Seven Vampires: A Judge Dee Mystery

Paris is burning and Judge Dee and Jonathan are on the run. To guarantee their safety, they join a band of seven vampires escaping to England. The only problem? Someone in their midst is killing off members of their group one by one. It’s of no matter to the Judge, provided they don’t breach the Unalienable Obligations, but inevitably he’s drawn into events.


The flames rose behind them as Jonathan and Judge Dee fled Paris.

The city burned. Jonathan, panting, wished he’d packed his good pair of trousers. He wished he’d not been so tardy that he forgot to pick up the juicy pork chops from the butcher that morning. How naïve he was that very morning!

Their long sojourn in the city had made Jonathan complacent. He forgot.

Forgot that his master was a vampire judge, and that rest and tranquillity were things only other people enjoyed.

Now he ran, and wished he’d picked up the second string of sausages, and maybe an extra cheese. The city burned behind him.

Judge Dee moved easily, his long legs striding without effort. He was wrapped in a dark travelling cloak. To anyone watching they would seem like a monk and a novice, fleeing the city.

They were hardly the only ones.

The fire had begun on Fish Street. Churchmen armed with crosses and crossbows stormed the nest of the Fish Street Coven, in truth a dismal hole of poor, starved vampires only recently arrived in the city.

There were too many vampires in Paris. The city crawled with them all.

The churchmen slaughtered the fiends of the night. The fire caught. The city was built on wood. Even the bridges burned over the Seine. In the confusion only one thing seemed clear: destroy the monsters who for too long had preyed on Paris.

Vampires died. Those who could fled the city.

Judge Dee had made arrangements long in advance for just such an eventuality. They were to meet the rest of their travel companions at a crossroads far from the city. Jonathan had protested. Surely their best chance was to travel alone. He didn’t voice the real reason for his unease, though the judge knew it well enough: the thought of spending his nights with a group of murderous vampires was enough to put even Jonathan off his dinner.

The dinner he’d left on the table, untouched, when the fire began.

‘Master,’ he panted, ‘may we slow down? I think I am suffering an attack of the heart.’

The judge did not slow. ‘Perhaps it is indigestion,’ he suggested.

‘But I did not eat!’ Jonathan said, and the unfairness of it all would have made him cry.

‘You have grown somewhat rotund since we first arrived here,’ the judge observed. ‘More rotund than before, I mean. Some exercise would do you a world of wonder, Jonathan.’

‘Yes, master,’ Jonathan said miserably.

The judge, he reflected, could be quite hurtful sometimes.

The judge had found Jonathan long ago back in England. Jonathan was buried under a pile of corpses, but the judge sensed the spark of life under the dead. He’d rescued him for a purpose, and kept him around afterwards. Jonathan was never sure why. Wherever the judge went, murder waited. This did not help Jonathan’s digestion one bit.

He had liked Paris! For a while he had been almost happy. It was a rare and unfamiliar feeling for Jonathan. He wished it had lasted longer.

The flames grew smaller in the distance. The night was dark and cold but Jonathan sweated. He struggled to keep up with the judge’s long strides. There were other people around them now, Parisians fleeing the burning city, some on foot, the more wealthy ones on horses. The river was somewhere to their right.

‘Why don’t we take a boat, master?’ Jonathan said.

‘The river is not safe,’ the judge told him.

‘But why? Is it that it’s running water?’

He had heard that somewhere.

‘No, Jonathan,’ the judge said. ‘It is because the river will be watched and boats will be stopped and searched, and soldiers have swords.’

‘Swords are bad,’ Jonathan mumbled.

‘Indeed, Jonathan,’ the judge said. ‘We shall keep to dry ground and dirt roads until we reach the English port town of Calais. Then we shall take ship across to England.’

‘England, master?’ Jonathan said. He had not been back home since…How many years had it been? He realised he didn’t know. There were too many bad memories waiting for him back on the island. ‘But it’s cold.’

‘I envy you,’ the judge said, ‘that you can feel the cold. It is a mark of life, and life is precious – ah, here we are.’

The judge often said strange things like that. The judge’s kin killed with abandon, and the judge could be as ruthless as any – more than most, if Jonathan was honest. A vampire judge did not just pass a sentence, after all – he also carried out the punishment. And the judge was old. He came from a distant land long ago, and there were few of vampirekind who could measure up to him in power. Judge Dee was a name that gave monsters nightmares.

Jonathan squinted in the dark. He did not have the judge’s night vision. But soon he saw that they were, indeed, nearing a crossroad, and that six dark, cowled figures stood in a half circle and watched them approach.

Jonathan’s heart filled with foreboding.

Or perhaps it really was indigestion.

The six vampires waited silently at the crossroad.



‘Judge Dee. I am Gregor.’

He was a large, bearded man with a fur rim on his cloak. He glared at Jonathan.

‘What is this?’ he said. ‘We cannot have humans. They keep trying to kill us!’

Jonathan would have laughed, but Gregor had muscles like a boxer and teeth like blades. Jonathan would have shivered but he was sweating too much from the walk.

‘Yes,’ a tall, slim woman said, stepping forward. She was in an expensive velvet cloak and wore a thin, exquisite gold band on her head. ‘I am Lady Aisha, my dear judge. You may have heard of me? I was Princess of Agadir for over two hundred years before the infidels deposed me. I must say, this Gregor here is right. I was forced to leave my entire staff and my familiar back in Paris, and I had to kill the maid. The maid! She turned on me with a kitchen knife. It is so hard to find a good maid, did you know that? They grow old and die just as you get used to them. No, Gregor is right. We must leave this one behind.’

She smiled, showing her sharp teeth. ‘Perhaps I could help you dispose of him. He is like a fat little lamb, isn’t he?’

Jonathan cowered and Lady Aisha laughed delightedly. But Judge Dee put out his hand.

‘He is with me,’ he said. His voice commanded. The others stepped back. Gregor stared at Jonathan, then spat.

‘Yes?’ the judge said. Gregor wilted under his gaze.

‘Just keep him near you,’ he mumbled.

‘We should get going,’ a burly yet friendly-looking man said. Like Gregor he had a thick beard.

‘I am Bertolli, the painter,’ he said. ‘It is an honour to meet you, Judge Dee. Perhaps I could take your portrait on the way?’

‘The painter? You studied with Gaddo Gaddi!’ Judge Dee said in surprise.

The judge had an odd fondness for modern art.

Bertolli swelled at being recognised. He beamed with pride. ‘Studied with him? I taught the brat everything he knows!’

