Three hours later the trial was wrapping up. The judge had to move on to his next case and needed to rule before he and the train left. The witnesses were heard, and the prosecution rested its case. By now, the sun had fallen in the west and it no longer burned Bohdan as he awaited his fate. The judge was now in the train depot going over his notes and making his call based on the evidence presented.
Cara and Ashley sat on the depot steps anxiously biding their time awaiting the verdict. Cara would be lost without Bohdan and didn’t know what she’d do if he were taken away. Ashley could fend for herself, but had no ties to this place or time. “What are you going to do if they convict him?” Ashley asked.
“I don’t know, I’ll see what happens first.”
“Do you think the judge will find him guilty?”
“Based on what was said, yes, I think he’s going to lose.”
“I think you’re right, we might be stuck out here all by ourselves. I wonder if there’s a way to get back.”
“I’m not going back, if I can’t be with Bohdan, I don’t want to live,” Cara said.
Just then the bailiff called out, “All rise,” and the crowd that remained stood as the judge stepped out of the depot and took his seat on the raised platform. He gave the signal for the gallery to sit and he took his seat as well. “Before I pass judgment, I was informed there was an issue I needed to address concerning the local sheriff’s department. Is that correct?”
“Yes your honor,” the bailiff replied.
“What is it?”
“The local sheriff wants you to rule on the welfare of one of his deputies that was disabled by one of the vampires.”
“Where is the vampire?”
“He was killed.”
“And the deputy? What’s come of him?”
“He was turned into a vampire, and then was disfigured with acid.”
“What’s the issue? I don’t understand what I’m supposed to rule on.”
The sheriff stepped up and addressed the judge. “Your honor, my deputy has become a menace to society, not only is he now a vampire, but he’s burned up and dangerous. I think if he is allowed to go free, he will be a threat to our community. I’m asking that you allow me to legally put him down for the safety of the town.”
“You speak of him as if he was a rabid dog.”
“I think he’s far worse than a rabid dog, you’ll understand once you see him.”
“Where is this rabid vampire?”
“He’s locked up in the jail, I can go get him.”
“Yes, go get him,” the judge said. “In the meantime, I will rule on the case at hand. In the case of the state of Kansas versus Bohdan Malko, I find the defendant guilty as charged. I sentence the defendant to serve life in prison at the Vampire Zoo in Chicago Illinois.”
Cara gasped, shook her head in disbelief and looked to the ground. Ashley took a firm grasp of her arm and tried to comfort her.
Bohdan spoke up, “Vampire Zoo? What is this place?”
“It’s a new facility built to house vampires. They put them on display and sell tickets,” the judge replied. “I hear it’s quite the attraction.”
Bohdan was shocked to hear he’d be put back on display like an animal. He escaped the peering eyes of tourists and now he would be sent back to a similar facility.
“I’d rather put you to death,” The judge said. “But current law doesn’t allow that kind of relief. The most I can do is the Zoo. Now, let’s get on with this other issue, where’s the deputy?”
“He’s coming,” the sheriff said. “My other deputies have him now.”
The judge watched as two deputies dragged the disfigured vampire out to the depot. The vampire deputy shuffled his steps and had a hard time seeing where he was going. His eyes were red and puffy, draining down on his face. His skin, peeling where the acid had burned. “So what do you want me to do with this man? Kill him? What is his crime?” the judge asked.
“Before he became a vampire, he raped a woman being held in the cell. Now that he has become like this, I am sure he will rape again, and kill. He is a dangerous animal, I ask that you allow me to legally end his life.”
“Did you hear what I said about killing vampires? It’s not allowed by law. The best I can do is sentenced him to the Vampire Zoo as well. And from what you told me, he committed his crime before he became a vampire. The penalty for rape is prison, not death. I can’t kill a man for what he might do, that’s not how the law works.”
“I don’t understand,” the sheriff said. “If you let him go, you will be responsible for the deaths he causes. You will be as guilty as he.”
“I’d watch what you say sheriff,” the judge said. “Making false accusations about me will get you more than jail time.”
“Fine, I will let him go, then when he kills, I will put him in jail and call you back. Then you can explain to the family of the victim why you let him go.”
“If you want him dead, go out and kill him and don’t tell me about it. I don’t understand why you think this is a legal issue. Stop wasting my time, I have to get going. I need to be in St. Louis by morning.”
The sheriff stepped over to the former deputy vampire and motioned for his staff to let him go. To the shock of the crowd, the now free vampire stammered away and headed back towards town. The sheriff turned to the crowd and said, “I tried, but I won’t commit murder. I wash my hands of this.”
“Put Mr. Malko on the train,” the judge said. “We’re going to be in Chicago in a week. I can deliver him to the prison myself.”
Cara was now distraught. She couldn’t let them take Bohdan away so without thinking, she ran to him and wrapped her arms around him. She then turned to the judge and yelled, “I killed the mother, not Bohdan!”
“I don’t have time for your theatrics madam,” the judge said. “I’ve ruled on the case.”
“I’m a vampire too! You have to put me in the zoo with Bohdan!”
