behind me. Her voice was low, and she looked pale and tired. “You were right,” she said. “There is no mention of his affair with my mother, or even of his traveling to Romania. You were telling the truth about that. I cannot understand it. This must have been during the same period, surely the same trip to the Continent, because I was born nine months after that.”

“I’m sorry.” Her dark face hadn’t asked for pity, but I felt it. “I wish I had some clues for you here, but you see how it is. I can’t explain it, either.”

“At least we believe each other, don’t we?” She looked directly at me.

I was surprised to discover I could feel pleasure in the midst of all this grief and apprehension. “We do?”

“Yes. I don’t know if something called Dracula exists, or what it is, but I believe you when you say Rossi-my father-felt himself in danger. He clearly felt it many years ago, so why not a return of his fears when he saw your little book, an uncomfortable coincidence and reminder of the past?”

“And what do you make of his disappearance?”

She shook her head. “It could have been a mental breakdown, of course. But I understand what you mean, now. His letters have the mark of”-she hesitated-“a logical and fearless mind, just like his other works. Besides, you can tell a great deal from a historian’s books. I know his very well. They are the efforts of stable, clear thought.”

I led her back to the letters and my briefcase; it made me nervous to leave them alone for even a few minutes. She had put everything neatly back in the envelope-in its original order, I had no doubt. We sat down on the pew together, almost companionably.

“Let’s just say there might be some supernatural force involved in his disappearance,” I ventured. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but for the sake of argument. What would you advise doing next?”

“Well,” she said slowly. Her profile was sharp and thoughtful, close to me in the dim light. “I cannot see that this will help you very much in a modern investigation, but if you were to obey the dictates of Dracula lore, you would have to assume that Rossi has been assaulted and removed by a vampire, who would either kill him or-more likely-pollute him with the curse of the undead. Three attacks that mingle your blood with that of Dracula or one of his disciples make you a vampire eternally, you know. If he has been bitten once already, you will have to find him as soon as possible.”

“But why would Dracula appear here, of all places? And why abduct Rossi? Why not just strike him and corrupt him, without making the change noticeable to anyone?”

“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “It is unusual behavior, according to the folklore. Rossi must be-I mean, if this were all a supernatural occurrence-he must be of special interest to Vlad Dracula. Perhaps even a threat to him somehow.”

“And do you believe my finding this little book and bringing it to Rossi had something to do with his disappearance?”

“Logic tells me that it is an absurd idea. But -” She folded her gloves carefully in her black-skirted lap. “I wonder if there’s not another source of information we’re overlooking.” Her mouth drooped. Silently, I thanked her for thatwe.

“What’s that?”

She sighed and unfolded the gloves. “My mother.”

“Your mother? But what would she know about -” I had only begun my string of questions when a shift in light and the breath of a draft made me turn. From where we sat, we could see the church doors without being seen from them-the vantage point from which I’d chosen to watch Helen’s entrance. Now a hand inserted itself between the doors, then a bony, pointed face. The strange-looking librarian was peering into the church.

I can’t describe to you the feeling I had in that quiet church when the librarian’s face appeared between the doors. I had the sudden image of a sharp-nosed animal, something stealthy and sniffing, a weasel or a rat. Beside me, Helen was frozen, staring at the door. Any moment now he would be catching our scent. But we had a second or two left, I calculated, and I gathered the briefcase and stack of papers silently in one arm, grasped Helen with the other-there was no time to ask for her permission-and drew her from the end of the pew into the side aisle. A door was open there, leading into a small chamber beyond, and we slipped in. I closed it quietly. There was no way to lock it from the inside, I noted with a pang, although it had a big iron-lined keyhole.

It was darker in this little room than in the nave. There was a baptismal font in the middle, a cushioned bench or two along the walls. Helen and I looked silently at each other. I couldn’t read her expression, except that it seemed to hold as much alertness and defiance as fear. Without words or gestures, we moved cautiously behind the font, and Helen put a hand on it to steady herself. After another minute, I couldn’t stay still any longer; I handed her the papers and went back to the keyhole. Looking carefully through it, I could see the librarian moving past a column. He did resemble a weasel, his pointed face thrust forward, glancing around at all the pews. He turned in my direction, and I drew back a little. He seemed to study the door to our hiding place, and even took a step or two toward it, then stepped away again. Suddenly a lavender sweater moved into my field of view. It was one of the altar ladies. I could hear her voice, muffled. “Can I help you?” she said kindly.

“Well, I’m looking for someone.” The librarian had a sharp, whistling voice, too loud for a sanctuary. “I-did you see a young lady come in here, in a black suit? Dark hair?”

“Why, yes.” The kind woman looked around, too. “There was someone by that description here a little while ago. She was with a young man, sitting in the back pews. But she’s certainly not here now.”

The weasel swiveled this way and that. “Couldn’t she be hiding in one of those rooms?” He wasn’t subtle, that was clear.

“Hiding?” The lavender lady turned our way, too. “I’m sure there’s no one hiding in our church. Wouldn’t you like me to call the priest? Do you need some help?”

The librarian backed away. “Oh, no, no,” he said. “I must have made a mistake.”

“Would you like some of our literature?”

“Oh, no.” He backed down the aisle. “No, thank you.” I saw him peer around again, and then he passed out of my range of vision. There was a heavy click, a thump-the front door closing behind him. I gave Helen a nod and she sighed noiseless relief, but we waited a few more minutes there, glancing at each other over the font. Helen looked down first, her brow furrowed. I knew she must be wondering how on earth she’d gotten into such a situation and what it really meant. The top of her hair was glossy, ebony-she was hatless again today.

“He’s looking for you,” I said in a low voice.

“Maybe he is looking for you.” She indicated the envelope I held.

“I have a strange idea,” I said slowly. “Maybe he knows where Rossi is.”

She frowned again. “None of this makes much sense anyway, so why not?” she muttered.

“I can’t let you go back to the library. Or your rooms. He’ll be looking for you in both places.”

“Let me?” she echoed ominously.

“Miss Rossi, please. Do you want to be the next disappearance?”

She was silent. “So how do you plan to protect me?” Her voice held a mocking note, and I thought of her strange childhood, her original flight to Hungary in her mother’s womb, the political savvy that had allowed her to travel to the other side of the world for academic revenge. If her story were all true, of course.

“I have an idea,” I said slowly. “I know this is going to sound-undignified, but I would feel better if you would humor me about it. We can take some-charms-with us from the church here -” She raised her eyebrows. “We’ll find something-candles or crucifixes or something-and buy some garlic on the way home-I mean to my apartment -” The eyebrows went up further. “I mean, if you would consent to accompany me-and you could-I may have to leave for a trip tomorrow, but you could -”

“Sleep on the sofa?” She had her gloves on again and now she folded her arms. I felt myself flushing.

“I can’t let you go back to your rooms knowing you might be pursued-or to the library, of course. And we have more to discuss, I think. I’d like to know what you think your mother -”

“We can discuss that right here, right now,” she said-coldly, I thought. “As for the librarian, I doubt he would be able to follow me to my room, unless -” Did she have a sort of dimple on one side of her stern chin, or was that sarcasm? “Unless he can turn himself into a bat already. You see, our matron doesn’t allow vampires in our rooms. Or men, for that matter. Besides, I’m hoping he will follow me back to the library.”

“Hoping?” I was startled.

“I knew he wouldn’t talk with us here, not in the church. He is probably waiting outside for us. I have a bone to pick with him”-that extraordinary English again-“because he is trying to interfere with my library privileges, and you believe he has information for you about my-Professor Rossi. Why not let him follow me? We can discuss my mother on the way.” I must have looked more than doubtful, because she suddenly laughed, her teeth white and even. “He is not going to jump on you in broad daylight, Paul.”

Chapter 21

There was no sign of the librarian outside the church. We strolled toward the library-my heart was thumping hard, although Helen looked cool-with twin crucifixes from the church vestibule in our pockets (“Take one, leave a quarter”). To my disappointment, Helen did not mention her mother. I had the sense that she was merely cooperating temporarily with my madness, that she was going to vanish once we reached the library, but she surprised me again. “He is back there,” she said quietly about two blocks from the church. “I saw him when we turned the corner. Do not look behind you.” I stifled an exclamation and we walked on. “I am going to go into the upper stacks in the library,” she said. “How about the seventh floor? That is the first really quiet area. Do not go up there with me. He is more likely to follow me if I’m alone than to follow you-you are stronger.”

“You are absolutely not going to do that,” I murmured. “Getting information about Rossi is my problem.”

“Getting information about Rossi is precisely my problem,” she muttered back. “Please do not think that I am doing you a favor, Mr. Dutch Merchants.”

I glanced sidelong at her. I was getting used to her harsh humor, I realized, and something about the curve of her cheek next to that long straight nose looked almost playful, amused. “All right. But I’ll be right behind him, and if you get into trouble I’ll be up there in a split second to help you.”

At the library doors we parted with a show of cordiality. “Good luck with your research, Mr. Dutch,” Helen said, shaking my hand in her gloved one.

“And you with yours, Miss -”

“Shh,” she said and walked off. I retreated into the card-catalog stands and pulled out a drawer at random to make myself look busy: “Ben-Hurto Benedictine.” With my head bent over it, I could still see the circulation desk; Helen was getting a permission slip to enter the stacks, her form tall and slim in the black coat, her back turned decisively on the long nave of the library. Then I saw the librarian creeping along the other side of the nave, keeping close to the other half of the card catalog. He had reached “H” by the time Helen moved toward the door of the stacks. I knew that door intimately, went through it almost daily, and never before had it yawned with meaning for me as it did now. It stayed propped open during the day, but a guard nearby checked entrance slips. In a moment, Helen’s dark figure had vanished up the iron stairs. The librarian lingered for a minute at “G,” then groped for something in his jacket pocket-he must have special library identification, I realized-flashed a card, and disappeared.

I hurried to the circulation desk. “I’d like to use the stacks, please,” I said to the woman on duty. I’d never seen her before-she was very slow-and it seemed to me her round little hands fumbled for an eternity with the yellow slips before she could give me one. At last I made it through the doorway and put a cautious foot on the stairway, looking up. On each floor you could see up one level through the metal steps, but no farther. No sign of the librarian above me, no sound.

I crept to the second floor, past economics and sociology. The third was deserted, too, except for a couple of students at their carrels. On the fourth floor I began to feel really worried. It was too quiet. I should never have let Helen use herself as bait on this mission. I suddenly remembered Rossi’s story about his friend Hedges, and it made me quicken my pace. The fifth floor-archaeology and anthropology-was full of students, undergraduates attending some kind of study group, comparing notes sotto voce. Their presence relieved me somewhat; nothing heinous could be going on just two floors above that. On the sixth floor I could hear footsteps above me, and on the seventh-history-I paused, unsure how to enter the stacks without giving my presence away.

At least I knew this floor well; it was my kingdom, and I could have told you the placement of every carrel and chair, every row of oversize books. At first, history seemed as still as the other floors, but after a moment I picked up muffled conversation from a corner of the stacks. I crept toward it, past Babylon and Assyria, treading as quietly as I could. Then I caught Helen’s voice. I was sure it was Helen’s, and then an unpleasant scraping voice that must be the librarian’s. My heart turned over. They were in the medieval section-I knew it well, now-and I got close enough to hear their words, although I couldn’t risk looking around the end of the next stack. They seemed to be on the other side of the shelves to my right. “Is that correct?” Helen was asking in a hostile tone.

The scraping little voice came again. “You have no right poking around in those books, young lady.”

“Those books? University property? Who are you to confiscate university library books?”

The librarian’s voice was angry and wheedling at the same time. “You don’t need to fool around with such books. They aren’t nice books for a young lady to be reading. Just turn them in today and nothing more will be said.”

“Why do you want them so badly?” Helen’s voice was firm and clear. “Does it have something to do with Professor Rossi, perhaps?”

Cowering behind English feudalism, I wasn’t sure whether to cringe or to cheer aloud. Whatever Helen thought of all this, she was at least intrigued. Apparently she did not consider me crazy. And she was willing to help me, if only to gather information about Rossi for her own ends.

“Professor-who? I don’t know what you mean,” the librarian snapped.

“Do you know where he is?” Helen asked sharply.

“Young lady, I have no idea what you’re talking about. But I need you to return those books, for which the library has other plans, or there will certainly be consequences for your academic career.”

“My career?” Helen scoffed. “I cannot possibly return those books just now. I have important work to do with them.”

“Then I will have to force you to return them. Where are they?” I heard a step, as if Helen had moved away. I was on the verge of swinging around the end of the stack and bringing a folio of Cistercian abbeys down on the nasty little weasel when Helen suddenly played a new card.

“I’ll tell you what,” she said. “If you can tell me something about Professor Rossi, maybe I could share with you a little -” She paused. “A little map I saw recently.”

My stomach dropped all seven stories at once. The map? What was Helen thinking? Why was she giving away such a vital piece of information? That map might be our most dangerous possession, if Rossi’s analysis of its meaning were true, and our most important one. My most dangerous possession, I corrected myself. Was Helen double-crossing me? I saw it in a flash: she wanted to use the map to get to Rossi first, complete his research, use me to learn all he had learned and passed on to me, publish, expose him-I didn’t have time for more than a fleeting revelation because the next moment the librarian let out a roar. “The map! You have Rossi’s map! I’ll kill you for that map!” A gasp from Helen, then a cry and a thump. “Put that down!” screamed the librarian.

My feet didn’t touch the ground until I was on top of him. His little head hit the floor with a thump that rattled my brains, too. Helen crouched next to me. She was very white but looked calm. She was holding up her twenty-five-cent silver crucifix from the church, keeping it trained on him as he fought and spat under me. The librarian was frail, and for a few minutes I could more or less pin him down-lucky for me, since I’d spent the last three years turning through brittle Dutch documents, not lifting weights. He flailed in my grasp, and I brought my knee down on his legs. “Rossi!” he shrieked. “It’s not fair! I should have gone instead-it was my turn! Give me the map! I waited so long-I did twenty years of research for this!” He began to sob, a pitiful, ugly sound. As his head jerked back and forth, I saw the double wound near the edge of his collar, two scabby thorn holes. I kept my hands as far away from it as I could.

“Where’s Rossi?” I growled. “Tell us this instant where he is-did you hurt him?” Helen held the little cross closer and he turned his face away, writhing under my knees. It was astounding to me, even at that moment, to see the effect of that symbol on the creature. Was this Hollywood, superstition, or history? I wondered how he’d been able to walk into the church-but there he had stayed far from the altar and chapels, I remembered, and had shrunk away even from the altar-guild lady.

“I didn’t touch him! I don’t know anything about it!”

“Oh, yes, you do.” Helen bent closer. Her expression was fierce, but she was very white, and I noticed now that she held her free hand tightly over her neck.

“Helen!”

I must have gasped aloud, but she waved me away, glaring at the librarian. “Where is Rossi? What was it you waited years for?” He shrank back. “I’m going to put this on your face now,” Helen said, lowering the crucifix.

“No!” he screamed. “I’ll tell you. Rossi didn’t want to go. I wanted to. It wasn’t fair. He took Rossi instead of me! He took him by force-I would have gone willingly to serve him, to help him, to catalog -” He suddenly clamped his mouth shut.

“What?” I thumped his head slightly on the floor for good measure. “Who took Rossi? Are you keeping him somewhere?”

Helen held the cross right over his nose, and he began to sob again. “My master,” he whimpered. Helen, next to me, drew a long breath and sat back on her heels, as if recoiling involuntarily from his words.

“Who is your master?” I dug my knee into his leg. “Where did he take Rossi?”

His eyes blazed. It was a shocking sight-the contortion, the normal human features hieroglyphic with terrible meaning. “Where I should have been allowed to go! To the tomb!”

Maybe my grip had weakened, or maybe his confession made him suddenly strong-probably from terror for himself, I realized afterward. In any case, he suddenly freed one hand, swung around like a scorpion, and bent my wrist backward where it held down his shoulder. The pain was unbearably sharp, and I jerked my arm back in fury. He was gone before I could understand what had happened, and I took off after him down the stairs, clattering past the undergraduate seminar and the quiet realms of knowledge below. But I was hampered by my briefcase, which I still clutched in one hand. Even in that first moment of pursuit, I realized fleetingly, I hadn’t wanted to drop it. Or throw it to Helen. She had told him about the map. She was a traitor. And he had bitten her, if only for a moment. Wouldn’t she be tainted herself now?

For the first and last time I ran through the hushed nave of the library instead of walking, only half seeing the astonished faces that turned toward me as I flew along. There was no sign of the librarian. He could have escaped into any backstage region, I realized with despair, any cataloging dungeon or broom closet for librarians only. I thrust open the heavy front door, an opening cut in the great double Gothic-style doors to the hall, which were never fully opened. Then I stopped short on the steps. The afternoon light blinded me as if I, too, had been living in an underworld, a cave of bats and rodents. On the street in front of the library, several cars had stopped. Traffic was at a halt, in fact, and a girl in a waitress uniform was crying on the sidewalk, pointing at something. Someone was shouting, and a couple of men knelt by the front tire of one of the stopped cars. The weaselly librarian’s legs stuck out from under the car, twisted at an impossible angle. One of his arms was flung over his head. He lay facedown on the pavement in a little blood, asleep forever.

Chapter 22

My father was reluctant to take me to Oxford. He would be there six days, he said, a long time for me to miss school again. I was surprised that he was willing to leave me at home; he hadn’t done that even once since I’d found the dragon book. Was he planning to leave me with particular precautions? I pointed out that our trip along the Yugoslav coast had taken almost two weeks, without any sign of detriment to my schoolwork. He said education should always come first. I pointed out that he had always postulated travel as the best education, and that May was the pleasantest month for travel. I produced my latest report card, which gleamed with high grades, and a history paper on which my rather pompous instructor had written, “You show extraordinary insight into the nature of historical research, especially for one of your years,” a comment I had memorized and often repeated to myself as a mantra before I slept.

My father wavered visibly, setting his knife and fork down in a way I knew meant a pause in our dinner in the old Dutch dining room, not a decisive end to the first course. He said his work would prevent him from showing me around properly this time and he didn’t want to spoil my first impressions of Oxford by keeping me cooped up somewhere. I said I preferred being cooped up in Oxford to being cooped up at home with Mrs. Clay-at this point we dropped our voices, although she was having her evening off. Besides, I was old enough, I said, to wander around by myself. He said he just didn’t know if it was a good idea for me to go, since these talks promised to be rather-tense. It might not be quite-but he couldn’t go on and I knew why. Just as I could not use my real argument for going to Oxford, he could not use his for wanting to prevent me from going. I could not tell him aloud that I couldn’t bear to let him, with his dark-circled eyes and the fatigued stoop of shoulder and head, out of my sight now. And he could not counter aloud that he might not be safe in Oxford and that, therefore, I might not be safe with him. He was silent for a minute or two, and then he asked me very gently what we were having for dessert, and I brought in Mrs. Clay’s dreary rice pudding with currants, which she always left as a compensation for going out to the movies at the British Centre without us.

Ihad imagined Oxford hushed and green, a kind of outdoor cathedral where dons in medieval dress paraded around, each with a single student at his side, lecturing on history, literature, obscure theology. The reality was shockingly lively: beeping motorcycles, little cars darting here and there and narrowly missing students as they crossed the streets, a crowd of tourists photographing a cross on the sidewalk where a couple of bishops had been burned at the stake four hundred years earlier, before sidewalks. The dons and students alike wore disappointingly modern dress, mostly wool sweaters, with dark flannel trousers for the mentor and blue jeans for the disciple. I thought with regret that in Rossi’s time, a good forty years before we stepped off our bus onto Broad Street, Oxford must at least have dressed with a little more dignity.

Then I caught sight of the first college I ever saw there, towering over its walled enclosure in the morning light, and looming near it the perfect shape of the Radcliffe Camera, which I took at first for a small observatory. Behind that rose the spires of a great brown church, and along the street ran a wall that looked so old even the lichens on it seemed antique. I couldn’t imagine how we would have appeared to whoever had walked these streets when that wall was young-I in my short red dress and crocheted white stockings and my book bag, my father in his navy jacket and gray slacks, his black turtleneck and tweed hat, each of us lugging a small suitcase. “Here we are,” my father pronounced, and to my delight we turned in at a gate in the lichened wall. It was locked, and we waited there until a student held the wrought-iron bars open for us.

At Oxford my father was to speak at a conference on political relations between the United States and Eastern Europe, now in the full flower of a thaw. Because the university was hosting the conference, we were invited to stay in private rooms in the house of one of the college masters. The masters, my father explained, were benevolent dictators who looked after the students who lived in each college. As we made our way through the dark, low entryway and into the blazing sunlight of the college quadrangle, I realized for the first time that soon I, too, would go to college, and I crossed my fingers on my book-bag handle and breathed a wish that I would then find myself in a haven like this one.

Around us lay softly worn flagstones, interrupted here and there by heavy shade trees-serious, melancholy old trees with the occasional bench underneath. A little rectangle of perfect grass and a narrow pool of water lay at the feet of the college’s main building. It was one of Oxford ’s oldest, endowed by Edward III in the thirteenth century, its newest additions shaped by Elizabethan architects. Even that patch of carefully clipped grass looked venerable; certainly I never saw anyone step on it.

We skirted the grass and water and made our way to the porter’s office just inside, and from there to a suite of rooms adjoining the master’s house. These rooms must have been part of the original design of the college, although it was hard to tell what they had originally been used for; they were very low-ceilinged, with dark paneling and tiny leaded windows. My father’s bedroom had blue draperies. Mine, to my infinite satisfaction, had a high chintz canopy bed.

We unpacked a little, washed our travelers’ faces in a pale-yellow basin in our shared bathroom, and went to meet Master James, who was expecting us in his office at the other end of the building. He turned out to be a hearty, kind-spoken man with graying hair and a knobby scar on one cheekbone. I liked his warm handshake and the expression of his large, rather protuberant hazel eyes. He seemed to find nothing strange about my accompanying my father to the conference and went so far as to suggest that I tour the college with his student assistant that afternoon. His assistant, he said, was an obliging and very knowledgeable young gentleman. My father said I could certainly do that; he himself would be busy with meetings then, and why shouldn’t I see the treasures of the place while I was there?

I turned up eagerly at three o’clock, my new beret in one hand and a notebook in the other, since my father had suggested I might get notes for a school paper out of the tour. My guide was a pale-haired, gangly undergraduate, whom Master James introduced as Stephen Barley. I liked Stephen’s fine, blue-veined hands and heavy fisherman’s sweater-“jumpah,” he called it when I admired it aloud. It gave me a feeling of temporary acceptance into that elite community to stroll across the quad at his side. It also gave me my first faint quaver of sexual belonging, the elusive feeling that if I slipped my hand into his as we walked along, a door would fall open somewhere in the long wall of reality as I knew it, never to be closed again. I’ve explained that I had led an extremely sheltered life-so sheltered, I see now, that even at nearly eighteen I hadn’t realized how close its confines were. The quiver of rebellion I felt walking beside a handsome university student came to me like a strain of music from an alien culture. But I clutched my notebook and my childhood more tightly and asked him why the courtyard was mainly stone instead of grass. He smiled down at me. “Well, I don’t know. No one’s asked that before.”

He took me into the dining hall, a high-ceilinged, Tudor-beamed barn full of wooden tables, and showed me where a young Earl of Rochester had cut something rude into a bench while dining there. The hall was lined with leaded windows, each ornamented in the center with an ancient scene of good works: Thomas à Becket kneeling at a deathbed, a priest in a long gown ladling out soup for a line of the cowering poor, a medieval doctor bandaging someone’s leg. Above the Rochester bench was a scene I couldn’t figure out, a man with a cross around his neck and a stick in one hand bending over what looked like a bundle of black rags. “Oh, that’s a curiosity indeed,” Stephen Barley told me. “We’re very proud of that. You see, this man is a don from the early years of the college, driving a silver stake through the heart of a vampire.”

I stared at him, speechless for a moment. “Were there vampires in Oxford in those days?” I asked finally.

“I don’t know about that,” he admitted, smiling. “But there’s a tradition that the early scholars of the college helped protect the countryside around here from vampires. Actually, they collected quite a bit of lore on vampires, quaint stuff, and you can still see it in the Radcliffe Camera, across the way. The legend says that the early dons wouldn’t even have books about the occult housed in the college, so they were put in various other places and finally ended up there.”

I suddenly remembered Rossi and wondered if he’d seen some of this old collection. “Is there any way of finding out the names of students from the past-I mean-maybe-fifty years ago-in this college? Graduate students?”

“Of course.” My companion looked quizzically at me across the wooden bench. “I can ask the master for you, if you like.”

“Oh, no.” I felt myself blushing, the curse of my youth. “It’s nothing important. But I would-could I see the vampire lore?”

“You like scary stuff, eh?” He looked amused. “It’s not much to look at, you know-just some old folios and a lot of leather books. But all right. We’ll go and see the college library now-you can’t miss that-and then I’ll take you up to the Camera.”

The library was, of course, one of the gems of the university. Since that innocent day, I have seen most of those colleges and known some of them intimately, wandered through their libraries and chapels and dining halls, lectured in their seminar rooms and taken tea in their parlors. I can safely say there is nothing to equal that first college library I saw, except perhaps Magdalen College Chapel, with its divine ornamentation. We first went into a reading room surrounded by stained glass like a tall terrarium, in which the students, rare captive plants, sat around tables whose antiquity was almost as great as that of the college itself. Strange lamps hung from the ceiling, and enormous globes from the era of Henry VIII stood on pedestals in the corners. Stephen Barley pointed out the many volumes of the originalOxford English Dictionary lining the shelves of one wall; others were filled with atlases from a long sweep of centuries, others with ancient peerages and works of English history, still others with Latin and Greek textbooks from every era of the college’s existence. In the center of the room stood a giant encyclopedia on a carved baroque stand, and near the entrance to the next room rested a glass case in which I could see a stark-looking old book that Stephen told me was a Gutenberg Bible. Above us, a round skylight like the oculus of a Byzantine church admitted long tapers of sunlight. Flights of pigeons wheeled overhead. The dusty sunshine touched the faces of students reading and turning pages at the tables, brushed their heavy jumpers and serious faces. It was a paradise of learning, and I prayed for eventual admission.

The next room was a vast hall hung with balconies, winding staircases, a high clerestory of old glass. Every available wall was lined with books, top to bottom, stone floor to vaulted ceiling. I saw acres of finely tooled leather bindings, swaths of portfolios, masses of little dark red nineteenth-century volumes. What, I wondered, could be in all those books? Would I understand anything in them? My fingers itched to take a few off the shelves, but I didn’t dare touch even a binding. I wasn’t sure if this was a library or a museum. I must have been gazing around with naked emotion on my face, because I suddenly caught my guide smiling at me, amused. “Not bad, eh? You must be a bookworm yourself. Come on, then-you’ve seen the best of it, and we’ll go up to the Camera.”

The bright day and the noisy, speeding cars were more jarring than ever after the hush of the library. I had them to thank, however, for a sudden gift: as we hurried across the traffic, Stephen took my hand, pulling me along to safety. He might have been someone’s peremptory big brother, I thought, but the touch of that dry, warm palm sent a tingling signal into mine, which glowed there after he’d dropped my hand. I felt sure, stealing glances at his cheerful, unchanged profile, that the message had registered in only one direction. But it was enough, for me, to have received it.

The Radcliffe Camera, as every Anglophile knows, is one of the great charms of English architecture, beautiful and odd, a huge barrel of books. One edge of it stands almost in the street, but with a large lawn around the rest of the building. We made our way in very quietly, although a talkative tour group filled the center of the glorious round interior. Stephen pointed out various aspects of the building’s design, studied in every course on English architecture, written up in every guidebook. It was a lovely and moving place, and I kept looking around thinking what a strange repository this was for evil lore. At last he led me toward a staircase, and we climbed up to the balcony. “Over here.” He motioned toward a doorway in the wall, cut, as it were, into a sheer cliff face of books. “There’s a little reading room in there. I’ve been up here just once, but I think that’s where they keep the vampire collection.”

The dim room was indeed tiny, and hushed, too, set far back from the voices of tourists below. August volumes crowded the shelves, their bindings caramel colored and brittle as old bone. Among them, a human skull in a little gilded glass case attested to the collection’s morbid nature. The chamber was so small, in fact, that there was just space in the center for one reading desk, which we almost stumbled against as we stepped in. That meant that we were suddenly face-to-face with the scholar who sat there turning over the leaves of a folio and making rapid notes on a pad of paper. He was a pale, rather gaunt man. His eyes were dark hollows, startled and urgent but also full of absorption as he glanced up from his work. It was my father.

Chapter 23

In the confusion of ambulances, police cars, and spectators that accompanied the dead librarian’s removal from the street in front of the university library, I stood frozen for a minute. It was horrible, unthinkable, that even the most unpleasant man’s life should have ended so suddenly there, but my next concern was for Helen. A crowd was gathering fast, and I pushed here and there looking for her. I was infinitely relieved when she found me first, tapping me on the shoulder from behind with her gloved hand. She looked pale but composed. She had wrapped her scarf tightly around her throat, and the sight of it on her smooth neck made me shiver. “I waited a few minutes and then followed you down the stairs,” she said under the noise of the crowd. “I want to thank you for coming to my assistance. This man was a brute. You were truly brave.”

I was surprised to find how kind her face could look, after all. “Actually, you were the brave one. And he hurt you,” I said in a low voice. I tried not to gesture publicly at her neck. “Did he -?”

“Yes,” she said quietly. Instinctively, we’d drawn close together, so that no one else could hear our conversation. “When he flew at me up there, he bit me on the throat.” For a minute her lips seemed to tremble, as if she might cry. “He did not draw much blood-there was no time. And it hurts very little.”

“But you -” I was stammering, unbelieving.

“I do not think there will be any infection,” she said. “It bled very little and I have closed it up as well as I can.”

“Should we go to the hospital?” I regretted it as soon as I’d said it, only partly because of the withering look she gave me. “Or can we treat it somehow?” I think I was half imagining we could remove the venom, as with a snakebite. The pain in her face suddenly made my heart twist within me. Then I remembered her betrayal of the secret of the map. “But why did you -”

“I know what you are wondering,” she interrupted hurriedly, her accent thickening. “But I could not think of any other bait for the creature, and I wanted to see his reaction. I would not have given him the map or any more information. I promise you that.”

I studied her suspiciously. Her face was serious, her mouth drawn down into a grim curve. “No?”

“I give you my word,” she said simply. “Besides”-her sarcastic smile reversed the grimace-“I’m not necessarily in the habit of sharing what I can use for myself, are you?”

I had to let that pass, but something in her face did calm my fears. “His reaction was extremely interesting, wasn’t it?”

She nodded. “He said he should have been allowed to go to the tomb, and that Rossi was taken there by someone. It is very strange, but he did seem to know something about the whereabouts of my-your adviser. I cannot believe in this Drakulya business, exactly, but perhaps some weird occult group has kidnapped Professor Rossi, something of that sort.”

It was my turn to nod, although I was obviously closer to believing than she was.

“What will you do now?” she asked, with curious detachment.

I hadn’t quite planned my answer before it came out. “Go to Istanbul. I’m convinced there’s at least one document there that Rossi never had the chance to examine, and that it might contain information about a tomb, perhaps Dracula’s tomb at Lake Snagov.”

She laughed. “Why not take a little vacation to my lovely native Romania? You could go to Dracula’s castle with a silver stake in your hand, or visit him yourself at Snagov. I’ve heard it is a pretty place for a picnic.”

“Look,” I said irritably. “I know this is all very peculiar, but I absolutely must follow any trace I can of Rossi’s disappearance. And you know perfectly well an American citizen can’t just penetrate the Iron Curtain to look for someone.” My loyalty must have shamed her a little, because she did not answer. “I do want to ask you something. You said as we were leaving the church that your mother might have some information about Rossi’s hunt for Dracula. What did you mean by that?”

“I simply meant that when they met, he told her he was in Romania to study the legend of Dracula, and that she herself believes in the legend. Maybe she knows more about his research there than I have ever heard from her-I’m not sure. She does not talk easily about this, and I have been pursuing this little interest of the dear old paterfamilias through scholarly channels, not in the bosom of the family. I should have asked her more about her own experience.”

“An odd oversight for an anthropologist,” I retorted crankily. Now that I believed again that she was on my side, I felt all the annoyance of relief. Her face lit up with amusement.

“Touché, Sherlock. I’ll ask her all about it next time I see her.”

“When will that be?”

“In a couple of years, I suppose. My precious visa doesn’t allow me to bounce easily back and forth between East and West.”

“Don’t you ever call or write her?”

She stared. “Oh, the West is such an innocent place,” she said finally. “Do you think she has a telephone? Do you think my letters are not opened and read every time?”

I was silent, chastened.

“What is this document you are so eager to look for, Sherlock?” she asked. “Is it that bibliography, something about the Order of the Dragon? I saw that on the last list in his papers. It was the only thing he did not describe fully. Is that what you want to find?”

She’d guessed right, naturally. I was getting an uncanny sense of her intellectual powers, and I thought a little wistfully of the conversations we might have had under better circumstances. On the other hand, I didn’t completely like her guessing so much. “Why do you want to know?” I countered. “For your research?”

“Of course,” she said sternly. “Will you get in touch with me again when you come back?”

I felt suddenly very weary. “Come back? I have no idea what I’m getting into, let alone when I’ll be back. Maybe I’ll be struck down by the vampire myself when I get wherever it is I’m going.”

I had meant to utter this ironically, but the unreality of the whole situation dawned on me again as I spoke; here I was, standing on the sidewalk in front of the library as I had hundreds of times before, except that this time I was talking about vampires-as if I believed in them-with a Romanian anthropologist, and we were watching ambulance drivers and police officers swarm across a death scene in which I had been involved, at least indirectly. I tried not to see them at their grisly work. It occurred to me that I ought to leave the quad soon, but without visible haste. I couldn’t afford to be taken in by the police at this point, not even for a few hours’ questioning. I had a great deal to do, and it had to be done immediately-I would need a visa to Turkey, which I might be able to obtain in New York, and a plane ticket, and I would need to leave safely at home a copy of all the information I had already. I was not teaching this term, thank goodness, but I’d have to present some kind of alibi to my department and give my parents some explanation to keep them from worrying.

I turned to Helen. “Miss Rossi,” I said. “If you will keep this business to yourself, I promise to get in touch with you as soon as I come back. Is there anything else you can tell me? Can you think of a way I could reach your mother before I go?”

“I cannot reach her myself, except by letter,” she said flatly. “Besides, she speaks no English. When I go home in two years I will ask her about these matters myself.”

I sighed. Two years was too late, unimaginably so. I was feeling a sort of anxiety already at being separated from this strange companion of a few days-hours, really-the only person besides myself who knew anything about the nature of Rossi’s disappearance. After this I would be on my own in a country I had barely ever thought about. It had to be done, however. I extended my hand. “Miss Rossi, thank you for putting up with a harmless lunatic for a couple of days. If I come back safely I will certainly let you know-I mean, maybe-if I bring your father back safely -”

She made a vague gesture with her gloved hand, as if her interest could not possibly lie with Rossi’s safe return, but then she put the hand in mine and we shook on it, cordially. I had the sense that her firm grasp was my last contact with the world I knew. “Good-bye,” she said. “I wish you the best possible luck with your research.” She turned away in the crowd-the ambulance drivers were shutting the doors. I turned away, too, and started down the steps and across the quadrangle. A hundred feet from the library, I stopped and looked back, hoping to glimpse her dark-suited figure among the ambulance watchers. To my surprise, she was hurrying toward me, already almost on my heels. She reached me quickly, and I saw that her face had picked up a ruby flush over the cheekbones. Her expression was urgent. “I have been thinking,” she said, and then stopped. She seemed to take a deep breath. “This concerns my life more than any other thing.” Her gaze was direct, challenging. “I am not quite sure how to do it, but I think I will come with you.”

Chapter 24

My father had some pleasant excuses for being in the Oxford vampire collection instead of at his meeting. The meeting had been canceled, he said, shaking Stephen Barley’s hand with his customary warmth. My father said he’d wandered up here to an old haunt-there he stopped, almost biting his lip, and tried again. He’d been looking for some peace and quiet (that I could easily believe). His gratitude for Stephen’s presence, for Stephen’s tall, blooming good health, his woolly sweatered wholesomeness, was palpable. After all, what could my father have said to me, if I’d surprised him there by myself? How could he have explained, or even casually closed, the folio under his hand? He did it now, but too late; I had already seen a chapter title stark on thick ivory paper:“Vampires de Provence et des Pyrénées.”

Islept poorly that night in the canopied chintz bed at the college master’s house, waking from strange dreams every few hours. Once I saw light under the door in the bathroom between my room and my father’s, which reassured me. Sometimes, though, the sense of his not being asleep, of quiet activity in the room next door, dragged me suddenly from my rest. Near dawn, when a slate-colored haze was starting to show through the net curtains, I woke for the last time.

This time it was the silence that awakened me. Everything was too still: the faint outlines of trees in the courtyard (I peered around the edge of the curtains), the huge armoire next to my bed, and above all my father’s room next door. It was not that I expected him to be up at this hour; if anything, he would still be sleeping-maybe snoring a little if he was lying on his back-trying to erase the cares of the day before, postponing the grueling schedule of lectures and seminars and debate that lay ahead of him. During our trips, he usually gave my door a genial tap after I’d already gotten up myself, an invitation to hurry out to meet him for a walk before breakfast.

This morning the silence oppressed me for no good reason, and I climbed down from my big bed and dressed and slung a towel over my shoulder. I would wash in the bathroom basin and listen a bit for my father’s nocturnal breathing while I was at it. I knocked gently at the bathroom door to be sure he wasn’t inside. The silence was even deeper once I was there in front of the mirror, drying my face. I put an ear to his door. He was certainly sleeping soundly. I knew it would be heartless to interrupt his hard-won rest, but panic had begun to creep up my legs and arms. I tapped lightly. There was no stir inside. We had for years left each other’s privacy intact, but now, in that gray morning light from the bathroom window, I turned the door handle.

