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by Gordon Rowlinson
I was wrong. I was dead wrong. I had been a good cop and a detective in Boston for 30 years and had seen the wildest skid row psychos and the craziest killers and the most gruesome crimes. Still, I had been totally unprepared for the craziness and the darkness of the last two days. I took a deep slug of the boilermaker in front of me and motioned to the bartender for another.
All my detective years, I lived by the old Sherlock Holmes quote, When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. WellSherlock Holmes was wrong and I was wrong. I discovered that you can never eliminate the impossible. I had just been living and experiencing the impossible for the past few days. As the drink hit my already numb mind, I glanced accross the low-lit barroom and fell back into my deep gloom and pondered my eventual doom. I speculated that if I could make it through this night alive, perhaps I would be safe from...
The young bartender came over and handed me my drink. Perhaps sensing the despair in my eyes or perhaps because he was a nice guy reaching out to a human being in trouble, he turned to me with a concerned look on his face, Are you OK buddy? Do you want to talk?
I don't know how to explain the last two days to anyone or if I should try, I said. I reached into my pocket. The two small objects there gave me comfort and hope.
Give it a try. You look like you have a lot on your mind, he replied.
I slowly looked up at the man. Abraham Lincoln once said to a friend 'Did you ever find yourself talking to the dead?'
They warned me that the crime scene was bloody. So I prepared myself as I walked up the dusty stairs of the 2nd floor west side apartment. The naked body of Jim Mulligan was hung upside down from the large ceiling fan. The victim's throat had been brutally slashed ear to ear and all the body's blood had been drained. The young CSI guy who was dusting the apartment for fingerprints, had his back to the body so he wouldn't have to look at it. There was a small pool of dried blood on the floor under the body.
I walked over to the CSI guy. The kid looked like he just got out of college.
Are there any containers of blood anywhere?
Say what? the kid said. People always sound dumb when they say that. I figured that the kid was dumber than I thought.
The human body contains 5 quarts of blood. That small pool of blood under the body is nothing, I said.
The dumb kid shrugged and went back to dusting for fingerprints. It appeared that the dried pool under the body contained about a half cup of blood. Where did all the victim's blood go?
The lease said the apartment was rented to Jim Mulligan. As I paged through Mulligan's phone address book by the coffee table, I found an odd entry. It was a number was for the Boston Talk to the Dead Society. A quick search on his computer showed the Boston Talk to the Dead Society website bookmarked as a favorite. It appeared to be a role-play club for weirdos who like to pretend to be vampires. I decided to follow up on this lead before the CSI results got in.
I easily found the Boston Talk to the Dead Society on a side street on the east side of Boston. It was a storefront for spooky items. As I opened the door and entered the strange shop, I felt like I was entering a set of a creepy B movie. It looked like a good place to get a great Halloween costume. To my right, were counters of macabre jewelry. Towards the back, were faux antique furniture and items for your home. To my left were racks and racks of spooky, dark clothing. If you wanted to buy an article of clothing that was a different color than black, you were out of luck. A man dressed in black and sporting a gray-haired widow's peak came out from the back room.
Abraham Lincoln once said to a friendDid you ever find yourself talking to the dead? he said. I noticed that the man was wearing fang attachments on his teeth.
This is not a business call, I said. I'd like to ask you about the Boston Talk to the Dead Society. The whole facade annoyed me.
Our Boston Talk to the Dead Society is a secret society. I'm sorry. I've taken a blood oath not to reveal...
I'm Detective Reilly with the Boston police and I'm investigating a homicide, I said showing my badge.
Everything we do is legal. We are a respected part of the vampire community, he quickly replied.
I don't care about your role-playing games. My concern is murder. One of your people, Jim Mulligan, was found in his apartment drained of all his blood. I think some lunatic who thinks he is a vampire killed him.
Jim is dead?
You are catching on. Can you give me a list of everyone in your club?
Yes. I think so. I'm Ted Smith. I'm the owner of this shop and the president of the Talk to the Dead Society.
I finally got through to this idiot. He led me to his office and quickly printed off a list of 50 local names and addresses from his laptop.
This list is a longer list than I thought, I said. I don't get it. Why do people want to play being a vampire?
People who are not part of the vampire community do not understand vampires, he said. The romance, the tradition, and the power draws people into it. Thousands of people across the country want to be vampires. To be a vampire is to channel life energy. It is a great thing.
I still didn't understand the club or the vampire community, but I thanked Smith and left my card. As I was walking back to my car, I got a call about another similar murder. A body was found in the wealthy Beacon Hill area in downtown Boston. The victim was a young woman named Alexandria King. I noticed that she was on Smith's Talk to the Dead Society membership list. I hopped into the car and rushed into the crime scene. Like a pack of vultures sensing a dead body, a hungry TV news crew was already outside setting up. I flashed my badge at the cop guarding the place and hopped up the steps into the upscale townhouse condo.
Alexandria King's attractive, naked body was hanging upside down from a rope attached to the loft rail. Her long blond hair almost touched the decorative polished wooden floor. Like the other victim her throat had been slashed and the body's blood drained. It was horrible to see such a young, pretty face in juxtaposition next to her grisly, slashed throat. I looked closer. Her red lipsticked mouth seemed to have a slight smile as if she was actually happy about what had happened.
