CHAPTER 35 - Police briefing
My hands hovered over the keyboard while I stared at the laptop’s screen and the word ‘vampire’ that I had just typed. In all my career, I never thought I’d see a witness accuse the perpetrator of being a vampire. Sure, we have had the occasional witness calling the perpetrator by bad names but never a vampire. Letting out a sigh, I kept on typing the rest of the things John Cortney had said he saw.
Removing my reading glasses, I placed them next to the laptop and pressed the bridge of my nose. Something that helps me concentrate and/or alleviate my tension, in this case, it was both. The Forest Ghost wasn’t exactly someone we could go knock on his door and have him come to the Police Department for questioning. There were plenty of rumors circulating around Dryden and they all accounted for some very shady things. More than one of those rumors said that he lives at the abandoned Kodoku’s castle. Could that be true? I couldn’t be certain without sending some cops over to investigate the region. The big problem with sending someone there was that the area wasn’t really inviting. None that ventured inside that cursed forest had ever returned to tell the story.
Putting my reading glasses back on, I opened up a browser and typed ‘Forest Ghost’. In all truth, I didn’t really expect any result, at least no result about the Dryden’s Forest Ghost. A list of results came up and I clicked on the very top one, from the National Wikipedia Database, and began reading it.
“Ghost forests are areas of dead trees in former forests…” Nope. I immediately closed it and scanned the other results. After a few seconds of gliding through to the bottom of the list and finding nothing, as expected, I closed the browser and opened my email.
I selected all the cops in my PD and wrote “Briefing of Dryden’s security plan” under ‘subject’. I didn’t often use my title of Chief of Police, preferring to just be called Sheriff but it couldn’t be helped. Quickly, I resumed the importance of the meeting to gather all available intel between the team and create a plan to enforce the security of Dryden’s population. These murders had to stop. It was getting creepier by the day. After sending in the email, I wrote another to Lara to prepare the conference room and make arrangements for a light breakfast for everybody. Glancing over the wall clock, I closed the laptop. It was already 4 am. Grabbing my Sheriff’s hat, I placed it over my eyes and leaned back on my chair. It was time to take a quick nap before the meeting at 6 am.
My eyes flew open just as the door cracked open and Lara’s faced pocked through it.
“G’morning Sheriff Le’Blanc! Sorry for startling you. It’s 5:45 in the morning. I made enough coffee for everybody and the donuts are being delivered to the conference room right now, just as you instructed in your email.” She smiled.
“Thank you, Lara. I’ll be right there.” She nodded politely and closed the door back again.
Lara was accustomed to waking me up in the morning whenever I didn’t go home. After my lady passed away, I found it hard to go home. There was no longer anybody waiting for me there. The silence had become so bothersome that most nights I found myself sleeping in my office. Sure, I did go home to shower and all that but more often than not, I’d sleep in the office after working long hours.
I stood, adjusting my hat properly and gathered my things before heading to the big conference room on the top floor. Many cops were already seated with their coffee and donut or were in line to grab them. I walked over to the podium and placed my things on it before going to grab myself a cup of coffee and a donut. I stood to the side, eating and watching the cops talk between one another. When I was done, I poured myself more coffee and returned to the podium, placing my coffee on it.
There was a huge whiteboard behind the podium, where we could write and draw plans so I took a sharpie and began writing some keywords on it. Slowly, I noticed the chit-chat die out and I could feel their eyes over my shoulders. As soon as I turned around, the questions began flowing.
“The Forest Ghost? Are we here to talk about the Forest Ghost?” Asked one of the detectives.
“Vampire? Sheriff, are you sure we will consider that now?” Said a police officer.
“Vampires don’t exist, Chief!” Said a lieutenant.
One after the other, they questioned the words on the board. I waited while sipping on my coffee. I was curious to see if any of them would actually say anything that I wasn’t expecting. My eyes scanned over my guys, checking their reactions and expressions. It was then that I noticed that out of my 48 staff members, six weren’t speaking at all. Approaching the podium, I opened my notebook and wrote down their names. Tobias, Sean, Sanso, Benny, Markus and Roger. When I was done, I took a step in front of the board and waved them down to sit and shut up.
“Most of you have already berated the words in the board, but I don’t want to hear questions. I want to hear ideas, information. What do you know about the Forest Ghost? Yes, I know many call him a vampire that walks on the sun, others simply call him a God or a very skilled person to be able to survive in Kodoku Forest. The witness said he was the cause of the last attack, that caused Miley Cortney to be sent to the hospital in dire conditions and that he was a vampire.” I paused and drank the last bit of my coffee at the same time as I let the information sink in their brains.
As to be expected, I could see them looking at each other with a mix of curiosity, incredulity, disbelief and excitement. I placed my coffee mug back on top of the podium as I caught Lara’s eyes motioning if I wanted more coffee so I nodded to her and stepped back in front of the board. Lara walked swiftly over to the podium with a fresh jar of coffee and poured it into my mug before going to fix the rest inside a thermos.
“Sheriff, I have heard several times that he’s a ‘daywalker’ but from there to actually believe it…”
“I do not care about that right now. I want everybody following this lead independent of their beliefs of vampires being real or not. Don’t fall into ‘tunnel vision’ just because of the word “vampire”. Now… what do you mean with daywalker, Commander? A vampire that can walk in the sun or?” I clarified before my question. I needed to make sure everybody was on board and things weren’t left to guesses. He nodded and I stepped closer to the board to write it there. When I turned back, they were all looking at each other so I lifted an eyebrow, signaling that I was waiting.
“I heard some women say that he’s always bare-chested.” Said a police officer.
“Yeahh! I heard many say that they’d seen him at church!” Added another.
