A body drained of blood is found on Hampstead Heath. Three nights later, a white face is seen pressed against a window in Highgate. In Hampstead tube station, something titters in the shadows of the platform. In Surrey, a phone rings.
The agents of the Westenra Fund are on the case…
The origins of the organization known as the Westenra Fund are traceable to an incident in Purfleet, in 1889. A disparate group of men and women banded together to defeat one of the greatest evils to ever assail the shores of England. In the aftermath, the survivors swore an oath to defend their homeland from the scourge of vampirism.
Unlike the Ministry of Esoteric Observation or the office of the Royal Occultist, the Westenra Fund is a privately funded organisation, with only tenuous links to the British government. While this is mostly by choice, it is also due in no small part to the Fund’s proclivity for excessive collateral damage in pursuing their singular calling – the destruction of the sanguinary vermin known as vampires.
While the last English vampire was reported destroyed in 1908, the Fund has maintained its vigilance against the undead. It has even conducted international operations alongside the Calmet Society and other anti-vampire organisations, in Europe, Latin America and Canada.
The current head of operations for the Westenra Fund is also one of its main financial backers – Sir Arthur Holmwood, Lord Godalming. Godalming is an elderly, but still vigorous man who often insists on leading domestic operations himself. Foreign operations are often left to the mysterious Miss Harker, an unusually pale young woman of unsettling demeanour.
The history of the woman known variously as Miss Harker, (or, variously, as ‘Lady Godalming’, ‘Lucy Harker’, ‘the bloofer lady’ and ‘oh god oh Jesus it’s her run’) is shrouded in half-truths and mystery. Which is just the way she likes it.
The daughter of a solicitor and a school mistress, but the child of a monster, Harker was born with certain unnatural gifts. These gifts – as well as her fierce loyalty to Godalming – saw her swiftly become the most invaluable member of the Westenra Fund. To date, Harker has seen to the destruction of over thirty vampires, five at her own hands.
It was in her capacity as head of the Fund’s foreign operations division that she first encountered Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass. First forced to work alongside them during the Carpathian Repatriation of 1920, Harker and the Westenra Fund have since consulted with the Royal Occultist on numerous occasions. Godalming has also reportedly attempted to contact Baron Palman Vordenburg, but, as yet, the Baron has avoided meeting with the Fund’s representatives.
The Westenra Fund, like the Ministry of Esoteric Observation and the London Tunnel Authority, was created as something of a combination foil and plot generator for the Royal Occultist series. And of course, if you’re going to talk about the British Empire and vampires, you can’t really avoid a Dracula reference.
As always, when confronted by such a quandary, I tend to lean into the skid. Using Stoker’s novel as a starting point, I wove it into the fabric of the Royal Occultist series – the events of Dracula occurred, but not necessarily as written. For one thing, the then-Royal Occultist, Sir Edwin Drood, was involved, and there were more casualties. Dracula’s assault on England didn’t begin and end with one small group of Victorians, but rather was a pestilence that endangered London as a whole.
I doubt I’ll ever actually write about it in any detail. It’s probably better to leave it as a noodle incident – often mentioned but never fully explained.
That said, Lucy Harker is a fun character – conceived as an homage to various pop culture vampire slayers, she very quickly diverged into something interesting. If I ever have the time and inclination, I might even try and spin her off into her own stories. I think she’s a strong enough character to have a life of her own outside of occasional guest appearances.
Another note of interest – Harker and the Westenra Fund both first appeared in my now long out of print 2010 novel, Dracula Lives!. Though it’s debatable whether that novel exists in the same continuity as the Royal Occultist stories, Harker and the Westenra Fund are pretty much the same characters in both. But I’ll leave that up to readers to decide whether there’s a canonical connection.