Inside my father’s bedroom the heavy drapes were still drawn, so that it took me a few seconds to register the dim outline of furniture and pictures. The quiet made the skin quiver along the back of my neck. I took a step toward the bed, spoke to him. But up close the bed lay smooth and neat, dark in the dark room. The room was empty. I let out my indrawn breath. He had gone outside, gone walking alone, probably, needing solitude and time for reflection. But something made me switch on the light by the bed, to look around more carefully. In the circle of brightness lay a note addressed to me, and on the note rested two objects that took me by surprise: a small silver crucifix on a sturdy chain and a head of fresh garlic. The stark reality of these items made my stomach turn over even before I read my father’s words.

My dear daughter:

I am terribly sorry to surprise you like this, but I’ve been called away on some new business and didn’t want to disturb you during the night. I’ll be gone just a few days, I hope. I’ve arranged with Master James to get you safely home in the company of our young friend Stephen Barley. He has been excused from classes for two days and will see you to Amsterdam this evening. I wanted Mrs. Clay to come for you, but her sister is ailing and she has gone to Liverpool again. She’ll try to join you at home tonight. In any case, you will be well cared for and I trust you will look after yourself sensibly. Don’t worry about my absence. It’s a confidential matter, but I’ll be home as quickly as possible and will explain then. In the meantime, I ask you from the bottom of my heart to wear the crucifix at all times, and to carry some of the garlic in each of your pockets. You know I have never been one to press either religion or superstition on you, and I remain a firm unbeliever in either. But we must deal with evil on its own terms, as far as possible, and you already know the domain of those terms. I beg you from a father’s heart not to disregard my wishes on this point.

It was signed with affectionate warmth, but I could see that he had written it hastily. My heart was pounding. I quickly fastened the chain around my neck and divided the garlic to put in the pockets of my dress. It was like my father, I thought, looking around the empty room, to make the bed so neatly in the middle of a silent hurry to leave the college. But why this haste? Whatever his errand was, it could not be a simple diplomatic mission, or he would have told me as much. He’d often had to respond to professional emergencies; I had known him to leave with little warning to attend a crisis on the other side of Europe, but he always told me where he was going. This time, my racing heart told me, he hadn’t departed on business. Besides, he was supposed to be here in Oxford this week, giving lectures and attending meetings. He was not one to break an obligation lightly.

No. His disappearance must have some connection with the strain he’d been showing lately-I realized now that I’d feared something like this all along. Then there was that scene yesterday in the Radcliffe Camera, my father deep in-what had he been reading, exactly? And where, oh where, had he gone? Where, without me? For the first time in all the years I remembered, all the years in which my father had sheltered me from the loneliness of life with no mother, no siblings, no home country, all the years of his being both father and mother-for the first time, I felt like an orphan.

The master was very kind when I appeared with my suitcase packed and my raincoat over my arm. I explained to him that I was fully ready to travel by myself. I assured him I was grateful for his offer of a student to see me home-across the whole Channel-and that I would never forget his kindness. I felt a twinge at that, a small but distinct twang of disappointment-how pleasant it could have been to travel for a day with Stephen Barley smiling at me from the opposite train seat! But it had to be said. I would be safely home within hours, I repeated, pressing down my sudden mental picture of a red marble basin filled with melodic water, afraid this kindly smiling man might divine it in me, might see it on my face, even. I would be safely home soon and could call him if he needed extra reassurance. And then, of course, I added with still greater duplicity, my father would be home in a few days himself.

Master James was certain I was capable of traveling alone; I looked like an independent lass, to be sure. It was just that he couldn’t-he turned an even gentler smile on me-he simply couldn’t go back on his word to my father, an old friend. I was my father’s most priceless treasure, and he couldn’t ship me off without proper protection. It wouldn’t be for my sake, exactly, I must realize that, but for my father’s-we had to indulge him a bit. Stephen Barley materialized before I could argue more, or even fully register the idea that the master was my father’s old friend when I’d believed they’d met just two days ago. But I had no time for this irregularity; Stephen was standing there looking like my old friend, in his turn, his own jacket and bag in hand, and I couldn’t be completely sorry to see him. I regretted the detour it would cost me, but not as thoroughly as I should have. It was impossible for me not to welcome his practical grin, or his “Got me out of a little work, you did!”

Master James was more sober. “You’re on the job yet, my lad,” he told him. “I want a call from Amsterdam as soon as you’re there, and I want to talk with the housekeeper. Here’s money for your tickets and some meals, and you’ll bring me back your receipts.” His hazel eyes twinkled then. “That’s not to say you can’t get a little Dutch chocolate for yourself at the station. Fetch me a bar, too. It’s not as good as Belgian, but it’ll do. Off with you now, and use your head.” Next he gave me a grave handshake and his card. “Good-bye, my dear. Come again and see us when you’re thinking of university for yourself.”

Outside the office, Stephen grabbed my bag for me. “Let’s go, then. We’ve tickets for the ten-thirty, but we might as well get a head start.”

The master and my father had taken care of every detail, I noted, and I wondered what extra chains I’d have to slip at home. I had other business for now, however. “Stephen?” I began.

“Oh, call me Barley.” He laughed. “Everyone else calls me that, and I’m so used to it now that it gives me the creeps to hear my real name.”

“All right.” His smile was just as contagious today-easily as contagious. “Barley, I-could I ask you a favor before we leave?” He nodded. “I’d just like to go into the Camera one more time. It was so beautiful, I-and I’d like to see the vampire collection. I didn’t really get to look at it.”

He groaned. “I could tell you like grisly stuff. Seems to run in your family.”

“I know.” I felt myself flushing.

“All right. Let’s take a quick look again, but then we’ve got to run. Master James will put a stake throughmy heart if we miss the train.”

The Camera was quiet this morning, nearly empty, and we hurried up a polished staircase to the macabre niche where we’d surprised my father the day before. I swallowed a threat of tears as we entered the tiny room; hours ago, my father had been sitting here, that strangely distant look veiling his eyes, and now I didn’t even know where he was.

I remembered where he’d shelved the book, though, replaced it so casually as we talked. It would be below the case with the skull, to the left. I ran a finger along the edge of the shelf. Barley stood near me (it was impossible for us not to stand close together in that tiny space, and I wished he would wander out to the balcony instead), watching with frank curiosity. Where the book should have been was a gap like a missing tooth. I froze: surely my father would never, ever steal a book, so who could have taken it? But a second later I recognized the volume a hand’s length away. Someone had certainly moved it since I’d been there last. Had my father returned for a second look? Or had someone else taken it off the shelf? I glanced suspiciously at the skull in the glass case, but it gave back a bland, anatomical gaze. Then I lifted the book down, very carefully-there was the tall, bone-colored binding with a black silk ribbon protruding from the top. I laid it on the table and found the title page:Vampires du Moyen Age, Baron de Hejduke, Bucarest, 1886.

“What do you want with this morbid rubbish?” Barley was gazing over my shoulder.

“School paper,” I mumbled. The book was divided into chapters, as I remembered:“Vampires de la Toscane,” “Vampires de la Normandie,” and so on. I found the right one at last:“Vampires de Provence et des Pyrénées.” Oh, Lord, was my French up to this? Barley was starting to look at his watch. I ran a quick finger above the page, careful not to touch the magnificent type or ivory paper.“Vampires dans les villages de Provence -” What had my father been looking for here? He’d been poring over this first page of the chapter.“‘Il y a aussi une legende…’” I leaned closer.

Since that moment, I have known many times what I first experienced then. Until then, my forays into written French had been purely utilitarian, the completion of almost mathematical exercises. When I comprehended a new phrase it was merely a bridge to the next exercise. Never before had I known the sudden quiver of understanding that travels from word to brain to heart, the way a new language can move, coil, swim into life under the eyes, the almost savage leap of comprehension, the instantaneous, joyful release of meaning, the way the words shed their printed bodies in a flash of heat and light. Since then I have known this moment of truth with other companions: German, Russian, Latin, Greek, and-for a brief hour-Sanskrit.

But that first time held the revelation of all the others.“‘Il y a aussi une legende,’” I breathed, and Barley suddenly bent to follow the words. What he translated aloud, however, I had already taken in with a mental gasp: “‘There is also a legend that Dracula, noblest and most dangerous of all vampires, attained his power not in the region of Wallachia but through a heresy in the monastery of Saint-Matthieu-des-Pyrénées-Orientales, a Benedictine house founded in the year 1000 of Our Lord.’ What is this, anyway?” Barley said.

“School paper,” I repeated, but our eyes met strangely over the book, and he looked as if he were seeing me for the first time. “Is your French very good?” I asked humbly.

“Of course.” He smiled and bent over the page again. “‘Dracula is said to visit the monastery every sixteen years to pay tribute to his origins and to renew the influences that have allowed him to live in death.’”

“Go on, please.” I gripped the edge of the table.

“Certainly,” he said. “‘The calculations done by Brother Pierre de Provence in the early seventeenth century indicate that Dracula visits Saint-Matthieu in the half-moon of the month of May.’”

“What is the moon now?” I gasped, but Barley didn’t know either. There was no further mention of Saint-Matthieu; the remaining pages paraphrased a document from a church in Perpignan about disturbances among sheep and goats in the region in 1428; it wasn’t clear whether the cleric-author blamed vampires or sheep rustlers for these problems. “Odd stuff,” Barley commented. “Is this what your family reads for fun? Do you want to hear about vampires in Cyprus?”

Nothing else in the book looked relevant to my purposes, and when Barley glanced at his watch again, I turned sadly away from the enticing walls of volumes.

“Well, that was cheerful,” Barley said on the way down the staircase. “You’re an unusual girl, aren’t you?” I couldn’t tell how he meant this, but I hoped it was a compliment.

On the train, Barley entertained me with chat about his fellow students, a pageant of madcaps and scapegoats, then carried my bag onto shipboard for me above the oily gray water of the Channel. It was a bright, chill day and we settled into the vinyl seats inside, sheltered from the wind. “I don’t sleep much during term,” Barley informed me, and promptly dozed off with his coat rolled into a ball under one shoulder.

It was just as well for me that he slept for a couple of hours, because I had a lot to ponder, matters of a practical nature as well as a scholarly one. My immediate problem was not a question of links among historical events but of Mrs. Clay. She would be waiting all too solidly in the front hall of our house in Amsterdam, full of smothering concern for my father and me. Her presence would keep me housebound at least overnight, and if I didn’t appear after school the next day, she would be on my trail like a pack of wolves, probably with half the police force of Amsterdam to keep her company. Also, there was Barley. I glanced at his sleeping face across from me; he was snoring discreetly against his jacket. Barley would be headed off to the ferry again as I left for school tomorrow, and I would have to be careful not to intercept him on the way.

Mrs. Clay was indeed home when we arrived. Barley stood with me on the doorstep while I searched for my keys; he was craning admiringly at the old mercantile houses and gleaming canals-“Excellent! And all those Rembrandt faces in the streets!” When Mrs. Clay suddenly opened the door and drew me inside, he almost didn’t make it in after me. I was relieved to see his good manners take over. While the two of them disappeared into the kitchen to call Master James, I hurried upstairs, calling back that I wanted to wash my face. In fact-the thought made my heart beat with guilty rapidity-I intended to sack my father’s citadel at once. I would figure out later how to deal with Mrs. Clay and Barley. Now I had to find what I felt sure must be hidden there.

Our town house, built in 1620, had three bedrooms on the second floor, narrow dark-beamed rooms that my father adored because, he said, they seemed to him still full of the hardworking and simple people who had first lived in them. His room was the largest of these, an admirable period display of Dutch furniture. He had mixed the spartan furnishings with an Ottoman carpet and bed hangings, a minor sketch by van Gogh, and twelve copper pans from a French farmhouse-these made a gallery on one wall and picked up glints of light from the canal below. I realize now what a remarkable room this was, not only for its display of eclectic tastes but also for its monastic simplicity. It did not contain a single book; those had all been relegated to the library downstairs. No clothing ever hung over the back of the seventeenth-century chair; no newspaper ever profaned the looming desk. There was no telephone and not even a clock-my father woke naturally in the early hours every morning. It was pure living space, a chamber in which to sleep, wake, and perhaps pray-although whether any prayer still occurred there I couldn’t guess-as it had been when it was new. I loved the room but seldom entered it.

Now I went in as quietly as a burglar, shut the door, and opened his desk. It was a terrible feeling, like breaking the seal of a coffin, but I pressed forward, pulling everything out of the pigeonholes, rooting through the drawers but replacing each item with care as I went along-the letters from his friends, his fine pens, his monogrammed notepaper. At last my hand closed on a sealed package. I undid it shamelessly and saw a few lines inside, addressed to me and admonishing me to read the enclosed letters only in the case of my father’s unexpected demise or long-term disappearance. Hadn’t I seen him writing, night after night, something that he covered with one arm when I drew near? I seized the package greedily, closed the desk, and took my find to my own room, listening hard for Mrs. Clay’s foot on the stairs.

The packet was full of letters, each neatly folded into an envelope and addressed to me at our home, as if he had thought he might have to mail them to me one at a time from some other location. I kept them in order-oh, I had learned things without knowing it-and carefully opened the first. It was dated six months earlier and it seemed to begin not with mere words but with a cry from the heart. “My dear daughter”-his handwriting trembled under my eyes-“If you are reading this, forgive me. I have gone to look for your mother.”

Part Two

What sort of place had I come to, and among what kind of people? What sort of grim adventure was it on which I had embarked?… I began to rub my eyes and pinch myself to see if I were awake. It all seemed like a horrible nightmare to me, and I expected that I should suddenly awake, and find myself at home, with the dawn struggling in through the windows, as I had now and again felt in the morning after a day of overwork. But my flesh answered the pinching test, and my eyes were not to be deceived. I was indeed awake and among the Carpathians. All I could do now was to be patient, and to wait the coming of the morning.

– Bram Stoker,Dracula, 1897

Chapter 25

The train station in Amsterdam was a familiar sight to me-I’d passed through it dozens of times. But I had never been there alone before. I had never traveled anywhere alone, and as I sat on a bench waiting for the morning express to Paris, I felt a quickening of my pulses that was not entirely trepidation for my father-a rising of sap that was simply the first moment of complete freedom I had ever known. Mrs. Clay, doing the breakfast dishes at home, thought I was on my way to school. Barley, safely packed off to the ferry wharf, also thought I was on my way to school. I regretted deceiving kind, boring Mrs. Clay and I regretted even more parting from Barley, who had kissed my hand with sudden gallantry on the front step and given me one of his chocolate bars, although I’d reminded him that I could buy Dutch treats anytime I wanted. I thought I might write him a letter when all this trouble had ended-but that far ahead, I could not see.

For now, the Amsterdam morning sparkled, gleamed, shifted around me. Even this morning I found something comforting in the walk along canals from our house to the station, the scent of bread baking and the humid smell of the canals, the not-quite-elegant, busy cleanliness of everything. On a bench at the station, I reviewed my packing: change of clothes, my father’s letters, bread, cheese, foil packages of juice from the kitchen. I had raided the plentiful kitchen cash, too-if I was going to do one bad thing, I was going to do twenty-to supplement what was in my purse. That would tip Mrs. Clay off all too quickly, but there was no help for it-I couldn’t linger until the banks opened to get money out of my childishly small savings account. I had a warm sweater and a rain jacket, my passport, a book for the long train rides, and my French pocket dictionary.

I had stolen something else. From our parlor I had taken a silver knife that sat in the curio cabinet among souvenirs of my father’s far-flung first diplomatic missions, the journeys that had constituted his early attempts to establish his foundation. I had been too young to accompany him, and he’d left me in the United States with various relatives. The knife was of a sinister sharpness and had an ornately embossed handle. It rested in a sheath, also highly decorated. It was the only weapon I’d ever seen in our household-my father disliked guns, and his collector’s taste did not run to swords or battle-axes. I had no idea how to protect myself with the little blade, but I felt more secure knowing it was in my purse.

The station was crowded by the time the express pulled up. I felt then, as I do now, that there is no joy like the arrival of a train, no matter how disturbing your situation-particularly a European train, and particularly a European train that will carry you south. During that period of my life, in the final quarter of the twentieth century, I heard the whistle of some of the last steam locomotives to cross the Alps on a regular run. I boarded now, clutching my schoolbag, almost smiling. I had hours ahead of me, and I was going to need them, not to read my book but to peruse again those precious letters from my father. I believed I’d picked my destination correctly, but I needed to ruminate on why it was correct.

I found a quiet compartment and drew the curtains shut along the aisle next to my seat, hoping no one would follow me in there. After a moment a middle-aged woman in a blue coat and hat came in anyway, but she smiled at me and settled down with a pile of Dutch magazines. In my comfortable corner, watching the old city and then the little green suburbs trundle past, I unfolded again the first of my father’s letters. I knew its opening lines by heart already, the shocking shapes of the words, the startling place and date, the urgent, firm handwriting.

“My dear daughter:

“If you are reading this, forgive me. I have gone to look for your mother. For many years I have believed she was dead, and now I am not certain about that. This uncertainty is almost worse than grief, as you may someday understand; it tortures my heart night and day. I have never told you much about her, and that has been a weakness in me, I know, but our story was too painful for me to relate to you easily. I’d always intended to tell you more as you grew older and could understand it better without being terribly frightened-although, as far as that goes, it has frightened me so much, so unendingly, that this has been the poorest of my excuses to myself about the matter.

“During the last few months, I have tried to compensate for my weakness by telling you little by little what I could about my own past, and I intended to bring your mother gradually into the story, although she entered my life rather suddenly. Now I fear I may not manage to tell you all you should know of your heritage before I am either silenced-literally unable to inform you myself-or fall prey again to my own silences.

“I have described to you some of my life as a graduate student before your birth and have told you a little about the odd circumstance of my adviser’s disappearance after his revelations to me. I have told you also how I met a young woman named Helen who had as great an interest as mine in finding Professor Rossi, perhaps a greater one. At every quiet opportunity I have tried to advance this story for you, but now I feel I should begin to write down the rest of it, commit it securely to paper. If you must read it now instead of listening to me unfold it for you on some rocky hilltop or quiet piazza, in some sheltered harbor or at some comfortable café table, then the fault is mine for not telling it quickly enough or sooner.

“As I write this I am looking out over the lights of an old harbor-and you sleep undisturbed and innocent in the next room. I am tired after the day’s work, and tired at the thought of beginning this long narrative-a sad duty, an unfortunate precaution. I feel I have some weeks, possibly months, in which I will certainly be able to continue my tale in person, so I will not retrace all the ground I have already covered for you during our strolls in so many countries. Past that stretch of time-weeks or months-I am less certain. These letters are my insurance against your solitude. In the worst case, you will inherit my house, my money, my furniture and books, but I can easily believe that you will treasure these documents in my hand more than any of the other items, because they will contain your own story, your history.

“Why have I not told you all the facts of this history at a blow, to get it over with, to inform you fully? The answer lies, again, in my own weakness, but also in the fact that an abbreviated version would be exactly that-a blow. I can’t possibly wish you such pain, even if it would be a mere fraction of my own. Furthermore, you might not fully believe it if I told it at a blow, just as I could not believe my adviser Rossi’s story fully without pacing the length of his own reminiscences. And, finally, what story can be reduced in actuality to its factual elements? Therefore, I relate my story one step at a time. I must hazard a guess, too, at how much I will have managed to tell you already if these letters come into your hands.”

My father’s guess had not been quite accurate, and he had picked up the story a beat or two beyond what I already knew. I might never hear his response to Helen Rossi’s astounding resolution to go with him on his search, I thought sadly, or the interesting details of their journey from New England to Istanbul. How, I wondered, had they managed to perform all the necessary paperwork, to clear the hurdles of political estrangement, the visas, the customs? Had my father told his parents, kind and reasonable Bostonians, some fib about his sudden plan to travel? Had he and Helen gone to New York immediately, as he’d planned to? And had they slept in the same hotel room? My adolescent mind could not solve this riddle any more than it could avoid pondering it. I had to content myself at last with a picture of the two of them as characters in some movie of their youth, Helen stretched out discreetly under the covers of the double bed, my father miserably asleep in a wing chair with his shoes-but nothing else-off, and the lights of Times Square blinking a sordid invitation just outside the window.

“Six days after Rossi’s disappearance, we flew to Istanbul from Idlewild Airport on a foggy weeknight, changing planes in Frankfurt. Our second plane touched down the next morning, and we were herded out with all the other tourists. I had been to Western Europe twice by then, but those jaunts now seemed to me excursions to a completely different planet from this one-Turkey, which in 1954 was even more a world apart than it is today. One minute I was huddled in my uncomfortable airplane seat, wiping my face with a hot washcloth, and the next we were standing outside on an equally hot tarmac, with unfamiliar smells blowing over us, and dust, and the fluttering scarf of an Arab in line ahead of us-that scarf kept getting into my mouth. Helen was actually laughing next to me, watching my amazement at all this. She had brushed her hair and put on lipstick in the airplane and looked remarkably fresh after our cramped night. She wore the little scarf on her neck; I still had not seen what lay under it and wouldn’t have dared to ask her to remove it. ‘Welcome to the big world, Yankee,’ she said, smiling. It was a real smile this time, not her customary grimace.

“My amazement increased during the taxi ride to town. I don’t know exactly what I had expected of Istanbul-nothing, maybe, since I had had so little time to anticipate the journey-but the beauty of this city knocked the wind out of me. It had anArabian Nights quality that no number of honking cars or businessmen in Western suits could dissolve. The first city here, Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium and the first capital of Christian Rome, must have been splendid beyond belief, I thought-a marriage of Roman wealth and early Christian mysticism. By the time we found some rooms in the old quarter of Sultanahmet, I had received a dizzying glimpse of dozens of mosques and minarets, bazaars hung with fine textiles, even a flash of the many-domed, four-horned Hagia Sophia billowing above the peninsula.

“Helen had never been here either, and she studied everything with quiet concentration, turning to me only once during the cab ride to remark how strange it was for her to see the wellspring-I believe that was her word-of the Ottoman Empire, which had left so many traces on her native country. This was to become a theme of our days there-her brief, pungent remarks on all that was already familiar to her: Turkish place-names, a cucumber salad consumed in an outdoor restaurant, the pointed arch of a window frame. This had a peculiar effect on me, too, a sort of doubling of my experience, so that I seemed to be seeing Istanbul and Romania at the same time, and as the question gradually arose between us of whether we would have to go into Romania itself, I had a sense of being led there by the artifacts of the past as I saw them through Helen’s eyes. But I digress-this is a later episode of my story.

“Our landlady’s front hall was cool after the glare and dust of the street. I sank gratefully into a chair in the entrance there, letting Helen reserve two rooms in her excellent but weirdly accented French. The landlady-an Armenian woman who was fond of travelers and had apparently learned their languages-didn’t know the name of Rossi’s hotel, either. Perhaps it had vanished years before.

“Helen liked to run things, I mused, so why not allow her the satisfaction? It was unspoken but firmly agreed between us that I would later pay the bill. I had withdrawn all of my sparse savings from the bank at home; Rossi deserved every effort I could make, even if I failed. I would simply have to go home bankrupt if it came to that. I knew that Helen, a foreign student, probably had less than nothing, lived on nothing. I had already noticed that she seemed to own just two suits, which she varied with a selection of sternly tailored blouses. ‘Yes, we’ll take the two separate rooms side by side,’ she told the Armenian lady, a fine-featured old woman. ‘My brother-mon frère-ronfle terriblement.’

“‘Ronfle?’I asked from the lounge.

“‘Snores,’ she said tartly. ‘You do snore, you know. I didn’t get a blink of sleep in New York.’

“‘Wink,’ I corrected.

“‘Fine,’ she said. ‘Just keep your door shut,s’il te plaît. ’

“With or without snoring, we had to sleep off the exhaustion of travel before we could do anything else. Helen wanted to hunt down the archive at once, but I insisted on rest and a meal. So it was late afternoon before we began our first prowl of those labyrinthine streets, with their glimpses of colorful gardens and courtyards.

“Rossi had not named the archive in his letters, and in our conversation he had called it only ‘a little-known repository of materials, founded by Sultan Mehmed II.’ His letter about his research in Istanbul added that it was attached to a seventeenth-century mosque. Beyond this, we knew that he’d been able to see the Hagia Sophia from a window there, that the archive had more than one floor, and that it had a door communicating directly with the street on the first floor. I had tried cautiously to find information on such an archive at the university library at home just before our departure, but without success. I wondered at Rossi’s not giving the name of the archive in his letters; it wasn’t like him to leave out that detail, but perhaps he hadn’t wanted to remember it. I had all his papers with me in my briefcase, including his list of the documents he’d found there, with that strangely incomplete line at the end: ‘Bibliography, Order of the Dragon.’ Looking through an entire city, a maze of minarets and domes, for the source of that cryptic line in Rossi’s handwriting was a daunting prospect, to say the least.

“The only thing we could do was to turn our feet toward our one landmark, the Hagia Sophia, originally the great Byzantine Church of Saint Sophia. And once we drew near it, it was impossible for us not to enter. The gates were open and the huge sanctuary pulled us in among the other tourists as if we rode a wave into a cavern. For fourteen hundred years, I reflected, pilgrims had been drawn into it, just as we were now. Inside, I walked slowly to the center and craned my head back to see that vast, divine space with its famous whirling domes and arches, its celestial light pouring in, the round shields covered with Arabic calligraphy in the upper corners, mosque overlaying church, church overlaying the ruins of the ancient world. It arched far, far above us, replicating the Byzantine cosmos. I could hardly believe I was there. I was stunned by it.

“Looking back at that moment, I understand that I had lived in books so long, in my narrow university setting, that I had become compressed by them internally. Suddenly, in this echoing house of Byzantium -one of the wonders of history-my spirit leaped out of its confines. I knew in that instant that, whatever happened, I could never go back to my old constraints. I wanted to follow life upward, to expand with it outward, the way this enormous interior swelled upward and outward. My heart swelled with it, as it never had during all my wanderings among the Dutch merchants.

“I glanced at Helen and saw that she was equally moved, her head tipped back like mine so that her dark curls fell over the collar of her blouse, her usually guarded and cynical face full of a pale transcendence. I reached out, impulsively, and took her hand. She grasped mine hard, with that firm, almost bony grip I knew already from her handshake. In another woman, this might have been a gesture of submission or coquetry, a romantic acquiescence; in Helen it was as simple and fierce a gesture as her gaze or the aloofness of her posture. After a moment she seemed to recall herself; she dropped my hand, but without embarrassment, and we wandered around the church together admiring the fine pulpit, the glinting Byzantine marble. It took me a mighty effort to remember that we could return to Hagia Sophia at any time during our stay in Istanbul, and that our first business in this city was to find the archive. Helen apparently had the same thought, for she moved toward the entrance when I did, and we made our way through the crowds and into the street again.

“‘The archive could be quite far away,’ she observed. ‘Saint Sophia is so large that you could see it from almost any building in this part of the city, I think, or even on the other side of the Bosphorus.’

“‘I know. We’ve got to find some other clue. The letters said that the archive was attached to a small mosque from the seventeenth century.’

“‘The city is filled with mosques.’

“‘True.’ I flipped through my hastily purchased guidebook. ‘Let’s start with this-the Great Mosque of the Sultans. Mehmed II and his court might have worshipped there sometimes-it was built in the late fifteenth century, and that would be a logical neighborhood for his library to end up in, don’t you think?’

“Helen thought it was worth a try, and we set off on foot. Along the way, I dipped into the guidebook again. ‘Listen to this. It says thatIstanbul is a Byzantine word that meantthe city. You see, even the Ottomans couldn’t demolish Constantinople, only rename it-with a Byzantine name, at that. It says here that the Byzantine Empire lasted from 333 to 1453. Imagine-what a long, long afternoon of power.’

“Helen nodded. ‘It is not possible to think about this part of the world without Byzantium,’ she said gravely. ‘And, you know, in Romania you see glimpses of it everywhere-in every church, in the frescoes, the monasteries, even in the people’s faces, I think. In some ways, it is closer to your eyes there than it is here, with all of this Ottoman-sediment-on top.’ Her face clouded. ‘The conquest of Constantinople in 1453 by Mehmed II was one of the greatest tragedies in history. He broke down these walls with his cannonballs and then he sent his armies in to pillage and murder for three days. The soldiers raped young girls and boys on the altars of the churches, even in Saint Sophia. They stole the icons and all the other holy treasures to melt down the gold, and they threw the relics of the saints in the streets for the dogs to chew. Before that, this was the most beautiful city in history.’ Her hand closed in a fist at her waist.

“I was silent. The city was still beautiful, with its delicate, rich colors and its exquisite domes and minarets, whatever atrocities had occurred here long ago. I was beginning to understand why an evil moment five hundred years ago was so real to Helen, but what did this really have to do with our lives in the present? It struck me suddenly that perhaps I had come a long way for nothing, to this magical place with this complicated woman, looking for an Englishman who might be on a bus trip to New York. I swallowed the thought and tried instead to tease her a little. ‘How is it that you know so much about history? I thought you were an anthropologist.’

“‘I am,’ she said gravely. ‘But you cannot study cultures without a knowledge of their history.’

“‘Then why didn’t you simply become a historian? You could still have studied culture, it seems to me.’

“‘Perhaps.’ She looked forbidding now, and would not meet my eye. ‘But I wanted a field that my father had not already made his own.’

“The Great Mosque was still open in the golden evening light, to tourists as well as to the faithful. I tried my mediocre German on the guard at the entrance, an olive-skinned, curly headed boy-what had those Byzantines looked like?- but he said there was no library within, no archive, nothing of the sort, and he had never heard of one nearby. We asked if he had any suggestions.

“We could try the university, he mused. As for small mosques, there were hundreds of them.

“‘It’s too late to go to the university today,’ Helen told me. She was studying the guidebook. ‘Tomorrow we can visit there and ask someone for information about archives that date from Mehmed’s time. I think that will be the most efficient way. Let’s go see the old walls of Constantinople. We can walk to one section of them from here.’

“I followed her through the streets as she traced our way for us, the guidebook in her gloved hand, her small black purse over her arm. Bicycles darted past us, Ottoman robes mingled with Western dress, foreign cars and horse carts wove around one another. Everywhere I looked I saw men in dark vests and small crocheted caps, women in brightly printed blouses with ballooning trousers underneath, their heads wound in scarves. They carried shopping bags and baskets, cloth bundles, chickens in crates, bread, flowers. The streets were overflowing with life-as they had been, I thought, for sixteen hundred years. Along these streets the Roman Christian emperors had been carried by their entourages, flanked by priests, moving from palace to church to take the Holy Sacrament. They had been strong rulers, great patrons of the arts, engineers, theologians. And nasty, too, some of them-prone to cutting up their courtiers and blinding family members, in the tradition of Rome proper. This was where the original byzantine politics had played themselves out. Perhaps it wasn’t such an odd place for a vampire or two, after all.

“Helen had stopped in front of a towering, partly ruined stone compound. Shops huddled at its base and fig trees dug their roots into its flank; a cloudless sky was fading to copper above the battlements. ‘Look what remains of the walls of Constantinople,’ she said quietly. ‘You can see how enormous they were when they were intact. The book says the sea came to their feet in those days, so the emperor could embark by boat from the palace. And over there, that wall was part of the Hippodrome.’

“We stood gazing until I realized that I’d again forgotten Rossi for a whole ten minutes. ‘Let’s look for some dinner,’ I said abruptly. ‘It’s already past seven and we’ll need to turn in early tonight. I’m determined to find the archive tomorrow.’ Helen nodded and we walked quite companionably back up through the heart of the old city.

“Near our pension we discovered a restaurant decorated inside with brass vases and fine tiles, with a table in the arched front window, an opening without glass where we could sit and watch people walking past on the street outside. As we waited for our dinner, I was struck for the first time by a phenomenon of this Eastern world that had escaped my notice until then: everyone who hurried by was not actually hurrying but simply walking along. What looked like a hurry here would have been a casual saunter on the sidewalks of New York or Washington. I pointed this out to Helen, and she laughed cynically. ‘When there is not much money to be made, no one goes rushing around for it,’ she said.

“The waiter brought us chunks of bread, a dish of smooth yogurt studded with slices of cucumber, and a strong fragrant tea in glass vases. We ate heartily after the fatigue of the day and had just moved on to roasted chicken on wooden skewers when a man with a silver mustache and a mane of silver hair, wearing a neat gray suit, entered the restaurant and glanced around. He settled at a table near us and put a book down by his plate. He ordered his meal in quiet Turkish, then seemed to take in our pleasure in our dinner and leaned toward us with a friendly smile. ‘You like our native food, I see,’ he said in accented but excellent English.

“‘We certainly do,’ I answered, surprised. ‘It’s excellent.’

“‘Let me see,’ he continued, turning a handsome, mild face on me. ‘You are not from England. America?’

“‘Yes,’ I said. Helen was silent, cutting up her chicken and eyeing our companion warily.

“‘Ah, yes. How very nice. You are sightseeing in our beautiful city?’

“‘Yes, exactly,’ I concurred, wishing Helen would at least look friendly; hostility might appear suspicious somehow.

“‘Welcome to Istanbul,’ he said with a very pleasant smile, raising his glass beaker to toast us. I returned the compliment and he beamed. ‘Forgive the question from a stranger, but what do you love best here in your visit?’

“‘Well, it would be hard to choose.’ I liked his face; it was impossible not to answer him truthfully. ‘I’m most struck by the feeling of East and West blending in one city.’

“‘A wise observation, young man,’ he said soberly, patting his mustache with a big white napkin. ‘That blend is our treasure and our curse. I have colleagues who have spent a lifetime studying Istanbul, and they say they will never have time to explore all of it, although they are living here always. It is an amazing place.’

“‘What is your profession?’ I asked curiously, although I had the sense from Helen’s stillness that she would step on my foot under the table in another minute.

“‘I am a professor at Istanbul University,’ he said in the same dignified tone.

“‘Oh, how extremely lucky!’ I exclaimed. ‘We are -’ Just then Helen’s foot came down on mine. She wore pumps, like every woman in that era, and the heel was rather sharp. ‘We are very glad to meet you,’ I finished. ‘What do you teach?’

“‘My speciality is Shakespeare,’ said our new friend, helping himself carefully to the salad in front of him. ‘I teach English literature to the most advanced of our graduate students. They are valiant students, I must tell you.’

“‘How wonderful,’ I managed to say. ‘I am a graduate student myself, but in history, in the United States.’

“‘A very fine field,’ he said gravely. ‘You will find much to interest you in Istanbul. What is the name of your university?’

“I told him, while Helen sawed grimly away at her dinner.

“‘An excellent university. I have heard of it,’ observed the professor. He sipped from his vase and tapped the book by his plate. ‘I say!’ he exclaimed finally. ‘Why don’t you come to see our university while you are in Istanbul? It is a venerable institution also, and I would be pleased to show you and your lovely wife around.’

“I registered a faint snort from Helen and hurried to cover for her. ‘My sister-my sister.’

“‘Oh, I beg your pardon.’ The Shakespeare scholar bowed to Helen over the table. ‘I am Dr. Turgut Bora, at your service.’ We introduced ourselves-or I introduced us, because Helen kept obstinately silent. I could tell she didn’t like my using my real name, so I quickly gave hers as Smith, a piece of dull-wittedness that drew an even deeper frown from her. We shook hands all around, and there was nothing for us to do but to invite him to join us at our table.

“He protested politely, but only for a moment, and then sat down with us, bringing along his salad and his glass vase, which he immediately raised on high. ‘A toast to you and welcome to our fair city,’ he intoned. ‘Cheerio!’ Even Helen smiled slightly, although she still said nothing. ‘You must forgive my lack of discretion,’ Turgut told her apologetically, as if sensing her wariness. ‘It is very rare that I have the opportunity to practice my English with native speakers.’ He had not yet noticed that she wasn’t a native speaker-although he might never notice that in Helen, I thought, because she might never utter a word to him.

“‘How did you come to specialize in Shakespeare?’ I asked him as we began to eat our dinners again.

“‘Ah!’ Turgut said softly. ‘That is a strange story. My mother was a very unusual woman-brilliant-a great lover of languages, as well as a diminutive engineer’-Distinguished?I wondered-‘and she studied at the University of Rome, where she met my father. He, the delectable man, was a scholar of the Italian Renaissance, with a particular lust for -’

“At this very interesting point, we were suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a young woman peering in the arched window from the street. Although I’d never seen one, except in pictures, I took her for a Gypsy; she was dark skinned and sharp featured, dressed in tatty bright colors, black hair raggedly cut around penetrating dark eyes. She could have been fifteen or forty; it was impossible to read age on her thin face. In her arms she carried bunches of red and yellow flowers, which she apparently wanted us to buy. She thrust some of them at me over the table and began a shrill chant I couldn’t understand. Helen looked disgusted and Turgut annoyed, but the woman was insistent. I was just getting out my wallet with the idea of presenting Helen-in jest, of course-with a Turkish bouquet, when the Gypsy suddenly wheeled on her, pointing and hissing. Turgut started and Helen, usually fearless, shrank back.

“This seemed to bring Turgut to life; he half stood and with a scowl of indignation began to berate the Gypsy. It was not difficult to understand his tone and gestures, which invited her in no uncertain terms to take herself off. She glared at all of us and withdrew as suddenly as she’d appeared, vanishing among the other pedestrians. Turgut sat down again, looking wide-eyed at Helen, and after a moment he rummaged in his jacket pocket and drew out a small object, which he placed next to her plate. It was a flat blue stone about an inch long, set with white and paler blue, like a crude eye. Helen blanched when she saw it and reached as if by instinct to touch it with her forefinger.