‘We shall talk,’ the judge promised.

‘I believe one of our party is missing.’ The speaker was a thin, young-looking man with an equally thin moustache. He said, ‘I am Jacques. But you can call me Jack, seeing as our destination lies at the barbarous coast of the English. There were supposed to be seven of us assembled here, not including yourself, Judge Dee. But one never made it.’

‘So? Perhaps they died in Paris,’ a new speaker said dismissively. She was an older woman, in plain, much stained travelling clothes. ‘I am Melissandra,’ she told the judge. ‘We met before.’

‘Jerusalem,’ the judge said. ‘Some while back. I remember.’

‘And I will not forget,’ Melissandra said. The words were ambiguous. And Jonathan was reminded again of the longevity and viciousness of vampires.

Melissandra turned to Jack. ‘I do not care for this missing person. We should go, and quickly. The sun doesn’t wait to rise and too many people are abroad due to the fire. We should make haste and put some distance between us and the city.’

‘I was first here,’ Gregor said. He frowned in concentration. ‘At least, I thought so. As I approached I imagined, if for a moment, that I saw two people against that large rock over there, the one that marks the boundary. But when I came closer I saw no one.’

The party turned and looked uneasily at the rock. The judge went first, and the rest of the party hurried to follow.

The judge stopped.

‘Alas,’ he said softly.

A shrunken body, withered and aged, lay limply on the ground. Its head, Jonathan saw, had been torn clean off. It lay a few feet away. The corpse was clothed in a grey cloak. There was a gold ring on the corpse’s hand.

‘Nils!’ Melissandra said in evident surprise.

Judge Dee looked at the corpse. ‘You know him?’ he said.

‘You can tell him by his ring,’ Melissandra said. She seemed unconcerned. ‘He was an old Norseman. I met him a couple of times in Paris. One of those old pirates of the north, you know the type. He was a bum.’

‘He was murdered?’ Lady Aisha said. She shuddered theatrically. ‘How terrible,’ she said. ‘So much death in one night. Well, shall we get going?’

‘He was murdered!’ Jack said.

‘We should search him for valuables,’ Gregor said.

The judge, strangely, seemed to agree. He looked through the victim’s clothes, then shook his head.

‘Nothing,’ he said.

‘Well, that’s settled, then,’ Lady Aisha said. ‘And as we are most likely to be murdered, too, if we don’t make haste, I suggest we set off.’

The rest of the vampires exchanged anxious glances. Lady Aisha was right, seemed to be the consensus.

‘A moment,’ Judge Dee said. He continued his examination of the corpse, then nodded to himself.

‘Well?’ Gregor demanded. ‘Is he dead?’ and Melissandra laughed, then quieted.

‘He’s dead enough,’ Lady Aisha said. She reached her hand to Jonathan. ‘Come, walk with me, little lamb. I can tell you like food almost as much as I do.’

She flashed him a smile with her sharp, white teeth.

Jonathan shrunk from her. Judge Dee rose.

‘There is no more I can learn here,’ he said. ‘And the Lady Aisha is right. We must make haste before the sun rises. Come, Jonathan.’

No one offered to bury the corpse. Vampires weren’t sentimental. When they went, they went violently. If they were very old they turned to ash. Nils’ body was withered and shrunken, so he must have had a few centuries on him.

Not that Jonathan cared. But he could tell the judge did. Judge Dee loved truth, and truth was hard to come by when vampires were involved.

‘Yes, master…’ he said.

The travel party huddled into their cloaks. The moon shone down. They trudged across the fields, following the stars north.


There was one more member of their party. Jonathan met him by the fire, the second night.

The others were away, hunting. Jonathan did not want to think about that. The Lady Aisha had brought Jonathan a bloodied hare. She smiled charmingly.

‘I like a man who likes to eat,’ she said.

Jonathan cooked the hare on the fire. There was something very unpleasant about the way the Lady Aisha looked at him. Like he was the hare.

But he was used to that.

‘There is a killer in our midst,’ the man said. He came and sat by the fire. He scowled at Jonathan. He wore Benedictine black.

‘You are a monk?’ Jonathan said in surprise.

‘I was in life,’ the man said. ‘My name is Borja Moura. You can call me Brother Borja. I followed the Lord Christ in life, and when my life was cruelly taken from me by a fiend, I saw no reason why I should not follow the Lord still, even in undeath. I am a pious man,’ he said piously.

‘You suspect one of the others?’ Jonathan said. This Borja made him uneasy. Jonathan turned the hare on the coals. His stomach rumbled.

‘Of this Nils’ death? But of course. Don’t you? Murder, young Jonathan!’ Brother Borja said with no little satisfaction. ‘Murder most foul. Mark my words—’ He scowled again, then rose to his feet. ‘It will not be the last. I bid you farewell, I must to my supper.’

He turned into a bat and flew away.

‘What a revolting man,’ Melissandra said. She appeared so softly out of the shadows that Jonathan jumped. How long had she been lurking there? The night seemed suddenly full of shadows, and he swore he could hear a wolf howl in the distance. ‘I used to be the Queen of Jerusalem, you know.’

‘I did not,’ Jonathan said.

‘I know many secrets,’ she said, ignoring him. ‘For instance, that Aisha is no lady. A houri, is what she is! The houri of Agadir. Ha! And that Bertolli, he has no talent as a painter. How absurd! Can you imagine a vampire painting? We are made to rule. I know all kinds of things. I might keep you, my little chick, when they are all gone. I am short a familiar, and though you are dirty and your breath smells of cheese, at least you can cook.’

She did not wait for a reply and stalked off into the night. Jonathan was left alone. He pulled the hare out of the fire and burned his fingers as he pulled meat off the bones.

Grease ran down his chin.

Where was the judge? Jonathan wondered. He did not feel safe without his master near. Though truth be told, he never felt safe even with his master there. He thought of their previous adventures – or nightmares, as Jonathan privately thought of them. The Horror of the Hogsmead. The Massacre in Pine Needle Bluff. The Terror in Turin.

He might have considered writing them down, but his handwriting was terrible and besides, no one wanted to read stories about vampires.

He tore another chunk of meat off the bone.

A scream pierced the night.

Jonathan kept chewing. He was used to screams in the night. Judge Dee materialised out of the air and stood beside the fire.

‘Come, Jonathan,’ he said. ‘I fear the worst.’

Jonathan always feared the worst. The worst was inevitably what happened when you were in the company of vampires.

