The Long Game

A Lesser Man

R.M Renfield reclined alone in the quiet bedchamber. A warming fire crackled in the fireplace and chased away the evening chill. His bedclothes were comfortable, though he longed to be up and able once again. There was work to be done. Much work in the employ of the man he called Alexander Grayson. Much work done in twelve years. And much work that still lay ahead.

Twelve years. Twelve years since their fateful meeting that evening on the steaming locomotive. He, R.M. Renfield, Esq., playing porter to that rich, self-important man at the cards table. That man, that dead man. What had been his name? Haverdashim? Havercashism? Havershim, yes that had been his name. Had been. Before his . . . mysterious disappearance. He had never departed the locomotive. Never heard from again.

Renfield smiled to himself.

From the moment he had lain eyes upon the man who had referred to himself as Alexander Grayson, he had known the man needed a fellow collaborator. Walking into the presence of that old reptile Havershim without invitation, ally, or defensive weapon. Grayson had appeared a most foolish individual.

Renfield had watched and had seen everything before it would happen. The old goat, Havershim would speak briefly, dismissively, and then his cowboy bodyguards would dispatch this newcomer without a second thought.

This Grayson man had no chance. That much was obvious. Slight build, several inches shy of six feet. Soft European accent. He was clearly walking straight into trouble. His primly worded statement in regard to his dislike of guns. The gentleman was a breathing target for these swine.

Renfield had known, just known, there was going to be trouble.

And yet, there was something else about him as well. This Grayson. He was fearless, he was absolute, he had already won what he had come to obtain. At least in his mind.

And so Renfield had watched and waited.

It had all begun just as he had surmised. Up to a certain point. Grayson alone, surrounded by three menacing, gun-toting cowboys. He had stood alone, not even appearing concerned with his rapidly deteriorating situation. The old bear still playing at his cards.

And so Renfield had stepped forward and voiced his first words to this intriguing fellow Grayson. Words of logic and guidance. He had no way of knowing that it would be the first of many.

Grayson had noted him. Noted the intelligence of his words and appreciated them, though he had kept it close to the vest at those first vital moments. And Renfield had noted that as well. And had decided that this man, this Alexander Grayson, was a man with whom it was most important to be in close affiliation. Though he had not immediately understood why.

He had straightaway paid for his interference with a solid beating from the old crocodile and his salivating porch dogs. He had not asked for help and to fight back would have surely earned him an abrupt lynching at the next depot. He had sensed, amid the kicks, that Grayson drawing back from the fight. Most unfortunate, his misconjectures of the man.

Then everything had changed. Grayson had dispatched one and then the next and so on and so forth. Until the boxcar was splashed with blood and bathed in silence. Through his blurred, pulsing vision, Grayson had walked past him, toting the dismembered head of Havershim in a most casual manner.

Surely no mere man could have wrought such decisive, quick destruction. Renfield had been jumbled, confused, throbbing with pain. Then Grayson, his visage dotted with dead men's blood, had appeared once more above him and bent down slowly. The fleeting notion that he was next had flown almost as quickly as it had alit in his chaotic brain.

"You're safe now."

Not quite the words he had expected to hear from this deadly creature. But he had answered with a shaking nod nevertheless.

And so this mysterious man Grayson had escorted him to his private berth where Renfield's wounds were carefully cleaned and tended. And when he was somewhat recovered from his impromptu beating, he was outfitted in fine, tailored clothing. Disclosing his own story to Grayson was not something to which he was accustomed, but the man listened quietly and made few comments.

". . . be examined under the Missouri bar," Renfield had said.

Grayson's wryly spoken words. "I presume you passed."

Renfield had not been able to fully suppress a dry expression. Passed? No. Excelled was the appropriate word. Top marks. Never a higher score achieved in the entire state. Though they had not told him. No. Most certainly not they. Remick, the white abolitionist, had. With the utmost pride for his apt pupil, Renfield.

As he had concluded his tale, the telling of which was colored with neither pity nor martyrdom, he had placed a distinguished new bowler hat upon his head. Looking every bit the fine upstanding man he had always desired to be viewed as, he had smiled at his image. But there had remained a most important question to be answered.

The mysterious Grayson, hunkered in the shadows, had passed it off as fulfilling a simple need for a lawyer. And Renfield had not been convinced. Then Grayson had cited their bond as fellow outcasts. That too had only been scratching the surface of the truth, though creeping ever closer.

