This article is the first of the Masters of the Night anthology, which includes six short stories written by Gareth Hanrahan, based on the boardgame designed by Nikolay Aslamov. Each story features one of the Vampires, starting by Laszlo.

The pretty receptionist gave him a quick smile as she handed over the room key.

“Breakfast is served from seven, and check-out’s at noon. Will you be staying with us long, sir?”

He wanted to say I hope not. Wanted to say, god forbid. Instead, he marshaled his own fake smile and replied, “I don’t know. It depends on how my meetings go. I’m here on business.”

“Sure. Well, there’s your key. You’re all set.”

The bellhop grunted softly as he picked up Michael’s bag. “What have you got in here, buddy? Encyclopaedias?”

“Bibles.” It was only half a lie, and he slipped the boy a dollar for his trouble when they got to the room.

Michael locked the door as the bellboy left, then taped a rosewood twig just under the spy hole. Hastily, he unpacked, reverently laying the tools of his craft across the bed. Bible, like he said. Guns, and ammunition neatly stacked next to them.

Regular rounds. Dum-dums. Silver. Then the stakes, a half-dozen, all handmade and lovely to the touch, polished rosewood too. Binoculars. And in the side pocket, a slim folder of documents. A police-sketch of the target on top.


The target wasn’t hard to find. Laszlo wasn’t the most subtle member of the family. Michael picked up his trail down in the stockyards, where railwaymen and the boys from the slaughterhouses ran an illegal bare-knuckle boxing ring. Michael stopped to dirty up his suit, scuff his shoes, so he wouldn’t stand out, then plunged into the crowd.

The place was blood-hot, sawdust on the floor stinking of vomit and gore. It didn’t throw Michael. He’d seen worse in Europe, in the war. That was where he’d first heard stories of the Family. He hadn’t believed them then, of course. It was only later that he was initiated into the secret. It was strange to think, though, that Laszlo had been there too, across the Atlantic. The documents said that Laszlo was at least three hundred years old. There were accounts of un-killable generals and warriors in the chaos of the Thirty Years war, and the Inquisition guessed that Laszlo was one of them, a bloody-handed monster feasting on suffering. No doubt he’d fed well in the recent war, too.

Not un-killable. You just need the right tools. Pick the right battles.

He studied Laszlo from across the room. A big man, hunched shoulders, long stringy hair. Hands like shovels. Laszlo seemed to be smelling the fight more than watching it, eyes downcast, nostrils flaring. Every time one of the boxers landed a good hit and drew blood, Lazlo would grin, like a wolf, showing his fangs. Shouting, sometimes, roars of violent pleasure.


What was he doing here? Michael scanned the crowd. The Family had minions – lost souls, led astray by the lure of money or power. Damned creatures enthralled by the darkness. Maybe some of the other roaring brutes in the crowd were Laszlo’s servants. Maybe Laszlo was here talent-scouting, looking for the best bare-knuckle fighters to recruit as bodyguards. The Family were supremely powerful in the darkness, but things of evil could not endure the sunlight. Daytime, that’s when they needed protection.

Daytime, that’s when he’d come back.

Shouts erupted around him as one of the fighters went down, hard. Blood gushed into the air, a red fountain as one of the boxers had his face broken with a tremendous uppercut. The winner, a blond kid who looked like he was all corded muscle, was carried shoulder-high by the crowd. Delirious with victory, the kid swayed and grinned through his mask of blood.

Michael lost sight of Laszlo for an instant, and in that instant, the target was gone.

The receptionist’s smile was a little warmer the next day.

“Hey, how did your meeting go?”

“Good. Good. Still trying to set things up with the big client, though. I’ll be staying for another few days.”

“Sure thing. Oh, hey.” She licked her finger, reached across the counter and rubbed his cheek. “You’ve got a little schmutz on you. Ketchup or something.”

Blood spray from the fight. He found his smile, brought it up like a shield.


That day, he looked for the lair. Laszlo, according to the documents, wasn’t fussy. Other members of the Family would only sleep in deconsecrated churchyards, or luxury hotels, or places of supernatural power, but not Laszlo. For him, a ditch was enough. A cave.

A cheap boarding house down near the docks. Michael spotted the blond boxer from the stockyards sitting outside, smoking, his face a mess of bruises and bandages. Probably more guards there, too. Say four or five.

A revolver holds six shots. He could do it that way, if it came to it, but it’d be dangerous. Very, very messy. Maybe he’d get lucky. Maybe Laszlo would move during the day. Maybe there was some way to draw off some of the guards.

Michael waited and watched. The sun sank behind the new skyscrapers, turning the city’s skyline to blood and fire as the light glinted off all the glass. It got cold quickly, and he huddled in his coat, remembering cold nights in Italy, in the war.

Around two in the morning, he saw Laszlo leaving the boarding house. Michael followed him through the streets. Laszlo reminded him of a stray dog, the way he loped along, long legs eating up the distance, skulking in the shadows. Sniffing to find his way. The target paused outside one building, looked around, his heady brow furrowed with suspicion. Michael ducked into a side street to avoid being seen.

