When we arrived home I checked my phone, only to find that I had several missed calls from Adam. With a reluctant sigh, I called him back. He answered on the first ring.
“Miss Scarlett?” The PA sounded stressed out.
“Adam.” I did my best to sound like nothing had changed. “Apologies for missing your calls, I was in an important… meeting.”
“We have an urgent situation.” He didn’t waste time with pleasantries. “Have you seen the news?”
“No, like I said I’ve been busy.” I really didn’t like the way this conversation was headed. “What is going on?”
“There had been several… attacks. They sound supernatural in nature. Witnesses are saying that someone or something with bright red eyes is responsible.” There was no accusation in his voice but I knew what people were going to think of first. To everyone’s knowledge, who was the only red-eyed vampire in town?
“What?” I couldn’t keep the alarm out of my voice.
Lillian had just switched the television on and I could see a solemn journalist reporting the details as we spoke.
“Hang on, I’ll call you back,” I said, hanging up before he even had time to reply. There would be time to apologise for rudeness later.
The news headline blazed across the screen: Five dead and three people missing. Terrified witnesses reported multiple attackers, although they did not get any identifying information as night had already fallen and the street was dark.
“They just came out of nowhere.” One woman sobbed into the camera, “We didn’t see them coming!”
“I’m sure their eyes were red.” A man insisted to the doubtful onlookers.
“What in God’s name is happening?” Lillian exclaimed, looking dumbfounded. “Who would do something like this?”
I shook my head. “I don’t-” My phone rang again and I nearly dropped it in surprise. This time it was Nick.
“Have you seen the news?” He demanded.
“I’m coming over.” I could hear the sound of a door slamming behind him as the line went dead.
“Nick’s coming over,” I repeated unhelpfully to Lillian. She was pacing in front of the television, not paying the slightest attention. “Is Amir working?”
She froze mid-step, fear in her eyes. “Yes, do you think he’s ok?”
I smiled reassuringly. “The hospital's probably one of the safest places he can be right now, don’t worry.”
My mind spun, what on earth was going on? Vampires did not attack humans like animals, especially not publically en-masse. Still, the mention of red eyes disturbed me. It was entirely possible that they were the invention of overly stressed witnesses. However, I never had believed in coincidence.
Linda’s face filled my thoughts, so different from how she was in life. Was it somehow connected? It had to be supernatural. I doubted anything human could move quickly enough to surprise that many people and escape without being seen.
The now-familiar roar of Nick’s bike disturbed my thoughts and I went to let him in. He was dressed practically in his trademark leather jacket and jeans ensemble. He carried a large black bag that clanked suspiciously when he set it down.
“What’s going on?” He asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” I told him. “I have no idea.”
It was a testament to how far our relationship had come when he didn’t even doubt me. There was a time where he would have been staking first and asking questions later. Nonetheless, I knew that he wasn’t the only one I would have to worry about. I wondered if his mother had seen the news story. There was no doubt that she still hated me, would she think me capable of this? Even as a vampire (or draugr) I would not have done something like this. It was savage, animal-like even.
“It has to be supernatural, right? That attack did not sound human.”
“Yes, that’s what I thought too.”
He went to sit on the couch and then thought better of it when Lillian whipped the pages of one of her notebooks over.
“Oh sorry, hi Lillian.”
She scrawled Hello on a piece of paper and held it up for him.
He met my gaze; I could see my own worry reflected in his dark expression. Media attention could be very, very bad for the supernatural world, especially something of this nature.
“We need to do something about this. The attackers need to be stopped.” He said, pacing and shoving his messy hair back from his face.
I agreed. Vampire or not, this was still my city. I would not stand for such horrific behaviour so close to my home. My phone rang again; it was Adam calling me back.
“Hang on,” I said to Nick and Lillian, turning away from them.
“Hello?” Adam’s voice sounded even more anxious than before.
“Adam, what can you tell me?” I wanted as much information as possible. “I have just seen the news story.”
“Well, most of what we know is on there, to be honest. Aside from that… I have Mr Winslow from the morgue demanding answers. He says the bodies are very… damaged. Something has ripped them right up.”
I winced. “Did he say by what?”
“No, he couldn’t say for certain. Probably not an animal though, there is nothing around here that could do something like that. We’re in England for Christ’s sake.”
“Right…” I sometimes forgot that the world was not as wild as it used to be. Humanity had wiped out most of the large predators that used to pose a danger. “Is there anything else that I need to know?”
“Yes… you should be aware that the bodies, they all shared one similar injury.” For some reason, he sounded slightly nervous.
I didn’t have time for his sensitivity. “What is it?”
“Well, they were all beheaded, every one of them.”