“‘What on earth is going on here?’ I couldn’t help feeling the fretfulness of the culturally excluded.

“‘What did she say?’ Helen spoke to Turgut for the first time. ‘Was she speaking Turkish or the Gypsy language? I could not understand her.’

“Our new friend hesitated, as if he did not want to repeat the woman’s words. ‘Turkish,’ he murmured. ‘Maybe it is not the better part of valor that I tell you. It is very rude what she said. And strange.’ He was looking at Helen with interest but also with something like a flicker of fear, I thought, in his genial eyes. ‘She used a word I will not translate,’ he explained slowly. ‘And then she said, ”Get out of here, Romanian daughter of wolves. You and your friend bring the curse of the vampire to our city.“’

“Helen was white to the lips, and I fought the impulse to take her hand. ‘It’s a coincidence,’ I told her soothingly, at which she glared; I was saying too much in front of the professor.

“Turgut looked from me to Helen and back. ‘This is very odd indeed, gentle companions,’ he said. ‘I think we must talk further without ado.’”

Ihad almost dozed in my train seat, despite the extreme interest my father’s story held for me; reading all this the first time, during the night, had kept me up late, and I was weary. A feeling of unreality settled over me in the sunny compartment, and I turned to look out the window at the orderly Dutch farmlands slipping by. As we approached and departed from each town, the train clicked past a series of small vegetable gardens, growing green again under a cloudy sky, the rear gardens of thousands of people minding their own business, the backs of their houses turned toward the railway. The fields were wonderfully green, a green that begins, in Holland, in early spring and lasts almost until the snow falls again, fed by the moisture of air and land and by the water that glints in every direction you look. We had already left behind a broad region of canals and bridges and were out among cows in their neatly delineated pastures. A dignified old couple on bicycles rolled along on a road next to us, swallowed the next minute by more pastures. Soon we’d be in Belgium, which I knew from experience one could miss entirely on this trip in the course of a short nap.

I held the letters in my lap tightly, but my eyelids were beginning to droop. The pleasant-faced woman in the seat opposite was already dozing off, magazine in hand. My eyes had closed for just a second when the door to our compartment flew open. An exasperated voice broke in and a lanky figure inserted itself between me and my daydream. “Well, of all the nerve! I thought so. I’ve been searching every carriage for you.” It was Barley, mopping his forehead and scowling at me.

Chapter 26

Barley was angry. I couldn’t blame him, but this was a most inconvenient turn of events for me, and I was a little mad, too. It made me all the angrier that my first twinge of annoyance was followed by a secret swelling of relief; I hadn’t realized before seeing him how thoroughly alone I’d felt on that train, headed toward the unknown, headed perhaps toward the larger loneliness of being unable to find my father or even toward the galactic loneliness of losing him forever. Barley had been a stranger to me only a few days before, and now his face was my vision of familiarity.

At this moment, however, it was still scowling. “Where in bloody hell do you think you’re going? You’ve given me a pretty chase-what are you up to, anyhow?”

I evaded the last question for now. “I didn’t mean to worry you, Barley. I thought you’d gone on the ferry and would never know.”

“Yes, and hurry back to Master James, tell him you were safe in Amsterdam and then get word that you’d vanished. Oh, I would have been in his good graces then.” He plunked himself down next to me, folded his arms, and crossed his long legs. He had his little suitcase with him, and the front of his straw-colored hair stood on end. “What’s got into you?”

“Why were you spying on me?” I countered.

“The ferry was delayed this morning for repairs.” It seemed he couldn’t help smiling a little now. “I was hungry as a horse, so I went back a few streets to get some rolls and tea, and then I thought I saw you slipping out the other direction, way up the street, but I wasn’t at all sure. I thought I might be imagining things, you know, so I stayed and bought my breakfast. And then my conscience smote me, because if it was you I was in big trouble. So I hurried this way and saw the station, and then you boarded the train and I thought I was going to have heart failure.” He glared at me again. “You’ve been quite a bother this morning. I had to run around and get a ticket-and I almost didn’t have enough guilders for it, too-and hunt through the whole train for you. And now it’s been moving so long we can’t get off right away.” His narrow bright eyes strayed to the window and then to the pile of envelopes in my lap. “Would you mind explaining why you’re on the Paris express instead of at school?”

What could I do? “I’m sorry, Barley,” I said humbly. “I didn’t mean to involve you in this for a minute. I really thought you were on your way a long time ago and could go back to Master James with a clean conscience. I wasn’t trying to be any trouble to you.”

“Yes?” He was clearly waiting for more enlightenment. “So you just had a little hankering for Paris instead of history class?”

“Well,” I began, stalling for time. “My father sent me a telegram saying he was fine and I should join him there for a few days.”

Barley was silent for a moment. “Sorry, but that doesn’t explain everything. If you’d got a telegram it would probably have come last night and I’d have heard about it. And was there any question of your father’s not being ‘fine’? I thought he was just away on business. What’s all that you’re reading?”

“It’s a long story,” I said slowly, “and I know you already think I’m strange -”

“You’re awfully strange,” Barley put in crossly. “But you’d better tell me what you’re up to. You’ll have just time before we get off in Brussels and take the next train back to Amsterdam.”

“No!” I hadn’t meant to cry out like that. The lady across from us stirred in her gentle sleep, and I dropped my voice. “I have to go on to Paris. I’m fine. You can get off there, if you want, and then get back to London by tonight.”

“‘Get off there,’ eh? Does that mean you won’t be getting off there? Where else does this train go?”

“No, it does stop in Paris -”

He had folded his arms and was waiting again. He was worse than my father. Maybe he was worse than Professor Rossi had been. I had a brief vision of Barley standing at the head of a classroom, arms folded, eyes scanning his hapless students, his voice sharp: “And what finally leads Milton to his terrible conclusion about Satan’s fall? Or hasn’tanybody done the reading?”

I swallowed. “It’s a long story.” I said it again, more humbly.

“We have time,” said Barley.

“Helen and Turgut and I looked at one another around our little restaurant table, and I sensed a signal of kinship passing among us. Perhaps to delay for a moment, Helen picked up the round blue stone Turgut had put next to her plate and held it out to me. ‘This is an ancient symbol,’ she said. ‘It is a talisman against the Evil Eye.’ I took it, felt its heavy smoothness, warm from her hand, and set it down again.

“Turgut was not to be distracted, however. ‘Madam, you are Romanian?’ She was silent. ‘If this is true, you must be careful here.’ He lowered his voice a little. ‘The police might be rather interested in you. Our country is not on friendly terms with Romania.’

“‘I know,’ she said coldly.

“‘But how did the Gypsy woman know this?’ Turgut frowned. ‘You did not speak to her.’

“‘I do not know.’ Helen gave a helpless shrug.

“Turgut shook his head. ‘Some people say the Gypsies have the talent of special vision. I have never believed this, but -’ He broke off and patted his mustache with his napkin. ‘How strange that she talked of vampires.’

“‘Is it?’ Helen countered. ‘She must have been a crazy woman. Gypsies are all mad.’

“‘Perhaps, perhaps.’ Turgut was silent. ‘However, it is very strange to me, the way she spoke, because that is my other speciality.’

“‘Gypsies?’ I asked.

“‘No, good sir-vampires.’ Helen and I stared at him, carefully not meeting each other’s eyes. ‘Shakespeare is my life’s work, but the legend of the vampire is my hobby. We have an ancient tradition here of vampires.’

“‘Is that-ah-a Turkish tradition?’ I asked in astonishment.

“‘Oh, the legend goes back at least to Egypt, dear colleagues. But here in Istanbul – to begin with, there is a story that the most bloodthirsty of the emperors of Byzantium were vampires, that some of them understood the Christian communion as an invitation to quaff the blood of mortals. But I do not believe this. I believe it appeared later.’

“‘Well -’ I didn’t want to reveal too keen an interest, more for fear that Helen would jab my foot under the table again than from any conviction that Turgut was aligned with the powers of darkness. But she was staring at him, too. ‘What about the legend of Dracula? Have you heard of that?’

“‘Heard of that?’ snorted Turgut. His dark eyes shone, and he twisted his napkin into a knot. ‘You know that Dracula was a real person, a figure of history? A countryman of yours, actually, madam -’ He bowed to Helen. ‘He was a lord, avoivoda, in the western Carpathians in the fifteenth century. Not an admirable person, you know.’

“Helen and I were nodding-we couldn’t help it. I couldn’t, at least, and she seemed too intent now on Turgut’s words to stop herself. She had leaned forward a little, listening, and her eyes shone with the same rich darkness as his. Color had blossomed under her usual pallor. It was one of those many moments, I observed, even in the midst of my excitement, when beauty suddenly filled her rather harsh countenance, lighting it from within.

“‘Well -’ Turgut seemed to be warming to his subject. ‘I do not mean to bore you, but I have a theory that Dracula is a very important figure in the history of Istanbul. It is known that when he was a boy, he was held captive by Sultan Mehmed II in Gallipoli and then farther east in Anatolia -his own father gave him to the father of Mehmed, Sultan Murad II, as ransom for a treaty, from 1442 to 1448, six long years. Dracula’s father was not a gentleman, either.’ Turgut chuckled. ‘The soldiers who guarded the boy Dracula were masters in the art of torture, and he must have learned too much when he watched them. But, my good sirs’-he seemed to have forgotten Helen’s gender for the moment, in his collegial fervor-‘I have my own theory that he left his mark on them, too.’

“‘What on earth do you mean?’ My breath was coming short.

“‘From about that time, there is a record of vampirism in Istanbul. It is my notion-and it is still unpublished, alack, and I cannot prove it-that his first victims were among the Ottomans, maybe the guards who became his friends. He left behind him contamination in our empire, I propose, and then it must have been carried into Constantinople with the Conqueror.’

“We stared at him, speechless. It occurred to me that, according to legend, only the dead became vampires. Did this mean that Vlad Dracula had actually been killed in Asia Minor and become undead then, as a very young man, or that he’d simply had a taste for unholy libations very early in his life and had inspired it in others? I filed this away to ask Turgut in case I ever knew him well enough. ‘Oh, this is my eccentric hobby, you know.’ Turgut lapsed into a genial smile again. ‘Well, excuse me for climbing up onto my soap dish. My wife says I am intolerable.’ He toasted us with a subtle, courtly gesture before sipping from his little vase again. ‘But, by heaven, I have proof of one thing! I have proof that the sultans feared him as a vampire!’ He gestured toward the ceiling.

“‘Proof?’ I echoed.

“‘Yes! I discovered it some few years ago. The sultan was so much interested in Vlad Dracula that he collected some of his documents and possessions here after Dracula died in Wallachia. Dracula killed many Turkish soldiers in his own country, and our sultan hated him for this, but that was not why he founded this archive. No! The sultan even wrote a letter to the pasha of Wallachia in 1478 asking him for any writings he knew of about Vlad Dracula. Why? Because-he said-he was creating a library that would fight the evil that Dracula had spread in his city after his death. You see-why would the sultan still fear Dracula when Dracula was dead, if he did not believe Dracula could return? I have found a copy of the letter the pasha wrote to him in response.’ He thumped a fist on the table and smiled at us. ‘I have even found the library he created to fight evil.’

“Helen and I sat motionless. The coincidence was almost unbearably strange. Finally I ventured a question. ‘Professor, was this collection by any chance created by Sultan Mehmed II?’

“This time he stared at us. ‘By my boots, you are a fine historian indeed. You are interested in this period in our history?’

“‘Ah-very much so,’ I said. ‘And we would be-I’d be very much interested in seeing this archive you found.’

“‘Of course,’ he said. ‘With great pleasure. I will show you. My wife will be astounded that anyone wants to see.’ He chuckled. ‘But, alack, the beautiful building in which it was once housed has been torn down to make way for an office of the Ministry of Roads-oh, eight years ago. It was a lovely little building near the Blue Mosque. Such a shame.’

“I felt the blood draining from my face. So that was why we had had such difficulty locating Rossi’s archive. ‘But the documents -?’

“‘Do not worry, kind sir. I myself ensured them to become part of the National Library. Even if no one else adores them as I do, they must be preserved.’ Something dark crossed his face for the first time since he had scolded the Gypsy woman. ‘There is still evil to fight in our city, as there is everywhere.’ He looked from one of us to the other. ‘If you like old curiosities, I will most joyfully take you there tomorrow. It is closed this evening, of course. I know well the librarian who can allow you to peruse the collection.’

“‘Thank you very much.’ I didn’t dare look at Helen. ‘And how-how did you come to be interested in this unusual topic?’

“‘Oh, it is a long story,’ Turgut countered seriously. ‘I cannot be allowed to bore you so much.’

“‘We’re not bored at all,’ I insisted.

“‘You are very kind.’ He sat silent for some minutes, polishing his fork between thumb and forefinger. Outside our brick alcove, honking cars dodged bicycles in the crowded streets and pedestrians came and went like characters across a stage-women in flowing patterned skirts, scarves, and dangling gold earrings, or black dresses and reddish hair, men in Western suits and ties and white shirts. The breath of a mild, salty air reached us there at our table, and I imagined ships from all over Eurasia bringing their bounty to the heart of an empire-first Christian, then Muslim-and docking at a city whose walls stretched down into the very sea. Vlad Dracula’s forested stronghold, with its barbaric rituals of violence, seemed far indeed from this ancient, cosmopolitan world. No wonder he had hated the Turks, and they him, I thought. And yet the Turks of Istanbul, with their crafts of gold and brass and silk, their bazaars and bookshops and myriad houses of worship, must have had much more in common with the Christian Byzantines they had conquered here than did Vlad, defying them from his frontier. Viewed from this center of culture, he looked like a backwoods thug, a provincial ogre, a medieval redneck. I remembered the picture I’d seen of him in an encyclopedia at home-that woodcut of an elegant, mustached face framed by courtly dress. It was a paradox.

“I was lost in this image when Turgut spoke again. ‘Tell me, my fellows, what makes you to be interested in this topic of Dracula?’ He had turned the table on us, with a gentlemanly-or suspicious?-smile.

“I glanced at Helen. ‘Well, I’m studying the fifteenth century in Europe as background for my dissertation,’ I said, and was immediately punished for my lack of candor by a sense that this lie might already be true. God knew when I’d be working on my dissertation again, I thought, and the last thing I needed was a broader topic. ‘And you,’ I pressed again. ‘How did you jump from Shakespeare to vampires?’

“Turgut smiled-sadly, it seemed to me, and his quiet honesty punished me further. ‘Ah, it is a very strange thing, a long time ago. You see, I was working on my second book about Shakespeare-the tragedies. I sat to work every day in a little-how do you say?-niche in our English room at the university. Then one day I found a book I never saw there before.’ He turned to me with that sad smile again. My blood had already run cold in every extremity. ‘This book was like no other, an empty book, very old, with a dragon in the middle and a word-DRAKULYA. I had never heard about Dracula before. But the picture was very strange and strong. And then I thought, I must know what this is. So I tried to learn everything.’

“Helen had frozen across from me, but now she stirred, as if with eagerness. ‘Everything?’ she echoed softly.”

Barley and I had almost reached Brussels. It had taken me a long time-although it seemed like a few minutes-to tell Barley as simply and clearly as I could what my father had related of his experiences in graduate school. Barley stared past me out the window at the little Belgian houses and gardens, which looked sad under a curtain of clouds. We could see the occasional shaft of sunlight picking out a church spire or an old industrial chimney as we drew close to Brussels. The Dutch woman snored quietly, her magazine on the floor by her feet.

I was about to embark on a description of my father’s recent restlessness, his unhealthy pallor and strange behavior, when Barley suddenly turned to face me. “This is awfully peculiar,” he said. “I don’t know why I should believe this wild tale, but I do. I want to, anyway.” It struck me that I’d never before seen him look serious-only humorous or, briefly, annoyed. His eyes, blue as chips of sky, narrowed further. “The funny thing is that it all reminds me of something.”

“What?” I was almost faint with relief at his apparent acceptance of my story.

“Well, that’s the odd thing. I can’t think what. Something to do with Master James. But what was it?”

Chapter 27

Barley sat musing in our train compartment, chin in his long-fingered hands, trying in vain to remember something about Master James. Finally he looked at me, and I was struck by the beauty of his narrow, rosy face when it was serious. Without that unnerving jollity, it could have been the face of an angel, or maybe a monk in a Northumbrian cloister. I perceived these comparisons dimly; they bloomed for me only later.

“Well,” he said at last, “as I see it, there are two possibilities. Either you’re daft, in which case I have to stick with you and get you back home safely, or you’re not daft, in which case you’re headed for a lot of trouble and I have to stick with you anyway. I’m supposed to be in lecture tomorrow, but I’ll figure out what to do about that.” He sighed and glanced at me, leaned back against the seat again. “I have this idea Paris is not going to be your terminal destination. Could you enlighten me about where you’re going after that?”

“If Professor Bora had given us each a slap across the face at that pleasant restaurant table in Istanbul, it would not have been more stunning than what he’d told us about his ‘eccentric hobby.’ It was a salutary slap, however; we were wide-awake now. My jet lag was gone, and with it my feeling of hopelessness about finding more information about Dracula’s tomb. We had come to the right place. Perhaps-here my heart lurched, and not with mere hope-perhaps Dracula’s tomb was in Turkey itself.

“This had never really occurred to me before, but now I thought it might make sense. After all, Rossi had been severely admonished here by one of Dracula’s henchmen. Could the undead have been guarding not only an archive but also a grave? Could the strong presence of vampires to which Turgut had referred just now be a legacy of Dracula’s continuing occupation of this city? I ran over what I knew already about Vlad the Impaler’s career and legend. If he had been imprisoned here in his youth, couldn’t he have returned after his death to this site of his early education in torture? He might have had a sort of nostalgia for the place, like people who retire to the town where they grew up. And if Stoker’s novel was to be trusted for its chronicling of a vampire’s habits, the fiend could certainly leave one place for another, making his grave wherever he liked; in the story, he had traveled in his coffin to England. Why couldn’t he have come to Istanbul somehow, moving by night after his demise as a mortal into the very heart of the empire whose armies had brought about his death? It would have been a fitting revenge on the Ottomans, after all.

“But I couldn’t ask Turgut any of these questions yet. We had just met the man, and I was still wondering whether we could trust him. He seemed genuine, and yet his turning up at our table with his ‘hobby’ was almost too strange to be countenanced. He was talking to Helen now, and she, at last, was talking to him. ‘No, dear madam, I do not actually know ”everything“ about Dracula’s history. In truth, my knowledge is far from ravishing. But I suspect that he had a great influence on our city, for evil, and that keeps me searching. And you, my friends?’ He glanced keenly from Helen to me. ‘You seem a portion interested in my topic yourselves. What is your dissertation about, exactly, young man?’

“‘Dutch mercantilism in the seventeenth century,’ I said lamely. It sounded lame to me, in any case, and I was beginning to wonder if it had always been a rather bland endeavor. Dutch merchants, after all, did not prowl the centuries attacking people and stealing their immortal souls.

“‘Ah.’ I thought Turgut looked puzzled. ‘Well,’ he said finally, ‘if you are interested also in the history of Istanbul, you can come with me tomorrow morning to see Sultan Mehmed’s collection. He was a splendid old tyrant-he collected many interesting things, in addition to my favorite documents. I must get home to my wife now, as she will be in a state of dissolution, I am so late.’ He smiled, as if her state was more pleasant to anticipate than otherwise. ‘She will certainly wish you to come dine with us tomorrow, too, as I wish you to.’ I pondered this for a moment; Turkish wives must be as submissive, still, as the harems of legend. Or did he just mean that his wife was as hospitable as he? I waited for Helen to snort, but she sat quiet, watching both of us. ‘So, my friends -’ Turgut was gathering himself to leave. He drew a little money out of nowhere-I thought-and slid it under the edge of his plate. Then he toasted us a last time and downed the remainder of his tea. ‘Adieu until the morrow.’

“‘Where shall we meet you?’ I asked.

“‘Oh, I will come here to fetch you. Let us say exactly here at ten o’clock in the morning? Good. I wish you a merry evening.’ He bowed and was gone. After a minute I realized that he had barely eaten dinner, had paid our bill as well as his own, and had left us the talisman against the Evil Eye, which shone at the center of the white tablecloth.

“I slept that night like the dead, as they say, after the exhaustion of travel and sightseeing. When the sounds of the city woke me, it was already six-thirty. My small room was dim. In the first moment of consciousness, I looked around at the whitewashed walls, the simple, somehow foreign furniture, and the gleam of the mirror above the washstand, and I felt a weird confusion. I thought of Rossi’s sojourn here in Istanbul, his tenure in that other pension-where had it been?-where his bags had been ransacked and his sketches of the precious maps removed, and I seemed to remember it as if I had been there myself, or was living the scene now. After a minute I realized that all was peaceful and orderly in the room; my suitcase lay undisturbed on the top of the bureau, and-more importantly-my briefcase with all its precious contents sat untouched next to the bed, where I could stretch out a hand and feel it. Even in my sleep I had been somehow aware of that ancient, silent book resting inside it.

“Now I could hear Helen in the hall bathroom, running water and moving around. After a moment, I realized this might constitute eavesdropping on her, and I felt ashamed. To cover my feeling, I got up quickly, ran water into the washstand in my room, and began to splash my face and arms. In the mirror, my face-and how young I looked even to myself in those days, my dear daughter, I cannot possibly convey to you-was the same as usual. My eyes were rather bleary after all this travel, but alert. I polished my hair with a little of the ubiquitous oil of the epoch, combed it back flat and shiny, and dressed in my rumpled trousers and jacket, with a clean, if wrinkled, shirt and tie. As I straightened my tie in the mirror, I heard the sounds in the bathroom cease, and after a few moments I got out my shaving kit and forced myself to knock briskly at the door. When there was no answer, I went in. Helen’s scent, a rather harsh and cheap-smelling cologne, perhaps one she had brought from home, lingered in the tiny chamber. I had almost grown to like it.

“Breakfast in the restaurant was strong coffee-very strong-in a copper pot with a long handle, served with bread, salty cheese, and olives and accompanied by a newspaper we couldn’t read. Helen ate and drank in silence and I sat musing, sniffing the cigarette smoke that drifted across our table from the waiter’s corner. The place was empty this morning apart from some sunlight that crept in through the arched windows, but the bustle of morning traffic just outside filled it with pleasant sounds and with glimpses of people passing by dressed for work, or carrying baskets of market produce. We had instinctively sought a table as far from the windows as possible.

“‘The professor won’t be here for another two hours,’ Helen observed, loading her second cup of coffee with sugar and stirring vigorously. ‘What shall we do?’

“‘I was thinking we might walk back to Hagia Sophia,’ I said. ‘I want to see the place again.’

“‘Why not?’ she murmured. ‘I do not mind being the tourist while we are here.’ She looked rested, and I noticed that she had put on a clean pale-blue blouse with her black suit, the first color I had seen her wear, an exception to her black-and-white garb. As usual, she wore the little scarf over the place in her neck where the librarian had bitten her. Her face was ironic and wary, but I had the sense-with no particular proof-that she was getting used to my presence across the table, almost to the point of relaxing some of her ferocity.

“The streets were filled with people and cars by the time we took ourselves out, and we wandered among them through the heart of the old city and into one of the bazaars. Every aisle was full of shoppers-old women in black who stood fingering rainbows of fine textiles; young women in rich colors, their heads covered, bargaining for fruits I had never seen before or examining trays of gold jewelry; old men with crocheted caps on their white hair or balding pates, reading newspapers or bending over to examine a selection of carved wooden pipes. Some of them carried prayer beads in their hands. Everywhere I looked I saw handsome, shrewd, strong-featured, olive-skinned faces, gesturing hands, pointing fingers, flashing smiles that sometimes showed a glimpse of gold teeth. All around us I heard the clamor of emphatic, confident, haggling voices, sometimes a laugh.

“Helen wore her bemused, upside-down smile, looking about her at these strangers as if they pleased her, but as if she thought she understood them all too well. To me the scene was delightful, but I, too, felt a wariness, a sensation that I could have dated in myself as less than a week old, a feeling I had these days in any public place. It was a sense of searching the crowd, of glancing over my shoulder, of scanning faces for good or ill intent-and perhaps also of being watched. It was an unpleasant feeling, a harsh note in the harmony of all those lively conversations around us, and I wondered not for the first time if it was partly the contagion of Helen’s cynical attitude toward the human race. I wondered, too, if that attitude in her was intrinsic or simply the result of her life in a police state.

“Whatever its roots, I felt my own paranoia as an affront to my former self. A week ago I’d been a normal American graduate student, content in my discontent with my work, enjoying deep down a sense of the prosperity and moral high ground of my culture even while I pretended to question it and everything else. The Cold War was real to me now, in the person of Helen and her disillusioned stance, and an older cold war made itself felt in my very veins. I thought of Rossi, strolling these streets in the summer of 1930 before his adventure in the archive had sent him pell-mell out of Istanbul, and he was real to me, too-not only Rossi as I knew him but also the young Rossi of his letters.

“Helen tapped my arm as we walked and nodded in the direction of a couple of old men at a little wooden table tucked away near a booth. ‘Look-there’s your theory of leisure in person,’ she said. ‘It’s nine in the morning and they are already playing chess. It is strange that they are not playingtabla -that is the favorite game, in this part of the world. But I believe this is chess, instead.’ Sure enough, the two men were just setting up their pieces on a worn-looking wooden board. Black was arrayed against ivory, knights and rooks guarded their lieges, pawns faced one another in battle formation-the same arrangement of war the world over, I mused, stopping to watch. ‘Do you know about chess?’ Helen asked.

“‘Of course,’ I said a little indignantly. ‘I used to play it with my father.’

“‘Ah.’ The sound was acerbic, and I remembered too late that she had had no such childhood lessons, and that she played her own kind of chess with her father-with her image of him, in any case. But she seemed to be caught up in historical reflections. ‘It’s not Western, you know-it’s an ancient game from India -shahmatin Persian.Checkmate, I think you say in English.Shah is the word forking. A battle of kings.’

“I watched the two men beginning their game, their gnarled fingers selecting the first warriors. Jokes flashed between them-probably they were old friends. I could have stood there all day, watching, but Helen moved restlessly away, and I followed her. As we went by, the men seemed to notice us for the first time, glancing up quizzically for a moment. We must look like foreigners, I realized, although Helen’s face blended beautifully with the countenances around us. I wondered how long their game would take-all morning, maybe-and which of them would win this time.

“The booth near them was just opening up. It was really a shed, wedged under a venerable fig tree at the edge of the bazaar. A young man in a white shirt and dark trousers was pulling vigorously at the stall’s doors and curtains, setting up tables outside and laying out his wares-books. Books stood in stacks on the wooden counters, tumbled out of crates on the floor, and lined the shelves inside.

“I went forward eagerly, and the young owner nodded a greeting and smiled, as if he recognized a bibliophile whatever his national cut. Helen followed more slowly, and we stood turning through volumes in perhaps a dozen languages. Many of them were in Arabic, or in the modern Turkish language; some were in Greek or Cyrillic alphabets, others in English, French, German, Italian. I found a Hebrew tome and a whole shelf of Latin classics. Most were cheaply printed and shoddily bound, their cloth covers already shabby with handling. There were new paperbacks with lurid scenes on the covers, and a few volumes that looked very old, especially some of the works in Arabic. ‘The Byzantines loved books, too,’ Helen murmured, leafing through what looked like a set of German poetry. ‘Perhaps they bought books on this very spot.’

“The young man had finished his preparations for the day, and he came over to greet us. ‘Speak German? English?’

“‘English,’ I said quickly, since Helen did not answer.

“‘I have books in English,’ he told me with a pleasant smile. ‘No problem.’ His face was thin and expressive, with large greenish eyes and a long nose. ‘Also newspaper from London, New York.’ I thanked him and asked if he carried old books. ‘Yes, very old.’ He handed me a nineteenth-century edition ofMuch Ado About Nothing -cheap looking, bound in worn cloth. I wondered what library this had drifted from and how it had made its journey-from bourgeois Manchester, say-to this crossroads of the ancient world. I flipped through the pages, to be polite, and handed it back. ‘Not enough old?’ he asked, smiling.

“Helen had been peering over my shoulder, and now she looked pointedly at her watch. We hadn’t even reached Hagia Sophia, after all. ‘Yes, we’ve got to be going,’ I said.

“The young bookseller gave us a courteous bow, volume in hand. I stared at him for a second, troubled by something that bordered on recognition, but he had turned away and was helping a new customer, an old man who could have been a triplet to the chess players. Helen nudged my elbow, and we left the shop and went more purposefully around the edge of the bazaar and back toward our pension.

“The little restaurant was empty when we entered, but a few minutes later Turgut appeared in the doorway, nodding and smiling, and asked us how we had slept. He was wearing an olive wool suit this morning, despite the gathering heat, and seemed full of suppressed excitement. His curly dark hair was slicked back, his shoes shone with polish, and he moved quickly to usher us out of the restaurant. I noticed again that he was a person of great energy, and I felt relief at having such a guide. Excitement was rising in me, too. Rossi’s papers rested securely in my briefcase, and perhaps the next few hours would bring me a step closer to his whereabouts. Soon, at least, I might be able to compare his copies of the documents with the originals he had examined so many years before.

“As we followed Turgut through the streets, he explained to us that Sultan Mehmed’s archive was not housed in the main building of the National Library, although it was still under state protection. It was now in a library annex that had once been amendrese, a traditional Islamic school. Ataturk had closed these schools in his secularization of the country, and this one currently contained the National Library’s rare and antique books on the history of the Empire. We would find Sultan Mehmed’s collection among others from the centuries of Ottoman expansion.

“The annex to the library proved to be an exquisite little building. We entered it from the street through brass-studded wooden doors. The windows were covered with a tracery of marble; sunlight filtered through them in fine geometric shapes, decorating the floor of the dim entryway with fallen stars and octagons. Turgut showed us where to sign the register, which lay on a counter at the entrance (Helen put down an illegible scrawl, I noticed), and signed it himself with a flourish.

“Then we proceeded into the collection’s one room, a large, hushed space under a dome set with green-and-white mosaic. Polished tables ran the length of it, and three or four researchers already sat working there. The walls were lined not only with books but also with wooden drawers and boxes, and delicate brass lamp shades fitted with electric lighting hung from the ceiling. The librarian, a slender man of fifty with a string of prayer beads on his wrist, left his work and came over to shake both of Turgut’s hands in his. They spoke for a minute-on Turgut’s side of the conversation I caught the name of our university at home-and then the librarian addressed us in Turkish, smiling and bowing. ‘This is Mr. Erozan. He welcomes you to the collection,’ Turgut told us with a look of satisfaction. ‘He would like to be of assassination to you.’ I recoiled, in spite of myself, and Helen smirked. ‘He will set forth for you immediately Sultan Mehmed’s documents from the Order of the Dragon. But first, we must sit in comfort here and wait for him.’

“We settled at one of the tables, carefully distant from the few other researchers. They eyed us with transitory curiosity and then returned to their work. After a moment, Mr. Erozan came back carrying a large wooden box with a lock on the front and Arabic lettering carved into the top. ‘What does that say?’ I asked the professor.

“‘Ah.’ He touched the top of the box with his fingertips. ‘It says, ”Here is evil“-hmm-”here is evil contained-housed. Lock it with the keys of holy Qur’an.“’ My heart made a jump; the phrases were strikingly similar to what Rossi had reported reading in the margins of the mysterious map and had spoken aloud in the old archives where it had once been stored. He’d made no mention of this box in his letters, but perhaps he’d never seen it, if a librarian had brought him just the documents. Or perhaps they had been placed in the box sometime after Rossi’s sojourn here.

“‘How old is the box itself?’ I asked Turgut.

“He shook his head. ‘I don’t know, and neither does my friend here. Because it is of wood, I do not think it is very likely to be as old as the time of Mehmed. My friend told me once’-he beamed in Mr. Erozan’s direction, and the man beamed back without comprehension-‘that these documents were put in the box in 1930, to keep them safe. He knows that because he discussed it with the previous librarian. He is most meticulous, my friend.’

“In 1930! Helen and I looked at each other. Probably by the time Rossi had penned his letters-December 1930-to whoever might later receive them, the documents he had examined had already been put into this box for safekeeping. An ordinary wooden receptacle might have kept out mice and damp, but what had prompted the librarian of that era to lock the documents of the Order of the Dragon inside a box ornamented with a sacred warning?

“Turgut’s friend had produced a ring of keys and was fitting one to the lock. I almost laughed, remembering our modern card catalog at home, the accessibility of thousands of rare books in the university library system. I had never imagined myself doing research that required an old key. It clicked in the lock. ‘Here we are,’ Turgut murmured, and the librarian withdrew. Turgut smiled at each of us-rather sadly, I thought-and lifted the lid.”

In the train, Barley had just finished reading my father’s first two letters for himself. It gave me a pang to see them lying open in his hands, but I knew Barley would trust my father’s authoritative voice, whereas he might only half believe my weaker one. “Have you been to Paris before?” I asked him, partly to cover my emotion.

“I suppose I have,” Barley said indignantly. “I studied there for a year before I went to university. My mother wanted me to know French better.” I longed to ask about his mother and why she required this delectable accomplishment in her son, and also what it was like to have a mother, but Barley was deep in the letter again. “Your father must be a very good lecturer,” he mused. “This is a lot more entertaining than what we get at Oxford.”

This opened up another realm for me. Were lectures at Oxford ever dull? Was that possible? Barley was full of things I wanted to know, a messenger from a world so large I could not begin to imagine it. I was interrupted this time by a conductor hurrying down the aisle past our door. “Bruxelles!” he called. The train was slowing already, and a few minutes later we were looking out the window into the Brussels station; the customs officers were boarding. Outside, people were rushing for their trains and pigeons were hunting for morsels from the platform.

Perhaps because I was secretly fond of pigeons, I was gazing hard enough into the crowd to suddenly notice one figure that was not moving at all. A woman, tall and dressed in a long black coat, stood quietly on the platform. She had a black scarf tied over her hair, framing a white face. She was a little too far away for me to see her features clearly, but I caught a flash of dark eyes and an almost unnaturally red mouth-bright lipstick, maybe. There was something odd about the silhouette of her clothes; amid the miniskirts and hideous block-heeled boots of the day, she wore narrow black pumps.

But what caught my attention about her first, and held it for a moment before our train began to move again, was her attitude of alertness. She was scanning our train, up and down. I drew back from the window instinctively, and Barley looked a question at me. The woman apparently hadn’t seen us, although she took a hovering step in our direction. Then she seemed to change her mind and turned to scan another train, which had just pulled in on the opposite side of the platform. Something about her stern, straight back kept me staring until we began to move out of the station again, and then she disappeared among the throngs of people there, as if she had never existed.

Chapter 28

Ihad dozed off this time, instead of Barley. When I woke, I found myself wedged against him, my head lolling on the shoulder of his navy sweater. He was staring out the window, my father’s letters stored neatly again in their envelopes on his lap, his legs crossed, his face-not so far above mine-turned to the passing scenery of what I knew must by now be the French countryside. I opened my eyes to a view of his bony chin. When I looked down I could see Barley’s hands clasped loosely together over the letters. I noticed for the first time that he bit his nails, as I always did myself. I closed my eyes again, feigning continued sleep, because the warmth of his shoulder was so comforting. Then I was afraid he wouldn’t like my leaning against him, or that I had drooled on his sweater in my doltish slumber, and I sat quickly upright. Barley turned to look at me, his eyes full of faraway thoughts, or perhaps just full of the land beyond the window, no longer flat but rolling, a modest French farm country. After a minute he smiled.

“As the lid went up on Sultan Mehmed’s box of secrets, a smell I knew well drifted out of it. It was the scent of very old documents, of parchment or vellum, of dust and centuries, of pages time had long since begun to defile. It was the smell, too, of the small blank book with the dragon in the middle, my book. I had never dared put my nose directly into it, as I secretly had with some of the other old volumes I’d handled-I feared, I think, that there might be a repulsive edge to its perfume or, worse, a power in the scent, an evil drug I didn’t want to inhale.

“Turgut was gently lifting documents from the box. Each was wrapped in yellowing tissue paper, and the items varied in shape and size. He spread them carefully on the table before us. ‘I will show you these papers myself and tell you what I know of them,’ he said. ‘Then perhaps you would like to sit and brood on them, don’t you think?’ Yes, perhaps we would-I nodded, and he unwrapped a scroll and unwound it delicately under our gaze. It was parchment attached to fine wooden spindles, very different from the large flat pages and bound ledgers I was used to in my research on Rembrandt’s world. The edges of the parchment were decorated in a colorful border of geometric patterns, gilt and deep blue and crimson. The handwritten text, to my disappointment, was in Arabic lettering. I’m not sure what I had expected; this document had come from the heart of an empire that spoke the Ottoman language and wrote it down in Arabic letters, resorting to Greek only to bully the Byzantines, or Latin to storm the gates of Vienna.

“Turgut read my face and hurried to explain. ‘This, my friends, is a ledger of the expenses of a war with the Order of the Dragon. It was written in a town on the southern side of the Danube by a bureaucrat who was spending the sultan’s money there-it is a report of business, in other words. Dracula’s father, Vlad Dracul, cost the Ottoman Empire a great deal of money in the mid-fifteenth century, you see. This bureaucrat commissioned armor and-how do you say?-scimitars for three hundred men to guard the border of the western Carpathians so that the local people would not revolt, and he bought horses for them, also. Here’-he pointed a long finger at the bottom of the scroll-‘it says that Vlad Dracul was an expense and a-a rotten nuisance and had cost them more money than the pasha wanted to spend. The pasha is very sorry and miserable, and he wishes a long life to the Incomparable One in the name of Allah.’

