Chapter 1 - Not a Bubblegum Girl
“A vampire goes through four phases in its development. One of you two must be able to tell me about them,” Detective Marshall said gruffly. He looked from Dudley to me, like he was expecting us to raise our hands.
Neither one of us moved. Why should we? This wasn’t bloody school. We were sitting on mismatched chairs in his cramped office, which smelled of tobacco and old French fries. A pile of paper was on the verge of sliding onto the floor from the top of Marshall’s filing cabinet and I suspected a wad of gum ground into the carpet was stuck to my shoe.
Marshall just enjoyed talking like this. A former police chief in some distant city before he’d resigned and moved here to lay down the law about vampires—which would have worked, except here the Chief of Police, Pierce Wagner, was a closet bloodsucker. With Marshall’s passion for slaying vampires, it was impossible for him to work with police who sympathized with the undead. So, now he worked as a detective for the masses of humans who hadn’t quite got the memo. This was a vampire city.
Me? Yeah, I got the memo. I got it when I was fifteen. Did I know the different phases a vampire went through? Well, I knew some of them but remained unclear on what happened after a certain point. One thing I knew for sure—vampires were not invincible. As for the rest, I’d come here hunting for the gory details of their lifespan, since things in my life had taken a distinct turn for the worst. I couldn’t let Marshall know that. He wouldn’t trust me if he thought I had my own agenda, so I returned his gaze patiently and acted bored but willing to let him play teacher all day.
I didn’t know Dudley’s story. He looked like he was in his late twenties with dark eyebrows and a rough five o’clock shadow. His expression read like a tombstone. The message was simple—dead men don’t talk and neither do I. Too bad really, since he looked like a movie star from black and white film noir, despite his rough edges.
Marshall waited for several long moments before he grunted, “Get out. You’re both worthless.”
Unfortunately, both Dudley and I were in Marshall’s office for job interviews. Dudley was applying to be Marshall’s partner while I was applying to be his receptionist. Dudley was a private detective already. And me—as I said before, my aspirations were fewer. I just wanted to root around Marshall’s files and get as much information on vamps as I could before I got canned.
I cleared my throat, directed my gaze pointedly at Dudley, and said, “Sorry, I rather hoped this would be a private interview.”
“I don’t have time for private interviews,” Marshall said crossly.
I ground my teeth together. I didn’t want to have to do this, but it was better to act like a fool than to let a vampire hunter masquerading as a private detective in on my true stance. Dumb girl routine number four coming right up. “I’m not interested in vamps,” I said, twirling a lock of my hair. I wouldn’t be able to use that routine after I turned twenty-four, so I had to get good use out of it while I could. “I’d rather answer your phone, sort your messages and keep your files straight than get involved with crap that could kill me. I thought you just stalked married women who strayed from the path.”
Marshall gave me a weird look and then opened a jar on his desk and offered me a piece of round pink bubblegum. Probably the same stuff that had been stomped into the carpet.
I shook my head and said, “No thanks. I’m trying to cut back.”
He smiled. He liked me. No problem. I was in.
“Okay, so girlie here is too smart to get involved with vamps. What about you, boyo?”
Dudley shook his head coolly and recited in disinterested tones, “A vampire goes through four cycles. First, they are a human who has been tagged by a vampire to be their mate. If the human is unwilling, it will die.”
“And if the human is willing?”
“Then they will end up sharing massive quantities of their own blood with the vampire as well as drinking the vampire’s blood. A human won’t transform into a vampire unless they consume at least ten liters of vampire blood over two months. During this time, both parties experience a drug-like euphoria where they believe that they can’t possibly live without the other. Even ancient vampires can fall into this hole. Many of them can’t bear to kill their lover, even though they know what will inevitably happen next. Once this first phase is complete, the human is a new vampire and even if it is unreasonable, both the new vampire and the old one are filled with suspicion and anger toward each other. The old vampire liked the human and is disgusted by them once they change, so much so that they will murder them if they have the chance. The new one thinks the old one is jealous of their newfound power and beauty. I’m sure there are plenty of different emotions experienced, but in the end—one of them will kill the other. I’ve never heard of a case where one of them didn’t die. Then there’s the third phase, where the vampire who survived is not a nuisance to anybody. They don’t kill in the third phase.”
All of this, I knew. It was beyond this that I hit unfamiliar territory. What happened in the fourth phase?
Dudley looked indifferent, but he continued. “In the final stage, they want to mate, but vampires don’t exactly mate. They either make a new vampire out of a human and die, or they repeat the process of falling in love over and over again without giving up their legacy. That path turns them into killing machines and causes no end of trouble. I’m sure you’ve seen it.”
Marshall shook his head carefully. Then he looked at me and said, “Be careful who you date.”
I turned my head away saucily. “Why would I want to date anyone?”
