by Rease Archbold
The grey skies above send down a torrential force of rain that seemed never-ending. For three days and nights, it seemed the sky had cried. For what reason, I couldn’t guess; more than likely any number of reasons could have set it off. All you had to do was take your pick to the random assortment of pain and heartache that happened on the daily basis, though if that was the case I doubt it would have ever stopped to rain.
That thought had crossed my mind as I looked up to the darkened steeple of the Church as it stood out against the darkness like a dark obelisk. Was the sky uncaring to the plight of the people of the world? Who knew, and who cared really when it could do little to help us down here but take pity.
No light shone in the heavens above, and no heaven graced the darkened windows of the Church itself. A bastion of holiness that welcomed all within the hallowed halls now laid empty and bare to a congregation without a hall to worship in. The only lights that kissed the stone white edifice of goodness and perfection flashed blue and red in shifting flicking colors among the hum of voices and the crackle of radios.
I sighed; another night, another job to do. Crime never seemed to end in this city, and every night I was handed more and more on my plate to deal with as the stack of innocence lost piled ever taller. Rarely these days did it seem I ever had an ending to these tales. Early on I asked for happy ones, while these days I only asked for at least an ending. More often than not, I was left more and more disappointed and more and more I was finding myself becoming more and more jaded.
Exhaling, I flicked away the butt of the cigarette I held between my fangs, letting the last vestige of warming smoke die with the wind and downpour as the last light of red fluttered away and fell to the uncaring stones beneath my feet. The nicotine felt good; more real than any caffeine could ever do, but I needed to focus on my job instead of my addictions. Those would come later with downtime.
I walked forward, away from the shadow of the opposite street, and made my way to the scene proper. Yellow lines of tape crisscrossed around the front of the gate while a small army of policemen and coroner officers stood in line to wait for their dues to perform their duties. Crime scene investigators, doctors, and rubberneckers standing behind dark curtains were all around, looking for their place to be or to watch for any signs of change.
No sooner had I arrived than another officer came to greet me, holding his hand up to stop me while the other rested on his chest-bound radio. Smooth, and immaculate, he looked to be no older than his mid 20’s: The smell of youth ripe in the air as he hailed me down from going further.
“Hey man, you can’t go in there.” He said placidly, looking me up and down slowly as if he thought himself a predator. “Crime scene investigation. Only certain people are allowed in.”
I nodded. He was just doing his job; I held no ill will for attitude for those who needed to look tough. Though I knew I needed him to move. My hand rose, already holding the leather wallet with my badge on it, ready to show since I knew how the circus played out.
“Good to know, I’m one of those allowed in. Special Detective Bartholomew DiMaggio.” I said as droll as I could muster.
The good cop eyed my badge, his eyes turning wide as he read along the ID number, down further – I could sense – to the bottom where all eyes in this city went wide after reading. “Ohhhhh man. You’re the one from the Supernatural Special Division yea? The SSD?”
“One and the same.” I replied, flicking the badge close as I placed it firmly in the breast pocket of my coat. “Was told to get out here to investigate this case and link up with the Crime Lab already doing their job.”
Though I turned and eyed the Church beside me with some trepidation I held in check. The nervousness of my approach I hid to only myself as I continued on. “Though I don’t know exactly what I’m needed out here for. Churches aren’t exactly my thing officer…”
“Menard.” The officer replied, before correcting himself. “Frank Menard.”
“Menard.” The officer replied hastily as if trying not to be rude even as he corrected himself fully. “Frank Menard.”
A name to go with the face. A start to our budding relationship that would barely outlive the evening I knew. It wasn’t often I saw the beat cops twice in a row; they usually phased out through early retirement via bullet or good grace to give up or promoted up to some sort of administrative job to get them off the streets.
I nodded though and continued to speak “…Officer Menard…” I said. “The victims are outside the church? Because I should tell you right now, I’m not going to go in that church.”
Knowing I needed to demonstrate as the man looked at me quizzically, I raised a hand up slowly, and pushed back against my upper lip, baring the glinting ivory of sharpened fang and tooth beneath the moonlight that shone through the darkness. “Catch my meaning?”
“God…” Menard replied as he looked at me, turning to stare away at the stony face of the Church itself. To pray to someone who wasn’t there right now? For forgiveness for working with a monster? A salvation through ignorance? Who knew? People tended to have a different reaction when I revealed my vampiric state. None of them ever good.