‘Yes, master,’ Jonathan said. He took a leg of hare with him. Not that there was much meat on the hare. He followed Judge Dee into the night, the thin bone of the hare held before him like a spectacularly useless weapon.

‘He’s dead!’ Jonathan heard the cry.

‘Who is dead?’

The judge strode fast. In moments Jonathan saw the corpse. The man had a thick beard and in death looked much like he did in, well, undeath.

Jonathan said, ‘Bertolli.’

‘I stumbled over him on my return to camp,’ Lady Aisha said. She sounded disgruntled. ‘Corpses everywhere!’ she said.

‘How did he die?’ Jonathan said. The judge nodded. He crouched next to the corpse. Pointed.

‘He was cut with a silver blade, very small and sharp,’ he said. ‘A barber-surgeon’s weapon, I would wager.’

‘What barber uses such delicate knives?’ Jonathan said. He wondered when it was the judge last went in for a haircut or an amputation. ‘This seems more like a lady’s weapon to me, begging your pardon, madam.’

‘Well, I am certainly not a barber-surgeon,’ Lady Aisha said. ‘Though I am a lady.’ She turned suspicious eyes on the others. The rest of the vampires materialised one by one at the scene. Last amongst them was Gregor. He too looked suspiciously at the rest.

‘Where is Borja?’ he demanded.

‘I am here,’ Borja Moura said. ‘I was praying. What is this? Ah. The Lord’s vengeance has struck again.’ He seemed rather pleased at the thought.

‘It is not your God who did this!’ Melissandra said. Lady Aisha nodded.

‘Whoever did this did not even feed on Bertolli,’ she said. ‘Such a waste. I bet he was delicious.’

‘You’re a pig,’ Melissandra said.

‘Pigs are beautiful animals,’ Lady Aisha said.

‘I would make a nice rug out of your skin, Aisha.’

‘Enough,’ the judge said, before the furious Melissandra could attack Aisha. ‘Where are his belongings?’

Not waiting for a reply he turned and left the corpse. When they reached the camp, Jonathan saw Bertolli’s single travel bag had been ripped open, its contents scattered.

The judge said nothing and merely frowned. He examined the bag, then what remained of Bertolli’s belongings. Jonathan saw jars of paint, brushes which the judge handled with care, bundles of carefully rolled vellum, knives and a pair of scissors, a gold locket and various items of personal grooming. There was even a bar of soap.

‘Is anything missing?’ Jonathan said.

‘He had nothing worth stealing,’ Lady Aisha said disdainfully. ‘The man was a pauper and a simpleton.’

‘There’s a gold locket,’ Gregor said. Jonathan had not seen much of Gregor since they set off. He was a surly sort, and stomped ahead of the rest when the group travelled. ‘Why not take the gold? Gregor take. Give it to me.’

He reached for the locket. The judge’s hand shot out and grasped him by the wrist. Gregor’s face turned red. Veins bulged on his face, but the judge held him in an iron grip.

‘Enough!’ Gregor said. He pulled his arm away. ‘Keep the stupid trinket,’ he said. He turned his back on them and stalked back to the makeshift grave he had dug himself for the sleep of day. The vampires had all dug graves, all but for the judge. Where the judge went to spend the time of light not even Jonathan knew.

What did Bertolli carry that was worth dying for? Jonathan wondered. He had not had much time to form an impression of the man. And if it were valuables the killer was after, why not take the locket, the only thing of value? Unless…

‘Are his paintings valuable?’ he said.

‘His paintings?’ Melissandra snorted, and even Lady Aisha laughed. ‘No one likes this modern art stuff,’ Melissandra said. ‘Now, give them a few centuries more and they might be considered the works of old masters.’

‘A vampire might consider that a reasonable investment,’ Jonathan offered. Aisha and Melissandra both laughed openly at that one.

‘A vampire cares only for tomorrow night’s dinner,’ Lady Aisha said. Her gaze lingered hungrily on Jonathan.

‘See for yourself,’ Melissandra said. ‘I met Bertolli in Paris. Let us just say that his artistic persuasion was somewhat…single-minded.’

The judge had already unrolled the scrolls of vellum. In the wan light of the fire Jonathan saw the images and blushed.

‘Do not tell me you have not seen two men fornicating before!’ Melissandra said. ‘My, Aisha, I see what you mean. He is delicious.’

Jonathan wilted under their combined attention.

But he had to admit the women were right. Even Jonathan’s wilfully ignorant eyes could tell the work wasn’t very good. Proportions were wrong, the colours too dark, the figures sketched out oddly.

‘He painted in blood,’ Melissandra said. ‘I remember he was very proud of that one. Well, blood and other bodily fluids. I cannot see this sort of thing catching on.’

Jonathan stared at the paintings. Vellum after vellum showed naked men fornicating, mostly in the same setting of a room at an inn, with the same washbasin and the same four-poster bed, though judging by the depiction no one had ever cleaned the sheets. One man was usually Bertolli himself. The other changed from painting to painting.

‘What is this?’ Jonathan said.

The judge held one of the last paintings. The figures in it both seemed familiar. One was Bertolli himself. The other was—

‘That’s Nils!’ Lady Aisha said. ‘He doesn’t look that much different from his corpse after all.’

The ancient Norseman stared back at them from the painting. He was naked, erect, and caught in an amorous embrace by Bertolli.

‘They were lovers?’ Melissandra said. Jonathan saw the others had their backs to them now. Jack and Gregor were speaking with each other. Brother Borja sat cross-legged, evidently praying. Jonathan wondered if the lack of interest was a sign of guilt or just a lack of interest. It was hard to tell with vampires.

With vampires, it could very well be both.

‘Interesting,’ the judge said. He rolled the vellum back carefully and tucked it away.

‘Interesting?’ Lady Aisha said.

‘He was not a good painter,’ the judge said – with some regret, Jonathan thought. ‘I wonder if he even really knew Gaddo Gaddi. What do you think, Jonathan?’

‘About Gaddo Gaddi?’

‘About events so far. What conclusions can you draw? Apply what the Greeks called logos, reason.”

As he spoke, the judge returned the rest of Bertolli’s belongings to the travel bag; all but for the paintings, which Melissandra and Aisha both promptly helped themselves to. They wandered a distance away, no longer interested in the conversation, and instead examined each of Bertolli’s paintings with evident fascination, discussing the merits and faults of each of the nude men depicted, while laughing uproariously.

