CHAPTER 36 - Press Conference
We all looked at each other, in fact, everybody in the room seemed to be exchanging looks and shrugging. Confusion and curiosity were definitely the major reactions in the crowd. A light murmur began resonating within the tall white walls of the huge room until everybody’s attention was drawn back to the big screen.
There was little to no sound coming from the speakers. Only a few broken sentences or low whispers that nobody could understand or the occasional tap of a finger over the microphone to test if it was working. The TV-News crew seemed to still be adjusting the sound and setting sheriff Le’Blanc’s microphone when someone came in with another microphone to test. At that time the cameramen seemingly lost the grip on his camera, momentarily allowing us to see a lot of cops gathered nearby but out of the way from where the camera should be pointing to. It was at that exact moment that I spotted my father getting some coffee and going to stand against the wall, next to a guy using a cowboy hat. They looked like they were talking but I couldn’t see much more since the camera moved back to the sheriff.
I wondered what was going, getting distracted by my own thoughts. Mom and dad have both been working weird hours. I might have seen my father only twice in the last three weeks. All because of those horrible murders happening around town. I have even caught them arguing once about moving away from town and taking my grandmother with us but in the end, they decided to stay. Although, they were planning on sending both me and my sister away with granny to a big city to keep us safe in case those murders escalated. I won’t accept moving away, not again, and I don’t believe my sister or granny would either. Personally, I think those murders have escalated a long time ago but as long as they don’t try to send me... US away, I’m ok with it. Mom said that for now, we were safe. I wonder why she said that. All I know is that was probably the last time I saw my dad before seeing him on the screen today. Before I could ponder any more into the repercussions of what I overheard my parents talking about, I felt a sudden elbow slightly dig on my side. My head snapped to that side, meeting a pair of dark brown eyes.
“Look!” I followed Tahice’s eyes, seen two words written behind the sheriff…
“Forest…” I squinted my eyes and as the sheriff shifted in place, I was able to read the second word. “Ghost.” My mouth was hanging open in surprise, unable to believe what I was seeing. Were they going to talk about HIM? I glanced over at Tahice, Maya and Jayne but they were all having the same reaction as me. Looking around, not many people seem to have noticed it yet.
“Testing, testing…” We all heard the sheriff’s voice with a terrible high pitch sound coming at the end of his two words that got everybody covering their ears. Some, more than others. A guy came running and adjusted something on his microphone, whispering something to the sheriff before stepping away.
“Test…” He looked around, this time, he made sure not to talk too loudly or too near the microphone. No more high pitch noise surfaced. The sheriff placed a hand inside of his jeans pocket and visibly took a deep breath.
“Good afternoon, dear citizens of Dryden. The Dryden Police Department and our Local Major Crimes Task Force are working on the conclusion of several murder investigations currently happening in and around town.
I would like to assure you that our goal is to stabilize and secure our town so our families and friends can once again go out without the fear of not returning to their loved ones. To do so, we need to bring the suspect and possible perpetrator to justice.” The sheriff gave a few steps forward toward the camera, taking in a new breath.
“What I’m about to reveal will be gruesome to the majority listening to this press conference and I apologize in advance. Those crimes have a few things in common, like the lack of bodily fluids and certain organs. So far, all victims are females between the age of 15 and 30. Although no men have been found as a victim of those horrible attacks, we decided to implement a curfew where all citizens will be required to stay at home.” At those words, a wave of murmurs and whispers raised, a few people fainted and others were simply frozen in place in fear.
“Please, silence! Let’s all listen to what our Chief of Police has to say.” Said our principal, drawing everybody’s attention to him and quieting the wave of questions. When I looked back at the big screen, I noticed the Mayor shift his position, standing a bit more relaxed and caressing the red-eyed wolf on top of his black cane. Was he a werewolf too? Luckily, the sheriff had given another pause in his speech and we didn’t miss anything. He timed it well!
“The curfew will be effective tomorrow. Everybody is expected to be indoors from 7 pm to 5.30 am of the following day. It will last until the culprit is brought to justice or dealt with.” Without taking another moment, the sheriff stepped back, towards the whiteboard and stepped aside for the camera to focus on it.
“As I mentioned before, It’s of utmost importance that we bring the suspect into custody so we can interrogate and hopefully end those horrible murders. For that, I would like to ask for the cooperation of our dear citizens in gathering information about this person. The suspect offender in those murders is a male know by the name of ‘Forest Ghost’.” Many people in the gym gasped, looking at each other. “As you all know, this fella is well known in town but not much is know about him other than that he is very hard to find. Any information of his whereabouts or any important information related to him will be investigated accordingly.” The sheriff took a sharpie pen and stepped aside from the whiteboard so we all could see what was written.
“Those are but a few things we will show you about this suspect. The Police Department normally withholds this kind of information to the public but I need to ensure that all citizens see the utter importance of finding this Forest Ghost. The suspect in question doesn’t seem to be a normal person. Apparently, he is a ‘vampire’, or better put, he has vampiric tendencies. A crazy person that likes to bathe in blood like the historical Elizabeth Báthory from the 16th-17th century and not a real vampire pictured in movies like Dracula.” He gave another pause. Probably, eyeing the many reporter’s anxious faces, eager to start asking questions.