“Helen and I glanced at each other, and I thought I read in her eyes something of the awe I felt myself. This corner of history was as real as the tiled floor under our feet or the wooden tabletop under our fingers. The people to whom it had happened had actually lived and breathed and felt and thought and then died, as we did-as we would. I looked away, unable to watch the flicker of emotion on her strong face.

“Turgut had rolled up the scroll again and was opening a second package, which contained two more scrolls. ‘Here is a letter from the pasha of Wallachia in which he promises to send Sultan Mehmed any documents he can find about the Order of the Dragon. And this is an account of trading along the Danube in 1461, not far from where the Order of the Dragon had control. The boundaries of this area were not stalwart, you understand-they were continually changing. Here it lists the silks, spices, and horses the pasha requests to trade for wool from the shepherds of his domain.’ The next two scrolls proved to be similar accounts. Then Turgut unrolled a smaller package, which contained a flat sketch on parchment. ‘A map,’ he said. I made an involuntary move for my briefcase, which held Rossi’s sketches and notes, but Helen shook her head almost imperceptibly. I understood her meaning-we did not know Turgut well enough to spread all our secrets in front of him. Not yet, I amended mentally; after all, he had apparently opened all his own resources to us.

“‘I have never been able to understand what this map is, my fellows,’ Turgut told us. There was regret in his voice, and he stroked his mustache with a thoughtful hand. I looked closely at the parchment and saw with a thrill a neat, if faded, version of the first map Rossi had copied, the long crescents of mountains, the curving river north of them. ‘It does not resemble any region I have studied myself, and there is no way to know the-how do you say?-scale of the map, you know?’ He set it aside. ‘Here is another map, which appears to be a closer view of the area in the first.’ I knew it was-I had seen all this already, and my excitement climbed. ‘I believe these are the mountains shown in the west on the first map, no?’ He sighed. ‘But there is no further information, and you see it is not much labeled, except for some lines from the Qur’an and this strange motto-I translated it carefully, once-that says something like ”Here he is housed with evil. Reader, with your words dig him up.“’

“I had put out a startled hand to stop him, but Turgut had spoken too quickly and caught me off guard. ‘No!’ I cried, but too late, so that Turgut stared at me in astonishment. Helen looked from one of us to the other, and Mr. Erozan turned from his work on the other side of the hall and stared at me, too. ‘Excuse me,’ I whispered. ‘I’m just excited by seeing these documents. They’re so-interesting.’

“‘Oh, I am glad you find them interesting.’ Turgut almost beamed through his gravity. ‘And these words do sound a wit strange. They give one a-you know?-a turn.’

“At that moment there was a step in the hall. I looked around nervously, half expecting to see Dracula himself, whatever he looked like, but it was only a small man in a white cap and shaggy gray beard. Mr. Erozan went to the door to greet him, and we turned back to our documents. Turgut drew from the box another parchment. ‘This is the last document in here,’ he said. ‘I have never been able to make sense of it. It is listed in the library catalog as a bibliography of the Order of the Dragon.’

“My heart lurched, and I saw the color rise in Helen’s face. ‘A bibliography?’

“‘Yes, my friend.’ Turgut spread it gently on the table before us. It looked very old and quite brittle, written in Greek in a fine hand. The top curved raggedly, as if it had once been part of a longer scroll, and the bottom edge was clearly torn off. There were no ornaments of any sort on the manuscript, just the finely penned words in rows. I sighed. I had never studied Greek, although I doubted anything but complete mastery would have helped me with such a document, anyway.

“As if divining my problem, Turgut took a notebook from his briefcase. ‘I have had this translated by a scholar of Byzantium from our university. He has a ravishing knowledge of their language and documents. This is a list of works of literature, although many of them I have never found mentioned in any other example.’ He opened his notebook and smoothed out a page. It was covered in neat Turkish script. This time Helen sighed. Turgut slapped his forehead. ‘Oh, a million pardons,’ he said. ‘Here, I shall translate for you as we go along, all right? ”Herodotus,The Treatment of Prisoners of War. Pheseus,On Reason and Torture. Origen,Treatise on First Principles. Euthymius the Elder,The Fate of the Damned. Gubent of Ghent,Treatise on Nature. St. Thomas Aquinas,Sisyphus. “ You see, it is quite a strange selection, and some of the books on it are very rare. My friend who is a Byzantine scholar told me, for example, that it would be a miracle if a previously unknown version of this treatise by the early Christian philosopher Origen had survived somewhere-most of Origen’s work was destroyed because he was accused of heresy.’

“‘What heresy?’ Helen looked interested. ‘I am sure I have read about him somewhere.’

“‘He was accused of arguing in this treatise that it is a matter of Christian logic that even Satan will be saved and resurrected,’ Turgut explained. ‘Shall I go on with the list?’

“‘If you wouldn’t mind,’ I said, ‘could you write the titles down for us in English, just as you are reading them?’

“‘With pleasure.’ Turgut sat down with his notebook and drew out a pen.

“‘What do you make of this?’ I asked Helen. Her face said more plainly than any words,We came all this way for a jumbled list of books? ‘I know it makes no sense yet,’ I told her in a low voice, ‘but let’s see what it leads to.’

“‘Now, then, my friends, let me read you the next few titles.’ Turgut was writing cheerfully away. ‘Almost all of them are connected with torture or murder or something else unpleasant, you can see. ”Erasmus,Fortunes of an Assassin. Henricus Curtius,The Cannibals. Giorgio of Padua,The Damned. “’

“‘No dates for these works are listed with them?’ I asked, bending over the documents.

“Turgut sighed. ‘No. And I have never been able to find other references to some of these titles, but of those I have located, there is none written later than 1600.’

“‘And yet that is later than the lifetime of Vlad Dracula,’ Helen commented. I looked at her in surprise; I hadn’t thought of that. It was a simple point, but quite true and very puzzling.

“‘Yes, dear madam,’ Turgut said, looking up at her. ‘The most recent of these works was written more than a hundred years after his death and after the death of Sultan Mehmed, as well. Alas, I have been unable to find any information about how or when this bibliography became part of Sultan Mehmed’s collection. Someone must have added it later, perhaps long after the collection came to Istanbul.’

“‘But before 1930,’ I mused.

“Turgut looked at me sharply. ‘That is the date when this collection was put under lock and key,’ he said. ‘What makes you say that, Professor?’

“I felt myself reddening, both because I had said far too much, so much that Helen was turning away from me in despair at my idiocy, and because I was not yet a professor. I was silent a minute; I have always hated to lie, and I try, my dear daughter, never to do so if I can possibly avoid it.

“Turgut was studying me, and I felt-uncomfortably-that before this moment I had never fully registered the extreme keenness of his dark eyes with their genial crow’s-feet. I took a deep breath. I would have it out with Helen later. I had trusted Turgut all along, and he might well help us more if he knew more. To stall for another moment, however, I looked down at the list of documents he was translating for us, then glanced at the Turkish translation from which he was working. I couldn’t meet his eyes. Exactly how much of what we knew should I tell him? If I related the full extent of my knowledge of Rossi’s experiences here, would he discredit our seriousness and sanity? It was precisely because I’d lowered my eyes in indecision that I suddenly saw something strange. My hand flew out toward the original Greek document, the bibliography of the Order of the Dragon. Not all of it was in Greek, after all. I could clearly read the name at the bottom of the list:Bartolomeo Rossi. It was followed by a phrase in Latin.

“‘Good God!’ My exclamation had ruffled the silent researchers all over the room, I realized too late. Mr. Erozan, still talking with the man in the cap and long beard, turned quizzically toward us.

“Turgut took alarm at once, and Helen moved swiftly closer. ‘What is it?’ Turgut put out a hand toward the document. I was still staring; it was easy enough for him to follow my gaze. Then he jumped to his feet, breathing out what could have been an echo of my own agitation, so clear an echo that it brought me a strange comfort in the midst of all that other strangeness: ‘My God! Professor Rossi!’

“The three of us looked at one another, and for a moment nobody spoke. Finally I tried. ‘Do you,’ I said to Turgut in a low voice, ‘know that name?’

“Turgut looked from me to Helen. ‘Do you?’ he said at last.”

Barley’s smile was kind. “You must have been tired or you wouldn’t have slept so hard. I’m tired myself, just thinking what a mess you’re in. What would anyone say if you told them about all this-anyone else, I mean? That lady there, for example.” He nodded at our drowsy companion, who hadn’t gotten off at Brussels and apparently meant to nap all the way to Paris. “Or a policeman. No one would think you were anything but crazed.” He sighed. “And you really intended to travel to the south of France by yourself? I wish you’d tell me the exact location, instead of making me guess it, so I could wire Mrs. Clay and get you in the biggest possible trouble.”

It was my turn to smile. We’d been over this ground a couple of times already.

“You’re awfully stubborn,” Barley groaned. “I never would have thought one little girl could be so much trouble-namely the trouble I’d be in with Master James if I left you in the middle of nowhere in France, you know.” That almost made the tears start up behind my eyes, but his next words dried them before they had time to form. “At least we’ll have time for lunch before we have to catch our next train. The Gare du Nord has the most delicious sandwiches and we can use up my francs.” It was the choice of pronoun that warmed my heart.

Chapter 29

To step off even a modern train into that great arena of travel, the Gare du Nord, with its soaring framework of old iron and glass, its hoopskirted, light-filled beauty, is to step directly into Paris. Barley and I descended from the train, bags in hand, and stood for a couple of minutes drinking it all in. At least, that is what I was doing, although I had been there many times by then, passing through on my travels with my father. Thegare echoed with the sounds of trains braking, people talking, footsteps, whistles, the rush of pigeon wings, the clink of coins. An old man in a black beret passed us with a young woman on his arm. She had beautifully coiffed red hair and wore pink lipstick, and I imagined for a moment trading places with her. Oh, to look like that, to be Parisian, to be grown-up and have high-heeled boots and real breasts and an elegant, aging artist at your side! Then it occurred to me that he might be her father, and I felt very lonely.

I turned to Barley, who had apparently been drinking in the smells rather than the sights. “God, I’m hungry,” he grumbled. “If we’re here, let’s at least eat something good.” He darted off toward a corner of the station as if he knew the way by heart; it turned out, in fact, that he knew not only the way but the mustard and the selection of finely sliced ham by heart, and soon we were eating two large sandwiches in white paper, Barley not even bothering to sit down on the bench I found.

I was hungry, too, but mostly I was worried about what to do next. Now that we were off the train, Barley could go to any public phone in sight and find a way to call Mrs. Clay or Master James or perhaps an army of gendarmes to take me back to Amsterdam in handcuffs. I looked warily up at him, but his face was mostly obscured by the sandwich. When he emerged from it to drink a little orange soda, I said, “Barley, I’d like you to do me a favor.”

“Now what?”

“Please don’t make any phone calls. I mean, please, Barley, don’t betray me. I’m going south from here, no matter what. You can see I can’t go home without knowing where my father is and what’s happening to him, can’t you?”

He sipped gravely. “I can see that.”

“Please, Barley.”

“What do you take me for?”

“I don’t know,” I said, bewildered. “I thought you were angry about my running away and might still feel you had to report me.”

“Just think,” said Barley. “If I were really upstanding, I could be on my way back to tomorrow’s lectures-and a good sound scolding from James-right now, with you in tow. Instead, here I am, forced by gallantry-and curiosity-to accompany a lady to the south of France at the drop of a hat. You think I’d miss out on that?”

“I don’t know,” I repeated, but more gratefully.

“We’d better ask about the next train to Perpignan,” Barley said, folding up his sandwich paper decisively.

“How did you know?” I said, astonished.

“Oh, you think you’re so mysterious.” Barley was looking exasperated again. “Didn’t I translate all that business in the vampire collection for you? Where could you be going if not to that monastery in the Pyrénées-Orientales? Don’t I know my map of France? Come on, don’t start scowling. It makes your face so much less piquant.” And we went to thebureau de change arm in arm, after all.

“When Turgut uttered Rossi’s name in that unmistakable tone of familiarity, I had the sudden sense of a world shifting, of bits of color and shape knocked out of place into a vision of intricate absurdity. It was as if I’d been watching a familiar movie and suddenly a character who had never been part of it before had strolled onto the screen, joining the action seamlessly but without explanation.

“‘Do you know Professor Rossi?’ Turgut repeated in the same tone.

“I was still speechless, but Helen had apparently made a decision. ‘Professor Rossi is Paul’s adviser in the history department of our university.’

“‘But that is incredible,’ Turgut said slowly.

“‘You knew of him?’ I asked.

“‘I have never met him,’ Turgut said. ‘But I heard of him in a most unusual way. Please, this is a story I must tell you, I think. Sit down, my fellows.’ He gestured hospitably, even in the midst of his amazement. Helen and I had leaped to our feet, but now we settled near him. ‘There is something here too extraordinary -’ He broke off, and then seemed to force himself to explain to us. ‘Years ago, when I became enamored of this archive, I asked the librarian for all possible information about it. He told me that in his memory no one else had ever examined it, but that he thought his ancestor-I mean, the librarian before him-knew something about it. I went to see the old librarian.’

“‘Is he alive now?’ I gasped.

“‘Oh, no, my friend. I am sorry. He was terribly old then, and he died a year after I talked with him, I believe. But his memory was excellent, and he told me that he had locked up the collection because he had a bad feeling about it. He said a foreign professor had looked at it once and then become very-how do you say?-upset and almost crazy, and run out of the building suddenly. The old librarian said that a few days after this happened, he was sitting alone in the library one day with some work, and he looked up and suddenly noticed a large man examining the same documents. No one had come in, and the door to the street was locked because it was evening, after the public hours for the library. He could not understand how the man had got in. He thought perhaps he had not locked the door after all, and had not heard the man come up the stairs, although this hardly seemed possible. Then he told me’-Turgut leaned forward and lowered his voice further-‘he told me that when he went close to the man to ask him what he was doing, the man looked up and-you see-there was a little bit of blood dripping from the corner of his mouth.’

“I felt a wave of revulsion, and Helen raised her shoulders as if to ward off a shudder. ‘The old librarian did not want to tell me about it, at first. I believe he was afraid I would think he was losing his mind. He told me the sight made him feel faint, and when he looked again the man was gone. But the documents were still scattered on the table, and the next day he bought this holy box in the antiques market and put the documents into it. He kept them locked up, and he said no one troubled them again while he was librarian here. He never saw the strange man again.’

“‘And what about Rossi?’ I demanded.

“‘Well, you see, I was determined to trace every little path of this story, so I asked him for the foreign researcher’s name, but he could not remember anything except that he thought it was Italian. He told me to look in the register for 1930, if I wanted to, and my friend here allowed me to do so. I found Professor Rossi’s name, after some searching, and discovered he was from England, from Oxford. Then I wrote him a letter in Oxford.’

“‘Did he reply?’ Helen was almost glaring at Turgut.

“‘Yes, but he was no longer at Oxford. He had gone to an American university-yours, although I didn’t connect the name when we first talked-and the letter found him there after a long time, and then he wrote back. He told me that he was sorry but he did not know anything about the archive to which I referred and could not help me. I will show you the letter at my apartment when you come for dinner with me. It arrived shortly before the war.’

“‘This is very strange,’ I muttered. ‘I just can’t understand it.’

“‘Well, this is not the strangest thing,’ Turgut said urgently. He turned to the parchment on the table, the bibliography, and his finger traced Rossi’s name at the bottom. Looking at it, I noticed again the words after the name. They were Latin, I was sure, although my Latin, dating back to my first two years of college, had never been impressive and was now rusty, to boot.

“‘What does that say? Do you read Latin?’

“To my relief, Turgut nodded. ‘It says, ”Bartolomeo Rossi, ’The Spirit-the Ghost-in the Amphora.‘“’

“My thoughts whirled. ‘But I know that phrase. I think-I’m sure that’s the title of an article he’s been working on this spring.’ I stopped. ‘Was working on. He showed it to me about a month ago. It’s about Greek tragedy and the objects the Greek theaters sometimes used as props onstage.’ Helen was looking intently at me. ‘It’s-I’m sure that’s his current work.’

“‘What is very, very strange,’ Turgut said, and now I heard the actual current of fear in his voice, ‘is that I have looked at this list many times, and I have never seen this entry on it. Someone has added Rossi’s name.’

“I stared at him in amazement. ‘Find out who,’ I gasped. ‘We must find out who has been tampering with these documents. When were you last here?’

“‘About three weeks ago,’ Turgut said grimly. ‘Wait, please, I will first go ask Mr. Erozan. Do not move.’ But as he got up, the attentive librarian saw him and came to meet him. They exchanged a few quick words.

“‘What does he say?’ I asked.

“‘Why did he not think to tell me this before?’ Turgut groaned. ‘A man came in yesterday and looked through this box.’ He questioned his friend further, and Mr. Erozan gestured at the door. ‘It was that man,’ Turgut said, pointing, too. ‘He says it was the man who came in a little while ago, to whom he was talking.’

“We all turned, aghast, and the librarian gestured again, but it was too late. The little man in the white cap and gray beard was gone.”

Barley was hunting through his wallet. “Well, we’re going to have to change everything I have,” he said glumly. “I’ve got the money from Master James, and a few pounds more from my allowance.”

“I brought some,” I said. “From Amsterdam, I mean. I’ll buy the train tickets south, and I think I can pay for our meals and lodging, at least for a few days.” I was wondering, privately, if I would actually be able to pay for Barley’s appetite. It was strange that someone so skinny could eat so much. I was still skinny, too, but I couldn’t imagine putting away two sandwiches at the rate Barley had just employed. I thought this concern with money was the nagging weight on my mind until we were actually at the exchange counter, and a young woman in a navy blazer was looking us over. Barley spoke with her about the exchange rates, and after a minute she picked up the phone, turning away to talk into the receiver. “Why’s she doing that?” I whispered nervously to Barley.

He glanced at me in surprise. “She’s checking the rates, for some reason,” he said. “I don’t know. What did you think?”

I couldn’t explain. Perhaps it was just the contagion of my father’s letters, but everything looked suspicious to me now. It was as if we were being followed by eyes I could not see.

“Turgut, who seemed to have more presence of mind than I did, hurried to the door and disappeared into the little foyer. He was back a second later, shaking his head. ‘He is gone,’ he told us heavily. ‘I saw no signal of him in the street. He vanished into the throngs.’

“Mr. Erozan seemed to be apologizing, and Turgut spoke with him for a few seconds. Then he turned to us again. ‘Do you have any reason to think you have been pursued here, in your research?’

“‘Pursued?’ I had every reason to think so, but by whom, exactly, I had no idea.

“Turgut looked sharply at me, and I remembered the appearance of the Gypsy at our table the night before. ‘My friend the librarian says this man wanted to see the documents we have been examining, and he was angry when he found they were already being used. He says the man spoke Turkish but with an accent, and he thinks he is a foreigner. That is why I ask if someone is following you here. My fellows, let us go out of here, but keep a close watch. I am telling my friend to guard the documents and take notes of this man or anyone else who comes to look at them. He will try to find out who he is if he returns. Perhaps if we leave he will return sooner.’

“‘But the maps!’ It worried me to leave these precious items in their box. Besides, what had we learned? We had not even begun to solve the puzzle of the three maps, even as we had stood there looking at their miraculous reality on the library table.

“Turgut turned to Mr. Erozan again, and a smile, a signal of mutual understanding, seemed to pass between them. ‘Do not worry, Professor,’ Turgut told me. ‘I have made copies of all these things in my own hand, and the copies are safely in my apartment. Besides, my friend will not permit anything to happen to the originals. You can believe me.’

“I wanted to. Helen was looking searchingly at both our new acquaintances, and I wondered what she made of all this. ‘All right,’ I said.

“‘Come, my fellows.’ Turgut began to put away the documents, handling them with a tenderness I could not have equaled myself. ‘It seems to me we have much to discuss in private. I will take you to my apartment and we will talk there. I can also show you there some other materials on this topic I have collected. Let us not speak of these matters in the street. We will depart as visibly as possible and’-he nodded at the librarian- ‘we will leave our finest general in the breach.’ Mr. Erozan shook hands with each of us, locked the box with great care, and carried it away, disappearing with it among the bookshelves at the back of the hall. I watched until he was completely out of sight, and then I sighed out loud in spite of myself. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Rossi’s fate was still hidden in that box-almost, God forbid, that Rossi himself was entombed there-and that we had been unable to rescue him from it.

“Then we left the building, standing conspicuously on the steps for a few minutes, pretending to converse. My nerves felt shattered and Helen looked pale, but Turgut was composed. ‘If he is loitering around here somewhere,’ he said in a low voice, ‘the little sneak will know we are departing.’ He offered his arm to Helen, who took it with less reluctance than I would have predicted, and we set off together through the crowded streets. It was lunchtime, and the smells of roasting meat and baking bread rose everywhere around us, mingling with a dank smell that could have been coal smoke or diesel fuel, a smell I still remember sometimes without warning, and one that means for me the edge of the Eastern world. Whatever came next, I thought, it would be another riddle, as this whole place-I looked around me at the faces of the Turkish crowds, the slender spires of minarets on the horizon of every street, the ancient domes among the fig trees, the shops full of mysterious goods-was a riddle. The greatest riddle of all pulled at my heart again and made it ache: Where was Rossi? Was he here, in this city, or far away? Alive or dead, or something in between?”

Chapter 30

At4:02, Barley and I boarded the southern express to Perpignan. Barley swung his bag up the steep steps and reached out a hand to pull me up after him. There were fewer passengers on this train, and the compartment we found stayed empty even after the train pulled out. I was getting tired; if I’d been at home at this hour, Mrs. Clay would have been settling me at the kitchen table with a glass of milk and a slice of yellow cake. For a second I almost missed her annoying ministrations. Barley sat down next to me, although he had four other seats to choose from, and I tucked my hand under his sweatered arm. “I ought to study,” he said, but he didn’t open his book right away; there was too much to see as we picked up speed through the city. I thought of all the times I’d been here with my father-climbing Montmartre, or gazing in at the depressed camel in the Jardin des Plantes. It seemed now like a city I’d never seen before.

Watching Barley moving his lips over Milton made me sleepy, and when he said he wanted to go to the dining car for tea, I shook my head, drowsing. “You’re a wreck,” he told me, smiling. “You stay here and sleep, then, and I’ll take my book. We can always go back for dinner when you get hungry.”

My eyes closed almost as soon as he left the car, and when I opened them again I found I was curled up on the empty seat like a child, with my long cotton skirt pulled over my ankles. Someone was sitting on the opposite bench reading a newspaper, and it was not Barley. I sat up quickly. The man was readingLe Monde, and the spread of the paper hid the rest of him-I couldn’t see anything of his upper body or face. A black leather briefcase rested on the seat next to him.

For a split second I imagined it was my father, and a wave of gratitude and confusion went through me. Then I saw the man’s shoes, which were also black leather and very shiny, the toes perforated with elegant patterns, the leather laces ending in black tassels. The man’s legs were crossed, and he wore immaculate black suit trousers and fine black silk socks. Those were not my father’s shoes; in fact, there was something wrong with those shoes, or with the feet they contained, although I couldn’t understand what made me feel this. I thought that a strange man shouldn’t have come in while I was sleeping-there was something unpleasant about that, too, and I hoped he had not been watching me sleep. I wondered in my discomfort if I might be able to get up and open the door to the compartment without his noticing me. Suddenly I saw that he had drawn the curtains to the aisle. No one walking through the train could see us. Or had Barley drawn them before leaving, to let me sleep?

I snuck a glance at my watch. It was almost five o’clock. Outside, a tremendous landscape rolled by; we were entering the South. The man behind the newspaper was so still that I began to tremble in spite of myself. After a while I realized what was frightening me. I had been awake for many long minutes by now, but during all the time I had been watching and listening, he had not turned a single page of his newspaper.

“Turgut’s apartment was located in another part of Istanbul, on the Sea of Marmara, and we took a ferry there from the busy port called Eminönü. Helen stood at the rail, watching the seagulls that followed the boat, and looking back at the tremendous silhouette of the old city. I went to stand next to her, and Turgut pointed out spires and domes for us, his voice booming above the rumble of the engines. His neighborhood, we discovered when we disembarked, was more modern than what we’d seen before, butmodern in this case meant nineteenth century. As we walked along increasingly quiet streets, heading away from the ferry landing, I saw a second Istanbul, new to me: stately, drooping trees, fine stone and wooden houses, apartment buildings that could have been lifted from a Parisian neighborhood, neat sidewalks, pots of flowers, ornamented cornices. Here and there the old Islamic empire erupted in the form of a ruined arch or an isolated mosque, a Turkish house with an overhanging second story. But on Turgut’s street, the West had made a genteel and thorough sweep. Later I saw its counterparts in other cities- Prague and Sofia, Budapest and Moscow, Belgrade and Beirut. That borrowed elegance had been borrowed all over the East.

“‘Please to enter.’ Turgut stopped in front of a row of old houses, ushered us up the double front stair, and checked inside a little mailbox-apparently empty-that carried the namePROFESOR BORA. He opened the door and stepped aside. ‘Please, welcome to my abode, where everything is yours. I am sorry that my wife is out-she teaches at the nursery school.’

“We came first into a hall with a polished wooden floor and walls, where we followed Turgut in taking off our shoes and putting on the embroidered slippers he gave us. Then he showed us into a sitting room, and Helen sounded a low note of admiration, which I could not help echoing. The room was filled with a pleasant greenish light, mixed with soft pink and yellow. I realized after a moment that this was sunlight filtering through a blend of trees outside two large windows with hazy curtains of an old white lace. The room was lined with extraordinary furniture, very low, carved of dark wood, and cushioned in rich fabrics. Around three walls ran a bench heaped with lace-covered pillows. Above this, the whitewashed walls were lined with prints and paintings of Istanbul, a portrait of an old man in a fez and one of a younger man in a black suit, a framed parchment covered with fine Arabic calligraphy. There were fading sepia photographs of the city and cabinets lined with brass coffee services. The corners were filled with colorfully glazed vases brimming with roses. Underfoot lay deep rugs in crimson, rose, and soft green. In the very center of the room, a great round tray on legs stood empty, highly polished, as if waiting for the next meal.

“‘It is very beautiful,’ Helen said, turning to our host, and I remembered how lovely she could look when sincerity relaxed the hard lines around her mouth and eyes. ‘It is like theArabian Nights. ’

“Turgut laughed and waved off the compliment with a large hand, but he was clearly pleased. ‘That is my wife,’ he said. ‘She loves our old arts and crafts, and her family passed down to her many fine things. Perhaps there is even a little something from Sultan Mehmed’s empire here.’ He smiled at me. ‘I do not make the coffee as well as she does-that is what she tells me-but I will give you my best effort.’ He settled us on the low furniture, close together, and I thought with contentment about all those time-honored objects signifying comfort: cushion, divan, and-after all-ottoman.

“Turgut’s best effort turned out to be lunch, which he brought in from a small kitchen across the hall, refusing our earnest offers of help. How he had rustled up a meal in such a short time eluded my imagination-it must have been waiting for him there. He brought in trays of sauces and salads, a bowl of melon, a stew of meat and vegetables, skewers of chicken, the ubiquitous cucumber-and-yogurt mixture, coffee, and an avalanche of sweets rolled in almonds and honey. We ate heartily, and Turgut urged food on us until we were groaning. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I cannot let my wife think I have starved you.’ All this was followed by a glass of water with something white and sweet sitting on a plate next to it. ‘Attar of roses,’ Helen said, tasting it. ‘Very nice. They have this in Romania, too.’ She dropped a little of the white paste into her glass and drank it, and I followed suit. I wasn’t sure what the water might do to my digestion later, but it was not the moment for such worries.

“When we were nearly bursting, we leaned back against the low divans-I now understood their use, recovery after a large meal-and Turgut looked at us with satisfaction. ‘You are sure you have had enough?’ Helen laughed and I moaned a little, but Turgut refilled our glasses and coffee cups anyway. ‘Very good. Now, let us talk of the things we have not yet been able to discuss. First of all, I am astounded to think that you know Professor Rossi, too, but I do not yet understand your connection. He is your adviser, young man?’ And he sat down on an ottoman, leaning toward us with an expectant air.

“I glanced at Helen and she nodded slightly. I wondered if the attar of roses had softened her suspicions. ‘Well, Professor Bora, I’m afraid we have not been completely open with you up to this point,’ I confessed. ‘But, you see, we are on a peculiar mission and we have not known whom to trust.’

“‘I see.’ He smiled. ‘Perhaps you are wiser than you know.’

“That gave me pause, but Helen nodded again, and I continued. ‘Professor Rossi is of special interest to us, too, not only because he is my adviser but because of some information he communicated to us-to me-and because he has-well, he has disappeared.’

“Turgut’s gaze was piercing. ‘Disappeared, my friend?’

“‘Yes.’ Haltingly, I told him about my bond with Rossi, my work with him on my dissertation, and the strange book I’d found in my library carrel. When I began to describe the book, Turgut started up in his seat and struck his hands together but said nothing, only listening more intently. I went on to relate how I’d brought the book to Rossi, and the story he’d told me about finding a book of his own. Three books, I thought, pausing for breath. We knew of three of these strange books, now-a magic number. But exactly how were they related to one another, as they must be? I reported what Rossi had told me about his research in Istanbul -here Turgut shook his head as if baffled-and his discovery in the archive that the dragon image matched the outlines of the old maps.

“I told Turgut how Rossi had vanished, and about the grotesque shadow I had seen pass over his office window the evening he had disappeared, and how I’d begun the search for him on my own, at first only half believing his story. Here I paused again, this time to see what Helen would say, because I didn’t want to reveal her story without her permission. She stirred and looked quietly at me from the depths of the divan, and then to my surprise she picked up the tale herself and related to Turgut everything she had already told me, speaking in her low, sometimes harsh voice-the tale of her birth, her personal vendetta against Rossi, the intensity of her research on Dracula’s history, and her intention to search for his legend eventually in this very city. Turgut’s eyebrows rose to the edge of his pomaded hair. Her words, her deep, clear articulation, the obvious magnificence of her mind, and perhaps also the flush in her cheeks above the pale blue collar all brought an answering hue of admiration to his face-or so I thought, and for the first time since we’d met Turgut, I felt a twinge of hostility toward him.

“When Helen had rounded out the story, we all sat in silence for a moment. The green sunlight filtering into that beautiful room seemed to deepen around us, and a sense of further unreality crept over me. At last Turgut spoke. ‘Your experience is most remarkable, and I am grateful that you tell me it. And I am sorry to hear your family’s sad story, Miss Rossi. I still wish I knew why Professor Rossi was compelled to write to me that he did not know about our archive here, which seems a lie, does it not? But it is terrible, the disappearance of such a fine scholar. Professor Rossi was punished for something-or he is being punished right now, as we sit here.’

“The languorous feeling cleared from my head in an instant, as if a cold breeze had swept it away. ‘But what makes you so certain of this? And how on earth can we find him, if this is true?’

“‘I am a rationalist, like you,’ Turgut said quietly, ‘but I believe by my instinct what you say Professor Rossi told you that evening. And we have proof of his words in what the old librarian of the archive told me-that a foreign researcher was frightened away there-and in my finding Professor Rossi’s name in the registry. Not to mention the appearance of a fiend with blood -’ He stopped. ‘And now there is this dreadful aberration, his name-the name of his article-added somehow to the bibliography in the archive. It confounds me, that addition! You have done the right thing, my colleagues, to come to Istanbul. If Professor Rossi is here, we will find him. I have long wondered, myself, if Dracula’s tomb could be here in Istanbul. It seems to me that if someone has placed Rossi’s name very recently in that bibliography, then there is a good chance Rossi himself is here. And you believe that Rossi will be found at Dracula’s place of burial. I will devote myself entirely to your service in this matter. I feel-responsible to you in this.’

“‘Now I have a question for you.’ Helen narrowed her eyes at both of us. ‘Professor Bora, how did you come to be in our restaurant last night? It seems to me too much of a coincidence that you appeared when we had just arrived in Istanbul, looking for the archive you have been so much interested in all these years.’

“Turgut had risen, and now he took a small brass box from a side table and opened it, offering us cigarettes. I refused, but Helen took one and let Turgut light it for her. He lit one for himself, too, and sat down again, and they regarded each other, so that for a moment I felt subtly excluded. The tobacco had a delicate scent and was obviously very fine; I wondered if this was the Turkish luxury so famous in the United States. Turgut exhaled gently and Helen kicked off her slippers and drew her legs up under her, as if used to lounging on Eastern cushions. This was a side of her I hadn’t seen before, this easy grace under the spell of hospitality.

“At last Turgut spoke. ‘How did I come to meet you in the restaurant? I have asked myself this question several times, because I do not have an answer to it, either. But I can tell you in all honesty, my friends, that I did not know who you were or what you were doing in Istanbul when I sat down near your table. In fact, I often go to that place because it is my favorite in the old quarter, and I take a walk there sometimes between my classes. That day I went in almost without thinking about it, and when I saw no one but two strangers there, I felt lonely and did not want to sit by myself in the corner. My wife says I am a hopeless case of friend making.’

“He smiled and tapped the ash from his cigarette into a copper plate, which he pushed toward Helen. ‘But that is not such a bad habit, is it? In any case, when I saw your interest in my archive, I was surprised and moved, and now that I hear your more-than-remarkable story, I feel that somehow I am to be your assistance here in Istanbul. After all, why didyou come tomy favorite restaurant? Why did I go in there with my book for dinner? I see you are suspicious, madam, but I have no answer for you, except to say that the coincidence gives me hope. ”There are more things in heaven and earth -“’ He looked reflectively at both of us, and his face was open and sincere, and more than a little sad.

“Helen blew a cloud of Turkish smoke into the hazy sunlight. ‘All right, then,’ she said. ‘We shall hope. And now, what shall we do with our hope? We have seen the originals of the maps, and we have seen the bibliography of the Order of the Dragon, which Paul wanted so much to look at. But where does that put us?’

“‘Come with me,’ Turgut said abruptly. He rose to his feet, and the last languor of the afternoon vanished. Helen stubbed out her cigarette and rose, too, her sleeve brushing my hand. I followed. ‘Please come into my study for a moment.’ Turgut opened a door among the folds of antique wool and silk and stood politely aside.”

Chapter 31

Isat very, very still on my seat in the train, staring at the newspaper of the man who sat opposite me. I felt I should move around a little, act natural, or I might actually draw his attention, but he was so perfectly still that I began to imagine I had not even heard him breathe, and to find it difficult to breathe myself. After a moment my worst fear was realized: he spoke without lowering the newspaper. His voice was exactly like his shoes and perfectly tailored pants; he spoke to me in English with an accent I couldn’t place, although it had a flavor of French-or was I getting it mixed up with the headlines that danced on the outside ofLe Monde, scrambling themselves under my agonized gaze? Terrible things were happening in Cambodia, in Algeria, in places I had never heard of, and my French had improved too much this year. But the man was speaking from behind the print, without moving his paper a millimeter. My skin tingled as I listened, because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. His voice was quiet, cultivated. It asked a single question: “Where is your father, my dear?”

I tore myself from my seat and jumped toward the door; I heard his newspaper fall behind me, but all my concentration was on the latch. It was not locked. I got it open in a moment of transcendent fear. I slipped out without turning around and ran in the direction Barley had taken to the dining car. There were other people dotted mercifully here and there in the compartments, their curtains open, their books and newspapers and picnic baskets balanced beside them, their faces turning curiously toward me as I sped past. I couldn’t stop even to listen for footsteps behind me. I remembered suddenly that I’d left our valises in the compartment, on the overhead rack. Would he take those? Search them? My purse was on my arm; I had fallen asleep with it slipped over my wrist, as I always wore it in public.

Barley was in the dining car, at the far end, with his book open on a wide table. He had ordered tea and several other things, and it took him a moment to glance up from his little kingdom and register my presence. I must have looked wild, because he pulled me into the booth at once. “What is it?”

I put my face against his neck, struggling not to cry. “I woke up and there was a man in our compartment, reading the paper, and I couldn’t see his face.”

Barley put a hand in my hair. “A man with a newspaper? What are you so upset about?”

“He didn’t let me see his face at all,” I whispered, turning to look at the entrance to the dining car. There was no one there, no dark-suited figure entering to search it. “But he spoke to me behind the paper.”

“Yes?” Barley seemed to have discovered that he liked my curls.

“He asked me where my father was.”

“What?” Barley sat upright. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, in English.” I sat up, too. “I ran, and I don’t think he followed, but he’s on the train. I had to leave our bags there.”

Barley bit his lip; I half expected to see blood well up against his white skin. Then he signaled to the waiter, stood, conferred with him for a moment, and fished in his pockets for a large tip, which he left by his teacup. “Our next stop is Boulois,” he said. “It’s in sixteen minutes.”

“What about our bags?”

“You’ve got your purse and I have my wallet.” Barley suddenly stopped and stared at me. “The letters -”

“They’re in my purse,” I said quickly.

“Thank God. We might have to leave the rest of the luggage, but it doesn’t matter.” Barley took my hand, and we went through the end of the dining car-into the kitchen, to my surprise. The waiter hurried behind us, ushering us into a little niche near the refrigerators. Barley pointed; there was a door next to it. There we stood for sixteen minutes, I clutching my purse. It seemed only natural that we should stand holding each other tight, in that small space, like two refugees. Suddenly I remembered my father’s gift and put my hand up to it: the crucifix hung against my throat in what I knew was plain sight. No wonder that newspaper had never been lowered.

At last the train began to slow, the brakes shuddered and squealed, and we stopped. The waiter pushed a lever and the door near us opened. He gave Barley a conspiratorial grin; he probably thought this was a comedy of the heart, my irate father chasing us through the train, something of that sort. “Step off the train but stay right next to it,” Barley advised me in a low voice, and we inched together onto the pavement. There was a broad stucco station there, under silvery trees, and the air was warm and sweet. “Do you see him?”

