Welcome Home, Brother: Episode 4 - By Howard Schneider

Lupus telling me they intended to make me join him and Dragos in their alternate lives, as a vampire like Dragos or a werewolf like Lupus, reinforced my intension to escape their grasp. "I need time to consider your proposal," I said with as much bluster as I could muster. "But first, I desperately need sleep. Leave me now and I'll give you my decision tomorrow." 

Lupus stood, bade me goodnight, and left, closing the thick oak door behind him, the thunk of the ancient lock punctuating its closure. 

An hour or two after I'd fallen asleep, thunderous banging woke me. A few moments later I heard muffled yelling but couldn’t make out the words. Then I heard shuffling steps in the hall outside my room, then silence for a while. But, as I began drifting back to sleep, there was nothing else I could do, I suddenly heard a raucous voice I would have known anywhere—the unmistakable Brooklyn accent of none other than my fiancée Gloria Markovitz. Then I heard what sounded like a scuffle followed by a loud cry, then a loud thump, like a body slamming onto a hard floor. Then silence again. 

"Gloria," I screamed. “Is that you?" 

"Stefan! Where are you?” 

"Upstairs. I'm locked in the first room on the landing. Hurry" 

Gloria’s family, members of a prominent Romanian Jewish business clan, had escaped nineteenth century Pogroms against jews by emigrating from Bucharest to New York, settling and prospering in Brooklyn where they as others of similar circumstance did. Gloria, the eldest and dazzlingly precocious daughter of Saul and Anna Markovitz, for some mysterious reason held an unquenchable desire to seek justice whenever possible, so after a degree in Criminal Justice from New York University she enrolled in NYPD's police academy. After an impressive five years as a Brooklyn police officer, she was promoted to detective. A year later she was selected for an exchange program with the Bucharest Police Department, partly because she was fluent in Romanian, but mainly because of her outstanding record. She’d met Stefan through his coverage of Bucharest crime syndicates, the investigation of which Gloria was assisting the local police force. It was as close to "love at first sight" as that trite saying would allow. Their wedding was set for the coming summer. 

After Gloria picked the lock and rushed through the doorway, I quickly recovered my surprise at her arrival and said, "Gloria. What are you doing here? How'd you find me? Do you know anything about this place? You shouldn't have come. We're in great danger." 

Gloria glanced around the room, then said, "Stefan. Calm down. Your editor called—he was worried he hadn't heard from you. He said he'd learned that there were concerns about this castle he'd sent you to. I figured I'd better check on you. So, what's going on? Why are you locked in this room? And what do you mean by great danger?" 

"My twin brother's a vampire and my older brother is a werewolf. They're gonna make me join them. I can choose which one to be. Then we're gonna seize control of the Romanian mafia. From Uncle Erik." 

Now Gloria had encountered her share of mentally unstable or drug-crazed characters on her Brooklyn police beats and easily recognized the ravings of a deluded person when so confronted. Taking Stefan’s hand in hers, she led him to the chair by the window, sat him down, and then took the other one. "Stefan," she said calmly, "who told you these things? Is there someone here besides that old guy who tried to block my way in? Has someone drugged you? Who locked you in this room?" 

"Gloria!" I said louder than I should of, not considering that Dragos or Lupus might hear. "I'm not crazy. I have a twin brother, and an older one too. They live here. There're related to the Dracula family. So am I. Dragos is a vampire. Lupus in a werewolf. We've got to get out of here. They'll come for me in the morning and turn me into one of them." 

Gloria was growing increasingly concerned as Stefan continued raving about vampire and werewolf brothers. "Stefan," she interrupted, "someone must have drugged you. You're delusional. But we still have to leave this place, to get you back to safety. Put on your shoes and come with me." 

Gloria’s take-charge demeanor and firm command calmed me. I realized she wouldn’t believe the truth about my brothers, so I put on my shoes and jacket and retrieved my travel case from the wardrobe. "Okay, Let's go." Then,  thinking more clearly, I asked her how she’d gotten to the castle? How we would get back to Bucharest? 

"I drove in a BPD patrol car. It’s in the village. I walked here. Can you make it that far?" 

"Do I have a choice?" 

But just as we started to open the door to leave, without warning it suddenly crashed open and the massive wolf rushed into the room. Halting in front of us, its hackles raised, it growled menacingly. Its yellow eyes fixed on mine for a brief moment, then shifted to Gloria, who had reflexively taken a few steps back. At that same moment, the wolf lowered his body as if preparing to pounce, and his mouth opened wider, revealing glistening, razors-like teeth. Then it catapulted forward, Gloria’s throat the obvious target. 

But Gloria, having upon several occasions confronted vicious dogs used for protection by vicious New York gang bangers, was not to be so easily dispatched. She quickly stepped aside, pulled out her 38 revolver and fired. The first shot entered Lupus’s head through his left ear and the second pierced his heart, entering his chest cavity between ribs six and seven. The wolf hit the floor and was soon surrounded by pooling blood. 

“Gloria! I screamed without thinking. “You killed my brother!” Then I came to my senses and realized what had just transpired. That she’s had no alternative. Lupus would have killed her. It was self-defense. “We have to get out of here,” I shouted. “Dragos will have heard the shots.” 

“What do you mean, your brother?” Gloria said, ignoring my mention of Dragos and kneeling next to the body to feel for a pulse in the wolf’s neck. Then she abruptly jumped back and cried out,” Stefan! It’s changing. Look, it’s becoming human. Oh my God. What is this thing?” 

I came closer and saw the body of my brother emerging from its canine form. “Now you understand what I was telling you. My brother Lupus was a werewolf. Thank God, you killed him. I’ll tell you more later. But now, we have to leave.” 

I grabbed Gloria’s hand and pulled her though the open doorway and to the stairs to the lower floor. But when we started down, a loud voice exploded from the bottom of the stairway. “Stefan! Stop. Who is that woman? What were those shots? Where is Lupus?”

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