"I am sorry to say that you have been misinformed. I will not spontaneously burst into flames when those blinds are lifted. So many questions, you will never hear the whole story at this rate. Vampire politics can be an interesting thing to observe. Nathaniel wanted to rule the Coven, and Phillipe expected to take over when Prince grew tired of it. Callisto saw opportunity to be more than mistress to the ruling power, and formed an alliance of a sort with Nathaniel. The Coven was affectively split down the middle. Manipulation and subterfuge were everywhere. You had to watch what you said, how you acted. Those days were…interesting. Somehow Prince kept his turbulent Coven from declaring battle on itself." Randle noticed the woman clench her hands ever so slightly. "Detective Randle, I believe you asked earlier about coffins."

It wasn't a question so Randle felt no need to answer with any more than a low grunt like sound.

"Prince's Coven spent its time, especially during the sunlit hours," her mouth curved up at the corners as if there was some private joke that only she enjoyed, "in a large house that had seen some horrid tragedy. No coffins. One such morning, when most of the Coven had retired to separate rooms, the quiet was disturbed."

"Armed with useless religious icons and more harmful silver tipped weaponry, a small group of hunters disrupted our rest, led by Thomas. I had not realised that the Coven had been his reasoning for travel to France. All through the house human yells and inhuman snarls could be heard, even the smell of burning. A fragrance I will not easily forget is the one that seared the nostrils and tore at the throat – burning vampire flesh. In a sickening way that horrid aroma blended with the scent of human blood, and within moments of the hunters entering, vampires and humans were tearing through the house, blood decorating the walls and soaking into the carpet in dark puddles." The woman had closed her eyes as she retold this part of her tale. She spoke as if she were describing a masterpiece of art, not slaughter.

"Through the mayhem I recognised Thomas. I had hoped that the hunting had died with my son, but apparently hunting was the family legacy. In the next moments I was very stupid. Thomas had made it to the very heart of the house, where Prince spent his days, with me silently following. As he prepared to decapitate the resting vampire, I called his name. In the second Prince awoke and lunged for my grandson, I was already moving. The fangs that were meant for Thomas landed on my own neck, and I threw the old vampire into the wall. While I defended my shocked grandson, other vampires streamed into the room and saw my treason, but unseen by all of us Callisto had torn her lover's head from his neck. I fought off the enraged vampires while my grandson escaped, the only human to leave that house alive."

Fitzgerald was impressed by the woman's storytelling abilities. He could see that Detective Coombs was engrossed and was no longer making notes, and even Randle was becoming interested, even though he feigned boredom.

"Callisto's a weird name." Commented Randle when the woman didn't continue her tale.

"She was a beauty, Callisto, as her name implies." She smiled at the momentary confused expression on Coombs' face. "It is a Greek name, meaning 'most beautiful'. Callisto usurped Prince's power, fabricating a web of conspiracy, with myself at its centre and supposedly aided by Phillipe and Allegra, who was his lover. Callisto played the part of the merciful leader, merely banishing me and confining the two lovers to remaining in her presence at almost all times."

The woman's perfectly shaped eyebrows twitched in irritation as she caught Randle making faces in the mirror.

"While at the court of the Russian Tsar, Allegra came to me. She was… not herself. I should have seen it at that moment that something was not right. I assumed it was the climate. Allegra was never one to enjoy wintry places. She told me that Callisto was finding dealing with the petty political squabbles of the vampires difficult, and in an attempt to further throw the scent off her murderous trail, had declared that her lover, my sire, Nathaniel, would be executed."

"I don't understand. Why?" Dr Fitzgerald could see that Detective Randle's feigned boredom was becoming hard to maintain.

The woman flicked her shining eyes at the detective, her eyes clearly saying "don't interrupt", but she answered his question regardless.

"You need to understand. Callisto and Nathaniel were kindred spirits, they both craved power, perhaps more than they craved blood. Callisto was simply finding a believable reason for wanting to, how do you say it? Off him, rub him out, dispose of the problem. Survival, always survival – Callisto knew it was only a matter of time before Nathaniel's pawns would be in place and she would be the one missing a head." She played with a piece of hair, twisting it in her fingertips, before continuing.

"As a human he held my heart in his cold hands – as a vampire I belonged to him. When I heard of his sentence I did not feel any sorrow for his imminent death, I felt guilt and a sense of obligation."

Fitzgerald felt the tiniest of chills creep up his spine as she levelled her gaze on Detective Coombs. "Strange, human, feelings of attachment.

"A surprise was waiting for me when I arrived in Venice, where the Coven was then living. Specially for my return, Callisto had created the only cage in the world to withstand a vampire prisoner. I believed Allegra to have betrayed me, but dear Allegra had been twisted, manipulated. More than any others of our kind that I have met, she was capable of love. Callisto had seen this, and knew Allegra would be her puppet to protect those she loved."


"Very good, Detective Coombs. You have been paying attention." She sounded as though she were complimenting a child in a classroom. "Phillipe had been imprisoned in cage worse than mine. Locked away in a coffin in a cell, and at a word from Callisto, the coffin could be set on fire. Allegra had no choice but to play the puppet. It was tearing her apart. That is the price she paid for loving – she could be hurt."

Coombs was entranced by the woman's pale face, so still, and yet he could see emotions play in her green eyes. Her eyes were screaming pain, but her face never changed.

"The last time I saw my dear Allegra, she paced around my silver lined cage. If I had known her thoughts, I would have stopped her. Being immortal, death is a choice, not an inevitability, and she had made hers."