The third story of the Masters of the Night Anthology, written by Gareth Hanrahan, features Mila. The anthology includes six stories, one for each vampire of the Family. The previous stories posted here presented Laszlo and Imre.

The seductive Mila.

Recording One.

Do you mind if I record this?

Oh, it’s a portable tape recorder. A Dictaphone. It’s the cleverest thing, isn’t it?

Well, let’s begin. To confirm, your correct title is Countess Dolingen of Gratz, correct? I tried to look you up, but, well, we don’t go much in for titles and graces here in the United States, so I may have misunderstood something. It doesn’t matter, I’m sure. Tell me, Countess –

Oh, you’re very kind. Tell me, Mila – you’ve made quite a splash since you arrived in town. Everyone’s absolutely fascinated with you, but no-one really knows anything about you. So, can you lay a few rumors to rest for our readers? Is it true that you’ve signed with RKO Pictures, and you’re going to be starring in a picture alongside Marlon Brando?

No? Well, I’ve also been told – cross my heart and hope to die – that you’re secretly engaged and are here for a wedding that’s going to outshine Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, is that so?

Are you sure you won’t put me out of my misery, Miss Mila, like the cat with curiosity, and just tell me why you’re in town?

No? Well, then… can I be a little indelicate, Mila? There are other rumors, less pleasant ones, and I’m wondering if you’d like to comment on them. For example, is it true you sold a fortune in jewelry to an auction house the day you arrived? Is it true that you’ve got connections to organized crime? Is it –

I’m just asking some questions. You said I had fifteen minutes with the Countess – There’s no need to manhandle me, you brute! I’ll leave when I’m –

Recording Ends.

Sarah Reed stared out the window of her twelfth-floor office and contemplated throwing something out the window. Her typewriter was the obvious candidate – big and heavy enough to smash the glass, and it would crash down in a nicely symbolic way, the way her career was about to crash and explode violently. Throwing the Dictaphone out was less likely to squash some unfortunate passer-by, and the Dictaphone was at least partially responsible for her present predicament.

Really, though, if anything in the office was going out the window, it was Sarah herself. Just as soon as she finished this cigarette, she told herself.

Wait – her office door opened, and a new candidate for defenestration entered.

“I don’t want to hear it, Eddie,” she snapped. “It’s this damn Dictaphone you saddled me with. It only recorded my half of the conversation.”

Eddie crossed the carpeted room and picked up the recording device. “From what I hear, it wasn’t much of a conversation.”

“I asked some questions.”

“Like a police interrogation.”

“The technical term, Eddie, is interview.”

“Sarah, I want you to understand that although I’m smiling and not shouting, I’m very, very angry with you.” Eddie’s grin grew manic. “We get you an interview with the most sought-after, most enigmatic, most attractive socialite in town. Do you give me a nice magazine profile for the Sunday edition? No. You give me nothing. You give me a pain in the neck.”

He tapped the Dictaphone off the table, then held it up and pressed record.

“How do we fix this, Sarah?”

“Most attractive – but least photographed. I’m not sure she’d have given you your magazine cover.”

“What?” Sarah pulled open her desk drawer, spilled a folder of research notes across the green baize. “Look. No photos of her. Not a one. Lots of people talking about her, writing about her, but not a single actual photo.”

Temptation: Mila's blood ability.

Eddie sat down. Hit rewind, then play. “How do we fix this, Sarah?” said the tinny recording of his voice.

“I looked her up in various guides to European nobility. Nothing. Not unless you want to go back to the 15th century, and she’s de¬finitely not from Germany or Slovenia. Serbia, maybe.”

“What are you saying?”

“There’s more, Eddie. Look, she goes everywhere with a pair of bodyguards, right? Two huge gorillas. Only on the night of the 21st, she attended the theatre, and she had only one bodyguard with her. That same night, a priest was murdered in St. Al’s church – and the only witness described seeing a ‘giant of a man’ running from the scene.”

Eddie cradled his head in his hands. “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. What are you doing?”

“Here, look. I have receipts. Literal receipts. She sold a fortune in jewelry, right? Only some of the pieces are, look, this necklace looks just like one that vanished from a museum in Bucharest during the First World War. And this one I swear is the same one that’s in a 17th century painting called ‘The Devil’s Bride’.”

“So, what, Sarah, you’re saying she’s a crook?”

“I don’t know what she is, Eddie. All I know is, she’s not a magazine cover profile. She’s a page one headline once I figure it out.”

He pressed play again. “How do we fix this, Sarah?”

She took a final draw on the cigarette, then lit another. “Let me do my job. Let me keep digging.”

“It’s not up to me. It’s the boss. He’s enchanted with the Countess. He’s the one who arranged the interview. He told me to put my best writer on it. And now I’ve got to tell the boss that my best writer got kicked out of the interview after accusing the Countess of being an international jewel thief. Give me a cigarette.” Eddie leaned back in his chair, took a long puff. “What was she like?”