“Here I thought you were just an atheist.” he admitted before he turned and beckoned me to follow with him through the pouring rain, and off of the wet streets and dingy sidewalks. Over towards the line of yellow tape that separated the world of the living from the world of God.
I shrugged my broad shoulders and quickly reached for the last of my cigarettes I’d be having for a time. My fingers deftly finding the nub of the butt beneath the wet fabric of my waistcoat as I followed along and bent down to the muddy cobble and rose up to the other side. “Something like that too. No sense in worshipping a being that hates me. Though I doubt we’re here to talk about me. Tell me what I’m going to be looking at.”
“Right.” Officer Menard replied, remembering our profession as he led me around the back of the church, and thankfully away from the entrance to the congregational hall. “I wasn’t really there for more than a few minutes. The other officers on the scene can tell you more. We just got two bodies inside a small house right behind the back of the Church.
I nodded as we continued on, bringing the cigarette to my lips as I clicked my finger to produce a miniature flame; an ancient bit of knowledge I gleaned so many lifetimes ago.
From the corner of the Church as we rounded to the back of the property several other officers showed up. Their caps held down beneath the line of their brow casting shadows beneath their faces. The faces of men who had seen more than their fair share of the damnation that this city could bring. God notwithstanding, of course, as his own uncaring gaze joined the skies above.
They didn’t look at me, and their movements steered clear of me like a projecting shield. I watched them from the corner of my eyes, sharpened senses taking in each squeeze of muscle and more. I knew they wouldn’t do anything; none of them ever did even if we worked for the same organization. Distrust for my kind ran deep even when I was there to help keep at bay the animals from both worlds of Mundane and Supernatural from tearing each other apart.
What more could I do than exhale a cloud of ashen heat that soon dissipated in front of me. They didn’t give me a second look, and I didn’t care to give them one as well.
“Tough crowd.” I said as I followed behind Officer Menard, quickening my pace for the half-second I lost.
He didn’t respond. What else could be said? Soon I saw partially the scene that awaited me as we neared the small building that was behind the church. I didn’t know what I was to expect when he first told me about it. I expected a shed or some sort of storage unit that housed the various holiday decoration or trinkets that the Churches tended to trudge out at appropriate times of the year.
Instead what I found was a small house, no bigger than a standard apartment you’d find in some moldering downtown building from bygone eras of construction.
I didn’t wait for Officer Menard to release me; the lights were already on and the sweet coppery smell of blood filled my nose. One that smelled – even tasted on the air – clean and free of toxin and more that typically dwelled in human blood. Alcohol, tobacco, overtly sugary food that made feasting on a person’s life essence akin to eating poison and made modern consumption a game of chance to not get sick.
But there was something else; something darker and heavier that clung. Thicker than syrup, and wholly unholy.
I stepped into the lit room where the yellow haze of several lamps broke through the shadows of the outer world and gave the inside room a wholly comfortable look.
Aside, from, of course, the dead bodies on the floor. Two, as I was told.
The house itself on the inside was simple in design: It looked like it HAD been a work shed that was converted to a home. Square, with two doors that led off to a simple bedroom and a bathroom. The furnishings were simple and expected of a priest; nothing more than a desk, a small CRT television, a couch, a bookshelf, and a small counter space with an induction heater and a coffee pot used for brewing a quick meal.
The bodies themselves were on the floor. One was an older man in a simple Cassock and slippers. He laid there on the ground in a pool of his own blood; the same blood that smelled clean and sweet and would have made a full meal for any other Vampire on the prowl.
The other one though was far different from the obvious priest that laid on the ground. Younger, with darker hair and olive skin, wearing nothing more than a simple leather jacket, jeans, and a pair of cheap sneakers.
I stepped forward a bit to kneel, keeping my hands to myself to not contaminate the scene as I inhaled deeply of the dark, ichorous blood that emanated from the body. My eyes turning down to note that the body was of a young woman, no older than her early to mid-’20s. Her eyes were as dark as her hair, and once shone with life and light, but were now darkened. Pain etched the edges of her face, as a look of surprise and guilt overtook her expression.
A hoodlum, who wandered in off the street and found herself at the wrong place and wrong time? I didn’t know; at least not yet.
She lied there, like the priest, in a pool of her own blood.
“Damn shame.” another officer said – one who held the camera so close to himself as he raised to shoot and immortalize them both to film. “You the detective they sent in to investigate?”