Jonathan tried to concentrate. ‘I don’t know, master,’ he said. ‘Bertolli and Nils knew each other. Nils ended up dead and Bertolli followed shortly after.’ He glanced around him nervously. ‘One of our party killed them both for an unknown reason?’

Think, Jonathan. How was Nils killed?’

‘He was strangled,’ Jonathan said. ‘I mean, his head was torn clean off.’

‘Exactly. And Bertolli?’

‘A silver knife, you said.’

‘A nasty weapon.’

‘We should search everyone here!’ Jonathan said. ‘Whoever possesses the knife will be our killer.’

The judge rarely smiled, but he did so now. ‘And do you think we would find it? Or that any of them would agree to a search?’

‘I suppose not…’ Jonathan said.

‘The two different methods suggest two different murderers, do they not?’ Jude Dee said. ‘One killed Nils. The other killed Bertolli.’

‘But whatever reason could they have!’ Jonathan said.

‘I cannot yet speak to it with full knowledge,’ the judge said. ‘But may I advance a proposition?’


‘Bertolli knew Nils. They were intimate, we know that from the painting.’


‘It would have made it easy for Bertolli to come close to the Norseman. Close enough to twist his head off his neck, maybe. It would seem an act of intimacy, until the very end.’

‘You say Bertolli killed Nils?’ Jonathan said. He stared at the judge in bewilderment. ‘Then who killed Bertolli?’

‘That I cannot yet say.’

‘And why kill either of them?’ Jonathan said. ‘What did they ever do to anyone, besides, well…?’

‘Besides being murderous fiends and unholy creatures of the night?’ the judge said. ‘Is that what you meant?’

‘I wasn’t going to say it…’ Jonathan mumbled.

‘They must have had something of value. Or rather, Nils must have had something of value. Which then passed to Bertolli. Valuable enough for Bertolli to kill Nils for it. Valuable enough for someone else to kill Bertolli.’

‘Someone who already knew Nils had the item?’ Jonathan said.


Jonathan stared around him at the camp. Lady Aisha and Melissandra were looking at the nude paintings. Brother Borja was still praying silently. Jack was lying on his back, stiff as a corpse. Perhaps he liked watching the stars. Gregor sat on his own, whittling a stick of wood with a knife. Jonathan tried to see what sort of knife it was. He hoped to catch a glimpse of silver. But it was just an ordinary knife.

Each of them could be the murderer.

Each of them was a murderer.

And the judge had solved one mystery, only to be faced with another.

Jonathan reached for what was left of his breakfast. The meat was still warm, and he was always so hungry.

He sighed.

Jonathan hated it when things got complicated.



Two nights of hard walking under the cold indifferent stars. Heading north. On and on they went, heading to the coast.

They stayed off any roads. They saw few people on the way.

On the third night after sundown they found Gregor dead in his grave.

Jonathan stared. The large vampire lay on his back in the open grave, a sharp wooden stake sticking out of his heart. Jonathan remembered Gregor sharpening a stick much like it.

Gregor’s mouth was slack.

‘This is absurd!’ Lady Aisha said. ‘We are supposed to be travelling together for mutual protection! What is the meaning of this outrage?’

The vampires began to argue heatedly. Even Brother Borja, who was usually aloof, could not help but join in.

‘A punishment from God for our nature!’ he said.

‘You’re a buffoon,’ Jack said. ‘And I am digging my next grave far from any of you, or I am sure I will be next!’

‘Why would you be next?’ Melissandra demanded in affront. ‘I was the Queen of Jerusalem, did you know that? You are nothing but a peasant, Jacques.’

‘You are a boor,’ Jack said coldly.

‘A boor! You take that back!’

‘I am clearly going to be next,’ Lady Aisha said. She seemed pleased at the idea. ‘In truth I do not see why anyone would bother killing this Gregor at all, the man was a simpleton, though he was pleasant in the sack.’

I will surely not be harmed,’ Brother Borja said. ‘For I follow the Lord.’

They squabbled. Judge Dee pulled Jonathan aside.

‘What do you think?’ he said in a low voice.

‘Another murderer?’ Jonathan said. ‘The spike through the heart—’

‘I believe this time the means were a matter of convenience,’ Judge Dee said. ‘Gregor did inexplicably plant that very stake like a marker right by his grave. I fear he was not the brightest of souls. If he had a soul, of course, which is a matter of some debate.’

‘Perhaps Gregor killed Bertolli?’ Jonathan suggested. ‘Which means he stole the item of value from Bertolli and then someone else killed him for it in turn?’

The judge frowned.

‘It is logical,’ he allowed. ‘And yet I have my doubts. Gregor struck me as a man who kills with his fists, violently. Whoever killed Bertolli was methodical, and this new murder follows suit. It is quick, efficient. It is not done with emotion but with intent.’

‘But if Bertolli’s killer already had the item, why kill Gregor?’ Jonathan said.

The whole thing gave him a headache. He wished they’d reach Calais already. There’d be inns in Calais, and inns meant wine, and roasted birds, and bread dipped in fat. Jonathan really missed bread. And fat.

‘I do not know. Perhaps Gregor suspected someone in our group. Perhaps he wanted to share in whatever the item of value was. We do not know what, if anything, it is worth.’

‘This item,’ Jonathan said. ‘It was brought by Nils, the Norseman, is that correct?’

‘It is.’

‘Then what could an old Norseman possibly have that is worth anything!’ Jonathan said.

‘That is a good question,’ the judge admitted. ‘I do not know.’

‘And how did Gregor – as you said, not the brightest of people – know who murdered Bertolli?’

‘You’re overthinking things,’ the judge said – unfairly, Jonathan thought. ‘It is possible Gregor simply witnessed the murder. Perhaps he saw the nature of the item, too. In that case, even a simpleton like him could be motivated to act.’

‘I wish we were still in Paris,’ Jonathan said miserably.

Brother Borja insisted on giving a short speech on Gregor’s grave. The short speech grew long. Melissandra and Lady Aisha soon began to trade insults, and that escalated quickly to threats of violence. Jack announced he would happily murder them both. The atmosphere was tense.

‘In the midst of life we are in death,’ Brother Borja said.

‘Oh, shut up,’ Jack said.

On that, it turned out, they all agreed.

They set off again into the endless night. Excluding Jonathan and Judge Dee there were only four members of the original travel party left: Jack, Melissandra, Borja, and Aisha. Each of whom seemed ready to kill the others at a moment’s notice.

They were coming to a narrow valley. Jonathan squinted, trying to look ahead.

‘I am hungry,’ Jack announced. His sharp teeth grew longer.

