“Lisa, are you all right?”
The girl sobbed in his arms. Her hair tickled his nose. The fruity shampoo stirred a hunger for ice cream. Later, not now.
Lisa didn’t answer and Danny Space could only hold her tight as she pressed her body against his, mascara tears staining his shirt. His two friends were lying at their feet, half hidden by the darkness of the alley. Frank with a crushed skull; Lisa’s attacker had smashed him against the wall. But Bill … His fate was another story.
Slowly, Danny stepped backward, away from the alley and the two corpses, dragging Lisa gently along. What kind of man could perform such slaughter? What kind of man could kill two others barehanded? Then again, what kind of man could scurry up a 30 foot wall and disappear across the roof?
“What is going on here?”
The cop froze when he saw the dead men. Clumsily he drew his gun and aimed it at Danny and Lisa. “Hold it!”
“We’re not going anywhere,” Danny said. “We didn’t kill them.”
“Never mind,” Danny sighed. “Please lower your weapon and call for an ambulance. I think Lisa’s in shock.”
“See any other women around here?”
The cop shook his head, then put his gun back in his holster. He unclipped a radio from his belt and made the necessary calls. He turned back to Danny and Lisa. “You better come along to the station. There’ll be tons of questions.”
But I’m not sure you’ll accept the answers, Danny thought. “I’m going with Lisa,” he said.
“Of course you are,” the cop nodded. A rookie on a graveyard shift, just their luck. “We’ll talk in the ambulance.”
“No we won’t,” Danny said.
“You won’t be allowed in.”
The cop stared at him, searching for an explanation on Danny’s face. Then he nodded. “Right. I’ll meet you at the hospital.”
“You do that,” Danny said.
Sirens emerged in the distance and grew stronger fast. The ambulance lights pierced the night as it turned the corner. The cop walked to the middle of the road and waved his arms. The ambulance came to a stop only three feet in front of him. The orderlies jumped out and helped Lisa into the back.
“I’m her fiancé,” Danny said. “I hope I can ride along?”
“Of course, sir,” one of the orderlies said.
“I’m coming too!” the cop tried again.
“No you’re not.” Danny and the ambulance driver spoke simultaneously.
“We have our responsibilities and you have yours, officer,” the orderly added. He turned to Danny. “Step right in, sir.”
Danny did. The driver closed the doors and got behind the wheel. Seconds later the ambulance disappeared around the corner, leaving the cop alone with a dead Frank and Bill.
Nick Morris holstered his gun. He looked around. With the ambulance gone, the street was once again deserted. A soft rain tapped his cap, the only protection he had right now. Any other night he’d return to the precinct for some coffee and the company of a hot stove. Neglecting his duties wasn’t a possibility now. He couldn’t leave, not with two dead bodies all in the open. Sergeant Matters would kill him.
He approached the corpses warily. Something about them frightened Nick more than any other succumbed victim would. These weren’t the first perished men he’d seen, yet what lay before him wasn’t the result of an ordinary homicide.
The one slumped against the wall was an obvious case. Head caved in due to severe contact with said wall. The other one, blocking the alley, was a different matter.
Nick knelt beside the body. No use checking for a pulse, but his instinct told him to do so anyway. The skin was still warm, but wouldn’t be for much longer. Not at night and in this weather.
As he removed his hands from the side of the neck, two small wounds attracted Nick’s attention. He bent a little closer. Bite marks. A rat had scurried up to the body while Nick was busy, then scared off when he came back. But no, the wounds were two inches apart. Too large a bite for a rat.
Before his very eyes, the wounds closed up.
“What the fuck!” Nick scrambled up and moved away.
Better call for backup, then on to the hospital for some explanations.
A Mini Cooper cut in front of the ambulance at the next intersection. “Crazy bastard!” The orderly hit the brakes and swerved around the car. He sounded the horn and flashed the lights but the other driver paid no attention. The Mini sped away in the same direction they were going.
In the back, Danny and Lisa were whispering about what had happened. The second orderly was busy collecting the contents of a box of bandages that had fallen open when his colleague made that sudden maneuver. He wouldn’t hear what they were saying.
“It was Carl," Lisa said. The horror in her voice infected Danny. He shivered when he heard the name. He knew Carl all right. Lisa’s ex-boyfriend. She had left Carl for him. Or more appropriate: she had to leave Carl because of him, when Carl had found out about their affair.