I peered down the train until finally I saw someone far along the line among the disembarking passengers-a tall, broad-shouldered figure in black, with something wrong about his entirety, a shadowy quality that made my stomach lurch. He wore a low, dark hat now, so that I couldn’t see his face. He held a dark briefcase and a roll of white, perhaps the newspaper. “That’s him.” I tried not to point, and Barley drew me rapidly back on the steps.

“Stay out of sight. I’ll watch where he goes. He’s looking up and down.” Barley peered out while I cowered resolutely back, my heart pounding. He kept a hard grip on my arm. “All right-he’s walking the other way. No, he’s coming back. He’s looking in the windows. I think he’s going to get on the train again. God, he’s a cool one-checking his watch. He’s stepping up. Now he’s getting off again and coming this way. Get ready-we’re going to go back in and run the length of the train if we have to. Are you ready?”

At that moment, the fans whirred, the train gave a heave, and Barley swore. “Jesus, he’s getting back on. I think he just realized we didn’t really get off.” Suddenly Barley jerked me off the steps and onto the platform. Next to us the train heaved again and started up. Several of the passengers had put the windows down and leaned out to smoke or gaze around. Among them, several cars away, I saw a dark head turned in our direction, a man with his shoulders squared-he was full, I thought, of a cold fury. Then the train was picking up speed, pulling around a curve. I turned to Barley, and we glared at each other. Except for a few villagers sitting in the little rural station, we were alone in the middle of a French nowhere.

Chapter 32

“If I had expected Turgut’s study to be another Oriental dream, the haven of an Ottoman scholar, I had guessed wrong. The room into which he ushered us was much smaller than the large one we had just left, but high-ceilinged like it, and daylight from two windows showed the furnishings plainly. Two walls were lined top to bottom with books. Black velvet curtains hung to the floor beside each window, and a tapestry of horses and hounds riding to the chase gave a feeling of medieval splendor to the room. Piles of English reference books lay on a table in the center of the study; an immense set of Shakespeare took up its own curious cabinet near the desk.

“But the first impression I had of Turgut’s study was not one of the preeminence of English literature; I had instead the immediate sense of a darker presence, an obsession that had gradually overcome the milder influence of the English works he wrote about. This presence leaped out at me suddenly as a face, a face that was everywhere, meeting my gaze with arrogance from a print behind the desk, from a stand on the table, from an odd piece of embroidery on one wall, from the cover of a portfolio, from a sketch near the window. It was the same face in every case, caught in different poses and different media, but always the same gaunt-cheeked, mustached, medieval visage.

“Turgut was watching me. ‘Ah, you know who this is,’ he said grimly. ‘I have collected him in many forms, as you can see.’ We stood side by side looking at the framed print on the wall behind the desk. It was a reproduction of a woodcut like the one I’d seen at home, but the face was fully frontal, so that the ink-dark eyes seemed to bore into ours.

“‘Where did you find all these different images?’ I asked.

“‘Anywhere I could.’ Turgut gestured toward the folio on the table. ‘Sometimes I had them sketched from old books, and sometimes I found them in antique shops, or at auctions. It is extraordinary how many pictures of his face still float loose in our city, once you are watching out for them. I felt that if I could gather them all, I might be able to read the secret of my strange empty book in his eyes.’ He sighed. ‘But these woodcuts are so crude, so-black and white. I could not be satisfied with them, and finally I asked a friend of mine who is an artist to blend them all into one for me.’

“He led us to a niche by one window, where short curtains, also black velvet, were drawn closed over something. I felt a kind of dread even before he put his hand up to pull the cord, and when the cleverly made drapery parted under his grasp, my heart seemed to turn over. The velvet opened to reveal a life-size and radiantly lifelike painting in oils, the head and shoulders of a young, thick-necked, virile man. His hair was long; heavy black curls tumbled around his shoulders. The face was handsome and cruel in the extreme, with luminously pale skin, unnaturally bright green eyes, a long straight nose with flaring nostrils. His red lips were curved and sensual under a drooping dark mustache, but also tightly compressed as if to control a twitching of the chin. He had sharp cheekbones and heavy black eyebrows below a peaked cap of dark green velvet, with a brown-and-white feather threaded into the front. It was a face full of life but completely devoid of compassion, brimming with strength and alertness but without stability of character. The eyes were the most unnerving feature of the painting; they fixed us with a penetration almost alive in its intensity, and after a second I looked away for relief. Helen, standing next to me, moved a little closer to my shoulder, more as if to offer solidarity than to comfort herself.

“‘My friend is a very fine artist,’ Turgut said softly. ‘You can see why I keep this painting behind a curtain. I do not like to look at it while I work.’ He might have said instead that he didn’t like the painting to look at him, I thought. ‘This is an idea of how Vlad Dracula appeared around 1456, when he began his longest rule of Wallachia. He was twenty-five years old and well-educated by the standard of his culture, and he was a very good horseman. In the next twenty years, he killed perhaps fifteen thousand of his own people-sometimes for political reasons, often for the pleasure of watching them die.’

“Turgut closed the curtain, and I was glad to see those terrible bright eyes extinguished. ‘I have some other curiosities here to show you,’ he said, indicating a wooden cabinet on the wall. ‘This is a seal from the Order of the Dragon, which I found in an antiques market down near the old city port. And this is a dagger, made of silver, that comes from the early Ottoman era of Istanbul. It is my belief that it was used to hunt vampires, because there are words on the sheath that indicate something like this. These chains and spikes’-he showed us another cabinet-‘were instruments of torture, I’m afraid, maybe from Wallachia itself. And here, my fellows, is a prize.’ From the edge of his desk he took a beautifully inlaid wooden box and unhooked the clasp. Inside, among folds of rusty black satin, lay several sharp tools that looked like surgical instruments, as well as a tiny silver pistol and a silver knife.

“‘What is that?’ Helen reached a tentative hand toward the box, then drew it back.

“‘It is an authentic vampire-hunting kit, one hundred years old,’ Turgut reported proudly. ‘I believe it to be from Bucharest. A friend of mine who is a collector of antiques found it for me several years ago. There were many of these-they were sold to travelers in Eastern Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It originally had garlic in it, here in this space, but I hang mine up.’ He pointed, and I saw with a new chill the long braids of dried garlic on either side of the doorway, facing his desk. It occurred to me, as it had with Rossi only a week earlier, that perhaps Professor Bora was not merely thorough but also mad.

“Years later I understood better this first reaction in myself, the wariness I felt when I saw Turgut’s study, which might have been a room in Dracula’s castle, a medieval closet complete with instruments of torture. It is a fact that we historians are interested in what is partly a reflection of ourselves, perhaps a part of ourselves we would rather not examine except through the medium of scholarship; it is also true that as we steep ourselves in our interests, they become more and more a part of us. Visiting an American university-not mine-several years after this, I was introduced to one of the first of the great American historians of Nazi Germany. He lived in a comfortable house at the edge of the campus, where he collected not only books on his topic but also the official china of the Third Reich. His dogs, two enormous German shepherds, patrolled the front yard day and night. Over drinks with other faculty members in his living room, he told me in no uncertain terms how he despised Hitler’s crimes and wanted to expose them in the greatest possible detail to the civilized world. I left the party early, walking carefully past those big dogs, unable to shake my revulsion.

“‘Maybe you think this is too much,’ Turgut said a little apologetically, as if he had caught sight of my expression. He was still pointing at the garlic. ‘It is just that I do not like to sit here surrounded by these evil thoughts of the past without protections, you know? And now, let me show you what I have brought you in here to see.’

“He invited us to sit down on some rickety chairs upholstered in damask. The back of mine seemed to be inlaid with a piece of-was it bone? I didn’t lean against it. Turgut pulled a heavy file from one of the bookcases. Out of it he took hand-drawn copies of the documents we had been examining in the archives-sketches similar to Rossi’s except that these had been made with greater care-and then drew out a letter, which he handed to me. It was typed on university letterhead and signed by Rossi-there could be no doubt of the signature, I thought; its coiling B and R were perfectly familiar to me. And Rossi had certainly been teaching in the United States by the time it had been penned. The few lines of the letter ran as Turgut had described; he, Rossi, knew nothing about Sultan Mehmed’s archive. He was sorry to disappoint and hoped Professor Bora’s work would prosper. It was truly a puzzling letter.

“Next Turgut brought out a small book bound in ancient leather. It was difficult for me not to reach for it at once, but I waited in a fever of self-control while Turgut gently opened it and showed us first the blank leaves in front and back and then the woodcut in the center-that already familiar outline, the crowned dragon with its wickedly spread wings, its claws holding the banner with that one, threatening word. I opened my briefcase, which I had brought in with me, and took out my own book. Turgut put the two volumes side by side on the desk. Each of us compared his treasure with the other’s evil gift, and we saw together that the two dragons were the same, his filling the pages to their edges, the image darker, mine more faded, but the same, the same. There was even a similar smudge near the tip of the dragon’s tail, as if the woodcut had had a rough place there that had smeared the ink a little with each printing. Helen brooded over them, silently.

“‘It is remarkable,’ Turgut breathed at last. ‘I never dreamed of such a day, when I would see a second book like this.’

“‘And hear of a third,’ I reminded him. ‘This is the third book like this I’ve seen with my own eyes, remember. The woodcut in Rossi’s was the same, too.’

“He nodded. ‘And what, my fellows, can this mean?’ But he was already spreading his copies of the maps next to our books and comparing with a large finger the outlines of dragons and river and mountains. ‘Amazing,’ he murmured. ‘To think I never saw this myself. It is indeed similar. A dragon that is a map. But a map of what?’ His eyes gleamed.

“‘That is what Rossi was trying to figure out in the archives here,’ I said with a sigh. ‘If only he had taken more steps, later, to find out its significance.’

“‘Perhaps he did.’ Helen’s voice was thoughtful, and I turned to her to ask what she meant. At that moment, the door between the weird braids of garlic swung further open and we both jumped. Instead of some horrible apparition, however, a small, smiling lady in a green dress stood in the doorway. It was Turgut’s wife, and we all rose to meet her.

“‘Good afternoon, my dear.’ Turgut drew her quickly in. ‘These are my friends, the professors from the United States, as I told you.’

“He made gallant introductions all around, and Mrs. Bora shook our hands with an affable smile. She was exactly half Turgut’s size, with long-lashed green eyes, a delicately hooked nose, and a swirl of reddish curls. ‘I am very sorry I do not meet you here before.’ Her English was slowly and carefully pronounced. ‘Probably my husband does not give you any food, no?’

“We protested that we had been beautifully fed, but she shook her head. ‘Mr. Bora is never giving our guests the good dinner. I will-scold him!’ She shook a tiny fist at her husband, who looked pleased.

“‘I am dreadfully frightened of my wife,’ he told us complacently. ‘She is as fierce as an Amazon.’ Helen, who towered over Mrs. Bora, smiled at both of them; they were indeed irresistible.

“‘And now,’ Mrs. Bora said, ‘he bores you with his terrible collections. I am sorry.’ Within minutes we were settled on the rich divans again, and Mrs. Bora was pouring coffee. I saw that she was quite beautiful, in a birdlike, delicate way, a woman of quiet manners, perhaps forty years old. Her English was limited, but she deployed it with graceful good humor, as if her husband frequently dragged home English-speaking visitors. Her dress was simple and elegant and her gestures exquisite. I imagined the nursery-school children she taught clustering around her-they must surely come up to her chin, I thought. I wondered if she and Turgut had children of their own; there were no photographs of children in the room, or any other evidence of them, and I did not like to ask.

“‘Did my husband give you a good tour of our city?’ Mrs. Bora was asking Helen.

“‘Yes, some of it,’ Helen answered. ‘I’m afraid we have taken a lot of his time today.’

“‘No-it is I who have taken much of yours.’ Turgut sipped his coffee with obvious pleasure. ‘But we still have a great deal of work to do. My dear’-to his wife-‘we are going to look for a missing professor, so I shall be busy for a few days.’

“‘A missing professor?’ Mrs. Bora smiled calmly at him. ‘All right. But we must eat dinner first. I hope that you will eat dinner?’ She turned to us.

“The thought of more food was impossible, and I was careful not to meet Helen’s eye. Helen, however, seemed to find all this normal. ‘Thank you, Mrs. Bora. You are very kind, but we should return to our hotel, I think, because we have an appointment there at five o’clock.’

“We did? This was perplexing, but I played along. ‘That’s right. Some other Americans are coming for a drink. But we hope to see you both again right away.’

“Turgut nodded. ‘I shall immediately look through everything in my library here that might be of help to us. We must think about the possibility that Dracula’s tomb is in Istanbul -whether these maps perhaps refer to an area of the city. I have a few old books about the city here, and friends who have fine collections about Istanbul. I will search everything for you tonight.’

“‘Dracula.’ Mrs. Bora shook her head. ‘I like Shakespeare better than Dracula. A more healthier interest. Also’-she gave us a mischievous glance-‘Shakespeare pays our bills.’

“They saw us out with great ceremony, and Turgut made us promise to meet him at our pension the next morning at nine o’clock. He would bring new information, if he could, and we would visit the archive again to see if there were any developments there. In the meantime, he warned, we should exercise the greatest caution, watching everywhere for signs of pursuit or other danger. Turgut wanted to accompany us all the way back to our lodgings, but we assured him that we could take the ferry back by ourselves-it left in twenty minutes, he said. The Boras showed us out the front door of the building and stood together on the steps, hand in hand, calling out good-byes. I glanced back once or twice as we made our way along the street’s tunnel of figs and lindens. ‘That’s a happy marriage, I think,’ I commented to Helen, and was immediately sorry, because she gave her characteristic snort.

“‘Come on, Yankee,’ she said. ‘We have some new business to attend to.’

“Normally I would have smiled at her epithet for me, but this time something made me turn and look at her with a deep shudder. There was another thought that belonged to this strange afternoon visit, one I had suppressed until the last possible moment. Looking at Helen as she turned to me with her level gaze, I was unavoidably struck by the similarity between her strong yet fine features and that luminous, appalling image behind Turgut’s curtain.”

Chapter 33

When the Perpignan express had disappeared completely beyond the silvery trees and village roofs, Barley shook himself. “Well, he’s on that train, and we’re not.”

“Yes,” I said, “and he knows exactly where we are.”

“Not for very long.” Barley marched over to the ticket window-where one old man seemed to be falling asleep on his feet-but soon came back looking chastened. “The next train to Perpignan isn’t until tomorrow morning,” he reported. “And there’s no bus service to a major town until tomorrow afternoon. There’s only one boarding room at a farm about half a kilometer outside the village. We can sleep there and walk back for the morning train.”

Either I could get angry or I was going to cry. “Barley, I can’t wait till tomorrow morning to take a train to Perpignan! We’ll lose too much time.”

“Well, there’s nothing else,” Barley told me irritably. “I asked about cabs, cars, farm trucks, donkey carts, hitchhiking-what else do you want me to do?”

We walked through the village in silence. It was late afternoon, a sleepy, warm day, and everyone we saw in doorways or gardens seemed half stupefied, as if he or she had fallen under a spell. The farmhouse, when we reached it, had a hand-painted sign outside and a sale table with eggs, cheese, and wine. The woman who came out-wiping her hands on her proverbial apron-looked unsurprised to see us. When Barley introduced me as his sister, she smiled pleasantly and didn’t ask questions, even though we had no luggage with us. Barley asked if she had room for two and she said,“Oui, oui,”on the in-breath, as if she were talking to herself. The farmyard was hard-packed dirt, with a few flowers, scratching hens, and a row of plastic buckets under the eaves, and the stone barns and house huddled around it in a friendly, haphazard way. We could have our dinner in the garden behind the house, the farmwife explained, and our room would be next to the garden, in the oldest part of the building.

We followed our hostess silently through the low-beamed farm kitchen and into a little wing where the cooking help might once have slept. The bedroom was fitted up with two little beds on opposite walls, I was relieved to see, and a great wooden clothes chest. The washroom next door had a painted toilet and sink. Everything was immaculately clean, the curtains starchy, the ancient needlework on one wall bleached with sunlight. I went into the bathroom and splashed my face with cold water while Barley paid the woman.

When I came out, Barley suggested a walk; it would be an hour before she could have our dinner ready. I didn’t like to leave the sheltering arms of the farmyard at first, but outside the lane was cool under spreading trees, and we walked by the ruins of what must have been a very fine house. Barley pulled himself over the fence and I followed. The stones had tumbled down, making a map of the original walls, and one remaining dilapidated tower gave the place a look of past grandeur. There was some hay in the half-open barn, as if that building was still used for storage. A great beam had fallen in among the stalls.

Barley sat down in the ruins and looked at me. “Well, I see you’re furious,” he said provokingly. “You don’t mind my saving you from immediate danger, but not if it’s going to inconvenience you afterward.”

His nastiness took my breath away for a moment. “How dare you,” I said finally, and walked away among the stones. I heard Barley get up and follow me.

“Would you have wanted to stay on that train?” he asked in a slightly more civil voice.

“Of course not.” I kept my face turned from him. “But you know as well as I do that my father may already be at Saint-Matthieu.”

“But Dracula, or whoever he is, isn’t there yet.”

“He’s a day ahead of us now,” I retorted, looking across the fields. The village church showed above a distant row of poplars; it was all as serene as a painting, missing only the goats or cows.

“In the first place,” Barley said (and I hated him for his didactic tone), “we don’t know who that was on the train. Maybe it wasn’t the villain himself. He has his minions, according to your father’s letters, right?”

“Even worse,” I said. “If that was one of his minions, then maybe he’s at Saint-Matthieu already himself.”

“Or,” said Barley, but he stopped. I knew he had been about to say, “Or perhaps he’s here, with us.”

“We did indicate exactly where we were getting off,” I said, to save him the trouble.

“Who’s being nasty now?” Barley came up behind me and put one rather awkward arm around my shoulders, and I realized that he had at least been speaking as if he believed my father’s story. The tears that had been struggling to stay under my lids spilled over and rolled down my face. “Come, now,” said Barley. When I put my head on his shoulder, his shirt was warm from sun and perspiration. After a moment I pulled away, and we went back to our silent dinner in the farmhouse garden.

“Helen wouldn’t say more during our journey back to the pension, so I contented myself with watching the passersby for any signs of hostility, looking around and behind us from time to time to see if we were being followed by anyone. By the time we reached our rooms again, my mind had reverted to our frustrating lack of information about how to search for Rossi. How was a list of books, some of them apparently not even extant, going to help us?

“‘Come to my room,’ Helen said unceremoniously as soon as we’d reached the pension. ‘We need to talk in private.’ Her lack of maidenly scruple would have amused me at another moment, but just now her face was so grimly determined that I could only wonder what she had in mind. Nothing could have been less seductive, anyway, than her expression at that moment. In her room, the bed was neatly made and her few belongings apparently stowed out of sight. She sat down on the window seat and gestured to a chair. ‘Look,’ she said, pulling off her gloves and taking off her hat, ‘I’ve been thinking about something. It seems to me we have reached a real barrier to finding Rossi.’

“I nodded glumly. ‘That’s just what I’ve been puzzling over for the last half hour. But maybe Turgut will turn up some information for us among his friends.’

“She shook her head. ‘It is a wild duck chase.’

“‘Goose,’ I said, but without enthusiasm.

“‘Goose chase,’ she amended. ‘I have been thinking that we are neglecting a very important source of information.’

“I stared at her. ‘What’s that?’

“‘My mother,’ she said flatly. ‘You were right when you asked me about her, while we were still in the United States. I have been thinking about her all day. She knew Professor Rossi long before you did, and I never truly asked her about him after she first told me he was my father. I don’t know why not, except that it was clearly a painful subject for her. Also’-she sighed-‘my mother is a simple person. I did not think she could add to my knowledge of Rossi’s work. Even when she told me last year that Rossi believed in Dracula’s existence, I did not press her much-I know how superstitious she is. But now I wonder if she knows anything that might help us find him.’

“Hope had leaped up in me with her first words. ‘But how can we talk with her? I thought you said she had no phone.’

“‘She doesn’t.’

“‘Then-what?’

“Helen pressed her gloves together and slapped them smartly against her knee. ‘We will have to go see her in person. She lives in a small town outside Budapest.’

“‘What?’ Now it was my turn to be irritable. ‘Oh, very simple. We just hop a train with your Hungarian passport and my-oops-American passport, and drop by to chat with one of your relatives about Dracula.’

“Unexpectedly, Helen smiled. ‘There is no reason to be so bad tempered, Paul,’ she said. ‘We have a proverb in Hungarian: ”If a thing is impossible, it can be done.“’

“I had to laugh. ‘All right,’ I said. ‘What’s your plan? I’ve noticed you always have one.’

“‘Yes, I have.’ She smoothed out her gloves. ‘Actually, I am hoping my aunt will have a plan.’

“‘Your aunt?’

“Helen glanced out the window, toward the mellowed stucco of the old houses across the street. It was nearly evening, and the Mediterranean light I had already come to love was deepening to gold on every surface of the city outside. ‘My aunt has worked in the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior since 1948, and she is a rather important lady. I got my scholarships because of her. In my country, you do not accomplish anything without an aunt or an uncle. She is my mother’s older sister, and she and her husband helped my mother flee from Romania to Hungary, where she-my aunt-was already living, just before I was born. We are very close, my aunt and I, and she will do whatever I ask her. Unlike my mother, she has a telephone, and I think I will call her.’

“‘You mean, she could bring your mother to the phone somehow to talk with us?’

“Helen groaned. ‘Oh, Lord, do you think that we can talk with them on the phone about anything private or controversial?’

“‘I’m sorry,’ I said.

“‘No. We will go there in person. My aunt will arrange it. That way we can talk face-to-face with my mother. Besides’-something gentler crept into her voice-‘they will be so glad to see me. It is not very far from here, and I have not seen them for two years.’

“‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m willing to try almost anything for Rossi, although it’s hard for me to imagine just waltzing into communist Hungary.’

“‘Ah,’ said Helen. ‘Then it will be even harder for you to imagine waltzing, as you say, into communist Romania?’

“This time I was silent for a moment. ‘I know,’ I said at last. ‘I’ve been thinking about it, too. If Dracula’s tomb turns out not to be in Istanbul, where else could it be?’

“We sat for a minute, each of us lost in thought and impossibly far from the other, and then Helen stirred. ‘I will see if the landlady can let us call from downstairs,’ she said. ‘My aunt will be home from work soon, and I would like to talk with her immediately.’

“‘May I come with you?’ I inquired. ‘After all, this concerns me, too.’

“‘Certainly.’ Helen pulled on her gloves, and we went down to corner the landlady in her parlor. It took us ten minutes to explain our intentions, but the production of a few extra Turkish liras, with the promise of payment in full for the phone call, smoothed the way. Helen sat on a chair in the parlor and dialed through a maze of numbers. At last I saw her face brighten. ‘It’s ringing.’ She smiled at me, her beautiful, frank smile. ‘My aunt is going to hate this,’ she said. Then her face changed again, to alertness. ‘Éva?’ she said. ‘Elena!’

“Listening carefully, I realized that she must be speaking Hungarian; I knew at least that Romanian was a Romance language, so I thought I might have understood a few words. But what Helen was speaking sounded like the galloping of horses, a Finno-Ugric stampede that I could not arrest with my ear for even a second. I wondered if she ever spoke Romanian with her family, or if perhaps that part of their lives had died long before, under the pressure to assimilate. Her tones rose and fell, interrupted sometimes by a smile and sometimes by a small frown. Her aunt Éva, on the other end, seemed to have a great deal to say, and sometimes Helen listened deeply, then broke in with those strange syllabic hoofbeats again.

“Helen seemed to have forgotten my presence, but she suddenly raised her glance to me again and gave a wry little smile and a triumphant nod, as if the outcome of her conversation was favorable. She smiled into the receiver and hung up. Immediately our concierge was upon us, apparently worried about her phone bill, and I quickly counted out the agreed-upon amount, added a little, and deposited it in her outstretched hands. Helen was already on her way back to her room, beckoning to me to follow; I thought her secrecy unnecessary, but what did I know, after all?

“‘Quick, Helen,’ I groaned, settling into the armchair again. ‘The suspense is killing me.’

“‘It’s good news,’ she said calmly. ‘I knew my aunt would try to help in the end.’

“‘What on earth did you tell her?’

“She grinned. ‘Well, there’s only so much I could say on the telephone, and I had to be quite formal about it. But I told her I am in Istanbul on academic research with a colleague and that we need five days in Budapest to conclude our research. I explained that you are an American professor and that we are writing a joint article.’

“‘On what?’ I asked with some apprehension.

“‘On labor relations in Europe under the Ottoman occupation.’

“‘Not bad. But I don’t know a thing about that.’

“‘It’s all right.’ Helen brushed some lint from the knee of her neat black skirt. ‘I’ll tell you a little about it.’

“‘You do take after your father.’ Her casual erudition had reminded me suddenly of Rossi, and the comment was out of my mouth before I’d thought about it. I glanced quickly at her, afraid I had somehow offended. It struck me that this was the first time I’d found myself thinking of her quite naturally as Rossi’s daughter, as if at some point unknown even to myself I’d accepted the idea.

“Helen surprised me by looking sad. ‘It is a good argument for genetics over environment’ was all she said. ‘Anyway, Éva sounded annoyed, especially when I told her that you are an American. I knew she would be, because she always thinks I am impulsive and that I take too many risks. Of course, I do. And, of course, she needed to sound annoyed at first, to make it all right on the telephone.’

“‘To make it all right?’

“‘She has to think of her job and status. But she said she would fix something up for us, and I’m supposed to call her again tomorrow night. So that is that. She is very clever, my aunt, so I have no doubt she will find a way. We will get some round-trip tickets to Budapest from Istanbul, maybe the airplane, when we hear more.’

“I sighed inwardly, thinking of the probable expense and wondering how long my funds would hold out in this chase, but I said only, ‘It seems to me she’ll have to be a miracle worker to get me into Hungary and keep us out of trouble along the way.’

“Helen laughed. ‘Sheis a miracle worker. That is why I am not at home working in the cultural center in my mother’s village.’

“We went downstairs again and, as if by mutual consent, drifted out to the street. ‘There’s not much to do just now,’ I mused. ‘We’ve got to wait until tomorrow for results from Turgut and your aunt. I have to say that I find all this waiting difficult. What shall we do, in the meantime?’

“Helen thought a minute, standing in the deepening gold light of the street. She had her gloves and hat firmly on again, but the low rays of sunlight picked out a little red in her black hair. ‘I would like to see more of this city,’ she said finally. ‘After all, I may never come here again. Shall we go back to Hagia Sophia? We could walk around that area a little before dinner.’

“‘Yes, I’d like that too.’ We did not speak again during our walk to the great building, but as we drew near it and I saw its domes and minarets filling the streetscape again, I felt our silence deepen, as if we were walking closer together. I wondered whether Helen felt it, too, and whether it was the spell of the enormous church reaching out to us in our smallness. I was still pondering what Turgut had told us the day before-his belief that Dracula had somehow left a curse of vampirism in the great city. ‘Helen,’ I said, although I was half loath to break the quiet between us. ‘Don’t you think he could have been buried here-here in Istanbul? That would explain Sultan Mehmed’s anxiety about him after his death, wouldn’t it?’

“‘He? Ah, yes.’ She nodded, as if approving my not speaking that name in the street. ‘That is an interesting idea, but wouldn’t Mehmed have known about it, and wouldn’t Turgut have found some evidence of it? I cannot believe such a thing could have been hidden here for centuries.’

“‘It’s also hard to believe that Mehmed would have permitted one of his enemies to be buried in Istanbul, if he’d known about it.’

“She appeared to brood on this. We had almost reached the great entrance to Hagia Sophia.

“‘Helen,’ I said slowly.

“‘Yes?’ We stopped among the people, the tourists and the pilgrims flocking in through the vast gate. I moved close to her so that I could speak very quietly, almost in her ear.

“‘If there’s some chance that the tomb is here, it could mean Rossi is here, too.’

“She turned and looked into my face. Her eyes were lustrous, and there were fine lines of age and worry between her dark eyebrows. ‘But of course, Paul.’

“‘I read in the guidebook that Istanbul has underground ruins, too-catacombs, cisterns, that kind of thing-like Rome. We have at least a day before we leave-maybe we could talk with Turgut about it.’

“‘That is not such a bad idea,’ Helen said softly. ‘The palace of the Byzantine emperors must have had an underground area.’ She almost smiled, but her hand went up to the scarf at her neck, as if something troubled her there. ‘In any case, whatever is left of the palace must be full of evil spirits-emperors who blinded their cousins and that kind of thing. Exactly the right company.’

“Because we were reading so closely the thoughts written on each other’s faces, and contemplating together the strange, vast hunt they might lead to, I failed at first to look hard at the figure that seemed suddenly to be looking hard at me. Besides, it was no tall and menacing specter but rather a small, slight man, ordinary among those crowds, hovering about twenty feet away against the wall of the church.

“Then, in an instant of shock, I recognized the little scholar with the shaggy gray beard, crocheted white cap, and drab shirt and pants who had come into the archive that morning. But the next second brought a much greater shock. The man had made the mistake of gazing at me so intently that I could suddenly see him head-on through the crowd. Then he was gone, disappearing like a spirit among the cheerful tourists. I dashed forward, almost knocking Helen over, but it was no use. The man had vanished; he had seen me see him. His face, between the awkward beard and new cap, had been indisputably a face from my university at home. I’d last looked at it just before it was covered by a sheet. It was the face of the dead librarian.”

Chapter 34

Ihave several photographs of my father from the period just before he left the United States to search for Rossi, although when I first saw those images during my childhood, I knew nothing about what they preceded. One of them, which I had framed a few years ago and which now hangs above my writing desk, is a black-and-white image from an era when black and white was being edged out by the color snapshot. It shows my father as I never knew him. He looks directly into the camera, his chin raised a little as if he’s about to respond to something the photographer is saying. Who the photographer was I will never know; I forgot to ask my father if he remembered. It couldn’t have been Helen, but perhaps it was some other friend, some fellow graduate student. In 1952-only the date is recorded in my father’s hand on the back of the photo-he had been a graduate student for a year and had already begun his research on the Dutch merchants.

In the photograph my father seems to be posing next to a university building, judging by the Gothic stonework in the background. He has one foot jauntily up on a bench, his arm slung over it, hand dangling gracefully near his knee. He wears a white or light colored dress shirt and a tie of diagonal stripes, dark creased trousers, shiny shoes. He has the same build I remember from his later life-average height, average shoulders, a trimness that was pleasant but not remarkable and that he never lost in middle age. His deep-set eyes are gray in the photo but were dark blue in life. With those sunken eyes and bushy eyebrows, the prominent cheekbones, thick nose, and wide thick lips parted in a smile, he has a rather simian look-a look of animal intelligence. If the photograph were color, his slicked-down hair would be bronze in the sunlight; I know about that color only because he described it to me once. When I knew him, from as early as I could remember, his hair was white.

“That night, in Istanbul, I took the full measure of a sleepless night. For one thing, the horror of that moment when I first saw a dead face alive and tried to comprehend what I had seen-that moment alone would have kept me awake. For another thing, knowing that the dead librarian had seen me and then disappeared made me feel the terrible vulnerability of the papers in my briefcase. He knew that Helen and I possessed a copy of the map. Had he appeared in Istanbul because he was following us, or had he somehow figured out that the original of this map was here? Or, if he hadn’t deciphered this on his own, was he privy to some source of knowledge I did not know about? He had looked at the documents in Sultan Mehmed’s collection at least once. Had he seen the original maps there and copied them? I couldn’t answer these riddles, and I certainly couldn’t risk dozing, when I thought of the creature’s lust for our copy of the map, the way he had leaped on Helen to strangle her for it in the library stacks at home. The fact that he had bitten Helen there, had perhaps acquired a taste for her, made me even more nervous.

“If all this had not been enough to keep me wide-eyed that night while the hours passed more and more quietly, there was the sleeping face not far from my own-but not so close, either. I had insisted that Helen sleep in my bed while I sat up in the shabby armchair. If my eyelids drooped once or twice, a glance at that strong, grave face sent a wave of anxiety through me, bracing as cold water. Helen had wanted to stay in her own room-what, after all, would the concierge think, if she found out about this arrangement?-but I had pressed her until she agreed, if irritably, to rest under my watchful eye. I had seen too many movies, or read too many novels, to doubt that a lady left alone for a few hours at night might be the fiend’s next intended victim. Helen was tired enough to sleep, as I could see from the deepening shadows under her eyes, and I had the faintest sense that she was frightened, too. That whiff of fear from her scared me more than another woman’s sobs of terror would have and sent a subtle caffeine through my veins. Perhaps, too, something in the languor and softness of her usually haughtily erect form, her diurnal broad-shouldered definiteness, kept my own eyes open. She lay on her side, one hand under my pillow, her curls darker than ever against its whiteness.

“I could not bring myself to read or write. Certainly I had no desire to open my briefcase, which in any case I had pushed under the bed where Helen slept. But the hours wore on, and there was no mysterious scratching in the corridor, no snuffling through the keyhole, no smoke pouring silently in under the door, no beating of wings at the window. Finally a little grayness pervaded the dim room, and Helen sighed as if sensing the coming day. Then a hand span of sunlight made its way through the shutters, and she stirred. I took my jacket, slid the briefcase out from under the bed as quietly as I could, and went tactfully away to wait for her in the entrance downstairs.

“It was not yet six o’clock, but a smell of strong coffee came from somewhere in the house, and to my surprise I found Turgut sitting on one of the embroidered chairs, a black portfolio across his lap. He looked amazingly fresh and wide-awake, and when I entered he jumped up to shake my hand. ‘Good morning, my friend. Thank the gods I have found you immediately.’

“‘I’m thankful to them, too, that you’re here,’ I responded, sinking into a chair near him. ‘But what on earth brings you so early?’

“‘Ah, I could not stay away when I have news for you.’

“‘I have news for you, too,’ I said grimly. ‘You go first, Dr. Bora.’

“‘Turgut,’ he corrected me absently. ‘Look here.’ He began to undo the string on the portfolio. ‘As I promised you, I went through my papers last night. I have made copies of the material in the archives, as you have seen, and I have also collected many different accounts of events in Istanbul during the period of Vlad’s life and directly after his death.’

“He sighed. ‘Some of these papers mention mysterious occurrences in the city, deaths, rumors of vampirism. I have also collected any information I could from books that might tell me about the Order of the Dragon in Wallachia. But nowhere last night could I find anything new. Then I called my friend Selim Aksoy. He is not at the university-he is a shopkeeper-but he is a very learned man. He knows more about books than anyone in Istanbul, and especially about all books that tell the history and legends of our city. He is a very gracious person, and he gave me much of the evening to look through his own library with me. I asked him to seek for me any trace of a burial of someone from Wallachia here in Istanbul in the late fifteenth century, or any clue that there might be a tomb here somehow connected with Wallachia, Transylvania, or the Order of the Dragon. I also showed him-not for the first time-my copies of the maps, and my dragon book, and I explained to him your theory that those images represent a location, the location of the Impaler’s tomb.

“‘Together we turned through many, many pages about the history of Istanbul, and looked at old prints, and at the notebooks in which he copies so many things he finds in libraries and museums. He is most industrious, is Selim Aksoy. He has no wife, no family, no other interests. The story of Istanbul eats him up. We worked late into the night, because his personal library is so large that even he has never dived to the bottom of it and could not tell me what we might discover. At last we found a strange thing-a letter-reprinted in a volume of correspondence between the ministers of the sultan’s court and many outposts of the Empire in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Selim Aksoy told me that he bought this book from a bookseller in Ankara. It was printed in the nineteenth century, compiled by one of our own historians from Istanbul who was interested in all the records of that period. Selim told me he has never seen another copy of this book.’

“I waited patiently, sensing the importance of all this background, noting Turgut’s thoroughness. For a literary scholar, he made a damned good historian.

“‘No, Selim does not know this book from any other edition, but he believes the documents reproduced in it are not-how do you say?-forgeries, because he has seen one of these letters in the original, in the same collection we visited yesterday. He is also very adoring of that archive, you know, and I often meet him there.’ He smiled. ‘Well, in this book, when our eyes were almost closing with fatigue, and the dawn was about to arrive, we found a letter that may have some importance for your search. The collector who printed it believed it to be from the late fifteenth century. I have translated it for you here.’

“Turgut pulled a sheet of notebook paper from his portfolio. ‘The earlier letter to which this letter refers is not in the book, alas. God knows it is probably not in existence anywhere, or my friend Selim would have found it long ago.’

“He cleared his throat and read aloud. ‘”To the most honored Rumeli Kadiasker -“’ He paused. ‘That was the chief military judge for the Balkans, you know.’ I didn’t know, but he nodded and went on. ‘”Honored One, I have now carried out the further investigation you requested. Some of the monks have been most cooperative for the sum we agreed upon, and I have examined the grave myself. What they reported to me originally is true. They have no further explanation to offer me, only repetitions of their terror. I recommend a new investigation of this matter in Istanbul. I have left two guards in Snagov to watch for any suspicious activity. Curiously, there have been no reports of the plague here. I remain yours in the name of Allah.“’

“‘And the signature?’ I asked. My heart was beating hard; even after my sleepless night, I was wide-awake.

“‘There is no signature. Selim thinks that perhaps it was torn off the original, either accidentally or to protect the privacy of the man who wrote the letter.’

“‘Or perhaps it was unsigned to begin with, for secrecy,’ I suggested. ‘And there are no other letters in the book that refer to this matter?’

“‘None. No previous letters, no subsequent letters. It is a fragment, but the Rumeli Kadiasker was very important, so this must have been a serious matter. We searched long and hard after this in my friend’s other books and papers and found nothing that is relating to it. He told me he has never seen this wordSnagov in any other accounts of the history of Istanbul that he can remember. He read these letters once a few years ago-it was my telling him where Dracula is supposed to have been buried by his followers that made him notice it while we were looking through the papers. So perhaps he has indeed seen it elsewhere and cannot remember.’