Renfield, a man of integrity all his own, had lain the ultimatum at Grayson's feet. The truth in complete trust, or none at all. And against all odds, Grayson, after careful consideration of the large, dark man, had complied. They had shaken hands.

And R.M. Renfield's life had indeed never been the same again.

They had traveled far and wide during the last twelve years. Sometimes in the company of van Helsing, sometimes without. Sometimes with a bevy of persons; sometimes just the two of them.

Renfield had seen things wondrous to behold. Some beautiful and stunning; some dark and terrible. Grayson had revealed his true self, his unique tale. And though it defied all good sense and logic, Renfield believed it completely.

Once, in some backwater saloon, a blind-drunk man had not so subtly insinuated quite loudly that there was an unnatural relationship between Renfield and Grayson. And that Renfield, being of alternate skin tone and soft spoken, served as the woman. Slowly, like a sleekly stalking panther, Grayson had turned to look the man full in the eyes, his gaze unblinking, unwavering. Even in his heavily inebriated state, the imbecile had recognized the look of certain death upon Grayson's face and slunk away.

He had not gotten farther than the alley. Grayson had later claimed his blood had tasted viler than the slosh served in the public house. Renfield had not spoken, only nodded his assent. Glad to see that was the end of it.

New duties as of late. Minute as correcting Grayson's American pronunciations. Moderately larger duties such as serving as presenter at societal functions. Making reservations. Attending to the books. Bribing people when needed. Obtaining information on specially selected people. Miss Murray. Harker. The men of the Order Draco whom Grayson intended to kill.

Serving as front man. Grayson's voice, his representative to go where he could not. Into the light. Renfield always felt a certain level of pride in behaving as a proper gentleman when those who felt he was beneath them fell to his feet, their mannerliness torn to shreds. Because, he believed, that their mannerliness only held as far as their status held. But his mannerliness held much longer. Because he chose for it to.

Larger, more demanding duties. Though few could see the heavy, enormous responsibility of them.

As the situation warranted, he attempted to provide sound guidance to Grayson. Grayson, who often responded in an outwardly perturbed manner. But surely some of his carefully worded counsels resonated inwardly with the stubborn man, mightily as Grayson strove to contain his true mentality. When possible, Renfield's advisements frequently contained an ounce or two of the droll. Just to bring some levity to a soul who so greatly needed it. Calling Grayson "sir" in and out of the public light, for instance.

Patiently listening, always listening, to Grayson's ruminations. The painful recollections of a life destroyed. The rage-filled rants of a boiling man who sought vengeance against the organization who had burned his love and cursed him to forever be a demon.

He had stood by and observed Grayson's efforts to tame the impetuous nature of his oldest ally, Josef Cervenka. Watched the man use his loyalty against him in order to manipulate the lady huntsman. Watched him send the man out to die. Watched him grieve over his orchestrated demise. Then watched him more forward and speak of him no more.

When he was abducted and suffered so terribly at the hands of that witch of a woman, Renfield had known death awaited him. He would never answer her question, though he knew the answer well. But he would die now, alone, in great pain and suffering. Without answering the question. The question that any living soul could have answered quite easily seeing Grayson and Miss Murray together. He would die at the hands of this willowy beast of a woman with all her cruel torture instruments. Unless Grayson intervened.

And he had. And Renfield had laughed. Through his screaming pain and misery, he had laughed. Long and loud, through all the broken, bleeding parts of his body, he had laughed.

Renfield knew the tides were now changing. For ill or good, he could not yet determine. But he did not waver his devotion to Alexander Grayson. He simply set himself, held fast to his convictions. And waited for the next move in the game.

Twelve years. Twelve years and eight months now in the association of Grayson. So long for him. Yet so short he supposed for the man whom he had devoted his energies.

A lesser man might have broken underneath the weight of all that had come to pass. R.M. Renfield, Esquire however, was not a lesser man.

Slowly, resolutely, Renfield began to disengage himself from his bedsheets and rise. It could wait no longer. Grayson's enemies were still about, gathering their strength and forces against him. The longer Grayson chose to ignore them in favor of more pleasant daydreams, the more powerful they would become.

It was time to discover the fate of that monstrous contraption that gave Alexander Grayson, Vlad Tepes, Dracula, dominion over the burning rays of the sun.

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