Scarlett hung on tightly as we sped across town. I had been torn about whether or not to investigate alone, but something told me this was going to be something big. I was going to need help and with my dad and Darren gone… I had no one else to turn to.
I did have to keep reminding myself that even as a human, Scarlett was far more dangerous than she looked. When we had first met, she had continually surprised me with her ability to overcome obstacles and I had a feeling I had only seen the tip of the iceberg. You don’t live as long as she has without developing some serious skills. She had definitely become someone I would prefer to have on my side in a fight.
I pulled over on a dark street a short ways from our destination. It was a mostly unused industrial area. Although, there were some tight-packed low budget apartment buildings and a number of convenience store type shops. We were well into the night and everywhere looked dark and closed. Many of the buildings looked derelict. The street had been planted with tightly spaced trees which obviously hadn’t been pruned in a long time, judging by the thick overhead canopy. The weak streetlights were mostly obscured by the leaves which cast deep shadows down onto the road.
As far as I was concerned, this was the perfect place for a hunting vampire. There were plenty of dark spaces to hide, and not many people around to see them. As soon as I pulled the bike to a stop, Scarlett instantly let go of me and jumped to her feet. She quickly pulled the helmet off and her eyes scanned the surroundings alertly.
“It’s quiet.” She said in a low voice.
“I think most of the activity is going on over there.” I nodded toward the end of the street, where I could see reflections of police lights. On the news, it looked like they had cordoned off most of the area and screened it from public view. Most of the initial police activity had died down, although I guessed it would take the forensic scientists a while to analyse the scene. Once all of the witnesses had left, the journalists had quickly followed. They had captured video of the gory initial scene and the drama. That would be enough for them to play on a loop for a while.
“Hopefully Lillian is getting a good look at what is going on,” Scarlett muttered.
A scream suddenly split the night, making us both jump in alarm. It continued for a painful couple of seconds before being suddenly silenced. Shouts of alarm followed.
Forgetting the planned stealth I began running, axe in hand but hidden under my coat. Scarlett was only a couple of paces behind me.
The scene we burst into was not what I expected at all. Two police officers lay awkwardly on the ground. Judging by the amount of blood spilt around them, they could only be dead. The crime scene tape had been torn, allowing it to whip around in the wind. A female member of the forensic team backed away from… another member of the forensic team? Two more figures slipped out of the shadows into the light. I recognised one of them as one of the missing women. The other was an unfamiliar male.
Immediately I could see that something was not right with them. All three of the attackers looked very pale, in the kind of way that brought to mind death and disease. The forensic guy looked the most normal, but the other two looked almost emaciated. Their flesh was stretched tightly over sharp cheekbones and bony fingers. The eyes, which were sunk into deep shadows all glowed a disturbing shade of red. All three mouths were contorted into horrific snarls, revealing wicked-looking fangs.
The terrified forensic woman met my gaze, her eyes begged desperately for help. Unfortunately, this only drew the attention of the creatures and suddenly they rounded on us.
Scarlett muttered an unfamiliar curse word under her breath. “Oh hell.” She groaned, before lunging forward with a battle cry that would have made her Viking relatives proud. In the space it took me to blink she had disappeared and reappeared behind the woman, plunging a long silver knife into her neck.
The woman howled in rage but spun around instantly, clearly not hindered by the pain. Scarlett was already responding with a swift kick to the injured shoulder, buying herself a couple more seconds. She disappeared from my view as the two males rushed at me.
Abandoning all pretence of civility I whipped the axe around to defend myself. It was a long-handled war axe, specially designed for combat. The edge was long and curved and especially sharpened by me. Bringing it up just in time I caught the hand of the unknown guy, taking off a couple of fingers. I noticed that the nails looked long and wicked. Something told me I really didn’t want to be scratched by them.
In a lucky move, I managed to hit the guy again in the neck. He stumbled and I hit him again, taking the head clean off. The body suddenly crumpled to the floor like its strings had been cut. The forensic technician snapped at me and I hit him with the handle of my axe, pushing him back a couple of steps. They seemed to be faster and stronger than a normal human but the attack was mindless. I could see no human-like intelligence behind his snarling face.
“Nick look out!” Scarlett’s voice broke my concentration for a second and the guy lunged at me again, knocking me to the ground. My weapon tumbled away from me but I managed to pull a stake from my boot and shove it into him. He didn’t stop his attack, snapping senselessly at my neck.
Suddenly Scarlett’s boot contacted with his head, sending him sprawling away from me. She scooped up my dropped axe and spun around sharply, plunging it into his neck. The woman she had been fighting was just about to lunge for her when Scarlett disappeared into thin air mid-swing and reappeared behind her, taking her head off in the same movement. The two bodies fell to the floor but there was no respite.
I now saw what she had been trying to warn me about before. The two policemen had gotten to their feet, eyes glowing the same unnerving red.