“No, he’s not always bare-chested. He’s usually with a long black leather coat but he does seem to forget to use it sometimes. I’ve heard several people say that he’s got a wing tattooed on his entire back but I’ve never seen it.”
Finally, they began telling what they knew and I got to write a lot of information on the whiteboard about the Forest Ghost. There was one thing bothering me. From the six cops that haven’t said anything before, three were still quiet. I looked at them waiting to see if they would say something but nothing came out.
Sean was new in town so it was understandable but the other two were born and raised in town. I was beginning to wonder what was going on with those fraternal twins.
The conference lasted for about 3 hours, in which we exchanged known intel about the Forest Ghost while I worked on making a brainstorming diagram on the whiteboard. Once the diagram was done, It was much easier to understand all the information. During the time, we also mapped the other crimes to see if they could have been done by the same suspect. Interestingly enough, if the Forest Ghost was really a vampire, it could have been more than just possible. We needed to get our hands on him for some questions. Lastly, I assigned the best cops of my Department into finding that Forest Ghost and bringing him in for questioning. The rest of the cops would be on the lookout, in case they were more fortunate in finding him before the assigned cops, they were to bring the suspect into custody.
We needed to find the murderer as fast as possible. I needed it resolved so I could give the victim’s families some closure and get them to stop calling me every day for updates. Don’t get me wrong, even if they weren’t calling every day, I would still ensure that those murders would be solved.
Before I went back to my office, I took a picture of all I had written on the whiteboard with my phone so I could transcribe it to my notebook later. I liked to keep track of the cases I got deeply involved in and this one wasn’t any different. Back at my office, I sat down in front of the laptop and started writing down the briefing, adding all the extra information. When I was done with that, I transcribed what was in the picture into my pocket notebook. Checking the time and seen that it was near mid-day, I called the mayor to update him on the town security plan and then called Lara, so she could arrange a police announcement with the News reporters as soon as possible. Once the laptop was turned off, I took my sheriff’s hat and out of the building to the diner for some lunch.
About half an hour later, when I came back, Lara informed me that the police announcement was set for today at 17.30 and that she would make sure the conference room was organized for it.
I was laying down on the grass behind the school, enjoying the nice sunny day and the light breeze coming from the nearby forest when I heard a subtle noise approaching me and slightly opened an eye as I turned my face towards it. A light smile crept up my lips as I closed my eye back up and decided to keep enjoying my free period.
“Hey, Maya!” I answered, feeling her sitting down next to me.
“What are you doing here all by yourself?”
“Just relaxing until my next lecture. I put an alarm on my phone in case I fell asleep but I don’t believe it will be the case now.” I poke my tongue out to her playfully and heard her chuckle and poke my side, trying to tickle me. Opening my eyes with the sudden ticklishness, I see Tahice and Jayne walking towards us. They plop themselves down beside us, placing their respective backpacks beside them.
“I’m so excited! The yearly field trip at Dryden’s Woods is coming up this week!” Squeals Maya. “I can’t wait to put my new recipes to good use! I have already separated all the ones I’m gonna want to cook. My team will definitely win this year!” She said, closing her fists in front of her like she was already commemorating victory, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
“Pfft! That’s nothing! Imagine the swimming competition! All those yummy good-looking guys rippling their muscles, the water falling over them…” Maya, me and Tahice looked at Jayne’s drooling face, backing a bit away from her.
“Can’t you think about anything else other than guys and their naked bodies?” Tahice scoffed.
Jayne shrugged, sticking her tongue out to her.
“I just wonder what we’re gonna be doing during the trip.”
“Oh, that’s right! It’s your first trip with us.” Said Tahice.
“They usually separate us in groups of four or five, depending on the number of students in each class. Then, each group is given twenty tasks to complete within a set time. Some of those tasks will be the same for all the groups.” Explained Maya.
“Yeahh! You know, cooking, hunting, putting up tents. The basic stuff.” Added Jayne.
“Yes. The non-basic tasks are supposed to be the harder ones but are very fun and competitive too. One of them will most likely be a swimming competition, as Jayne here has commented.” Maya pointed to Jayne with her eyes.
“Ow, but there is also the cooking competition! Just like Maya got so fired up for!” Answered Jayne just as playful.
“But, isn’t cooking a basic task?” I asked, curiously.
“Oh, yes, but there is always one competition involving cooking. It’s just one day, the rest of the days, we can cook whatever we want. Ah, and so you know, we are ALL sleeping in the same tent! Being in the same group or not!” Stated Maya, crossing her arms in front of her and posing like a stuck-up bitch. We all laughed at her silly pose.
The school alarm ringed twice, successfully bringing us all to attention and informing all the students to gatherer in the gym building. Oh, boy! There was something big coming up! I was glad I had read the school rules and guidelines, but I’m sure my friends would have informed me otherwise. We looked at each other and quickly gathered our things to head to the gym.
It wasn’t surprising to see the place packed, after all, all the students were supposed to gather here. There was a huge screen placed up against the wall for all to see and several foldable chairs were arranged in rows right on top of the training field. Our school principal was climbing the podium upfront with a cordless microphone in hand while he tried to shush everybody. Soon enough, all the people gathered had seated down, looking at him.
“Dear staff members and students, I’d like to thank you all for gathering here as swiftly as you could manage. As you all have read in our school rules and guidelines, we use the double alarm as a form of emergency gathering for certain occasions.” I see him glancing over his wristwatch as he gives a pause to breathe some air.
“In but a few minutes, our Chief of Police, commonly known as sheriff Le’Blanc, will be giving a public statement for our town. Please, listen carefully to what he’s got to say.”
The huge bright lights from the ceiling dimmed as the principal walked off the podium, letting us all see the big screen on the wall come to life.
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