Chief Blakewell rubbed the side of his head as Briar and Rena waited for him to speak. “That devil of a man, if he could even be considered one, is truly starting to get on my nerves.”
Briar nodded, playing along with her father’s incompetence to see what really was going on. “It was quite a scene he had left us from what I’ve heard.”
“Some even argue it is worse than the Ripper,” Rena added.
“It can hardly compare, but I am glad you weren’t there to see it for yourselves.”
“Indeed,” Briar said. “Was there anything noticeable about the scene, Father?”
Chief Blakewell held up his hands. “It was different from the first two cases, but that’s all I can say. The murder had been one done to mock us, that message was loud and clear.”
“After what Dante drank from Jane and Mrs. Evans,” Rena said, leaning forward in her seat, “Dante wouldn’t be in the need of blood for another month, maybe a month and a half.”
He raised a brow at her.
“Rena has been doing some research on vampires.” Briar put her hand on Rena’s shoulder. “It’s easier not to be afraid when you know more about it.”
“Ah, yes.” Chief Blakewell gave a short nod, lacing his bulky fingers together. “Clyde has told me something similar when explaining his reasoning for the gruesome murder.”
Briar raised her brow in the same manner as her father had done moments ago, it being a characteristic they shared. “What else was Clyde able to uncover?”
“That Dante was definitely behind this attack as well as the previous once despite the different state the victims were in. He mentioned how Dante might carry more respect for women than he did for men. He was, after all, often seen in a brothel before he got arrested. Mr. Smith was actually a frequent visitor of the said brothel.”
Briar remembered Dante teller her about the night women had accompanied him during the night, but she hadn’t expected the women to have been prostitutes. Though it did make sense. How else would he have found a different woman to warm his bed each night?
She might not have minded it then, but a bit of envy started to drip into her bloodstream, spreading the unpleasant feeling through her body like poison.
“Have you questioned the women?” Briar asked to distract herself.
Her father shook his head. “I doubt they would give away much. We had the place searched a few days prior and came up with nothing. They had a child living with them.” Shaking his head, he scoffed. “Grooming such a young thing into such a horrid future, how dare they.”
“Such a shame indeed,” Briar said, though she doubted that was truly the case. There was no point in telling her father that, however, he was hard to persuade once his mind was set on something, whether that be an opinion or actions.
Commotion outside of Chief Blakewell’s office caught their attention, and soon the door was opened without as much as a knock. One of the officers came in, an uneasy expression on his face. A drop of sweat made its way along the side of his face.
“Chief Blakewell,” he said, followed by heavy breaths, “your presence is required.”
Her father stood immediately, followed by Briar and Rena as they left his office. As they entered the main hall Briar was stunned by the mess it was in. Papers were scattered across the floor and desks. A broken lamp lay abandoned in one corner while the matching stand lay in another. Several of the desks in the front row were toppled over and shoved against the wall to make room for a group of rowdy looking individuals Briar was certain she had never seen before.
The group stood in a stance ready to fight, forming a line of defense while at the same time daring anyone to get closer. Their clothes were nothing like she had encountered before. Bagged pants and loose shirts with many, many leather accessories. Even the women of the group wore these. Despite the cold weather some of the men had short sleeves, putting their well-trained muscles on display.
“What for heaven’s sake is the meaning of this?” Chief Blakewell shouted, getting closer to the group than most of the other officers had dared, yet still kept a safe distance.
“Chief Blakewell?” One of the women on at the front row asked, her expression not changing.
The woman didn’t respond, simply stepping aside. The others behind her did as well, forming a path. When the last person stepped aside, a tall man wearing a black leather coat was revealed. A torn top hat rested on his head, tilted slightly to the side as if it was unable to sit any other way. His hands were behind his back as he took long, slow strides towards them. Each step he took was awfully quiet despite what his heavy boots might suggest.
Both Briar and Rena took a step closer out of curiosity, though Chief Blakewell held out his arm to prevent them from getting any closer.
“Let them pass, they can hardly help themselves,” the leather-clad man said in his deep voice, dragging each word out to let them roll pleasantly from his tongue. As he spoke, he lifted his head while keeping it cocked to the side.
Briar’s eyes immediately fell on the two silver pieces that curved around his bottom lip, followed by the crosses hanging from his ears. A grin slipped onto his lips as he followed the direction of her eyes.
“They call me Darlington,” he said, his gazed fixed on Briar and Rena, “but I’ll be your Darling any night.”