“I am.” I said, slowly moving to stand back and away to allow the crime scene investigators to gather what evidence they could. Quickly, I inhaled the rest of the cigarette I had, allowing myself a new sense of rush and energy to fill my core before I took it from between my lips, doused the tip with my fingers to snuff the flame that gave it life and purpose, and pocketed it. No need to waste good tobacco.
“Thought so.” The man replied, shaking his head as the crew worked to gather blood samples, hair samples, and more. The camera ever ending with the click of the bulb, the flash of light, the hum of energy. Each shot illuminating the room in a brilliant shock of burning white that scared away the encroaching shadows from further play. “Initial thoughts right now?”
I shrugged. I really had seen this scene play out a dozen times over a dozen years, in a dozen different places. “Looks like a robbery gone wrong. Hungry alley fang here-” I said, lazily pointing to the boy. “-probably thought the Priest was an easy mark and broke in. The Priest probably fought back, got her good but she nicked an artery and he bled out. Seen it before.”
“Right.” The Officer replied simply.
I wasn’t one for small talk: The awkwardness of dealing with humans while working never sat well with me. Always with the suspicion, especially in cases where I was called out to deal with other Vamps, Werewolves, and gaggles of supernatural entities against the mundanes. I did get used to it, but the feeling of being unwelcomed never went away.
I prowled to the side, away from the direction of the flashing bulbs as I sought to look at the scene from another angle, my shoulder pressing to the plastered wood behind me as I circled the desk that the Priest’s body was hidden behind. “Do we have a name for the Priest?”
“Marcus Archbold.” one of the Crime Scene attendants replied, looking up from beneath his mask to meet my gaze. “Father Archbold. One of the nuns was the one who called it in when she said she heard the sound of fighting out here, followed with a scream.”
I nodded in reply, eyeing the rest of the room as it looked little in the way of disarray. Pens and papers fell to the floor, an overturned chair, but nothing that seemed to suggest a struggle. The first clue to shelve away for later when I review what I have.
“Doesn’t look like much of a fight went on here, other than the Priests chair knocked over.”
“I assume the scuffle probably just involved a lot of yelling.” The attendant officer said, kneeling carefully to the ground beside the body as he raised a hand up to point where the Priest laid. “From what I’m guessing, the chair was knocked back when he suddenly stood, and the fang came in to grab him around the table, and left the door opened. She grabbed him, he grabbed her, she bit, and then he got her in return.”
Slowly I narrowed my eyes upon the Priests corpse, seeing him at a new angle as his gaze faced the yellowish wall. His face, as well, was a grimace of pain. Stark blue eyes stared on ahead; to the afterlife where he now was, or somewhere else in the distance I couldn’t tell. He looked to be no more than a few hours cold, though it wasn’t his face I wanted to stare at.
I looked to his neck; no puncture wounds.
“Doesn’t look like she got his neck.” I simply said, pointing out to the Crime Scene Officer.
“That’s the part we can’t really figure out just yet.” he replied, moving over slowly towards the Priests body as he knelt, and rolled him over.
I saw what killed him then: A large gash that ran down from his clavicle, all the way to his belly. Sharp, and smooth, the cut ran deep through the clothing to the meat and sinew of his body. Dried blood caking across his front.
I shook my head. What a sight.
“Well…” I ventured a guess. “What about the weapon then? Does she have one, or was that taken away already?”
“That’s the part that we also can’t figure out.” he admitted, lowering down the body of Priest Archbold to the cold, lonely floor as he carefully moved back, and away, towards the young girls’ corpse. “There aren’t any weapons we could find. None of them were on the scene when the first officers arrived.”
He showed me then the death of the second; the young vampire woman. He gripped her shoulders gently and pulled back to roll her over and bare her front to me. The wound that got her was deep, a large hole that stabbed itself deeply into the front of her chest down into the sternum and beyond. Her dark blood caking around the entry point, looking grim and painful.
I winced and felt the pain of staking in my heart. One of those rare moments I had to look away.
“Jesus.” was all I could say.
The officer nodded solemnly and lowered her back down gently to the floor as well to join her victim. “As I said. We didn’t find the stake that got her. If the Priest had one or used one, we didn’t find it.”
A thought crossed my mind. Who would remove the weapons, to begin with, and why?
“That means then that the weapons were removed from the scene before the police were called in.” I said, turning to look away from the bodies to the door that led to the darkness of the world outside. Shadows and more were edging against the threshold of light, with the smacking of the rain on the cobblestone behind the darkness.
My first suspicions were the Nun; though why?
I had to know or at least talk to her first.