Authors: Stephen Fox
Tags: #Horror | Vampires
Stephen A. Fox
To Connie, who made me believe in myself
The night waited as a shadow moved in the bushes. The dark figure looked around, making sure the alley was deserted. A soft rain an hour earlier had given the scene a sheen, like a coat of varnish. It also had sent everyone scurrying for shelter, leaving the night for the likes of him. Passing cars on Bull Street made hissing noises on the wet pavement as they moved past the lane. A pause to wait for the next flash of lightning, then in the blackness he moved like a cat across the lane before the next flash. Walking carefully, to avoid the glare of the street lamps, the figure flitted across the pools of light on silent rubber shoes before reaching the shadows again. As he neared the door, he turned again, his every sense straining to find any movement, any whisper of noise. Only the echo of the rain bounced off the brick walls of the stores on both sides of the narrow corridor. Satisfied that he was alone, he turned toward the door and focused his will on the lock, five, ten, fifteen seconds. Even the flash of lightning and the rumble of nearby thunder didn’t break his concentration. The click of the lock was barely audible. Another look in each direction, then he reached for the doorknob. It turned easily and a few seconds later the alley was empty once more.
* * * * *
Sergeant Rick Johnson looked forward to another dull night. Last night the most exciting thing to happen was a cat setting off the Ace Hardware Store’s burglar alarm. Today Rick’s wife had gone on her yearly spring-cleaning spree, and she’d kept him busy most of the day. She worked her portly husband hard all afternoon, and his poor shoulder muscles would complain about it for days. A little catnap in the cruiser while his partner, Sam Beckman, read a paperback and listened for any calls would be a welcome relief tonight.
Johnson turned a corner. “Let’s do a quick tour of Whitaker Street and then we can park for a while and relax.”
Thoughts were running through Johnson’s head as he drove, of whether he should buy more azalea bushes to put around the trees in his front lawn. Or maybe not. After all, he had enough work to do, pruning the bushes he already had. The cruiser drove past the fountain in Forsyth Park, bringing to mind the vision of Forrest Gump sitting on the park bench with the fountain in the background, and Forrest saying slowly, “Life is like a box of choc-o-lates.”
The squad car cruised up the street, each officer checking the buildings on their side, looking for anything out of the ordinary that might mean trouble. The slow journey was uneventful and Johnson was ready to call it a night when Beckman sat up. “What’s that?”
“Turn right and cruise slowly down the alley.”
Johnson turned down the alley and cut his lights. “What’s up?”
“I saw a light in the building there on the corner.”
“That’s the Blood Center. Why would anyone burglarize a blood bank?”
A shrug from Beckman. “I don’t know, but there was a light inside. And why else would someone be in there at this time of night?”
The police cruiser rolled up the alley. The back door of the building was closed and nothing seemed amiss. Beckman got out of the vehicle quietly and approached the rear door to the blood bank. He reached for the doorknob and twisted. The door opened silently. No alarm went off.
Officer Beckman pulled his gun but made no move to enter the building. Johnson reached for the microphone. “Dispatch, this is Unit Seventeen. We have a Code Nine at 215 South Whitaker at the rear entrance to the Chatham County Blood Center. We are investigating. Over.”
“Ten four, Unit Seventeen. Keep us advised.”
Johnson got out of the car. “Ready, partner?”
With by-the-book efficiency, they exited slipped quietly through the door, each officer covering the other. They found themselves in the large lab where the blood was processed. Carefully they worked their way across the room through the maze of tables covered with beakers and test tube racks.
There were two ways out of the room. To the right was the large room filled with couches where the donors lay while the blood was being drawn. A quick scan of that room revealed nothing. The other way emptied into a short hallway. The officers crept to each side of the entrance, then Johnson moved swiftly and silently to the first doorway as the other covered him. The door opened into a small office containing a desk, empty except for a computer, a phone and a nameplate in the front right corner reading “Ms. G. Mancuso, Executive Assistant.” A row of filing cabinets covered the entire left side of the room. Nothing and no one else. The next door was closed, with a sign reading ‘Storage.’ No light seeped under the door, so Johnson carefully pushed it open. Empty. The third room was another office. A large desk filled the right side of the office, with an immaculate top void of dust, containing no in or out baskets, and no cluttering papers. Not even a nameplate adorned the desktop. Beckman bent to check under the desk. Nothing. No runs, no hits, no burglars.
The fourth room had a sign above the door - CAFETERIA. With the row of vending machines to break into, it seemed like the only spot in a blood bank that would be worthy of a burglar’s time. Faint noises came from inside. The officers positioned themselves outside the entrance, as a new sound interrupted. The officers looked at each other, as they recognized the familiar whine of a microwave oven starting. Could the perp be making himself a snack? Johnson shrugged. Stranger things had happened. With his fingers, he counted to three and the officers made their move. Both whirled around the corner; Beckman with his revolver held up in classic position, and Johnson shining his powerful flashlight ahead to reveal a figure in the corner. Beckman covered the figure while Johnson scanned the room with his flashlight in case the man was not alone.
