"Mr Higgins, I presume" said Von Haelstrom, as he swept into the study, smiling widely and extending his long fingered hand in greeting.
"Very good to make your acquaintance sir," said Higgins, slightly taken aback and sheepishly accepting the handshake.
Being a country boy, he had never met a man of Von Haelstrom's social stature before, and he was probably never likely to again either.
"I see you like the bronze? Are you a racing man yourself?" said Von Haelstrom, taking note that Higgins was holding a statue of a horse, that he had taken down from the shelf.
Replacing the bronze carefully, Higgins said "I guess. I'm a coachman by trade, so I spend most days looking at the back end of a horse, in one way or another."
He gave a chuckle, to which Von Haelstrom smiled politely.
"And to what do I owe this pleasure, Mr Higgins?" he said.
"Charlie, sir, only the magistrate calls me Mr Higgins!"
"Of course, Charlie," replied the Doctor, "and the matter of urgency...?"
"Oh yes, I have brought you this note sir," Charlie pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and held it out to the Von Haelstrom.
The Doctor took it and unfolded it. Slipping on his spectacles he quickly read the note.
He stood motionless for a moment, seemingly taking in the information. He reached up and pressed his lips between his thumb and index finger. At last, he refolded the note and placed it in his waistcoat pocket.
"Do you have your carriage here?" asked Von Haelstrom.
"Why, yes sir!" replied Higgins, "Are you wanting a lift somewhere?"
"We are to return to your lodge, I must meet with the proprietor, a Ms Bertha Bloodstock! Her news is most troubling! Most troubling indeed! Let me collect some things and we shall depart immediately!" said Von Haelstrom, as he span on his heels and made for the door.
"I'll just wait here then, shall I?" asked Charlie, to an empty room.
"So you see, your premiums won't be affected by this new policy!" said Bray, wafting papers in front of Drugula like leaves in a breeze.
"But I don't need candle insurance," enthused Drugula, reaching for another cigarette, "it's pointless. They burn away anyway!"
"Yes but this covers you should one drip wax on to an expensive antique table, or should the smoke from a badly made wick taint an old painting or some such. You have such valuable artifacts around here, it would be a shame not to cover them with a reassuring policy!" Bray countered.
"Let's have a drink shall we?" asked Drugula in a measured tone, "Eggnog?" he shouted.
"No thanks, have you anything stronger?" said Bray.
"No, I was calling for Eggnog, he's my man-servant," replied Drugula, frowning.
"Oh, I see," said Bray, blushing crimson with his idiocy.
The door creaked open and Eggnog walked in, arms still flailing.
This should be interesting, thought Bray, how will he serve drinks when he can't walk without looking like an off-kilter windmill?
"Eggnog, two brandies please, the good stuff," ordered Drugula, "doubles," he added as Eggnog nodded and exited again.
"He's been with the family for centuries," said Drugula, facing Bray once again.
"You mean his family has been with your family for centuries?" queried Bray.
"Ah, yes, his family....." said Drugula, seemingly caught off guard momentarily.
"You will of course be staying the night here, as my guest?" asked Drugula, leaning forward in his chair towards Bray.
"I would be honoured, sir," he replied.
The fire crackled in the hearth and a rumble of thunder rolled across the night outside.
"Gooood," hissed Drugula, as he leaned back. Bray could have sworn his eyes flashed red, it must have been a trick of the firelight he reasoned.
The door opened once again, and in walked Eggnog.
He set a silver tray down on the table between them and turned on his heels to leave.
Drugula picked up a lidded jar and passed it to Bray. He then picked up his own jar.
"Just remove the lid to drink," said Drugula, "unfortunately Eggnog is a little unsteady of hand, and so we have to compensate or suffer huge losses of brandy on the carpet!"
"That's interesting," said Bray, as they clinked jars, "Have you ever thought of carpet insurance?"
Drugula sighed, and took a mouthful of brandy.