A police photographer entered the room and immediately gave a disgusted groan.
What the hell is this murder all about? he asked.
I think it's connected to a vampire role-playing group, I said.
What is a rich, young, sexy woman doing hanging around with the sick vampire role-playing crowd?
I don't know. Maybe she was just a spoiled rich girl hanging out with the wrong crowd looking for excitement and a thrill, I said while shaking my head. My cell phone went off and I popped it open.
Oh Hello, detective?
Yes this is Detective Reilly.
This is Ted Smith from the Talk to the Dead Society. We talked about the Jim Mulligan murder and you gave me your card this morning in case I thought of something.
I thought of something, he said.
I'd like to confess to the murder.
I immediately sent a black and white to pick up the creep. However after grilling him in the station interrogation room for about 20 minutes, it was clear that he didn't know much about the murders. He didn't know the details of the crime scene. When I mentioned that club member Alexandria King was also murdered, he quickly confessed to that too.
One last question, I said. Why did you confess to two murders that you clearly didn't do?
I murdered Jim and Alexandra and you arrested me and you have to keep me here. The man nervously shifted around in his chair.
The man slowly lowered his head to the bare metal table and began to cry. There may be more than two murders. I called all of the Talk to the Dead members and...and some are missing. They're probably dead. I figure I will be safer in police custody.
Who are you afraid of?
It's not who I'm afraid of. It's what I'm afraid of. I think he's killing us off one by one. If I tell you will you keep me in custody?
Our Society or club meets on Saturday nights, he said. We were a harmless club. Sometimes we go to parties. Sometimes we go to nightclubs. Sometimes we drink the blood of new members to initiate them. It's all fun and all role-playing. I act like it's all real so all the club members will buy merchandise from my store. We recently had a new member join. He's new to the Boston area and his name is Bartholomew Visigoth. At first everyone liked him as he really looked and acted the part. He had a great tall, dark vampire look. But by the second week, people got scared of him. Last Saturday, no one showed up because they were afraid to be in the same room with him.
What makes you think he did the murders? I asked.
We are a role-playing group, but this guy wasn't role-playing a vampire. He really is a vampire. He's killing us off because he sees us as fake vampires
No, I said. He's a nut that thinks he's a vampire and gets off killing people.
No. He really is a vampire.
I left the room and told the guard to lock up the idiot. I immediately ordered a background check on this Bartholomew Visigoth. The computer was quick, but it produced surprisingly little on this mystery man. He entered the country in 1941 and appeared to move from city to city. In 1965, there was a real estate purchase in New Orleans. In 1984, there was a real estate purchase in Savannah, Georgia. Recently he had bought real estate North of Boston. But there was no record of employment anywhere.
I looked at the printout in front of me. If he entered the country in 1941, he must be ancient. How could such a little old man be so dangerous? Night had fallen and no partner was available to drive out with me. But I wanted to get this killer and drove alone to the location of the Visigoth property. The real estate address matched the list that Smith gave me.
Driving across the river, I found the location was an old condemned theater in a bad neighborhood. At one point, the theater used to be a grand opera house. Now it was a useless wreck that was too run down to be considered a historical site. I knocked on the door. As I heard a lock being slowly turned, I suddenly got the crazy urge to run. Something crazy in the back of my mind made me think what Smith said about this guy really being a vampire. I forced the illogical thought back into my subconscious and forced my mind to stay in reality.
The door slowly opened and I found myself looking at a tall man of about 30 years old. He was dressed in all black. I told myself that he was role-playing.
Bartholomew Visigoth? I asked.
I'm Detective Reilly from the Boston police department. I need to ask you some questions.
But of course. Come right in. He gestured with his hand that I should enter the theater lobby.
Something deep inside me told me it was a mistake to walk through that door. Either my sense of duty or my stupidity made me enter the musty, dusty lobby of the ruined theater. The lobby's pealing wallpaper and faded gold art deco dιcor provided a hint of the fancy opera house's more glorious and happier days. The trash on the floor, the myriad of spider webs and the holes in the ceiling of the dump made me wonder if the place was classy enough for any of the neighborhood rats to live here.
As soon as the door was slammed shut, Visigoth threw me against the wall. I fought back with my ex-marine skills, but the smaller thin man had three times my strength.
Did you ever find yourself talking to the dead, he mocked. You are sticking your nose into something beyond you. He opened his mouth revealing long fangs. I was helpless as he bit deep into my neck. I felt myself getting weaker as my life fluid was drained from me and I knew I was going to die soon. I clumsily reached for my shoulder holster and pulled out my 45. According to legend, a gun couldn't kill a vampire. But I saw an old fire alarm on the wall. Hoping for the miracle that the ancient alarm still worked, I pointed and shot. There was an immediate ringing sound.
You fool. The vampire stopped feeding and knocked the gun out of my hand.
The fire department will be here in 5 minutes, I said. Are you going to tell them that there is no fire and the call was all about a vampire killing a police officer?
