The Curious Incident of the Tyrrhenian Steamer
Well, everyone knows Count Dracula died at Borgo Pass. What Fury of Dracula presupposes is: Maybe he didn’t?
The riddle of the vampire’s reappearance was not the one plaguing our heroes tonight, however. Rather, they (Lord Godalming, Dr. Seward, Professor Van Helsing, and Mina Harker) were preoccupied with a mystery of an algebraic nature: If a steamship sets sail from Genoa, fixes the setting sun to starboard, and ends its voyage into the Tyrrhenian after but a short distance, where but Cagliari, Naples, and Rome could its passengers have disembarked?
But let us turn back the clock, and set the stage for this latest episode in the hunt for our Transylvanian nemesis.
The Count had ostensibly appeared in the Germanic riverlands, prompting inspection from Lord Godalming. His associates were spread far and wide, also investigating rumours that the dark lord had been reborn, and this was the reason for Mina Harker’s presence in the north of France, Dr. Seward’s perilous journeys among the muddy roads and off-time railways of Eastern Europe, and Professor Van Helsing’s vacation in the country of the Spaniards. After proving the German-born territories unfruitful, Lord Godalming had undertaken a discomposing journey via steamboat and dinghy to Edinburgh, where he found the Scottish temperament rough and the trail cold. In desperation, he telegraphed dangerous purpose to Mina Harker in Le Havre.
Desperation was fitting. Rumour had it that the Count bore ill purpose, animating new vampires with an aim to erect a kingdom of the un-dead. Ever since, Dracula had slinked about Europe, leaving deadly ambushes and traps as sentinels to scant clues. Mina Harker still carried fresh memories of his bite, and her time as thrall to her enemy. Her fury was perhaps a match for the Count’s. So when Lord Godalming proposed that she undergo hypnosis to ferret out the location of their quarry, she was entirely willing.
The hypnosis was successful: in her visions, Mina saw landmarks that reminded her of a youthful trip to Bordeaux many carefree summers ago. Separate rumours indicated that wolves had been haunting the periphery of the city, and our hunters deduced that this was yet another of the Count’s attempts to delay them. They knew that Dracula would have felt the pull of Mina’s consciousness, and would have fled eastward so as to avoid their ragged pursuit; thus, Lord Godalming crossed the Canal while Professor Van Helsing and Mina Harker attempted to cut him off by road. Far to the east, in the tiny Greek city of Salonica, Dr. Seward received the news, though he was constantly delayed by the preposterously slow trains that are characteristic of the lesser-civilized regions of Europe—once, even, he was detained for a supposed error in his traveling papers. Naturally, there was no error.
Unfortunately, Mina Harker found herself separated from her pack in Clermont-Ferrand. Hot on the trail of the Count, she was accosted by a crazed woman with a mean look, a tantalizingly-revealing bodice (tantalizing to Mina only because of her time controlled by the perverse Count), and a long knife.
Unlike her companions, Mina had not spent entire days acquiring tools of violence, and so she was caught both unawares and unprepared for the assault. However, the attacker was not ready for Mina’s superhuman resolve, and though Mina was slashed many times, she was able to punch and dodge her way to victory. Mina was more cautious in her travels from that point on, spending time resting after every carriage- and train-journey.
Despite this and other days, our four heroes were finally able to corner the Count (so they supposed, for the Count’s location was not explicitly known to them) in the north of Italy.
The trail of the vampire had nearly been revealed in its entirety: he had fled from Bordeaux to Clermont-Ferrand to Toulouse to Marseilles. The hunters knew he had not traveled from Marseilles to Barcelona, for Professor Van Helsing had searched that city personally.
One other fact indicated that the Count was trapped. You see, the hunters were aware of the little-known detail that a vampire cannot retrace his steps, except at the great expense of personal power—requiring a ritual that would have certainly engendered many signs. Having heard nothing of such a display, it was clear that Dracula had not traveled back from Marseilles to Toulouse. The sun still graced the sky, so his wolf-form was impossible—and at any rate, such a transformation would have had a similar dramatic (and visible) effect as doubling back. So Dracula was currently hiding in either Milan, Zurich, or Genoa, all within easy searchable distance.
