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Authors: Scott G. Mariani

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BOOK: Uprising
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‘It fell out of your pocket.’

‘Really? Wow. I didn’t even know I had—’ He shrugged, took the money and thanked her.

The fish had taken the bait. She stood there, smiling, one eyebrow raised suggestively. He hesitated. The hand with the wedding ring slipped unconsciously into his pocket: sure sign he was interested. Alex sidled up to him, letting him feel her breasts crush up against his chest. He seemed to be up for it. She moved up as though to kiss him. In her mouth, the long curved fangs were extending into place, ready. His neck was exposed, a fat blue vein pulsing enticingly. She moved in and he didn’t back off.

It was in the bag. The blood rushed to her eyes and her predatory vampire instinct took over as she went in for the bite.

And then the phone went off in her pocket, distracting her, and the guy came to his senses and walked off, flushed and bemused and still holding her banknote.

She answered the phone.

‘Damn it, Harry,’ she said irritably. ‘You just cost me a feed and twenty quid.’

‘How fast can you get over to Oxford?’

‘Pretty fast. What’s in Oxford?’

‘There was a car accident late last night. Single driver, a teenage kid. The police took him to the John Radcliffe hospital. I’ve got a report from one of our people inside that the kid was ranting and raving. Something about a ritual blood sacrifice taking place.’

‘The V-word get mentioned?’

‘Said he found a whole nest. Apparently he was running away from it when he crashed his car.’

Alex frowned. ‘More rogue activity?’

‘It’s a possibility.’

‘Or it could be just the usual Hallowe’en hysteria. We get this every year, Harry. I’ll bet you anything this kid was on drugs.’

‘He was. But I think you should check it out nonetheless. We can’t afford to take chances here.’

‘Why does it have to be me? Can’t you send Gibson?’

‘Gibson’s in Athens.’

Alex sighed. ‘Fine. I’m on my way.’

Chapter Thirteen

Ever since the conversation he’d overheard in the canteen, Joel hadn’t been able to shut the story of Declan Maddon out of his head. Maybe he was going crazy. Maybe he’d been working too hard and his brain was going into meltdown.

But he’d just
to go and talk to this kid. After a fraught and unproductive morning of pushing paper around, he’d seen a ninety-minute window open up in his schedule and grabbed it. The John Radcliffe hospital was on the edge of the city, off the Oxford ring road. Joel rode fast. Just before midday and the sun was shining brightly now – it was turning into one of those beautiful autumnal days that seemed to be getting rarer with each passing year.

The staff nurse looked as perplexed at Joel’s request as she was by his appearance in bike leathers and boots.

‘Again? The police were here last night talking to him.’

‘I have just a few more questions,’ Joel said.

Dec Maddon was on the second floor, sharing a near empty ward with a frail old guy who looked like he was dying. The kid was propped up in his narrow bed with his left arm in a sling. His face was pale and his eyes were rimmed with red, with dark circles around them. He stared up in sullen indignation as Joel approached his bed and flashed his police ID.

‘Hello, Declan,’ Joel said cordially.

‘I told them I didn’t take the fucking pills,’ the kid said sourly. ‘And my name’s Dec. Not Declan. Nobody calls me Declan.’

Joel scraped a chair across the tiles and sat down next to the bed.

‘How about we start again? Hello, Dec. I see you’ve been in the wars.’ He glanced over at the old man at the other end of the ward, but he didn’t seem to be in a fit state to overhear much. ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking you a few more questions?’

‘Haven’t we done this already?’

‘Tell me what you thought you saw last night,’ Joel said, as quietly and patiently as he could.

‘I don’t
Dec said. ‘I
His dark-ringed eyes were fixed on an invisible point somewhere above the foot of his bed. There was a grim set to his jaw. ‘I know what I saw, and there’s only one word to describe it.’ He sank back into the pillow and his voice trailed away to a mumble. ‘You wouldn’t believe me anyway. I tried to tell the others, but nobody wanted to listen.’

‘Try me,’ Joel said.

Dec turned to look at him. ‘I saw vampires,’ he said slowly, solemnly.

Joel met his gaze, searching his face for any signs of irrationality. He could see none.

‘It’s fucking crazy,’ Dec breathed.

‘But you believe it, don’t you?’

