Chapter Two: Weary Blues

"An accident . . ." Lord Maitland's voice was weary, and he rubbed his wrinkled forehead as he sank into a comfortable easy chair.

"Arthur, don't be stuffy." Lady Maitland was feeling cheerful and lively after her meal. "The poor boy met his end quickly, and I didn't spill a drop. The servants will see his body to the furnace."

"It's not just a matter of getting rid of the body!" Lord Maitland watched his beautiful wife walk across the study and put a record on the gramophone player. Modern things delighted Penelope, but she didn't really understand how the world had changed. "My dear, this is the age of wireless communication, motor cars, and the printing press. Records are kept, and even the poor know how to read and write. You can't simply make people disappear!"

"People disappear every day," Lady Maitland said lightly, swaying her hips to the jazz music on the gramophone. "During the war millions of young men bled to death in the trenches. So much rich and precious blood spilled for nothing at all. What a waste!"

"Waste is when you drain a trusting, succulent young man to the last drop, before your poor old husband can even get a taste! I have to feed too, you know." Arthur was still grumbling as his laughing wife pulled him to his feet. Lady Maitland loved to dance.

"Tonight we'll hunt together," Penelope whispered, rubbing up against him, nipping his neck and nibbling his ear. "Do you remember how it used to be, Arthur dear? Just the two of us!"

Lord Arthur Maitland had been in love with his wife for more than three hundred years. They first met in the reign of King James. Arthur had been a wicked old man, a cunning court physician. Seeking immortality, he broke society's rules, pursuing forbidden knowledge and experimenting with sorcery and alchemy.

In those days, most authorities dismissed the ancient vampire legends as superstition. But Arthur knew there was a scientific path to immortality. He only needed to find the proper sustenance. And then one night he came upon her, Penelope in the rags of a prostitute, kneeling over a dying drunkard in a London alleyway.

"My Lord?" The young man's voice jarred Lord Maitland awake.

"Eh? What's that?" Late morning sunlight filtered through the heavy curtains that protected Lord Maitland's government office. Though sunlight couldn't kill him, the warm rays made him sleepy.

"There's a gentleman to see you my lord. An American banker with a letter from Mr. John Pierpont Morgan himself!"

"My goodness! That sounds impressive. Send him in, please, Mr. Billings." Lord Maitland lit the lamp on his desk, wishing he could slumber under the earth all day instead of posing as a government minister. He always felt very sleepy in the morning, especially after a late night with Penelope. Arthur still enjoyed the midnight hunt, but in these times caution was a must, and lately Lady Maitland was becoming harder and harder to control.

"Thank you for seeing me, my lord. I know this isn't quite regular!" The American was tall, broad-shouldered and rugged, a real frontier type. But as the two of them chatted about war loans and late repayments Lord Maitland was surprised to learn that Mr. Cade Rutledge had been born in London.

"You see, your lordship, I ran away to sea when I was just fifteen. Left the orphanage and made my fortune. Only one other fellow made good, I'm afraid. Simon Tibbets, have you heard of him? They say he was working for you."