After one thousand years of sleep Brutus wakes in furs under a blood red moon in his high castle. His servant Halford carries the Count’s mahogany coffin to the high-vaulted antechamber and prepares a feast of pigeon gizzards and sour goat’s milk sauté with chilled owl’s blood to wash it down. The Budapest night is bristling with cold stars, the air sharp as the ritually sharpened nails of Brutus the dark vizard himself.
The next morning the film crew sets up in the castle lobby. During Count Brutus’s millennial hibernation his crumbling heirloom has in the resourceful hands of Halford been transfigured into a boutique hotel often used as a dramatic backdrop in made-for-television soap productions. Halford brings the crew platters of crusts and instructs his hunchbacked underlings to see their every need is met. The funds are most welcome in such a dire economic clime. The chandeliers are malfunctioning, the masonry in the northern wing is coming loose, and rats have taken up residence in the wine cellar.
The crew commence shooting on the grand staircase. Lady Estrella interrupts the take when she comes pirouetting down the stairs in her black silk gown, gushing at the eyes. Her falcons have become estranged. Estranged? the film director asks, chasing down two more codeine pills with a gulp of sparkling mineral water. Yes, the Lady croons, from me! and flaps out of the castle in a pique. The Lady and her falcons Perren and Pépé have long been familiar guests at the consecrated grounds, Halford explains to the crew, and in his eyes there is the insinuation of a long-ago romance, the shadow of a wedding cake in ruins.
And now in the grand hall the brooding Brutus sits alone in his high-backed chair surrounded by his court of jacketed hounds with a tumbler of mulberry wine in the grasp of his left hand and a bejewelled sceptre gripped in his right, high-arched brows and a severe widow’s peak perfecting the correct and appropriate pose for the cover of Time magazine, draped in exquisite Afghan furs.