Nathan Harker was propping up the bar at the Carfax Arms public house. He was on his third pint of lager and had been complaining about his wife incessantly since midway through his first.
“I don’t know why I ever married that stupid cow,” he told anyone who cared to listen. “She’s done nothing but drag me down.” This was his most often repeated matrimonial observation, followed closely by, “If only the fat pig would get run over by a bus.”
This latter statement, which was also subject to much slurred repetition, did however vary as to which form of transportation Nathan preferred in bringing about Mona Harker’s demise. Alternately he imagined a bus, a lorry, a train — even a stricken airliner — freeing him of his troublesome spouse.
Reading between the lines of his increasingly irrational arguments, it became clear that the main cause of Nathan Harker’s ill-will towards his wife was her unbridled passion for shopping. Apparently Mona had maxed out a number of credit cards and now, what with the deepening recession, several bank managers were calling in the couple’s ‘markers’.
“She’s a bleedin’ shopoholic!” Nathan told his less-than-wrapt audience before ordering a fourth drink. “That’s her real problem. If only she was dead.”
At this moment in proceedings a stranger who had been sitting in a dimly lit corner of the saloon bar sidled up to Nathan. He was an odd-looking little man, wearing old-fashioned, round-rimmed glasses, and with a nervous tic tugging at his left eyelid.
“The name’s Renfield,” said the stranger, and followed up this disclosure with a high-pitched giggle. “I believe that I and my master might be able to solve your marital predicament.”
“Renfield?” said Nathan. “You’re not related to that nutter my dad and granddad told me about.”
“I am indeed, sir. Our great, great grandparents were acquainted through those unfortunate events chronicled by Mr. Bram Stoker in 1897.”
“Then your master’s…”
“Count Vlad Dracula,” Renfield affirmed, lowering his voice.
Nathan Harker took a long swig of beer. “So all those whacky old stories were true. Well, I never. And there I was thinking the Harkers were inherently loopy.” He signalled to the barman to fetch Renfield a drink. “So what exactly do you want with me?”
Once his gin and tonic had arrived, Renfield explained. “I’m an emissary of the resurrected Count Dracula. More than a century ago, your great-great-grandmother, Mina, helped track him down to his lair in Castle Alucard, in the Carpathian Mountains. Since then, my Master has sworn a vendetta against the Harkers — a blood feud.”
Nathan frowned, worriedly.
“Fear not, sir. My Master’s quarrel is with the females of the Harker family. The males have always been rather weak and ineffectual. And since the Harker family’s lineage features no direct female descendants, your wife, Mona Harker, will just have to do.”
“‘Just have to do’ for what exactly?”
Renfield giggled nervously. “For Count Dracula’s vengeance, of course. He’s already disposed of one of those tittle-tattling Stokers for their ancestor’s unflattering portrayal of him. And as for the Van Helsings, who mercilessly hunted my Master down, their bloodline has been severed.”
Nathan gulped and loosened his collar. “So, er, what exactly does the Count want with Mona?”
“That’s between the Master and her.” Renfield reached into his pocket. He took out a business card touting a travel agency called Transylvania Tours. “Bring your wife to Castle Alucard any day during this summer, just before sunset, and your marital troubles will be over.”
“How can I trust you not to hurt me?” asked Nathan, accepting the card.
“You have the Count’s word on it that he won’t harm you — and the Count’s word is sacrosanct.”
In spite of a certain amount of incredulity and trepidation, Nathan found himself grinning at the prospect of ridding himself of Mona.
That summer, Nathan and a reluctant, overweight Mona Harker took a hiking holiday in Transylvania.
“You’re bleedin’ killing me with all this walking,” Mona complained, red-faced and out of breath.
Nathan consulted his map. “Castle Alucard’s just over the next ridge, so quit complaining. Anyhow, don’t you want to see where my great-great-grandparents dispatched Count Dracula.”
“Those stories are a load of old twaddle,” Mona scoffed. “Anyhow, if your descendents did do in Count Dracula, how come he’s in so many films and programmes on TV?”
Nathan gritted his teeth against his wife’s ridicule. “Come along, dear. Not far now.”
Towards nightfall the couple arrived at the austere, many-turreted Castle Alucard. On the castle side of the open portcullis, Renfield awaited them.
Melodramatically he asked, “Do you cross the threshold of Count Dracula’s abode of your own free will?” — but spoiled the effect with his trademark giggle.
“Course I bloody well do!” Mona replied tersely, pushing past the Count’s lackey. “Now get us some nosh and a pint of beer, chummy.”
Yet when Mona Harker stepped through the castle gateway, the portcullis slid down, leaving Mona on the inside and Nathan stranded on the outside in the gathering, Transylvanian darkness.
Suddenly the figure of a tall, birdlike man materialised out of the gloom, grabbed hold of Mona and bit savagely into her neck. She managed a single scream before succumbing to unconsciousness.
The Count bit down harder, tearing into Mona’s throat, gorging himself, emptying her like a punctured tube.
When he’d sated his thirst, he threw the lifeless corpse to the ground and licked his lips clean of blood. Then, through glaring red eyes, he stared at the trembling man on the other side of the portcullis.
Renfield said, “My Master will dispose of your wife’s body over the parapet.”
“What about me?” Nathan asked, nervously. “What’s going to happen to me?”
“I’m an honourable nobleman,” said Count Dracula. “And you received my solemn promise that I wouldn’t harm you.”
Nathan sighed with relief. Then, in the distance, a howling started up.
“However,” continued Count Dracula, “you didn’t receive such a promise from the wolves.”
Paul A. Freeman lives and works in Abu Dhabi. He is the author of Rumours of Ophir, a crime novel set in Zimbabwe, and a children’s book, Kimberly Smith and the Pyramid Game. He has had several short stories published in anthologies, newspapers and magazines.