Actually, I was having a hard time hiding my discomfort, and turning my head gave me an out. What Dudley said was exactly what I suspected, but I didn’t want to believe it. What mess was I going to have to clean up?
Marshall talked to us some more before he told me I got the job and dismissed me saying, “If you want to stay out of trouble, then you’ve probably heard enough.”
I nodded, shook hands with both of them, and headed out. I particularly looked into Dudley’s face before I left. I wanted to know what he thought of me. His expression was exactly what I expected. He thought I was a piece of fluff—completely unworthy of his attention. Perfect.
Neither of them would have suspected that I was a murderer.
After hearing Dudley’s speech, my story probably won’t seem outrageous. Maybe it’ll make perfect sense.
I’m not really a murderer. They don’t call it murder when the victim is a confirmed vampire. They call it ‘ending a legacy’. You have to have a license to do it and back when I was fifteen I didn’t have one. It’s a huge secret that I have one now, even though I haven’t killed any vampires since I got it. The police don’t issue them to anyone under twenty-one, so I’ve had mine for two years. Like I said, I don’t use it—it’s just in case.
My story begins when I noticed that my older sister, London, was dating someone. This in itself seemed remarkable, and if you’d known her, you’d know why. Shy doesn’t even begin to describe her. When they started dating, I took an interest. She was seventeen when I was fifteen. It was in my best interest to learn as much as I could from her experience—except that she wouldn’t tell me about him. The only thing I knew was his name, Schroder. True, I saw him from time to time, but together they only had eyes for each other. I’d never seen obsession disguised as romance before. I thought everyone was like that when they fell in love… until it turned bad.
You guessed it. He turned out to be a vampire and just like in the scenario Dudley took us through—they shared blood until it drove them both mad. London would have been the one to die because even though her instincts were changing, something inside her stayed the same. She was too reserved to murder him and he was strong. He looked to be in his early twenties, but vampires didn’t age. Who knew how old he was? There was no way she was the first lover he’d taken, and even though London knew he would eventually kill her, she had no drive to beat him to it.
So, what drove me to do it for her? That part of the story is still a little fuzzy in my memory. I remember one night when they were on the couch. He was drinking her blood while I watched from the shadows. She groaned and something in the sound warned me that he was going too far. Tonight would be London’s last night… unless I did something. I knew it wouldn’t be enough just to scare him away. No vampire can stay away from the person they have transformed. They are obsessed until one of them is dead. I remember crouching with a knife in my hand and then… blank. I don’t remember anything until I came to be standing over his corpse, stained red with his blood, and listening to London’s screams. Then I remember disposing of the body—burning it in the backyard along with a huge pile of perfectly good two-by-fours and spruce branches to cover the smell.
That was it.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that I could have had the energy to commit a crime like that and then cover up my tracks. However, to this day no one has questioned me about it.
Sometimes I wonder what kind of vampire Schroder was, not to have anyone know where he went or care once he was gone. Even if the local police didn’t care what happened to one useless vampire, one would think that he would have somebody. Instead, no one came looking, and in the weeks and months and years that followed my crime, not a single soul has asked me about him.
Every year since London became a vampire, she has become more and more withdrawn. Is she angry at me for what I did to her lover? If she is, she has never said so. Most of her thoughts are a mystery. She doesn’t talk and most days, it seems like she doesn’t move. Sunlight hurts her eyes and she says the night reminds her of her mistakes. She stays home. She does craft projects and sells them online, never leaving the flat. We live in an apartment in the city and keep it a secret from our parents that she’s been dead for the past eight years. In an area as corrupt as this, it’s easier to keep secret than you’d think. The only thing that happens is that my mother comments on our appearances when we come home for the holidays.
“London, you look like an angel,” my mother says wistfully as she gazes dreamily at her oldest daughter. Then she looks at me tragically and says, “Sweeper, have you been using that under-eye concealer I bought you?”
“No,” I answer, even though I exhausted that tube and started on a fresh one. I don’t mind getting old. Old feels clean.
I wasn’t looking for a job related to vampires until London broke from her routine by going out at night. After spending almost a decade inside, she started sneaking out of the apartment, down the fire escape to prowl nightclubs. I followed her almost every night for a week before I realized what was happening. I didn’t like to admit it, but Dudley confirmed the truth. She was looking for a mate. And I was wondering how to dispose of another corpse because I wouldn’t let London’s mate murder her and he surely would if I don’t stop him.
So I applied for the job working for Marshall. How did he get rid of dead vampires?
Author's Notes: Hi Ink Drinkers! You're in luck! I'm uploading this whole book today because I'm entering it into the 'Turn off the Lights Thriller Contest'. If you enjoy this story and want to help me win, please recommend it to your friends! I need all the readers I can get!