“Yeah, we’re not bleedin’ vamps are we? It’s more of a practical thing for a ghoul to come out in the daytime. I mean, I’ve sorted the problem with yer Gran’s potion but the older ones; they don’t like meddlin’ with witchcraft. And it’s bit nasty if they’ve had a body for a long time, you know. Means you can see where the skin’s going a bit… off.” ~RODNEY WAINWRIGHT in Emma V Leech and Roisin O’Connor’s THE KEY TO EREBUS
It was a Thursday. Nothing exciting every happened on Thursdays and today was no different. I’d been feeling down in the dumps for most of the day and was basically moping around at loose ends. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that it was just past three in the afternoon. Perfect. That meant I had better start heading off. I had an invitation to join an intriguing character for tea. I’d had my doubts about heading off to a cottage in parts unknown but a mutual friend had assured me that Rodney was a proper gentleman and that I would be totally safe with the ‘old sweetheart’ as she called him. I hoped she was right.
The drive through the crisp spring weather cleared my head and by the time I pulled up at the address I’d been given I was feeling rejuvenated. The door to the old house was opened by a gorgeous young man with a big smile on his face. I guessed this had to be Rodney and his next words and his accent confirmed it.
“Hi Rodney,” I said with a smile.
“‘Allo, Cassie luv, nice to meet yer, good of yer to come over, like. I’ve put the kettle on already.”
I didn’t have heart to ask him to call me Cassandra. I hated being called Cassie but it didn’t sound quite so bad coming from him.
He gave me a quick hug and ushered me into the airy kitchen area of the house where we sat at the kitchen table and grinned at each other for a while. He really was proving the old sweetheart thing true though he looked anything but. He looked a little like this
(he wouldn’t let me take his picture… must be a ghoul thing).
When we were both settled with piping hot mugs of earl grey and some biscuits, I switched on my recorder and we started the interview he’d promised me.
“I understand you hail from London. Whereabouts precisely?”
“Well, I’m a proper Cockney… born in Cheapside, wivin’ the sound a Bow Bells. That’s St Mary le Bow, not Bow Church, like. People always get muddled wiv it.”
“Have you been back home recently? What was the most remarkable change you noticed in the time you’ve been away?”
“I aint been back to Blighty for a few years now, the family keeps me on me toes, like but it’s all changed since my day. All poshed up it is now, I mean I ain’t complainin’, round Cheapside was a proper dive. I got me old mum out as soon as Corvus took me on and I ‘ad a few bob.
I was curious that he’d only mentioned the one parent, so I asked, “What about your Dad?”
“I never met me old man, mum said ‘e was a sailor but she never narrowed it down any more than that… I ‘ad a lot of uncles mind.”
“Any plans to take the lovely Amelia to see the sights and sounds of London then?”
“Yeah, I’d like to take er, show er around the old place, dunno when though… I…er.. I got a trip comin’ up like. Milly, she don’t want me to go, she’s a bit worried. To be honest I don’t wanna go neither but… well… a man’s gotta do, you know.”
As he spoke I watched him in rapt fascination. He looked quite natural and though I hadn’t seen his old body with the Mohawk, I had to say this one fit him just fine. That reminded me where he’d inherited his current physique from. “Are you enjoying being a rock star, if only in appearance?”
“Nah, bleedin nuisance it is… squealin’ girls every time I go any place, an some of them girls are bleedin’ rude… try an cop a feel, they do! Straight up. I was shocked, Cassie, shocked! I mean, at first Amelia thought it was a right lark, coz she fancied old Johnny Blonde rotten but she didn’t like that none, no sir. Nah, not fer me. I ‘ad a word wiv Jéhenne like, cause I wasn’t sure what to do. She said I should get back to me oldself ASAP, so I got the old barnet sorted and I feel more at ‘ome now like, an now the girls don’t recognise me no more.”
“Does the personality of your ‘body’ rub off on you?”
“Yeah, actually some right weird stuff… I mean.. weird... but…. well… nuff said.”
“Do you like music then? What kind?”
“Ha! What kind? You havin’ a laugh? Punk, obviously… what did yer think, James bleedin’ Blunt? What kind… tsk. You know, Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Jam, Buzzcocks, The Damned… all the good stuff.”
“Have you had a lot of girlfriends?”