“Freeze. Put your hands behind your head.”
The figure stood tall. “Please don’t shoot. I will not harm anyone. Nor will I resist.”
“Hands over your head. One move and you’re dog meat.”
Sergeant Johnson flipped on the lights while Beckman covered the figure. Johnson blinked twice, then gaped at Beckman, who had already turned to look at him. Ready for anything, the policemen were not ready for what they saw.
Standing in the corner next to the microwave, hands in the air, surrounded by empty, torn open blood bags, stood a middle-aged man. Tall with short brown hair sprinkled with gray, the man would have been impressive in a power suit. In fact, he would have been rather distinguished looking in any clothes at all. But here and now he looked rather pathetic standing there naked … except for the blood covering him from head to toe.
It was forty-five minutes before the suspect could be transported. Like most burglaries, it seemed to take forever before someone came to take charge of the blood center and the officers could not leave the scene until then. They finally reached the station and led the suspect, clothed now in an orange prisoner jumpsuit kept in the trunk of the cruiser for just such an occasion, into Interrogation Room #2. His clothes, found in a neatly folded pile on a nearby chair in the cafeteria, would be given back after a search. Beckman logged him in while Johnson sat down at the typewriter in the corner, inserted a blank report form and began the paper work.
“Mr. Patrick, we need your age for our records.”
The suspect sat at the interrogation table looking down at his hands. He looked up at the officer as his name was mentioned. Even sitting, his six-foot-six height was imposing. The streaks of gray running through his slightly thinning hair gave him an air of nobility, while wide shoulders and large biceps displayed his strength. The face was weathered but handsome.
“How is it you know my name?” The man spoke with a slight accent, possibly European.
“When you gave us all your belongings, we looked in your wallet.” Johnson leaned toward the tape player, making sure the words were recorded. “It is within our rights to do so. We have to list everything to make sure everything gets returned to you. When we opened your wallet to count the money you have in it, we saw your driver’s license. Your age, please?”
The suspect considered the question before he spoke again, “You can get that from my license too, can you not?”
“Yes, but we logged your wallet into the personal property envelope and it would be easier if you would just give us the information we need for our report.”
Patrick cocked his head as he weighed his options. “I believe I don’t have to say anything if I choose. Is that correct?”
“Well, yes. But it really would help us a lot if you could help us with this report. You do want to cooperate with us, don’t you?
A shrug of the shoulders. “I would like to help you, but you wouldn’t believe me anyway.”
“What do you mean?”
“You wouldn’t understand. I don’t want to say any more.”
“Would you like to call your lawyer?”
The suspect’s jaw jutted out. “Thank you, no. I do not want a lawyer. But I’m not going to say another word.”
Beckman returned to his desk to complete the paperwork. Johnson enlisted Sergeant Mark West to help him with the interrogation. West was the best interrogator on the force. If anyone could unravel the motives behind the suspect’s behavior, he could. But two hours of questions got them nowhere, so the officers escorted him to the holding cell and locked him in. There wasn’t much more they could do tonight. In the morning they would call the sanatorium, and have a psychological survey done to determine his sanity or lack of it. Johnson and Beckman returned to their patrol, and West prepared himself for the next case. City officers had tried to pull over a 1968 Rambler driving east along Derenne Avenue with a flat tire and something dragging from the back of the car. When the officers flipped on the blue lights to try to help, the car bolted. A pursuit ensued, although it could hardly be described as high speed. A Rambler was not a speedy car in its prime, and with thirty years under its hood and a flat tire, the chase did not last long. Within three miles the shredded tire’s rim was scraping along the ground and the motor threw a rod, bellowing blue smoke everywhere. Before the fourteen-year-old suspect could bail out of the car, uniformed officers had him surrounded. Inside the trunk were enough automatic weapons to lay waste to the whole south side. Now Sergeant West had the task of trying to find out where the suspect had gotten the guns and what was he going to do with them. He shook his head. The kid’s lawyer was already in the room with him, probably telling him to keep his mouth shut. As a juvenile, unless they could make a case for trying him as an adult, he would be placed in a youth detention center until his eighteenth birthday when he would be released. And whoever was going to use the guns would be thwarted, at least until another shipment of guns could be arranged. He shook his head again and entered the interrogation room to play the game once more.
Patrick lay on the bunk motionless for nearly half an hour. Finally he got up and stretched, then walked over to the door of the cell. He looked around the room. Only a handful of officers were still there and none of them were paying any attention to the cell. He looked down at the lock and closed his eyes. A look of concentration and terrible strain came over his face. Sweat burst from his forehead with the effort he was making. A soft ‘CLICK’ came from the lock, and he relaxed. He checked the officers again. Only two men left in the room and neither was looking in his direction. He pushed open the door. It opened noiselessly far enough for him to pass through. Once outside he closed it again. Slipping down the hall and down the back stairs, he opened the stairwell door. When no one was looking, he slipped through and was gone.