“I left the party after our fight and he pulled me into that alley. I don’t know what he wanted to do. I’m scared to even think about it.”
“Did he hurt you?”
Lisa shook her head. “Not really. I mean, he squeezed my arm but he didn’t hit me or anything.”
“He probably didn’t have time. Me and the boys got there before anything bad could happen.”
“But something bad did happen,” Lisa sobbed. “Frank and Bill …”
“Ssh, I know,” Danny said. “Don’t worry, the police will find the bastard.”
Lisa nodded slowly. “Why did you come after me?”
Danny hesitated. Then, “I wanted to apologize. I don’t want to lose you, Lisa. You’re wonderful. I’m a stupid ass, drinking like that. I can’t do that anymore. It was okay when it was just me and the boys, but now I’ve got you to think about. And our future.”
Lisa looked up at him. “Do you mean that?”
“I sure do.”
The ambulance slowed down. “What the hell happened here?” the orderly behind the wheel said. “Jimmy, you better come out and help.”
The other orderly opened the back doors and got out as well, leaving Danny and Lisa alone.
They waited for several minutes. Danny stroked Lisa’s forehead and smiled at her. “You feeling any better yet?”
“I’m cold,” Lisa said. “And thirsty.”
“Don’t worry, they’ll bring you inside soon.”
But nobody came for them.
“This is taking too long,” Danny said. “I’m going to see what’s up. You sit tight.”
The Mini Cooper lay upside down, blocking the entrance to the hospital. The ambulance was parked behind it.
“Hey, everybody all right?” Danny asked.
Several people were standing around a man lying on the ground next to the Mini. Among them were the two orderlies. The one called Jimmy turned to Danny. “He’s fine. Stupid drunk. They say he almost collided with a bus, hit the sidewalk and upturned his car. As soon as they got him out he fell asleep.”
Danny nodded. “What about my girlfriend? You haven’t forgotten her, have you?”
“I thought she was your fiancée? No, but this guy’s car is blocking the entrance. We have to wait for the tow truck before we can get inside again.”
Danny sighed and returned to the ambulance. “It’ll be a while longer yet,” he said as he climbed back in. Lisa’s eyes were closed. “Lisa?”
He walked up to her and took her hand. She didn’t react to it. “Lisa, you all right?” He put his hand on her cheek.
A sudden dread filled him. He let go of her and jumped outside again. He ran towards the crowd gawking at the Mini. “Move!” he shouted.
After backup arrived, one of his colleagues brought Nick Morris to the hospital.
“That’s an amazing story, Morris,” officer Pratt said. “Disappearing bite marks, huh? How about that.”
Nick shrugged. It figured that nobody would believe him. He was used to that. Why had he told them in the first place?
“Just shut up and drive,” he told Pratt.
This made Pratt laugh. “Will do, Morris. Will do.”
He had seen those wounds disappear. No trick of the light, no dust or pieces of filth mistakenly thought to be something else. They were there; and then they weren’t.
His witnesses had some explaining to do. He shouldn’t have let them leave so fast. He should have asked them about what had happened to those two guys right away. But he didn’t exactly have a cop’s instinct, now did he? Nor a cop’s authority. The guy had walked all over him. That male nurse too. When he found them again, he’d stay with them until he got some answers.
Pratt slowed down. “In the name of Mary’s virginity, what happened here?”
Nick looked out the window at what had caught Pratt’s attention. They had reached the hospital. Next to the entrance stood a Mini Cooper, all windows broken, a bunch of onlookers gathered around it, some trying to lift the car by the bumpers.
Pratt parked their cruiser behind the ambulance and got out. Nick followed him, but didn’t see what all the fuss was about. It was just a car, somebody had smashed the windows, so what?
“You check it out if you want,” he said to Pratt. “I’m going to look for my witnesses.”
Pratt waved him away and walked up to the crowd. Nick went inside.
The syringe penetrated Lisa’s skin. Danny winced in her stead. “Will she be okay, doctor?”
“Don’t worry, son. A good night’s rest and she’s back on her feet, sure enough. Question is, will you be okay?”
Danny shrugged. “Nothing wrong with me, as long as I have Lisa.”