“‘My God,’ I said, thinking not of the subtle probabilities of Mr. Aksoy’s having seen the word elsewhere but rather of the tantalizing nature of this link between Istanbul, all around us, and faraway Romania.

“‘Yes.’ Turgut smiled as cheerfully as if we’d been discussing a menu for breakfast. ‘The public inspectors for the Balkans were very worried about something here in Istanbul, so worried that they sent someone to the grave of Dracula in Snagov.’

“‘But, goddammit, what did they find?’ I pounded my fist on the arm of my chair. ‘What had the priests there reported? And why were they terrified?’

“‘Exactly my perplexity,’ Turgut assured me. ‘If Vlad Dracula was resting peacefully there, why were they worried about him hundreds of kilometers away, in Istanbul? And if Vlad’s tomb is indeed in Snagov and always was, why do the maps not match that region?’

“I could only respect the precision of his questions. ‘There is another thing,’ I said. ‘Do you think there is indeed the possibility that Dracula was buried here in Istanbul? Would that explain Mehmed’s worry about him after his death, and the presence of vampirism here from that era on?’

“Turgut clasped his hands in front of him and put one large finger on his chin. ‘That is an important question. We will need help with it, and perhaps my friend Selim is the person to help us.’

“For a moment we sat looking silently at each other in the dim hall of the pension, with the smell of coffee drifting across us, new friends united by an old cause. Then Turgut roused himself. ‘Clearly we must search more, further. Selim says he will lead us to the archive as soon as you can be ready. He knows sources there from fifteenth-century Istanbul that I have not much looked at myself because they lie far afield of my own interests in Dracula. We shall look at them together. No doubt Mr. Erozan will be happy to bring out all these materials for us before the public hours if I call him. He lives close to the archive and can open it for us before Selim must go to work himself. But where is Miss Rossi? Has she risen from her chambers yet?’

“This speech prompted a confused rush of thought in my brain, so that I didn’t know which problem to address first. The mention of Turgut’s librarian friend reminded me suddenly again of my librarian enemy, whom I had nearly forgotten in my excitement about the letter. Now I faced the peculiar task of straining Turgut’s credulity by reporting the visitation of a dead man, although surely his belief in historical vampires might be extended to contemporary ones. But his question about Helen reminded me that I had left her alone for an unpardonably long time. I’d wanted to give her privacy as she awoke, and had fully expected her to follow me downstairs as soon as possible. Why hadn’t she reappeared by now? Turgut was still talking. ‘So Selim-he never sleeps, you know-went for his morning coffee, because he did not wish to surprise you right away-ah, here he is!’

“The bell at the pension door rang and a slender man stepped in, pulling the door shut behind him. I think I had expected an august presence, an aging man in a business suit, but Selim Aksoy was young and slight, dressed in loose-fitting and rather shabby dark trousers and a white shirt. He hurried toward us with an eager, intense look on his face that was not quite a smile. It wasn’t until I was shaking his bony hand that I recognized the green eyes and long thin nose. I had seen his face before, and up close. It took me another second to place him, until I had the sudden memory of a slender hand passing me a volume of Shakespeare. He was the bookseller from the little shop in the bazaar.

“‘But we’ve already met!’ I exclaimed, and he was exclaiming something similar at the same moment, in what I took to be an amalgamation of Turkish and English. Turgut looked from one to the other of us, clearly perplexed, and when I explained, he laughed, then shook his head as if in wonder. ‘Coincidences’ was all he said.

“‘Are you ready to go?’ Mr. Aksoy waved aside Turgut’s offer of a seat in the parlor.

“‘Not quite,’ I said. ‘If you don’t mind, I will see where Miss Rossi is and when she can join us.’

“Turgut nodded a little too guilelessly.

“I ran into Helen on the stairs-literally, for I suddenly found myself taking the steps three at a time. She grabbed the railing to keep herself from toppling down the staircase. ‘Ouch!’ she said crossly. ‘What in the name of heaven are you doing?’ She was rubbing her elbow, and I was trying not to keep feeling the brush of her black suit and firm shoulder against my arm.

“‘Looking for you,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry-are you hurt? I just got a little worried because I’d left you alone up there so long.’

“‘I’m fine,’ she told me more mildly. ‘I’ve had some ideas. How long before Professor Bora arrives?’

“‘He’s here already,’ I reported, ‘and he brought a friend.’

“Helen recognized the young bookseller, too, and they talked, haltingly, while Turgut dialed up Mr. Erozan and shouted into the receiver. ‘There has been a rainstorm,’ he explained when he returned to us. ‘The lines get a little furry in this part of town when it rains. My friend can meet us at once at the archive. He sounded sick, actually, maybe with a cold, but he said he’d come right away. Do you want coffee, madam? And I will buy you some sesame rolls on the way.’ He kissed Helen’s hand, to my displeasure, and we all hurried out.

“I was hoping to keep Turgut back as we walked so that I could tell him privately about the appearance of the vicious librarian from home; I didn’t think I could explain this in front of a stranger, particularly one Turgut had described as having little real sympathy for vampire hunts. Turgut was deep in conversation with Helen before we’d walked a block, however, and I had the double misery of watching her bestow her rare smile on him and of knowing I was keeping back information I ought to give him at once. Mr. Aksoy walked next to me, casting a glance at me now and then, but for the most part he seemed so lost in his own thoughts that I didn’t feel I should interrupt him with observations on the beauty of the morning streets.

“We found the outer door to the library unlocked-Turgut said with a smile that he’d known his friend would be prompt-and went quietly in, Turgut ushering Helen gallantly before him. The little entrance hall, with its fine mosaics and the registration book lying open and ready for the day’s visitors, was deserted. Turgut held the inner door for Helen, and she had gone well into the hushed, dim hall of the library before I heard her intake of breath and saw her stop so suddenly that our friend almost tripped behind her. Something made the hair on the back of my neck rise even before I could tell what was happening, and then something quite different made me push rudely past the professor to Helen’s side.

“The librarian waiting for us stood motionless in the middle of the room, his face turned, as if eagerly, toward our arrival. He was not, however, the friendly figure we’d expected, nor was he already bringing out the box we’d hoped to examine again, or some pile of dusty manuscripts on Istanbul ’s history. His face was pale, as if drained of life-exactly as if drained of life. This was not Turgut’s librarian friend but ours, alert and bright-eyed, his lips unnaturally red and his hungry gaze burning in our direction. At the moment his eyes lit on me, my hand gave a throb where he had bent it back so hard in the library stacks. He was famished for something. Even if I’d had the tranquillity of mind in which to conjecture about that hunger-whether it was a thirst for knowledge or for something else-I would not have had time to form the thought. Before I could so much as step between Helen and the ghoulish figure, she pulled a pistol from her jacket pocket and shot him.”

Chapter 35

“Later, I knew Helen in a great range of situations, including those we call ordinary life, and she never stopped surprising me. Often what astonished me in her were the quick associations her mind made between one fact and another, associations that usually resulted in an insight I would have been slow to reach myself. She dazzled me, too, with the wonderful breadth of her learning. Helen was full of these surprises, and I grew to consider them my daily fare, a pleasant addiction I developed to her ability to catch me off guard. But she never startled me more than at that moment in Istanbul, when she suddenly shot the librarian.

“I had no time for astonishment, however, because he stumbled sideways and hurled a book toward us, just missing my head. It hit a table somewhere to my left, and I heard it fall to the floor. Helen fired again, stepping forward and aiming with a steadiness that took my breath away. Then the oddness of the creature’s reaction struck me. I’d never seen anyone shot before except in the movies, but there, alas, I had seen a thousand Indians die at gunpoint by the time I was eleven, and later every sort of crook, bank robber, and villain, including hosts of Nazis created expressly for shooting by an enthusiastic wartime Hollywood. The strange thing about this shooting, this real one, was that although a dark stain appeared on the librarian’s clothes somewhere below his sternum, he did not clutch the spot with an agonized hand. The second shot grazed his shoulder; he was already running, and then he bolted into the stacks at the rear of the hall.

“‘A door!’ Turgut shouted behind me. ‘There is a door there!’ And we all ran after him, tripping on chairs and darting among the tables. Selim Aksoy, slight and fleet as an antelope, reached the shelves first and disappeared among them. We heard a scuffle and a crash, then indeed the slamming of a door, and found Mr. Aksoy stumbling up out of a drift of fragile Ottoman manuscripts with a purple lump on the side of his face. Turgut ran for the door and I ran after, but it was shut tightly. When we got it open, we discovered only an alley, deserted apart from a pile of wooden boxes. We searched the labyrinthine neighborhood at a trot, but there was no sign of the creature or his flight. Turgut collared a few pedestrians, but no one had seen our man.

“Reluctantly, we returned to the archive through the back door and found Helen holding her handkerchief to Mr. Aksoy’s cheekbone. The gun was nowhere in sight, and the manuscripts were neatly stacked on the shelf again. She looked up when we came in. ‘He fainted for a minute,’ she said softly, ‘but he is all right now.’

“Turgut knelt by his friend. ‘My dear Selim, what a bump you have.’

“Selim Aksoy smiled wanly. ‘I am in good care,’ he said.

“‘I can see that,’ Turgut agreed. ‘Madam, I congratulate you for trying. But it is useless to attempt to kill a dead man.’

“‘How did you know?’ I gasped.

“‘Oh, I know,’ he said grimly. ‘I know the look of that face. It is the expression of the undead. There is no other face like that. I have seen it before.’

“‘It was a silver bullet, of course.’ Helen held the handkerchief more firmly on Mr. Aksoy’s cheek and eased his head back against her shoulder. ‘But, as you saw, he moved, and I missed his heart. I know I took a great risk’-she looked deeply at me for a moment, but I couldn’t read her thoughts-‘but you could see for yourselves that I was right in my calculation. A mortal man would have been seriously wounded by such shots.’ She sighed and adjusted the handkerchief.

“I looked from one to the other in bewilderment. ‘Have you been carrying around that gun all the time?’ I asked Helen.

“‘Oh, yes.’ She pulled Aksoy’s arm over her shoulder. ‘Here, help me get him up.’ Together we lifted him-he was light as a child-and steadied him on his feet. He smiled and nodded, shrugging off our assistance. ‘Yes, I always carry my pistol when I feel any sort of-uneasiness. And it is not so difficult to acquire a silver bullet or two.’

“‘That is true.’ Turgut nodded.

“‘But where did you learn to shoot like that?’ I was still stunned by that moment when Helen had drawn and aimed so quickly.

“Helen laughed. ‘In my country, our education is deep as well as narrow,’ she said. ‘I received an award for my shooting in our youth brigade when I was sixteen. I am glad to find I have not forgotten how.’

“Suddenly Turgut gave a cry and struck his forehead. ‘My friend!’ We all stared. ‘My friend-Erozan! I am forgetting him.’

“It took us only a second to grasp his meaning. Selim Aksoy, who seemed recovered now, was the first to hurry into the stacks where he’d received his injury, and the rest of us scattered quickly around the long room, searching under tables and behind chairs. For a few minutes the hunt was fruitless. Then we heard Selim calling us, and we all rushed to his side. He was kneeling in the stacks, at the foot of a high shelf laden with all kinds of boxes, bags, and rolled-up scrolls. The box that housed the papers of the Order of the Dragon lay on the floor beside him, its ornate lid open and some of its contents scattered nearby.

“Among these relics, Mr. Erozan was stretched out on his back, white and still, his head lolling to one side. Turgut knelt and put his ear to the man’s chest. ‘Thank God,’ he said after a moment. ‘He is breathing.’ Then, examining him more closely, he pointed to his friend’s neck. Deep in the loose, pale flesh just above the shirt collar, there was a ragged wound. Helen knelt beside Turgut. We were all silent for a moment. Even after Rossi’s description of the bureaucrat who had confronted him many years before, even after Helen’s injury in the library at home, I found it hard to believe what I was seeing. The man’s face was terribly pale, almost gray, and his breathing came in shallow, short gasps, barely audible until you listened carefully.

“‘He has been polluted,’ Helen said quietly. ‘And I think he has lost quite a bit of blood.’

“‘A curse on this day!’ Turgut’s face was anguished, and he pressed his friend’s hand in his two big ones.

“Helen was the first to rally. ‘Let us think sensibly. This is perhaps only the first time he has been attacked.’ She turned to Turgut. ‘You didn’t see any sign of this in him when we were here yesterday?’

“He shook his head. ‘He was quite normal.’

“‘Well, then.’ She reached into her jacket pocket, and I recoiled for an instant, thinking she was about to pull out the pistol again. Instead she drew forth a head of garlic and placed it on the librarian’s chest. Turgut smiled in spite of the grimness of the whole scene and drew a head of garlic from his own pocket, placing it with hers. I couldn’t imagine where she’d gotten it-perhaps on our stroll through the souk, when I’d been absorbed in other sights? ‘I see great minds think the same,’ Helen told him. Then she took out a paper packet and unwrapped it, revealing a tiny silver crucifix. I recognized it as the one she’d purchased at the Catholic church near our university, the one she had used to intimidate the evil librarian when he’d attacked her in the history section of the library stacks.

“This time Turgut stopped her with a gentle hand. ‘No, no,’ he said. ‘We have our own superstitions here.’ From somewhere inside his jacket he took a string of wooden beads, such as I’d seen in the hands of men on the streets of Istanbul. This one ended in a carved medallion with Arabic lettering on its face. He touched the medallion gently to Mr. Erozan’s lips, and the librarian’s face gave a grimace, as of involuntary disgust, twitching and curling. It was an awful sight, but a momentary one, and then the man’s eyes opened and he frowned. Turgut bent over him, speaking softly in Turkish and touching his forehead, then giving the wounded man a sip of something from a little flask he conjured out of his jacket.

“After a minute, Mr. Erozan sat up and looked around, groping at his neck as if it hurt. When his fingers found the little wound with its trickle of drying blood, he buried his face in his hands, sobbing, a heartrending sound.

“Turgut put an arm around his shoulders, and Helen placed a hand on the librarian’s arm. I found myself reflecting that this was the second time in an hour that I had seen her tending with gentle touch to an afflicted being. Turgut began to question the man in Turkish, and after a few minutes he sat back on his heels and looked at the rest of us. ‘Mr. Erozan says the stranger came to his apartment very early this morning, while it was still dark, and threatened to kill him unless he opened the library for him. The vampire was with him when I called him this morning, but he dared not tell me about his presence. When the strange man heard who had called, he said they must go at once to the archive. Mr. Erozan was afraid to disobey, and when they arrived here the man made him open the box. As soon as it sprang open, the devil leaped on him, held him on the ground-my friend says he was incredibly strong-and put his teeth in Mr. Erozan’s neck. That is all he remembers.’ Turgut shook his head sadly. Mr. Erozan suddenly grasped Turgut’s arm and seemed to be imploring something of him in a flood of Turkish.

“For a moment Turgut was silent, and then he took his friend’s hands in his, pressed the prayer beads into them, and gave him a quiet answer. ‘He told me that he understands he can be bitten only twice more by this devil before becoming one himself. He asks me if this thing should come to pass to kill him with my own hands.’ Turgut turned away, and I thought I saw a glistening of tears in his eyes.

“‘It will not come to that.’ Helen’s face was hard. ‘We are going to find the source of this plague.’ I didn’t know whether she meant the evil librarian or Dracula himself, but when I saw the set of her jaw I could almost believe in our eventual success in vanquishing both. I had noted that look on her face once before, and the sight of it took me back to the table of the diner at home, where we’d first talked about her parentage. Then she had been vowing to find her disloyal father and unmask him to the academic world. Was I imagining it, I wondered, or had her mission shifted at some moment that she herself hadn’t noticed?

“Selim Aksoy had been hovering behind us, and now he spoke to Turgut again. Turgut nodded. ‘Mr. Aksoy has reminded me of the work we have come here to do, and he is right. Other researchers will begin to arrive soon, and we must either lock the archive or open it to the public. He offers to desert his shop today and serve as librarian here. But first we must clean up these documents and see what damage has been done to them, and above all we must find a safe place for my friend to rest. Also, Mr. Aksoy would like to show us something in the archives before other people are present.’

“I began at once to gather up the scattered documents, and my worst fears were immediately confirmed. ‘The original maps are gone,’ I reported gloomily. We searched the stacks, but the maps of that strange region that looked like a long-tailed dragon had vanished. We could only conclude that the vampire had hidden them on his person even before we’d arrived. It was a dreary thought. We had copies, of course, in both Rossi’s hand and Turgut’s, but the originals represented to me a key to Rossi’s whereabouts, a closer link than any other I’d handled so far.

“In addition to the discouragement of losing this treasure, there came to me the thought that the evil librarian might unlock its secrets before we did. If Rossi was at Dracula’s tomb, wherever it lay, the evil librarian now had a fair chance of beating us there. I felt more than ever the twin urgency and impossibility of finding my beloved adviser. At least-it came to me again, strangely-Helen was now solidly on my side.

“Turgut and Selim had been conferring beside the sick man, and now they turned to ask him a question, it seemed, for he tried to raise himself and pointed feebly to the back of the stacks. Selim vanished, returning after a few minutes with a small book. It was bound in red leather, rather worn, with a gold inscription in Arabic on the front. He set it on a nearby table and searched through it for some time before beckoning to Turgut, who was folding his jacket to make a pillow for his friend’s head. The man seemed a little more comfortable now. It was on the tip of my tongue to suggest we call an ambulance, but I felt Turgut must know what he was doing. He had risen to join Selim, and they conferred earnestly for a few minutes while Helen and I avoided each other’s eyes, both of us hoping for some discovery, and both fearing further disappointment. Finally, Turgut called us over.

“‘This is what Selim Aksoy wished to show us here this morning,’ he said gravely. ‘I do not know, in truth, whether it has any bearing on our search. However, I will read it to you. This is a volume compiled in the early nineteenth century by some editors whose names I have not seen before, historians of Istanbul. They collected here all the accounts they could find of life in Istanbul in the first years of our city-that is, beginning in 1453, when Sultan Mehmed took the city for his own and proclaimed it the capital of his empire.’

“He pointed to a page of beautiful Arabic, and I thought for the hundredth time how terrible it was that human languages and even alphabets were separated from one another by this frustrating Babel of differences, so that when I glanced at a page of Ottoman printing, my comprehension was immediately caught in a bramble of symbols as impenetrable to me as a hedge of magic briars. ‘This is a passage that Mr. Aksoy remembered from one of his researches here. The author is unknown, and it is an account of some events in the year 1477-yes, my friends, the year after Vlad Dracula was killed in battle in Wallachia. Here it tells how in that year there were cases of the plague in Istanbul, a plague that caused the imams to bury some of the corpses with stakes through their hearts. Then it tells about the entrance into the city of a party of monks from the Carpathians-this is what made Mr. Aksoy remember the volume-in a wagon pulled by mules. The monks begged for asylum in a monastery in Istanbul and resided there for nine days and nine nights. That is the whole account, and the connections within it are very unclear-it says nothing more about the monks or what became of them. It was this wordCarpathian that my friend Selim wished us to know about here.’

“Selim Aksoy nodded emphatically, but I could not help sighing. The passage had a weird resonance; it gave me a feeling of unquiet without shedding any light on our problems. The year 1477-that was indeed strange, but it could have been a coincidence. Curiosity prompted me to ask Turgut a question, however. ‘If the city was already under the rule of the Ottomans, why was there a monastery for the monks to be lodged in?’

“‘A good question, my friend,’ Turgut observed soberly. ‘But I must tell you there were a number of churches and monasteries in Istanbul from the very beginning of the Ottoman rule. The sultan was most gracious in his permissions to them.’

“Helen shook her head. ‘After he had allowed his army to destroy most of the churches in the city, or had taken them for mosques.’

“‘It is true that when Sultan Mehmed conquered the city, he allowed his troops to pillage it for three days,’ Turgut admitted. ‘But he would not have done this if the city had surrendered to him instead of resisting-in fact, he offered them a completely peaceful settlement. It is also written that when he entered Constantinople and saw the damage his soldiers had done-the buildings they had defaced, the churches they had defiled, and the citizens they had slain-he wept for the beautiful city. From this time he allowed a number of churches to function and gave many advantages to the Byzantine inhabitants.’

“‘He also enslaved more than fifty thousand of them,’ Helen put in dryly. ‘Don’t forget about that.’

“Turgut gave her an admiring smile. ‘Madam, you are too much for me. But I meant only to demonstrate that our sultans were not monsters. Once they had conquered an area, they were often rather lenient, for those times. It was just the conquering that was not so delightfully done.’ He pointed to the far wall of the archive. ‘There is His Gloriousness Mehmed himself, if you would like to greet him.’ I went to look, although Helen stood stubbornly where she was. The framed reproduction-apparently a cheap copy of a watercolor-showed a solid, seated man in a white-and-red turban. He was fair skinned and delicately bearded, with calligraphic eyebrows and hazel eyes. He held a single rose up to his great hooked nose, sniffing it and gazing off into the distance. He looked to me more like a Sufi mystic than a ruthless conqueror.

“‘It’s a rather surprising image,’ I said.

“‘Yes. He was a devoted patron of the arts and architecture, and he built many lovely buildings here.’ Turgut tapped his chin with a large finger. ‘Well, my friends, what do you think of this account Selim Aksoy has discovered?’

“‘It’s interesting,’ I said politely, ‘but I can’t see how it helps us find the tomb.’

“‘I can’t see that either,’ Turgut admitted. ‘However, I note a certain similarity here between this passage and the fragment of a letter I read to you this morning. The disturbances in the tomb at Snagov, whatever they were, occurred in the same year-1477. We know already that that is the year after Vlad Dracula died, and that it was a group of monks who were so concerned about something at Snagov. Couldn’t these have been the same monks, or some group connected with Snagov?’

“‘Possibly,’ I admitted, ‘but that is conjecture. This account says only that the monks were from the Carpathians. The Carpathians must have been full of monasteries in that era. How could we be sure they were from the monastery at Snagov? Helen, what do you think?’

“I must have caught her by surprise, because I found she was looking directly at me with a kind of wistfulness I had never seen in her face before. The impression vanished immediately, however, and I thought I might have imagined it, or that perhaps she was remembering her mother and our imminent trip to Hungary. Wherever her thoughts had been, she rallied at once. ‘Yes, there were many monasteries in the Carpathians. Paul is right-we cannot connect the two groups without more information.’

“I thought Turgut looked disappointed, and he began to say something, but just then we were interrupted by a wheezing gasp. It was Mr. Erozan, still resting on Turgut’s jacket on the floor. ‘He’s fainted!’ Turgut cried. ‘Here we are chatting like magpies -’ He held the garlic to his friend’s nose again, and the man spluttered and revived a little. ‘Quick, we must take him home. Professor, madam, help me. We will call a taxicab and carry him to my apartment. My wife and I can care for him there. Selim will stay here with the archive-it must open very soon.’ He gave Aksoy a few rapid orders in Turkish.

“Then Turgut and I lifted the pale, weak man from the floor, propped him between us, and carried him carefully through the back door. Helen followed with Turgut’s jacket, we passed through the alley, and a moment later we were out in the morning sunlight. When it struck Mr. Erozan’s face, he cringed, shrank against my shoulder, and held one hand up to his eyes as if warding off a blow.”

Chapter 36

The night I spent in that farmhouse in Boulois, with Barley on the other side of the room, was one of the most wakeful I had ever known. We settled down at nine or so, since there wasn’t much to do there except listen to the chickens and watch the light fade over the sagging barns. To my amazement, there was no electricity on the farm-“Didn’t you notice the lack of wires?” asked Barley-and the farmwife left us a lantern and two candles before wishing us a good night. By their light the shadows of the polished old furniture grew tall and loomed over us, and the needlework on the wall fluttered softly.

After a few yawns, Barley lay down in his clothes on one bed and promptly went to sleep. I didn’t dare follow suit, but I was also afraid to leave the candles burning all night. Finally I blew them out, leaving only the lantern lit, which deepened the shadows all around me terribly and made the dark outside our one window press in from the farmyard. Vines rustled against the pane, trees seemed to lean closer, and a soft noise that could have been owls or doves came eerily to me as I lay curled in my bed. Barley seemed very far away; earlier, I had been glad for those thoroughly separate beds, so that there could be no awkwardness about sleeping arrangements, but now I wished we’d been forced to sleep back-to-back.

After I’d lain there long enough to feel frozen in one position, I saw a mellow light gradually creep onto the floorboards from the window. The moon was rising, and with it I felt a certain lightening of my terror, as if an old friend had come to keep me company. I tried not to think of my father; on any other trip it might have been him lying in that other bed in his dignified pajamas, his book abandoned beside him. He would have been the first to notice this old farmhouse, would have known that the central part of it reached back to the days of Aquitaine, would have bought three bottles of wine from the pleasant hostess and discussed her vineyard with her.

Lying there, I wondered in spite of myself what I would do if my father did not survive his trip to Saint-Matthieu. I couldn’t possibly return to Amsterdam, I thought, to rattle around in our house alone with Mrs. Clay; that would only make my heartbreak worse. In the European system, I had two years still until I would go to university somewhere. But who would take me in before that? Barley would return to his old life; I couldn’t expect him to worry further about me. Master James crossed my mind, with his deep, sad smile and the kind lines around his eyes. Then I thought of Giulia and Massimo, in their Umbrian villa. I saw Massimo pouring wine for me-“And what are you studying, lovely daughter?”-and Giulia saying I must have the best room. They had no children; they loved my father. If my world came undone, I would go to them.

I blew out the lantern, braver now, and tiptoed over to peer outside. I could just see the moon, halved in a sky full of torn clouds. Across it sailed a shape I knew too well-no, it was just for a moment, and it was only a cloud, wasn’t it? The spread wings, the curling tail? It dissolved at once, but I went to Barley’s bed instead, and lay shivering for hours against his oblivious back.

“The business of transporting Mr. Erozan and settling him in Turgut’s Oriental parlor-where he lay pale but composed on one of the long divans-took much of the morning. We were still there when Mrs. Bora returned at noon from her school. She came in briskly, carrying a bag of produce in each little gloved hand. She was wearing a yellow dress and flowered hat today, so that she looked like a miniature daffodil. Her smile was fresh and sweet, too, even when she saw us all in her living room standing around a prostrate man. Nothing her husband did seemed to surprise her, I thought; perhaps that was one of the keys to a successful union.

“Turgut explained the situation to her in Turkish, and her cheerful expression was replaced first by obvious skepticism and then by a blossoming horror when he gently showed her the wound in her newest guest’s throat. She gave Helen and me a look of mute dismay, as if this was for her the initial wave of an evil knowledge. Then she took the librarian’s hand, which I knew from a moment before was not only white but cold. She held it briefly, wiped her eyes, and went quickly across to the kitchen, where we heard the distant rattle of her pots and pans. Whatever else happened, the afflicted man would have a good meal. Turgut prevailed upon us to stay for it, and Helen, to my surprise, followed Mrs. Bora to help.

“When we had made sure Mr. Erozan was resting comfortably, Turgut took me into his eerie study for a few minutes. To my relief, the curtains over the portrait were firmly closed. We sat there a while discussing the situation. ‘Do you think it’s safe for you and your wife to house this man here?’ I couldn’t help asking it.

“‘I will arrange every precaution. If he is better in a day or two, I will find a place for him to stay, with someone to watch him.’ Turgut had drawn up a chair for me and settled himself behind his desk. It was almost, I thought, like being with Rossi again in his university office, except that Rossi’s office was so determinedly cheerful, with its burgeoning plants and simmering coffee, and this one was so eccentrically somber. ‘I do not expect any further attack here, but if there is one, our American friend will face a formidable defense.’ Looking at his solid bulk behind the desk, I could easily believe him.

“‘I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘We seem to have brought you a lot of trouble, Professor, right down to importing this menace to your door.’ I outlined for him briefly our encounters with the corrupted librarian, including my sighting of him in front of the Hagia Sophia the night before.

“‘Extraordinary,’ Turgut said. His eyes were alight with a grim interest, and he drummed his fingertips on the top of his desk.

“‘I have a question for you, too,’ I confessed. ‘You said in the archive this morning that you’d seen a face like his before. What did you mean by that?’

“‘Ah.’ My erudite friend folded his hands on his desk. ‘Yes, I will tell you about this. It has been many years since, but I remember it vividly. In fact, it happened a few days after I received the letter from Professor Rossi explaining to me that he knew nothing about the archive here. I had been at the collection in the late afternoon, after my classes-this was when it was housed in the old library buildings, before it was moved to its present location. I remember I was doing some research for an article on a lost work of Shakespeare,The King of Tashkani, which some believe was set in a fictional version of Istanbul. Perhaps you have heard of it?’

“I shook my head.

“‘It is quoted in the work of several English historians. From them we know that in the original play, an evil ghost called Dracole appears to the monarch of a beautiful old city that he-the monarch-has taken by force. The ghost says he was once the monarch’s enemy but that he now comes to congratulate him on his bloodthirstiness. Then he urges the monarch to drink deeply of the blood of the city’s inhabitants, who are now the monarch’s minions. It is a chilling passage. Some say it is not even Shakespeare, but I’-he slapped a confident hand on the edge of his desk-‘I believe that the diction, if quoted accurately, can only be Shakespeare’s, and that the city is Istanbul, renamed with the pseudo-Turkic title Tashkani.’ He leaned forward. ‘I also believe that the tyrant to whom the spirit appears was none other than Sultan Mehmed II, conqueror of Constantinople.’

“Chills crawled on the back of my neck. ‘What do you think the significance of this could be-where Dracula’s career is concerned, I mean?’

“‘Well, my friend, it is very interesting to me that the legend of Vlad Dracula penetrated even to Protestant England by-let us say-1590, so powerful it was. Furthermore, if Tashkani was indeed Istanbul, it shows how real a presence Dracula was here in Mehmed’s day. Mehmed entered the city in 1453. That was only five years after the young Dracula returned to Wallachia from his imprisonment in Asia Minor, and there is no certain evidence he ever returned to our region in his lifetime, although some scholars think he paid tribute to the sultan in person. I do not think that can be proved. I have a theory that he left a legacy of vampirism here, if not during his life then after his death. But’-he sighed-‘the line between literature and history is often a wobbling one, and I am not an historian.’

“‘You are a fine historian indeed,’ I said humbly. ‘I am overwhelmed by how many historical leads you have followed, and with such success.’

“‘You are kind, my young friend. In any case, one evening I was working on my article for this theory-it was never published, alas, because the editors of the journal to which I submitted it proclaimed that it was too superstitious in content-I was working well into the evening, and after about three hours at the archive I went to a restaurant across the street to have a littlebörek. You have hadbörek? ’

“‘Not yet,’ I admitted.

“‘You must try it as soon as possible-it is one of our delectable national specialities. So I went to this restaurant. It was already dark outside because this was in winter. I sat down at a table, and while I waited I took Professor Rossi’s letter out of my papers and reread it. As I mentioned, I had had it in my possession only a few days, and I was most perplexed by it. The waiter brought my meal, and I happened to see his face as he put down the dishes. His eyes were lowered, but it seemed to me that he suddenly noticed the letter I was reading, with Rossi’s name at the top. He glanced sharply at it once or twice, then appeared to erase all expression from his face, but I noticed that he stepped behind me to put another dish down on the table, and seemed to look at the letter again from over my shoulder.

“‘I could not explain this behavior, and it gave me a most uncomfortable feeling, so I quietly folded the letter up and prepared to eat my supper. He went away without speaking, and I could not help watching him as he moved around the restaurant. He was a big, broad-shouldered, heavy man with dark hair swept back from his face and large dark eyes. He would have been handsome if he had not looked-how do you say?-rather sinister. He seemed to ignore me throughout an hour, even after I’d finished my meal. I took out a book to read for a few minutes, and then he suddenly came to the table again and set a steaming cup of tea in front of me. I had ordered no tea, and I was surprised. I thought it might be a sort of gift, or a mistake. ”Your tea,“ he said as he put it down. ”I made sure that it is very hot.“

“‘Then he looked me right in the eyes, and I cannot explain how terrifying his face was to me. It was pale, almost yellow, in complexion, as if he had-how to say?-decayed inside. His eyes were dark and bright, almost like the eyes of an animal, under big eyebrows. His mouth was like red wax, and his teeth were very white and long-they looked oddly healthy in a sick face. He smiled as he bent over with the tea, and I could smell his strange odor, which made me feel sick and faint. You may laugh, my friend, but it was a little like an odor that I have always found pleasant under other circumstances-the smell of old books. You know that smell-it is parchment and leather, and-something else?’

“I knew, and I did not feel like laughing.

“‘He was gone a second later, moving without any hurry back toward the restaurant kitchen, and I was left there with a feeling that he had meant to show me something-his face, perhaps. He had wanted me to look carefully at him, and yet there was nothing specific I could name that would justify my terror.’ Turgut looked pale himself now, as he sat back in his medieval chair. ‘To settle my nerves, I put some sugar into my tea from a bowl on the table, picked up my spoon, and stirred it. I had every intention of calming myself with the hot drink, but then something very-very peculiar happened.’

“His voice trailed off as if he almost regretted having begun the story. I knew that feeling all too well, and nodded to encourage him. ‘Please, continue.’

“‘It sounds strange to say it now, but I am speaking truthfully. The steam rose up from the cup-you know how steam swirls when you stir something hot?-and when I stirred my tea, the steam rose up in the form of a tiny dragon, swirling above my cup. It hovered there for a few seconds before vanishing. I saw it very clearly with my own eyes. You can imagine how I felt, for a moment not trusting myself, and then I quickly gathered my papers, paid, and went out.’

“My mouth was dry. ‘And did you ever see that waiter again?’

“‘Never. I did not go back to the restaurant for some weeks, and then curiosity came over me, and I went in again after dark, but there was no sign of him. I even asked one of the other waiters about him, and that waiter said the man had worked there only a short while, and he did not know his last name. The man’s first name, he said, was Akmar. I never saw any other sign of him.’

“‘And did you think his face showed that he was -’ I trailed off.

“‘I was terrified by it. That is all I could have told you at that time. When I saw the face of the librarian you have-as you say-imported, I felt I knew it already. It is not simply the look of death. There is something in the expression -’ He turned uneasily and glanced toward the curtained niche where the portrait hung. ‘One thing that bludgeons me about your story, the information that you have just given me, is that this American librarian has progressed further toward his spiritual doom since you first saw him.’

“‘What do you mean?’

“‘When he attacked Miss Rossi in your library at home, you were able to knock him down. But my friend from the archive, whom he assaulted this morning, says he was very strong, and my friend is not so much slighter than you. The fiend also was already able to draw considerable blood from my friend, alas. And yet this vampire was out in the daylight when we saw him, so he cannot be yet completely corrupted. I conjecture the creature was drained of life a second time either at your university or here in Istanbul, and if he has connections here he will receive his third evil benediction soon and become forever undead.’

“‘Yes,’ I said. ‘There is nothing we can do about the American librarian without being able to find him, so you will have to guard your friend here very carefully.’

“‘I shall,’ Turgut said with grim emphasis. He fell silent for a moment, and then turned to his bookcase again. Without a word he pulled from his collection a large album with Latin letters across the front. ‘Romanian,’ he told me. ‘This is a collection of images from churches in Transylvania and Wallachia, by an art historian who died only recently. He reproduced many images from churches that were later destroyed in the war, I am sorry to say. So this book is very precious.’ He put the volume into my hand. ‘Why don’t you turn to page twenty-five?’

“I did. There I found a spread across two pages-a colored engraving of a mural. The church that had once housed it was displayed in a little black-and-white photograph, inset: an elegant building with twisted bell towers. But it was the larger picture that caught my attention. To the left loomed a ferocious dragon in flight, its tail looped not once but twice, its golden eye rolling maniacally, its mouth spewing flame. It seemed about to swoop down to attack the figure on the right, a cowering man in chain mail and striped turban. The man crouched in fear, his curved scimitar in one hand and a round shield in the other. At first I thought he was standing in a field of strange plants, but when I looked carefully I saw that the objects around his knees were people, a tiny forest of them, and that each was writhing, impaled upon a stake. Some were turbaned, like the giant in their midst, but others were dressed in some sort of peasant garb. Still others wore flowing brocades and tall fur hats. There were blond heads and dark; noblemen with long brown mustaches; and even a few priests or monks in black robes and tall hats. There were women with dangling braids, naked boys, infants. There was even an animal or two. All were in agony.

“Turgut was watching me. ‘This church was endowed by Dracula during his second reign,’ he said quietly.

“I stood gazing at the picture for a moment longer. Then I could bear no more and I shut the book. Turgut took it from my hand and put it away. When he turned to me, his look was fierce. ‘And now, my friend, how do you intend to find Professor Rossi?’

“The blunt question went into me like a blade. ‘I’m still trying to piece all this information together,’ I admitted slowly, ‘and even with your generous work last night-and Mr. Aksoy’s-I don’t feel we know much. Perhaps Vlad Dracula put in some kind of appearance in Istanbul after his death, but how can we find out if he was buried here, or still is? That remains a mystery to me. As far as our next move goes, I can only tell you that we are going to Budapest for a few days.’

“‘ Budapest?’ I could almost see the conjectures racing across his broad face.

“‘Yes. You remember Helen told you the story of her mother and Professor-her father. Helen feels strongly that her mother might have information for us that Helen’s never drawn out of her, so we’re going to talk with her mother in person. Helen’s aunt is someone important in the government and will arrange it, we hope.’

“‘Ah.’ He almost smiled. ‘Thank the gods for friends in high places. When will you leave?’

“‘Perhaps tomorrow or the day after. We’ll stay five or six days, I think, and then come back here.’

“‘Very well. And you must carry this with you.’ Turgut stood up suddenly and took from a cabinet the little vampire-hunting kit he had shown us the day before. He set it squarely in front of me.