Ha. It's better this way. He threw me to the floor. Forget the Talk to the Dead Society and the role-playing community. There is a real community of vampires. I bit you and you are one of us now. Look at the size of this theater! We need something of this size for meetings of the real vampire community. We will come back and we will get you!
He smiled and opened the front door. Suddenly his body seemed to alter shape. It was hard to see clearly in the darkness. But after several seconds, he had morphed into a giant bat-like thing. Like a giant condor, he spread his dark wings and disappeared into the night sky. I walked through the lobby and glanced at the theater. It looked to hold 300 seats. The fire department would be here soon and I couldn't get away with an illegal search so I turned and stumbled into the street and got to my car. I found an old shirt in my trunk and pressed on my neck until the bleeding stopped. Shaking from blood loss or fear or both, I managed to get back to the police station and checked the files again. Visigoth fled the theater and I speculated that he must have another place to hide during daylight hours. He didn't seem concerned at all that we found his opera theater. My only hope was that I could find the second Visigoth location.
We were still holding Ted Smith in jail. It was late, but I went down to question him a second time.
Did you see how scary he is?, he said when he entered the interrogation room.
Just a few questions, I said. When did Bartholomew Visigoth join your Talk to the Dead Society?
Three weeks ago. Did you meet him? Did you see that he is not just role-playing?
Did he ever mention any other town or city in the Boston metro area?
He once mentioned that he liked the atmosphere of Salem. It's an old city with a spooky past. He liked it that they once killed witches there.
Thank you. That is all I need. I'm going to get this monster before he kills again. I got up and left the room without another word.
I went back to my desk and spent the rest of the night looking through apartment listings in the paper that were 3 to 6 weeks old. I compiled quite a list. At midnight I put my head on my desk and caught some shut-eye.
I woke up and pulled my head off the desk. Wondering why I decided in college to be a policeman instead of a hippie beachcomber like I had initially planned, I dragged myself to the coffee machine. The strong, rough stuff tasted like it was rotting my insides. Someone had left the morning Boston Herald on the break room table. The large tabloid news headline on the murder story read: KILL CRAZY.
'Swell,' I thought. I threw the paper in the trash without reading it. At 9:00, I called all the phone numbers on my list. At 10 o'clock, I hit the jackpot. The landlord didn't want to mention names of who rented his Salem apartments. When I stressed this was a police matter and a murder investigation, he backed off and told me Bartholomew Visigoth started renting an apartment 4 weeks ago. I knew what I had to do. I no longer looked at this case as a police matter.
I pulled up to the non-nondescript Salem apartment complex and removed a duffel bag out of my trunk. I quickly looked around the street to see if anyone was watching. Then I jimmied the lock and entered the place. It was a dump like Visigoth's other place. There was no furniture and several holes in the walls. Don't vampires care about interior decorating? It didn't take long to find the coffin in the bedroom.
As I opened the coffin, I was surprised to see how calm the Visigoth looked in his daytime sleep. I opened my duffel bag and took out a large wooden stake and a hammer. I placed the stake over the monster's chest and hesitated. I once shot a drugged out kid who came at me with a knife and I once beat a gang leader senseless in an attempt to get information. But I had never killed before. This was tougher than I thought.
Visigoth's eyes suddenly blinked open. I involuntarily screamed and slammed the hammer down on the stake over his chest. A quick second hit drove the stake through his black heart.
With the stake piercing the heart of the monster, there was an immediate sickening imploding sound as the body instantly decomposed and turned to dust before my eyes. How long had this obscene creature been livingcheating death by living off of victimsmoving from city to city? With shaking hands, I slowly put the hammer back into my bag and quickly left the apartment. It was a bitter sweet victory. I was glad that the monster was dead, yet sickened by the ordeal and wondered how many vampires were left.
I just wanted to know if you are gonna be OK. The bartender looked at me with concern.
I...I think so. Maybe I shouldn't have anymore booze. Could I have a coffee? I asked. I don't want to fall asleep tonight. If I fall asleep, I may not ever wake up. I wasn't sure if my nightmare was over or if it would ever be over.
Sure. Take it easy guy.
The bartender walked off to the small kitchen to get some coffee. I reached into my pocket again. The small crucifix and the garlic in my pocket lifted my spirits. I nervously rubbed the sore part of my neck through the turtleneck sweater I was wearing. The deep wound was still very sore and seemed infected.
The vampire was dead and the case was solved. I should feel a sense of closure. However I couldn't forget what Visigoth mockingly said after he bit me'You are one of us now.
Did that mean I would become a vampire when I died? Did it mean that I was still human but under control of his real vampire friends? How big and how strong was this real vampire community? Was Visigoth on the level when he said he needed a 300 seat theater for all his vampire friends? Was the real vampire community going to come after me for killing Visigoth? Was it over?
The bartender walked over and set a warm cup off coffee in front of me. He smiled in a way that seemed like he genuinely caredyet in that brief half-second I saw itI was certain I saw it and it wasn't my imagination. The bartender had fangs and I realized then that my personal nightmare was just beginning.
|Time Wars & other SciFi Tales|
by Gordon Rowlinson