When he looked back, the street was empty.

“Here. There’s a copy of the Post going spare.” The receptionist handed Michael the newspaper. “Late night last night?”

“Still trying to nail down that big client.” ROBBERY TURNS TO MURDER, read the newspaper headline. “Thanks for this.”

Bloody news...

“I’ve been watching you,” she said, a devilish smile playing around her lips. “I don’t think you’re a salesman.”


“I think maybe you’re a secret agent. You come and go at all hours. You’re always looking over your shoulder. And that was blood on your cheek the other night. So, what are you, Secret Agent Man? FBI? CIA? Or maybe you’re part of the Mafia – is that it? Are you a scary gangster?”

Michael held up his hands in mock surrender. “You got me,” he said, trying to make light of it.

“You’re Mafia?”

“Something Italian, anyway,” he muttered as he left.

Upstairs in his room, Michael read the newspaper. The victim was a dealer in antiques, rare artifacts from Europe. The place – the same building as last night.

No suspects or motive for the brutal slaying, according to the newspaper. Were they stupid, Michael wondered, or was the Family already at work behind the scenes, more subtle members covering up for Lazlo’s brutally direct methods.

What had the dealer found? The Soulglass? The Funerary Urn? The reappearance of any of the relics was a bad omen, indicating the Family’s power was growing.

He couldn’t wait. It would have to be tonight.

Again, Michael watched and waited for his quarry.

Her shift finished at six.

“Can I buy you dinner?” he asked her, and she flashed him a big smile. Said yes.

Said her name was Sharon.

She talked a lot once she got going. Anecdotes about hotel guests and their oddities, brushes with celebrities on the streets of the city, stories of life back in her home town, dreams and ambitions. She wasn’t going to be a receptionist forever, she swore. She was going to do something big with her life. She probed him, too, flirting, keeping the joke going. Pretending that he was a spy, or a criminal.

Promising that she’d strip bare all his secrets.

Over dessert, he asked her for a favor.

The following morning, they drove over to the boarding house.

“Here? Your big client is staying in that dump?” Sharon’s nose wrinkled with professional disdain.

Michael nodded. “He’s, ah, eccentric.”

“Well, you did say he was foreign. You sure about this?”

“I’ve got to do what I can to close the deal, right?”

“I guess.”

He slipped out of the car, grabbed his bag from the bag seat, then moved around to the back of the building and waited in the alleyway. Close enough to hear Sharon’s car drive around the corner, then backfire loudly, just like he’d showed her.

Michael closed his eyes and prayed.

He imagined Sharon getting out of the car, knocking on the door of the boarding house, giving them that bright smile. “Say, my car just broke down outside. It’s the starter motor – happens all the time. Can some of you gentlemen give me a little push?”


Michael moved, breaking into a run. He kicked open the back door of the boarding house, swept through the rooms until – the blond kid charged towards him, fists clenched, eyes full of fury. Michael drew his revolver, leveled it, and the kid skidded to a halt, courage melting away at the sight of the gun.

“You can’t come in here,” roared the boxer.

“I don’t need an invitation. Now sit down, over there!” Michael gestured with the gun. Every heartbeat here was a moment too long. He had to find Laszlo before the vampire woke. Still covering the young boy with the gun, Michael backed through the next door. His leg bumped against a low wooden box in the middle of one room. A coffin.

Thank God, he wasn’t too late. Sunlight still flooded the room. The other guards were still outside, trying to get Sharon’s car going. He had time. He’d done it.

He opened the coffin.


“I smell her scent on you,” said a voice from the darkness. “You brought her here, yes? How unfortunate for her.”

Michael spun around. “This gun’s loaded with holy bullets.” A lie. The holy bullets were in his bag, along with the bone saw and the garlic. He’d come prepared to execute a sleeping vampire, not fight a waking one.

Laszlo smiled. “I can dodge bullets. By the time you pull the trigger, I will be gone – and she will be dead.”

Michael moved the gun, aimed at the blond boxer instead. “What about him? I can kill him.”

Laszlo frowned. “I like watching him fight. I would prefer if you did not kill him.”

“Let us go, and I won’t shoot him.”

“You are already dead, friend,” replied Laszlo, “but I have not had a good fight in a long, long time. Give me a good fight, and maybe she gets to live.”

Maybe, just maybe, he could last two minutes with the vampire. Maybe that would be enough to buy Sharon’s life. As he stripped off his jacket, he imagined her going back to the hotel. She’d find his suitcase in his room, find the Inquisition documents and the weapons. She wanted to do something bigger with her life.

Maybe, he could buy her that chance.

“Come on, then.”

Sharon parked the car down the street and waited. How long could a meeting take? She’d told Michael that she had to be back at the hotel by two.

A knock at the window. “Your friend is not coming,” said the man, “he said to go home.”

“Where’s Michael?”

“Forget about him, if you are wise.”

The man turned and walked away. Sharon tried to follow him, but by the time she opened the car door and climbed out, he was gone and the street was empty.

Only a bloody footprint, right next to the car. A little schmutz on the face of the cold city.


In the next article, read the story featuring Imre.

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