“‘But that is one of your treasures,’ I objected. ‘Anyway, they might not let it through customs.’

“‘Oh, you must never show it at customs. You must hide it with the greatest care. Check your suitcase to see if you can put it in the lining somewhere, or better yet let Miss Rossi carry it. They will not search a woman’s luggage as thoroughly.’ He nodded encouragement. ‘But I will not feel easy in my heart unless you take it. While you are in Budapest, I will be looking through many old books to try to help you, but you will be hunting a monster. For now, keep it in your briefcase-it is very thin and light.’ I took the wooden box without another word and fitted it in next to my dragon book. ‘And while you are interviewing Helen’s mother, I will be digging around here for every possible hint of a tomb. I have not given up on the idea yet.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘It would explain very much about the plagues that have cursed our city since that period we have been speaking of. If we could not only explain them but end them -’

“At that moment the door to his study opened and Mrs. Bora put in her head to call us to lunch. It was as delicious a meal as the one we’d eaten there the day before, but a much more somber one. Helen was quiet and looked tired, Mrs. Bora handed around the dishes with silent grace, and Mr. Erozan, although he sat up for a while to join us, was unable to eat much. Mrs. Bora made him drink a quantity of red wine, however, and eat some meat, which seemed to restore him somewhat. Even Turgut was subdued and seemed melancholy. Helen and I took our leave as soon as we politely could.

“Turgut saw us out of the building and shook our hands with all his usual warmth, urging us to call him when we knew our travel plans and promising us unabated hospitality on our return. Then he nodded to me and patted my briefcase, and I realized he was referring silently to the kit inside. I nodded in response and made a little gesture to Helen to tell her I’d explain later. Turgut waved until we could no longer see him under the lindens and poplars, and when he was out of sight, Helen put her arm wearily through mine. The air smelled of lilacs, and for a minute, on that dignified gray street, walking through patches of dusty sunlight, I could have believed we were on vacation in Paris.”

Chapter 37

“Helen was indeed tired, and I reluctantly left her to nap at the pension. I didn’t like her being alone there, but she pointed out that broad daylight was probably protection enough. Even if the evil librarian knew our whereabouts, he was not likely to enter locked rooms at midday, and she had her little crucifix with her. We had several hours before Helen could call her aunt again, and there was nothing we could do to arrange our trip until we received her instructions. I put my briefcase into Helen’s care and forced myself to leave the premises, feeling I would go stir-crazy if I stayed there pretending to read or trying to think.

“It seemed a good opportunity to see something else in Istanbul, so I made my way toward the mazelike, domed Topkapi Palace complex, commissioned by Sultan Mehmed as the new seat of his conquest. It had drawn me both from a distance and in my guidebook since our first afternoon in the city. The Topkapi covers a large area on the headland of Istanbul and is guarded on three sides by water: the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and the Marmara. I suspected that if I missed it, I would be missing the essence of Istanbul ’s Ottoman history. Perhaps I was strolling far afield from Rossi once again, but I reflected that Rossi himself would have done the same with a few hours of enforced idleness.

“I was disappointed to learn, as I wandered the parks, courtyards, and pavilions where the heart of the Empire had pulsed for hundreds of years, that little from Mehmed’s time was on exhibit there-little apart from some ornaments from his treasury and some of his swords, nicked and scarred from prodigious use. I think I had hoped more than anything to catch another glimpse of the sultan whose army had battled Vlad Dracula’s, and whose police courts had been concerned about the security of his alleged tomb in Snagov. It was rather, I thought-remembering the old men’s game in the bazaar-like trying to determine the position of your opponent’s shah inshahmat by knowing only the position of your own.

“There was plenty in the palace to keep my thoughts busy, however. According to what Helen had told me the day before, this was a world in which more than five thousand servants with titles such as Great Turban-Winder had once served the will of the sultan; where eunuchs guarded the virtue of his enormous harem in what amounted to an ornate prison; where Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent, reigning in the mid-sixteenth century, had consolidated the Empire, codified its laws, and made Istanbul as glorious a metropolis as it had been under the Byzantine emperors. Like them, the sultan traveled out into his city once a week to worship at Hagia Sophia-but on Friday, the Muslim holy day, not Sunday. It was a world of rigid protocol and sumptuous dining, of marvelous textiles and sensuously beautiful tile work, of viziers in green and chamberlains in red, of fantastically colored boots and towering turbans.

“I had been particularly struck by Helen’s description of the Janissaries, a crack corps of guards selected from the ranks of captured boys from all over the Empire. I knew I had read about them before, these boys born Christian in places like Serbia and Wallachia and raised in Islam, trained in hatred of the very peoples they sprang from and unleashed on those peoples when they reached manhood, like falcons to the kill. I had seen images of the Janissaries somewhere, in fact, perhaps in a book of paintings. Thinking about their expressionless young faces, massed to protect the sultan, I felt the chill of the palace buildings deepen around me.

“It occurred to me, as I moved from room to room, that the young Vlad Dracula would have made an excellent Janissary. The Empire had missed an opportunity there, a chance to harness a little more cruelty to its enormous force. They would have had to catch him quite young, I thought, perhaps to have kept him in Asia Minor instead of returning him to his father. He had been too independent after that, a renegade, loyal to no one but himself, as quick to execute his own followers as he was to kill his Turkish enemies. Like Stalin-I surprised myself with this mental leap as I gazed out at the glint of the Bosphorus. Stalin had died the year before, and new tales of his atrocities had leaked into the Western press. I remembered one report about an apparently loyal general whom Stalin had accused just before the war of wanting to overthrow him. The general had been removed from his apartment in the middle of the night and hung upside down from the beams of a busy railway station outside Moscow for several days until he died. The passengers getting on and off the trains had all seen him, but no one had dared to glance twice in his direction. Much later, the people in that neighborhood had not been able to agree on whether or not this had even happened.

“That sort of disturbing thought followed me from room to marvelous room throughout the palace; everywhere I sensed something sinister or perilous, which could simply have been the overwhelming evidence of the sultan’s supreme power, a power not so much concealed as revealed by the narrow corridors, twisting passages, barred windows, cloistered gardens. At last, seeking a little relief from the mingled sensuality and imprisonment, the elegance and the oppression, I wandered back outside to the sunlit trees of the outer court.

“Out there, however, I met the most alarming ghosts of all, for my guidebook located there the executioner’s block and explained in generous detail the sultan’s custom of beheading officials and anyone else with whom he disagreed. Their heads were displayed on the spikes of the sultan’s gates, a stern example to the populace. The sultan and the renegade from Wallachia were a pleasant match, I thought, turning away in disgust. A stroll in the surrounding park restored my nerves, and the low, red gleam of sun on the waters, turning a passing ship to black silhouette, reminded me that the afternoon was waning and that I ought to go back to Helen and perhaps to some news from her aunt.

“Helen was waiting in the lobby with an English newspaper when I arrived. ‘How was your walk?’ she asked, looking up.

“‘Gruesome,’ I said. ‘I went to the Topkapi Palace.’

“‘Ah.’ She closed the newspaper. ‘I am sorry I missed that.’

“‘Don’t be. How are things out in the big world?’

“She traced the headlines with a finger. ‘Gruesome. But I have good news for you.’

“‘You spoke to your aunt?’ I deposited myself in one of the sagging chairs near her.

“‘Yes, and she has been extraordinary, as always. I’m sure she is going to scold me when we arrive, but that does not matter. The important thing is that she has found a conference for us to attend.’

“‘A conference?’

“‘Yes. It’s magnificent, actually. There is an international conference of historians meeting in Budapest this week. We will attend as visiting scholars, and she has arranged our visas so that we can get them here.’ She smiled. ‘My aunt has a friend who is a historian at the University of Budapest, apparently.’

“‘What is the topic of the conference?’ I asked apprehensively.

“‘European Labor Issues to 1600.’

“‘A sprawling subject. And I suppose we are to attend in our capacity as Ottoman specialists?’

“‘Exactly, my dear Watson.’

“I sighed. ‘Good thing I popped into the Topkapi, then.’

“Helen smiled at me, but whether a little maliciously or simply from confidence in my powers of disguise, I couldn’t tell. ‘The conference begins on Friday, so we have only two days to get there. Over the weekend we will attend lectures, and you will give one. On Sunday part of the day is free for the scholars to explore historic Budapest, and we will slip out to explore my mother.’

“‘I will do what?’ I could not help glaring at her, but she smoothed a curl around her ear and met my gaze with an even more innocent smile.

“‘Oh, a lecture. You will give a lecture. That is our way to get in.’

“‘A lecture on what, pray?’

“‘On the Ottoman presence in Transylvania and Wallachia, I think. My aunt has kindly had it added to the program by now. It won’t have to be a long lecture, because of course the Ottomans never managed to fully conquer Transylvania. I thought that would be a good topic for you because we both know so much about Vlad already, and he was instrumental in keeping them out, in his time.’

“‘That’s good of you,’ I snorted. ‘You meanyou know so much about him. Are you telling me I have to stand up in front of an international gathering of scholars and talk about Dracula? Please recall for a moment that my dissertation is on Dutch merchant guilds and I haven’t even finished it. Why can’t you give the lecture?’

“‘That would be ridiculous,’ Helen said, folding her hands on the newspaper. ‘I am-how do you put it in English?-the old hat. Everyone at the university knows me already and has already been bored several times by my work. Having an American will add a little extra éclat to the scene, and they will all be grateful to me for bringing you, even at the last minute. Having an American will make them feel less embarrassed about the shabby university hostel and the canned peas they will serve everyone at the big dinner on the last night. I will help you write the lecture-or write it for you, if you are going to be so unpleasant-and you can deliver it on Saturday. I think my aunt said around one o’clock.’

“I groaned. She was the most impossible person I had ever met. It occurred to me that my presence there with her might be more of a political liability than she was admitting, too. ‘Well, what do the Ottomans in Wallachia or Transylvania have to do with European labor issues?’

“‘Oh, we will find a way to put in some labor issues. That is the beauty of the solid Marxist education you did not have the privilege of receiving. Believe me, you can find labor issues in any topic if you look hard enough. Besides, the Ottoman Empire was a great economic power, and Vlad disrupted their trade routes and access to natural resources in the Danube region. Do not worry-it will be a fascinating lecture.’

“‘Jesus,’ I said finally.

“‘No.’ She shook her head. ‘No Jesus, please. Just labor relations.’

“Then I couldn’t help laughing and also couldn’t help silently admiring the gleam in her dark eyes. ‘I just hope no one at home ever gets wind of this. I can imagine what my dissertation committee would have to say. On the other hand, I think Rossi might have enjoyed the whole thing.’ I began to laugh again, picturing the corresponding gleam of mischief in Rossi’s bright blue glance, then stopped. The thought of Rossi was becoming so sore a spot in my heart that I could hardly bear it; here I was on the other side of the world from the office where he’d last been seen, and I had every reason to believe I would never see him alive again, perhaps never know what had become of him.Never stretched long and desolate before me for a second, and then I pushed the thought aside. We were going to Hungary to speak with a woman who had purportedly known him-known him intimately-long before I’d ever met him, when he was in the throes of his quest for Dracula. It was a lead we could not afford to ignore. If I had to give a charlatan’s lecture to get there, I would do even that.

“Helen had been watching me in silence, and I felt, not for the first time, her uncanny ability to read my thoughts. She confirmed my sense of this after a moment by saying, ‘It is worth it, is it not?’

“‘Yes.’ I looked away.

“‘Very good,’ she said softly. ‘And I am pleased that you will meet my aunt, who is wonderful, and my mother, who is wonderful, too, but in a different way, and that they will meet you.’

“I looked quickly at her-the gentleness of her tone had made my heart suddenly contract-but her face had reverted to its usual guarded irony. ‘When do we leave, then?’ I asked.

“‘We will pick up our visas tomorrow morning and fly the next day, if everything goes well with our tickets. My aunt told me that we must go to the Hungarian consulate before it opens tomorrow and ring the front bell-about seven-thirty in the morning. We can go straight from there to a travel agent to order plane tickets. If there are no seats, we will have to take the train, which would be a very long trip.’ She shook her head, but my sudden vision of a roaring, clattering Balkan train, wending its way from one ancient capital to another, made me hope for a moment that the airline was thoroughly overbooked, despite the time we might lose.

“‘Am I correct in imagining that you take after this aunt of yours, rather than after your mother?’ Maybe it was simply the mental adventure by train that made me smile at Helen.

“She hesitated only a second. ‘Correct again, Watson. I am very much like my aunt, thank goodness. But you will like my mother best-most people do. And now, may I invite you to dine with me at our favorite establishment, and to work on your lecture over dinner?’

“‘Certainly,’ I agreed, ‘as long as there are no Gypsies around.’ I offered her my arm with careful exaggeration, and she traded her newspaper for the support. It was strange, I reflected, as we went out into the golden evening of the Byzantine streets, that even in the weirdest circumstances, the most troubling episodes of one’s life, the greatest divides from home and familiarity, there were these moments of undeniable joy.”

On a sunny morning in Boulois, Barley and I boarded the early train for Perpignan.

Chapter 38

“The Friday plane to Budapest from Istanbul was far from full, and when we had settled in among the black-suited Turkish businessmen, the gray-jacketed Magyar bureaucrats talking in clumps, the old women in blue coats and head shawls-were they going to cleaning jobs in Budapest, or had their daughters married Hungarian diplomats?-I had only a short flight in which to regret the train trip we might have taken.

“That trip, with its tracks carved through mountain walls, its expanses of forest and cliff, river and feudal town, would have to wait for my later career, as you know, and I have taken it twice since then. There is something vastly mysterious for me about the shift one sees, along that route, from the Islamic world to the Christian, from the Ottoman to the Austro-Hungarian, from the Muslim to the Catholic and Protestant. It is a gradation of towns, of architecture, of gradually receding minarets blended with the advancing church domes, of the very look of forest and riverbank, so that little by little you begin to believe you can read in nature itself the saturation of history. Does the shoulder of a Turkish hillside really look so different from the slope of a Magyar meadow? Of course not, and yet the difference is as impossible to erase from the eye as the history that informs it is from the mind. Later, traveling this route, I would also see it alternately as benign and bathed in blood-this is the other trick of historical sight, to be unrelentingly torn between good and evil, peace and war. Whether I was imagining an Ottoman incursion across the Danube or the earlier sweep of the Huns toward it from the East, I was always plagued by conflicting images: a severed head brought into the encampment with cries of triumph and hatred, and then an old woman-maybe the greatest of grandmothers of those wrinkled faces I saw on the plane-dressing her grandson in warmer clothes, with a pinch on his smooth Turkic cheek and a deft hand making sure her stew of wild game didn’t burn.

“These visions lay in the future for me, however, and during our plane trip, I regretted the panorama below without knowing what it was, or what thoughts it might later provoke in me. Helen, a more experienced and less excitable traveler, used the opportunity to sleep curled in her seat. We had been up late at the restaurant table in Istanbul two nights in a row, working on my lecture for the conference in Budapest. I had to admit to a greater knowledge of Vlad’s battles with the Turks than I’d previously enjoyed-or not enjoyed-although that wasn’t saying much. I hoped no one would ask any questions following my delivery of all this half-learned material. It was remarkable, though, what Helen had stored in her brain, and I marveled again that her self-education about Dracula had been fueled by so elusive a hope as showing up a father she could barely claim. When her head lolled in sleep onto my shoulder, I let it rest there, trying not to breathe in the scent-Hungarian shampoo?-of her curls. She was tired; I sat meticulously still while she slept.

“My first impression of Budapest, taken in through the windows of our taxi from the airport, was of a vast nobility. Helen had explained to me that we would be staying in a hotel near the university on the east side of the Danube, in Pest, but she had apparently asked our driver to take us along the Danube before dropping us off. One minute we were traversing dignified eighteenth- and nineteenth-century streets, enlivened here and there by a burst of art-nouveau fantasy or a tremendous old tree. The next minute we were in sight of the Danube. It was enormous-I hadn’t been prepared for its grandeur-with three great bridges spanning it. On our side of the river rose the incredible neo-Gothic spires and dome of the Parliament Buildings, and on the opposite side rose the immense tree-cushioned flanks of the royal palace and the spires of medieval churches. In the midst of everything was that expanse of the river, gray-green, its surface finely scaled by wind and glinting with sunlight. A huge blue sky arched over the domes and monuments and churches, and touched the water with shifting colors.

“I had expected to be intrigued by Budapest, and to admire it; I had not expected to be awed. It had absorbed a panoply of invaders and allies, beginning with the Romans and ending with the Austrians-or the Soviets, I thought, remembering Helen’s bitter comments-and yet it was different from all of them. It was neither quite Western, nor Eastern like Istanbul, nor, for all its Gothic architecture, northern European. I stared out the confining taxi window at a splendor wholly individual. Helen was staring, too, and after a moment she turned to me. Some of my excitement must have registered on my face, because she burst out laughing. ‘I see you like our little town,’ she said, and I heard under her sarcasm a keen pride. Then she added in a low voice, ‘Dracula is one of our own here-did you know? In 1462 he was imprisoned by King Matthias Corvinus about twenty miles from Buda because he had threatened Hungary ’s interests in Transylvania. Corvinus apparently treated him more like a houseguest than a prisoner and even gave him a wife from the Hungarian royal family, although no one knows exactly who she was-Dracula’s second wife. Dracula showed his gratitude by converting to the Catholic faith, and they were allowed to live in Pest for a while. And as soon as he was released from Hungary -’

“‘I think I can imagine,’ I said. ‘He went right back to Wallachia and took over the throne as soon as possible and renounced his conversion.’

“‘That is basically correct,’ she admitted. ‘You are getting a feel for our friend. He wanted more than anything to take and keep the Wallachian throne.’

“Too soon the taxi was looping back into the old section of Pest, away from the river, but here there were more wonders for me to gawk at, which I did without shame: balconied coffeehouses that imitated the glories of Egypt or Assyria, walking streets crowded with energetic shoppers and forested with iron street lanterns, mosaics and sculptures, angels and saints in marble and bronze, kings and emperors, violinists in white tunics playing on a street corner. ‘Here we are,’ Helen said suddenly. ‘This is the university section, and there is the university library.’ I craned to get a look at a fine classical building of yellow stone. ‘We will go in there when we have the chance-in fact I want to look at something there. And here is our hotel, just off Magyarutca – Magyar Street, to you. I must find you a map somehow so you don’t get lost.’

“The driver hauled out our bags in front of an elegant, patrician facade of gray stone, and I gave my hand to Helen to help her from the car. ‘I thought so,’ she said with a snort. ‘They always use this hotel for conferences.’

“‘It looks fine to me,’ I ventured.

“‘Oh, it is not bad. You will especially enjoy the choice of cold or cold water, and the factory food.’ Helen was paying the driver from a selection of large silver and copper coins.

“‘I thought Hungarian food was wonderful,’ I said consolingly. ‘I’m sure I’ve heard that somewhere. Goulash and paprika, and so on.’

“Helen rolled her eyes. ‘Everyone always mentions goulash if you sayHungary. Just as everyone mentions Dracula if you sayTransylvania. ’ She laughed. ‘But you can ignore the hotel food. Wait until we eat at my aunt’s house, or my mother’s, and then we will discuss Hungarian cooking.’

“‘I thought your mother and aunt were Romanian,’ I objected, and was immediately sorry; her face froze.

“‘You may think whatever you like, Yankee,’ she told me peremptorily, and picked up her own suitcase before I could take it for her.

“The hotel lobby was quiet and cool, lined with marble and gilt from a more prosperous age. I found it pleasant and saw nothing for Helen to be ashamed of in it. A moment later I realized that I was in my first communist country-on the wall behind the front desk were photographs of government officials, and the dark blue uniform of all the hotel personnel had something self-consciously proletarian about it. Helen checked us in and handed me my room key. ‘My aunt has arranged things very well,’ she said with satisfaction. ‘And there is a telephone message from her to say that she will meet us here at seven o’clock this evening to take us out to dinner. We will go to register at the conference first, and attend a reception there at five o’clock.’

“I was disappointed by the news that the aunt would not be taking us home for her own Hungarian food and a glimpse of the life of the bureaucratic elite, but I reminded myself hurriedly that I was, after all, an American and should not expect every door to fly open to me here. I might be a risk, a liability, or at the least an embarrassment. In fact, I thought, I would do well to keep a low profile and make as little trouble as possible for my hosts. I was lucky to be here at all, and the last thing I wanted was any problem for Helen or her family.

“My room upstairs was plain and clean, with incongruous touches of former grandeur in the fat bodies of gilded cherubs in the upper corners and a marble basin in the shape of a great mollusk shell. As I washed my hands there and combed my hair in the mirror above it, I looked from the simperingputti to the narrow, tightly made bed, which could have been an army cot, and grinned. My room was on a different floor from Helen’s this time-the aunt’s foresight?-but at least I would have those outdated cherubs and their Austro-Hungarian wreaths for company.

“Helen was waiting for me in the lobby, and she led me silently through the grand doors of the hotel into the grand street. She was wearing her pale blue blouse again-in the course of our travels, I had gradually become rather rumpled while she managed still to look washed and ironed, which I took for some kind of East European talent-and she had pinned her hair up in a soft roll in the back. She was lost in thought as we strolled toward the university. I didn’t dare ask what she was thinking, but after a while she told me of her own volition. ‘It is so odd to come back here very suddenly like this,’ she said, glancing at me.

“‘And with a strange American?’

“‘And with a strange American,’ she murmured, which didn’t sound like a compliment.

“The university was made up of impressive buildings, some of them echoes of the fine library we’d seen earlier, and I began to feel some trepidation when Helen gestured toward our destination, a large classical hall bordered around the second story with statues. I stopped to crane up at them and was able to read some of their names, spelled in their Magyar versions: Plato, Descartes, Dante, all of them crowned with laurels and draped in classical robes. The other figures were less familiar to me: Szent István, Mátyás Corvinus, János Hunyadi. They brandished scepters or bore mighty crowns aloft.

“‘Who are they?’ I asked Helen.

“‘I’ll tell you tomorrow,’ she said. ‘Come on-it’s after five now.’

“We entered the hall with several animated young people I took to be students and made our way to a huge room on the second floor. My stomach lurched a little; the place was full of professors in black or gray or tweed suits and crooked ties-they had to be professors-eating from little plates of red peppers and white cheese and drinking something that smelled like a strong medication. They were all historians, I thought with a groan, and although I was supposed to be one of them, my heart was sinking fast. Helen was immediately surrounded by a knot of colleagues, and I caught a glimpse of her shaking hands in a comradely way with a man whose white pompadour reminded me of some kind of dog. I had almost decided to go pretend to look out the window at the magnificent church facade opposite when Helen’s hand grasped my elbow for a split second-was that wise of her?-and steered me into the crowd.

“‘This is Professor Sándor, the chairman of the history department at the University of Budapest and our greatest medievalist,’ she told me, indicating the white dog, and I hurried to introduce myself. My hand was crushed in a grip of iron, and Professor Sándor expressed his great honor at having me join the conference. I wondered briefly if he was the friend of the mysterious aunt. To my surprise, he spoke a clear, if slow, English. ‘The pleasure is all ours,’ he told me warmly. ‘We expect happily your lecture tomorrow.’

“I expressed my reciprocal feeling of honor at being allowed to address the conference and was very careful not to catch Helen’s eye as I spoke.

“‘Excellent,’ Professor Sándor boomed. ‘We have a big respect for the universities of your country. May our two countries live in peace and friendship for every year.’ He saluted me with his glass of the medicinal clear stuff I’d been smelling, and I hastened to return the salute, since a glass of it had magically appeared in my hand. ‘And now, if there is something we can do to make your stay in our beloved Budapest more happier, you must say it.’ His great dark eyes, bright in an aging face and contrasting weirdly with his white mane, reminded me for a moment of Helen’s, and I took a sudden liking to him.

“‘Thank you, Professor,’ I told him sincerely, and he slapped my back with a big paw.

“‘Please, come, eat, drink, and we will talk.’ Right after this, however, he vanished to other duties, and I found myself in the midst of eager questions from the other members of the faculty and visiting scholars, some of whom looked even younger than I. They clustered around me and Helen, and gradually I heard among their voices a babble of French and German, and some other language that might have been Russian. It was a lively group, a charming group, actually, and I began to forget my nervousness. Helen introduced me with a distant graciousness that struck me as just the right note for the occasion, explaining smoothly the nature of our work together and the article we would soon be publishing in an American journal. The eager faces crowded around her, too, with quick questions in Magyar, and a little flush came to her face as she shook hands and even kissed the cheeks of a few of her old acquaintances. They had not forgotten her, clearly-but then how could they? I thought. I noticed that she was one of several women in the room, some older than she and a few quite young, but she eclipsed all of them. She was taller, more vivid, more poised, with her broad shoulders, her beautifully shaped head and heavy curls, her look of animated irony. I turned to one of the Hungarian faculty members so that I would not stare at her; the fiery drink was starting to course through my veins.

“‘Is this a typical gathering at a conference here?’ I wasn’t sure what I meant, but it was something to say while I took my eyes off Helen.

“‘Yes,’ said my companion proudly. He was a short man of about sixty in a gray jacket and gray tie. ‘We have many international gatherings at the university, especially now.’

“I wanted to ask what he meant byespecially now, but Professor Sándor had materialized again and was guiding me toward a handsome man who seemed very eager to meet me. ‘This is Professor Géza József,’ he told me. ‘He would like to make your acquaintance.’ Helen turned at the same moment, and to my utter surprise I saw a look of displeasure-was it even disgust?-flash over her face. She made her way toward us immediately, as if to intervene.

“‘How are you, Géza?’ She was shaking hands with him, formally and a little coldly, before I’d even had time to greet the man.

“‘How good to see you, Elena,’ Professor József said, bowing a little to her, and I caught something strange in his voice, too, which could have been mockery but could have been some other emotion. I wondered if they were speaking English only for my benefit.

“‘And you,’ she said flatly. ‘Allow me to introduce my colleague with whom I have been working in America -’

“‘What a pleasure to meet you,’ he said, giving me a smile that illuminated his fine features. He was taller than I, with thick brown hair and the confident posture of a man who loves his own virility-he would have been magnificent on horseback, riding across the plains with herds of sheep, I thought. His handshake was warm, and he gave me a welcoming cudgel on the shoulder with his other hand. I failed to see why Helen would find him repulsive, although I couldn’t shake the impression that she did. ‘And you will honor us with a lecture tomorrow? That is splendid,’ he said. Then he paused for a second. ‘But my English is not so good. Would you prefer we speak in French? German?’

“‘Your English is far better than either my French or German, I’m sure,’ I responded promptly.

“‘You are very kind.’ His smile was a meadow of flowers. ‘I understand your field is the Ottoman domination of the Carpathians?’

“News certainly traveled fast here, I thought; it was just like home. ‘Ah, yes,’ I concurred. ‘Although I am sure I will have much to learn from your faculty on that subject.’

“‘Surely no,’ he murmured kindly. ‘But I have done a little research on it myself and would be pleased to discuss it with you.’

“‘Professor József has a great range of interests,’ Helen put in. Her tone would have frozen hot water. This was all very puzzling, but I reminded myself that every academic department suffers from civil unrest, if not outright war, and that this one was probably no exception. Before I could think of anything conciliatory to say, Helen turned to me abruptly. ‘Professor, we must go to our next meeting,’ she said. For a second, I didn’t know whom she was addressing, but she put her hand firmly under my arm.

“‘Oh, I see you are very busy.’ Professor József was all regret. ‘Perhaps we can discuss the Ottoman question another time? I would be pleased to show you a little of our city, Professor, or take you for lunch -’

“‘The professor will be fully engaged throughout the conference,’ Helen told him. I shook hands with the man as warmly as her icy gaze would permit, and then he took her free hand in his.

“‘It is a delight to see you back in your homeland,’ he told her, and bowing over her hand, he kissed it. Helen snatched it away, but a strange look crossed her face. She was somehow moved by the gesture, I decided, and for the first time I disliked the charming Hungarian historian. Helen steered me back to Professor Sándor, where we made our apologies and expressed our eagerness to hear the next day’s lectures.

“‘And we will expect your lecture with all the pleasure.’ He pressed my hand in both of his. Hungarians were tremendously warm people, I thought with a glow that was only partly the effect of the drink in my bloodstream. As long as I postponed all real thought of that lecture myself, I felt adrift in satisfaction. Helen took my arm, and I thought she searched the room with a quick glance before we made our exit.

“‘What was that all about?’ The evening air was refreshingly cool, and I felt more aglow than ever. ‘Your compatriots are the most cordial people I think I’ve ever met, but I had the impression you were ready to behead Professor József.’

“‘I was,’ she said shortly. ‘He is unsufferable.’

“‘Insufferable, more likely,’ I pointed out. ‘What makes you treat him like that? He greeted you as an old friend.’

“‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong with him, really, except that he is a flesh-eating vulture. A vampire, actually.’ She stopped short and stared at me, her eyes large. ‘I didn’t mean -’

“‘Of course you didn’t,’ I said. ‘I checked his canines.’

“‘You are unsufferable, too,’ she said, taking her arm from mine.

“I looked regretfully at her. ‘I don’t mind your holding my arm,’ I said lightly, ‘but is that a good idea in front of your entire university?’

“She stood gazing at me, and I couldn’t decipher the darkness in her eyes. ‘Don’t worry. There was not anyone present from anthropology.’

“‘But you knew many of the historians, and people talk,’ I persisted.

“‘Oh, not here.’ She gave her dry snort of laughter. ‘We are all workers-in-arms together here. No gossip or conflict-only comradely dialectic. You will see tomorrow. It is really quite a little utopia.’

“‘Helen,’ I groaned. ‘Would you be serious, for once? I’m simply worried about your reputation here-your political reputation. After all, you must come back here someday and face all these people.’

“‘Must I?’ She took my arm again, and we walked on. I made no move to pull away; there was little I could have valued more at that moment than the brush of her black jacket against my elbow. ‘Anyway, it was worth it. I did it only to make Géza gnash his teeth. His fangs, that is.’

“‘Well, thank you,’ I muttered, but I didn’t trust myself to say anything more. If she had intended to make anyone jealous, it had certainly worked with me. I suddenly saw her in Géza’s strong arms. Had they been involved before Helen had left Budapest? They would have been a striking match, I thought-both were so handsomely confident, so tall and graceful, so dark haired and broad shouldered. I felt, suddenly, puny and Anglo, no match for the horsemen of the steppe. Helen’s face prohibited further questions, however, and I had to content myself with the silent weight of her arm.

“All too soon, we turned in at the gilded doors of the hotel and were in the hushed lobby. As soon as we entered, a lone figure stood up among the black upholstered chairs and potted palms, waiting quietly for us to approach. Helen gave a little cry and ran forward, her hands outstretched. ‘Éva!’”

Chapter 39

“Since my meeting with her-I saw her only three times-I have often thought of Helen’s aunt Éva. There are people who stick in one’s memory much more clearly after a brief acquaintance than others whom one sees day after day over a long period. Aunt Éva was certainly one of those vivid people, someone my memory and imagination have conspired to preserve in living color for twenty years. I have sometimes used Aunt Éva to fill the shoes of characters in books, or figures in history; for example, she stepped in automatically when I encountered Madame Merle, the personable schemer in Henry James’sPortrait of a Lady.

“In fact, Aunt Éva has stood in for such a number of formidable, fine, subtle women, in my musings, that it is a little difficult for me to reach back now to her real self as I encountered her on an early summer evening in Budapest in 1954. I do remember that Helen flew into her arms with uncharacteristic affection, and that Aunt Éva herself did not fly, but stood calm and dignified, embracing her niece and kissing her soundly on each cheek. When Helen turned, flushed, to introduce us, I saw tears shining in the eyes of both women. ‘Éva, this is my American colleague, whom I told you about. Paul, this is my aunt, Éva Orbán.’

“I shook hands, trying not to stare. Mrs. Orbán was a tall, handsome woman of perhaps fifty-five. What hypnotized me about her was her stunning resemblance to Helen. They might have been an older and much younger sister, or twins, one of whom had aged through hard experience while the other had stayed magically young and fresh. In fact, Aunt Éva was only a shade shorter than Helen and had Helen’s strong, graceful posture. Her face might once have been even lovelier than Helen’s, and it was still very beautiful, with the same straight, rather long nose, pronounced cheekbones, and brooding dark eyes. Her hair color puzzled me until I realized that it could never have had its origins in nature; it was a weird purplish red, with some white growing out at the roots. During our subsequent days in Budapest, I saw this dyed hair on many women, but that first glimpse of it startled me. She wore small gold earrings and a dark suit that was the sister of Helen’s, with a red blouse underneath.

“As we shook hands, Aunt Éva looked into my face very seriously, almost earnestly. Maybe she was scanning me for any weakness of character to warn her niece about, I thought, and then chided myself; why should she even consider me a potential suitor? I could see a web of fine lines around her eyes and at the corners of her lips, the record of a transcendent smile. That smile appeared after a moment, as if she could not suppress it for long. No wonder this woman could arrange additions to conferences and stamps in visas at the drop of a hat, I thought; the intelligence she radiated was matched only by her smile. Like Helen’s, too, her teeth were beautifully white and straight, something I was beginning to realize was not a given among Hungarians.

“‘I am very glad to meet you,’ I said to her. ‘Thank you for arranging the honor of my attending the conference.’

“Aunt Éva laughed and pressed my hand. If I had thought her calm and reserved the moment before, I had been fooled; she broke out now in a voluble stream of Hungarian, and I wondered if I was supposed to understand any of it. Helen came to my rescue at once. ‘My aunt does not speak English,’ she explained, ‘although she understands more than she likes to admit. The older people here studied German and Russian and sometimes French, but English was much rarer. I will translate for you. Shh -’ She put a fond hand on her aunt’s arm, adding some injunction in Hungarian. ‘She says you are very welcome here and hopes you won’t get into any trouble, as she put the whole office of the undersecretary of visa affairs into an uproar to get you in. She expects an invitation from you to your lecture-which she will not understand that well, but it is the principle of the thing-and you must also satisfy her curiosity about your university at home, how you met me, whether I behave properly in America, and what kind of food your mother cooks. She will have other questions later.’

“I looked at the pair of them in astonishment. They were both smiling at me, these two magnificent women, and I saw a remarkable likeness of Helen’s irony in her aunt’s face, although Helen could have benefited from a study of her aunt Éva’s frequent smile. There was certainly no fooling someone as clever as Éva Orbán; after all, I reminded myself, she had risen from a village in Romania to a position of power in the Hungarian government. ‘I will certainly try to satisfy your aunt’s interest,’ I told Helen. ‘Please explain to her that my mother’s specialties are meat loaf and macaroni-and-cheese.’

“‘Ah, meat loaf,’ Helen said. Her explanation to her aunt brought an approving smile. ‘She asks you to convey her greetings and congratulations to your mother in America on her fine son.’ I felt myself turning red, to my annoyance, but promised to deliver the message. ‘Now she would like to take us to a restaurant you will enjoy very much, a taste of old Budapest.’

“Minutes later, the three of us were seated in the back of what I took to be Aunt Éva’s private car-not a very proletarian vehicle, by the way-and Helen was pointing out the sights, prompted by her aunt. I should say that Aunt Éva never uttered a word of English to me throughout our two meetings, but I had the impression this was as much a matter of principle-an anti-Western protocol, perhaps?-as anything else; when Helen and I had any exchange, Aunt Éva often seemed to understand it at least partially even before Helen translated. It was as if Aunt Éva was making a linguistic declaration that things Western were to be treated with some distance, even a little revulsion, but an individual Westerner was quite possibly a nice person and should be shown full Hungarian hospitality. Eventually I got used to speaking with her through Helen, so much so that I sometimes had the impression of being on the brink of understanding those waves of dactyls.

“Some communications between us needed no interpreter, anyway. After another glorious ride along the river, we crossed what I later learned was Széchenyi Lánchid, the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a miracle of nineteenth-century engineering named for one of Budapest ’s great beautifiers, Count István Széchenyi. As we turned onto the bridge, the full evening light, reflected off the Danube, flooded the whole scene, so that the exquisite mass of the castle and churches in Buda, where we were headed, was thrown into gold-and-brown relief. The bridge itself was an elegant monolith, guarded at each end by lions couchants and supporting two huge triumphant arches. My spontaneous gasp of admiration prompted Aunt Éva’s smile, and Helen, sitting between us, smiled proudly, too. ‘It is a wonderful city,’ I said, and Aunt Éva squeezed my arm as if I had been one of her own grown children.

“Helen explained to me that her aunt wanted me to know about the reconstruction of the bridge. ‘ Budapest was very badly damaged in the war,’ she said. ‘One of our bridges has not even yet been fully repaired, and many buildings suffered. You can see that we are still rebuilding in every part of the city. But this bridge was repaired for its-how do you say it?-the centennial of its construction, in 1949, and we are very proud of that. And I am particularly proud because my aunt helped to organize the reconstruction.’ Aunt Éva smiled and nodded, then seemed to remember that she wasn’t supposed to understand any of this.

“A moment later we plunged into a tunnel that appeared to run almost under the castle itself, and Aunt Éva told us she had selected one of her favorite restaurants, a ‘truly Hungarian’ place on József Attila Street. I was still amazed by the names of Budapest ’s streets, some of them simply strange or exotic to me and some, like this one, redolent of a past I had thought lived only in books. József Attila Street turned out to be as politely grand as most of the rest of the city, not at all a muddy track lined with barbaric encampments where Hun warriors ate in their saddles. The restaurant was quiet and elegant inside, and the maître d‘ came hurrying forward to greet Aunt Éva by name. She seemed used to this sort of attention. In a few minutes we were settled at the best table in the room, where we could enjoy views of old trees and old buildings, strolling pedestrians in their summer finery, and glimpses of noisy little cars zooming through the city. I sat back with a sigh of pleasure.