Aisha hissed.

Melissandra said, ‘I smell blood and cold metal and the sweat of men’s lust.’

Judge Dee said, in his cold and calm voice, ‘There is an ambush waiting for us in that valley.’

Aisha smiled.

‘Good,’ she said.

‘I am hungry,’ Jack said.

They walked into the valley and the mountains closed on them from either side like walls.



Jonathan cowered.

Jonathan was good at cowering.

The brigands fell on the travellers from their hiding places.

They had steel swords and a lust for blood.

The vampires had sharp teeth and an equal lust for blood. Melissandra turned into a wolf. She tore one of the attackers’ throats out and growled.

Jonathan cowered further.

Even Brother Borja joined the fight.

‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!’ he cried. Then he fell on one of the attackers and sank his teeth into the man’s neck and began to feed like a starved dog over a hot supper. Blood jutted over Borja’s face and arms. Jonathan had never discounted Borja as the possible murderer and now his suspicions rose further. Clearly the former Benedictine was as dangerous as the rest of them.

Two men with swords went for Jack. He snarled and whirled like a dancer. He was lightning-fast. Jonathan could not quite make out what happened next, only that suddenly both men were on the ground and they weren’t moving. Jack howled laughter at the moon. Jonathan crawled behind a rock and tried to make himself as small as possible.

He couldn’t see Judge Dee, and he couldn’t see the Lady Aisha.

‘Here’s one!’ he heard someone shout.

Jonathan looked up.

A giant man with scars on his face towered above him. A sword glinted in his hand. The sword came down on Jonathan.

Jonathan screamed.

A wolf jumped out of the shadows and bit the attacker’s hand off. The sword cluttered to the ground. The wolf turned back to Melissandra.

‘Hello, duckling,’ she said. ‘Oh, stop screaming.’

She turned to the attacker. The man stared at her in horror, his awful wound jutting blood. Melissandra smiled.

‘Yum, yum,’ she said.

She jumped on the man.

The man screamed.

Jonathan screamed.

Melissandra fed.

The battle was brutal and short. Only the moon shone down to illuminate the aftermath. Jonathan emerged cautiously from behind his rock. Corpses littered the ground.

The vampires seemed drunk. They staggered, their bellies so full they protruded. Jack burped. Melissandra farted. Borja stared into the distance with vacant eyes and licked his lips.

Jonathan tried to back away to his rock, but that only drew the three vampires’ attention.

Their eyes fell on him.

‘Hold on, hold on,’ Jonathan said desperately.

‘Yum, yum,’ Melissandra said.

The three vampires staggered drunkenly towards him.

It was Judge Dee who came to his rescue. He materialised out of the night and stood between Jonathan and the three vampires. He looked at them coldly.

‘The Lady Aisha is dead,’ he said.

The vampires blinked. Reason came back slowly.

‘Dead?’ Jack said. ‘Whatever for?’

‘Good,’ Melissandra said. ‘I never liked her.’

‘May God have mercy on her soul,’ Brother Borja said. His lips were stained with blood.

‘Come, Jonathan,’ the judge said. Jonathan followed his master. They came to a depression in the earth, a little way away from the site of the battle. The Lady Aisha lay on the ground there – what was left of her. She really was old, Jonathan realised. There was little left of the beautiful lady he remembered. The corpse was withered. It looked like a tiny mummy. Jonathan had seen mummies before. He thought of the Case of the Monastery of Madness, early on in his sojourn with the judge.

He had seen his share of horrors.

‘A silver blade?’ he said softly.

The judge shook his head.

‘Did one of the attackers kill her?’

‘I do not think so.’

‘I see.’

The other three vampires came to join them. They looked down at the corpse.

One of them was the killer, Jonathan knew. And it was possible that same person also murdered Gregor and Bertolli. And Bertolli may have murdered Nils. It was hard to keep track.

‘Why kill the Lady Aisha?’ he asked the judge.

‘Perhaps she knew something. Or perhaps…’

‘She’s dead,’ Jack said, without much interest. ‘And I am sated, and Calais grows close. Let us go while the night’s still young. You really do have an unseemly interest in corpses, Judge Dee.’

The judge turned his cold eyes on the three remaining vampires.

‘I am a judge,’ he said, ‘and the killer of these vampires will answer to me.’

‘I really don’t see why,’ Melissandra said, and even Borja nodded. ‘What’s done is done, and who will miss them, anyway? I say we go.’

The judge nodded. Their small party continued on their journey. Jonathan noted that Brother Borja did not offer to speak over the corpse this time. Perhaps he’d had enough of funerary speeches. Or maybe he was simply too full to care.

They hiked on. Through the valley and into open fields, and in the distance Jonathan could hear gulls cry. He thought he could smell the sea.

Towards sunrise they had reached Calais.



After Paris, Calais was a dump. After the long and wearing road, however, it seemed to Jonathan like paradise. He even bathed, though the water was lukewarm. He sat by the fire at the inn and feasted on pheasant, drippings, and bread. He quaffed wine in between.

‘Your manners,’ Judge Dee said, ‘leave much to be desired, Jonathan.’

It was not the first time he had made such an observation.

‘Yes, master,’ Jonathan mumbled. For once he was fed, and warm, and clean. He wished the moment would last forever. The wine gave everything a nice rosy glow.

‘What do you make of it all?’ the judge said.

‘I think they were all in it together,’ Jonathan said. ‘Or, I don’t know. That Borja Moura’s a suspicious character.’

They were all suspicious characters, if he was honest. He swallowed a chunk of bread. ‘Was Melissandra really a queen?’ he said.

‘In a manner of speaking,’ the judge said. ‘She ruled a coven of vampires in the crypts under Jerusalem for some decades. They had broken the Unalienable Obligations by growing too many and feeding too much on the populace. I was summoned. I dealt with the situation.’

‘Yet you spared her life?’

The judge said nothing. Jonathan looked at him in suspicion. It was not like the judge to leave survivors. Perhaps Melissandra was unusually persuasive.

‘Could she be our killer?’ he said.


‘And then there’s Jack,’ Jonathan said.

‘Indeed. All three could have done for Lady Aisha during the battle.’

‘So Gregor killed Nils,’ Jonathan said, ‘then someone else killed Bertolli, Gregor, and Lady Aisha?’

‘Someone, or more than one,’ the judge said. ‘Perhaps it was Lady Aisha who killed Gregor and Bertolli.’

‘Then someone else killed her?’ It made Jonathan’s head spin.