“Oh Blimey… ask me no questions I’ll tell you no lies, luv. Before I was turned, yeah, I was a bit of a lad. Since then… I guess I’ve had me fair few but it’s tough see… bein a ghoul I mean. There’s a lot a prejudice against us… we’re the lowest of the low for most supes . What’s more is you don’t get many lady ghouls…an’ well… to be honest, luv the few I ‘ave met… well the tide wou ldn’t take ‘em out, to be frank wiv yer.”
“What’s the best part about being a ghoul?”
“Oh, well… I’m pretty much immortal… I mean the squirrel lark, well that weren’t much fun… bleedin’ upleasant truth be told, still can’t look at a bowl of nuts… but I’m much stronger than a normal bloke… jus’ as well an all wiv my Milly… if yer catch me drift.”
He got up to drop his mug in the sink and put the kettle back on for a refill. This talking was thirsty work. I gulped down the rest of mine and waited for him to come back.
“Rodney, what would you say are your strongest attributes?”
“Oooh er, tricky one.” He answered with what I was coming to realise was his trademark grin. “Well, a sense of humour, bleedin’ need one in my line a work let me tell yer, an I’d say I’m loyal… yeah… loyal.”
“How well do you know Corvus?”
He gestured at me with a biscuit as he mumbled around the bite he’d already taken.
”Well, we been togever a long time but… I dunno. E’s cagey, like, don’t open up much, not like me. I reckon I know him better than most though, ‘cept Jéhenne ‘course.”
“What would you say is his biggest secret?”
Bleedin ‘ell luv, you tryin’ to get me killed? He spluttered. “As if I’d tell yer that… blimy O’ Riley… I mean ‘e’s got ‘em alright. You try livin’ that long and not ‘avin a few skeleton’s in the old wardrobe. In fact, ‘tween you, me an’ the garden gate, me an Jéhenne came a cropper thanks to somethin’ of the sort… thought me days was numbered I did, that’s anover story though.”
I could see my last question had ruffled his feathers a little so I switched tack and tried for something less… incriminating? Intimidating? “Everyone loves a good party. What three things would make a get together a smash hit for you?”
“Easy, good music, good company and loadsa booze!”
“What three things would make it a dud?”
“Well, Cain for starters, bleedin’ party pooper ‘e is… er, dunno… Barry Manilo? Oh…. no Milly! Blimey, that was a close one, she’d ‘av had me guts for garters, can’t ‘ave a knees up wivout Milly.”
“What’s your recipe for a hangover?”
“Oh no you don’t, lovely… , ‘tween me an Inés that is.”
“Being a ghoul, what is most likely to cause your hangover these days?”
“Oh, that bleedin’ gut rot Corvus drinks… friggin put ‘airs on yer chest that will.”
I decided to try making Rodney dish on the other people in his life again.”What do you think of Celeste?”
“A nasty piece of work an’ no mistake. I don’t know what Corvus was thinkin’ gettin’ involved wiv her, anyone could see what she was like. Mind in those days, ‘e weren’t picky ‘e didn’t exactly choose ‘em for their conversational skills… know what I mean?”
I knew exactly what he meant and nodded to demonstrate. He leaned back in his chair, stretching out his legs as I asked my next question.
“Do you think Corvus and Jéhenne are good together?”
“Yeah, course I do, took ‘em long enough though didn’t it? To be fair it was Jéhenne not Corvus, she’s just a kid though aint she, can’t blame her for bein a bit skittish, like. If there’s one thing Corvus ‘as learnt in his time though, it’s patience… e got there in the end didn’t e?”
“But Corvus can be somewhat over protective? He is a bit of a control freak, isn’t he?”
“Well. ‘e is an. ‘e isn’t… ‘ave you seen some of the things she’s had come after her? I mean, it’s not like ‘e aint got cause to worry is it? Havin’ said that, yeah he’s a bit OTT an’ …well… a bit jealous too… but ‘es old fashioned aint ‘e? You can’t change ‘em over night you know, not when they get to that age.”
“If it came to a fight between Inés and Jéhenne, who do you think would come out tops?”
“Well, I’d ‘ave to say Inés. Not that Jéhenne aint a great witch, I’m not sayin’ that, In fact she gives me the willies, stuff she can do…. but Inés, she got the killer instinct, Jéhenne wouldn’t hurt nobody… not if she could ‘elp it, like.”
He was looking a bit serious so I decided a bit of humour wouldn’t hurt.
“What’s the funniest thing you can remember doing?”
