I know you think yourself a grown man now, and resent that I have not given you the responsibilities that Zafir enjoys. I do not do this to belittle you or deliberately frustrate you. You must know that the world is more dangerous now than we ever thought before. You have grown up with tales of an occupied homeland, of our great walk into exile, of our struggle to fit into Czech society, but darker things follow us now than at any time before. I replicate below a cautionary tale for you, in order to try and clear your head of stubborn nonsense.
On Sunday night I went looking for information about a strange man. I’m sure you have heard the rumours, and yes even the brother you assume to be brave and fearless knows when to be afraid. I returned to another of those parties run by the Children of Freedom in the hope of finding out any more we could about Matej Tesarik. Do you remember last week when I told you I had received a note written in blood? It was from this Tesarik, the man I had been hunting. All our reports told us he was an extremely dangerous being, bearing more resemblance to one of Jiddah’s stories than anything we expect in the the real world. As the Children of Freedom had captured the man once before, Anton Makova, who came round for coffee earlier with that sword, and Judi Orr, the woman who’s very fond of cats, and I all headed to the park to question them further.
I had Zafir dealing to the partygoers whilst I tried to get some information out of Radúz Jehlička and Josef Hornik. Neither were very forthcoming and my companions weren’t too helpful either. Anton had gone off to talk that floozy Zuzana Hruška. I’m not sure how much ‘talking’ they got done, if you know what I mean. And don’t get me started on Judi. She spent the whole night spaced out in front of a bonfire while half naked men and white dressed ladies span in demonic rituals all about her. I didn’t want to send Zafir off home on his own with this dangerous man on the loose, so he and I stayed up all night to make sure Judi got home eventually. It was very strange business. All dances and chants that made my spine tingle. Drums and fire. Animal skulls. And very few clothes for a mid-October in the north. I spoke briefly with a woman in charge the event, but the whole affair unsettled me and I did not wish my dismay known to others. All I learned from the entire night was that Tesarik fears fire. I know you would have liked it if it happened, and unfortunately I didn’t get the chance, but I was all ready to light that new ceremonial sword on fire if the meet when Tesarik went wrong the following night.
And that brings me to the meeting itself. I brought all the back up I could, fearing for the lives of my friends and I. This was a creature we had seen move faster than the eye can follow. We’d seen him bite a man’s neck and heard he had drained another man’s blood until death. And you ask me why I did not bring you with me? If given the choice I would not have been there myself. But the message was written to me, and I do what I must to protect my kin and those loyal to me. We’d been directed to an opera house. Whilst an opera was playing. I had to sit through hours of the thing, thank Allah I’d doused my boredom with some special requisition items I have with me, or I might have been ejected from the place before our task was done.
We met him in the interval. We had no idea where he’d be, or if he’d even show. But there he was, moving like some ghūl in a graveyard. Prim and proper opera goers all parting before him, like they did not see him, but knew to depart from him. His shirt all bloodstained and ripped and yet not an eye turning to him. His skin was cold, Yusuf. Like stone under a night sky. And no pulse. And eyes blank, lifeless. He wants me to help him kill people. And what can I do? What can I do when the alternative is to kill what does not live, or let it run free, and perhaps my own brother shall be his next victim? He says he was once like us, a stranger in this land seeking work. He claims to have been abducted and to have been turned into a monster. If he is to be believed, it could happen to any of us, little one. Twice over I have reason to help him. And in return, when we are done, he has promised to do as I wish. A deal with a djinn. I do not have high hopes for how this will go. But I shall be damned before I let you get involved.
Do as your told and stay away from the drug lab or I will punch sense into you myself.