My blood grew cold. Beheading was one of the rare but sure ways to kill a vampire. I didn’t understand why it would be necessary in this situation.
“Were they vampires?” I demanded.
“No, they all appear to be human. As far as we can tell, anyway.”
None of this information made sense to me at all. I just needed to know one more thing before I disconnected.
“Do you know if any of our vampires are involved in this? Are any of them trying to help?” By our vampires, I meant the ones that chose to live in the city under my rule.
Adam’s answer was quick and certain. “No, none of them are going anywhere near this. They are waiting for you to sort it out.” He cleared his throat nervously, “Apologies, I didn’t mean for that to sound rude. It’s just that none of them wants to risk the crimes being pinned on them. It’s going to be a very bad day for whoever the media blame this on.”
“That’s not a problem,” I said smoothly. That actually worked to my advantage, it would leave it open for me to investigate without coming into contact with anyone who could reveal my human status. “Tell everyone to keep a low profile, I will deal with this.”
“Ok, will do.” He tried to hide it, but I could hear the relief in his voice. He wanted no part in this mess.
“Text me if you get any further details.” I had recognised the street from the news story, I would start from there.
When I hung up the phone, Nick and Lillian were looking at me expectantly. After I relayed the details of the conversation to them, they were both eager to do something.
We agreed that it would be best for Nick and I to take his bike. I wasn’t sure how many people were still at the scene, so I couldn’t risk simply appearing in the middle of things. Plus, I didn’t say it out loud, but if anything happened to me, Nick would still have a way out. We would park a couple of streets away and investigate cautiously.
Lillian knew the area; she could make her own way there and help us look around. Usefully, she would be able to access areas that we couldn’t as no one could see her. I wished I could grasp the concept that Gabriel had shown me, but I really hadn’t had the time to practice. I wouldn’t risk trying something so uncertain in public unless it was a real emergency.
I wasn’t sure what I expected to find when we arrived. Without my vampire senses, I felt practically blind. Before, the world had been richly layered with scents. I could tell who and what had been at a scene and where they had gone. Now, I would have to search for more concrete clues. Nick seemed pretty confident, but then again, it wasn’t far from a normal day at the office for him.
Due to our visit to Vanessa, I was already suitably dressed. In an effort to conceal my identity, I put my ostentatious hair up in a tight braid and covered it with a dark woolly hat. The lower half of my face was hidden behind a thick scarf. The weather was still freezing; I would not look out of place.
I checked the familiar weight of my knife, hidden in a sheaf at my hip. I had retrieved it before we had left Vanessa’s flat. It was never wise to leave any personal possessions in the hands of a witch. I had other weapons hidden about my person, but the knife was my favourite. Using a gun would draw too much attention. Plus, I doubted I would be a very good shot with my new human reflexes. Once again I found myself wishing it was still normal to carry a sword. Nonetheless, I knew it would be a very bad idea, especially with everyone searching for a mystery attacker.
Nick had no such inhibitions. It turned out that his bag was filled with a small armoury.
“Is that an axe?” I demanded, getting a glimpse of the contents as he sorted through it.
He shrugged, “You never know, might come in handy.”
“What happened to a good old fashioned wooden stake?” I demanded.
His expression became a little uncomfortable. “Well… after what happened with you… I upgraded. You can never be too careful.”
I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be offended by this. Before he met me, he had been pretty convinced that a wooden stake could kill anything. After a tense moment, I decided not to take offence. If something I thought I’d killed got back up again, I would revaluate my methods too.
“Right,” I said, brushing off the awkwardness. “Let’s go.”
Nick had brought an extra jacket and helmet for his bike, for which I was grateful. I hadn’t missed the fact that a crash would be significantly worse for me now that I was human. The motorcycle jacket was made to fit Nick, so obviously it was far too big for me. Nonetheless, I pulled it on over my own clothes. If anything happened, I wanted to keep my skin.
He climbed on first and waited for me to get on behind him. I was reminded of the first time I had ridden with him. Then, my main concern had been hiding my true nature. I was afraid that he would notice how cold and dead I was. Now, my heart pounded with nerves. Instead of the temptation of his blood, there was an element of fear. Despite all my newfound confidence a little voice in my head wondered… could I pull this off? There was a strong possibility that we were going to come up against hostile vampires. Would I be able to fight them? I pushed the thoughts away. It was not the time for doubts.
With any luck, perhaps this latest atrocity would shed some light on Linda’s death. I could get revenge for her and then Vanessa would be obliged to help me get my powers back. Everything could return to normal and I could resume living my life. It was a long shot but… it was all I had.
Slipping onto the bike behind Nick, I wrapped my arms securely around his waist.
“Ready?” He asked.
“Let’s do this.” I said.