And now the mystery stirs and groans. Dracula is weakest when exposed to flowing water, and Mina’s connection to the Count has always betrayed his proximity to such. So when the signal entered her brain, it was obvious that he had been hiding in Genoa, and had placed himself as cargo aboard a steamship. A short time later, he was back on land. A quick examination of a map of the Tyrrhenian Sea indicated to our heroes that Dracula could only have escaped to one of three locations: Genoa was out, as the ship would not have turned back; Rome or Naples were the most likely options, as they gave the Count a bit more country to maneuver; and though it was a poor choice, the port at Cagliari could have been reached in time.
Cagliari was unlikely. You see, vampires must stay on the move, unless, again, they expend some of their power to stay in one place. Usually, they are apparent when they do this, as their feeding signals their location like a beacon. So, had Dracula stopped in Cagliari, his movements would have been again revealed when he boarded yet another ship, this time in the Western Mediterranean (not the Tyrrhenian, for—once more—he cannot retrace his steps, even over water).
Not wanting the Count to evade their grasp once more, Lord Godalming spent a portion of his extensive wealth to hire scouts in Rome and Naples to ransack the cargo holds of arriving steamers. In Rome, only ornamental umbrellas from the Orient were found. The ship in Naples was filled with all sorts of delicacies, but no coffins or boxes of Transylvanian earth.
So Dracula was in Cagliari.
But now we interject the mystery. You understand the ways of vampires, that they cannot usually retrace their steps or remain in their current location. But now our heroes received word that not only had Dracula gone back to land, but that he had moved—an action that was simply impossible from Cagliari without boarding yet another ship.
The hunters argued for hours, enraged that the Count has once again slipped the net. They blamed each other, themselves—they even railed against the heavens, demanding answers from the silent God above. Dracula’s movements defied all logic.
It was Professor Van Helsing who decided that there was nothing left to do but follow through on the mystery, despite the precious time it would cost. So he boarded a ship bound for Cagliari from Marseilles, hopeful that the mystery would soon be cleared and his stake would be firmly embedded in the vampire’s sternum.
When Professor Van Helsing was well underway, Mina felt the stirring premonition that Dracula had taken to water—even if he had been in Cagliari, he had evaded their grasp once more. Still, discovering where he had embarked from would give them some clue as to his future whereabouts, and the hunters were still perplexed with the curious disappearance on the Tyrrhenian.
Mere hours later, Van Helsing had docked and begun his search. There, he made a terrifying discovery, perhaps worse than even the Count’s presence:
The hunters had not been aware that the Count possessed sufficient self-control to remain in a city without gorging on the local populace, and the good Professor suspected that he could only manage such feats of abstinence once in a great while. However, the Count had left a pair of surprises in his wake: two nests of vampires on the verge of maturing into true infestations.
Professor Van Helsing knew of Count Dracula’s mephistophelian goal, and had estimated that six matured vampires would be enough to transform Europe into a ripe harvest of blood that would feed the un-dead for centuries to come. Dracula had already managed to raise three vampires to maturity, though one of them had been slain months earlier in a previous adventure. If these nests were left unmolested, the hunters might as well not bother in their pursuit at all.
The prospect of life as a sheep to be slaughtered at the leisure of abominations did not suit Van Helsing, so he sent word back to the others that he had solved the mystery of Dracula’s curious movements, and that the Count was bound on a steamer west for Spain. The three hunters on the mainland went back to the task of flushing out their prey, while the Professor set to a sterner task. He hunted for weeks, always evaded at the last minute by the infant vampires. He was beginning to grow desperate, when finally he was able to track their location. His stake was plunged into many chests over the course of one grisly morning. The mystery was solved, and Europe was saved… for the time being. And then, without rest, Professor Van Helsing had boarded another steamer, this time to rejoin his comrades. After all, this was just one small moment in the course of many adventures in the pursuit of Count Dracula.