‘Yes. I do believe it. I’m telling you the truth. And it’s not the pills. Not what the cops think. Because I swear I didn’t take any. I wish I’d never gone anywhere near those fucking pills.’

‘You told the officers you saw these people murder your girlfriend.’

Dec’s brow creased up into a deep frown. He looked away. Shook his head, and Joel could see the dismay in his eyes.

‘I didn’t see…I ran,’ he muttered. ‘I couldn’t take any more.’ He gritted his teeth, looked back at Joel. ‘But she was there. She was…she was hanging there, and they were all standing round her.’

‘Kate’s safe at home, Dec. It’s all been checked out. She’s fine. Nothing wrong with her.’

The kid let out a long, whistling sigh. ‘Yeah, I know. They told me this morning.’ He bit his lip in agitation. ‘But you don’t understand. These people are vampires. If they bit her or something—’

Joel let out a long breath. ‘They turned her, you mean. She’s going to become one of them. She’s sitting in school right now with the rest of her classmates, and when she gets home tonight she’ll be watching TV with her parents or up in her room chatting to her friends on Facebook, but really she’s one of the Undead. That’s a heck of a story. But you know, this isn’t the movies.’

Dec’s eyes were crazed. ‘You’re just like the others. You think I’m making this up. You think I just imagined those fuckers standing there covered in blood, and the bitch with the sword—’

‘Kate wasn’t hurt. Whose blood are you talking about?’

I’ve been through this a hundred times,’ Dec moaned impatiently. ‘The other girl. That’s whose blood. The one they fucking killed. Like a sacrifice. That bitch just slashed her head half off and all the blood came pouring down and they were just gulping it back and I saw their fucking
Get it? Big long teeth on the bastards.’ He flopped back into the pillow and shut his eyes with a moan. ‘Ah, fuck it, what’s the use?’

Joel was quiet for a long time, watching him. He could see the teenager was close to despair. He’d been there himself. He suddenly felt a pang of shame.

‘I’m not like the other coppers, Dec.’

Dec opened his eyes. ‘Meaning what? You believe me?’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘Huh. Of course.’

‘But I want you to tell me everything. Starting at the beginning. I want to know where this happened. Why you and Kate were there in the first place. Every detail.’

‘It was foggy. I was lost. I don’t know—’

‘Okay. Tell me the rest.’

And Dec did. As he told the story, his voice became increasingly strained and his face grew pale and moist. Joel watched and listened carefully, trying to gauge the look in his eyes. He seemed completely lucid – but then, that was the power of hallucination. Joel had seen it before. You could never really tell.

Then why was his flesh crawling this way?

Visions of the past flashed up in his mind. For an instant he could see himself sitting there in Dec’s place on the bed, aged twelve, desperately trying to persuade the authorities of what he’d witnessed. And nobody believing a word. Rationalising, always rationalising.

It’s all in your mind.
How many times had he heard that?

He swallowed hard. ‘Can you describe the alleged victim?’

‘Ha. There you go again.

‘All right. Tell me about the girl they killed. How’s that?’

‘She was younger than me and Kate,’ Dec muttered. ‘Fifteen, maybe. Short brown hair. She had a spider on her neck.’

‘How do you mean, a spider?’

‘You know, a tattoo.’

Spider tattoo,
Joel scribbled on his pad. ‘Now, what about the other people in the crypt? Would you recognise them again?’

Dec nodded. ‘There was the big massive black dude, and the little bastard that looked like a rat or something. And there was the woman with the blade. Sure, I’d know them again.’ He shuddered.

‘Tell me more about the other man. The one you think picked Kate up in his car.’

‘He seemed scared,’ Dec muttered. ‘Like he wanted to be there, you know? But shitting himself at the same time.’ He paused, chewing his lip. ‘Thing is, I could have sworn I’d seen that fucker before.’

‘That’s important. Any idea where?’

Dec shook his head. ‘Like I said, I didn’t see his face. It was just a feeling.’

‘The Rolls. You didn’t get the registration number, I take it?’

Dec looked sharply at him. ‘I didn’t exactly know I was following Kate into a fucking vampires’ nest, did I? Is this all you can do, fuck about with car registrations?’