“The countess?” Sarah shook her head. “Eddie, if you’d sent any of the boys from the bullpen, they’ve have been tripping over their tongues, she’s so beautiful. Hell, half the reason the interview went so badly was that I had to get the questions out quickly before I fell for her myself. It’s just that she’s beautiful, she’s…” Sarah paused, held up her cigarette. “She’s like this – tall and pale, with fire in her eyes, and you feel yourself needing her once you smell her.”

“Damn.” Eddie let the tape recorder speak for him. “Fix this, Sarah. Fix this, Sarah. Fix this, Sarah.”

So, she did her job. Dug deeper.

Mila was like a whirlpool. A magnet. Everything spun around her, and no-one who got close ever came back. Sarah would cultivate a source – a doorman at the hotel, a dressmaker, a cop – and they’d tell her a little about the elusive Mila. Then, suddenly, the source would have a chance meeting with the Countess, and after that, they’d shut up.

The jewelry line seemed the most productive. At least that was hard evidence, and couldn’t be swept away by Mila’s seemingly irresistible glamour. Before she got too close again, Sarah was determined to have proof that the Countess was a fraud.

A week spent asking questions and poking at catalogues led her to an obscure gemologist called Oscutio, a little old man who was an expert on medieval gemcutting techniques. As Sarah ascended the narrow stairs to the attic workshop, the one thing she was sure of was Oscutio at least would be immune to Mila’s charms – he was said to be extremely short-sighted, a lifetime spent looking through lenses and magnifying loupes. Anyway, she couldn’t imagine the glamorous Countess ever climbing these filthy, narrow stairs.

“Mr. Oscutiv. About the Serbian piece, 15th century. Venetian-cut rubies?”

Silence. Maybe he was deaf as well as mostly-blind.

“Mr. Oscutio?”

She found the body slumped over a work-bench, and stifled a scream. The desk in front of him was ruby-red with blood. Fresh, warm blood.

“Oh hell. Oh no.”

A figure charged at her from a shadowy corner of the workshop. Without thinking, Sarah grabbed a stool and flung it in the man’s path, and he tripped over it. He shouted in pain, a curse – in what sounded like latin, of all things. His knife fell and went spinning away under a bench. The man cursed again and ran, shoving past her and down the stairs.

Being a good reporter, she searched the room before she called the police.

She left the knife where it lay, although she noted that it had already been wiped clean of prints.

There was a piece of paper in Oscutio’s shirt pocket. “Sorry,” breathed Sarah, as she reached under his blood-soaked collar and plucked the paper out.

Had he written these notes for her, or for the murderer? She didn’t know.

‘Necklace of Blood’. Rubies cut in Venice. Vanished with daughter of Serbian noble, 1580.

And that was it. Her last lead, vanished. Dead in 1580.

She typed up her resignation letter first, then picked up the phone.

“Hello, I’m trying to reach the Countess von Gratz. We spoke two weeks ago.”

“The reporter,” growled the brute on the other end of the line. There was a muffed conversation. Sarah strained her ears, but couldn’t hear the third person at all. Just the brute complaining about Sarah, and then –

“The Countess wants to see you. Come over here at ten.”

“No recording machines, this time?”

“It’s broken,” replied Sarah. “I’ll just write everything down.”

Mila smiled like the sunset. “When I was a little girl, there were thieves who stole deer from my father’s forest. He could not catch them, until finally he recruited the best of them, the cleverest of the thieves, and made him warden of the wood.”

“A poacher turned gamekeeper.”

“Yes, yes. That is the phrase in English. My father put the thieves on wooden spikes – stakes, yes?” Mila licked her ruby lips at the memory.

“When was this?”

“Oh. Long ago.” The inhumanly beautiful woman reached out and gently took Sarah’s pen from her fingers. Clasped Sarah’s hand instead, Mila’s cold elegant fingers intertwining with Sarah’s. “I do the same. I ¬find the best and the cleverest and I make them mine.”

“That’s… that’s not how this works.”

“Yes, it is. You are clever, Sarah. I think that if you had only a little more time, you would ¬find out exactly what I am. So, before that happens, I take you for my own. Ask your questions.”

“Is it… is it warm in here?” Sarah’s thoughts, normally quick as lightning, felt like they were drowning in honey. “I mean, are you here to be a movie star?”

Aura of Adoration: the dark ability of Mila.

“Cameras cannot catch me. Nor mirrors – nor, I think, your clever machines. Ask another.”

“Are you here for a wedding?”

“A ceremony. Not a wedding. Something greater.”

“Are you… connected to organised crime?”

“I’m part of the Family.”

“And who are the Family?”

Again, the perfect smile. “Say it.”


“Clever girl. Now, who do you serve?”


“The man you saw at the jewellers, he was an inquisitor. He hunts me. You wouldn’t let anything happen to me, would you?”

“I’d die first,” said Sarah. An image sprang into her mind, of her throwing herself through the window of her office back at the newspaper, of falling to the streets below, and she knew that as long as she dragged that inquisitor down with her, she’d die happy. She’d die for her mistress.

“Good. Use all your skills to find him. Expose him. Bring him down.” Mila’s fingers withdrew. “I own your newspaper now. They will provide whatever resources you need.” A third time, that perfect smile, consuming Sarah’s soul. “Fix this, Sarah. For me.”


In the next article, read the story featuring Nevena.

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