“Aunt Éva ordered for all of us, as a matter of course, and when the first dishes came, they were accompanied by a strong liquor calledpaálinka that Helen said was distilled from apricots. ‘Now we will have something very good with this,’ Aunt Éva explained to me through Helen. ‘We call thesehortobàgyi palacsinta. They are a kind of pancake filled with veal, a tradition with the shepherds in the lowlands of Hungary. You will like them.’ I did, and I liked all the dishes that followed-the stewed meats and vegetables, the layers of potatoes and salami and hard-boiled eggs, the heavy salads, the green beans and mutton, the wonderful golden-brown bread. I hadn’t realized until then how hungry I’d been during our long day of travel. I noticed, too, that Helen and her aunt ate unabashedly, with a relish no polite American woman would have dared to show in public.

“It would be a mistake to convey the impression that we simply ate, however. As all of this tradition went down the hatch, Aunt Éva talked and Helen translated. I asked the occasional question, but for the most part, I remember, I was very busy absorbing both the food and the information. Aunt Éva seemed to have firmly in mind the fact that I was a historian; perhaps she even suspected my ignorance on the subject of Hungary ’s own history and wanted to be sure I didn’t embarrass her at the conference, or perhaps she was prompted by the patriotism of the long-established immigrant. Whatever her motive, she talked brilliantly, and I could almost read her next sentence on her mobile, vivid face before Helen interpreted it for me.

“For example, when we’d finished toasting friendship between our countries with thepaálinka, Aunt Éva seasoned our shepherd’s pancakes with a description of Budapest’s origins-it had once been a Roman garrison called Aquincum, and you could still find the odd Roman ruin lying around-and she painted a vivid picture of Attila and his Huns stealing it from the Romans in the fifth century. The Ottomans were actually mild-mannered latecomers, I thought. The stewed meats and vegetables-one dish of which Helen calledgulyás, assuring me with a stern look that it was not goulash, which was called something else by Hungarians-gave rise to a long description of the invasion of the region by the Magyars in the ninth century. Over the layered potato-and-salami dish, which was certainly much better than meat loaf or macaroni-and-cheese, Aunt Éva described the coronation of King Stephen I-Saint István, ultimately-by the pope in 1000 AD. ‘He was a heathen in animal skins,’ she told me through Helen, ‘but he became the first king of Hungary and converted Hungary to Christianity. You will see his name everywhere in Budapest.’

“Just when I thought I could not eat another bite, two waiters appeared with trays of pastries and tortes that would not have been out of place in an Austro-Hungarian throne room, all swirls of chocolate or whipped cream, and with cups of coffee-‘Eszpresszó,’Aunt Éva explained. Somehow we found room for everything. ‘Coffee has a tragic history in Budapest,’ Helen translated for Aunt Éva. ‘A long time ago-in 1541, actually-the invader Süleyman I invited one of our generals, whose name was Bálint Török, to have a delicious meal with him in his tent, and at the end of the meal, while he was drinking his coffee-he was the first Hungarian person to taste coffee, you see-Süleyman informed him that the best of the Turkish troops had been taking over Buda Castle while they were eating. You can imagine how bitter that coffee tasted.’

“Her smile was more rueful than luminous this time. The Ottomans again, I thought-how clever they were, and cruel, such a strange mixture of aesthetic refinement and barbaric tactics. In 1541 they had already held Istanbul for nearly a century; remembering this gave me a sense of their abiding strength, the firm hold from which they’d reached their tentacles across Europe, stopping only at the gates of Vienna. Vlad Dracula’s fight against them, like that of many of his Christian compatriots, had been the struggle of a David against a Goliath, with far less success than David achieved. On the other hand, the efforts of minor nobility across Eastern Europe and the Balkans, not only in Wallachia but also in Hungary, Greece, and Bulgaria, to name only a few countries, had eventually routed the Ottoman occupation. All of this Helen had succeeded in transferring to my brain, and it left me, on reflection, with a certain perverse admiration for Dracula. He must have known that his defiance of the Turkish forces was doomed in the short term, and yet he had struggled for most of his life to rid his territories of the invaders.

“‘That was actually the second time the Turks occupied this region.’ Helen sipped her coffee and set it down with a sigh of satisfaction, as if it tasted better to her here than anywhere in the world. ‘János Hunyadi overcame them at Belgrade in 1456. He is one of our great heroes, with King István and King Matthias Corvinus, who built the new castle and the library I told you about. When you hear the church bells ringing all over the city at noon tomorrow, you can remember it is for Hunyadi’s victory centuries ago. They are still rung for him every day.’

“‘Hunyadi,’ I said thoughtfully. ‘I think you mentioned him the other night. And did you say his victory was in 1456?’

“We looked at each other; any date that fell within Dracula’s lifetime had become a sort of signal between us. ‘He was in Wallachia at the time,’ said Helen in a low voice. I knew she didn’t mean Hunyadi, because we had also made a silent pact not to mention Dracula’s name in public.

“Aunt Éva was too sharp to be put off by our silence, or by a mere language barrier. ‘Hunyadi?’ she asked, and added something in Hungarian.

“‘My aunt wants to know if you have a special interest in the period when Hunyadi lived,’ Helen explained.

“I wasn’t sure what to say, so I answered that I found all of European history interesting. This lame remark won me a subtle look, almost a frown, from Aunt Éva, and I hastened to distract her. ‘Please ask Mrs. Orbán if I could put some questions to her myself.’

“‘Of course.’ Helen’s smile seemed to take in both my request and my motive. When she translated for her aunt, Mrs. Orbán turned to me with a gracious wariness.

“‘I was wondering,’ I said, ‘if what we hear in the West about Hungary ’s current liberalism is true.’

“This time Helen’s face registered wariness, too, and I thought I might get one of her famous kicks under the table, but her aunt was already nodding and beckoning her to translate. When Aunt Éva understood, she dropped an indulgent smile on me, and her answer was gentle. ‘Here in Hungary, we have always valued our way of life, our independence. That is why the periods of Ottoman and Austrian rule were so difficult for us. The true government of Hungary has always progressively served the needs of its people. When our revolution brought workers out of oppression and poverty, we were asserting our own way of doing things.’ Her smile deepened, and I wished I could read it better. ‘The Hungarian Communist Party is always in tune with the times.’

“‘So you feel Hungary is flourishing under the government of Imre Nagy?’ Since I’d entered the city, I’d been wondering what changes the administration of Hungary ’s new and surprisingly liberal prime minister had brought to the country when he’d replaced the hard-line communist prime minister Rákosi the year before, and whether he enjoyed all the popular support we read about in newspapers at home. Helen translated a little nervously, I thought, but Aunt Éva’s smile was steady.

“‘I see you know your current events, young man.’

“‘I’ve always been interested in foreign relations. It’s my belief that the study of history should be our preparation for understanding the present, rather than an escape from it.’

“‘Very wise. Well, then, to satisfy your curiosity-Nagy enjoys great popularity among our people and is carrying out reforms in line with our glorious history.’

“It took me a minute to realize that Aunt Éva was carefully saying nothing, and another minute to reflect on the diplomatic strategy that had allowed her to keep her position in the government throughout the ebb and flow of Soviet-controlled policy and pro-Hungarian reforms. Whatever her personal opinion of Nagy, he now controlled the government that employed her. Perhaps it was the very openness he had created in Budapest that made it possible for her-a high-ranking government official-to take an American out to dinner. The gleam in her fine dark eyes could have been approval, though I wasn’t sure, and as it later turned out, my guess was correct.

“‘And now, my friend, we must allow you to get some sleep before your big lecture. I am looking forward to it and I will let you know afterward what I think of it,’ Helen translated. Aunt Éva gave me a hospitable nod, and I couldn’t help smiling back. The waiter appeared at her elbow as if he had heard her; I made a feeble attempt to request the check, although I had no idea what the proper etiquette was or even if I’d changed enough money at the airport to pay for all those fine dishes. If there had ever been a bill, however, it vanished before I saw it and was paid invisibly. I held Aunt Éva’s jacket for her in the cloakroom, vying with the maître d‘ for it, and we sailed back into the waiting car.

“At the foot of that splendid bridge, Éva murmured a few words that made her chauffeur stop the car. We got out and stood looking across at the glow of Pest and down into the rippling dark water. The wind had turned a little cool, sharp against my face after the balmy air of Istanbul, and I had a sense of the vastness of Central Europe ’s plains just over the horizon. The scene before us was the kind of sight I had wanted all my life to see; I could hardly believe I was standing there looking over the lights of Budapest.

“Aunt Éva said something in a low voice, and Helen translated softly. ‘Our city will always be a great one.’ Later I remembered that line vividly. It came back to me almost two years after this, when I learned how deep Éva Orbán’s commitment to the new reform government had actually been: her two grown sons were killed in a public square by Soviet tanks during the uprising of the Hungarian students in 1956, and Éva herself fled to northern Yugoslavia, where she disappeared into villages with fifteen thousand other Hungarian refugees from the Russian puppet state. Helen wrote to her many times, insisting that she allow us to try to bring her to the United States, but Éva refused even to apply for emigration. I tried again a few years ago to find some trace of her, without success. When I lost Helen, I lost touch with Aunt Éva, too.”

Chapter 40

“Iwoke the next morning to find myself staring right up at those gilt cherubs above my hard little bed, and for a moment I couldn’t remember where I was. It was an unpleasant feeling; I found myself adrift, farther from home than I’d ever imagined, unable to remember if this was New York, Istanbul, Budapest, or some other city. I felt I’d had a nightmare just before waking. A pain in my heart reminded me forcibly of Rossi’s absence, a feeling I often experienced first thing in the morning, and I wondered if the dream had taken me to some grim place where I might have found him if I’d stayed long enough.

“I discovered Helen breakfasting in the dining room of the hotel with a Hungarian newspaper spread out in front of her-the sight of the language in print gave me a hopeless feeling, since I couldn’t extract meaning from a single word of the headlines-and she greeted me with a cheerful wave. The combination of my lost dream, those headlines, and my rapidly approaching lecture must have showed in my face, because she looked quizzically at me as I approached. ‘What a sad expression. Have you been thinking about Ottoman cruelties again?’

“‘No. Just about international conferences.’ I sat down and helped myself to her basket of rolls and a white napkin. The hotel, for all its shabbiness, seemed to specialize in immaculate napery. The rolls, accompanied by butter and strawberry jam, were excellent, and so was the coffee that appeared a few minutes later. No bitterness there.

“‘Don’t worry,’ Helen said soothingly. ‘You are going to -’

“‘Knock their socks off?’ I prompted.

“She laughed. ‘You are improving my English,’ she told me. ‘Or destroying it, maybe.’

“‘I was very struck by your aunt last night.’ I buttered another roll.

“‘I could see that you were.’

“‘Tell me, exactly how did she come here from Romania and achieve such a high position? If you don’t mind my asking.’

“Helen sipped her coffee. ‘It was an accident of destiny, I think. Her family was very poor-they were Transylvanians who lived off a small plot of land in a village that I have heard is not even there anymore. My grandparents had nine children and Éva was the third. They sent her to work when she was six years old because they needed the money and could not feed her. She worked in the villa of some wealthy Hungarians who owned all the land outside the village. There were many Hungarian landowners there between the wars-they were caught there by the changing borders after the Treaty of Trianon.’

“I nodded. ‘That was the one that rearranged the borders after the First World War?’

“‘Very good. So Éva worked for this family from the time she was quite young. She has told me they were kind to her. They let her go home on Sundays sometimes and she remained close to her own family. When she was seventeen the people she worked for decided to return to Budapest, and they took her with them. There she met a young man, a journalist and revolutionary named János Orbán. They fell in love and married, and he survived his army service in the war.’ Helen sighed. ‘So many young Hungarian men fought all over Europe in the First War, you know, and they are buried in mass graves in Poland, Russia… In any case, Orbán rose to power in the coalition government after the war, and was rewarded in our glorious revolution by a cabinet post. Then he was killed in an automobile accident, and Éva raised their sons and carried on his political career. She is an amazing woman. I have never known exactly what her personal convictions are-sometimes I have the feeling that she keeps an emotional distance from all politics, as if they are simply her profession. I think my uncle was a passionate man, a convinced follower of Leninist doctrine and an admirer of Stalin before his atrocities were known here. I cannot say if my aunt was the same, but she has built a remarkable career for herself. Her sons have had every possible privilege as a result, and she has used her power to help me, also, as I have told you.’

“I had been listening intently. ‘And how did you and your mother come here?’

“Helen sighed again. ‘My mother is twelve years younger than Éva,’ she said. ‘She was always Éva’s favorite among the little children in their family, and she was only five when Éva was taken to Budapest. Then, when my mother was nineteen and unmarried, she became pregnant. She was afraid her parents and everyone else in the village would find out-in such a traditional culture, you understand, she would have been in danger of expulsion and perhaps death from starvation. She wrote to Éva and asked for her help, and my aunt and uncle arranged her travel to Budapest. My uncle met her at the border, which was heavily guarded, and took her back to the city. I once heard my aunt say he paid an enormous bribe to the border officials. Transylvanians were hated in Hungary, especially after the Treaty. My mother told me that my uncle had won her complete devotion-not only did he rescue her from a terrible situation, but he also never let her feel the difference between their national origins. She was heartbroken when he died. He was the one who brought her safely into Hungary and gave her a new life.’

“‘And then you were born?’ I asked quietly.

“‘Then I was born, at a hospital in Budapest, and my aunt and uncle helped to raise and educate me. We lived with them until I was in high school. Éva took us into the countryside during the war and found food for all of us somehow. My mother was educated here, too, and learned Hungarian. She always refused to teach me any Romanian, although I sometimes heard her speaking it in her sleep.’ She gave me a bitter glance. ‘You see what your beloved Rossi reduced our lives to,’ she said, her mouth twisting. ‘If it had not been for my aunt and uncle, my mother might have died alone in some mountain forest and been eaten by the wolves. Both of us, actually.’

“‘I’m thankful to your aunt and uncle, too,’ I said, and then, fearing her sardonic glance, busied myself pouring more coffee from the metal pot at my elbow.

“Helen made no reply, and after a minute she pulled some papers from her purse. ‘Shall we go over the lecture once more?’”

“The morning sunshine and cool air outside were full of menace for me; all I could think about as we walked toward the university was the moment, rapidly approaching now, when I would have to deliver my lecture. I had given only one lecture before this, a joint presentation with Rossi the previous year when he had organized a conference on Dutch colonialism. Each of us had written half of the lecture; my half had been a miserable attempt to distill into twenty minutes what I thought my dissertation was going to be about before I had written a word of it; Rossi’s had been a brilliant, wide-ranging treatise on the cultural heritage of the Netherlands, the strategic might of the Dutch navy, and the nature of colonialism. Despite my general sense of inadequacy about the whole thing, I’d been flattered by his including me. I’d also been sustained throughout the experience by his compact and confident presence beside me at the podium, his friendly thump on my shoulder as I relinquished the audience to him. Today I would be on my own. The prospect was dismal, if not terrifying, and only the thought of how Rossi would have handled it steadied me a little.

“Elegant Pest lay all around us, and now, in broad daylight, I could see that its magnificence was under construction-reconstruction, rather-where it had been damaged in the war. Many houses were still missing walls or windows in their upper floors, or even the whole upper floor, for that matter, and if you looked closely, nearly every surface, whatever it was made of, was pockmarked with bullet holes. I wished we had time to walk farther, so that I could see more of Pest, but we had agreed between us that we would attend all the morning sessions of the conference that day to make our presence there as legitimate as possible. ‘And there is something I want to do later, too, in the afternoon,’ Helen said thoughtfully. ‘We will go to the university library before it closes.’

“When we reached the large building where the reception had been held the night before, she paused. ‘Do me a favor.’

“‘Certainly. What?’

“‘Don’t talk with Géza József about our travels or the fact that we are looking for someone.’

“‘I’m not likely to do that,’ I said indignantly.

“‘I’m just warning you. He can be very charming.’ She raised her gloved hand in a conciliatory gesture.

“‘All right.’ I held the great baroque door for her and we went in.

“In a lecture room on the second floor, many of the people I’d seen the night before were already seated in rows of chairs, talking with animation or shuffling through papers. ‘My God,’ Helen muttered. ‘The anthropology department is here, too.’ A moment later she was engulfed in greetings and conversation. I saw her smiling, presumably at old friends, colleagues from years of work in her own field, and a wave of loneliness broke over me. She seemed to be indicating me, trying to introduce me from a distance, but the torrent of voices and their meaningless Hungarian made an almost palpable barrier between us.

“Just then I felt a tap on my arm and the formidable Géza was before me. His handshake and smile were warm. ‘How do you enjoy our city?’ he asked. ‘Is everything to your liking?’

“‘Everything,’ I said with equal warmth. I had Helen’s warning firmly in mind, but it was difficult not to like the man.

“‘Ah, I am delighted,’ he said. ‘And you will be giving your lecture this afternoon?’

“I coughed. ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Yes, exactly. And you? Will you be lecturing today?’

“‘Oh, no, not I,’ he said. ‘Actually, I am researching a topic of great interest to me these days. But I am not ready to give a lecture about it.’

“‘What is your topic?’ I couldn’t help asking, but at that moment Professor Sándor of the towering white pompadour called the session to order from a podium. The crowd settled into the seats like birds on telephone wires and grew quiet. I sat in the back next to Helen, glancing at my watch. It was only nine-thirty, so I could relax for a while. Géza József had taken a seat in the front; I could see the back of his handsome head in the first row. Looking around, I could also see several other faces familiar from last night’s introductions. It was an earnest, slightly scruffy crowd, everyone gazing at Professor Sándor.

“‘Guten Morgen,’he boomed, and the microphone screeched until a student in a blue shirt and black tie came up to fix it. ‘Good morning, honored visitors.Guten Morgen, bonjour, welcome to the University of Budapest. We are proud to introduce you to the first European convention of historians of -’ Here the microphone began to screech again, and we lost several phrases. Professor Sándor had apparently run out of English, too, for the time being, and he continued for some minutes in a mixture of Hungarian, French, and German. I gathered from the French and German that lunch would be served at twelve o’clock, and then-to my horror-that I would be the keynote speaker, the apex of the conference, the highlight of the proceedings, that I was a distinguished American scholar, a specialist not only in the history of the Netherlands but also in the economics of the Ottoman Empire and the labor movements of the United States of America (had Aunt Éva invented that one on her own?), that my book on the Dutch merchant guilds in the era of Rembrandt would be appearing the following year, and that they were deeply fortunate to have been able to add me to their program only this week.

“This was all worse than my wildest dreams, and I vowed that Helen would pay if she had had a hand in it. Many of the scholars in the audience were turning to look at me, smiling graciously, nodding, even pointing me out to one another. Helen sat regal and serious beside me, but something about the curve of her black-jacketed shoulder suggested-only to me, I hoped-the almost perfectly hidden desire to laugh. I tried to look dignified, too, and to remember that this, even all this, was for Rossi.

“When Professor Sándor had finished booming, a little bald man gave a lecture that seemed to be about the Hanseatic League. He was followed by a gray-haired woman in a blue dress whose subject concerned the history of Budapest, although I could follow none of it. The remaining speaker before lunch was a young scholar from the University of London-he looked about my own age-and to my great relief he spoke in English, while a Hungarian philology student read a translation of his lecture into German. (It was strange, I thought, to hear all this German here only a decade after the Germans had nearly destroyed Budapest, but I reminded myself that it had been the lingua franca of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.) Professor Sándor introduced the Englishman as Hugh James, a professor of East European history.

“Professor James was a solid man in brown tweeds and an olive tie; in that setting he looked so indescribably, characteristically English that I fought back a laugh. His eyes twinkled at the audience, and he gave us a pleasant smile. ‘I never expected to find myself in Budapest,’ he said, gazing around at us, ‘but it is very gratifying to me to be here in this greatest city of Central Europe, a gate between East and West. Now, then, I should like to take a few minutes of your time to ruminate on the question of what legacies the Ottoman Turks left in Central Europe as they withdrew from their failed siege of Vienna in 1685.’

“He paused and smiled at the philology student, who earnestly read this first sentence back to us in German. They proceeded like this, alternating languages, but Professor James must have strayed off the page more than he stayed on it, because as his talk unfolded, the student frequently shot him a look of bewilderment. ‘We have all, of course, heard the story of the invention of the croissant, the tribute of a Parisian pastry chef to Vienna ’s victory over the Ottomans. The croissant, of course, represented the crescent moon of the Ottoman flags, a symbol the West devours with coffee to this very day.’ He looked around, beaming, and then seemed to realize, as I just had, that most of these eager Hungarian scholars had never been to Paris or Vienna. ‘Yes-well, the legacy of the Ottomans can be summarized in one word, I think: aesthetics.’

“He went on to describe the architecture of half a dozen Central and East European cities, games and fashions, spices and interior design. I listened with a fascination that was only partly the relief of being able to fully understand his words; much of what we had just seen in Istanbul came rushing back to me as James discussed the Turkish baths of Budapest and the Proto-Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian buildings of Sarajevo. When he described Topkapi Palace, I found myself nodding vigorously, until I realized I should probably be more discreet.

“Tumultuous applause followed the lecture, and then Professor Sándor invited us to convene in the dining hall for lunch. In the crush of scholars and food, I managed to find Professor James just as he was sitting down at a table. ‘May I join you?’

“He jumped up with a smile. ‘Certainly, certainly. Hugh James. How do you do?’ I introduced myself in return and we shook hands. When I’d seated myself opposite him, we looked at each other with friendly curiosity. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘so you’re the keynote speaker? I’m very much looking forward to your talk.’ Up close, he appeared older than I by ten years, and had extraordinary light brown eyes, watery and a little bulging, like a basset hound’s. I had already recognized his speech as being from the north of England.

“‘Thank you,’ I said, trying not to cringe visibly. ‘And I enjoyed every minute of yours. It really covered a remarkable spectrum. I wonder if you know my-er-mentor, Bartholomew Rossi. He’s English, too.’

“‘Well, of course!’ Hugh James unfurled his napkin with an enthusiastic flourish. ‘Professor Rossi is one of my favorite writers-I’ve read most of his books. You work with him? How very fortunate.’

“I had lost track of Helen, but at that moment I caught sight of her at the luncheon buffet with Géza József at her side. He was speaking earnestly almost in her ear, and after a minute she permitted him to follow her to a small table on the other side of the hall. I could see her well enough to make out the sour expression on her face, but it didn’t make the scene much more palatable to me. He was leaning toward her, gazing into her face while she looked down at her food, and I felt almost crazed by my desire to know what he was saying to her.

“‘In any case’-Hugh James was still talking about Rossi’s work-‘I think his studies of Greek theater are marvelous. The man can do anything.’

“‘Yes,’ I said absently. ‘He’s been working on an article called ”The Ghost in the Amphora,“ about the stage props used in the Greek tragedies.’ I stopped, suddenly realizing I might be giving away Rossi’s trade secrets. If I hadn’t halted myself, however, Professor James’s face would have brought me up short.

“‘The what?’ he said, clearly astonished. He set down his fork and knife, abandoning his lunch. ‘Did you say ”The Ghost in the Amphora“?’

“‘Yes.’ I’d forgotten even about Helen and Géza now. ‘Why do you ask?’

“‘But this is astounding! I think I must write to Professor Rossi at once. You see, I’ve recently been studying a most interesting document from fifteenth-century Hungary. That’s what brought me to Budapest in the first place-I’ve been looking into that period of Hungary ’s history, you know, and then I tagged along at the conference with Professor Sándor’s kind permission. In any case, this document was written by one of King Matthias Corvinus’s scholars, and it mentions the ghost in the amphora.’

“I remembered that Helen had referred to King Matthias Corvinus the night before; hadn’t he been the founder of the great library in the Buda castle? Aunt Éva had told me about him, too. ‘Please,’ I said urgently, ‘explain.’

“‘Well, I-it’s rather a silly sounding thing, but I’ve been very interested for several years in the folk legends of Central Europe. It started as a bit of a lark, I suppose, long ago, but I’ve become absolutely mesmerized by the legend of the vampire.’

“I stared at him. He looked as ordinary as before, with his ruddy, jolly face and tweed jacket, but I felt I must be dreaming.

“‘Oh, I know it sounds juvenile-Count Dracula and all that-but you know it really is a remarkable subject when you dig into it a bit. You see, Dracula was a real person, although of course not a vampire, and I’m interested in whether his history is in any way connected with folk legends of the vampire. A few years ago I started looking for written material on the topic, to see if there even was any, since of course the vampire existed mainly in oral legend in Central and East European villages.’

“He leaned back, drumming his fingers on the edge of the table. ‘Well, lo and behold, working in the university library here, I turned up this document that Corvinus apparently commissioned-he wanted someone to collect all knowledge of vampires from earliest times. Whoever the scholar was who got the job, he was certainly a classicist, and instead of tramping around villages as any good anthropologist would have done, he began poking through Latin and Greek texts-Corvinus had a lot of these here, you know-to find references to vampires, and he turned up this ancient Greek idea, which I haven’t seen anywhere else-at least not until you mentioned it just now-of the ghost in the amphora. In ancient Greece, and in Greek tragedies, the amphora sometimes contained human ashes, you see, and the ignorant folk of Greece believed that if things didn’t go quite right with the burial of the amphora, it could produce a vampire-I’m not quite sure how, yet. Perhaps Professor Rossi knows something about this, if he’s writing about ghosts in amphorae. A remarkable coincidence, isn’t it? Actually, there are still vampires in modern Greece, according to folklore.’

“‘I know,’ I said. ‘Thevrykolakas. ’

“This time it was Hugh James’s turn to stare. His protuberant hazel eyes grew enormous. ‘How do you know that?’ he breathed. ‘I mean-I beg your pardon-I’m just surprised to meet someone else who -’

“‘Is interested in vampires?’ I said dryly. ‘Yes, that used to surprise me, too, but I’m getting used to it, these days. How did you become interested in vampires, Professor James?’

“‘Hugh,’ he said, slowly. ‘Please call me Hugh. Well, I -’ He looked hard at me for a second, and for the first time I saw that under his cheerful, bumbling exterior there glowed an intensity like a flame. ‘It’s dreadfully strange and I don’t usually tell people about this, but -’

“I really couldn’t bear the delay. ‘Did you, by any chance, find an old book with a dragon in the center?’ I said.

“He eyed me almost wildly, and the color drained from his healthy face. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I found a book.’ His hands gripped the edge of the table. ‘Who are you?’

“‘I found one, too.’

“We sat looking at each other for a few long seconds, and we might have sat speechless even longer, delaying all we had to discuss, if we hadn’t been interrupted. Géza József’s voice was at my ear before I noticed his presence; he had come up behind me and was bending over our table with a genial smile. Helen came hurrying up, too, and her face was strange-almost guilty, I thought. ‘Good afternoon, comrades,’ he said cordially. ‘What’s this about finding books?’”

Chapter 41

“When Professor József bent over our table with his friendly question, I wasn’t sure for a moment what to say. I had to talk with Hugh James again as soon as possible, but in private, not in this crush of people, and certainly not with the very person Helen had warned me about-why?-breathing down my neck. At last I mustered a few words. ‘We were sharing our love of antique books,’ I said. ‘Every scholar should be able to admit to that, don’t you think?’

“By this time Helen had caught up with us and was eyeing me with what I took to be mingled alarm and approval. I rose to pull out a chair for her. In the midst of my need to dissemble before Géza József, I must have communicated some excitement to her, for she stared from me to Hugh. Géza looked genially at all of us, but I fancied I saw a slight narrowing of his handsome epicanthic eyes; so, I thought, the Huns must have squinted into the Western sun through the slits of their leather headgear. I tried not to look at him again.

“We might have remained there parrying or avoiding looks all day if Professor Sándor had not suddenly appeared. ‘Very good,’ he trumpeted. ‘I find you enjoy your lunch. You are finished? And now, if you will be very kind to come with me, we will arrange your lecture to begin.’

“I flinched-I had actually forgotten for a few minutes the torture that awaited me-but I rose in obedience. Géza dropped respectfully behind Professor Sándor-a little too respectfully? I asked myself-and that gave me a blessed moment to look at Helen. I widened my eyes and motioned toward Hugh James, who had also risen politely to his feet at Helen’s approach and was standing mutely at the table. She frowned, puzzled, and then Professor Sándor, to my great relief, clapped Géza on the shoulder and led him away. I thought I read annoyance in the young Hungarian’s massive suit-jacketed back, but perhaps I had already imbibed too much of Helen’s paranoia about him. In any case, it gave us an instant of freedom.

“‘Hugh got a book,’ I whispered, shamelessly breaking the Englishman’s confidence.

“Helen stared, but without comprehension. ‘Hugh?’

“I nodded quickly at our companion, and he stared at us. Then Helen’s jaw dropped. Hugh stared at her in turn. ‘Did she also -?’

“‘No,’ I whispered. ‘She’s helping me. This is Miss Helen Rossi, anthropologist.’

“Hugh shook her hand with brusque warmth, still staring. But Professor Sándor had turned back and was waiting for us, and there was nothing we could do but follow him. Helen and Hugh stayed as close to my side as if we’d been a flock of sheep.

“The lecture room was already beginning to fill, and I took a place in the front row, pulling my notes from my briefcase with a hand that didn’t quite tremble. Professor Sándor and his assistant were fiddling with the microphone again, and it occurred to me that perhaps the audience wouldn’t be able to hear me, in which case I had little to worry about. All too soon, however, the equipment was working and the kind professor was introducing me, bobbing his white head enthusiastically over some notes. He outlined once again my remarkable credentials, described the prestige of my university in the United States, and congratulated the conference on the rare treat of hearing me, all in English this time, probably for my benefit. I realized suddenly that I had no interpreter to render my dog-eared lecture notes into German while I spoke, and this idea gave me a burst of confidence as I stood to face my trial.

“‘Good afternoon, colleagues, fellow historians,’ I began, and then, feeling that was pompous, put down my notes. ‘Thank you for giving me the honor of speaking to you today. I would like to talk with you about the period of Ottoman incursion into Transylvania and Wallachia, two principalities that are well known to you as part of the current nation of Romania.’ The sea of thoughtful faces looked fixedly at me, and I wondered if I detected a sudden tension in the room. Transylvania, for Hungarian historians, as for many other Hungarians, was touchy material. ‘As you know, the Ottoman Empire held territories across Eastern Europe for more than five hundred years, administering them from a secure base after its conquest of ancient Constantinople in 1453. The Empire was successful in its invasions of a dozen countries, but there were a few areas it never managed to completely subdue, many of them mountainous pockets of Eastern Europe ’s backwoods, whose topography and natives both defied conquest. One of these areas was Transylvania.’

“I went on like this, partly from my notes and partly from memory, experiencing now and then a wave of scholarly panic; I didn’t know the material well yet, although Helen’s lessons about it were vividly etched in my mind. After this introduction, I gave a brief overview of Ottoman trade routes in the region and then described the various princes and nobles who had attempted to repulse the Ottoman incursion. I included Vlad Dracula among them, as casually as I could, because Helen and I had agreed that to leave him out of the talk altogether might appear suspicious to any historian who knew of his importance as a destroyer of Ottoman armies. It must have cost me more than I’d thought it would to utter that name in front of a crowd of strangers, because as I began to describe his impalement of twenty thousand Turkish soldiers, my hand flew out a little too suddenly and I knocked over my glass of water.

“‘Oh, I’m sorry!’ I exclaimed, glancing miserably out at a mass of sympathetic faces-sympathetic with the exception of two. Helen looked pale and tense, and Géza Jószef was leaning a little forward, unsmiling, as if he took the keenest interest in my blunder. The blue-shirted student and Professor Sándor both rushed to my rescue with their handkerchiefs, and after a second I was able to proceed, which I did with all the dignity I could muster. I pointed out that although the Turks had eventually overcome Vlad Dracula and many of his comrades-I thought I should work the word in somewhere-uprisings of this sort had persisted over generations until one local revolution after another toppled the Empire. It was the local nature of these uprisings, with their ability to fade back into their own terrain after each attack, that had ultimately undermined the great Ottoman machine.

“I had meant to end more eloquently than this, but it seemed to please the crowd, and there was ringing applause. To my surprise, I had finished. Nothing terrible had occurred. Helen slumped back, visibly relieved, and Professor Sándor came beaming up to shake my hand. Looking around, I noted Éva in the back, clapping away with her lovely smile very wide. Something was amiss in the room, however, and after a minute I realized that Géza’s stately form had vanished. I couldn’t recall his slipping out, but perhaps the end of my lecture had been too dull for him.

“As soon as I was done, everyone stood up and began to talk in a babble of languages. Three or four of the Hungarian historians came over to shake my hand and congratulate me. Professor Sándor was radiant. ‘Excellent!’ he cried. ‘I am full of pleasure to know you understand so well our Transylvanian history in America.’ I wondered what he would have thought if he’d known I’d learned everything in my lecture from one of his colleagues, seated at a restaurant table in Istanbul.

“Éva came up and gave me her hand, too. I wasn’t sure whether to kiss or shake it, but finally decided on the latter. She looked if anything taller and more imposing today in the midst of this gathering of men in shabby suits. She had on a dark green dress and heavy gold earrings, and her hair, curling under a little green hat, had changed from magenta to black overnight.

“Helen came over to talk with her, too, and I noticed how formal they were with each other in this gathering; it was hard to believe Helen had run to her arms the night before. Helen translated her aunt’s congratulations for me: ‘Very nice work, young man. I could see by everyone’s faces that you managed to offend no one, so probably you didn’t say very much. But you stand up straight at the podium and look your audience in the eye-that will take you far.’ Aunt Éva tempered these remarks with her dazzling, even-toothed smile. ‘Now I must get home to do some chores there, but I will see you at dinner tomorrow night. We can dine at your hotel.’ I hadn’t known we were going to have dinner with her again, but I was glad to hear it. ‘I am so sorry I cannot make you a really good dinner at home, as I would like to,’ she told me. ‘But when I explain that I am under construction like the rest of Budapest, I am sure you will understand. I could not have a visitor see my dining room in such a mess.’ Her smile was thoroughly distracting, but I managed to glean two pieces of information from this speech-one, that in this city of (presumably) tiny apartments, she had a dining room; and two, that whether or not it was a mess, she was too wary to serve dinner to a strange American there. ‘I must have a little conference with my niece. Helen can come to me tonight, if you can spare her.’ Helen translated all this with guilty exactness.

“‘Of course,’ I said, returning Aunt Éva’s smile. ‘I am sure you have a lot to discuss after a long separation. And I think I will have dinner plans myself.’ My eye was already searching out Hugh James’s tweed jacket in the crowd.

“‘Very well.’ She offered her hand again, and this time I kissed it like a true Hungarian, the first time I had ever kissed a woman’s hand, and Aunt Éva departed.

“This break was followed by a talk in French on peasant revolts in France in the early modern period, and by further performances in German and Hungarian. I listened to them seated in the back again, next to Helen, enjoying my anonymity. When the Russian researcher on the Baltic States left the podium, Helen assured me in a low voice that we had been there long enough and could leave. ‘The library is open for another hour. Let’s slip out now.’

“‘Just a minute,’ I said. ‘I want to secure my dinner date.’ It took little effort for me to find Hugh James again; he was clearly looking for me, too. We agreed to meet at seven in the lobby of the university hotel. Helen was going to take the bus to her aunt’s house, and I saw in her face that she would be wondering the whole time what Hugh James had to tell us.

“The walls of the university library, when we reached it, glowed an unblemished ocher, and I found myself marveling again at the rapidity with which the Hungarian nation was rebuilding itself after the catastrophe of war. Even the most tyrannical of governments could not be wholly wicked if it could restore so much beauty for its citizenry in such a short time. That effort had probably been fueled just as much by Hungarian nationalism, I speculated, remembering Aunt Éva’s noncommittal remarks, as by communist fervor. ‘What are you thinking?’ Helen asked me. She had pulled on her gloves and had her purse firmly over her arm.

“‘I’m thinking about your aunt.’

“‘If you like my aunt so much, perhaps my mother will not be your style,’ she said with a provoking laugh. ‘But we shall see, tomorrow. Now, let’s take a look for something in here.’

“‘What? Stop being so mysterious.’

“She ignored me, and we entered the library together through heavy carved doors. ‘Renaissance?’ I whispered to Helen, but she shook her head.

“‘It’s a nineteenth-century imitation. The original collection here wasn’t even in Pest until the eighteenth century, I think-it was in Buda, like the original university. I remember one of the librarians told me once that many of the oldest books in this collection were given to the library by families who were running away from Ottoman invaders in the sixteenth century. You see, we owe the Turks for some things. Who knows where all those books would be now, otherwise?’

“It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home. This one was a neoclassical treasure house, all dark-carved wood, balconies, galleries, frescoes. But what drew my eye were the rows of books, hundreds of thousands of them lining the rooms, floor to ceiling, their red and brown and gilt bindings in neat rows, their marbled covers and endpapers smooth under the hand, the bumpy vertebrae of their spines brown as old bones. I wondered where they had been hidden during the war, and how long it had taken to range them again on all these reconstructed shelves.

“A few students were still turning through volumes at the long tables, and a young man was sorting stacks of them behind a big desk. Helen stopped to speak with him and he nodded, beckoning us toward a great reading room I’d already glimpsed through an open door. There he located a large folio for us, placed it on a table, and left us alone. Helen sat down and drew off her gloves. ‘Yes,’ she said softly. ‘I think this is what I remember. I looked at this volume just before I left Budapest last year, but I did not think then that it had any great significance.’ She opened it to the title page, and I saw it was in a language I didn’t know. The words looked strangely familiar to me, and yet I could not read a single one of them.

“‘What is this?’ I put a finger on what I took to be the title. The page was a fine thick paper, printed in brown ink.

“‘This is Romanian,’ Helen told me.