‘I said it is possible,’ the judge said. ‘Not that it is what happened.’

‘How will you know?’ Jonathan said.

‘Ah,’ the judge said, and Jonathan’s heart sank. ‘This is where you come in.’

He explained. Jonathan nodded miserably.

‘Yes, master,’ he said.

The wine lost its allure. The remains of the pheasant sat on the plate, bones protruding, coated in grease. There was no more bread.

‘I have chartered a ship,’ Judge Dee said. ‘It will take us tomorrow night across the sea to England. It has been many years since I last visited London. I believe the Romans are no longer there.’ He sounded regretful.

‘Romans, master? In London? What a curious notion.’

‘They built it, Jonathan. It seems like only yesterday…’

Just how old was the judge? It was not the first time that Jonathan wondered. Such elders as him must have seen many wonders in their lifetime. Many horrors, too, no doubt. Jonathan was glad to remain a mortal. And the judge had assured him he would grow old and eventually die. The judge did not make others of his kind.

At least, Jonathan reflected, he would grow old and die if he ever got a chance to grow old before he died. Which seemed a dubious proposition in his current line of work.

The others of their party were out, stalking the night streets of Calais, no doubt eager for some fresh, English blood. Who knew if they would come back? Perhaps, Jonathan thought, there’d be yet another murder. Perhaps ultimately only one vampire would remain out of the original seven, and then they’d know who was to blame.

But he was to be disappointed. The others returned to the inn one by one. Jack first, then Melissandra, and finally Borja. They trudged in and sat down uninvited in the common room.

‘Calais is a rubbish heap!’ Melissandra announced. ‘I hope this is not a sign of what’s to come in London or I may well change my mind and go elsewhere.’

‘The men are filthy and the women disgusting,’ Jack announced.

‘And there is nary a church to be seen,’ Borja said. ‘What?’ he said into their sullen looks. ‘I like to listen to the prayers from outside.’

‘You are a strange one,’ Jack said. ‘I would not be surprised if you murdered the others.’

‘I did not,’ Borja said. He folded his hands comfortably in his lap. ‘But I will hardly shed a tear at their demise. They were monsters.’

‘Speak for yourself,’ Melissandra said. ‘Ah, what is the use? I am to my coffin. The sun is almost up.’

‘We shall meet by the docks tomorrow,’ the judge said. ‘The good ship Ceres will be waiting for us.’

‘I do not care for the sea,’ Jack said. He rose too, and Jonathan could not help but notice that as Melissandra climbed the stairs Jack was close behind her. Jack said something inaudible and Melissandra laughed.

‘Come, Jonathan,’ the judge said. ‘You should get some rest.’

Unspoken in his words was the task he had given him.

‘Go, then,’ Brother Borja said. ‘I shall remain here awhile and contemplate the flames. They are but a shadow of the true flames of Hell, yet as I glance into them I seem to sense a kinship with the—’

Goodnight,’ the judge said firmly, and Jonathan barely hid a smirk. He fled swiftly. He lay on his pallet of straw but did not sleep.

He waited for dawn.



‘You might be wondering,’ Judge Dee said, ‘why I have assembled you all here.’

He looked at the others expectantly. They were on board the ship. The Ceres flew an English standard but was crewed by pirates out of the Channel Islands, and the sailors gave their passengers as wide a berth as was possible on a small sailboat in the middle of the ocean.

It was very cold. The moonlight shone down on the black and choppy sea.

‘Not really,’ Melissandra said. ‘There is only one room on this boat. Where else would we be? Do they call it a room, on a boat?’

‘A cabin,’ Jack said.

‘Yes,’ Melissandra said dubiously. ‘That.’

Brother Borja said nothing at all.

They had met just after sundown by the docks. The ship for London waited. The sailors muttered, but they took their pay all the same.

If the judge was disappointed at his fellow travellers’ dismissive attitude he showed no sign of it.

He said, ‘I have no official authority in this matter. I was not summoned. There is no one here to call out on the dead’s behalf.’

‘Then why harass us with this matter?’ Jack said, and Melissandra hid a yawn.

‘Because,’ the judge said, ‘I have taken an interest.’ He turned his cold eyes on the other vampires and they shied away from him.

‘A vampire may not kill another vampire without justification or valid excuse,’ Judge Dee said. ‘It is the third of the Unalienable Obligations.’

‘But they were all killed with reason!’ Melissandra blurted. ‘I mean, I assume so, anyway. I didn’t kill them all!’

‘No,’ the judge said. ‘You didn’t. For one, there is the matter of Nils’ murder.’

‘Oh, him. Yes,’ Melissandra said.

‘Let me begin in the beginning,’ the judge said. ‘We have plenty of time. The wind is in our favour but the shores of England are still far. So let me put together a story for you, if only to pass the time.’

‘Oh, good,’ Melissandra said. ‘I like stories.’

‘The only stories I need are in the Good Book,’ Brother Borja said, and Jack snorted. He shrugged and sat down.

‘Go on, Judge Dee,’ he said without much interest.

‘I will. Now then. There were seven travellers destined to journey together out of Paris.’

‘Eight, counting you. And nine if you count your human,’ Melissandra said.

‘I do not,’ the judge said.

‘Very well. Just making sure.’

‘There were seven travellers,’ Judge Dee said again. ‘Yet only six were present upon my arrival. The seventh we discovered dead. His head had been pulled off.’

‘How awful,’ Jack said.

‘Indeed. His name, I learned, was Nils, and he was a Norseman. A poor Norseman, too, if Melissandra here is to be believed.’

‘I would not lie about poor people!’ Melissandra said, affronted. ‘They are the worst. I told you I knew him slightly in Paris. What of it?’

‘I suspect,’ Judge Dee said, ‘that he was murdered for something he had with him. Something of value.’

‘What could an old Norseman possibly have of any value?’ Melissandra said, laughing.

‘Indeed, what…’ the judge murmured. He looked at each of them in turn. They gazed back – Melissandra amused, Jack disinterested, Borja amiable.

‘Gregor claimed to have been first on the scene,’ Judge Dee said. ‘He saw two figures in a close embrace. It suggested the murderer was one of our party. He, or she, could have arrived early, lying in ambush for Nils, killing him and presumably robbing him of his valuables.’

‘It makes sense,’ Jack said, nodding. ‘It is exactly what I would do.’

‘But you didn’t,’ the judge said. ‘On the second night, Bertolli was killed. He was an artist of dubious merit. His murder aroused my suspicions—’

‘It was a murder, man!’ Jack said. ‘Of course it was suspicious!’