“You’re a vampire?” the judge asked. “Is this some sort of joke? Prove to me you’re a vampire and I might listen to you.”
Cara turned and looked into Bohdan’s eyes. She whispered, “Turn me now.”
Bohdan looked back at her with a confused look. “What?” he asked.
“Turn me now so I can go with you. I can’t be without you.”
Bohdan shook his head and grabbed Cara’s wrist. He brought it up to his mouth and bit into the skin taking a sip of blood. Just enough to start the process. He had nothing to lose, he was going back to prison for the rest of his unnatural life.
Cara turned back to the judge and held up her hand. “Look, there’s your proof! I am a vampire!”
“Maybe so, but you weren’t when and if you killed the mother. If you were human at that point, you would be subject to a different set of laws. You’d be either hanged, or sent to Leavenworth.”
“I was a vampire then as well, I just did this because you demanded proof. How else was I able to do that?” Cara asked.
“Normally vampires have fangs, let’s see yours,” the judge said.
Cara knew it could take weeks for her fangs to grow to their full length so she had to think fast. “I was turned a week ago, just before the killings. It takes up to two weeks to fully form fangs. I’m still in the process of changing.”
The judge didn’t know what to think. He was no expert on vampirism and didn’t know if what she was saying was true or not. He needed an expert. “Bohdan, is what she’s saying the truth? Does it take two weeks for fangs to form?”
“I’ve been a vampire so long I can barely remember, but I think she is correct,” Bohdan replied.
“And who turned her?”
“It was Rancid,” Bohdan replied. It was a lie, but there was no way to fact check a dead vampire.
“Rancid? He was a companion of yours?”
“He’s the one who turned the deputy and poured the acid on him. You’re sheriff blew his head off with a shotgun.” As Bohdan said those very words, the sounds of gunshots rang out from town. “Sounds like someone has already taken care of your deputy problem,” Bohdan said with a smile. “I hope they know that bullets won’t do the job alone.”
The judge looked around for the sheriff and couldn’t find him. “Where’s the sheriff?” the judge asked.
One of the deputies replied, “He went back to the jail to get something.”
“Yeah, I bet,” the judge said. Then he saw a plume of dark smoke rise into the air from behind some buildings and the sounds of screaming. “I don’t have time to work up another case right now, I need to get going. So I’ll try her case on the train on the way to St. Louis. If I find her guilty, I’ll drop her off in Chicago at the Vampire Zoo as well. If she’s not guilty, she gets dropped off at St. Louis and is on her own. Now load up the train!” the judge said and slammed his gavel.
Cara held Bohdan tight and pressed her head on his chest. “Now I get to be with you forever,” she said. “I am as immortal as you are.”
“You’ll one day regret ever saying those words,” Bohdan replied. “I have often wished for death. I was hoping that would be my fate today. The thought of being on display again fills me with such rage and sadness. I’ve paid my dues, many times over.”
“But we will be so close,” Cara said.
“Do you think they will house us together? Like a husband and wife? You use me for your own benefit, and I admit I’ve used you as well. But I don’t love you, not like you want me to. You are like a pet to me. That is all. A distraction.”
“You will grow to love me.”
“If it makes you feel better for me to agree, then so be it. I have nothing to lose. At the least you are entertaining.”
Cara smiled knowing that Bohdan didn’t reject her outright. She at least had a chance to win him over.
The bailiff approached Bohdan and Cara with a key in his hand to unlock the neck brace that kept Bohdan from running. He freed Bohdan and pointed to the steps that led to the train platform. Bohdan took the hint and walked up the steps to the platform with Cara by his side. The train belched black smoke and steam puffed from under the carriage.
“All aboard!” the conductor yelled and the two vampires stepped up into a passenger car followed by a security officer.
The coach was nice, with padded seats and large windows to see out. The train had only three cars, not including the coal car and the caboose. One car was specifically set aside for the judge to live in, and another for transporting prisoners. The third could be transformed into a makeshift courtroom if necessary.
Once Bohdan and Cara were seated, two security officers found seats on both ends of the car to keep an eye on them. Each had a rifle in their arms and a pistol on their belts. None of which would have helped if they needed them.
“Why don’t you love me?” Cara asked.
“When you’ve been alive as long as I have, you learn to live alone. It’s better that way.”
“Why? Is it because everyone you know eventually dies?”
“That was at first, but living a long life makes you cynical. I can’t stand people anymore. I can’t stand what they do, and what they say. I’d rather live in a cube than be around those pathetic fucks. I get so sick of the politics, the religion. I’ve heard it all before, over and over, and it never changes. The people may change, but the circumstances never do. Some themes are timeless. There’s always someone coming for your gun, or your god. People are so stupid and treat each other with such hatred. How many wars can I witness, how many massacres? Tragedies? At some point it all needs to come to an end.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“You’ll feel that way yourself soon enough. Wait a hundred years and when someone tells you that your freedoms are less important than theirs try not to beat them to death. I’ve seen leaders repeat the same mistakes over and over to no avail. People don’t study history and people die for no good reason. I’m not sorry I feel this way, it was burned into me over time. I want out, I wish he would have cut off my head, not sent it to Chicago.”