For a moment they looked almost comically confused, but the instant they spotted us the expressions changed to rage.
“What the hell?” Scarlett yelled. “How is this happening?”
I had no time to respond, the two officers were already attacking us. The first one lunged towards me, fangs bared. Just before I could defend myself, something blasted him backwards away from me. The same invisible force then knocked him to the ground when he tried to get up.
“It’s Lillian!” Scarlett yelled in explanation. “Help me with this one first!”
Together we made quick work of the other officer. With two of us there, he didn’t know who to attack first. Lillian kept the last one down until we could remove his head and then finally it was over. I looked around quickly in case another opponent should appear, but there was just the cowering forensic woman. She stared at us with wide fearful eyes. As we approached her, I saw that she was younger than I had first thought. She had to be early thirties at most. Her slim figure was mostly hidden by her bulky PPE outfit.
“What happened?” Scarlett demanded, planting herself in front of her.
The woman responded by bursting into tears.
“Hey it’s ok; we’re not going to hurt you.” I thought it best to try a gentler approach. “What is your name?” Sometimes starting with some easier questions can get people talking.
“Sayaka- sorry, Dr Young.”
“Was it just you and these three… colleagues working here tonight Dr Young?”
She shook her head slowly. Her dark hair was escaping from the neat bun at the nape of her neck.
“Yes, but we were supposed to have some more people arriving soon. A lot of personal are on holiday right now, they were struggling to find the staff…” She trailed off looking stressed. I guessed that she was perhaps not the most experienced in her position.
Now, to the important stuff. “Could you tell us what happened here please?”
A shudder ran through her body. “I really don’t- I mean, it’s all so crazy!”
“Crazy is what we do,” Scarlett commented.
“Yes, just tell us what you think you saw.” I agreed.
“Well…” She hesitated. “We were working on the scene, all pretty routine stuff. I was just collecting a sample when I heard Chris yell. Oh, um that is, was the other forensic investigator.” She stared towards the figure on the ground for a moment. “I turned around and there was this woman… biting him. The officers tried to help, but then they were attacked from behind by that other guy.”
“What happened then?” Scarlett was chewing her lip with stress.
“I tried to help Chris, of course. The woman joined the attack on Andrew and Ben, the officers. When I got to Chris, I thought it was too late. He had no pulse…”
“You’re certain he died?” I didn’t understand why Scarlett sounded so worried.
Dr Young looked uncomfortable. “Well no. I mean, I was pretty sure but then he got back up again so…” She trailed off and shrugged sadly. “I think you know the rest. They killed the officers and then they were just about to start on me when you arrived.”
Chris wasn’t the only one who had gotten back up. The two officers… Andrew and Ben had also apparently come back from the dead.
“What are they? Vampires?” I asked Scarlett quietly, leading her a few steps away.
She shook her head looking sick. “Do they look like vampires to you?” Her voice shook.
I walked closer to one of the heads and looked closer at it. It was the unknown man. His red eyes stared blankly up at the sky; his mouth was still twisted in an ugly snarl. Again I noticed the things I had caught before; he looked gaunt and malnourished even in death. Leaning closer I saw that a few strands of his hair were red.
Ignoring the sickly appearance, I had only ever seen one person with that colouring. “Actually, they kind of look more like you,” I said. “No offence.” I quickly added.
“They do. This is how Linda looked too.” She said. “But… they’re not the same. It’s more than just blood starvation. These people have… something missing.”
I remembered reading once that vampires looked and acted more humanlike when well fed. When they were starving it became harder for them to control themselves. I remembered how mindlessly they had attacked. It brought to mind the many zombie movies I had seen over the years, although of course, I wasn’t about to say that out loud.
“What’s missing?” I asked.
Scarlett’s expression twisted, showing me she was deeply conflicted about what she was about to say.
“Honestly? I think it was their souls.” She said.
I stared in shock. I was only just coming to terms with the possibility that vampires could have souls, and now she was telling me that these did not?
“What makes you say that?” I said faintly.
She bit her lip. “I went to the hospital with Gabriel this morning, to learn about my powers. Whilst I was there, I was able to feel the… life force or- well I don’t know what it was. But I could feel… something in this girl who was about to die. Like she was in there, fighting. Plus, when I give and take energy from people, I can kind of… feel the person or spirit.”
Her explanation was just making me more confused. “What does that have to do with these… people?” I still wasn’t sure what to call them.
“Well, I tried to sense them when they were attacking. I thought maybe I would need to resort to my energy draining thing. But, the problem was that there was… nothing.”
“The body was walking around, but nobody was home?” I clarified.
She nodded, “Yes. It made me think of- wait.” Her head tilted and she abruptly tensed. “Lillian says that someone is over there.”
I followed her gaze to a dark alleyway outside the tape. Raising my axe I made my way forward, expecting another imminent attack.
Instead, right at the last second, someone shouted, “Wait!”
