“Looks like we’ve got a vampire problem,” pronounced Officer Jonas Williams of the Baltimore PD. Holding a cloth to his face to cover the stench, he stood over a pile of dismembered bodies that buzzed with blow flies and oozed bodily fluids towards his feet.
“Ya think?” choked Sergeant Tan Lo, commander of the night shift. The little Asian’s face was white as he considered the gory tableau.
The group of police officers stood in an abandoned building in East Baltimore. Night hung gloomily over the city as an autumn storm spit cold ran. Blustery winds whipped spent leaves through the air and whirled them down like giant brown snowflakes to pile in crinkly drifts against dilapidated buildings. Few people braved the streets, probably a good thing, if vampires were afoot hunting for food.
The room where the officers found the cache was rank with the stench of decomposition. In the darkness of the unelectrified building, death lurked like a living thing, flitting as a shadow at the edges of sight. The crazed lighting didn’t help matters. Flashlight beams shot around like lasers as the officers flicked them nervously, trying to catch what hid in the shadows. The red, white and blue of patrol car lights slashed through openings between the boarded up windows. The walls were a crazed tapestry of multicolored graffiti, most of it dealing with death. The space stank of urine, smoke and the rotting flesh of the seven victims piled in a corner.
“Get the Ghoul up here,” Williams commanded a rookie who cowered in the back of the room and fought to keep from vomiting.
The Ghoul was Baltimore’s resident vampire hunter, Niles Gule. He arrived, tall, slender and ghostlike in the doorway but hesitated before joining his co-workers. His pale, aristocratic face blanched even whiter than its normally corpse-like pallor as his blue eyes studied the mess.
“Vampires?” asked Lo.
Niles swallowed hard before he dared to enter the room. His hesitation gave him the air of deliberation. Not that he was deliberative. He was shivering with hunger. All that blood sang to his vampire soul. He longed to drop to the floor and suck every drop from the boards, then gnaw on the white arm that stretched towards him as if in supplication. But he’d taken a vow of abstinence. He’d turned his back on his heritage and thrown his lot, for better or worse, with humans. He could not act on his instincts. He could not.
The vampire licked his lips and commanded his blood cool. He could see his visceral reaction offended his co-workers. Their eyes darted nervously as they watched him struggle with his inner demons. They knew him, trusted him for the most part, and yet, did not. When faced with the horror of his species’ feeding habits, they recoiled. Though he understood it, the reaction saddened him. Reminded him how he’d never be one of them no matter how hard he tried.
Gulping down the lust for blood that tore through his mind like a hurricane, Niles clinically studied the pile of bodies. The savagery of the murders, the dearth of blood, the terrified expressions forever emblazoned on the pale faces told Niles these people had been murdered by vampires. The difference between a pile of bodies left by a human serial killer and a cache left by a vampire was the stark bloodless appearance of the people and the surgical precision of the dismemberment. Vampire fangs punctured jugulars and sucked most blood from the body. To get the remains in small capillaries, vampires used their razor sharp talons to rend their victims apart. They then sipped from the severed limbs.
This particular cache was only partly consumed. The blood was gone and the limbs had been sucked dry, but the vampire hadn’t finished his meal. Human bones were rich in marrow which was rich in iron. Vampires needed that iron. The one who’d killed these people would return to harvest the marrow at his leisure after the horrid, shrieking need for blood had been sated. Marrow, Niles knew from personal experience, was dessert.
While he pretended to study the cache with disinterested eyes, Niles calculated. Seven adults. More than any single vampire required to survive. This smelled of a hunting flight. A group of vampires aggregating around an alpha and hunting as a pack. His territory had been invaded.
“A flight did this,” he finally said to Lo. His hand tightened on the haft of the silver knife he carried specifically to remove his brethren from the world. His blue eyes focused hard on his co-workers. “I’ll take care of it.”
No one contradicted him. Combating vampires was his job. And this was vampire business.
Infuriated on so many levels, Niles stormed from the scene. One or more unknown vampires was working his turf. Something Niles could not allow. He was becoming an alpha himself, a vampire strong enough to force all other vampires into subservience. Because Niles had allowed only two vampires to reside in his territory, his reputation for holding all of Baltimore to himself was garnering him the title of alpha. That he had no flight of weaker vampires to aid him only made his reputation grow in the community.
And yet someone had dared to hunt his lands without his permission. He was furious they’d stolen in under his nose. He would find them. They would either leave of their own choosing or he’d kill them. It was that simple.
As Niles stepped outside into the circle of police cars and watched two rookies stringing yellow police tape around the scene, the wind tore at his short, blond locks and sent his suit jacket flapping. He swept his gaze along the benighted alley that flickered under the glow of failing street lights. A handful of locals hovered nervously in the background, their eyes flashing, their voices low and murmuring. They knew, Niles sensed, that vampires had returned to Baltimore.
The wind blowing a woman’s long brown hair captured his attention. Narrowing his eyes which could see exquisitely in the dark, Niles studied her and found she was studying him. She was a youngish, white woman, wearing a dark pantsuit and woolen coat which she clutched to her throat against the raw wind. She stood alone, away from the locals and Niles knew by the expensive clothes, she didn’t live in East Baltimore.
She raised her cellphone as if to dial then aimed it at him.
With a vampire’s rapid reflexes, Niles spun away as the flash added its white light to the disco display from the patrol cars. Vampires could be photographed but LED flashes brought out the pallor of their skin and made them look translucent in photos. He’d appear as an animated skeleton in any picture the woman took.
“Detective!” her voice called. “May I have a word with you?”
Niles knew a reporter when he saw one. He avoided them like daylight. This one he’d seen before. She’d been hovering around several of his crime scenes over the past month. Stalking him, he decided with a curse. The last thing he needed was publicity.
Determined to lose the woman, he slipped between the milling officers and ducked down the street. His strides settled long and sure as he hurried away.
He momentarily brandished his fangs when he heard the woman yelling for him and he increased his pace, eventually leaving her behind. He didn’t slow until he knew he’d lost her. Deep in thought, he allowed East Baltimore to swallow him, not noticing the bright orange and purple of Halloween decorations swaying in the wind.
A flight of vampires was hunting his lands. A press reporter was hunting him. His hands stuffed into his pockets, his shoulders bent against the wind, Niles Gule sought safety in the darkness. Maybe if he walked far enough, he could outrun his demons.
© 2017 Newmin