“Gawd, av I gotta choose one? I dunno… most a those stories are a bit , you know, near the knuckle, I don’t wanna offend your readers, do I?. Oh I can tell yer thisun…there was this one time. It was just before Jéhenne arrived and ‘is lordship lost the plot. So Corvus was seein’ this woman right, human she was and no better than she oughta be, if yer get my meanin’. Well she was as nice as pie to them vamps but yours truly ‘ere she treated like dirt. Well anyways, I’d ‘ad about as much as I was gonna take and she had this, ‘orrid, yappy little dog. Used to dress the poor blighter in tutus and pink ribbons… an’ it was a fella! Bleedin’ nuff to make anyone yappy you ask me. So me an’ Milly we gave ‘im a little bit of a make-over, while she was overwise engaged, like. Gawd… you should ‘ave seen ‘im. I gave ‘im a mini Mohican an’ Milly, she made ‘im some leather trousers wiv’ some old gloves… an’ cut up an old belt, wiv all the studs on, like, she’s dead clever wiv’ stuff like that. Well when the silly tart sees him, she was fit to be tied… bleedin’ ‘ell, we did laugh, me an Milly.”
“Did Corvus think it was funny?”
“Yeah…’course. Well… admitedly, he wasn.t exactly chuffed to be left wiv an ‘ysterical woman but… you know… after a day or two like.”
“If you could shapeshift into any form at all, what would you choose and why?”
“Frankly, luv, after me little stint as a squirrel, I’ll just be stayin’a full size Rodney… if it’s all the same to you.
Is that it then? Oh right, fair dues. Now I don’t know about you luv, but I think I need somethin’ a bit stronger to put in this tea. Care to join me luv…?
With an offer like that , how could I say no. As I sipped my fortified tea I came to the conclusion that Thursdays didn’t have to be so boring after all. It all came down to the company you kept. And I was in great company.
Available on Amazon.
It was like we were standing within the stone looking out. Rodney looked at me in stunned admiration.
“Bugger me!” he said in awe.
I swallowed a giggle which was in danger of escaping and sending me into a fit of hysteria. I closed my eyes and searched with my mind for the source of the danger, but it had vanished.
“He’s gone.” I said, and the world tilted.
I awoke to find myself laying on my bed with a cold flannel on my forehead and Rodney pacing up and down, talking urgently into a mobile phone. I tried to sit up and groaned as the room started to spin again.
“She’s awake,” he said to the phone. ”Yes, yes, right, will do, bye.” He slipped the phone back in his jeans pocket and grinned at me.
“Bloody hell, you little beauty, that was friggin amazin’. I thought we was done for.”
I rubbed my head in confusion, trying to clear the fog that seemed to be blowing through it.
“But you said you knew I could do it?”
He shrugged. “Well would it have made you feel better if I screamed and said we’re both going to die horribly?”
I shivered and sat up. “No I guess not.”
“Well there you go then! Anyway Corvus is on his way.”
“What!” I squeaked, jumping off the bed and then sitting down again as the room slipped sideways.
Meet the Dynamic Duo: Cool Aunt and Cooler Niece
Born in the London borough of Bromley, Emma found her yearning for the depths of the countryside couldn’t be assuaged by the delights of Orpington and relocated to the darkest Dordogne, France, fourteen years ago.
She admits to a lifetime’s fascination with witches and vampires which began innocently enough with Vlad the Drac and Bewitched, before moving on to The Lost Boys and has, in recent years, taken a darker turn.
Trained as a bookbinder and printmaker, her love of books has brought her full circle to writing. She loves chocolate, tarot, anything creepy (except spiders) and chocolate.
Emma would like to give a big thank you to all you lovely people who take the time and effort to review after reading, she thinks you’re the best. ❤
She lives in the sticks, as far from the real world as she can manage with her husband, three daughters and cats.
Roisin has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. She is currently in her third and final year studying for a BA in English with Creative Writing at Swansea University.
She is the President of Swansea University’s English Society and the Editor-in-Chief of The Siren, an award-winning student media outlet. Publications she has written for include The Sun and the South Wales Evening Post. She has just started an internship at Time Out magazine.
After graduation from Swansea she hopes to study for an MA in Newspaper Journalism.
If you would like to be added to a mailing list for Book two The Heart of Arima, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be notified in advance. Emma will use your contact for this purpose only and will not spam.
You can also contact Emma on:
Twitter: Emma V Leech@LaDameBlanche24