A small blonde woman with cropped hair emerged with her hands raised in front of her. She looked like she had dressed hastily. A winter coat was thrown on over old jogging bottoms. Her wide brown eyes were fixed on my weapon.
“Vanessa?” Scarlett sounded surprised behind me. “What are you doing here?”
“You know her?” I said, still suspicious of the newcomer.
“Kind of.” Scarlett sounded a little sheepish. “This is the witch that put the spell on me. I met her properly earlier today.”
“You what?” First Gabriel and now this witch? It seemed that she had had a busy day after she had left my house. I quickly re-evaluated my view of the woman, I had initially assumed that she wasn’t very threatening.
“It’s ok.” Scarlett quickly reassured me. “We talked it out and came to an agreement. She’s trying to help me turn back, but I need to find out what happened to Linda, her sister.”
"You... talked it out?"
I sent her a look which hopefully said we need to talk about this later, but I did lower my axe slightly.
“Fine, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we need to get away from here before anyone else comes. There are a lot of unexplained bodies here.” I shot a look at Dr Young who still stood hopelessly where we had left her.
Scarlett looked alarmed. “I know, but we can’t just leave them like this!”
“You’re feeling bad for them now?” I demanded. “You’re the one who beheaded most of them!”
She shot me an irritated glare. “No, but they don’t look exactly human! The authorities can’t see them like this!”
Oh, I was a little ashamed that I hadn’t even thought of that.
“Um, I might be able to help with that,” Vanessa said timidly, drawing out a small bag filled with powder. I immediately tensed for an attack, Scarlett looked similarly wary.
“What is that?” I didn’t trust her one bit.
“Just something I made up. I was going to use it as a weapon if necessary. It will… dissolve the evidence.”
“Dissolve?” Scarlett looked interested.
I shook my head. “No, what about their families? They’re going to want to know what happened to them!”
Vanessa eyed one of the snarling heads. “Would you rather that they see them like that? It ruined me seeing my sister in that state and I am at least aware of the supernatural.”
“Well… no.” I admitted. I would hate the thought of a loved one becoming one of those monsters.
That was apparently good enough for Vanessa. She stepped around me neatly and began liberally sprinkling the powder across the bodies. I noticed that she was wearing thick heavy-duty gloves. Almost immediately the flesh began sizzling and melting away.
I watched for a second in horrified fascination before tearing my eyes away. That really wasn’t an image I needed seared into my brain.
“Hey what do you think you are doing?” Vanessa’s actions were apparently enough to snap Dr Young out of her horrified stupor. She rushed forward with a look of outrage replacing her fear. “You cannot destroy evidence.”
“No, you don’t.” Scarlett grabbed the doctor’s arm and dragged her back out of harm’s way. “Sorry, but this is necessary. Can’t have anyone seeing them like this.”
“What am I going to tell the rest of the force?” She wailed.
Scarlett shrugged. “Whatever you want. Although, I would strongly suggest that you leave all of us out of it.” The look she gave the doctor was more threatening than anything I had ever seen a vampire produce. “We did save your life, after all.”
Dr Young gulped. “Y-yes.”
“Sorry, Doc,” Vanessa said as she passed. “It really can’t be helped.”
To my amazement, after a few minutes, the bodies were nothing more than swiftly disappearing puddles on the ground. A light rain had started up, helping to hide the remaining evidence.
“We should go,” I said. “What do you want to do about the doctor?” I asked Scarlett in a low voice.
She shook her head. “We’ll have to leave her here. Hopefully, she doesn’t talk, but even if she does she doesn’t exactly have anything believable to say. There is no evidence left here.” The unspoken thought hung in the air. It’s not like we could kill her, she was just an innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Vanessa drew out another much smaller bag of powder. “Give her a little bit of this. It will put her to sleep and make things a little… fuzzy.”
I didn’t like that she was helping us, I didn’t trust her. “Will it hurt her at all?”
The witch shook her head. “She’ll be ok in a couple of hours.”
I didn’t like it one bit but, after a heated whispered discussion we agreed it was the best option. It would make it harder for her to talk and give her a convenient excuse to not know anything about her missing colleagues. The doctor didn’t realise what we were doing until it was too late. We left her unconscious inside the empty police car, careful not to leave prints on anything. At least she would be reasonably safe until more people arrived.
“Right. How did you get here?” I asked Vanessa.
“Walked.” She answered, looking unconcerned.
Scarlett glanced at me. “Are you ok to get back to your bike? Then I think I can take Vanessa. I am not sure I could do more than one person.”
“Yeah sure, meet back at your place?”
She nodded, looking at Vanessa. “You’re coming with me; I am not done talking to you yet.”
“Where is Lillian?” I asked.
“Back home, she didn’t want to see the… clean up.” Scarlett told me. I had forgotten that Lillian didn’t particularly like violence. I would have to thank her for helping us before.
“Ok, see you in five,” I called, already moving away.