‘I’m only trying to—’

‘You still don’t get it, do you? There are vampires out there. They’re going to kill everyone, like they killed that girl.’ Tears of emotion spilled out of Dec’s eyes. His voice was cracking with the strain. ‘I’ve had enough of answering questions. This isn’t some shit you can deal with the normal way, like you can line these fuckers up in some ID parade and stick them in jail. Don’t you understand? They drank her fucking
That’s what I’m telling you, because that’s what I fucking
His voice had risen up to a tortured scream that filled the ward.

At that moment, the staff nurse Joel had spoken to earlier came running in.

‘I’m sorry, Inspector, but I can’t have you upsetting the patient like this.’ She glanced worriedly at Dec, who had collapsed back on the bed and was shaking and weeping hysterically. ‘I’ll fetch the doctor,’ she said, and rushed out.

Joel stood and watched the kid. He was sorry he’d caused this. The fact was, he just didn’t know what to think.

‘Quite a tale, isn’t it?’ said a voice behind him.

Joel hadn’t sensed anyone else come into the ward. He swung round. Standing a few feet away was a woman. She was smiling at him.

Chapter Fourteen

The woman’s sudden appearance, like a ghost coming out of nowhere, startled Joel. For what seemed like an endlessly drawn-out moment, he stood there speechless. There was something mesmerising about her, and it wasn’t just her stunning beauty – the thick auburn curls that tumbled about her shoulders and bounced when she moved, the willowy figure and perfect, pale skin, like porcelain. It was the wry, knowing look and the enigmatic little smile on her lips, as if somehow she could read his thoughts. That look…it just seemed to hold him there.

He forced himself to snap out of his reverie and was about to say something when the staff nurse returned in a hurry, followed by a tired-looking male doctor in a green smock. The nurse shot Joel a pointed stare as she curtained off Dec’s bed and she and the doctor attended to the agitated, sobbing teenager.

Joel turned back towards the strange woman, but she was already gone.

He trotted out of the ward and spotted her a little way down the corridor. She was hanging around as though waiting for him. As he approached, he felt his heartbeat quicken and cursed himself for it.

‘Are you a relative of his?’ he asked her. He was pretty sure he already knew the answer.

She shook her head. The smile was still there, teasing him.

‘So what were you doing in there?’

‘Listening,’ she replied coolly. ‘Interesting, don’t you think?’

‘This is a police enquiry,’ he said. ‘I was taking a statement from a witness, and I’d like to know what you were doing there eavesdropping.’

‘My name’s Alex. Alex Bishop.’ She dipped a hand in the pocket of the long, elegant coat she was wearing and handed him a business card. The momentary brush of her fingers against his was like a million volts of current jolting through his body.

‘DI Joel Solomon,’ he said. Doing his best to look composed, he glanced at the card. ‘So you’re a journalist.’ He noticed the landline number at the bottom and added, ‘London got too dull? A teenager crashing his car out in the Oxfordshire sticks isn’t exactly what I’d call a scoop for a hotshot city reporter.’

‘Except it’s not just about a teenager crashing his car, is it?’ she said.

He made no reply.

‘Are you interested in vampires, officer?’

‘What did you say?’

‘You believed him, didn’t you?’

Joel blinked. ‘What makes you so sure of that?’

‘I saw the look on your face,’ she said. ‘Have you got time for a drink? I’d like to talk to you.’

‘I can’t discuss police business with you.’

‘Like vampires are official police business now?’

He looked at his watch. ‘Fact is, I’m in a rush.’

‘Shame.’ She smiled. ‘Maybe I could have helped you.’

Before he could reply, she’d turned and was already walking away. He watched her all the way to the lifts; then she was gone, without looking back.

Chapter Fifteen

The hamlet of Sonning Eye,

near the Oxfordshire/Berkshire border

12.17 p.m.

Sandra Roberts threw the stick and watched as Bertie went hurtling after it down the leafy riverside path. It hit the ground and bounced, and the golden retriever jumped in the air to catch it in his jaws.

‘Bring it to Mummy,’ she called to him brightly. ‘Come on, Bertie. Good boy.’

Bertie trotted back to her, the stick in his mouth, and dropped it proudly at her feet, looking up at her with keen anticipation, tail wagging. She patted his head, picked up the stick and threw it again. This time her throw wasn’t quite as straight, and it landed in the reeds at the side of the water. Bertie went charging after it.

BOOK: Uprising
4.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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