He raised his hand, revealing the silver rings that adorned his long fingers. “Just Darlington, where we roam no formalities are needed.”
“Very well,” Chief Blakewell said, in no way trying to hide his impatience nor his rising anger. “Now, care to explain what all the commotion is about.”
His grin grew. “Glad you asked.” Turning, he started to pace the space between his group and Chief Blakewell. “I heard you had a vampire problem going on and I felt generous enough to lend you a helping hand.”
“The situation is under control—”
“Don’t fool yourself, old man,” Darlington chuckled. “You hardy have any knowledge of vampires, how do you expect to catch one if you can’t even recognize one?”
Chief Blakewell puffed his chest ever so slightly as his eyes narrowed. “We are well aware of who—”
“Wrong again.” Darlington stopped his pacing, turning to face the hall in which Clyde’s office was located. The way he stared at it didn’t sit Briar well while Rena went noticeably tense beside her.
“Bring him out,” Darlington called. Two of his men separated from the group, breaking down the door to Clyde’s office and dragging him out not a moment later.
“Get your hands off me!” Clyde yelled as he was thrown before Darlington’s feet. His dark eyes glared up at the strange man in a way that made Briar furrow her brow. The annoyance was familiar. Clyde didn’t seem surprised at all.
“Were you at all aware of the vampire that had been in your midst all this time?” Darlington gestured at Clyde.
Chief Blakewell scoffed. “Detective Graveward—”
“Detective?” Darlington broke out in a fit of laughter, one that might have been considered mad. “Did you hear that? Baby Clyde? A detective? Please.”
Soft chuckles came from the group, though they were barely heard over the continues laughter of Darlington.
“He is human!” Rena interrupted, pushing herself forward against Briar’s shoulder.
At this Clyde did look up with surprise, followed by a clench of his jaw. Briar narrowed her eyes at him when he glanced her way, giving him a silent warning. He better be human.
Darlington’s laughter had stopped as he watched Rena with interest. “Is that a lover’s wish, I hear? How endearing.” He pulled at his sleeves, though it did nothing to move the heavy leather cuffs. “Then let’s do some tests, shall we? There shouldn’t be anything to worry about if he was actually human.”
Clyde gave Rena a reassuring nod before sitting more upright, facing Darlington. “Do your worst.”
“No need to be dramatic.”
Darlington reached down, seizing Clyde’s chin with his ringed fingers with a jolt. Briar took a sharp intake of air, but as the silver connected with his skin, it did not burn. There was a shift in Darlington’s expression, but he masked it quickly.
Kneeling down, he took a better hold, his entire hand wrapping around Clyde’s jaw. Again, nothing happened. His skin did not burn. No smell of burning flesh filled the air, only the heavy scent of leather.
Briar’s brows shot to her hairline, her hand coming to cover her mouth as a soft “Oh” escaped her throat. Before her very eyes, Darlington had leaned in and pressed his mouth to Clyde’s. For a moment she forgot the silver around Darlington’s lip and it probably being the reason for the . . . sudden act. It was quite a sight, after all. It shouldn’t have made her blush as deeply as it did give the situation.
As soon as Darlington pulled back Clyde spit in his face. Darlington only grinned, wiping it off in a long, slow motion as he stood. “Fine. You’re off the hook, for now, Clyde, but you can’t hide it forever.”
Chief Blakewell dared a step closer. “As I told you, Detective Graveward is a human, like all of us here. What I do like to know if what exactly you are supposed to be?”
Dragging his thumb over his bottom lip, Darlington nodded at Briar. “You might want to check on your daughter, Blakewell, I think I have outdone myself this time.”
“You do nothing but disgust me,” Briar spat before her father could respond.
“I know the difference between disgust and delight like the back of my hand.” He shot her a wink, waiting for a reaction that Briar wasn’t prepared to give him before turning back to Chief Blakewell with a sigh. “As to answer your question, we—” he gestured at the group behind him “—are vampire hunters. We’ve been tracking a vampire clan from Bristol and followed a few of them here. I decided to step in before the situation got any worse, having heard that the clan is still waiting for their leader’s approval to enter the city.”
“I’ve never heard this much nonsense—” Chief Blakewell started, but was once again cut off.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Darlington said with a sympathetic nod of his head. “I’ll give you some time to think it over, Blakewell. Once you’ve figured out your next move you’ll find me at London Bridge.” Darlington looked around the room, making sure to meet everyone’s individual gaze before saying, “Till we meet again.”