“I can’t insist enough but to beg all citizens to be careful and obey the curfew. Send us emails with any information you have or call us. We have prepared five dedicated phone lines only to gather information on him. Please, be careful. Be safe!” He moved toward his podium and begin drinking some water while a short blond hair policewoman took the microphone.
“In just a few minutes, our Chief of Police will be taking any questions you may have. Now, we give word to our Mayor Akilious Darkhorn. We thank you all for your support and cooperation. The mayor was a very tall man with dark brown hair that was cut short on the sides and the middle was combed back, giving him a sleek appearance. He took the microphone while the sheriff stepped aside. The mayor smiled.
“Thank you, Lara.” He replied politely, giving her a charming smile that would definitely melt any women’s heart. Turning to the camera, his face turned business-like.
“Honorable citizens of Dryden, it saddens me profusely that we need to take such extreme measures to bring a suspect into custody. It is beyond me how this person has been able to hide away from our most dedicated Police Enforcement. As you all know, Dryden has always been a peaceful place to live. No such horrendous crimes have ever plagued our beloved town. It’s with a sincere heavy heart that I, mayor Akilious Darkhorn, urge our dear citizens to take those measures to heart. Aid our Police Department in protecting us by following the curfew and any viable information that can aid in the resolution of those horrific murders. Now, with no further ado. I give the word back to our Chief of Police so he may answer your questions.” The mayor gave a small bow to the camera, folding his right arm in front of him, then he handed the microphone back to the sheriff and stepped back. A hand caressing his trimmed beard.
Several hands lifted and the sheriff pointed to the first reporter to ask her question.
“Chief Le’Blanc, how can you be so sure that those murders are committed by a vampire?”
“I never said I was sure. I just stated the facts. All the victims found so far have been completely drained of blood and had certain organs removed. Let’s be clear here. Vampires DONT exist! Whoever is responsible for those atrocities has a vampiric tendency as I stated before.”
The sheriff’s answer brought a few murmurs up. He probably doesn’t know of the existence of werewolves, since he doesn’t believe in vampires. He pointed to the next reporter.
“In relation to the words written on the whiteboard, what exactly do you mean with ‘red eyes and fangs’? Wouldn’t that be related to a possible vampire?”
“We have a witness who claims to have seen the perpetrator exiting the crime scene. The descriptions of the assailant are exactly that. Red eyes and pointy fangs.”
Another wave of murmurs raised, and this time, not only in the gym. The reporters were all talking between themselves.
“We have a witness?” Asked another reporter, without waiting to be selected. Le’Blanc nodded, letting out a sigh. He looked like he had aged during this short press conference.
“Yes! There was an attempted murder in town last night. The victim is currently in the intensive care and we do not yet know if she will survive.”
“May we know the identity of the victim?” Asked another reporter.
“What is the name of the witness?” Asked yetanother reporter.
“No and no. Neither of their names can or will be revealed at the moment in order to ensure their safety. They are currently under Federal protection. Please, don’t try to find out or you will be arrested for placing the witness and their family in immediate danger.”
A few more than the two reporters that asked those questions visibly gulped. Probably had thought about finding out their identity and already going back on their plans. The questions continued but I just couldn’t get my head straight. I had to talk with my father now. This couldn’t be happening. They couldn’t be after Caio. It wasn’t him!
Looking around me, my friends seemed focused enough on the press conference not to notice if I left. Without taking another second to think I pressed my arms against the people to make them move away until I was able to get out of the door and into the girls’ dressing room. Grabbing my phone from my back pocket, I immediately pressed the quick call button pre-set to call my father.
“This is quickly becoming the most boring day of my career!” Said Tobias to me. “First a debriefing and now a press conference. Guess I should be happy that the food is free.” He turned towards the table and grabbed, what would apparently be, his fith donut to munch on.
“You’re gonna end up with a bellyache eating all that sugar!”
“Yes, mom. I promise, this is my last one.” He said while grabbing another donut. I shook my head as I felt my phone vibrate inside my pocket. I flipped the cover open to see the caller’s name and answered.
“Hey, Claire!” I whisper, hearing her say something but not understanding a single word of what she said. There was just too much noise in the room. “Wait a second while I go somewhere quieter.” My partner and I exchanged nodding glances before I moved behind and around the cameras until I got to the door. It would probably be better to talk outside too. Tobias talks too much sometimes but he was right. Today was getting a bit boring. As I move to open the door, someone bumps into my arm and I automatically look up to the person. Mayor Akilious looks at me and then, his focus goes straight to my phone. Giving me a light smile, he pushes the door open for me with a nod. I nod back and quickly exit the room. Once the door is closed behind me, I step to the side and press the phone back against my ear to talk with my daughter.
“Ok, I’m out now. Are you still there?”
“Dad, what’s going on?” I frown.
“What do you mean ‘what’s going on’?”
“Why is the Police Department after the Forest Ghost?” She asks.
“Is that what you don’t understand? He’s a suspect. We need to question him.”
“No, dad. It’s not him and you’re not just gonna ‘question’ him! This can’t be real!”
“Wait, Claire. What do you mean ‘it’s not him’? Do you know him?”
“That’s not the point!”
“I tell you what’s the point or not! Do you know him? Have you talked with him?”
Silence. That was answer enough for me to understand my own daughter.
“Where are you right now?”
“At school. I…”
I don’t give her a chance to complete her sentence.
“I’m coming to pick you up, come upfront in five minutes!” I hang up and send a quick message to my partner to cover for me before I hurry up to my car.
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