18: What Is and Isn't
“What do you have to say in your defense, Mr. Holger?” Clarice asked and Michael groaned exasperatedly. It had been hours since the ancient vampire had arrived at the station and that was all the mortal woman badgered him with.
The station’s interrogation room was exactly like Michael had thought it would be: plain, white, and empty except for the table which he and Clarice now occupied.
It had to be said that the room’s appearance was no accident. It was actually a strategy that the cops used to make the interrogated suspects feel disconnected, like they were all alone in world and the only way to feel that human connection again was to supply the authorities with the truth they needed.
But that didn’t work on Michael; it never could. The ancient vampire was much too advanced and experienced for whatever petty tricks the mortals could ever think to use on him.
Unfortunately, that didn’t mean that he was feeling any more relaxed in the interrogation room than a regular criminal either; the infuriating slim brunette woman in front of him certainly made sure of that. Clarice was in her prosecutor mood. She had a case, a cause, and a connection that desperately needed to be made. All that was required of her was to get the truth out from the one person whom everything was presently pointing at; Michael Holger.
But Michael wasn’t making that task at all easy. He refused to answer her questions; he didn’t even give them any acknowledgement; and to make matters worse, her heart was beating like a million times per second,and every hair on her body stood on end as if she was in danger. All because he wouldn’t stop looking at her with those unsettling crystal grey eyes of his.
Forging ahead despite that though, Clarice asked again for the umpteenth time that day, “Mr. Holger, what do you have to say in regards to the murders you’re a suspect of?”
“What else do you expect me to say, Miss White?” Michael returned, surprising Clarice that he actually did this time. “I had nothing to do with them.”
“But a body was found on your doorstep this morning,” she said.
“I have no idea how it got there,” he returned once again.
Sensing a change in the atmosphere, Clarice pressed her advantage. “Do you know Penelope Bryton?” she asked.
“What about Madison Hayes?”
“The second victim, Madison.” She pushed a picture of the murdered teenager out towards him. “Do you know her?”
Michael took one glance at the picture, then at Clarice. Then out of nowhere, he burst into a huge laughter. It wasn’t the friendly sort of laugh; or even an unfriendly one for that matter. It was just strange, filled with so much eerie energy that Clarice felt her heart shrivel and drop to the pit of her stomach at its sound.
“What’s so funny?” she managed to get out above the horror that was Michael’s laughter.
“You,” he replied. “All this while I hadn’t seen it. This absurd interrogation, it’s all about Festningen, isn’t it?”
“All due respect, Mr. Holger, one thing has nothing to do with the other.” Clarice looked genuinely offended.
“Does it really, Clarice?” Michael returned. “I mean, it would be the perfect excuse to challenge me for the castle again.”
“Two people are dead, Michael! How can you think I would ever take advantage of that?”
“And how can you believe I would kill someone and then leave the body lying on my property? Is that how dumb you think I am?” Michael slammed the table with his fist in fury and Clarice jumped back. His face had turned extremely pale and his eyes took on a crimson hue; and she saw it.
But Clarice never got the chance to confirm if that had really happened or just a product of her terrified imagination as an Afro-haired black man in a grey suit suddenly barged in and dumped a file on the table between the both of them. “This interrogation’s over,” he said.
“Who are you?” asked Clarice, still unbalanced from what had just happened with Michael.
“I’m Mr. Holger’s legal representative,” the man replied, “and unless you have something concrete to hold my client accountable besides some circumstantial evidence, I suggest you release him immediately before you and your little town gets sued for every nickel you’re worth.”
Clarice looked from the man to Michael; the latter having now calmed down and looking as if the last few seconds hadn’t happened. “I suggest you do what he says, Miss White,” he said to her.
“Let me have this checked first,” she finally replied after some minutes of seeming to weigh her options and took the file the man had come in with before exiting the room.
The Afro-haired man waited for some seconds after the door was closed before turning to face Michael. “So, what happened, Mikael?” he asked. “You got sloppy?”
“I am never sloppy,” the ancient vampire returned, very intense.
“And yet, here we are.” The man gestured at the interrogation room, tutting and shaking his head. “It must be something about old age, don’t you think? Makes less of even the mighty.”
Filled with fury, Michael jumped to his feet and growled. “Call me less again and I’ll show you-”
“Show me what, Mikael?” the man challenged with his head brought a few inches from the ancient vampire’s.
The air was charged, filled with an electric tension as the both of them stared each other down. But all of sudden, the Afro-haired man began to laugh and Michael joined in, almost as if the entire past minute was some big joke.
“Seriously Bastien, I’ll end up snapping your neck one of these days,” the ancient vampire said as he went in for a hug with the man.
“You’ve been saying that for the past one hundred years, Michael,” he replied.
Sebastien Noir- Bastien for short- was a three hundred year-old vampire and long term friend of Michael’s; a hundred years to be precise.
Bastien was born in a historically obscure village in West Africa during the height of the slave trade. Like many people from his village at that time, he was captured and sold into slavery when he was barely a youth.
But Bastien wasn’t willing to subject himself to the torturous life of a slave so, he fought to escape his captors when they shipped him off to Portugal; and they killed him for it; at least that was what they thought.
Lying on the ground and bleeding to death, Bastien met the person who was to change his life: the vampire who sired him and gave him the ability, and revenge, to kill those who would have killed him.
But it wasn’t until 1854 that Bastien met Michael in France. The former had been trying to pick a pocket when the latter caught him and through that process they knew each other. As the years went by, they became great friends and Michael learnt that Bastien was actually a wealthy vampire even as at the time of their first meeting; which always managed to baffle the ancient vampire as to why such the younger vampire would try to pickpockets when he was already rich; and even more because Bastien always said that it was the work of destiny.
An erudite to the core, Bastien had assumed many occupations over the centuries: a doctor, an engineer, a teacher, a realtor; and presently, a lawyer. Whatever caught the vampire’s fancy, he studied and excelled in.
That was why Michael put him in charge of managing his wealth and affairs; and of course, his legal representation too.
“So, tell me what really happened, Michael?” asked Bastien.
“Not here,” replied the ancient vampire. “Too many ears.”
As if on cue, Clarice opened the door then and entered. “Mr. Holger, you’re free to go,” she said, handing him a release form which he quickly signed. “Don’t leave town as you may still called in again for further investigation.”
Michael smirked as he handed the form back to her and he and Bastien left.
It was already evening when the two vampires walked out of the station and down the steps towards Bastien’s ash-coloured Mercedes-Benz. “You mind telling me what happened now?” asked the younger vampire once again.
Michael brought one of the pictures he had snagged from Clarice’s file out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Bastien who only took one look at it before giving the ancient vampire a worried one.
“I didn’t do it if that’s what you’re concerned about,” Michael said to him.
“Then who did?”
“I don’t know,” he replied as they reached the car and he looked up to see the evening cloud turn almost blood-red in the sky. “But whoever it is has made an enemy of me, and I'm going to make him regret every ounce of that terrible mistake.”