‘And I searched his belongings. I did not find anything of value, but that was no surprise – someone had beat me to it and been through his bag. My suspicions were confirmed when I found a painting Bertolli made, which showed him and Nils, the first victim, in an amorous embrace. Clearly the two knew each other: it was simple to deduce that Bertolli was the one to kill Nils. But why?’

‘He wanted to take Nils’ valuable thing for himself?’ Melissandra said.


‘But you found nothing of value?’

‘I did not.’

‘Then whoever murdered Bertolli knew Nils was carrying the item. And that Bertolli stole it.’

‘That is what I think,’ the judge said. ‘And the reason our murderer knew this was that he or she was waiting for Nils to deliver the valuable item to them.’

‘In that case,’ Melissandra said, ‘the murderer had a valid reason to kill Bertolli, for he – or she, if you insist on including me as suspect – was merely retrieving their own property.’

The judge inched his head, acknowledging her logic.

Jonathan buried his head in his hands. The case was growing more convoluted by the minute!

‘But then someone killed Gregor,’ Brother Borja said.

‘Yes,’ said Judge Dee.

‘If the murderer already had their property to hand, why kill another member of the party? It makes no sense.’

‘Unless,’ Melissandra said, seemingly enjoying following the thread, ‘Gregor saw something.’

‘Yes,’ the judge said. ‘I suspect Gregor was a witness to Bertolli’s murder, and most likely tried to take advantage of this knowledge to blackmail our killer, perhaps to share in the value of the item. The killer, therefore, killed him.’

‘Quite right!’ Jack said. ‘It’s disgraceful, extortion is a most unseemly violation of a person. Gentlemen do not blackmail. I am glad he is dead.’

The judge nodded. ‘Following Gregor’s murder,’ he said, ‘logic dictates that our killer – the killer of Bertolli and Gregor, but not of Nils – had no need to kill again. The item was obtained, and after Gregor’s murder our killer’s secret was safe. And yet, later that night, another murder occurred. Under cover of a brigands’ attack on our party, the Lady Aisha was felled.’

‘What are you suggesting?’ Brother Borja asked with sudden interest.

‘I would suggest to you,’ Judge Dee said, ‘that, seeing as our killer had no need of killing Aisha, somebody else in our party did.’

‘So we have not one but two murderers in our midst?’ Brother Borja turned accusingly on the others. ‘Clearly, it was them!’

‘It was you two!’ Melissandra said.

‘Clearly it was the two of you!’ Jack said.

The vampires hissed at each other. The mood turned ugly. Jonathan crawled under a table. Just to be on the safe side, he thought. Besides, the whole conversation was giving him a headache.

‘But let us leave the matter of the poor departed Aisha for the moment,’ Judge Dee said. ‘To get back to the question of just what it was that Nils carried with him. Something small. Something light. Something portable, and yet of great perceived value.’

‘Gold?’ Brother Borja said.

‘Gold is heavy, if there’s enough of it worth stealing,’ the judge said.

‘Then I am sure I don’t know.’

The judge paced. The ship moved in the waves. Jonathan felt queasy. He didn’t know if it was the sea or the company that disagreed with him more.

‘Gold…’ the judge said. ‘We do so love gold, don’t we?’

‘It’s shiny,’ Melissandra offered.

‘Yes,’ the judge said. ‘But gold alone – how much could an old Norseman carry? No, Nils wasn’t carrying the metal itself, I think, but perhaps he did the promise of it. A promise is so much more enticing, is it not? Nils was carrying a dream. And a dream, even for vampires, is sometimes worth killing for.’

‘I haven’t dreamed since I died,’ Jack said.

‘No?’ the judge said. He turned on him ruthlessly, and with one effortless motion grabbed him by the throat and lifted him off the floor. Jack struggled. He reached into a pocket and a vicious, small silver knife came out, but the judge knocked it away. The knife clattered to the floor. Melissandra moved to get it.

‘No,’ the judge said. ‘You do not.’

Melissandra froze. Jack dangled in the judge’s grip and all pretence was stripped from him then. Jonathan, looking up fearfully from under the table, saw the vicious murderer that hid behind the cool, disinterested exterior.

‘Take the knife, Borja. If Melissandra moves, cut her throat.’

Brother Borja moved fast. He took the knife gingerly. The handle was made of wood, not silver, and was safe to hold. He said, ‘With pleasure.’

‘Sit down, Melissandra,’ the judge said.

She sat down heavily.

‘There was one simple way to ascertain both guilt and purpose,’ the judge said. ‘I knew you would never agree to a search, but vampires sleep through the day and humans do not. Luckily for me, I have a human assistant. Jonathan visited each of you during the sleep of undeath. I told him what to look for, and he brought it to me.’

Jack’s hand twisted. He tried to reach into his cloak. The judge smiled.

‘It is not there, Jack,’ he said.

‘Thief!’ Jack croaked. ‘It is mine. Mine!’

‘What is it?’ Borja said eagerly.

‘Jonathan, if you please?’ the judge said.

Jonathan crawled out from underneath the table and Melissandra hissed. ‘I would make a rug out of you!’ she said.

‘Don’t move, fiend!’ Brother Borja said. His eyes glinted with excitement.

‘What is it? What is it?’ he said.

Jonathan shrugged. He took out the small piece of old vellum that he had found, much as the judge told him he would, in a hidden pocket sewn inside Jack’s cloak. He unfurled it.

‘It is a map of some sort,’ he said. ‘I think.’ He stared at it dubiously. ‘It makes little sense to me,’ he said.

‘Is it a treasure map?’ Borja said.

Judge Dee released Jack, and the vampire fell to the floor. He remained there, rubbing his throat.

‘In a manner of speaking, yes, you could say that,’ Jack told Borja. His voice came out in a croak.

You were Nils’ accomplice,’ the judge said to Jack. ‘You waited for him at the crossroads, eager, anxious – but he never came. You were the one to tell us we were missing one of our party. You must have been devastated when we found him dead. You wanted to search him, but I beat you to it, and of course the map was already gone. You knew then someone had stolen it. How did you know it was Bertolli?’

Jack stared at the judge in hatred. ‘Nils had told me he was shacked up with an artist for a while. It was easy enough to deduce, and when I searched his belongings I found that same terrible painting you saw. I tracked down Bertolli and confronted him. He laughed at me so I killed him. I like to kill. I used to kill even before I became a vampire. I took the map from him and would have considered the matter closed and honour satisfied, only that buffoon Gregor saw me. He was a dimwit and wanted to become my partner. I do not need a partner and so I killed him, too. You cannot accuse me of anything, Judge Dee! I acted within the bounds of our law.’