The doctor nodded. “Yes, well, you don’t have to worry about that. But what I meant was, I’ve been told you got quite an adrenaline rush. You performed an amazing feat back there.”
Another shrug. “I did what I had to do.”
“Yes, but no ordinary man could do what you did.”
“What are you talking about, doctor,” Danny said, becoming angry. “It was a small car, it didn’t weigh anything.”
“Yes it did, Mr Space.”
Danny sighed. “I’m a big guy. I work out. And it’s a small car.”
“Still over 2,000 pounds, Mr Space. But don’t worry, this has happened before. Husbands and wives performing amazing feats to save their loved ones, mothers and fathers to save their children. You panicked, which gave your body a boost and made you able to lift that car.”
“I didn’t lift it!” Danny shouted. “I merely pushed it back onto its wheels. Anybody could have done that.”
The doctor smiled. “Yes. Perhaps. Anyway, when you wake up tomorrow your muscles will be sore. You have stretched them to their limits, I’m sure. Don’t hesitate to go to your physician should they feel sprained. You’d be doing more harm neglecting them.”
“I will, doctor.”
“I suggest you go have some coffee. There’s a dispenser down the hall. When you’re finished, Lisa here will be ready to go home.”
Danny nodded, shook the doctor’s hand and stepped outside.
Nick recognized the man immediately. Tall, muscular, stern-faced. “Hey, you!”
The guy turned around. “Glad you could make it, officer.”
His eyes said he didn’t mean it.
“Everything fine with the lady?” Nick asked. The guy nodded. “What is your name, sir?”
“Danny Space. I was going to get some coffee.” Mr Space turned away from him.
“Mind if I join you? I could use a cup myself.”
Mr Space shrugged. Nick followed him to the dispenser. “Rough night, eh?”
“You could say that,” Mr Space said. He put some money in the coin slot, pressed a button. A gurgle resounded from within the machine. In five seconds time his cup was filled.
“I’d like to ask you some questions,” Nick said as he switched places with Mr Space in front of the dispenser. “You being a witness and all.”
“I didn’t see anything. And neither did the lady.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were just walking home after a party. We found those men when we passed by the alley.”
“So you don’t know those men?”
“Never saw them in my life.”
Nick stared Mr Space in the eyes, trying to deduce if he was telling the truth or not. “So you didn’t see who killed them?”
“No. Like I said, we were just walking, we discovered those men and my girlfriend … freaked out is what you could call it. I don’t blame her.”
“No,” Nick said. “Neither do I. But it’s late. You’re all excited. You probably want to go to bed.” Mr Space nodded. “Perhaps in the morning things will be clearer in your head. I’d like you to come by the precinct tomorrow, to make an official statement. Perhaps you will remember something, some detail which might help us catch the killer.”
“I doubt it,” Mr Space said.
“Just the same, I’d like you to come.”
“Will I break the law if I don’t?”
Nick hesitated. Before he could answer, Mr Space continued, “Never mind. I’d like to go back to Lisa now.”
Nick sighed. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
Mr Space ignored him and walked down the hall.
The cop had a right to be curious, but he was better off left in the dark. Carl wasn’t Carl anymore. He was something else, a creature Danny had been looking out for almost all his life.
Ever since he had been told about his great-great-grandfather, ever since he had been told the truth about his family, he had been hunting this creature. Every thirty-five years a new child was born, a child with extraordinary powers. Every thirty-five years, when each child had grown up to be a man, these powers were passed on through the bloodline.
This hadn’t been the first time he had performed an amazing feat like lifting a car. He was well aware of what dwelled inside him, who he was and what he was destined to do.
He was the last in line, but the first to have finally caught up with this creature.
But Carl hadn’t changed from human into vampire that long ago. Lisa had dated him for months, she would have known if he was a creature 175 years of age. No doubt he was only a fledgling, a student of a far more experienced creature. Perhaps the very creature that had raped his great-great-great-grandmother and spawned not another vampire, but a dhampir.
He wouldn’t go to the police station tomorrow. The police couldn’t help him. Bullets couldn’t stop this killer. Only he could stop the killer, the vampire. After all these years it was finally time for the dhampir, a human with a vampire’s physical strength, to avenge the heinous crime committed on Annabelle Duffling.
Tomorrow, the chase would begin.