‘You do not need a partner?’ Melissandra said. Her voice rose threateningly. ‘This is not what you told me last night, you lying boor!’

‘You horrid hag!’ Jack said. ‘What choice did I have?’ He turned beseechingly to the judge. ‘She killed Aisha, isn’t it obvious? And in Calais she figured out I must have been Bertolli’s killer and so came to me offering the same partnership Gregor wanted. I could not kill her with you being ever present, so thought to delay her attentions until we arrived in London. Once there I would have cut her throat with my pretty little knife, and would have been finally free of you all!’

‘You lying scum! I will kill you!’ Melissandra said. She, too, turned to the judge. ‘Of course I killed Aisha. She was a dreadful person and annoyed me greatly. Surely it was obvious. I do not suffer an affront to my person!’

And, saying that, she launched herself at Jack, seemingly intent on killing him, too.

Jack jumped at her. Claws and teeth emerged and the two vampires hissed like monstrous cats.

The judge’s hands snapped out. He grabbed them in mid-air and separated them. He held both by the throat.

‘I have had enough of you both,’ he said. ‘But, seeing as I am not acting in an official capacity, as it were, I will not kill you as is my right as judge. Come.’

He dragged them out of the cabin. Jonathan and Brother Borja followed cautiously behind.

They emerged onto the deck. The wind howled and the waves rose and the white moon shone down. Jonathan squinted against the wind. He could see no shore, either behind them or ahead.

‘Swim,’ Judge Dee said simply.

Swim?’ Jack said.

Melissandra opened her mouth to add a comment of her own, but she never got the chance. The judge lifted both vampires up and then tossed them, like one would toss a couple of chicken carcasses past their prime, into the sea.

The two vampires flailed in the water.

‘I cannot swim!’ Jack screamed.

‘Learn!’ Brother Borja shouted back, and burst out laughing.

The two figures swiftly grew small behind them. The wind was strong and the sail full. The last thing Jonathan heard was Melissandra, screaming, ‘I will get you for this, Judge Dee!’

But the wind soon snatched her voice away, and then they were gone from sight.



‘I don’t understand,’ Brother Borja said. ‘What was it? May I see it?’

‘You seem awfully interested in treasure, for a monk.’

‘I thought your presentation was most edifying,’ Brother Borja said to Judge Dee, ignoring Jonathan’s comment. ‘You might be wondering why I assembled you all here! Brilliant line. I was hooked the whole way through!’

Jonathan stared at this shameless flattery of the judge. It wasn’t like the summation was that good, he thought. But the judge seldom had an audience to practice on.

‘Jonathan?’ the judge said.

‘Yes.’ Jonathan frowned. ‘The map purports to show, I do not quite know how to put it. It shows the familiar coast of Europe, and the wide sea beyond it—’

‘Yes? Yes?’ Brother Borja said.

‘Beyond the sea,’ Jonathan said, ‘the mapmaker had drawn a new, unknown continent.’

‘A continent?’ Brother Borja said.

‘Yes. The mapmaker called it Vinland, and indicated…’ Jonathan hesitated. ‘Indicated that it is rich with gold. There are people living there, it said, in cities of gold.’

Borja breathed. ‘The old Norsemen were said to be seasoned travellers,’ he said. ‘But to cross the ocean, and to find new land? Surely that is impossible.’

‘The map indicates currents and favourable winds,’ Jonathan said miserably. In truth he thought a map was something stupid to die over. Especially one as fantastical as this.

An unknown continent filled with gold?

Judge Dee was right, he thought. All those deaths were purely for a dream.

‘So Jack thought he could go there?’ Brother Borja said. ‘To this Vinland?’

‘I suppose so,’ Jonathan said.


‘Foolhardy,’ the judge said; but he said no more.


The rest of the journey was uneventful. The judge stood on deck, and Brother Borja sat staring out of the porthole, seemingly deep in prayer. Jonathan dosed. He wondered what it would be like to be back home, to hear a familiar language, to eat pottage again. He rather liked pottage.

He slept, and dreamed of cities filled with gold. When he awoke he heard gulls cry, and when he came up on the deck the moon was low in the sky, and ahead of them he could see white cliffs, and soon the ship docked at a dismal little port and they disembarked. Brother Borja wished them well. He would go to Canterbury, he said, where the Bishopric was.

‘Few blood suckers dwell in the shadow of the church,’ he said. ‘And I have had enough of other vampires.’

Jonathan couldn’t blame him.

He and the judge set off along the road. It would be daytime soon, and they would need shelter. Jonathan was tired. He hurried after the judge.

‘An unfortunate business,’ the judge said.

‘Do you think they will make it to shore?’ Jonathan said. ‘Jack and this Melissandra?’

‘I would not put it past them.’

‘They were not very nice,’ Jonathan said.

‘Vampires seldom are, Jonathan.’

‘An unknown land beyond the ocean, with strange people and cities of gold,’ Jonathan said. ‘It seems fantastical.’

The judge said nothing.

Jonathan’s dream still lingered. How pleasant it might be to go there, after all, he thought. He would just have a look, he thought. That’s all.

He reached for the map.

The map wasn’t there.

‘Master?’ he said in panic. ‘Master!’

‘What is it, Jonathan?’ Judge Dee said.

‘The map, it is gone!’ Jonathan said. He tried to think.

‘It was that lying Benedictine!’ he said. ‘Brother Borja must have stolen it from me when I was asleep!’

Jonathan had never heard the master laugh. Nor did he do this time. But a sound that could have, just possibly, been a mirthless little chuckle did escape the judge’s lips, and Jonathan was so startled he would have dropped the treasure map if only he still had it.

‘Master?’ he said. ‘He took it, he took the map to Vinland! What if he tries to go there?’

Judge Dee put his hand on Jonathan’s shoulder.

‘Let him,’ he said.

The judge stared into the distance. What did he see? Jonathan wondered. What did he know? Fire pits burning, and spears, and blood soaking into the good dark earth…

‘By all means, let him,’ Judge Dee said. ‘And he will find out the hard way what they do to vampires there.’

And with that, they set off once more along the road.

“Seven Vampires: A Judge Dee Mystery” copyright © 2020 by Lavie Tidhar
Art copyright © 2022 by Red Nose Studio


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